A New Year's Post
It seems that every year around this time I get online to see people crafting witty memes or frustrated Facebook posts about the pitfalls of their year. Everything from personal lows to devastating world news gets tossed into the boiling pot of kicking another year of despair out the door. I will admit that in past years I’ve made company in misery (cough,cough, 2017), but early on in my 2018 ventures I decided to note the fantastic, magical, marvelous, succulent things that made a year of roller coaster events seem a little more scenic at the top. In mid-February my housemate asked me to join her on a day trip to Bisbee, AZ (which I will go into more detail below). As I looked out the window to see the wild west sun set across the desert mountains, I decided to open my phone and mark that day as one of the best days of 2018. I didn’t know if it would be topped (spoiler alert, it would be) and I didn’t know if I would even remember the details, but I wanted to start a list, collection, gallery of moments that left me speechless.
In all of the hustle and bustle of 2018 recaps and resolutions, I’d like to share with you my five most treasured moments of 2018:
5. “Is that a frat?” Tubing down the Salt River
In the heat of the Arizona sun my JVC community decided to drive a few hours north to take on tubing the Phoenix Salt River before heading to a party at the Phoenix JV house. We brought along a cooler of snacks, water, and beer in hopes of having a lackadaisical ride through desert terrain. When we pulled into the the overflow parking lot of tailgating, bikini tops, and country music DJs we were a little shocked. It was only after we passed the 20-tube-pirate-flag-trap-music-’alien goo’-eating gang that we realized we had been transported to a college spring break trip. While we all stayed somewhat sober, we spent the day socializing with drunk 20-somethings, throwing wet marshmallows at friends and enemies alike. However, the true excitement unraveled when one of my community mates jumped ship to help all seven of us pass through a rapids. Inevitably split up for the next few hours, we reunited learning that she was pulled under by the currents and lost a shoe along the way. She survived with some scrapes and bruises, and we were pleasantly shocked to discover our beer cooler made it out alive as well. A long day of life chats, sun bathing, river peeing, country music, and Cane’s chicken ended up being one of the most simple, yet, most ridiculously fun trips my JV house decided to take on.
4. “Deeeessperaaaddo” Day trip to Bisbee, AZ
On a random day in March my housemate suggested we take a day trip to explore the quaint mountain town of Bisbee, AZ. A few of us in the house agreed to go, simply to get out of the house. Many hours later that I discovered the true reason we were going: my housemate once saw a woman sporting a stylish 70s Arizona flag bomber jacket and decided she must have it. The woman said she got it from a shop in Bisbee, so the four of us found ourselves wandering the winding mountain streets of local art shops and honey stores for this highly treasured item. Surprisingly, within a few hours, we found the jacket in a local rock ‘n’ roll boutique. It was too expensive to buy on our JV budget, but I walked out with a vintage Arizona nudist colony T-shirt, approved by my housemate with the good taste in jackets. After a day of eating cake samples and marveling at local art, we drove home through scenic desert landscapes at sunset, listening to the Eagles and smiling in silence. Months later, when coming across Bisbee in a frequent flyer magazine, I discovered that Bisbee was crowned America’s Best Small Town. I suppose I couldn’t agree more.
3. “Paul McCartney once swam naked in this hot spring.” A day at the hot springs
Thanks to my JV housemate’s connection to a local Arizona farmer (whose name is so appropriate for what he does but sadly must be kept private) our whole house hit the road once again to take on the farmer’s ex-wife’s private hot spring plantation. After four hours of driving into the middle of nowhere Arizona, we took a dirt road past locked gates into the bushy plantation where our mouths dropped as a man in a tie dye t-shirt with no pants (and I mean... no pants) gave us the lay of the land. “Oh yeah, did I mention these hot springs are nude hot springs?” A little shaken but ready to take on our desert hippie personas, we toured the three levels of natural springs and some of us even let our suits slip while swimming in broad daylight. The beauty of nature in all of its forms left me feeling awestruck and free-spirited. This mood lasted throughout the entire trip home --from grabbing McDonald's to getting pulled over -- nothing could stop our hot spring daze (and not to worry, we sorted everything with our ticket).
2. “Is that Kehlani....WITH Hayley Kiyoko?!” San Francisco Pride
In the wee beginning weeks of JVC my housemate and I dove into a conversation about San Francisco, the place she calls home. Trying to generate a conversation between shared interests, I exclaimed, ‘Ah! I’ve always wanted to go to SF Pride!’ Admittedly, that was the only thing I really knew about SF at the time, but my housemate jumped right on the bandwagon, sharing that she had actually walked in the parade before. Starstruck and excited, I asked her questions and shared my dreams. We quickly made plans to one day go to Pride together the next year, despite our JV budget. The next June, after months of Tucson Rocky Horror Picture Shows and nights at Tucson's one and only drag bar, we buckled down and bought plane tickets from Tucson to SF. The day itself left me speechless and dancing in the streets. I paraded the streets in bright rainbow, feeling completely and totally myself for the first time. It felt like I had worked so hard to get to that moment. Typically I don’t feel like I agree with the idea that I deserve anything. But in those few hours on that lovely June day, I knew I deserved to be there.
1. “We’re a basket of chicken tenders. Join us.” STL reunion with college friends
Shortly after we graduated, my friends and I made plans to return to St. Louis after over a year of living, breathing, and functioning apart. While some of us were off starting challenging careers in hospitals, others of us were learning how to deal with issues of community and spirituality in years of service. It was a tough year for everyone, but in our roughest moments we would always remind each other that it would all be worth it for the reunion in August. While this week was filled with lots of laughs and catching up chats, the day that made this year so special was the day four of us spent on my friend’s family boat at their house on the lake. The beer, sunshine, and summertime attitude helped kick the mood into gear, but what made the day so special was witnessing how our conversations changed over a year of growth. Instead of deep talks about worries, concerns, anxieties, or even spirituality, the conversations moved into a strikingly personal level that we had never quite been able to reach due to school, work, and other SLU stressors. It felt as though we were most organically ourselves, finally able to kick back and let out a sigh.
Later that night we decided to take a short car ride to an open field to cuddle, talk, and wish on shooting stars. An hour in and half of us were dancing naked in the field, singing to one another completely unashamed and loving every minute. We felt boundlessly united, untouchable, and in love with the little magic moments of the world. The night only got weirder as we shared stories, looked back, and celebrated love and friendship. I left St. Louis feeling overwhelming loved and a little bit stronger. Cliche, I know, but when I count my blessings the friends I saw that week are always at the top of the list.
In the more reflective moments of 2018 I asked myself to put words or phrases to the shapings of my year. While I don’t remember the exact words, I can recall words like ‘fear,
‘courage,’ ‘bravery,’ and ‘anxiety,’ all making an appearance in some way. It is with caution and well-intentioned hope that I highlight the warmth and look past (but occasionally though) the difficult times. As we ring in 2019 I have no set resolutions, other than to let my soul, mind, spirit, and body grow into one another more completely. As for you (whoever you may be), I would like to wish something upon you that an old campus minister used to wish upon me. In these troubling times in matters of society, culture, religion, politics, and environment, I hope we can all learn to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.
May we all love more justly through listening, awareness, and small decisions.
Peace and blessings,