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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

swipes without soirées

I’ve been in Colorado for five and a half weeks and in that time I’ve swiped left on Tinder approximately 846 times.
I find the vast majority of people unimpressive and this is likely not news to your eyes.

But I got Tinder because I moved to Colorado on a whim and I didn’t have anyone to climb with and I was bored and everyone else in the house has it, too. And you can’t have a Sunday Tinder Party with your three incredible roommates where you sip wine and swipe away inbetween the
“OHHHHHH, my what?!”
“Nice group picture.”
“Who? What? Who are you?”
“Sweet pics, I can’t see your face in any of them.”
“Literally fuck off.”
“Ew, NO.”
“Why is this so fun?”
without Tinder.

I’ve met a few people on Tinder and only one that I actually became friends with and enjoy climbing with (shoutout to Matt).
Notably so, I have approximately 30+ conversations open on Tinder which I just stopped responding to because a) it’s boring 2) it’s repetitive and also I actually do have a real life.

On Monday morning I went to my new favorite coffee shop in Denver to work, because in true freelance style I was two days over my deadline and approximately only halfway through my project and cringing every time I got an email, hoping it wasn’t a pissed off client.
St. Marks is my favorite coffee shop because of the lights and it seems to be filled with everyone on their computers and shutting the fuck up and the croissants are bomb and the refills are free and there’s beer for when you are strung-out on caffeine and want to get a little drunk so the words can come a little easier.
So I claimed my small space with a person on either side of me within 18 inches.
And I arranged my coffee and my water and my phone and put my headphones in.

And as I was reacquainting myself with the [based on a true story] screenplay I was in the middle of editing, a man pulled out the chair on the other side of my very small table and tried to sit down, and seemed startled that my bag was there. I lifted my eyes with what I’m sure was a look of annoyance and pulled my headphones out, and maybe thought this was an employee telling me that I couldn’t sit there or use the wifi for free, but didn’t he see the coffee I had in front of me? And I’d buy a croissant in a little while and probably also a muffin or a cookie because I have a severe lack of self-control and do zero things in moderation.
But before I could even get my left earbud out there was,

“Hi, are you my Tinder match? Kelsey from Arizona?”
Oh. My. Ffffffffffffucking God.

I didn’t even respond verbally to these questions. But anyone who has spent significant time with me can surely envision my eyeballs burning a hole into his head while he stared at me with this dumb look of hope and eagerness.

I’m not from Arizona.
I must’ve said “I’m from Michigan, but I moved here from Flagstaff,” forty seven times in the past five weeks.

“My name’s Dan..”
This is my nightmare.
“…I sent you the picture from Flagstaff.”
The picture from Flagstaff?
Right, right. I matched with someone who sent me a link to an Instagram post they had a year ago and said “If you’re really from Flagstaff, can you name this bar?”
I am not from Flagstaff.

It was a picture of a drink on the bar that’s facing out towards Mountain Sports, on the corner of San Francisco and Aspen. I’ll remember that view the rest of my life, and I knew the drink. It was a Gin Jam. I’ve had a few blackouts at Rendezvous.
And his response was “No, it’s the hotel Monte Vista.”
And my response was “No, it’s actually the Rendezvous, which is the bar in the Hotel Monte Vista. Nice try, though.”
And that was the end of the conversation.
Now here Dan was, in public, mentioning that we had matched on Tinder, and looking at me like I was supposed to be impressed or happy to see him or even wanting to engage in conversation, and seemingly waiting for me to move my bag so he could possibly sit at my very small table that I had, in true Kelsey fashion, sprawled all over. I did eventually speak.

“Right. Hi.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Working.”
“Yeah, me too. I’m just two tables down. I actually have a Skype phone call in a few minutes. Do you come here often?”
“No.”
“Do you live in the neighborhood?”
“No.”
“Where do you live?”
“Westminster.” Get the fuck away from me.
                        Sometimes I say things in my head so clearly that I have to retract and wonder if I said them aloud.

He then let me know he was very unimpressed with the fact that I lived in Westminster and I let him know that I did not care.
Dan eventually left me alone and I immediately texted Giselle something along the lines of  “OH MY FUCKING GOD I JUST HAD A TINDER NIGHTMARE.”
I looked to the person to my right and to the person to my left and both had seemed to not notice the annoying and socially unacceptable encounter I had just had. Who was Dan? I wonder what he had done to make me not talk to him anymore. I quickly opened Tinder and searched the conversations. Oh, right. He was boring. After a quick scroll up I found the true culprit bubble of the conversation and let out a (likely obnoxious) laugh.
Dan, 28.
Founder/Editor at The Pro Audio Files
Matched on April 15th.
One month ago. 
Me: What do you edit?
Dan: I don’t understand the question, but yeah I usually edit the articles/videos for my biz. So wait, just to be clear, you’re both on Tinder and super literate? Very rare combo. Impressive.

A straight forward question. To which you fucking answered.
Biz. Biz! Not okay.
Ew. Gross. No. I can’t. I just had to put my phone away.

So I worked for five hours and walked out in a fit of laughter from an unrelated topic, and when I got home, told Lauren the story in extensive detail, only to be interrupted by a Tinder message from Dan.
“How’d the rest of your day go? Still in Denver? Shortest first tinder date by far, but certainly not the worst.”
I’m sorry, what? Go away. That was not a date. Leave me alone forever.
The conversation was a mix of the above statements and ‘No’ gifs.


In true late-20's-white-girl-fashion I stood up, tossed my phone down and stuttered "I just I seriously I literally just can't fucking even. Goddamn."