When I thought about reflecting on this past year, I thought I would be thinking and contemplating about what an epic year this was.
I thought it’d be about all the lovely crazy adventures. How even though I’m terrified of planes, and I’ve only just begun to wean myself from needing some sort of anxiety easing medication to step on plane and stop myself from praying to all that is holy that my plane is not going to crash in a fireball — that I jumped out of a plane and went skydiving, twice. How I finally quit smoking. How my amazing co-workers forced me to meet my horse-riding
crush idol while they streamed it live. (Thanks, Horse Network). How because of my niece, my heart grows. How I see the world differently because of her. How I want the world to be better. How I want to be better for her.
How my epic Mexico trip taught me – not having a phone for 10 days (yes, I know how privileged that makes me for that even being an “issue”. And how fucked up that is even a thing worth writing about) gave me the space to slow down, check out, and just do whatever I felt like whenever my body told me to. I didn’t try to capture the moment, I didn’t have anything to distract me. I took long walks. I danced my heart out. I read for hours. I started the winter solstice at sunrise doing 100 sun salutations on the beach. How I went parasailing. And with a crazy partner in crime, learned that with enough tequila you can convince your boat operator to let you parasail, upside down and drop from a crazy height. Even though said adventure was ill-advised and cost me my iPhone I’d do it all again.
I thought I’d be talking about all the wonderful moments of this year. And how I’m starting a new amazing chapter with a new job come January 2nd. (Woohoo!) But that is not what I’m going to write about.
I’m writing about Josie. I would not be the person I am today if I had not met him. If I had not dated him. If I had not lived with him. Even after all the stupid shit, we did to each other, like you do when you fall in love in your 20s, we were friends. But that is what I’m thinking about, because, while I was in Mexico, he passed away. That’s the first time I’ve written those words. And it still doesn’t feel real.
It shouldn’t be this hard. We had drifted apart the past few of years. We got busy. We lived in different time zones. All the usual life things where phone calls get less frequent happened. Sure we’d catch up a couple times a year but he wasn’t in my life daily. So I find myself surprised by how sad I feel. But in so many ways he still was in my life and will continue to be.
Every time I sing full force in the car or the shower – and for those few souls who have heard me sing, know that it isn’t in tune or pretty. But he taught me to sing like no one is listening. To dance like no one is watching. And to not care if you sound like a drowned cat while some scratches on a chalkboard.
I met him while working my first political campaign. And like all great loves, especially when you are young and still learning who you are, who you want to be and becoming an adult, it was all-encompassing in a way that I don’t know if it could happen today. It was before I knew what it really meant to love someone you were not related to. Before I knew how you could physically feel your heart grow. Before, I knew that color-coded checklists, calendars and a detailed plan for your entire life – doesn’t necessarily make you happy.
We had so many adventures. And we were so ridiculous and crazy, in best and worst possible ways.
We took road trips. Things went wrong. And the best things happened when they did.
My car over-heated and broke down on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Idaho. Miles and miles from the nearest town. And that town had 35 full-time residents. The concert in Boise did not happen. But when we finally made it to town, we met the most amazing people. At the local bar (which also served as the post-office & grocery-store) a man fixed my car, free of charge. We enjoyed amazing music and stories at that bar. We slept out under stars, next to a waterfall, that ran into a hotspring. We drove to Oregon and camped out on the beach next to the ocean. And the next morning, everything was soaking wet from the morning mist, we said fuck it and went for a very icy skinny dip.
He introduced me to Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, to poetry. That good port is worth having port glasses for. That the best way to watch the Big Lebowski is with White Russians. And those White Russians are even better if you made the Kahlua.
He taught me it is always better to climb the tree – even if it means you get stuck in it.
That having a map is over-rated. That going down an unmarked road leads to the best sunsets.
That just because I don’t want children doesn’t make me any less of a woman.
That blueberries picked on the side of the road is better than any dessert bought in a store.
Being right doesn’t always make you happy.
That String Cheese Incident is waaaayyyy better than Phish. (I know Vermonters you are going to want to kill me but let’s leave that for another day). And Widespread Panic puts on a better live show on the weekday than the weekend.
That rice and zucchini is the best dinner ever. That homemade peanut butter with honey on toast cures all woes.
That mid-night campus discgolf is worth staying up for.
He taught me that being honest isn’t always the less painful route but is always the right one. That just because you love someone doesn’t mean you want to or should build a life with them.
That you can be happy for someone even if it makes you sad at the same time.
That being sad doesn’t make me weak. That someone else doing something for me or helping me does not mean I can’t do it myself.
I was with Josie when I was transitioning from a young woman to an adult. Maybe I would have learned many of these lessons even if I didn’t learn them with him. But it wouldn’t have been as over the top, ridiculous, inappropriate or fun. There are so many things that I am today because of who I became during those years. I will be forever thankful.
Thank you, Joe, for coming to an endless amount of campaign fundraisers even if that was not your cup of tea. To making protest signs.
For making my favorite soup when you knew I would have a bad day.
Thank you for always having a second blanket on the bed because I was going to hog the first all to myself.
When I was working insane campaign hours, thank you for bringing food to the office. And stopping by after your shift and doing voter ID entry so I could come home faster. For doing my laundry with yours so I could get an extra hour of sleep in the final weeks of the campaign.
Thank you for buying me a mixer even after I ranted about how I’d kill any man who bought me a kitchen appliance because I needed to bake at 3 am.
Thank you for the best pair of shoes I’ll ever own. The same pair of Chacos that I wear nearly every day in the summer.
Thank you for buying back the camera I pawned to make rent.
Thank you for teaching me to not just listen to music but to feel it.
Thank you for all the road trips with no destination.
Thank you that even if you hated a candidate I worked for, you never voted against them. And gladly shook their hand.
Thank you, that even after we broke up (for good this time) you still drove 2 hours (and 2 hours back) to pick my sister up from the airport – with a ridiculous sign waiting for her at the in-gate.
Thank you for introducing me to your amazing family – especially for one of the best Christmas of my life.
For when, years after I moved from MT and I was hurting from a breakup, for sending me a memory foam and body pillow to help me sleep, and loads of books and the best-mixed CD ever. For still continuing to send me books.
For when I moved to NYC, inviting me to your cousin’s wedding. And when I moved to Vermont, you came to visit for my birthday party. There isn’t a place I lived, since my childhood home, that I don’t have a memory of you.
Thank you for accepting me as I am and not try and make me “better”. And teaching me that even the parts of me that are messed up are amazing. That it is ok when I’m stressed I will bake at 3 am. Or empty the kitchen cabinets and clean out the fridge – even if I have a mid-term at 8 am. That it might not be healthy or the way to handle it. But thank you for not trying to have me do it in anything other way than at my own pace. And, however, I showed up that day that you were along for the ride.
He didn’t try and define me as the punk or hippie or sporty or crunchy or over-hyper or the over-achiever or the college-girl who, given the right night, would challenge almost anyone to outdrink whiskey shots. Because I was all of those things.
Even to this day, he could call me on my shit like no other. Because he knew me. He’d call me out for running. When I was spiraling in my todo lists. Remind me that I needed to do as much for myself as I do for others. I knew I was serious about someone when I called him to tell him about it.
I thank him for being part of my life. Whenever “our” song comes on my playlist I sing it with a full heart, a light heart and a thankful heart that our paths crossed.
The world seems so much quieter and less vibrant knowing he is not in it.
Thank you for all those years ago for being my Jack.
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Peace, love, and happiness to you always Josie.