The Adventure of a Lifetime


like brothers in blood, sisters who ride

and we swore on that night we’d be friends ‘til we die

but the changing of winds, and the way waters flow

life as short as the falling of snow

and now I’m gonna miss you I know

This weekend, I got on a plane at 5am and flew from Detroit to Dallas where my two best friends picked me up at the airport for weekend. I feel like Briley and Camille have become that – “best friends from home” – when I talk about them to my friends in Michigan. This weekend was surreal for many reasons, and it is taking a lot in me to reflect on everything I’m feeling to put those feelings into words.

Moving so far away from home after high school was tough, and weird. It was weird to not be able to mention people from my high school or the traffic on Pinhook. It was weird to have “friends from home” and “friends from school” that felt like they were from two different lives. Growing up through middle and high school with Briley and Camille defined my life in Louisiana, and they’re truly the kind of friends that I can pick up with like it hasn’t been months or years since I’d seen them.

So we arrived in Dallas and met up with our friend Kelly (who I hadn’t seen in 2+ years) and even Hank (who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation) and explored TCU’s campus and then left for Arlington to the Cowboys Stadium for what we came here for – the Coldplay concert.

Now, before you judge. Let me take a step back. Coldplay music basically defined our friendship. I have fond memories of them singing Yellow to me during our sleepovers. We listened to Fix You a lot when we were hurting. I pre-ordered their new album for Briley and I months before it came out as a Christmas present for both of us. She came to visit my family in North Carolina and we sat on the couch screaming while watching the NBC special of the Ghost Stories album being performed in L.A. When I left Louisiana for good, Briley gave me a CD with a recording of her singing Yellow to me. I can’t count the number of times I sat in my car in Ann Arbor listening to that and sobbing. So, long story short, we love Coldplay and their music was the soundtrack to our friendship, and basically the soundtrack to the past 7+ years of my life.

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So, fast forward to about 9:30pm CST last night – Chris Martin plays the first few chords of Yellow, and hundreds of yellow balloons fall from the sides of the crowd. And I am stunned almost into silence. I am overwhelmed with so many feelings. I think of how much I have changed in the past 4 years, but how these women standing on each side of me were there with me through it all – even if they were 1,163 miles away the whole time. We are all doing such incredible things but such different things, and it’s so great to be able to support these women follow their dreams while they support me in following me.

There’s a line from one of Coldplay’s songs that goes, “And if we could float away, fly up to the surface and start again. And lift off before trouble just erodes us in the rain. Through chaos as it swirls, it’s us against the world.” Through everything we’ve done together and everything we’ve done since we went our separate ways, I always knew that you were only a text or call or Facetime away for me to talk to. I am so proud of both of you and everything you’ve done. Thank you for being my friends, and I’ll see you soon.

-SGx

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“Yes, I speak Spanish.”


 

This was my first week at my summer internship at Alternatives for Girls (AFG) in Detroit. AFG “helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, and helps them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary to be safe, to grow strong and to make positive choices in their lives.” I am interning with the Prevention program at the organization, which serves girls ages 4-18 who are at risk of pregnancy, gang involvement, abusing drugs or alcohol and school truancy. We engage them through after-school programs, a teen leadership program, and a summer camp. In addition, I was lucky enough to receive a Internship Funding Grant from the Community Action and Social Change department in our School of Social Work for this experience. As a part of receiving this grant, I will be blogging about my experience weekly through the end of July.

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My first week has been a whirlwind of a lot of names, activities, learning and smiles. I have worked with the elementary school girls and the middle school girls in the after school programming. My first day coming in, I was obviously very nervous in a room with a ton of people (and kids) I didn’t know. I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to get started. One little girl, Maria* showed up with her mom and started crying, not wanting to stay while her mom left. One volunteer was already trying to get her to come play with the other girls, but when I heard her mother speaking Spanish to her (the majority of the girls live in “Mexicantown” in Detroit and speak Spanish with their families at home and most speak Spanish in their classes at school), I decided to intervene and see if I could help. “Hola, chica. Me llamo Sydney. ¿Cómo te llamas?” Maria’s ears perked up at the sound of something she understood. “Estoy nerviosa también. Este es mi primer dia aquí. ¿Quieres colorear conmigo?” She nodded and I brought her over to the table with some crayons and printed coloring sheets and we chatted about her school day while we colored together. Using my skills to make valuable connections has been such a great part of this experience so far.

Most of my time was spent helping with multiplication homework and herding little kids into rooms for arts and crafts and stories. We learned about animals this week – tigers, bunnies and butterflies. We had a few meltdowns over lost tiger tails and broken bunny ears, but all in all, we did pretty well with the elementary programming and I had a lot of fun.

There was a moment during craft time that I will really never forget. One girl, Olivia*, sitting next to me was talking to me about her week at school while we worked on our butterflies. After a few minutes, she told me that when she got home today she was going to see her dad. “He’s getting out of jail today!” she told me. “Well I’m very happy that you will get to be with your dad.” “He’s been in jail for six years and I missed him a lot every day.” – Now after jump starting my passion for social work in the justice system, working with juveniles, this conversation really hit home. An hour later, I got to watch eight-year-old Olivia run outside and hug her dad for the first time in six years. It was a really great feeling to experience that, and knowing that she trusted me enough (after meeting me less than an hour before) to share her feelings with me was really comforting.

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Working with the middle schoolers was a little more in depth than the elementary school girls. My first day, we taught a sex ed lesson – talking about puberty (Oy vey!). I was so impressed with how mature the girls were and the really great questions that they asked. The next day, they were practicing their Mexican indigenous dance for their end of the year performance at the end of the month. They were really interested in learning, and that was really cool to see. Being the older sister of a middle schooler, I know that many kids that age wouldn’t think that was cool. These girls are already teaching me a lot about the culture of this city and just how to show compassion and I’ve only known them for three days.

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*Names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.

On Going Home


This past week, I visited home for the first time in seven months. My parents moved shortly before I went to college, so when I went “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was in a foreign place, as far as I was concerned. This week, I saw my best friends for the first time in a long time. At first, I was sort of nervous. There was so much that had happened in the past seven months. I’m a completely different person (or I would like to think that I am). I knew they were going to ask me to tell them stories, and I didn’t even know where to start.

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As the plane descended into Baton Rouge, a city of my childhood that I hold close to my heart, I started to get emotional. The last time I had been there, I had been a different person. I had been so uncultured and sheltered compared to how I am now. The level of cheesiness only escalated when I started playing “Callin’ Baton Rouge” as we flew over Tiger Stadium and into the Metro Airport. I got off the plane and waited for my bag nervously. Then out of nowhere, four of my best friends came running at me and attacked me as if it had been years rather than months that we had been apart. We laughed and hugged, and headed back home.

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As we were in the car chatting and laughing, I realized something: nothing had changed. Obviously, so much had changed, but not really.  We picked up right where we left off. It was like I had never left. We talked about our high school and our other friends like we were all still there with them. It boggled my mind that we could just pick right back up where we were when I left.

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One night, I was at my friend’s house and we sat there talking about an event that had happened three years ago. If someone were to have walked in on our conversation, they never would have guessed that it had been so long ago. It was like nothing was different about our lives now compared to our lives during our junior year of high school.

The concept of the passage of time always confused me, but I had never really thought about it much before. The fact that a few months can feel like years, or that a week can feel like no more than a day is pretty crazy to think about. More than anything, this week reminded me that I have such an amazing community to come back to no matter what happens. So, thank you to those people. You know who you are. You’re so special to me, and I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything.

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And when the day arrives I’ll become the sky and I’ll become the sea and the sea will come to kiss me for I am going home. Nothing can stop me now.
– Trent Reznor

On Friendship and Happiness


Sometimes I have those days where I scroll through my Facebook pictures for hours and sometimes it even gets worse and I start scrolling through my list of friends.  It is then that I am reminded of several things. First and foremost, that a lot of these names on my “Friends” List are people that I would never even refer to as a friend. Some of them are people I’ve met once. There are even a few that I have never met. I also see the ones who may have been friends at one time, but now lead their own lives with their own experiences completely separate from mine. An amazing YouTube vlogger once said (and by once I mean like a week ago), “Just because you know someone doesn’t mean they deserve you in their life.” Later in that same video Tyler Oakley said, “You are allowed to cut people off who are not productive, who do not make you a better person, and who do not make you happy.” (link to video at bottom)

This made me begin to think about who these people were in my life that did make me productive and did make me happier. It made me think about the ones that delay or stop that productivity and the ones that keep me from being happy. In the midst of all of this reflection, it conveniently happened to be my best friend’s birthday. As I finished making my PicStitch and started brainstorming what my ooey gooey post on her Facebook wall would say, it finally made me realize that people like her were what made me happy. I came across another quote that perfectly described how I feel about my best friends: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand” (Henri Nouwen).

I remembered how special those few people were in my life and how I wouldn’t have accomplished anything without their help and their support. This friend in particular had been with me through everything and I with her. She was the one I went to when I was stressed out or anxious. She was the one I went to when something really exciting happened. She was one of the first people I told about my decision to move halfway across the country. She was the first person I confided in when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She knows things about me that no one will ever know. There is something extraordinary and precious about having someone like that in your life, and those are the people you should be spending your emotions on. Like Tyler said, you have no obligation to give yourself, your emotions or your effort to someone simply because you know them. If they aren’t bettering you as a person, then you don’t need them and they don’t deserve you.

So thank you to all of my friends who make my life better every single day. Thank you for being that tender hand and forgiving heart. I could not ask for better people in my life to encourage me and support me and help me along. Thank you to people I look up to, like my parents and Tyler Oakley. For now, I may be stumbling and confused, but I would rather be confused with you guys.

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Here’s Tyler Oakley’s video that was mentioned above. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOdljzx-xSA&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL61488594D1D09C18

PS: Briley, if you’re reading this: I love you a lot.