What I Read: The Best Books of 2018’s 3rd Quarter

My reading definitely slowed down in the third quarter, probably because work keeps me very, very busy in the summer months. Then there was summer travel and by the time August ended, I realized I’d been reading the same book for multiple weeks, which almost never happens. 

Still, I’m averaging around five books a month and I managed to read 15 books throughout July, August & September. Fingers crossed I can maintain or exceed that pace in the next few months and hit my goal to read 70 books.

Friday Favorites: Philadelphia, eating all the BLTs & diverse reads

I feel like I’ve been having a lot of fun lately. The later summer and fall is also packed full of things to look forward to. Work trips, a few West Coast adventures with all of my favorite lady friends, and, hopefully, a half marathon or two now that I’m mostly back to my running self. Here are a few of this week’s most favorite things.

1. PHILADELPHIA.

I spent the weekend in Philadelphia visiting my friend, Tara, and a grand total of FOUR national park sites. I’d visited her before, always with a group of friends, and Philly is always, always a great time, but after perusing the National Park Service map of park units and talking to Tara the last time we were together, I realized I needed to get myself on a Philly-centric National Park Adventure. It was exactly the sort of escape I needed, Tara is an A+, top-notch tour guide and I never get tired of the two of us introducing ourselves together.

2. MERRELL SOLSTICE T STRAP SANDAL.

I bought these sandals at the end of summer last year because I wanted a stylish sandal that still had some support and OMG, I love these shoes so much. They’re sold out, they are so good. I wore them all day on Saturday, walking actual miles with Tara around Philly and my feet didn’t complain once. Fingers crossed they’re not gone forever.

Friday Favorites || terragoes.com

3. MyFitnessPal

Years ago, back when I first started giving a shit about my personal fitness, I used MyFitnessPal to track calories and drop a few extra pounds. I eventually stopped tracking my food and stopped weighing myself and started focusing on how I felt instead of what the scale said, but every so often it’s helpful for me to do a check-in and track my food for a week or a month, just to make sure I’m still making smart choices. So I’m doing that and I really do love MyFitnessPal. It’s easy to use and I get a little obsessive about plotting and tracking all my calories.

Friday Favorites || terragoes.com

4. TOMATOES.

Hanover tomatoes are a thing around Richmond. They are so good and so perfect and there’s even a festival dedicated to them and while I didn’t get to go this year, some friends still got me a giant pile of tomatoes and for a while, I was on a tomato-eating rampage. I’ll probably finish out my tomato stash in the next day or two with one more BLT, but damn if I don’t love this time of year and those tomatoes.

5. READING WOMEN.

I’d read 10 books in 2018 before I realized they were all by women and then I was like, ok, maybe I’ll do this for a quarter, but now it’s July, I’ve read 42 books and each and every one of them was written by a woman. Stephany inspired me to diversify my reading portfolio, so I’ve made a conscious effort to read books not just by women of color, but also by women from backgrounds that are different from my own. So far, it’s been great. I’ve read some truly incredible books this year, most recently The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya, about the violence in Rawanda and Wamariya’s attempts to escape it, attempts that eventually led her to the United States. It’s a heartbreaking read, of course, put important and powerful.

What I Read: The Best Books of 2018’s 2nd Quarter

Y’all, I’m still on a reading rampage. I lost a little steam when I got super busy with work in May, but I still read 17 books in the second quarter, down just a bit from the 20 I read in the first quarter. I’ve made a conscious effort this year to stop staring mindlessly at my phone before bed and use the time reading instead. Plus, my new obsession with the library has left me with a steady supply of books I’m real, real excited to read.

Q2 Reading Report {2018} || terragoes.com

GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER by Shobha Rao – ★★★★★

This book starts in India and ends in Seattle, Washington. It’s one of the most important books I’ve read this year, incredibly heartbreaking and absolutely devastating. It’s the story of friendship, the kind of friendship and love you’ll do absolutely anything for, no matter the cost, because, “What is love, if not a hunger?” This book broke my fucking heart, cracked it open and then stomped on it. It’s a hard read, difficult and painful in a way that’s similar to Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. It is abusive, violent and triggering, but important and poignant.

Q2 Reading Report {2018} || terragoes.com

CIRCE by Madeline Miller – ★★★★★

As a kid, I was obsessed with Greek mythology. Give me your stories of Zeus and Hera, Artemis and Apollo, tell me again how Orion was put into the sky. Circe took me back to that love, telling the story of Circe, a badass heroine, nymph, goddess and witch. Miller weaves the story well, starting from Circe’s childhood sitting at the feet of her father, Helios, to her encounters with Odysseus and, later, his widow and son. It’s a delightful slip into a very different world.

Q2 Reading Report {2018} || terragoes.comSTATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel – ★★★★★

I’m a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic read and this book is that, but also so much more. The story takes place 15-20 years after a plague called the Georgia Flu. There’s a traveling theatre troupe, a comic book, a self-proclaimed prophet and an airport sanctuary. It’s beautifully written and beautifully told and the characters are easy to love and understand. It’s emotional too, and dives into what it means to survive, what it takes to survive and the connections formed by our collective humanity.

Q2 Reading Report {2018} || terragoes.comTHEN SHE WAS GONE by Lisa Jewell – ★★★★★

I’ve been real disappointed by thrillers this year. I keep trying though, keep hoping there will be a character I don’t hate, a plot twist that doesn’t seem forced or a storyline so complex and meandering it makes me curse. And then I read Then She Was Gone and I stopped being so cranky about it all because this book is good without trying too hard, with a main character you can actually root for and story that’s easy to follow while still maintaining my interest and pushing me to figure what happened. There’s no brain matter mushed into the floor with this one, no blood-splattered descriptions of what happened, just good writing and a real good story.

Q2 Reading Report {2018} || terragoes.comFATES AND FURIES by Lauren Groff – ★★★★★

This book was a big deal a few years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it until this year. This book was tough, like all of Groff’s novels. I really enjoyed Arcadia, but Fates and Furies was a slow start for me. In simple terms, it’s the story of a marriage, but it’s far more complicated than that. I didn’t get the hype until halfway through the book, when we got to Furies, and that, for me, was what made this book. Groff’s writing is beautiful and difficult and her stories leave me conflicted in a way that’s unique. Sometimes I can’t tell if I love or hate what I’m reading when it comes to Groff’s work.

WHAT ELSE I READ THIS QUARTER 
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – ★★★★ – a beautiful historical fiction piece.
  • Half Broke Horses – ★★★★ – reminded me of my grandmother’s stories.
  • White Houses by Amy Bloom – ★★★★ – about Eleanor Roosevelt and her “First Friend.”
  • Educated by Tara Westover – ★★★★ – uncomfortably relatable & often infuriating.
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – ★★★★ – complex characters & also a fortune-teller.
  • The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer – ★★★★ – thought-provoking and feminist.
  • The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg- ★★★★ – fun & weird.
  • Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell – ★★★★ – a punch in the feels.
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnint – ★★★ – a book club read.
  • Girls in White Dress by Jennifer Close – ★★★ – perfectly fine chick lit.
  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple – ★★★ – all over the place.
  • Florida by Lauren Groff – ★★ – two great stories & then a bunch of shit I didn’t care about.
  • Why I’m on a Quest to see all of America’s National Parks

    I was in San Francisco to run a 200-mile relay with a handful of friends. I arrived in the city a few days early, to acclimate and explore, and went with my friend Tara to visit Alcatraz Island. It was my second visit to America’s most infamous prison and her first.

    In the gift shop, I bought a National Parks Passport, a small booklet with information on America’s National Parks with room for commemorative collector stamps and cancellations, which are just stamps with the site name and date. I got my first cancellation at Alcatraz and that’s probably where it started.

    “I think I want to try and visit all 59 National Parks,” I said to Tara as I made my way to the cash register, National Parks Passport in hand.

    A National Park Quest || terragoes.com

    For a few years, that goal, to see America’s 59 National Parks seemed sufficient. Until it didn’t.

    Now, there 60 national parks administered by the National Park Service that are called “National Parks.” There are 417 national parks in total that are administered by the National Park Service, but they go by a lot of different names. They’re called “National Monuments” and “National Battlefields” and “National Seashores” and “National Historic Sites” and there’s even one “National Park for the Performing Arts.” They’re called a lot of different things, but they’re all part of America’s Best Idea, all part of the National Park Service.

    A National Park Quest || terragoes.com

    At some point I decided that just seeing the sites designated as a “National Park” wasn’t enough. I wanted to see them all, all 417 glorious, varied and scattered sites.

    I’m still at the beginning of my quest, still just 68 parks into this adventure, but it’s created a fire in me. When I travel, I want to see these sites. I want to go to these places that America picked to protect and save and commemorate, for whatever reason, whether it’s a battlefield, a stunning and unique landscape or the home of one of America’s most famous figures.

    A National Park Quest || terragoes.com

    Sometimes people ask me why I’m doing such a thing, why I want to visit these 417 sites, and it’s a thing I couldn’t really articulate in the beginning.

    “Because why not?” I’d exclaim. “Because it sounds like a great adventure!”

    It makes more sense now, now that I’m in the thick of the thing.

    I’m doing it because I love this country. It’s not always perfect, this land of ours. We’ve made mistakes in our short history and we’re still figuring ourselves out, still forging our own identify, but I love it, flaws and all. It’s why I raised my right hand and swore allegiance to protect and defend it more than 15 years ago and it’s a big part of why I want to see all these parks, to spend more time with America, the land that I love.

    A National Park Quest || terragoes.com

    I’m doing it because I love learning. This quest has taken me to the place where George Washington was born, to the site of hundreds-year-old ruins in New Mexico and Arizona and to a spot in Washington, D.C. that served as a headquarters for the fight for women’s suffrage. There’s the battlefields, too, and, of course, places like the 

    Grand Canyon

    The Best Movies of my Angsty-Ridden Youth

    When an alert popped up on my phone saying a third installment of Legally Blonde was in the works, I screeched like an over-eager baby seagull presented with a basket of french fries. I loved those damn movies and thinking about them reminded me of all those other movies I watched over and over and over again. They’re the movies from that very specific, nostalgia-spangled part of my young adulthood.  They’re the movies I watched repeatedly on VHS, the first ones I ever owned on DVD, the ones I watched over and over and over and the ones ones I still quote today.

    Here’s a roll-up of a few of my favorites from the way-back-when:

    EMPIRE RECORDS (1995)
    Y’all, this is probably my favorite movie of all time. I vividly remember watching it for the first time at a middle school sleepover. We were probably a touch too young for it, but we were riveted. If you haven’t seen, I’m sorry. It’s the story of a bunch of music store employees banding together to save their favorite place. There’s drugs and sex and Rex Manning and friendship and a fake funeral and edibles and maybe one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, one I still listen to today.

    Favorite Quotes:

    • “Well Sinead O’Rebellion. Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.” -Gina
    • “Damn the man. Save the empire.” – Mark

    BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999)
    I watched Boondock Saints for the first time in high school and have probably watched in 50 times since. I don’t know if it was the violence, the f-word-based monologue or the story of two Irish Catholic brothers cleansing Boston of evil, but this movie is one I never get tired of watching. Plus, Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus are delightful to look at.

    Favorite Quotes:

  • “Well, that certainly illustrates the diversity of the word.” – Connor
  • “Why don’t you make like a tree, and get the fuck outta here?” – Doc
  • The Losses & Other Thoughts on Suicide

    I’ve already talked about suicide once this year. Suicide introduced me to death and thinking about it has been an April tradition for the entirety of my adult life.

    Last week, we lost Kate Spade and then Anthony Bourdain, and all my feelings about suicide washed their way to the surface. I sat with them, the feelings, for a few days. I thought about what suicide did to me, what it has done to so many people I love, what it’s meant to me, how it shaped and molded me. I thought about the times I’ve brushed against it, the times death seemed an acceptable response to hardship and hurt, the times I’ve been at the bottom and in the dark and just wanted everything – especially life – to stop.

    The first time I remember wanting to die, I was 10. I’d just been thrown up the farmhouse stairs by my stepfather. I’d been whistling and when he asked me to stop, I didn’t. He grabbed me, dragged me to the bottom of the stairs, picked me up and threw me against the stairs, over and over, all the way up the staircase to the door of my bedroom. He threw me inside and slammed the door shut and I, sobbing hysterically, pulled out pen and paper to write a note to explain to anyone who might care that I simply could not live anymore.

    I stared out the window and wondered if the fall would kill me. I was tiny, less than 70 pounds, made mostly of skin and bones. I was afraid the jump wouldn’t kill me, that I would just hurt myself, that I’d just get in more trouble. So I didn’t jump.

    || terragoes.com

    When I was 16, my friend David jumped from a northern Virginia overpass and ended his life. Weeks before, in English class, we’d talked about suicide, about jumping and flying. I told him if he ever jumped to take me with him, that I wanted to go too. But he didn’t. He went alone.

    A few years ago, in the midst of my divorce, I was not ok. The man I had married years before turned into the worst sort of person, the kind who lied, cheated and inflicted intentional physical harm on me.

    I lost hold of my wellness. I stopped eating. I slipped down to the same weight I’d been in high school. Dinner was mostly whiskey-based and I closed myself off, telling everyone I was fine, that things were fine, that it was all just fucking fine.

    I had friends who were there for me, friends who told me over and over again to reach out if I needed anything, if I didn’t want to be alone, if I just wanted to talk. But when you’re there, when you’re in the darkness at the bottom of the well, the only thing you feel is alone and it doesn’t matter if there are 100 people standing outside your front door waiting for you to open it and let them in, you still feel alone.

    I just kept saying I was fine. But I wasn’t.

    An acquaintance pulled me aside one day at work. I hadn’t seen him in a few months and he asked me if I was okay. He said I seemed sad, that I’d stopped smiling, that I just wasn’t myself. He said I’d lost my spark. I told him honestly that things were hard, that what I was going through was hard, that I was having a hard time. And then, for some reason, it got easier.

    || terragoes.com

    I don’t know how we save our friends from suicide. I don’t know how we stop it. I don’t know how to make people feel less alone, less hopeless or less hurt.

    But I know what it’s like to feel those things, to feel alone and hopeless and hurt and maybe there’s some value in saying that, in admitting that I’ve been there too.

    I know we could all be better listeners. We could listen harder for the things that aren’t being said. Sometimes you have to be a detective to see what’s really going on, to find your way behind the curtain. But sometimes they tell you. And when they do, we need to listen, really and truly listen and do everything we can to help them, even if it’s scary, confusing, difficult or inconvenient.

    We can stop playing that game where we rate trauma, where we brush off the aches of one because, hey, it could always be worse. Privilege doesn’t mean we aren’t susceptible to pain and we don’t have to live the hardest life to hurt. Our hurt, whatever the cause, is valid.

    We can keep urging people contemplating suicide to reach out, to pick up the phone, to call the prevention hotlines, but we can also remember what a difficult thing that is. We can remember how impossible it is to reach for anything when you feel like you’re surrounded by walls and your brain has convinced you that you’re alone, that you’re broken beyond repair and that there’s only one solution.

    We can do some of the work the broken ones can’t. We can pick up the phone. We can check in and offer help instead of demanding they ask for it. We can check on the ones we love, especially the strong ones, the brave ones and the ones who keep telling us they’re fine.

    “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” – Anthony Bourdain

    Friday Favorites: The Ocean, a purge & my peanut butter cup obsession

    I still feel like I’m recovering from one of the busiest months at work ever, and I’m definitely still playing catch-up. I managed to extend the long Memorial Day weekend by a few days and got a lot done, like attack my yard with various instruments of destruction, watch a bunch of TV and start a vigorous spring purge. Here’s a few of my favorites from the past week or so.

    1. THE OCEAN.

    Of course my trip to the Outer Banks was a highlight. I love it down there so, so much and now I’m thinking I need to get myself down there more often, maybe once a year or so. It’s easy and inexpensive, the drive is short, the beach lovely and it’s even easy to take the dogs along with me.

    2. THE BOLD TYPE.

    My lady friends were talking about this show and described it as a younger version of “Younger.” And it is. That’s really the best way to describe it. There’s no tricky age thing going on, but the world they live in is pretty similar and it’s filled with badass, bossy ladies. Set in New York, it’s the story of three 20-somethings trying to find their place in the world, both at work and in their personal lives. It’s smart and funny, tackles some serious and difficult issues and is absolutely delightful.

    3. YOGA.

    I managed to stay mostly on top of my workout schedule during the mayhem at work, but I ended up missing yoga for a few weeks in a row. I only just came back to it earlier this year and I only go once a week, but I really missed it. I finally made it back to class this week, and it was great. I love the class and the people in it who always tell me about the latest Richmond news, especially the latest places to get a good beer or a great snack.

    (Locals: I go to True North Yoga & Wellness on Richmond’s Northside and I love it – it’s a legit community that’s safe and supportive of yogis at all different levels.)

    Escaping to the Outer Banks, Crab Chases & Just Going

    I was tired. I’d worked for almost a month straight and I needed a break. I needed a getaway.

    Summer was calling. I felt it in my bones, a bodily longing for sunshine, for the crash of waves, sand squishing between my toes, the tropical fruit stink of sunscreen.

    What I needed was the beach.

    The Outer Banks | terragoes.com

    I packed up the dogs, some clean clothes and some road snacks and we all headed to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where the Wright Brothers flew the first successful flight in 1903 and where a colony of Englishmen and women mysteriously disappeared between 1587 and 1590.

    I’ve had a long-standing love affair with the Outer Banks, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been and even longer since the dogs went with me on any sort of adventure, especially one that included an ocean.

    The Outer Banks are different. There are wild horses and dunes, crabs that terrorize my dogs as the sun rises and a low-key sort of feeling that validates any desire to do absolutely nothing.

    It’s not like Ocean City, Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. There’s no boardwalk, no bustle. There’s mini golf, and some outlets and a bunch of good food, but mostly it’s just beautiful beach, 70 miles of which is preserved as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

    The Outer Banks | terragoes.com

    The wolves and I spent three days at the beach, catching the sunrise each day, chasing crabs across the sand as the sun came up, drinking wine from cans, reading books and visiting the three national parks in the area, of course. I took a multi-hour nap, spread out in bed and watched trash TV while the dogs snuggled on their own queen-sized bed. I took myself and my book to dinner, made friends with retirees both new to the area and exceptionally local. I had chicken wings for dinner and key lime pie for dessert then walked the beach with the dogs as the moon came up.

    The Outer Banks | terragoes.com

    The dogs reacted differently to the ocean, as they always have. Sadie, the white wolf of wonder, pounced into it, barked and tugged when I wouldn’t let her throw herself into the water to bite and snap at the waves. We went in a few times, mostly just to wet our paws, but she doesn’t know how to contain herself at the ocean and will inevitably consume too much salt water and make herself sick if left unchecked biting at the waves.

    Luke, the master of anxiety, cried and pulled himself away from the ocean. It scared him, just like most things scare him. But then he noticed the crabs side-walking their way out of their lairs and was at once terrified and fascinated. I let him off-leash and he went after them, pouncing into their holes, digging when they crawled back inside and returning to me when they disappeared. He caught a few too, and engaged in a serious battle with one good-sized creature who would not retreat, no matter how many times Luke snapped and barked and bit the thing.

    The Outer Banks | terragoes.com

    On the way home, I thought about how much my life has changed. A few years ago, even a single year ago, I wouldn’t have considered a spontaneous solo trip to the beach, with or without my wolves. Going to New Mexico by myself last year felt like a radical act, like a personal revolution of realization that such things were actually, really and truly possible. Seven months and a handful of solo adventures later and it was a given.

    Somewhere between New Mexico and now, my thinking changed. The dramatics are gone. I don’t call it “going alone” anymore, now it’s just called “going.”

    The Outer Banks | terragoes.com

    5 Friday Favorites: The Den of Fur, Solo Adventures & a Return

    1. THIS FUREMOVER BROOM.

    I live in a den of fur. There’s my hair, the cat hair and then the piles of fluff expressed by the two husky mutts and so really, there’s never not fur on my floors, on my shirt or in my food. And now that it’s spring, it’s gotten worse.

    It is a constant and real struggle. The vacuum does good work on the rugs, but this house is mostly hardwoods, so I bought this FURemover Broom and it is so good. It doesn’t get all full of static and fling dog fur around like a regular broom, but it does actually collect the fur piles and all the little stray pieces of fur that these beasts leave around the house.

    2. MISSING & MURDERED: FINDING CLEO

    I’ve already talked about my favorite podcasts, but I’m pretty much always on the search for new podcast goodness, despite the stack of podcasts that live in my iPhone, just waiting for me to listen to them. Finding Cleo was my latest binge and once I started listening I listened to nothing else until I’d listened to all 10 episodes.

    Cleo was a young Cree girl who was adopted out of her native Canada into an American family more than 40 years ago. Her family tried to find her and could only uncover a story about a rape and murder that ended with Cleo’s body abandoned on a roadside somewhere in the United States. Connie Walker, a reporter from CBC, tells the story of Cleo and her family and then joins the search to find the answers of what really happened to Cleo and where she actually ended up.

    3. THE SOLO FRONTIER.

    I’ve done a lot of things alone. I’ve traveled and lived alone, I’ve gone to the movies, to dinner, to the bar, to the park, to food festivals, to most places. But up until recently, I’d never attended a concert alone. When I saw The National, one of my favorite bands, was playing in the nearby city of Charlottesville, I quickly scooped up tickets and then I went to the show, all by myself. I felt conspicuous at first, but then I stopped caring and ended the night tired and pleased with myself for conquering one more frontier of solo-adventuring.

    4. RUNNING.

    I hurt myself way back in January, just after I ran the Frostbite 15k. I’ve been mostly off running since, trying to log a few miles intermittently between long periods of hopeful and ultimately useless rest. Three weeks ago, I finally went to my chiropractor who fixed me the last time I hurt myself running, and while I’m still not logging a lot of miles, I am running regularly and have been given the go-ahead to continue increasing my mileage.

    5. THEN SHE WAS GONE by Lisa Jewell

    I really love a good triller and I’ve read a few that were recommended and well-loved but that just didn’t do it for me. It was always something, like terrible characters, or a cast too big and complicated to connect with, or a storyline too twisty to follow or too lame to care about. And then I read

    Then She Was Gone

    An Introduction to Death

    The first time I was introduced to death, I was 16.

    I was working the concession stand at my high school’s production of Cinderella. Normally, I was on stage, but it was a musical and no one wanted to hear me sing. It was opening night.

    I was called into a side room by my principal and my English teacher, Mr. Harris. I was scared. I called on my acting skills, begging them to provide for me. I thought I was caught, that my teacher and principal knew where I’d been that morning, that they’d smelled pot on me and I was scared they wouldn’t believe me when I told them I didn’t smoke it, that it was David’s, that he smoked it that morning, not me, that he was mad that I didn’t, that truly it wasn’t my thing. I preferred a pilfered Mike’s Hard Lemonade or a grape juice-infused shot of everclear.

    Instead, they told me David was dead.

    When I think back to that room and those moments, the memories are hazy. I can’t remember it all, can’t remember the exact lines we all recited, the color of the crappy public school tissue box I clutched, the pattern of the floor tile or the skirt I was wearing.

    “Maybe he slipped,” is what I remember hearing from the principal. She said it in a hopeful sort of way, suggesting that maybe the 16-year-old boy I’d sat next to in English class hadn’t launched himself headfirst off a northern Virginia overpass.

    But he did. David did.

    I skipped school the next day, showing up only in the middle of the day to hear jocks I didn’t know walking down the halls saying, “Terra, I think is her name – they were dating – it’s definitely her fault.”

    I remember seeing Mr. Harris at the top of a staircase and giving him a hug and only then realizing how tall he was. He taught us both, me and David, and in the research I did later I learned that an average of seven people are profoundly impacted by a suicide. Mr. Harris and I were both in that count, both among the seven in the aftermath of David’s death.

    There were grief counselors at the school, I think. I wasn’t there for it. The attendance policy in the days that follow David’s death was loose and I remember walking away from the school on April 7, 2000, two friends straggling along behind me, without incident.

    We sat in a clearing, I think, smoking cigarettes and trying to piece it together, trying to make sense of a senseless thing. I’d been the messenger for both of them, calling from the road the night before, telling them what he did, that he had died, providing them an introduction to death.

    That weekend, I went to the cast party. I felt like I needed to. The theater community was my community, a compendium of weird, misfitting kids all clumped together for lack of a better option.

    People cried when they saw me. That happened a lot in the days after he jumped and died.

    “He said he didn’t want to hurt you,” a girl at the party said. “He said, ‘I just don’t want to hurt Terra.'”

    David and I had a multi-day fling that we ended the day before he died. He drove me home that day, the last day. We were almost neighbors.

    More than any other thing, I remember him asking me if I needed a ride to school the next day. He said he’d be there after the bus and I, a good kid despite my chronic insanity, was worried about missing a ride and being late so I said no, it was fine, I’d just take the bus.

    My grandmother timed it. He dropped me off and then went to die.

    Yes, I blamed myself. I see his face in my dreams, still, and I wonder if he just wanted me to say yes to the ride, if I was his out, if I was the coin he’d flipped, if he thought if yes, I’ll live, if no, I’ll die.

    I speculated on that for a decade, on the what if scenario. A fucking decade.

    But the thing is, David did what David did. He made the choice. I didn’t make it for him.

    Eighteen years later, I stood in my house, scotch in hand.

    “Your ghost is old enough to vote,” I said, as I raised the glass in a toast.

    That’s what it’s like after 18 years. David is still here, still a part of me, still with me, still protecting me. When I hurt, when I break, he’s there. I was afraid he would leave, but he hasn’t. He’s still here. He’s still got my back.

    Last April, a newer old friend took his life. He was a friend I lost in the divorce, but he was a friend nonetheless.

    The loss of him sent me on a spiral. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, but we had been close once. I went back to the statistics I learned when David died, about how hard spring is, about the seven people impacted.

    If you’ve survived a loss like this, I want to say to you that it’s not your fault. You didn’t do the thing. Don’t spend a decade of your life thinking you could have done more or pondering what if scenarios. It’s done and they’re gone and now, you have to live, most especially because they didn’t. So do the things they didn’t get to do. Drink the scotch, get the tattoo, go to far away lands and, if you want, learn to stand of your head.

    If you’re hurting or feeling alone or like you want to end your life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. I know you probably don’t see it or feel it, but you are loved. Statistically speaking, there are seven people in your life who will be broken by your death. Maybe you can’t count them right now, but I promise you, as one of those seven, they’re there. You are beautiful and you matter, so don’t. Stay, if only for us, the seven people who love you more than you can even imagine.