Week Forty-five: Amanda Kasper

Untitled1

Write about anything.

closing time,

open all the doors and let you out into the world…

so gather up your jackets, move it to the exits

I hope you have found a friend

closing time,

every new beginning comes

 from some other beginnings end

[semisonic, closing time]

Last week, I took down the public blog I had been keeping for nearly four years. As I started selecting pictures and words for the final post, I realized the breadth and depth that blog covered in its entirety. It was there that I wrote through seasons and moments, through memories and experiences. I couldn’t be more grateful to look back and read the thoughts I was having, the things I was feeling and going through, the life I was living and the times I was merely surviving. The first blog post ever published here was on August 24th, 2009, and at the time, only one person had access to its contents. That reader became disengaged quite some time ago.

But I didn’t. I found something in writing that I didn’t feel anywhere else – the ability to be open, honest, and real. Over the past 44 months, I have written 365 blog posts, and there have been nearly 90,000 views at & This, I Believe.

I started that blog with the sole intention of keeping in touch, of drafting my thoughts so they didn’t become lost in my head. Eventually, as 2009 turned into 2010 and I began what has turned out to be a life-changing journey, I expanded my audience. I began sharing what I was writing with a few people here and there. I was cautious, I wanted to be able to remain truthful and open, not censored or concerned; I wanted to look back and felt like I had truly written, that I had found a way to unleash the thoughts in my head and the feelings in my heart in the most eloquent way possible.

I kept writing, more and more frequently. I started to realize that my life and my journey had a very distinct purpose, and I thought if I kept writing than maybe just one person would find this blog, and feel less alone. Even if they never reached out, even if they never told me, I wanted to feel like this blog, this space, had the potential to reach out and touch someone else.

In those days, I had no idea what I was getting into – with blogging, with activism, with my health and the ways in which it would soon drastically begin to change my life.

In 2010, I started slowly, but the less I could do physically, the more pieces of my heart and soul I needed to connect with in whatever ways possible. Looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful for the things that I wrote, the raw honesty I shared – because for me, it provides a great deal of insight into moments and feelings I might not have otherwise remembered, the strength I found when I didn’t believe it could exist, and the people who both raised me up and tore me down – each of whom taught me priceless lessons.

To this day, I believe that only we have the power and choice to learn and grow from the things that change us.

We can get stuck in place, or we can keep moving forward…

In the last four years, I’ve experienced significant periods of both. They take equal effort – I promise. But what I can tell you now that I never could’ve told you then, is that as you grow, you become more willing to try. More willing to think through and understand the life you’d like to create, the people you’d like to be surrounded by, the person you’d like to become.

Through the 72 blog posts I wrote during 2010, there is an evident shift in language, in self perception, and in my feelings and understanding of myself, of the world, and of my place within it. There were days I was exactly who I wanted to be; and days that I had no idea who I was, or how to get there. I learned things, I did things, things that I’m forever grateful for, even if I may not be so proud of them. For those moments and those lessons taught me far more than I would’ve learned without them. Looking back, they have in truth shaped a great deal of who I am today, and I am learning to very much like this person.

2011 was a year of challenges and unexpected changes for me. I wrote a lot – I journaled, I completed the fiction project through the Brooklyn Art Library and got to view my book and several others on tour in May, I celebrated my birthday in Washington DC while my brother graduated from college & I got to do the only thing one should be required to do while in DC – visit Georgetown cupcakes and meet Sophie and Catherine. 2011 was a year that taught me a lot about myself. A very good friend gave me advice I will never, ever forget.

Being brave means not always having a plan.

No matter where I’ve gone and what has happened since the day those words were shared, they’ve been etched around my heart in a way that I have certainly continued to strive for. Some days are more successful than others, but those words have always been in the back of my mind and inscribed around the inside of my soul.

During that time, I did learn to be brave. And to be vulnerable. I was challenged to write more openly and less cryptically, to tell the whole story and not just the parts I was ready for. I spent every last minute I could in the sun, under the stars, and with the people who new me best. I worked hard to return to my hope for the year: Finding Balance.

That blog was been a staple of my life for as long as I can remember. In the same way I can’t remember my stomach not hurting, in the same way I can’t remember not feeling at home on the ice, I can’t remember a time before I wrote like this, there. It has enabled me to document my life as it unfolded; and having that is incomparable to anything else.

But, it changed me. Over time, it changed how and why I write. Some of the change has been good. Some of it I’m grateful for. I have become a far better writer, I’ve become far more passionate about writing and about it’s place in my life.

I have learned a significant amount of things through the last four years, both through that blog and through my life.

Do onto others as you’d want done onto you. This was, is, and always has been one of my favorite idioms. What does it truly mean? Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. If you’re looking for support, and it’s appropriate, offer that to someone else. If you need comic relief, and its appropriate, offer that too. Think before you act. Think before you speak.

You can never really know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes. You can sure as shit try. But until you realize that empathy and sympathy are very, very different things, you cannot understand the complex nature of emotions, or of friendship, or of love. This is a lesson in so many times and across so many places; I’d like to write it on the walls or tatto it on my forehead, but it doesn’t matter. Either you’ve learned the lesson, or you haven’t. And who am I to correct that? I’m not. Only you are. 

Blood is thicker than water. And I’m not just talking family, because, well, family extends bloodlines. Family is found in all sorts of places, and becomes a collection of love, of homebodies and trust that we pick up along the way. I feel beyond blessed and lucky for the incredible people who make up the fabric of my life and who I call family. 

But learning the difference, learning who you can trust and what trust means, well, it’s a lifelong battle. Especially if you’re a girl. As I’ve learned, age means nothing; if you’re stuck in the 7th grade mentally, thats the only way you understand how to act. And for that, I am truly and deeply sorry for you, for your life will never amount to what it could have, and at the end of the day, you will only have yourself to blame for that.

Trust Your Gut. If it feels right, it likely is. And if it doesn’t, open your eyes wide, turn around, and run, run like the wind in the opposite direction.

Here’s a word to the wise…

If you have an axe to grind, do so behind closed doors. I can ultimately promise you that doing it in a public way, or involving people who do not need to be involved will leave you licking your wounds, without having accomplished what you went in for, and feeling all the feelings all at once. Be an adult. Maturity is an art, not a science. Even if you haven’t grown into it yet – let me save you some of the pain. Communication is best left between two people, not in a vague facebook status or in an email with six other people copied. It just isn’t. I guarantee you also, that by approaching this with your held held high and your voice confident, you might actually find yourself resolving the problem, or realizing it wasn’t actually a problem at all, before you’ve involved half the proverbial neighborhood.

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. This one, my friends, might just be the most important lesson I hope you’ll take away from this post, and from my time as an active blogger. I wish I had some insight on why people do what they do, but because I don’t, I can only speak from experience. Words spoken can never be taken back. Thinking before talking is not only a beautiful thing, but in fact, it saves many a relationship.

When I was admitted to the hospital in March, 2012, I chose to make that blog, and some of the intimate details of my heath journey very public. In truth, I hadn’t thought about the repercussions. I followed a lot of bloggers already at that time, a lot of others who put vulnerable parts of their life out into the cyber world, and I felt like sharing my story was part of my purpose. I felt like if people couldn’t or didn’t understand it or me or accept me for it, then I didn’t want them in my life. There’s still some truth to that, but the sentiment is so much bigger now. Through sharing the details of my challenges and changes, I met some incredible people, people who came into my life for a reason, or a season, or for a whole life long; people who have inspired me and motivated me and held my hand and understood in ways I never even could’ve asked for.

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I think this is one of the most important lessons not only from this blog, and from the online world, but in life. You physically judge a book by the image or the colors on its cover (although with all the e-readers in the world now, I’m willing to guess that many people don’t even experience book covers anymore, which makes me all sorts of sad). But, it’s bigger than that. There are so many people who come off that way, and it is only later, only after the curtains have been drawn and light begins to stream into the room that the truth comes out. People can only hold a front for so long before they are exposed, and sometimes, you wish you never knew the truth. Sometimes the pain of the reality we once looked past is overwhelming, in ways that I only wish I could explain.

“We accept the love we think we deserve” 

..the perks of being a wallflower..

Things I never wanted to know, I have learned deeply and intimately; and my hope for you is that you have done the same. This year, I have begun to believe in silver linings. In the fact that people are brought into our lives at certain times for certain reasons, but they are not always meant to stay. I’ve learned that trusting people is hard, really really hard, especially when you’ve been burned hundreds of times before. But when you learn to let the right people into your inner circle, there is little that is more powerful than having an army of supporters standing behind you. I’ve learned that a little bit of hope goes much farther than you can realize until you turn around and see where you have come from, all the while knowing where you’d like to go.

I believe in returning to the places, the people, and the spaces that inspire us, that nurture us, that raise us up. For fifteen years, I have found that on the ice. I’ve written more times than I can count about the safety and security of the ice, the way it enables me to center and to breathe and to forget, just for the time being, about everything else. It’s my safe space. The space where I find it easier to be kind to myself. Where I have patience. Where it makes more sense.

In truth, nearly everything I’ve learned is somehow deeply rooted in the lessons I learned on the ice 10-15 years ago. Reconnecting with them now has enabled me to find closure on some things that happened a very long time ago, and to make peace with both myself, and the power of the ice on my mental health, on the status of my health and my heart…

So today, through reflection and memories, through words simple and complex, through feelings and emotions, I write to tell you that I chose to sign off. That the blog I kept has meant a great deal for me, and I undoubtedly will continue writing in several different capacities, but that place is no longer the right forum for me.

I thank you, from the absolute bottom of my heart, for every time you’ve clicked, or scrolled; for every visit, every post you’ve read, every comment you’ve left or message you’ve sent me in response to the things I’ve chosen to write about, the challenges I’ve faced and the chronicle of the ways in which I’ve changed, deeply and sometimes without intention.

…because the truth is that we are all fighting against the odds in one way or another, whether you’re an inner-city kid trying to fight your way out of poverty; 

a student trying to achieve despite being surrounded by a culture that glamorizes failure; 

a family trying to change someone’s life; a teacher, coach or mentor trying to reach out – or an adult who still carries scars from the past – we are all fighting an uphill battle, but with each step we take, we learn a little more, 

grow a little stronger, and gain a clearer voice

[michael oher]

____________________

Amanda Kasper is a writer, reader, quote lover, CASA advocate, and non-profit believer, seeking space as a lifelong learner, passionate lover, and irreplaceable friend. Amanda tweets at @AKasper513 and blogs over at “& this I believe”

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