Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chapter 3: "So Impossible"

Do you like dreaming of things so impossible? Or only the practical? Or ever the wild? Or are you waiting through all your bad bad days just to end them with someone you care about?

It was sophomore year of high school. I was talking to Mike while we were at his locker when Jen Buggica arrived. A few weeks prior while at Mike's lockers, he jokingly whispered to me "check it out, this chick totally wants me," as Jen walked up to her locker conveniently located next to his, equipped with a shy smile and batting eyes. While we were participating in our typical post-period chats a short, skinny framed, white girl started to talk with Jen. With her hair pulled back tight and speaking a million words a second, I was not anywhere close to impressed with her looks or personality. Her name was Karen Burns, and she would be the first female I'd fall in love with.

Being extensions to our best friends' locker awkwardness enabled us to begin our own friendship. Karen intrigued me, she was the completely opposite of myself. From our families to our personalities, we were as drastically different as our appearances. She would become one of the wrestling team's groupies (at least that's what I called them) and we would spend increasing amount of time together. Without realizing it we were becoming good friends. Eventually like a vine to a fence, everything about her grew on me. Her insane drive, her smile, her taste in music, even the way she would argue with me. We'd spend what felt like hours on her front porch just talking the night away until her mom decided it was time for her to come inside. As summer came so did my feelings for her. One day I built up enough nerve to tell her my feelings. After some indecision, I was told that she was too afraid to lose the friendship. Despite the rejection we were able to continue a friendship.

Junior year came along and our friendship was put on the back burner. We were still friends but the bond that we once shared didn't have the same strength. My feelings for her were calmed by the pursuit of other women. Our relationship kept this casualness until a church event at a local youth group. It was called the J&P Rally (John and Paul), and being a regular attendant of the youth group I was planning on attending. By this point I've technically ended my relationship with my ex-girlfriend but we still were having these affectionate moments. My feelings for her were fleeting but rather than face it, I tried to avoid being alone with her. So when she asked me to drive her to the J&P rally I was panicked. Afraid being placed in a situation where we might of had to talk about our relationship I figured that I could bring someone else to negate any such conversation. Lucky, I was able to con Karen to be that barrier. There was no motivation other than selfishness that I invited Karen to accompany us to the rally that night, but she would play the biggest part of that night. So in my sheer brilliance I decided that I would bring my ex home first, despite Karen's house being on the way. I wasn't expecting what followed, I just figured it wouldn't give me an awkward drive home alone with my ex. But after I dropped Karen off, it was like old times again. On her porch, just talking about what was an eventful night. Eventually the conversation turned to a topic to where Karen felt it necessary to say something along the lines, "I missed out on you Elliot." My heart sparked with emotions and confusion, what exactly were you suppose to say to that? Scenes of romantic heroes started to flood my thoughts, I figured this was it.... this was my moment to be that guy. The conversation hit a pause and I laughed to myself. After being ask what I was laughing at I responded that I had a thought, upon further questioning I finally admitted that I thought of what it would be like to kiss her. Karen smiled, claiming she was thinking the same thing. Indecisiveness followed, both of us trying to figure out if it was a good idea. Finally, with a sudden jolt of gusto as she was in mid sentence, I leaned in and kissed her. Insecure if that was I good idea, I looked at her for a reaction. Her face gave me all the answer I would need. Karen always had a pretty tough exterior. Years of self reliance and mind numbing work ethic had made her a pretty tough person, seemingly incapable of vulnerability. But in that moment, with her whole face smiling, from her eyes to her mouth, she was completely disarmed. We sat there smiling at each other, making small talk until I left to go home. I thought that was it, that was our one solitary moment in time to explore anything other than a friendship. That the friend zone had been established and borders would not be cross.

Even though a romantic relationship didn't immediately follow that night's events it did revamp our friendship. During the time we were reconnecting, I could feel my affection for her grow again. I figured it was just foolishness on the part of my emotions, we were already friends and there was nothing that could change that. But this time around things started to feel different. Moments together would linger, our eyes would connect, we'd get close as I told her good night. I was completely consumed with emotions of affection, friendship, romance but most of all confusion. All these emotions kept swirling for weeks until it finally reached it's apex. It was late, watching movies at a friend's house. I figured that it was time for me to head home but before I ventured home I drove past Karen's house to see if I could catch her coming home from work. As I passed by her empty driveway I was disappointed, only to be surprised by her truck turning the corner of her street. When she got out of her car she was still in her McDonald's uniform. She smelt like grease and looked exhausted, I thought she was cute nonetheless. We started talking and I could feel myself shivering, some from the temperate change but mostly because I was nervous. We chatted for a little bit, then I embraced her to begin to say goodnight. During the embrace I asked her, "are we ever going to happen?" She responded with, "yes, because I want it to happen." Suddenly she kissed me. I was completely floored, it felt like my heart exploded. After a couple more minutes of talking and kissing I left, screaming "woohoo" loud enough for it to echo through the neighborhood.

Neither of us knew what was suppose to happen after that night's event. It certainly wasn't a seamless transition to a romantic relationship. I recommend to anyone to become friends first before they start a relationship, but I will tell you this, there is a period of transitional awkwardness. I remember waiting for her after class and not knowing if I should hold her hand. With the awkwardness growing and other outside influences, it seemed like our relationship wasn't going to make it. Finally one day, I told her that we needed to talk. We were outside on the bed of her truck as I told her that I was in this relationship for the long haul. That we had too good of a thing to give up, and I will see it until it completely ends. The talk appeared to have its effects because we turned into a finely tuned relationship machine. It was different than other relationships that I previously been in. I already knew I cared for Karen, I loved her as my friend which made it easily and quickly able for me to fall in love with her. For a hopeless romantic, such as myself, I was so excited about all the prospects of being in love. Mixed tapes, flowers, waking up early to greet her at work. All the things I wanted to do for someone, I finally got to do. It was pretty incredible.

Me and Karen grew closer, and we started to rely more on the other one. We both became the constant, the security, for the other. Specially during what turned out to be a very drama filled senior year, the moments we weren't together were very few. So few in fact that the thought of being apart for 4 years seemed unbearable. Shockingly early in our relationship, I created what I've since dubbed "The Plan." For a 17 year old kid who experienced love for the first time in his life "The Plan" sounded surprisingly simple and easy to do. I mean, love conquers all.. right? "The Plan" entailed that no matter what school we went to, we'd stay together, get married after graduation, start working, and then I would support her through law school. Yes, the credo of many of high school relationships. During most of my HS career I never considered going anywhere but New England for college. I always wanted to go back to New England since I moved away when I was ten. It was the last place I felt at home. I even e-mailed the wrestling coaches from a couple of Northeastern schools. None that I heard back from.... bastards. I don't remember how it came up, but sometime during our senior year Karen started to look into Duke University. At first it was more as a pipe dream than an actual possibility. She almost didn't even apply until encouraged to do so. Around the same time, I heard of a wrestler that I respected, Jordan Henning, getting signed to Campbell University wrestling team. I started to research the school, the prospect of a small Christian university in the middle of nowhere for some reason seemed alluring. Eventually we both received our acceptance letters and decided we were going to head to NC together.

We were filled with so much optimism about our move to North Carolina. For me, it felt like we were running away together, starting a new life, finally finding that alluding sense of home. I think back on it now and its kind of funny how arrogant we were. Two 18 year old kids, taking off 700 miles from all they knew, in two very different places, thinking they would be able to stay together. One trait of mine that constantly grew until it reached its apex during college was my insecurity. I've always been a pretty insecure guy, doubting if I am good enough, if what I do is good enough, constantly needing reassurance and praise. This combined with a bout of paranoia started to really hamper our relationship. Embarrassingly I would call continuously, sometimes up to 10 times in a row, hoping for her to pick up. I started adding "don't forget about me" to our good night routine. Karen would become distant and just seemed down right annoyed with me most of the time. Not our whole time we were together in college was filled with conflict. I think we made a pretty admirable run. We shared some sweet moments. I was still confident in our relationship, so confident in fact that I even went to look at rings once. Yet the inevitable kept creeping closer. My first years at Campbell I also became quite the legalist. I got pretty caught up in the world of the BSU's and the Campus Crusades. We would fight and argue and I would always feel like I was trying to uphold some kind of righteousness. I did a lot of condemning of her actions, words, etc. She would get offended, argue back to me, just making a mess of the whole situation. Most of our problems we would blame on the situation and our conversation constantly turned back to "Once we are married...." thinking it would be the fix. Heading towards new years our sophomore year, I knew we had serious problems. I was pretty damn determined to stick things out because I was so dedicated to "The Plan" and all the promises I made that those became more important than our relationship and what it turned into.

One evening during our winter break, I got violently ill with food poisoning. I remember trying to drive back to Orlando but not even being able to make it 5 miles before I had to pull over and puke my guts out. That night I had to spend the night on my old friend Jose's couch. The next morning, having pass the illness, I met Karen at a Chick-Fil-A. Our conversation turned to where I responded jokingly with something along the lines of "You don't like me anymore." The mood of the situation immediately changed, Karen gotten quiet and then asked why I said that. Sensing that things gotten serious, I told her because thats how I felt. We continued to talk, and eventually it was decided to take a break. As I drove back to Orlando, I fought back tears telling myself it was for the best and we'd get back together. The next few weeks in Florida was a whirlwind of drama which left me emotionally limping back to NC. Back in NC, me and Karen grew more distant every day. In my arrogance, I thought after couple of weeks of my absence, of what I felt was my amazing boyfriending abilities, Karen would come running back to me. Yet things just kept getting worse between us. I made a last ditch effort to get things back together Valentine Day, I surprised her with a visit and a hand written letter. She seemed really happy to see me that day, but that would actually be the last time I would see her for almost a year. I spent most of that night on Caitlin Monjeau's dorm room floor, questioning what I was doing there.

Then came the night everything changed. It felt like a typical night. Despite the break, Karen and I were still talking on the phone, typically telling each other good night. It was late and I was trying to call her to tell her goodnight. After a couple of calls and voicemails that when unanswered, I tried to go to bed. Not able to get to sleep, I went to my computer to waste time on the internet. I found her logged into AIM. When I IM'd her, I asked her what was going on and why she hasn't called. She responded that I was too emotional and that she didn't want to talk to me. My body was shocked with hurt, I was completely crushed. But a new emotion was raging through my body. I was angry. Throughout the whole break process, I was depressed. I was filled with sadness and despair. But once I saw those words across my screen, I was finally angry. Just the sudden cut of communication, I felt like I deserved better than that. That moment I felt that if she didn't want to talk to me, fine then screw her. I had written a letter a week prior, similar to our talk on her truck bed at the start of our relationship, urging us to work through this, that we worked so hard for the relationship we had and we couldn't let that go. I took the letter and ripped it into pieces and flung it into the trash. I went to bed that night in tears of rage and despair, knowing we'd never be the same again.

The weeks went on and in my broken state, I found myself in a new relationship. I actually figured I was doing Karen a favor by getting out of her hair once and for all. I assumed she would be happy that I found someone else. In the state of mind that I was in, I actually was surprised if she even cared at all. The night that I started my new relationship, I received a call from Karen. She was upset and hurt. Back then I didn't understand it at all. All I could think was how I figured this is exactly what she wanted. After we talked that night, I knew with certainty that we were finally over.

It took almost a year until I saw Karen again. The night before I couldn't sleep. Admittedly I was pretty nervous. "What if I go there and all my feelings come back?" I wondered. Karen played meeting up as this casual event, but for me, I had to do it to make sure my feelings were exhausted. During my insomniac state, I started looking at all the old notes she had written me. While looking over the old love letters and drawings, I decided that I couldn't keep those things. There was an old couple book that I brought for one of our anniversaries, where you write down little fun facts about the relationship. I pulled it out and started to fill everything out. Anniversary dates, pet names, a section for old notes. It was therapeutic to me. I felt as if there was no closure between me and Karen but as I finished each page of the book I felt like I was finally finishing our story. After the completion of the book, I decided to give it to Karen the following evening. The meeting went pretty normally. I didn't have an urge to try to win her back, so I figured the night was a success. Until I tried to give her the book. She took it as a gesture of affection to which she started to panic. I tried to explain what the gesture meant, but I don't think I even knew what it meant. Looking back, I think I just wanted her to remember. Karen is one of those individuals that can look forward towards tomorrow without any memory of yesterday. Its just how she always handled things, bulldoze forward, never look back. And to me, it felt like she completely forgotten everything and honestly it hurt me. It meant a lot for me for her to be able to look back fondly on the time we spent together because I did. I figured the book would of reminded her. That event left things between us awkward. But our lives continued to progress and we were able to patch things up.

Me and Karen maintain a pretty good friendship, specially compared to many other ex's standards. Its almost like amnesia. You see the person and there is that hint of familiarity. You can feel that you knew this person once but you can't place it, just sparks from a lighter with no fuel. You hear of the past, but you can't place yourself there. Its told like stories from a book. You don't own those memories anymore. This entry itself has been aided by the endless documentary of my life via blogs.

When I was growing up as this low-esteemed awkward chubby kid, it was impossible for me to fathomed what it was like to love and to be loved. I always figured I was always going to be the kid who would be left wanting, love unrequited. Then the impossible happened. It help me transform into the man I am today. When I think back about my teenage years, I can't help but to think of my time with Karen. I grew up in that relationship, not only chronologically, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually. This relationship help forged me into the man that would be blessed enough to marry Sara. The journey that brought me to a different state, that took me 4 years, that saw me through anniversaries, holidays, graduations, woe and triumphs, was the same journey that led me directly to my future wife, led me to Sara.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Soundtrack to the year that was 2009

2009 was a highlight year. The multitude of things that I experienced this year is another reminder of God's blessings in my life. From the Hurricanes playoff run, seeing my family, traveling, and of course getting engaged, this year has had so many amazing moments. Its my pleasure to share my 2009 in song.

1. Eisley - "Come Clean"
and let's give it a try, let's keep it for truth, why do you wanna fall to pieces?
There was once a time in my musical taste when I plain just didn't enjoy bands with female lead singers. Somewhere around my transition to more folk music is where I found my affection for female leads. I first heard Eisley when I was listening to the Two Tongues album and I was captivated with Sheri Dupree's voice. I find it beautiful and soothing, and it would exactly what I needed during my downtime at work.

2. Explosions in the Sky - "Welcome, Ghost"
I've always been a reflective person. I've always enjoy the pursue of thinking. That reason is why I first created a blog, just a notebook for my random thought. But as I would start typing entries I would have incomplete thoughts. When I would type them out my entries sounded like sentences that came from the middle of a conversation. Unable to craft a good beginning or end, most of my entries would go unpublished. Finally, I decided to start this blog and no matter how uncoordinated my thoughts may be I would publish them anyways. This song sparked my first entry about memories.

3. Company - "Being Alive"
don't be afraid it won't be perfect, the only thing to be afraid of really is that it won't be.
I asked a friend of mine one day if she would recommend some musicals to listen to. Company would be part of that list. Its an interesting internal conversation when you are preparing to ask someone to join you in this journey of life. Specially when you come from a broken family. I wanted to concretely arrive at a decision, not be driven by emotion, or haste, or convenience. Everytime I felt I arrived at the eventual answer, I forced myself to ask the question again. And even when I looked at the questions with the most pessimistic point of view, this song answered a lot of those question.

4. AC Newman - "Prophets"
i was the silent partner for once, my heart was split into two sections, here is my heart and here is my song, there are too many prophets here.
One of the more endearing parts of How I Met Your Mother is their soundtrack. They always seem to find the right music to fit the mood of the scene. And when Ted was on top of the roof, ready to jump across to the other side and this song came on it was perfect. It was the worse year of Ted's life but because of the result finding his wife made it worth it. Made it "the best year" of his life. It made me think about my own journey. 05-06 I would say were some of the most trying years of my life. I lost my grandparents, I lost my first dog, I was in a bad relationship, I lost my own sense of self, I felt completely lost. But dammit, it was worth that hurt to lead me to Sara.

5. Neil Diamond - "Sweet Caroline"
touching me, touching you, sweet caroline, good times never seemed so good
It took me and Ryan a little time but we finally were able to attend a Hurricanes game sometime last year during the middle of the season. We were in the midst of a battle to make the playoffs. It started to engulf me, we would start heading to as many games as possible for the Canes. We finally made the playsoffs and they were some of the most exciting sport months of my life. The community really were starting to rally behind the team. I remember the scene clearly, it was game 7 against Boston, me and Ryan were at the Carolina Ale House, Scott Walker scores the winning goal in OT, then pandemonium happened at the Ale House. Dishes were being shattered on the ground, strangers were hugging and screaming at each other, "wooo" was being echoed through out the restaurant. It was a magical scene. At the end night of the night, they played Sweet Caroline and this 6'5" dude with Canes jersey put his arms around mine and Ryan's shoulders and in unison with the rest of the restaurant belted out the chorus. It was pretty damn glorious.

6. Tilly and the Wall - "Pictures of Houses"
will i ever wake from this dream to untie all the ships sailing away from me? it will be beautiful
Its weird to me that culture teaches you to completely forget everything about the past. We are such a present conscience society, we like to forget who we were, where we come from, who we've loved or befriended. We like to act like we've never had amazing moments before the present. I think those moments are still beautiful, regardless of my position in life. If you think just about those moments, isolated by itself, not thinking about events that transpired before or after, I believe you'll find these truly beautiful moments in your history. And its not to long for those moments back, its an acknowledgement amazing things in your life had happen. Acknowledgement that you'll never have that moment back but for that specific moment in time, it was a beautiful moment.

7. Pearl Jam - "Elderly Woman in a Small Town Behind a Counter"
hearts and thoughts they fade.... fade away......
I was listening to some mid 90's music one day because I was getting so sick of the pop music that was filling last decade's airwaves. Its was almost as if I forgotten that Pearl Jam made such a simple song. The song is about an old woman that never left her small town when a old flame walks through the door who has moved on from the town. Typically one would imagine that this woman should've taken some chances in her life and left the town. But when I heard the song, I started to wonder who said her life would be any better if she left her town. I believe in taking chances, even in the face of danger, I'd like to think I am a chance taker. But who to say that its any better? I came interested in this idea of a guy who took every single chance in his life. One of those chances must of backfired I figured, one if not all of those time he went out on a limb he must of failed. Is that guy still happy he took the chances?

8. Noah and the Whale - "Do What You Do"
when love comes a calling don't forget the tune and do what you do
There are a ton of anxieties when you are preparing to propose to someone. Specially someone like me, who has been in serious relationships before, you feel like maybe you are walking on eerily familiar ground. And then there's the popular pessimistic view in regards to marriage. Most people like to ignore these anxieties and continue on with the proposal. I wanted to make sure I considered it all. I didn't want to ignore that fact that I was scared. I didn't want to ignore the fact that my parents are divorced, or that I know people currently going through the process. I needed to explore these anxieties and these emotions. I happened to find Noah and the Whale on 88.1 and started to explore more of their music. Mindlessly listening to their record, I hit this song. I found a complete sense of comfort and peace. No more questioning was needed. I was ready to propose.

9. Sufjan Stevens - "You Are the Rake"
i never felt so safe, a line i once told her, warm resting place, her arms on my shoulders
This is my song of the year. Every time I hear it I think of so many things but with one subject... Sara. I imagine the dance we shared in the Japanese garden at Maymount park. I imagine the dance we will share on our wedding day, whispering the lyrics to her as the rest of the world fades away. I imagine 50 years down the line, dancing with her with wrinkled skin, telling her still that she is my rock. She is my safety and the place I feel at home. I fall monumently short of being a great man, but I with Sara by my side I strive for it everyday. With Sara by my side, I could become that great man, that great husband, that great father. As long as she is by my side.

10. Michael Buble - "That's All"
if you are wondering what i am asking in return dear, you'll be glad to know my demands are small, say its me that you adore for now and forevermore, that's all
People ask me time from time about the being engaged or the wedding, how I am feeling about it or just looking for a general reaction from me. Some individuals have the pessimistic questioning, "you're getting married?!" All this has left me giving pretty muted responses, typically when I am ask I kind of just shrug my shoulders and give some kind of generic response. But if anyone wanted to know how I really felt about getting married, I would tell them how freakin excited I am. I'd tell you how humbling this experience is because of the gigantic importance of this event, not only to me and Sara but our families. I am amazed that I am going to have my best friend has my partner in life. How excited I am to start a family, to become the Acostas. That every time I see Sara, I think of how in a couple of months she'll be my wife and how absolutely amazing that is. That I don't quite understand how God could bless me with such a wonderful person.

11. Stars - "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"
i'm not sorry i met you, i'm not sorry its over, i'm not sorry there's nothing to save
I first got really into this song because I find it to be a really beautiful song. I just enjoy the melodies and lyrics, I found it to be a very well composed song. But listening to it for the 80th time straight made me think about my past relationships. Were those moments just passing time? How did those relationships effect mine and Sara's? Am I still angry at anything that happened? What were the mistakes that I made during those relationship? Considering these questions is a big reason I decided to type down the stories of my past. I always had these random beliefs and thoughts of what was my past, but typing out the stories gave me a true scene of that time and place.

12. Next To Normal - "Why Stay?/A Promise"
a promise a man says forever, a man says i'll never regret or let you, the promise that i made to stay and stay true
I am not naive enough to believe that marriage will always be full of sunshine and farts. I know that there will be times of difficulties. I know that there will even be moments that Sara or me will feel like ending it. In those difficult moments I will always stay true to my vows that I pronounced in front of God, my family and friends. That during those dark moments that there is a man and woman who loves each other beyond doubt or troubles. That in those times, I will passionately seek out my wife and pursue her endlessly.

13. Iron and Wine - "As Naked As We Came"
if i leave before you darling, don't you waste me in the ground
I can't help but to find peace in this song. I close my eyes while listening to this song and its like I can feel the world around me spinning. To me, its one of those songs that freezes time, and in these frozen moments you can appreciate life. I think this song illustrates my transformation into a indie folk acoustic guitar loving hippie.

14. Manchester Orchestra - "The River"
God i am sorry, i was wrong again, take me to the river, and let me see again
Ever have a song that wrecks you? A song that goes to the center of your core and shakes you? The River wrecks my soul. Its beautifully honest about my own journey in faith. I cry out for God just enough for comfort, for strength, for forgiveness, only to completely abandon Him the moment I feel sufficient. I passionately cry out for God's mercy and grace despite how I waiver for I know that He is the only one that can provide. One of my favorite quotes from the lead singer he said that how his life is, always wanting more, never being satisfied, but constantly being bless with something he didn't deserve. That is me in a nutshell.