This is Just a Test

By- Traci Taylor
November 2017

Walking out on that fresh cut, green grass
that instantly takes you back
to childhood
or the childhood
you choose to remember
the rest you’ve blocked out
for sake of sanity

People tell you when you are older
if you’ve still got that glimmer of hope in your eye
to “never lose that spark”
what does that even mean
And when did they lose that spark
to remember how important it is not to

Every day I wake up
I feel the weight of the world
and still I feel nothing
I want to understand everyone
because it is easier than trying to understand myself

Three years to thirty
and I haven’t shaken the angst
I always swore city lights and skylines
would break me from this mold
that a small town shaped me in

One day
that always seems to be the answer
even when I don’t remember the question

So I let my mind drift
back to the time when I let
the smell of fresh baked cookies
outweigh the screams
and the loud crashes
that used to be my lullaby

Because it is not where we came from
or where we are going
that matters
it is where we stand in the moment
how we act and react

remembering everything that built us
or broke us
was just preparing us
for the test of kindness
in the darkness of hate

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Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Family

**Note from the author: The topic of family was chosen with the holiday season in mind. This pulled on a lot of emotional heart strings for me, and even so I must admit I left a lot out. For the people that know me, they know underneath my stubborn, hard headed exterior, there is a sentimental heart. This story is dedicated to each person in my life that has shown me that love really does exist and not just in the romantic sense. Thank you for letting me still believe that in each chapter of life good people can be found.

By- Traci Taylor
December 2014
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

Life gives us two sets of family members: the biological and the chosen. Everyone has their own dysfunctional family story and tales from their childhood that are horrifying. I’ve heard them all, and I’ve lived a few of them myself. One thing that really irks me is when people use their broken family life story as an excuse for the choices they make as adults.

At some point responsibility needs to be taken and blame needs to be placed upon the individual, not the family. After all family isn’t limited to just blood relation- the people that offer love and support in your life are sometimes all the family you need regardless of biological connection.

I was raised in a suburban tourist beach town with two older sisters, and a Catholic father (who was actually supposed to be a priest but ended up being a chef- I’ll let that sink in for a second). My dad is undeniably my best friend and I thank my lucky stars every day for the relationship we maintain. Sometimes even though life gives us two parents, one really can end up being enough.

For years I tried to convince my dad that not everyone is meant to be a parent, and that is truly okay. He never really liked when I would remind him of that, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Whether it was he felt ashamed that I never developed a relationship with my mother or because he was so close to his that he felt I was missing out on something.

A parent (or mentor) should posses the qualities of strength, guidance, and support at all times. My dad raised me right, and I know this for plenty of reasons: I still hold doors for people, I say please and thank you no matter what, I say excuse me (especially in the grocery store), and I show respect for my elders. I’m sure I could go on and on, but I think that makes it clear enough. Call me old fashion, but a lot of those qualities are lost in the world today and I am just grateful I still possess them. If there is at least one parent or mentor in your life that has loved you unconditionally, you are as lucky as I am.

At a young age I was exposed to a lot, but ultimately it aided me in being mature beyond my years. When I was ten years old my mother left the family, and I still have so much respect for my dad for not only raising three girls alone but correctly, and with solid values. If it wasn’t for him, there’s a good chance I would not have ended up being the independent woman I am today who still continues to follow her dreams.

Every experience I have had in my family life has opened my eyes to realizing the term family is more about the development of a bond than about being related. In college I took a course on family violence that touched on a lot of different areas of abuse within the household. This ended up being a more emotional hard hitting class for me than I anticipated.

What really got to me was choosing to speak for the first time out loud about my own family story. It took a toll on me to talk about the emotional, verbal abuse my dad had gone through, and my sisters including me were exposed to. In a way it also took a weight off my shoulders to finally speak out loud about something I had held in for so long other than to people who knew me well. Strange enough I think all of the things we experienced as a family only made us stronger in the end.

The other kind of family are the ones you choose as friends, but somewhere along the line an unconditional love forms. When I went away to college for the first couple of years I dreaded it. I would drive three and a half hours home to New Jersey every other weekend. It wasn’t until my very last semester at Millersville that I found my group of lifelong friends.

My good friend Meg had introduced me to a few guys she knew. Before I knew it I was like their fifth roommate and I ended up sleeping on their couch every night that semester. Somewhere within a short six month span, plenty of late drunken nights, we all became family. Through the good, and the bad they have been there. It is friends like them that remind me it is about being there no matter the circumstance simply because you genuinely care.

After college was done and my dad sold the house in Jersey, I had to move. I knew it was time to begin the next chapter of my life, but I was hesitant of all the change. Moving anywhere new meant being away from familiarity and people I loved. Living in Philadelphia was very lonely at first, and being at a short distance from people I knew was a tough adjustment.

When I landed my second restaurant job in the city things began to look up. Finally I had found a place with people who were actually friendly and not pretentious. Although the job itself had more downs than ups, the people I worked with were my reason for going to work with a smile on my face. Seeing people every day, and spending hours together makes it difficult not to become so close.

There are a handful of individuals that I worked with there that have undeniably been there for me in my darkest of times. Family can be defined by who is there holding you above water when there is an anchor tied to you trying to keep you down below sea level.

During the holiday season remember if you feel lonely; that the family you are born into only defines you if you choose to let it. As years go by it is easier to see the bigger picture and that the past may be set in stone, but the future has yet to be lived. Take a moment to think about the people that matter the most to you, and who have been there without judgment.

Whether you come from a broken home, or from a picture perfect family think about how you have let that define you in your lifetime. Either way, it should be for the better. Family is given and chosen to raise us, advise us, and lend a hand. They may not always be by blood relation, but if an unconditional love exists that’s really all that matters.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Change

**Note from author: This third part of Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable is all about change. I reflect mostly upon the importance of how change is in order to grow as an individual, how it can seem scary, and also the impact it plays in relations with others. Each week I will continue to switch up topics and keep it as personal/real as possible.

By- Traci Taylor
December 2014
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

The world is constantly evolving, so why is the thought of change so terrifying? I still can’t figure out why it took me so long to finally accept that change is necessary and it doesn’t always have to be viewed as negative. In order to grow as an individual, some sort of change must occur. I still think my fear is partially due to the fact I lived in the same house for twenty-two years. Yes I went away to college, but in the back of my mind I knew that the familiarity of home was still nearby.

Change impacts every single aspect of life starting from birth: friendships, love interests, hobbies, ambitions, food palate, etc. Nothing is exactly the same as you pictured it since childhood. Which is great, because could you imagine a world filled with only WNBA superstars who are also professional bakers? (Or maybe that was just my dream). The point is without change, there cannot be growth to the potential that is meant to be fulfilled.

Friendships are one thing in life that can remain constant, or change constantly. Not everyone has the same friends they had in high school, and then some people have friends they’ve known since grade school. Either way, if those friends are still supportive and put a smile on your face it does not really matter how long you have known them. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in believing the length of the friendship is more important than the quality of the friend.

To me, the best kind of friend is one that it doesn’t matter how frequently you see them, but the second you two speak, you pick up right where things were left off. I have quite a few friends like that, and they know how grateful I am to have them in my life for as long as I have.

An important lesson I have learned about friendships over the years is they change, just like everything else in life. It doesn’t matter when the friendship blossomed but the fact that it did, and it still remains to exist. Individuals grow, and sometimes that causes friendships to differ from when they began. It is a part of life, and what is important to remember is to cherish things for what they were. Learning to let go is perhaps one of the hardest things about change, but it is also the most important.

I remember when I was younger, and still very much in the closet, I had a boyfriend for a few years who I was convinced at the time I would be with forever. Looking back it is quite comical, but then at age fourteen I didn’t realize how much change would truly be occurring in the years to come.

Unless you are a part of a rare few that marry their high school sweetheart, love interests change rather frequently, but most of the time for the better. Each person we are with seems perfect at the time, but unless they grow with you, they are just another chapter in your life. The heartbreaks that occur force us to grow as individuals, and learn.

Often people long for stability in life and fear losing things or others they once cared deeply for. It takes time to be aware that the changes that occurred were more than likely for the best. As tough as it may seem, growing and evolving are vital to happiness. In order to learn how to ride a bicycle you must take off the training wheels, and metaphorically ride through life on your own.

One thing to remember is to not get stuck. There are ways to not be miserable in life and that is by taking control. I think sometimes it is easy to forget that it is perfectly fine to be afraid of taking risks. At times it is scary to imagine all of the change and for life to be any different than the way it is in this exact moment. Do not be afraid of the in between that is the change, because if it is working towards the positive path it will always be worth it. Losing something or someone is never a permanent sadness once you discovery that change is inevitable.

To be aware that everything happens for a reason, and that change is what keeps things going really makes the universe seem more beautiful than before. Each day that passes is another lesson learned in life. If I never evolved into the person I am I would still be that nine year old closeted girl, dreaming to be Sheryl Swoopes, and baking pies while driving a bright blue convertible living in Los Angeles (Yes that dream existed for quite some time). I’m grateful to still be a dreamer, but thankful that I am a little more grounded and fabulously gay compared to my younger self.

Dealing with change will always be hard. It only gets easier when you take a step back to look at the bigger picture to realize each change made was in effort to start living a euphoric life.