The Best of Us

IMG_7604

It’s always so incredibly hard for me to return to Vegas from a vacation, let alone an amazing weekend filled with unicorns, new friends, half-naked Poison Ivys, Tim Rozon kissing Michael Eklund, and really crappy cheeseburgers.

The wheels lifted off the tarmac in Atlanta and I couldn’t stop the waterworks. My heart was so heavy and it wasn’t because I said goodbye again to some really great friends (or maybe it had a little something to do with it), but because there was a huge part of me that knew what leaving meant; reality.

Friends Trio

I spent three weeks traveling across Europe last year. All of the things that I learned about myself on that trip; the patience I knew I needed but never had, the humility I often forgot, the courage I knew I had but couldn’t find; I was terrified I would lose once I returned home. It was a genuine fear that I had because I knew that comfort and familiarity can often breed stagnation.

And that’s what it did.

I find that I’m at a very odd and confusing place in my life, one that I thought I had gotten out of when I finally came out. But here I am, again.

This time however, I’m not so much struggling with an identity but a comfort that I often crave, desire, and yearn for; home.

Frands

When I travel to unfamiliar places I feel like I have this freedom to breathe more easily and to exist in my skin the way that I see myself when I dance in the mirror with my toothbrush microphone. I know that girl. She begs to come out and party but she doesn’t always feel comfortable to do so.

I have a group of friends that I love to travel with when I’m able to. They get me. They get my neediness. They allow me to be exactly as I am. I’m not saying that the other loves in my life don’t do that as well, lord knows I am who I am today because of their love. But with this group, there is something deeper that I can’t explain. It’s a feeling of undeniable comfort that breaks my heart every time we have to say goodbye.

Much like the central theme to Wynonna Earp, life is about choices; those that life makes for us and those that we make for ourselves.

frands 3.jpg

Spending this past weekend at Dragon Con, meeting amazing human beings, gaining new friends, hearing stories of bravery and honesty, has been the most uplifting experience.

Wynonna Ladies

I think it’s rare thing, what the cast of Wynonna Earp has done and how it has connected not only the fans, but the cast and crew and everyone behind it. They genuinely care for the fans and love is given in all forms, from all sides. It feels like a giant, chaotic, shit show of a family, but it’s our shit show. They have our back and we have theirs.

Wynonna Cast

Dominique told us about her first night in Atlanta, how she took herself to an underground cafe and how she’s at a place in her life where she’s finally starting to realize who she is. I also asked her for suggestions to off-the-wall places in London that tourists wouldn’t usually visit, and what she described to me was “completely sketchy, but that’s my sort of thing.” To not be afraid to travel and explore places solo, and just being open and honest without being ashamed about it, is exactly the person that I wish to be. I aspire to be the UNICORN of Unicorns.

Dom

Like in Divergent, when Four says “I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.” That’s who I want to be. This cast, these amazingly kindhearted humans, inspire me to be that person. I’m beyond grateful to have a safe-haven, a place where I can go and feel like I belong and be inspired to be a better human. You can put the extra cheesiness on your pizza (minus the mushrooms, though. Kat said no mushrooms).

Coming home means fighting the vortex that is complacency, that is accepting our limits instead of pushing them. It means finding the courage to break our barriers, fall in love with our flaws, and to not be afraid to try and fail so that someday we can succeed.

I don’t know what I want for my life, where I want it to end up, but I know that I want it to matter. How will it matter? I suppose there is only one way to find out.

Make your peace.

 

“You can choose who you want to be versus who people tell you you are.” -Emily Andras, Mother of Unicorns.

 

 

Sunset

Advertisements

A Letter to my Younger Self

ACP_2849

There will be days that feel like nothing in the world can go wrong. Everything will fall together seamlessly. You’ll smile and laugh, and when you watch the colors fade from the sunset you won’t long for peace.

And then there will be days that knock the wind from your sails; days that test the strength you thought you found. Through those days you have to remember that there will be moments in this life that will hurt more than others. It’s in those moments that you will find yourself, broken and scattered into a million moments that came before that.

Pick up the pieces. Pick up the pieces and discard the ones that are too sharp to hold onto. These are the moments you need. Rock bottom isn’t always an elaborate, definitive experience. Sometimes it’s quiet and unforgiving, forcing you to let go of what you’ve outgrown. Maturity comes at a price.

You’ll have focused so hard on what you wanted that you will have lost sight of what you deserved. But the days will become good again. Your heart will heal slowly and you’ll breathe a little easier when the light fades. Your dreams won’t be your only safe haven.

It’s not a one-stop shop, this road you’re on. Don’t be afraid to smile at strangers and say “yes” to everything that makes you uncomfortable. There will be a lot of voices trying to mold you, trying to tell you who you are and what you want. There will be voices telling you what you can and can’t do, and what you’re capable of. Ignore them. Drown them out. Turn up the volume and keep driving. Put your shades on, roll down the windows and sing your heart out.

You’re not going to have a clue about what you want or where you want to go, or what your greatest dream for this life looks like. But most days, you will always know who you want to be and that’s a pretty good place to start.

Most importantly, you’re going to be your own worst enemy. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how much it hurts, you have to live and love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

Whew.

The last month and a half has been a whirlwind, sharknado, and hurricane.

Okay, well maybe not a sharknado although it has hurt plenty.

My family moved back to PA where we’re originally from. I had known about the move for months and even though I kept trying to prepare myself for them actually leaving, it didn’t fully hit me until two giant Budget moving trucks were parked outside our homes one sunny, Sunday afternoon.

The two-ish weeks leading up to their departure was especially frustrating. I was house searching with potential roommates when that fell through. I began frantically searching for a cheap studio apartment with no such luck. So there I was, sitting on the edge of the moving truck hours before they were to leave, realizing the magnitude of what was actually happening. That’s when I started to second guess every decision that I made up until that point.

I began to question, given the housing situation, whether or not I was supposed to stay in Vegas. I ran into so many walls that I tried to force down only to have them grow higher and higher. Should I have gone home? Was that really the best thing for me? Can I do this on my own? What do I do now? Those were the last thoughts that I wanted to have that day.

But when I paused the panic mode and sat still for a moment a few important realizations came to light. I’m a strong, firm believer in the universe and it’s seemingly ill-timed detours for life’s grand schemes and desires. When you run into roadblocks and pot holes and you keep trying to maneuver around them but just end up crashing and wrecking your tires, there is a reason for that. We’re always quick to panic mode because nothing is happening the way that we think it should and things shouldn’t be so difficult, but they are. And then all hell breaks loose and you just throw your hands up in the air (even though you do care, you care very much) and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But what we always fail to see in those moments is that we are exactly where we’re meant to be.

Those walls and hurdles that are in front of you aren’t preventing you from doing the things that you want to do or obtaining whatever goal you’ve set out to do. They’re there to guide you around all the nonsense that you can’t foresee, all of the monsters that are lurking behind the corners you’re not supposed to round. When you stop and take things into a different perspective, you’ll start to see the signs that you’ve been asking for, the ones you were so intent on ignoring. Those are your roadblocks. How’d the crash feel?

The day after they left my mother told me that my twin was in the ER in some hospital in Arizona. So naturally I said I’d be there in four whatever hours it took to get there. And I was. I had never been to Flagstaff, Arizona. It was not at all what I was expecting. It was beautiful and calming and even though I wasn’t happy that he was in the hospital, I was happy for the retreat because I knew the moment that I saw those pines trees, I had come for a reason.

Flagstaff gave me several things: An extra day off from work (thank the lawd), men’s size M sweatpants because the Walmart there apparently didn’t believe in stocking boy’s pajamas, and the book The Monster Calls. Hospitals aren’t exactly pleasant anyhow but when you don’t pack enough because you weren’t expecting to be there that long, it grows tiresome real quick. I found a little nook outside beside the hospital that delighted me with a pretty little sunset peaking through the pines that first night. It was just the kind of magic I needed. It sparked the inspiration I had long since lost.

I went to Walmart the next day for a few things and wanted a book. I had seen previews for A Monster Calls and knew that I wanted to read the book first before I saw the film. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from it. How it left me, I was not ready for.

I’ve put a lot of feelings, emotions, and thoughts on the back burner these last few weeks. I haven’t had the desire or the energy to visit them and straighten them out. But with every page I turned of that book, everything that I was running from started to bubble and boil and by the end of it all, it hit me like a hurricane. Take what you will from literature, but I find stories to be exactly what we need sometimes.

What is your truth?

Simple, yet terrifying.

That’s what the monster was called for. To help Connor stop running from his nightmare and to speak his truth.

I realized the same is true for myself. Although I’m not quite ready to face it completely because I, like Connor, can’t bring myself to do it, I know that the moment will come when I will have no choice but to.

The point to all of this is that there will be moments in your life that feel so heavy that all you want to do is disburse the weight. You’ll put a little to the side, some under the pillow, and you’ll probably put some in the oven. You’ll find consolation in sad music, empty bottles and young reader fiction. But you’ll get unexpected phone calls that send you on unexpected journeys and you’ll find pieces of yourself along the way. You’ll hear a new song, see a new place, read a new book, and things will start to come together again.

Whatever path you’re on, whatever signs you’re seeking, don’t be afraid to stand still when things go wrong. Don’t be terrified to acknowledge your nightmares so that one day you can speak your truth.

For Science

 

I never thought at this point in my life that I would need more science in my day-to-day activities. That was until I attended ClexaCon and spent the weekend with convincing influences…

ClexaCon is a media and entertainment convention for LGBTQ Women and Allies or in layman’s terms, the best fucking thing to happen to our gay little hearts in quite awhile.

I spent a weekend at Bally’s in Las Vegas a few weeks ago with the most amazing people that I know and the greatest, weirdest, and kindest strangers that I’ve ever met.

ClexaCon wasn’t just a humongous get-together of women in flannels and snapbacks who like other women in flannels and snapbacks (throw in the leather jackets as well). It was a monumental gathering place of inspiring stories, hardcore fan-girling, and endless lines of “I’m too gay for this.”

It’s really too bad that we hadn’t thought to play the drinking game every time one of us said that line. I’m not positive that Vegas could’ve handled it (“I just wanted to call you poo”).

When reality drop kicked me and I had to return to my normal life, what once had been ClexaCon and the most remarkable weekend in recent memory, turned into somewhat of a black hole. It was a void that I am still trying to fill today.

It wasn’t just about coming together to talk about television and how our favorite gay couples are being deprived of their happy ending and what we can do as an audience to change that. It wasn’t about almost being run into by the cutest little English woman (Dom, I’m looking at you) either. It was about taking a stand on social injustices that will never change unless we have the courage to do so. And oh boy, do we have the courage to do so.

Not only that, but the actresses that bring these beloved characters to life are doing so much more than just acting. They’re involved in the community as strong and vocal allies, they’re educating themselves about the gay issues in society today, but most importantly they’re showing us that they genuinely care and are interested in hearing our stories. It’s a great feeling to see people in power that you admire, admire you right back.

I personally have never been apart of an experience so moving and inspiring that it has stuck with me weeks after it happened, like it never ended in the first place.

There is proof that there is an audience for our stories and all the stories we want to tell and if you don’t believe it, just ask Emily Andras, she said so. But more than that, love is the real deal. Love doesn’t have to be romantic. It’s just a person, two people, a group of people, or an entire ball room full of people doing the wave for Kat Barrell that is simple, genuine, and makes you feel like you finally found a home.

It hasn’t always been easy for me to fit in once I moved to Las Vegas almost twelve years ago. I still struggle to this day to find a group, a home where I truly feel like I belong. What I found at ClexaCon wasn’t just a handful of new TV shows to binge watch or actress to use as my wallpaper, but a home and a safe haven. It was a place that I could be unapologetically myself and it was met with immense enthusiasm. I met the most amazing people who invited me in and treated me like we’ve been best friends for decades. Also, thank you for the daily “science.”

Regardless of how the media portrays your values, your ideals, your hopes or your dreams, there is a place for you. There are people in your corner and on your side, who have your back and won’t let you down. Surround yourself with those people, fictional characters or real life human beings (or a healthy dose of both). Let them inspire you to be the person you fear you don’t have the courage to be. Maybe they’ll even send you daily GIFS of very attractive super heroes and bad ass women. Yes, definitely find those people.

Perspective

Hello friends. It’s been awhile.

I have a lot of catching up to do, but for the time being I would just like to share a thought I had today.

I went out to my favorite place, good ole Mt. Charleston. I’ve been meaning to explore the visitor’s center since it opened last year. Alas, I finally made it.

It’s beautiful, by the way. If you go out that way anytime in the future, make sure you stop by. Not only is it educational, but there is a memorial in the back for the silent heroes of the Cold War, which was nice to see. But not only that, once inside the gift store, at the top of the windows peering out towards the mountains, is what looks like a frosted glass mountain range that spans the length of the store. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much. But once you put the polarized lens up to your eyeballs, boom…MAGIC.

With that being said, I thought a little more about the photo that I took, half of which was the beautifully majestic nature scene (done by artist Austine Wood Comarow) and the other half the frosted glass. What I realized after that was quite simple; life is about perspective.

I, like many of you, have struggled with the comings and goings of life lately. Some days it’s sunshine and unicorns, and other days it’s like, “Do I have any hair left to rip out? No? Crap.” Taking a break from whatever in your life is driving you to madness is essential to your emotional and physical well-being.

Having discovered that fine piece of art today made me think a little deeper about my current situation. While everything isn’t always wonderful and most of the time it can be completely out of our control, happiness is truly our one and only choice. It’s not dependent on any one or any thing other than what we are willing to see with our eyes and hearts.

Today showed me that it is our choice alone to decide which lens we choose to see out of, and what picture we actually see. We can view our lives for what they are; monotonous and monotone, or we can see life for what it could be; beautiful and captivating. All it takes is a few tweaks here and there, an open mind, and heart that’s ready for something beautiful.

I choose beautiful.

Graduation

It is May 15, 2016 and it has been one crazy year thus far.

I would like to start off by saying that I am graduating college tomorrow evening. It only took me eight years and five degree changes later to grab this associates degree. It does not sound like a great deal, but college is not for everyone and I realized that very quickly. Alas, here I am.

There are a lot of thoughts crossing my mind before I walk across that stage tomorrow night, but mostly I am thinking about what this experience really means to me. Sure, I have a college degree, but it is so much more than an education and an expensive piece of paper.

College had never meant very much to me until I was sitting in the back row of our portraiture class the last week of school, looking at who was around me. I realized then that I would be walking away with more than just a degree.

I have been challenged this year in more ways than I care to remember, but it has all helped me become a stronger individual, and for that I appreciate the good and the bad for what they have taught me. I have learned a great deal about letting go, moving on, keeping your heart open, caring about what truly matters, and doing the things that I never thought would be possible. More than anything, I learned that no matter how dark this world gets, you must never lose your sense of humor, for life without comedy would be a tragedy. While circumstances did their best to knock me down, I had amazing people by my side to help lift me back up.

As my friends and I embark on the next adventures of our lives, first of which is our highly anticipated European extravaganza, I cannot help but to be so thankful that they let me sit at their table. As graduation approaches to end one chapter of this story, I know that it is only the beginning to one hell of an adventure.

-Welcome to the island of misfit toys-

Wanderlust

I’ve spent the last few days wandering around Mount Charleston. I haven’t been up there in a while. I definitely need to pay her a visit.

If you’re like me, being outdoors feels like one giant happy place. It takes your mind off of your troubles, even if it’s just for a few hours. I believe that nature has a way of easing your pain if you just pause for a moment and take it all in. So when she calls, I hope you’ll answer.

 

My adventures brought me upon a bunker type thingymajig, randomly stuck in the side of the mountain, which ironically enough looked like it held a ghost after I took the picture. I also stumbled upon two skeletons of animals, which I hope that I never run into again. I had a great time walking around aimlessly in the slush and flurries that this weekend had to offer, but I also had time to pause and think about what all of that meant to me. Life gets messy and it doesn’t hesitate to make you feel equally as messy. There are pieces of us that need a little extra TLC, that nobody can help you with but yourself. Don’t neglect the small things that make you tick. Whatever moves you and whatever calls to you, answer it. It’s waiting for you.

-Take it Out on Me-

Hey old friend, it’s been a long time

How have you been?

That smile tells me that your heart broke again

So here we are, show me what’s left of your heart

I used to make you happy, you used to count on me

You’d spend countless hours telling me your hopes and dreams

I’d take your fears and bury them far away

And let you leave feeling like you knew you’d be okay

So take it out on me

I’ll pull an all nighter with you if it’s what you need

I’m steady and strong as a love that never leaves

I’ll keep the lights on if darkness is all you see

Just tilt your head up and look around, you’ll find what you need

Hey old friend, it’s nice to see you comin’ ’round again

That smile tells me you’re trying and on the mend

So here we are, tell me where you’d like to start

It’s a new day, everything has changed

Tell me what you came here to say

Take it out on me

I’ll carry your stress away in the rustling leaves

I’m steady and strong as the roots beneath my trees

Listen to the songs from the wings when your words won’t speak

Just tilt your head up and look around, you’ll find what you need

Home is nowhere, and everywhere

It’s been awhile since my last adventure. Today, I thought I’d go back in time. I went for a hike this morning, for the sake of calling it anything else. It was nothing more or less than taking a stroll up this big hill that started my love for hiking. Sometimes you just need to go back to the beginning to make sense of things.

I used to think that I knew where home was. But through the years I’ve discovered that home could be so many things. It could be the place that raised you or the back roads you drive around on while the world is sleeping. It could be the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you see her for the first time, every time. Home is not a landmark. Home isn’t any one destination.

It’s that feeling you get when you know you’re where you’re supposed to be. It’s a journey, like so many things are. We won’t always know where to stop, but maybe that’s the most important part. Home is that place in your heart that you’ll always carry with you. So in the end you’ve been there all along. It’s up to you to recognize it.

Trust your body. Trust your feet. Close your eyes but don’t be blind. Listen, but hear the world around you. Home is nowhere, and everywhere.

A Little Scribble

I’ve been running around this past week, here and there, with similar faces and some old. Today while I was driving I passed a park and noticed how beautiful the half-naked trees looked, with that little touch of sunlight reminding them what summer felt like. I had a moment, so I stopped.

When I got out and the cool air nipped at me and the leaves crunched beneath my feet, it was just one of those “aha” moments. And it’s simple moments like these that remind me what life is about when you stop to look at it. There is always a new season. The world around is us constantly changing and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. There will always be seasons. There will always be change. The only thing we can do is sit back and appreciate the beauty before us, whether it’s with visions of warmth and growth, or endless nights of bitter cold. We too, have those same exact seasons. So as the sun fades on this day and you are left to decipher the events of your life, just take a moment to remember that you are exactly where you need to be. There is something there that you need to see. Not only do you need to keep your eyes open to change, but your heart too.

-Alexa

Foster Wedding

Earlier this month  I had the utmost pleasure of photographing this amazing couple’s wedding, with the help of friend and savior Lianna Balestracci. If you don’t know who she is, please look her up. She’s a incredibly talented photographer (http://www.liannamariephotography.com/).

I was sitting at their engagement dinner, listening to all of the different conversations going on around me, when I overheard David say that they still needed a photographer for the wedding. He turned to me and said, “You’re a photographer. You should photograph our wedding.” At first I just laughed because I thought he was kidding. But after knowing this guy awhile I quickly realized that he wasn’t. So many thoughts and doubts ran through my head that I wasn’t sure what to say. Most of my photographs are of nature landscapes and inanimate objects, so to have the responsibility of capturing a very important day in their lives was incredibly intimidating. But when I thought about it, which didn’t take too long, there was no way that I could say no.

I’ve known Rachel and David for some time now and they are by far some of the best people that I know. Since the beginning they’ve treated me like family and I knew then that I’d love them. They gave me the chance to do something that I never thought I’d do, knowing that I had no real previous experience in it, but yet they still put their faith in me and believed that I could do it. Maybe the doubts that I had about my abilities didn’t seem like a big deal because they’re very laid-back and down-to-earth people with the “You got this!” attitude, and their wedding was so much fun because it was a huge reflection of who they are, but it was a big deal for me. To have that support, encouragement, and confidence that I could do a great job meant more to me than I think they will ever know. I can’t quite describe how thankful I am to the both of them for allowing me to be a part of such a memorable day, except that it is something that I will forever be grateful for. I wish them nothing but love, happiness, and the best adventures that life has to offer.

Cheers,

Alexa