subject line: to the boy who wrote to me


in the mountains

You were 16 when we met. I was 14 and didn’t have a clue. You were brilliant and sweet. I had words that needed a home.

I don’t remember how the emails started. I just know they did - I just know that for two blissful years I had you in my inbox every day. You’re the only person who has ever given me a nickname. You knew my every dream. You knew my every fear. I could write to you like I could never write anywhere else. You made me a writer. And I have spent more than a decade looking for another pen pal, another friend, like you. For another boy who understood my words, and layered them so beautifully with his own that we could have been the same brain, the same heart, the same soul. The way we were.

It was never love with us - it was this deep, abiding, lasting friendship that I didn’t know what to do with. I thought if you wrote to me as you did, you had to love me. Isn’t that how the movies said it would happen? I wanted to love you so badly, but I didn’t. You didn’t either.

I was 16 when your father died, and you needed a hand to hold. You chose mine. You’re the first boy who’d ever reached for my hand and held on.
I had no idea what I was doing.

I can’t remember why you left, I just remember that the letters (for they were never just emails) stopped, and that you stopped them on purpose.
You told me we had to stop writing to each other. That I was someone you had to learn to live without. I blamed your grief, I blamed myself, I blamed the world, but really, I think we just had to grow up. We couldn’t be what the other needed. It was time for both of us to leave home.

It’s been 12 years since then, and my grandfather, the man who raised me as much as my father has, and who has taught me
more than I’ll ever be able to remember, died three weeks ago, and my entire world has crumbled around me. I’ve never known such grief.

And there you were; one Instagram message, and you were back in my life. You’re a man now. You don’t call me my silly nickname anymore, but your words still layer so beautifully around mine I wonder if you aren’t just something I made up in my head - a part of my heart that appears in human form every 14 years. It’s been two days of text messages that make me feel like I may, someday, be happy again. I’m so grateful that you came back to me, and I’ve been honest with you in ways I can’t be honest with others - except for two things. Two questions I’m too afraid to ask.

1. Will you write to me again?
2. Can we love each other this time?

subject line: gonna make it up to you



We met in the summer before sophomore year. I was out of touch with the dating world, and you were set on not getting back into it anytime soon. We fell in love. It didn’t seem like it at the time but lazy days on the couch, golf cart rides, and near death experiences as me as the driver encompassed the thing we had that I now finally allow myself to see as love. I should have loved you harder. I should have loved you longer. All I can promise you now is that you haven’t seen the last of me. I am determined to be your go-to, your family, the person that you never want to disappoint because the amount of love you feel for them is unbearable. I want the unexpected run-in that turns into a lifetime. I want to see you look at me again the way you used to. I want to feel again how I haven’t felt since the last day with you. I will never hurt you again. Even if it is 10 years from now. Let me make it up to you.

subject line: the nothingness


stuck in the midwest

If you would have told me three years ago when I was sending in emails sobbing over my first love where I am now, that girl would have been over the moon.

Held in high regard at church, married to a handsome, kind man, two months away from graduating college, seemingly my whole life before me.

But all I feel is emptiness. I don’t leave bed for more than 15 minutes most days. My grades are beyond dismal, and my professors and supervisors are not amused. My marriage is lifeless, despite my husband’s efforts. I resigned from my leadership spot at church.

This nothingness called depression hurts so much worse than anything a damn boy could do to me.

subject line: 3,073.9 miles apart


not the pacific northwest

You’re moving back to Seattle. I know you want to pretend like you might not go that far or you might not be leaving soon. But you are. You’re going to land the job. You’re going to move back home. You’ll see the mountains and the snow and the pine trees and you’ll hike every weekend and bike up and down the trails and fall in love with your life again. And I will be on the other side of the country wishing I was with you. I will be loving you and waiting for a call and waiting for a FaceTime and planning a trip that I know I can never afford. I want to drop my life and come with you, but you haven’t asked me to come. You’ve talked about me joining you later. You’ve talked about how much I will love the PNW and you’ve told me all about the marketing jobs you are sure I can land. But you haven’t said the three words I have been patiently waiting to hear you say.

”Come with me.”

I hope we make it. I hope we do long distance and I finish my lease and I join you in the Pacific Northwest and we get that Golden Doodle and we make music together and you and I can hike together every weekend and drink the best coffee and create a life together in the right time and in the right place.

Until then I will listen to Tom Rosenthal when I miss you. I will answer every FaceTime. I will search for jobs in Seattle. And I won’t give up on us.

Like the Avett Brothers say ever so sweetly,
“And I’ve known others and I’ve loved others too, but I loved them cause they were stepping stones on a staircase to you”

subject line: I said goodbye to this truck already


Worcester, Massachusetts

I used to write so many emails about you. How I loved you. How I got over you. How I’d never speak to you again. How I learned life without you. How I found happiness again.

And now, here we are, sitting in your truck four years later and I don’t know how to explain what my heart feels.

It feels for you, I know that. But I’m not sure if it feels for the old you, the one who broke me, or the one who came back.

subject line: you were always across the counter and now you're not


an ice skating rink in florida 

I’m skating again, but this time the skates are ankle weights and I feel childishly stupid. You’re not here; I haven’t seen you in a month and a half and by now my crushes have usually passed away like a balloon escaping from a child’s hand. But I’m still crying, “I think he’s the one that got away,” to my friend.

”He can’t be the one that got away if you never had him in the first place,” she reminds me. And I guess it’s true that I never really had you, but I wanted so desperately to believe you were mine. I wanted to believe that our lunch dates and inside jokes and frequent smiles equated something more than just friends. I wanted to cling to that fact that you liked those photos I was tagged in and that you came to parties even though I was the only one you knew there. I see your name on the Facebook messages sidebar every night and every night I think “What’s the worst that could happen if I message you?”. But I don’t know what I would say. “Hey, haven’t seen you in month and you broke my heart and you probably don’t even know that, but how’s life?”

I still find fragments of you when “I Should’ve Known Better” by Sufjan Stevens comes up on my Spotify. And my friends tell me that I should go after you, but I’m held back by a fear that you’re the player I thought you were the first time I met you and you would crush me with your confidence. My mind ricochets between “He just wants to be friends” and “He’s in love with me” and that’s a terrible place to be. When my mind goes to those types of places, I just start falling, falling, falling.

My mind goes back a lot to last summer when you started working with me and how I would glance over to the area you were sitting more frequently than I should’ve. How I told my friend I was going to set you up with her because you were such a nice boy. How I was too scared to talk to you and too scared that I was going to fall in love with you. How you didn’t even really know who I was until I left for a semester and came back. How I hated you because you were one of those boys that all the girls loved and yet you were still single.

It’s two months later on a Monday morning and your face is like a song that I can’t get unstuck from mind. My anxiety is back and my hands are shaking as I write this. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. And I miss the days when you were a nobody to me the way that I am to you.

subject line: one flight at a time



I quit my job.

I quit my job because my boss told me I was fat.

I quit my job and everyone told me that I shouldn’t, that I should pretend they didn’t mock my appearance because it’s hard to find a job. It’s hard to make money in a city where you’re competing with everyone for a job that just barely pays the bills. It’s hard to survive where your rent is higher than food costs and you spend every weekend searching for something free, because the ten dollars you’d spend on a cover charge could cover food for a few days.

I quit my job because I understand that it’s better to be broke and searching for yourself than to feel your confidence break down every second. Because, the reality is, I am not fat - I am just bigger then her.

So as I wander the city in which I have planted my roots, with a spontaneous flight to Rome sitting in my back pocket, I remind myself that we are all lost. We are all working a lifetime in which we seek the weekends for comfort.

I simply cannot live like that. So I’ll pack up my small suitcase with a weeks worth of clothes, drive through Italy, and come back to my home knowing I deserve more.

I deserve more than the employers who find joy in tearing someone down. I deserve more than the boy who doesn’t text back. I deserve more than the friend who only calls when she needs something. I deserve happiness, and damn it, I’m going to find it... one flight at a time.

subject line: the checklist of my life


adulting, usa

At sixteen, I had the rest of my life figured out. I didn’t like unpredictability so I made a checklist to live by.
The guy. The job. The town. The people. My dream. I spent years aiming to check off the boxes.
Sixteen year old me was dismally unaware of how to “adult.” And frankly, twenty three year old me can’t figure it out either.

My teenage dream changed - the guy, the job, the town, and the people. I couldn’t check off the boxes that sixteen year old me prayed for every night before bed.

I don’t know what I want for the rest of my life. I don’t know how to know what I want.

I don’t want to check off a box on my list anymore. At sixteen, every choice I made felt like I was writing my life in pencil. And adulting feels like I’m writing my life in permanent marker.

subject line: cupid nocked me on my ass


the station, VA

Relationships have always terrified me. I never dated in high school. Never dated in my first couple years of college. And I honestly thought It would remain that way and I was okay with it. Then one night five months ago I’m at a party sitting at the bar and a random guy sits next to me. He asks if I’m in his anatomy class and we laugh about his drunk friends and I’m comfortable. Fast forward five months and I’m dating that random guy, but now he’s not so random. He has a little sister, a dog named Brenna, blue eyes like the ocean, and he hates mayonnaise. And oh man I love this boy. I miss him when he leaves to go to work or class, and he never escapes my mind. When he plays with my hair, butterflies throw a party in my stomach. It’s crazy how one minute you can be thinking that you’re going to be a spinster for the rest of your life and the next you’re sitting beside a guy you’re falling in love with, eating chips and queso and laughing ‘till your chest hurts and everything is suddenly okay. Life has a funny way of working out.

subject line: about a boy pt. 2



It’s been a year since I submitted “about a boy”. That boy & I haven’t stopped talking since that day. A year ago, all I knew was that he liked straws & that despite all of my quirks, he liked talking to me. Half of me didn’t expect him to stick around. Half of me expected him to get tired of me. He didn’t
It’s Tuesday and that means that he’s going to get home from class at eight and immediately ask me why i’m not at his apartment already. And then it’ll be four hours curled up next to him on the couch making a playlist for his radio show the next morning, and he’ll claim every week that the playlist wouldn’t be made if I wasn’t there. It’ll be a walk to whole foods for mochi and a conversation on the steps outside his apartment, and by the time midnight rolls around, he’ll give me a hug & it’ll make me feel whole again.
I didn’t know when I met him that he would show me how to love myself. I didn’t realize that a conversation about straws would lead to all of this. Meeting him meant finding the person who helps me through my panic attacks, assures me of my worth when my anxiety is crushing, and reminds me every day how glad he is that we have each other. So from that bench where we met on a Saturday, to his couch on a Tuesday night, 365 days feels like just the beginning of us.

subject line: giving up on the world



After a while you get tired of speaking to the walls, of making friends with book characters, of the silence. Loneliness becomes very loud and I wonder what’s wrong with me. Wearing my heart on my sleeve, being sensitive and quiet has just brought me pain and endless nights of crying by myself. I never thought I would meet so many cruel people. But apparently being hurtful has become trendy and cool. When did kindness went out of style?

subject line: deal breaker


Chicago, IL

When things started getting serious between us, I stopped you on the sidewalk and said, “You know I don’t want kids, right?”

You just shrugged and said you wanted kids someday but that we would cross that bridge when we got there. I thought “hey we can see the bridge from here and we should probably start surveying it a little...” but you brushed it off.

Then two years passed.
We talked about moving in together.
We talked about getting married.
We met each other’s families. (My family loves you. Your family loves me.)
You bought a house in Rogers Park.
I helped you pick it out.
Every time I called it “your place” you would correct me and call it “our place.”
I bought you a llama cookie jar because I liked the idea of having a llama cookie jar in my future home.

I’m supposed to move in with you, in “our place” in four months. That’s when my lease ends.

But you stopped me on the sidewalk and said “you know I want kids right? And we need to decide where we land on this before you move in because, honestly, it’s a deal breaker.”

You say you don’t want to get into this only to get five years in and find out I don’t want to have kids.

You want time to find someone else who does.
You’ve just given me four months to decide my life.

I’m an artist. A teacher. A performer. My life is pieces put together like a beautiful and fragile patch-work quilt and I’m in love with it. In my eyes, the deal is clear. To have a kid, you must surrender that beautiful quilt.

Why do I suddenly feel like I have to choose a baby or my life?
Why do I have to choose YOU or my life?
Why does it feel like my future has been ripped from my hands in either scenario?

What do I choose - the life I had always dreamed of and pictured for myself or the future I thought we had created together? Why do I have to choose at all?

I’m so angry. And hurt. And confused. And scared. But I can’t tell you. I can’t tell anybody. But if you find this email, you’ll know.

subject line: "that you are, that you are"



I have only met one man who after getting to know me did not consider me to be “too much”, and he and I aren’t really a great fit for each other overall. I tend to exhaust people as soon as I start to express the scope of the thought pattern that bombards my being, which surprises me because my perspective is so familiar to me that it’s hard to realize that it’s unnecessary and overwhelming to others. It’s exhausting and overwhelming to me, too, but I can’t walk away from it like they can. I’m stuck here and I’m afraid I will never find someone who will strap themselves in so they stay stuck with me. I would love to one day not apologize for the way I see it all.

subject line: adventures and "us"


A hammock under the stars

You said ‘us’ tonight.
We were out hammocking under the stars, the chilly night air not slowing the warmth growing between us. We’ve talked for more hours than I can count at this point. Always the same circular arguments sprinkled between serious topics like God and death and love. I’ve never really liked sprinkles, but with you I don’t mind them because they are colorful and different each time.
We spent the first half of tonight running from cops and trying to find a safe place to bend the park rules slightly. I’ve talked to more park cops and normal cops in the past three weeks with you than my whole life combined. It surprises me how much I don’t mind that. I’m not a trouble maker; hell, I don’t even like conflict, but you are the kind of guy that pushes things just enough to keep it interesting. All of a sudden a simple drive around a neighborhood has a hint of danger, a touch of adventure woven into the ordinary.
We got to talking about weddings because we are at that fantastic age where all of our friends are getting hitched and starting their own lives. What a lovely time. I was joking about eloping and traveling the world afterwards. Maybe you’re just lying to try and be the guy that I want to see. But you agreed with every word.
Some reckless impulse made me tell you my dream wedding plan. I want to get a white skiing jacket and get hitched up on top of the mountain, with snow like confetti and the sun shining brighter than any diamond ever will. I want to snowboard down from that mountain with the love of my life and have that serve as our first great adventure, a prelude to a life of chasing the next mountain together.
But when I told you I wanted to be married on a mountain, you jumped in and said “and all our friends would ski down with us.” You said us. And the scariest thing is that commitment-phobic me didn’t even bat an eye. I talked over the awkward and acted like I didn’t hear a word. But I did.
I can see you in that black ski jacket, with a tie sticking out of the top like it was a fancy tux. I can imagine kissing you and tearing up the slope on the way down. I can picture us boarding a plane and taking off for Australia and South Africa and chasing each sunset together.
All because you said ‘us’.

subject line: homesick



Truly never thought I’d get homesick. I called my mom in Harris Teeter and wanted to cry just hearing her voice. I held it together until I got to the aisle with the granola bars on the top shelf, i couldn’t reach them as usual. And I literally imagined you reaching up to get them for me. I shamefully cried in the grocery store. Then I thought about how you also felt like home. You were so safe.

Falling in love with you was never my plan. I didn’t even take two looks at you when we met. At 22 you had this beautiful little girl and a failed marriage under your belt. At 23 I had never even been in a serious relationship and didn’t want kids until I was at least 30.

I still don’t remember how you charmed your way into my life. Maybe it was how funny you always made me feel. Or how much you believed in me. Or how you made me feel like I mattered.

I loved loving you. Part of me wonders if all this other stuff is even worth it. Pursing my dreams alone. It’s almost silly because I think no matter what I chose, I’d feel like I was missing something.

Why do those granola bars always have to be so high up?

subject line: here's a new one for you


New (York) City

We haven’t been together for quite some time, but I never deleted your city on my weather app. I found a strange sense of comfort and familiarity in being able to look at your city and at least know what the weather was like near you.

That’s all I knew about you after we ended. You don’t have any social media pages, and we don’t talk, so the only thing I could do was imagine what you were doing that day. On days when it was beautiful out, I pictured you sitting in your office pissed that you were working away another sunny summer day. On days when it was pouring rain, I pictured you in your favorite flannel watching a Leonardo DiCaprio movie. I somehow felt like I could track the rhythms of your life without actually knowing a single detail, solely based on the changing weather. You must know someone pretty well to be able to do that.

I couldn’t bring myself to swipe left on your city and delete it on my phone because in a strange way, it was all I had left of you.

But the other day, I was looking up a new city and mindlessly deleted yours because it didn’t seem relevant anymore. It was one of those things where you surprise yourself once you’ve done it. I think that’s how you know you’ve really been able to close those doors that always seemed to be cracked open no matter what. I haven’t thought about the weather in your home, and because of that, I really haven’t thought about you either. And it feels really good.

I bet the inventors of the iPhone weather app had no idea what soul-changing things would happen to people by adding and deleting cities. It’s pretty strange, come to think of it, but it was necessary. I now actually check the cities that my brothers and my parents live in. I never did that before - and that seems to be a whole lot important to me right now.

Whatever new boy and new city (hopefully the one I live in) come along, you will be my next addition on my app and I can’t wait to see what the weather’s like by you one day.

subject line: i dreamt we were beautiful and strong.


Charlottesville, Virginia

The sun is just setting, half of the road is dark, the other half still glowing from the sinking rays, and I am remembering you. Remembering the way I cried when the dance was over, and how you wrapped me in your arms, buried my face in your shoulder, so close I could have kissed you on the cheek, so close I should have kissed you on the cheek, and how you squeezed me tight. Remembering the afternoon we spent sitting on the porch after a long conversation, not really talking anymore, but comfortably in silence together, when all of a sudden the skies opened and the rain came down. You got off the steps and pulled me up with you, and walked right into the storm— arms out, eyes wide, full of glee at God’s grace and the beauty of nature. And as I spun around in laughter— raindrops bigger than seemed possible pelting down on me, sweet, summer, mountain rain, the kind that comes and goes in but an instant— in that moment I knew: I want a man who walks into the storm with delight in his eyes. I want more than anything for that man to be you.