Paradise City: Whatever, USA

The weekend that I’ve been looking forward to for what seems like forever now is over and I could absolutely not be more grateful for the last forty-eight hours. It sounds so cliche, but Whatever, USA was exactly what I needed right now.

A year ago, I might not a have gone on a trip like this, but this year with my freedom gained over the last year with my parents leaving, my graduation, my getting ready to move out, I experienced this weekend to the absolute fullest and I completely fell in love with it.

IMG_8145
Of course the events were incredible…artists like T-Pain, Diplo and Snoop Dogg performing, going to beer school and walking the pier to decorate cotton candy, dying our hair crazy colors, going to a Roaring 20s themed party and of course drinking enough Bud Light to keep our buzz going for three days straight. But what was truly the best part of this weekend was the people. Everyone was in the same mindset of wanting to live it up and have the absolute time of our lives and this created some of the best memories I’ve ever had.

IMG_3011

Someone told me “you can’t buy happiness, but who doesn’t smile on a jet ski?” While, true, we did not jet ski this weekend, we did just about everything else and he was absolutely right. It’s not the monetary valued things in life, it’s the walks at noon, the music at 7pm, the talks at 3 am and the laughter at 6 am and waking up smiling with the same people and doing it all over again the next day. You never know when life is going to hand you a few people that could possibly change your life forever, so look out for them.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have gone on this trip and I cannot express my thanks enough to Bud Light for making it all happen. Here’s to staying #UpForWhatever and to making more memories across the country in the future.

IMG_8884

Advertisements

Thankful

I’ve been trying to think of a way to get back into blogging. Honestly, I just miss it. But finding something to write about, especially as a comeback post, isn’t always easy. Then I realized that writing why I am thankful would not only be appropriate for today, but also remind me to be extra grateful for those things…so here it is!

1. I am thankful for my health. I am thankful to be here after having some bumps in my “health road.” I am thankful for the way I was born and for the doctors that have ensured my safety in any situation since then.

IMG_9629.PNG
2. I am thankful for my family. My best friends in the world. My support system. I am so thankful for you. My parents, you have given me the world and shown me how to be the best person I can be. Even if you are far away now, I still feel your love. I am so thankful for my cousins, my papa and grandparents. I am thankful for my surrogate mom. I am thankful for my mom’s family for never making me feel like I didn’t belong. I am thankful for my guardian angels that have gone before me. I am thankful for my puppy, Khoya, and my friends who have become more like family.

IMG_3804.jpg

3. I am thankful for music. I am so in love with so many songs and the feelings that just one song can give you. I am so thankful to be able to hear the beautiful sounds created in our world. So many times in my life have had music in the center of them, whether it’s a concert, music playing while I’m getting ready with my friends or on while I’m driving in the car with Matt or sending a song to the people I love when it reminds me of them. These times make me especially grateful today.

IMG_4460-0.jpg
4. I am thankful for seasons. I hate the cold, as most people know, but the cold brings back my favorite season, spring. The cold reminds me how lovely the warmer months are. The warm months are ones of rebirth and change. Every year something new comes and reminds us how lucky we are to be alive. This makes me so grateful.

IMG_4606-0.JPG

Even just writing these things makes me smile. Seeing how many little things and people there are that make my world better every day and for those, I am truly thankful.

– Al

Say Yes and Figure It Out Afterwards.

Freaking out, but it’s official. I’m staying in Champaign for one more year…!

As I read over my post from October, “I’m So Anxious,” I realize I was just so angry and so shut off. I was needing to prove people wrong and show them that my decision to live my life my way was the best choice for me. Graduating early was the only thing I wanted to do because it was the only thing I had control over at the time. I have recently looked back on that period of my life and how much I have changed and grown since then and I’m honestly astonished. I never thought I could/would come this far.

I know everyone’s original question probably still remains: “What drove the decision to graduate early..?” I guess I could blame it on being “free spirited,” as my mom calls me, and my willingness to go against the social norm. I could say it has everything to do with the incredibly challenging first semester I had this year that went horribly wrong when I was so sick.  Along with that came the complications from my illness that left me with debilitating headaches, and severe anxiety and depression, so when my advisor said I could graduate early by just taking 21 credits (basically, one extra class) for my last semester I was like “ABSOLUTELY, get me out of here”…I was so ready to leave.  So ready to get out that graduating early was the only decision I would even consider at that time and I didn’t want anyone challenging me otherwise.

Maybe it was because I was the lucky one, the one with the amazing Public Relations summer internship that would turn into a full time opportunity after graduation. I was the one that was offered several other sales opportunities with really good sports teams and other companies. I was the one with the amazing support system that would be there after graduation. Everyone told me how lucky I was, so why not graduate, I mean, they wanted me and everyone told me they were amazing chances that I would be losing or passing up if I didn’t take them. I had a taste of the working world last summer and I LOVED it, I wanted to be in that environment and I thought I was ready to be every day.

I don’t really know all the reasons, all I know is that I just wanted to do it. More than anything.

10167932_10152100022966378_4637489556363877546_n

All of those reasons aside, I’m admitting it. 100%. I. Was. Wrong. I thought I was ready for the real world. I thought I knew what I wanted out of life and who would be there. I thought that if I graduated early, I would know exactly what I wanted because..well, because I was supposed to. But guess what, t-minus 1 month until graduation and I still have no idea.

Someone told me I have a “wild spirit” once; that I don’t like to be held down. Maybe this is why I don’t know what I want. I can’t decide on just one thing. Graduate. Work. Done. Ummm…no. I want to do everything. I want to live everywhere and experience everything and I know that I can’t do that quite yet. So one more year to decide couldn’t hurt, could it?

Image

Bottom line, I’m not ready to give up my life here. I’ve made such an astonishingly, spontaneously thrilling life in college and I’m just not ready to let it go. Staying in Champaign will let me experience college on an entirely different level. I’m getting to live with my best friends and spend another year with the people I love to be around. I get to graduate with some of them and experience our lasts together. I get to be an Alpha Phi for another year, work at the salon, blog for Panhellenic for Alpha Phi. This is what I want out of college..not to leave and have a life of regrets and what ifs. Everyone can make their own assumptions of why I’m staying now, but these are my reasons written out in black and white for everyone to see.

Also, my parents just found out that they are moving to Florida. Amazing, I know. So why would I leave here to go home to have my family leave? Or go with them with no job or any idea of what to do? None of what my plans were seem to be making as much sense as my idea to stay here, so I’ve made my decision…Champaign wins for one more year.

Image

Lastly, To My Friends and My Family: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for shutting you out, not listening and rebelling against you when you were just trying to help. I wish that I would have listened to your advice earlier, but I hear you loud and clear now and thank God it’s not too late. I can’t wait for another year with some of you and for the rest of you to come visit! Love you all, AAFNMW.

Al

…Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.

Whenever I hear this, I think of you. (This was the song that she sent me last night that I talked about on my status. I’m still in shock. I am so lucky.)

And I have absolutely no way to describe the feeling that I have right now knowing that you’ve been gone for three years. Three. Years. When I say it like that, it doesn’t seem too long. I mean, hell, college has gone by quicker than I can even fathom. But when I look back on how much has happened in three years, it’s an eternity. How much I’ve had to go through in my life without you being here with me. You would be so proud of all your babies here. I have to say, you raised the greatest three girls in the whole world. Auntie Gina is the most caring and genuine person I think I’ve ever met. To have her as my aunt is truly an inspiration and I’m so honored and lucky to have someone so strong to look up to. Auntie Mona is, to this day, someone I can go to in any given situation, no matter what. She’s such a good friend and an even better aunt. She gives the greatest advice and knows exactly how to make your day when you need it. I’m so happy for her that she’s found Quinn and I have a pretty good feeling you were behind that, so I’m sure she’s so thankful to you. And then there’s my mom. I know that she and you had a very unique relationship and I know that because so do she and I. As I’m getting older now and starting to look back on my past 20 years on the planet and I realize that these are the last times I’ll have with her before I graduate and start  my life, I’m starting to realize how great she really is. Not many people can say they have a best friend in their mom, but I really do. I haven’t been the perfect daughter by any means, but she looks past my flaws and mistakes and loves me like you did and that alone makes me the luckiest girl in the world. She cares about me more than just a “motherly instinct,” but as a best friend and as someone who, I genuinely know, won’t give up on me and will always have my back. She is the perfect mom and I have you to thank for that because I know you were so perfect, too. Us grandbabies ain’t so bad either. Zach’s in college in Mesa and as bad-ass as ever. Garrett is killin’ it in high school and is driving now! I still have my voicemail on our phone of you wishing me good luck on my first day of driving. I’ll have to send that to him now. Emma is just the greatest little human in the entire world. She’s so thoughtful and sweet and precious and perfect. Sam and Kendra came this summer for the weekend and I’m so beyond happy I got to spend time with them. I know you were there, too. I’m so incredibly blessed to have those two in my life because they, along with Z, G and Emma, are some of my best friends and I’m so lucky that they’re my family. You left a phenomenal legacy here in your family and I will never be able to thank you enough for giving me this never-failing support system.

I can still see us six standing over you on that last day and Sam telling us how lucky we are to have had the experiences and the beautiful, perfect moments that we had with you. Who else in the world could say that they had a best friend in someone who was 70 years older than they are? No one, but I can. Your advice and your guidance gets me through even my toughest days here and that’s something that I will never be able to replace.

I still cry every time I Love You, Baby comes on or I see old pictures of us. I found some old cards from you telling me how much you love me, your “sunshine,” but what you don’t realize is you were mine, too. You still are. You made my life so bright and so warm and my childhood would never have been even a fraction of as perfect as it was if you weren’t a part of it. The problem is, now, my sunshine is gone. Please don’t take my sunshine away. That line always made me cry when I was little because I couldn’t imagine my sunshine being taken away, but three years ago, it was and, now, I’m starting to realize that I’m not sure how to go on without it. I’ve never felt more loved than I did with you. I never had more fun watching a LifeTime movie or going to the “beauty shop” or laying in bed and talking about what the perfect life would be like. I’ve never seen someone more beautiful. I’ve never seen more happiness or love than with you and papa. I’m so lucky to have been able to witness those things because I know now what sheer bliss is because of you.

I just realized I’m writing this like a letter to you. Like, I’m hoping you’re reading it or hearing it in my head or something. I know you and I still have our little ways of communicating, but I want you to actually know all of this. I am so lucky to have had seventeen exquisite years with you and those will be something I cherish for the rest of my life. Every day you are on my mind. I know you’ll continue to stay there and you’ll be there for every milestone that I have from here on out. I know that there are going to be thunderstorms that hide my sunshine and some days will feel worse than others, but I promise you that at the end of those and even during their darkest points, I will still seek my sunshine. I will always look for you in my toughest moments and seek  your wisdom, whether that be through your words you left me with, the people you left behind here or just simply seeking you by myself in my soul.

“I love you more than the words of this letter can convey and more than you or I could even fathom.” I wrote that to you in our book and you best believe I still mean that. I’ll open our book and a bottle of wine for you tonight and know that my being and my soul will celebrate the person that you were and are and everything that I do is for you. Always and Forever, No Matter What. Oh yeah, and thanks for being you! I love you more.

IMG_5306.JPG
Al