1. They never tire of listening to you talk about what it means when your love interests texts you back after a 45 minute silence. Or, when they do, they help you realize you have better things to do with your time and energy than perseverate. They are on your team, they don’t make you feel needy or crazy.

2. They answer your phone calls. A lot of people screen and wait for a voicemail or text message to see if it’s worth picking up your call (or avoid it if say, your car got towed and you need an emergency ride in the middle of the day), but a great friend answers the phone, they are there for you.

3. You can brag about the promotion you got without feeling like an asshole. You know your best friend is genuinely ecstatic for you and so you can be happy for yourself and not worry about coming off as conceited, they know you aren’t.

4. They don’t act one way with you and another way with their significant other or other groups of friends. They know who they are, and they are confident enough in that to not have to put on an act around people.

5. You can ugly-cry in front of them. No judgement.

6. You can tell them the bad things you do — the time you’ve had lapses in judgement and done something shitty. They won’t judge you, they know one act doesn’t dismantle all the good things you’ve done. And they’ll help you figure out what motivated you to do something you regret, and how you can avoid it in the future.

7. You can ask them extremely personal questions about their grooming habits or sex life in order to figure out how “normal” you are, and they’ll offer up the details without hesitation. You trust each other.

8. You don’t have to ask for permission to take a swig of their drink, to take your pants off when you’re veging at their place, or to use their phone when yours is dead.

9. They bring you a Gatorade when you’re hungover, or, better yet, bring one over the night you go out together so it’s chilling in your fridge when you wake up. That’s A+ best friend thoughtfulness.

10. You think they might actually give you a kidney, if you needed one.

11. When someone says something about them that seems sketchy you can, with confidence, say “no.” You know they’d never do anything behind your back with complete authority.

12. They would never, ever, let your birthday pass without making a big deal out of it. Even if you offer up a humble “I don’t really feel like making a big deal about it this year,” you know they’ll do something to make you feel special.

13. They don’t bitch viciously about others. It’s one thing to vent, but if they are intentionally mean about people most of the time, they probably aren’t that great of a friend.

14. When you want their opinion they find a way to express it that is both honest and respectful. They aren’t a yes man, but they aren’t rude under the guise of “I’m just being honest” either. They know how to strike the perfect balance between telling you what you need to know, and not hurting your feelings.

15. They always have your back. Always. I always think of the scene in Sex and the City where Samantha got upset at her doctor for implying she got breast cancer as a karmic punishment for never having children. Sure, maybe her fresh-from-finding-out-she-had-cancer emotions were a little oversensitive, but her BFF Carrie apologized for her instead of having her back. A high-quality best friend doesn’t do that. If you’re genuinely in the wrong, they will explain it to you later, but they won’t throw you under the bus in the heat of the moment.

16. They know secret ways to make you feel better — and they use them. They don’t have to stop their entire life and devote it to you when you get dumped, but they check in. They show up with a bottle of tequila and both Anchorman movies. They make sure you have a shoulder to cry on and if you don’t feel like crying, you at least have something to laugh about.

17. You don’t have to put on a show for them. They know you inside and out, and they love you for it. They make you feel loved. TC mark

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He is :*
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Ever since I learned the ways of the world and the gosh-darned patriarchy, I’ve felt societally obligated to hate a lot of the things I once loved in order to fit the mold of what a feminist is supposed to be. However, to me, this is a load of bullshit. Because really, I’ve always been a feminist, I just didn’t know it before. And, god damn it, I’m going to watch my rom-coms and I’m going to like them.

The romantic comedies that I truly love, not the ones I’ve just semi-enjoyed in passing, all hold true to my core belief system built on equality and advocacy for women. They are all stories that showcase intelligent, dynamic women. But to a lot of the outside world, they are considered low-brow, mindless “chick flicks” that no respectable man or respectable feminist could ever enjoy. However, writing off these kinds of movies as mindless “chick flicks” is really what we should be fighting against, because the idea that any movie with a female protagonist or a love story is “superficial” and reserved exclusively for silly, vapid women is a problem.

Yes, I will acknowledge that there are some TERRIBLE romantic comedies. Truly terrible. But there are terrible movies of all genres. And, interestingly enough, most of the terrible rom-coms I can think of have come out since the year 2002 (“Bride Wars,” “Rumor Has It,” “All About Steve”). I think if you take a close look at why that is could be because of how movie executives approached the idea of rom-coms after the successes of many fabulous versions from the late 80s to early 2000s. My guess is, execs said to themselves, “chick flicks make a lot of money, let’s call Kate Hudson and churn out as many formulaic ideas as we can.” Stories about women became niche. And most of these movies often ended up being terrible and were financial flops. Because no one wants to see vacant characters in predictable scenarios.

The Dark Ages of Chick Flicks (2002–???) has led to what looks to be the death of the romantic comedy over the last few years. It’s great that we are rejecting the bad ones, depicting women in terrible ways, but now the good ones are gone too. A few great, independent romantic comedies have emerged amongst the crappy big-budget studio films, but I would love to see the studios bring the high-quality rom-com back into their repertoire and into the mainstream (and hey, maybe hire some more female writers and directors!). Rom-coms can be great, I promise!

I want to thank Mindy Kaling for putting it out there that well-educated, witty, feminist women can also love rom-coms and designer duds. Especially with the drought of high-quality chick flicks, it’s nice to see that there’s some hope for us rom-com lovers on network television. Kaling’s show, “The Mindy Project,” does a great job at fostering the kind of “will they or won’t they” romance I crave without losing a sense of multi-faceted characters and truly funny comedic moments. It’s something I’ve longed for since the days of Ross and Rachel, and although “The Office’s” Jim and Pam tugged at my heartstrings in the most extreme way, that show was always a little more about the workplace comedy and kooky characters than romance alone. (Also, shout out to Elizabeth Meriwether, because “New Girl” has also had some pretty great moments too. And to Lena Dunham, but I think “Girls” is in a league of its own in terms of genre at this point. But, in general, keep it up lady showrunners!).

With all this in mind, it’s important to remember the times when romantic comedies were good, heck they were great. Classic films like “The Apartment,” “Roman Holiday,” and “It Happened One Night” all fit the rom-com model and are hailed as some of the greatest films of all time. Even in later years, you had great movies like “Moonstruck,” “Annie Hall,” and “When Harry Met Sally.” However, what I’d like to showcase here are some of the films I watched growing up and have consistently loved from my youth through my adulthood. I’ve decided to curate a list of the Top 5 Romantic Comedies from my generation, 1998 to today. I’ve examined these movies through both the eyes of an clueless youth and an overly socially conscious adult, and they all hold up.

Before I reveal my picks, I think it’s important to note that I did not include “Love Actually.” Yes, I enjoy the movie–I’m a human being for God’s sake–but I’m just really sick of seeing thirty different statuses about drinking peppermint lattes while watching “Love Actually” every holiday season for the last ten years, or however long Facebook has been around. “Love Actually” gets enough attention. If you haven’t seen it, many people have already yelled at you about it. And you probably have made a conscious choice not to watch it at this point because of this. And I respect that, because I hate people too.

Also worth mentioning, I left out “The Wedding Planner,” because although I truly love that movie with all of my heart, it just doesn’t have the extra pow of female empowerment I was looking for when I made this list. But, ugh, do I love me some J.Lo and McConaughey. “The Wedding Planner” is still great and I will always love it. The same goes for “Hitch.” Long live “Hitch.”

I am also excluding high school movies from this list because I just want to deal with films that examine real, adult relationships, not high school puppy love. And if you’re a high schooler reading this who is offended by that– stop reading this blog. Fluorescent beige is a teen free zone. No youths allowed.

Anyway, that is not to say that there aren’t some really great high school rom-coms. Honorable mentions go to “Clueless,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “She’s the Man,” and “Easy A.” Really, you can’t go wrong with a high school movie based on a piece of classic literature. Somehow it’s always a winning combination. Hey movie producers, more of this please. Also I was going to mention “Mean Girls” but that’s not really a rom-com, and if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen “Mean Girls”– go hang out with some teens, because you’re not allowed to read this blog anymore either.

I also left out “The Devil Wears Prada” because I don’t really consider it a rom-com. Same with “Pitch Perfect.” Okay I don’t need to keep explaining why I left things out, obviously this can’t cover everything and if I left something out that you like, well, you can just get over it.

Here is a final rundown of my favorites, in chronological order:

1. “YOU’VE GOT MAIL” (1998)

First of all, Tom Hanks’ best friend in this movie is played by Dave Chapelle. I just needed to acknowledge that before I said anything else about this movie. With that fun fact aside, I must say that not only does “You’ve Got Mail” make this list, but it also is my favorite romantic comedy of all time. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are at their most charismatic and the concept of anonymous email pen pals now feels as romantically antiquated as nineteenth century couples exchanging letters during wartime. “You’ve Got Mail” would never work if they had met on Tinder.

What I really like about this movie is how Tom Fox and Kathleen Kelly start off as peers, business rivals, who don’t get along but still see the other as equals. I also love their ages. Meg Ryan was 37 when this movie was released and Hanks was 42, and there’s no emphasis on how Ryan is an “old maid,” “spinster,” or that it’s strange for anyone to find love at this age. And Hanks isn’t falling for some younger woman, he’s falling for a peer. They’re both fiercely independent and there’s a mutual respect that you don’t see in a lot of these kinds of movies. Ryan and Hanks are truly a dream team, and their chemistry alone makes anything starring them worth-watching. But a combination of these factors makes “You’ve Got Mail”  stand out for me, that and Hanks’s amazing golden retriever, Brinkley.


This is a tricky one, because there are a lot of things in this movie that are far from perfect, and one of them is just the general premise. Sandra Bullock’s character is seen as an undateable man repeller because she doesn’t invest copious amounts of time into her appearance. But, as soon as she gets a makeover she achieves success in her career, gets the guy, and reaches a new level of self-actualization. Not a super great message on the surface. But, there’s a lot of really great things going on underneath if you look more closely.

Yes, Grace Hart gets her makeover and looks beautiful in order to compete in a beauty pageant, but she still doesn’t lose her personality or her focus on achieving her goal. Bottom line, she’s protecting the show from a terrorist attack, and like many women, she deals with not being taken seriously at work because of her gender.

With all that aside, one thing I really love about this one is how Grace ends up forging meaningful bonds with the women around her, women she had written off as shallow and unintelligent. Grace grows because she is able to see women who are different from herself as friends and allies, and she will stop at nothing to protect them. Yes, there is a romance element of the film, but its not the main focus. And yes it’s pretty cheesy at times, but it’s got a lot of heart. If you forgot why Sandra Bullock is America’s Sweetheart, watch “Miss Congeniality.” I mean this movie has Candice Bergen, William Shatner, and Michael Caine, what’s not to like?

3. “LEGALLY BLONDE” (2001)

I honestly can’t say enough good things about “Legally Blonde.” I almost had this movie memorized as a kid, and I credit it for taking part in shaping a lot of who I am today. I read an article on one of my favorite blogs recently that truly captured all my thoughts and more about this movie, so I figured it’s better to just share that with you rather than just regurgitate what someone else has already said. Here it is.


“13 Going on 30” is okay. “He’s Just Not That Into You” has some decent moments. “27 Dresses” is bearable despite Katherine Heigl– other than that there’s really not much worth watching. There are a lot of post-”Sex and the City” attempts to make Sarah Jessica Parker a movie star. That was never gonna work. Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore have a mother-daughter sex talk somewhere in here. Yikes. Then for a while Hollywood tries to make Dane Cook as a romantic lead happen. These are scary, scary times.

More recently, we’ve started to see some signs of a potential Renaissance, but you have to dig deep. Nothing has really caught on enough to bring rom-coms back to their glory days, but here are a few good ones:


First of all, “Friends With Kids” can be pretty depressing because it shows a lot of the ugly realities that exist in relationships we’re not used to seeing on screen. But that’s another reason why I think this movie is so great. Writer and star Jennifer Westfeldt is delightful and dynamic (husband Jon Hamm is lucky to be with her). Her writing and performance truly capture a lot of the nuances in modern, adult relationships.

The main characters are friends in their mid-to-late thirties and in different places in their lives. The male and female characters all respect one another as equals but also acknowledge each other’s flaws. The love story is endearing, charming, and never feels forced or fake. The romance is complex and doesn’t get tied up in a bow the way it might in a more formulaic movie. It’s a refreshing take on a romance and the meaning of love. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll feel a little bit more normal about whatever confusing excuse for a love life you may have during this unsure modern age.

5. “FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL…” (2012)

How this movie wasn’t the biggest hit of 2012, I’ll never know. This movie is GREAT and yet only like three people I know have heard of it, much less seen it because it had a tiny budget and an unknown female writer-producer (the amazing Lauren Miller). But, for the record, everyone I know who has seen it has loved it. Miller is adorable and her co-star and co-producer, Ari Graynor, truly sparkles. She’s like Barbra Streisand, Reese Witherspoon, and Ke$ha had an amazing baby. To be honest, there’s not much of a romance element in this movie, but it’s definitely considered a chick flick and it’s just so fantastic that I can’t not write about it.

First of all, this movie is utterly hilarious while still giving you that warm fuzzy feeling at the end. And I love the idea of showcasing respectable women essentially becoming sex workers. You’re rooting for them the entire time without any stigmas or stereotypes about what you might imagine a phone sex worker might be like. Ultimate props to this.

Furthermore, the movie really examines the beautiful friendships that can exist between women. And more importantly, it examines how, as women, we are inclined throw labels on other women and see them as the enemy. These women discover they are more alike than they originally thought and their greatest successes come when they join together rather than fight against each other. The result in this movie is beautiful, delightful, and truly sweet. More movies like this ASAP please!

So there they are, 5 rom-coms you can be proud to enjoy. There are many more worth mentioning, but these are just my personal favorites. I hope in the future we see an end to the Dark Ages of rom-coms and a true Renaissance begins, where we see real human stories being told with robust characters all across the board. Sometimes life is romantic and sometimes life is comedic, and more often than not it’s a combination of those two things. So it makes no sense that we’re not getting these stories right, or not telling them at all. Rom-coms 5ever. TC mark

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Before the clichéd “we need to talk” and the coffee-shop break-up, before the easily forgotten plans and the randomly scheduled practices, I remember when you loved me. I remember the grass tickling my bare legs and the stains on your shirt, and you smirking at my excitement before your tongue swirled pralines and cream into my mouth. I remember your hand in mine as we made the city ours by moonlight. I remember when you loved me, and I did not love you back.

I wanted to love you, I really did. I wanted to feel giddy at the mention of your name, to have you meet me outside the school gates so I could show you off, telling everyone: “Look! That’s him. That’s my boyfriend!” But I never did. Instead, I would take the bus to your house at half past three nearly every day, saying a quick hello before my hands and lips pushed you back up the stairs and onto your bed. I would swallow your words as they turned into little gasps, and clutch you tightly as we trembled and moaned our way closer closer closer. Later, I would look at the scratches down your back and trace the teeth marks on my skin, and I would smile.

But we weren’t good for each other. We made a mistake in even getting together in the first place, both of us so certain that it was just another thing to tick off the list of “Things to Do When You’re a Teenager.” Each mark on your body was my way of saying that I owned you, that you were so weak that you let me leave traces of myself on you for everyone to see. And when you tried to take all of that control back, I laughed.

Your vulnerability disgusted me. When you found out that other boys were flirting with me, you asked if I ever wished you were more physically attractive. You held back tears when I yelled at you for teasing me on a bad day. You said that I didn’t care about you when I wouldn’t drop everything and put my life on hold when you were hurting. When I first met you, I didn’t even think you could hurt. I wanted someone confident and comfortable in their own skin. But there we both were, pretending to be strong. I was just better at it – at least, I think I was.

We only had one conversation where we discussed us. I couldn’t even hold you as you cried.

“This isn’t working anymore. Things have changed. We’ve changed.”

“Do you want to break up?”

“I don’t know. Do you?”

“I don’t know. I think we should try. I want to try.”

“We can try then.”



“I love you.”

It was the only time you ever said those three words to me. Even though I never said it back, I still remember when you loved me.

We hadn’t seen each other for two weeks before you sent me that last text. “You’re all dressed up,” you said, shock filling your voice as I sat down in front of you. And I remember thinking: Not for you. But to show you. To show you that I’m still winning. That I’m still in control.

You broke up with me ten minutes later.

When I got home, I sobbed in my mother’s arms, not because my heart was broken, and not because my first serious relationship had failed. But because you had realized it first.

I unblocked you around a year ago, and saw you smiling in your profile picture with your new girlfriend. You both seem happy. I don’t know what else I can say. I hope she loves you in the way that I never could. I hope she lets you cry in front of her without cringing away from you. I hope she doesn’t play being the broken girl in order to keep you by her side, thinking you can fix her. I hope she actually wants to meet your family and friends. I hope she fights for you without thinking that it’s a waste of time.

I was in love with your reputation, your popularity, your future profession, even your damn school. On paper, every aspect of you fit the list I didn’t even know I had. But I never fit your list either – the one you so adamantly denied having for years. I was never in love with you, but with the person I thought you were, and the person I thought you could make me be.

And now, four years later, when someone entirely new and stubborn and funny and kind is starting to fall for me, I remember when you loved me. And I think to myself that this time I’ll do better and it will be easier. This time I’ll be the one falling too. TC mark

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Life. What is it? What is its meaning? Why were we put on this earth?

These are questions that we constantly struggle with, no matter what point in our lives we are. But us twenty- somethings still in school seem to struggle with this concept the most.

We are still trying to find ourselves. What we want out of life and what decisions will affect us for the rest of our lives. There is so much pressure to be somebody, to do something great, to make a shit ton of money and be successful because in the end that is what is going to make us happy.

This exact pressure is what has us questioning constantly what our purpose in life is and why the hell we are not happy once we achieve it or why we are miserable working towards this goal. We delude ourselves into thinking that grinding ourselves down to our very bones, working towards this goal will give us the ultimate pay off. That it is okay to be miserable right now because we will be happy later.

We are wrong.

There is no ultimate pay off because nothing will ever be enough. If we are not happy now with ourselves and what we are doing then what the hell makes us think that we will be happy or satisfied later?

Some of us are stuck studying for a career that we hate or that we have no real interest in because it will make us the most money and let us live comfortably just because the career we actually want or have a real passion for might not pay the bills. We sell our souls for the chance to not have money be an issue. It’s not a bad thing,really. It’s one less worry we will have to endure in life but money can not buy happiness. Yes, money can buy things or even people that will make us happy for a moment in time but lets be honest when we die we can’t exactly take the things or the money that we accumulated in life with us. So, that multimillionaire CEO, dies exactly the same as the next poor bastard.

Even when we are in a career that we love or studying something we enjoy, we are still not happy because we still do not have this or that or we feel unfulfilled for the same reasons.

When we stop focusing on the things we do not have or the goal that we have yet to achieve and we actually focus on the here and now. The moment that we are living in right now, and we stop and reflect on the people, the things, the goals that we have achieved already, and the moments that we have already experienced then maybe for just a moment we will achieve some form of happiness and acceptance.

The reason we question life and our place in it is because we think we’re not happy but the reality of that is that we just have not accepted who we are. We are trying to “find ourselves” because we have not accepted ourselves. We only see the flaws and screw ups. We are the ones who make ourselves unhappy. We are the only ones standing in the way of being happy.

And when we stop fixating on what purpose we have in this life, will we actually realize it. For some of us it will take longer to realize than others but when we do, it may just hit like a bolt of lightning or it could be like the rays of the sun breaking through the clouds and warming your skin when you didn’t even know you were cold. We just need to remember not to associate happiness with money,things or people. Those types of things are temporary and can be easily taken from our grasp. We can only make ourselves happy, everything else is just a bonus. TC mark

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I love you
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It had been awhile since I found myself laughing. I don’t mean uttering a courtesy chuckle (we all know what those sound like). I mean genuinely belting out uninhibited laughter. The kind that comes from deep down in your gut and bubbles up so much so that you can’t hold it back, and you don’t want to. They say laughter is the best medicine, and six months ago I found myself highly medicated, that is, I remembered how to laugh. It was a chilly October weekend that I found myself truly relaxed for the first time in months, too many months to even try and count. This particular weekend I had no computer along for the ride, no tasks or to do lists staring me in the face. It was this particular weekend I laughed, and began to feel like myself again. The laughter happened countless times throughout the weekend, but the one time that made me stop and take notice occurred Sunday afternoon while drinking cider with three dear friends atop the lawn of the Parthenon. Yes, The Parthenon. No, we weren’t in Greece. We were in Nashville, Tennessee. There we were on a blanket with no agenda other than enjoying one another’s company and basking in the warmth of the fall sunshine. That afternoon, we watched dogs running freely, tongues hanging out and tails wagging while their owners threw footballs back and forth across the soft grass. It was here I realized I had made a 180 degree turn from where I’d been when I returned home from my last weekend trek to Nashville, just seven weeks prior. Labor Day weekend I had driven to Nashville hellbent that it would be just as I had romanticized it since my first visit three years prior. I was convinced that I would be met with affirming clarity that I should move there. Then the opposite happened. At some point during that trip, or two beers in on a Friday night to be exact, I felt as though a veil had been lifted. Suddenly I could see how confused with my life I had grown, how unhappy with myself I’d become, and how lost I felt. All of my feelings surrounding the events of my adulthood thus far crept up, and exploded. I realized my idea of Nashville had always involved ending up there with another person, one person in particular. I realized just how alone I felt. I realized I’d grown so focused on telling the stories of others, I had ignored writing my own. And then perhaps the most difficult realization of them all set in, I realized I would take myself with me wherever I went. I realized if I was going to move to Nashville alone, or anywhere else for that matter, I had to face up to myself first. I sobbed on the steering wheel the entire drive home from that weekend trip while listening to Lana Del Rey on repeat. And this was only the tipping point. Immediately following the long mentally exhausting solo drive home, I felt as though life was beating me while I was already down. If it wasn’t mental stress it was emotional turmoil. When it wasn’t emotional turmoil, it was physical pain that knocked me off my feet, literally. The pain kept me from running, amplifying both the mental stress and emotional turmoil. A vicious cycle if you will. The emotional turmoil extended deep down under the surface, all the way to the heart. Oh yes, that thing. The weight of the back and forth situation I’d spent the entirety of my 20s believing in and holding out hope for, suddenly felt like a burden that was too much to bear. I realized the ideal was far removed from the actual. And the actual was looking more and more like a derailed train that I needed to jump off of. I realized in the midst of staying on the train, trying to hold onto blind hope while carrying the hurt, I was growing resentful and shutting everything out instead of keeping my heart open. You can operate out of fear, or love, and I was swearing by the latter, while being consumed with the former. After recognizing that it could be back and forth forever if I let it, I began the journey down my own road toward closure. I knew some abrupt changes had to happen to truly blaze a new trail. Ultimately I felt as though in order to regain strength and some form of sanity I had to overhaul my life. I looked around my affordable downtown apartment I’d called home for the entirety of my adulthood and grown incredibly attached to, and felt so smothered by the idea of a life I created for myself that I didn’t know if I wanted anymore. I could no longer pretend I was happy with any of it. And so I packed my bags and moved back across town into my mom’s house. Little did I know just how much I would feel like a fish out of water, leaving the house I had lived in for five solid years, since the age of 21, a foundation and four walls that I had subconsciously tied portions of my identity to. If I had known then and there that things were only going to get far more difficult before they got easier, as I walked down the stairs alone carrying box after box of my adulthood memories with me night after night, I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. Good thing it all happened so fast I couldn’t stop myself. The move was step one, and then there were no immediate steps to follow. Instead, I felt like I was standing in cement. After unpacking at my mom’s, I let anxiety rear its ugly head, take over my entire being and paralyze me. I felt defeated. I felt like I was trapped in my own life, one that I couldn’t make work. I felt I had nothing left to show for myself or my life, and I wanted to give up. The first month back home was a dark blur I can barely remember. At the end of the blur, came Nashville, yet again. Going back to Nashville at the end of October, I was scared that it would be a similar scenario. I was so anxious about it that I succeeded in making myself sick before even going. But I made it. And this time it was different. After we left The Parthenon Sunday we went to my favorite bar in East Nashville and sat outside and sipped on some craft beers enjoying the fall weather. There I was sitting at the bar in torn leggings, vans and a sweater and not worrying about my appearance, some bullshit image, or what was going to happen next. Instead I sat around with three dear friends talking about life and everything under the sun and was profoundly present in that moment. It was a moment during which I wish I could have pushed pause. It was a moment of awakening. In that moment it hit me that I was going to be okay, no matter what happened. No matter if I ended up in Nashville, or elsewhere for the next chapter of my life. I held down the table while the rest went inside to grab us more beers. I stared up at the night sky and felt a sense of peace overcome me. I’ve always been a lone wolf. And I’ve grown so accustomed to being by myself, I’m not sure why I let it terrify me to the point I wanted to give up the fight. Maybe it’s part of growing up and realizing that when you find yourself carrying on alone as you ease into your late twenties, it feels like there is more at stake than there was a few years ago. At some point it becomes far too easy to start letting yourself feel like damaged goods, instead of a force to be reckoned with. I realized while sitting out on that very patio, although I didn’t ask to be where I was right then, I was there for a reason. Just like I am here now and I can either make something of it and be the best version of myself every single day, or I can wave a white flag and shut down. This is a choice that must be made daily. And I’ve never been one to want to back down from a fight. Ultimately I want to make a difference in the world, even in one person’s life through my writing. Not through telling the story of the outcome that I want to tell. Not idealizing or romanticizing what my life should be like, but by actually being honest with what my life looks like, and just how messy feelings can be when you let them take over. Coming home from Nashville this second time, I became inspired to start telling the stories only I can tell. And not only that, refocusing on writing a story that I can live with, rather than living a life I could live without. More than anything, since October, I’ve recommitted myself to living a life that includes smiling until my cheeks hurt, and never again forgetting how to laugh. Now, six months later, the darkness of the fall season seems so far behind. I was recently asked by someone when I mentioned the fall, if I consider it to be one of the lowest seasons of my life. At one point, when I was in the throes of it and couldn’t see past the circumstances closing in on me, I would have most certainly answered, yes. Now I say with much reassurance, no. There is beauty to be found in the breakdown after all. And beyond that, it was darkness that I believe I had to stumble and scrape myself up the entire way through, to be able to come out on top. I had to face my own demons to be able to see the light. The light of the new year has looked a lot like quitting my full time job to merge out into the freelance freeway in an effort to build my career around my lifestyle instead of the other way around, being able to run again, starting a blog dedicated to my passion for a plant-based diet and renewed dedication to an active lifestyle, and perhaps most notably, putting in hours on hours to train for my first full marathon. Speaking of the marathon, did I mention it’s in Nashville? That’s right. In just a couple of days I will return to Nashville yet again, this time for the race. The city that I once thought I would move to now holds bittersweet sentiments, and has been moved to a different place in my heart. And for these very reasons, running this marathon in the city seems nothing short of fitting. The training journey to get here hasn’t been easy. Despite being able to move away from the darkness of the fall season, it’s been a constant uphill battle with challenge upon challenge. There’s been injury, sickness, and overwhelming waves of self-doubt that have at times led me to fall back into the fear blanket I wrapped myself in so tightly just months ago. I know that race day will be no exception to any of this. On the surface I am scared shitless. But deep down, I know I will make it. I will remember that I’ve climbed much bigger hills in my life than those of this Nashville marathon. Come Saturday, when I don’t think I can take another step, I will keep going, and I will remember to smile. And mixed in with the flood of tears I will cry, assuming I’m not too dehydrated to do so, I will remember to laugh about the leaps, bounds, and even the many missteps I’ve taken over the course of my lifetime, and especially over the course of this past year, my marathon year (26), that have brought me to this point. Crossing that finish line will not only be the biggest accomplishment of my life, it will mark the start of the next chapter in the Sarah story. Pages that are ready to be filled with uncertain adventure, and unceasing laughter. TC Mark

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