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: Staying Positive

**Note from the author:With the end of this series almost coming to a close I was finding it more and more difficult to pinpoint topics to write about. This week I wrote about remaining positive, because lately that’s all I’ve been feeling (along with endless gratitude). The end of last year was a difficult one for me, and I’ve made a significant transition in my life in the the way I live it. As we grow older it is easy to forget how happy and hopeful we once were. I write this for your consideration to reminiscence back to a time when perhaps it seemed easier to believe in endless happiness & cynicism wasn’t so prominent. 
By- Traci Taylor
March 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

Not very long ago, five months or so, there was a time where I didn’t think I could make it through the day, and deep inside I hoped that I wouldn’t. To many people I appeared happy, but that was far from the truth. I found it difficult to stay positive. Back in October I would have never imagined my life would turn completely around and I would be where I am currently (constantly surrounded by positive energy). Perhaps if I had known what the future held I would have had a better outlook on things, but that’s easier to consider now that life is more desirable.

One of my favorite writers J.D. Salinger once said, “I’ve survived a lot of things, and I’ll probably survive this.” In certain moments it can prove hard to be able to remain upbeat, but being able to hold out for hope that things will eventually get better tends to make it easier.

Without a doubt there is truth to the fact that the only person responsible for the mood you are in is yourself. It is all in the mindset you put yourself in. Sometimes I know it is tough to talk yourself out of a dark place, but once you do life seems tremendously brighter. I was lucky back in October to get a second chance at not feeling like I was stuck in a rut.

For some time I was fighting plenty of demons that were preventing me from being the “ray of sunshine” others may have seen. I struggled with being in the closet for over twenty years which fueled the depression and in result my dependency on alcohol sky rocketed as a way of self medicating. All of those things combined ended up being my biggest downfall. I lost a lot of ambition, and parts of me that were once hopeful became tainted with negative thoughts.

After a certain age people lose that sense of hope that we all have as children. The hopeless romantics turn into cynics and the always cheerful quickly turn into the burnt out. It is unfortunate how there is this thought that in order to be an adult you have to stop believing in the things you used to at a younger age.

Somewhere along the way something makes you lose the sparkle in your eye that you had for many years. I’ve seen, and experienced, the kindest of people turn stone cold (it’s disheartening, especially when it is someone close). I’m an advocate against cynicism; I find it boring and plain. Call it naïve, but I think it makes life more colorful to look on the brighter side of things.

When I was at my rock bottom I could almost feel the negative vibes taking over my everyday mindset (which was quickly muted out with alcohol just like any other problem I had). I was morphing into a person I didn’t even recognize anymore. The relationship I was in at the time was falling apart and it scared me, but I knew there was nothing I could do so I drank (in retrospect that is probably when I should have stopped drinking). I was in a job that made me absolutely miserable and only aided my drinking habit, but I felt so stuck that I didn’t see a way out.

Originally moving to Philly was supposed to be a temporary thing until I found a job outside of the restaurant industry, except it was beginning to feel permanent. That’s what really started to get inside of my head, and I felt as though I was at a dead end which ended up ruining all other relationships in my life. Internally I felt like I was failing and the only thing that was an escape from that reality was drinking. At the time I could see no positive outcome, and it has taken me almost five months of being sober from alcohol to see that.

Then February rolled around and I was endlessly looking for jobs since the restaurant I had been working at shut down. One day I saw an ad on Craigslist (of all places, I know) for a lacrosse goalie coach. Growing up I was always involved in sports, but a lot of people that know me as an adult aren’t aware of that part of my life.

Lacrosse was a sport that I was really into in high school and missed out on the opportunity of playing in college because of poor grades (one thing I have always regretted). There I was with this chance to get back involved with a sport that I love, and I figured if I managed to write a convincing enough cover letter maybe I would hear back.

When I eventually did hear back, I was shocked but obviously extremely excited that I got a response. Being surrounded by the positive energy of lacrosse and the team is a rewarding thing (Even Chuck Klosterman was a coach before his career took off, right?). I may only be in my mid-twenties but thus far I’ve learned a lot of tough life lessons. The most important is taking responsibility for how your life is going, and changing something if it is making you miserable.

As adults sometimes it is easy to lose that sense of positive, “childlike” hopefulness about the world. Sometimes I truly believe that is the downfall of society. Too many people that you pass on the street have unpleasant looks on their faces, and it is gratifying to pass a stranger with a kind smile. There isn’t enough positive energy or politeness in this world. It is vital to remember that every struggle in life is not permanent, even if it might be tough right now. From personal experience I know it is easy to get wrapped up in a dejected mindset and have it ruin you. Life is meant to be something enjoyable, and somewhere along the way that can be forgotten. The key to it all is finding reasons to smile about why you woke up this morning, even if it is simply for the sun rise or the smell of the coffee brewing.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Power of Music

**Note from the author- This piece was written on a lighter note than most of the topics I’ve touched upon over the past few weeks. I believe music is a very important aspect of life and sometimes it is taken for granted. I wrote this to remind others that music is indeed created for enjoyment, but there are also other reasons music is a vital part of the lives we live. Just take a moment, read, soak it in, and then listen to the music play.

By- Traci Taylor
February 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

There are many ways of expressing emotions in life, but what seems to be one of the most powerful forms of expression is music. It can alternate moods, trigger certain memories, tell stories, and draw connections between people. Imagining a world without music is quite difficult, but envisioning that world puts in perspective the vital role music plays in everyday life.

I had a conversation with someone once about how certain songs have the power to bring back memories of specific moments from the past. The reality of that is both joyous and sorrowful because not every bit of music brings back pleasant memories. However it demonstrates the significance songs can have throughout life. Often music is used as an aid to get through certain moments whether it may be a good or bad life experience.

Music has always been my core inspiration as a writer. I was never that musically inclined (minus being able to play a few guitar chords) but have always turned to music to spark creativity. I read an article not too long ago in Billboard when they interviewed Stevie Nicks and she mentioned the power advantage that a writer has. Just like stories inspired by life events, sometimes it is easy to forget that music is created in the same sense. Stevie’s words in the interview really kind of summed up my feelings about writing and music:

“That’s why it’s good to be a writer, because you get to lash back…. Just because a relationship ended badly, and shitty things happened, you cannot tell that to the world. But you can write a song about it, in three verses and a bridge and a chorus, that tells the really magical moments….”

It is an outlet of expression, there is no limit to music and that’s what makes it so fantastic. No matter how someone may be feeling there is more than likely a song that was written about that exact emotion. The connections with music and emotions are endless, regardless of the mood or genre.

There are genres for different emotions; it just needs to be narrowed down to the individuals taste. Although I am an advocate for mostly older tunes (there seems to be a more authentic feel to music from the past, in my opinion) I do indulge in music from the current era. The only true way to take full advantage of music is to explore all genres from different decades, and listen without bias. Music much like literature or any other art form is about expression, putting it out into the world, and hoping it makes some sort of impact.

Sometimes things that happen in life aren’t easy to deal with and there doesn’t seem to be any solution of making the situation better. That’s usually when I blast music, loudly. There are particular songs (sometimes despondent ones because there’s nothing better than a great sad song) that really help to brighten things up a bit. Never underestimate the power of a good crying session with the soundtrack of some of the best sad songs.

Sad songs are fantastic and having a playlist filled with them is something I am an advocate for. Whenever I feel that awful overwhelming feeling of melancholy kick in I listen to one of my favorite songs, “Landslide”. Ever since I was a kid this song has been the one that somehow has the power to bring tears to my eyes. For some reason it reminds me of my dad and whenever I begin to miss him, I like to listen to it. Recently I found the Fleetwood Mac album at a local record store in the city and the first time I heard this track on vinyl, I swear chills rushed through my body. Hearing music on vinyl is more than just listening; it’s an experience of sorts. Perhaps that is why I’ve always been so interested in collecting vinyl records over the years. Vinyl shopping and listening to records are my absolute favorite form of therapy. When in doubt, put the records on. When words are put to rhythms and beats it creates an escape for the listener to get lost, even for a few minutes.

Another song that can make me sorrowful is, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, This song I had on repeat for weeks after I got the news of my friend Logann’s passing. As dejected as I felt, sometimes sad songs have a way of providing comfort just to get through the day. Melancholy moods can’t always be cured with more sadness, sometimes that’s not the best solution. In which case music can still be the answer, just perhaps more upbeat tunes (that’s why music is so great, there’s a whole endless selection to choose from). My go-to “pick-me-up” music varies upon mood, but it’s usually: Glenn Miller, Grouplove, or certain Rap music (Kanye, Childish Gambino, etc.).

When I just need a little boost of confidence I tend to turn to Yeezy or Childish Gambino. (Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if people would listen to music without bias of an artist’s personal life it would be easier to hear the talent in their sounds). I’ve also been known to freestyle Notorious B.I.G. , but that was back when whiskey was my water and I’m not too sure how confident with my rap skills I am sober.

Music contains the type of power that can trigger memories from over the years that transport back to specific periods in life. There are some songs from the past that can bring back very vivid memories that were once forgotten. Personally hearing anything in regards to Whitney will forever remind me of that drunken night in Philly. The night she passed away was my first night with a girl and my friend repeatedly screamed “Traci loves Philly” loudly in the next room (never once did I imagine I would relate Whitney Houston with my coming out story). The memories music can draw attention to certainly aren’t always upsetting ones, there are also happy unforgettable (even momentous lesbionic) moments.

Even childhood memories can be triggered by certain songs from the past. My sisters and I had a tendency to make ridiculous music videos growing up whenever boredom struck. Now whenever I hear “Thong Song” or “I’m like a Bird” I laugh and cringe simultaneously. As fun as it was in the moment I dread the thought of anyone other than the three of us watching those videos (thankfully no one owns a VHS player anymore). Little were any of us aware at the time that those songs would contain such ridiculously humorous, yet precious memories of growing up together.

Everyday the soundtrack to life is being made by the song you choose to play. That very tune will have the power to bring you back to that moment in time, whether it seems to have significance now or not. Music itself tells a story with its lyrics and rhythms that it contains, but it is what that song means to you that make it memorable to your life.

Take a moment when you get behind the wheel and listen to those songs that make you feel an overwhelming sense of emotion. There’s nothing more intimate and relaxing than being able to drive around aimlessly listening to the music through car speakers. Since I moved to the city I no longer have that luxury, so I choose to walk around with headphones instead. While I walk I tend to look up at the skyline of endlessly tall buildings against the warm blue sky and reflect with a smile that I am the one in control of the creation to the soundtrack of memories to my life.

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.

Home is A Feeling

By- Traci Taylor
December 2014

The sky outside falls dark,
autumn is slowly transforming into winter.
Flashback of memories flow through,
triggered by the scent of snow.

A sudden sense of familiarity takes over
to a time when home was still a place
not just a feeling.

Grow up in a place for 23 years,
and have it disappear.
Lose a sense of security,
but also the definition of home.

Eyes slowly shut,
wishing for that missing feeling.
Patience is the puzzle piece.

Time will pass unexpectedly
November will come and go quickly
the scent of December brings realization.
Home is now a feeling, and self love was the equation.