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2013 Year in Review: April – Marathon Monday

I typically try to get this year in review business done by the time the new year happens but every time I went in to write about this month I just couldn’t do it. I’d find excuses to not think about it and move onto other things. But now that I’m stuck in the laundromat for the next 90 minutes or so I don’t really have any excuses.

To put it lightly, April was a fucking roller coaster. I’ve never felt such extreme degrees of emotion – from fear, to sadness, to anger, to love.

The month of April (and the months following) have largely been defined by what happened on Marathon Monday.

It started out like a really beautiful day. I went down to the finish line with a few friends to see the winners crossing the finish line. It was really incredible – I had never seen anything like it before. People lining the streets from all over the world cheering on perfect strangers as they pushed their mind and bodies to their absolute limits.

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As my friends and I were leaving to meet our friend at a party in Brookline, I looked back at the race in awe and said something along the lines of “This is when you truly get to see the tenacity of the human spirit.”

Little did I know how true that would turn out to be.

After spending a good part of the morning at the finish line, we made our way out to Brookline (which ended up being a total pain in the ass thanks to the marathon). I was pretty miserable by the time we got out there from not eating in a while, so we stopped and grabbed a beer and some pizza at Otto’s. After that, it was time to go party with friends.

This was my first real marathon experience. It is a huge celebration – people are everywhere along the parade route, grilling out in their yards, and just enjoying the excitement.

My friend Caitlin and I were in a tight game of beer pong when I started receiving a couple text messages from people in other parts of the country asking me if I was ok. I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, but they said that something had happened at the finish line and that the last photo they saw of me online was of me being there. I assured them that I was fine and then hopped onto Twitter where I saw what had happened.

There was a bunch of us outside drinking and grilling and I yelled for everyone to stop and pay attention – something terrible had happened at the marathon. There was an explosion. They didn’t believe me at first because there had been a “Back Bay Explosion” a year prior where there was an electrical issue that shut down that area for a couple days. With the blood draining out of my face, I said no, I don’t think it’s like that. We need to get inside and turn on the TV.

When I walked into the room a bunch of the party was already sitting there in silence. Then the footage showed up on the screen – a bright orange burst tearing through the crowd followed by a plume of smoke further down the route. I put my head in my hands and slunk to the floor – completely out of breath. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It simply could not have been true. I had just been down there only hours before – this wasn’t supposed to happen. Not here. Not today.

I tried to go outside and call my parents but couldn’t get anything through. Thankfully I was able to get a text message out to them to let them know I was ok. I knew that they must have known what was happening by then and wanted them to know that I was safe. I also updated my Facebook status to let people know I wasn’t at the finish line any longer and to not worry about me, but to send your thoughts to Boston.

The next few hours were filled with confusion and fear. There were reports of bombs all over the city – it was chaos. All transit was shut down. Thankfully my friend Abby lived near where we were so we went and camped out at her place and turned on the TV.

Our next major concern was making sure that the staff and corps of City Year were all accounted for. I got on the phone with several members of senior leadership to find out how the count was going – at one point I was on the phone with CEO Michael Brown. It was a conversation I never expected to have. Thankfully we were able to account for everyone and I was able to post that we were all safe.

When I got home that night, hours later, I still couldn’t believe what had happened. I felt numb inside. Violated. Scared. Angry. Confused.

And thus begun one of the most eerie, crazy weeks of my life.

…to be continued.

Top 3 Reasons Why I’m a Buffalo Bills Fan

Living in Boston isn’t always easy for a Bills fan. (Especially when you’re playing the Patriots). So before the slaughter game begins, I’d like to take the opportunity to clear the air and explain why I’ll be rooting for the Bills for all foreseeable NFL seasons.

3) They were THE SHIT when I was a kid

The 90’s were a blessing and a curse for the Bills. We won the AFC East championship four years in a row (which were then followed up by four straight Superbowl losses – but that’s besides the point). I know Bills fans get teased for holding onto those four championships, but you have to admit – pretty damn impressive. I only wish I could have been old enough to really truly appreciate it (I was the ripe young age of three years old when the winning streak began).

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Here I am right before the fourth Superbowl appearance. Sigh.

2) The Committed Fan Base

Yes, I know the #BillsMafia seem like a bunch of drunk schmucks, but you really have to admire their commitment.

No matter how badly the Bills sucked the season before, we always hold out hope that this year is “our year.” Annnd it never is – yet we continue to “Billieve” season after season.

Are we gluttons for punishment? Maybe. But you won’t see us walking out of a game early (ahem, Miami Heat fans) because we know that the game isn’t over until the final whistle – and typically not in our favor.

1) I Really Didn’t Have a Fucking Choice in the Matter

When it comes down to it, my mom made me a Catholic and my dad made me a Bills fan. I didn’t really have a say in the matter on either end. (I did somehow manage to dodge the whole becoming a Republican thing – but maybe I’ll marry a nice Republican boy someday. They’re good with money, after all).

So, there you have it ladies and gentleman. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Bleacher Bar to drink buckets of Blue Light, jam a garbage plate, and begin commiserating with my fellow Bills fans. Here’s to a new season!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Bring You… My First EVER Blog Post

So today my friend Joe was able to track down my Live Journal for me (no I won’t share the link, it’s horrendous).

Picture 6But I did find my very first blog post, which was published on July 31, 2003 – which was the summer in between my sophomore and junior year of high school. (I was kind of surprised by this because I thought I started my Live Journal when I was 14 and in eighth grade, but turns out I started it when I was 16).

(That photo to the right was my user photo – well it still is, but you know what I mean).

Anyways, here it is. My very first blog post:

Well, Im having a hard time trying to figure this thing out, but hopefully Ill get the hang of it. A big thanks to Stacey for working hard and finding me a code! I feel dumb right now because I am super confused, but oh well. ::Blonde Moment:: 

Anyways, my team had a soccer game vs. Rush Henrietta, which is really pretty much Wheatland Chili. We tied 1-1. It was an exciting game, but my new cleats gave me blisters, argh! We won the league by one goal! Great job girls, Im so proud!

To set some context, the Stacey I’m referring to is Stacey Snyder, who was a year ahead of me at Kendall Jr.-Sr. High School. We’re still friends and it’s funny to think how much our lives have changed since this post. She was recently engaged and lives in a log cabin. I moved out of my parent’s log cabin and now live in Boston. Funny.

Anyways, I was hoping to find some sort of ground breaking post where I declared my excitement about having a space to share my thoughts and express myself. And how I was going to change the world with my words. Turns out, I started out being incredibly confused and well, blonde. (Both of which I still relate to – especially the blonde part).

I’ll have to remember that July 31 will be the ten year anniversary of my blogging. Maybe I’ll do something special now that I “got the hang of it.”

Remember to Smile

Over the past couple weeks I’ve found myself feeling really bogged down. The whole work/school combo has been making me feel a bit overwhelmed, I have been feeling a bit homesick, and every time I turn on the news there’s more bloodshed.

It all sort of came to a head on Thursday. I was feeling frustrated about a few different things and as I was walking to class I realized wow – the negativity I was consuming myself with was really impacting my day to day life. I was being snippy in my interactions with people, avoiding social situations, and just generally feeling well, shitty.

I sat down and made myself think about what was getting to me and took ownership over it. (The first step is always admitting you have a problem, right?)

This morning as I was waiting for the 66 in Allston after a night out with friends, an older African American man approaching the bench I was seated on. I looked up and decided to smile at him. I was a bit hungover and exhausted, but that wasn’t his fault, now was it? The least I could do was offer a smile to a stranger passing by.

He stopped in front of me, grab my hand, and thanked me for smiling at him. He told me that he had just found out last night that one of his friends had died and he was feeling down about it. He smelled of booze and admitted to me that he was drunk – it was about 1:00 or so in the afternoon.

We stood there for awhile talking, with my hand in his (which if you know me, you know this is odd for me – I barely even hug my own parents) and I have to admit, it felt nice to connect with someone that way, if even for a few fleeting moments.

And to think, it all stemmed from a simple smile for a stranger who ended up really needing it.

Stuck in the Middle – 2012 Stats

Thanks everyone for reading Stuck in the Middle in 2012! It was a great year of blogging and I appreciate everyone who read, commented, and shared my posts.

WordPress compiled a pretty neat report on how the blog did in 2012, so I thought I would share the results with you (since you made this all happen, after all).

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Five Years Gone, and the Feeling Remains

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people  will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them  feel. – Maya Angelou

When I was trying to decide how to commemorate Bridget on my blog this year, this quotation immediately came to mind. Last year I talked about how everyone who loved her shared the pain of losing her and that we should do our best to share with others about her life and not about her death.

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One of the things I admired most about Bridget was that she wasn’t afraid to feel. Whether it was love for her brother or hatred for bitches on the soccer field, Bridget never shied away from wearing her heart on her sleeve – and it was something I really respected about her.

When I talk to other people about what it’s been like to lose her, the feelings come rushing back. I remember picking up my phone to hear Sarah Gaylord (now Collyer’s) voice on the other end of the line saying “Bridget was in an accident – she’s gone.” I essentially blacked out and kept repeating, “What do you mean, WHAT do you mean?”

I ran outside of the newspaper office on the Fisher campus, sat on the sidewalk, and lost it. I absolutely lost it.

The striking pain I felt that day is something that will always stay with me. It was the first time I lost someone and really understood what it meant. And it killed me to know that I had passed up an opportunity to see her only three days prior.

So many of us (myslef included) spend our lives trying to stifle our feelings. We get embarrassed if we cry in public, we hold back punches (okay, so maybe that isn’t such a bad thing), but the worst thing we do is we rarely tell anyone how they make us feel.

Bridget brought a lot of joy into my life. I was constantly in awe of her energy, her spirit, and her determination. Losing her brought a lot of pain, as it did for so many of us. And while it hurts, I don’t want the pain to stop. It means that she truly meant something to me and that she had an impact on my life.

Today, and moving forward, I want to allow myself to feel. And I have Bridget to thank for that.

Experiencing UBUNTU

I wanted to say this in a Facebook post, but as I started thinking about what I wanted to say it definitely warranted a longer form…

Just had a really stressful day – work was crazy, wasn’t really that prepared for class tonight. Was feeling pretty down as I headed to the T to go home.

Ended up seeing three City Year Boston corps members on the Orange Line. Admittedly, a lot of times I don’t introduce myself to the corps members – especially when I’m in a crap mood and don’t want to talk to anyone in general.

But I decided to go over to them and introduce myself. Turned out they were on their way home from the Idealist.org graduate fair in Boston which they went to after a long day of service.

After talking to them a bit, getting to know them and such, a blonde girl sitting next to them quipped up when she heard I was from Rochester. She told me that not only was she from upstate NY (Syracuse area) but she was currently serving in Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) here in Boston.

I’m hosting my friend Daniel Becton at my apartment this week who is in his fourth week of Project UBUNTU, an incredible journey of service that I have been helping him with for the past couple years.

It was this moment on the T, and moments I have experienced regularly since I began my service, that remind me why I do what I do. I got off at my stop and my mood was instantly brightened. Today was hard, but it was a lot harder for these corps members who served in school all day then took the time to really explore their options for the future.

It made me thankful that I had that experience and energized me to know that the work I do brings these inspiring young people together to make a difference in the lives of students who need them and shapes them as individuals and leaders.