A Newlywed Summer

Normally, I prefer to capture my memories in writing but I'm choosing to bid summer farewell by revisiting the photographs from our first season together. I love these little moments of love, community, and adventure that we've collected over the past five months. I never dreamed it would be so sweet.

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20 Texts From My Mom


after dressing out for p.e.

haven jones was walking outside, alone.

approached from behind.

by someone yelling,

“look at those booty shorts.  wooo hooo.”

to which haven replied, “gurlfriend. these ain’t

no booty shorts. now watch it before i go  kanye

up on you”

did i mention there were 6 of them?

and one of haven.

and they were bigger than her.

she said she felt strong.

she said she has heard this is the

group of girls that bully you.

then ask, “you gotta phone?”

“what kind is it?”

haven  was prepared to say,

“i have a droid” .

they would not want to steal a droid.

In Which My Friend Count Plummets

I used to have a sticky note on my laptop that read, “Stop hitting refresh. You are not one of Skinner’s rats.

That’s exactly what I felt like, sitting there on Facebook. Like I was a hungry rat pushing a lever, waiting for a food pellet to drop. Or, more accurately, for that tiny red bubble to appear. I’ve been using Facebook since I was a freshman in high school. In my small pre-college program, housed on a college campus, we were given college email addresses during our first year there. Though it’s difficult for me now to remember a time before my mom and little sister had free reign of social media, Facebook used to require a .edu email to sign up. So, with the help of my loophole, I did. Do anything regularly for 8 years and it becomes a habit. A less diplomatic word might be 'addiction.' Your brain develops neural pathways based on rewards from your behavior. Because my brain is saturated with endorphins when I see that tiny red bubble floating at the top right side of my homepage, I will continue to push the lever.

I have over 700 friends on Facebook, but I can count on two hands the number of people who truly invest in my life. These few friends are the ones that make it beyond the online veneer and into the messy, tangled unposted details of who I am. It’s in the weaknesses and imperfections of real life that friendship has a fighting chance. Facebook strips us of those. Online, we can edit, retouch, and erase until we have the perfect digital persona. I was spending an absurd amount of time curating my digital life, under an imagined pressure to create an online persona that somehow captured my best qualities and hid all the worst ones. Without any cracks in our digital facade, it becomes difficult for anyone to get through to the person behind the profile picture. And honestly? I’m not sure how many of us really want them to. Nowadays, we are faced with a confounding paradox about relationships: we are lonely but afraid of intimacy. We want connection without the demands of friendship.

My problem with Facebook came into sharp clarity when I found myself using other people’s lives to feel better or worse about mine. I was weighing my happiness against an endless stream of empty content from people I barely knew.  I was jealous, prideful, dismissive and obsessive (all at once). I was using real people as spare parts to support my fragile ego. I was using Facebook as a stand-in for real community. And I was relying on what amounted to gossip (Facebook posts, albums, profile picture swaps, relationship status changes) as a substitute for taking time to ask my friends about the real hurts, sorrows, and celebrations that were happening in their lives.

We are made to long for good things: connection, community, affirmation, and acceptance. The path to these things, however, is very difficult. With Facebook, I thought I'd found a way to get a cheap hit. In notifications and red bubbles, you can find instant relief from the hard task of growing and sustaining these things in our everyday lives. The results are brief and unsatisfying. The truth is that to achieve any of these good things in the way God intended them requires hard work and sacrifice. To find community means letting go of your selfishness. To find connection means relinquishing convenience. To find affirmation and acceptance means understanding where your true value lies. I've tried to use Facebook (and sites like it) to satisfy these intense cravings, but it only seems to make me yearn for the real thing more. God has intentionally built these desires into us. Things like loyal friends and good conversations are treasures to us here on earth, but also reminders that perfect understanding, connection, and acceptance can only happen in heaven. These impulses are us longing for a home that isn’t quite here yet. But, when I see flashes of home in deep friendships and rich conversation, it brings me a little closer to the person I was meant to be. Not the painstakingly-crafted social celebrity that Facebook made me into, but the girl underneath with all her cracks and imperfections and heartache, but also with a tremendous capacity for joy and loyalty and love. That's the person I want my friends to know. And Facebook was standing in the way. 

So I quit. I’m still experiencing a kind of phantom limb syndrome. Before my Google homepage has even loaded, I find I have typed ‘fa’ into the search bar, a disturbingly routine holdover from nearly 8 years of Facebook usage. At the first flicker of boredom I feel when writing or designing, my browser is open and I find myself dully looking at my bookmarks bar for the little blue f, only to realize that it’s gone. Now, I talk to fewer people. I’ve traded comments for conversations and photo likes for phone calls. My 700 rapidly dwindled to less than a dozen. I’m finding that the smaller number brings with it sweetness and depth — not in spite of, but because of the extra effort it takes. There are a finite number of people you can truly know and be known by in a lifetime. I want to love mine well.

Our First Apartment

Our apartment is tiny.

It is barely 600 square feet, with one bedroom and half a closet. Most of the day it is completely dark because no natural light can find its way in past the hedges and neighboring buildings. There is a half hour between 6:30 and 7 where our bedroom floor experiences it’s first and only slats of natural light during the day. Thomas will regularly walk in from a rehearsal and find me curled up in a patch of sunlight that fills the two feet between our bed and the window. I will usually have arranged our succulents in a circle around me so that we can all take advantage of the light. Five of our six indoor plants have died so far and I’m not holding out hope for the last one.

Our kitchen, affectionately called “galley-style” by the realtor, is so narrow that it is nearly impossible for two people to occupy it at once. When you open the dishwasher and the silverware drawer at the same time, they are directly above and beneath one another, which makes unloading the dishes incredibly easy and everything else very difficult. While cooking dinner, I once opened the oven door to pull out a hot dish while Thomas was washing dishes at the sink. It wasn’t until I realized the open oven door was less than an inch from his ankles that I realized the urgency of the situation. “Don’t. Move. A. Muscle,” I whispered, eyes wide with fear. What ensued next was a scene straight out of Indiana Jones: one twitch of Thomas' calf would have triggered a life-threatening booby trap. I carefully maneuvered the scalding hot metal pan to the stovetop while trying with trembling hands to avoid singeing Thomas’ leg hair. Though Thomas escaped unscathed, I don’t know if either of us have fully recovered.

I was warned that living with a boy was one of the biggest adjustments I’d make when we got married. Somehow though, with Thomas, the transition felt seamless. There are parts of his daily routines that still amuse and confound me: the shower ritual that takes 26 minutes and includes a combination of both standing and sitting with different water temperatures assigned to both, or the desperate cravings he sometimes gets at 11 p.m. to bake and then eat an entire cake. But, besides being the love of my life and our family's spiritual leader, Thomas is my best friend. Living with him is easy. We've stumbled into dozens of other difficult adjustments since we got married and it has not all been easy or effortless, but even when those hard times happen, Thomas will always the roommate I want to come home and tell all about it. 

Because I lived in the dorms for four years, this is my first apartment. It’s the first time I’ve had furniture that wasn’t specially designed to repel liquid, stains, and (presumably) extended lounging. It’s the first time I’ve been able to light a candle without fearing a building-wide fire drill. It’s the first space that really feels like it’s mine to fill with fresh flowers, cutting boards, copper pots, and dying succulents. Even though this first apartment is wildly, comically flawed, I love it. It will always be our first home together. It will be the one I will remember Thomas carrying me across the threshold of at 1 a.m. after driving for 12 hours to get there. It will be the apartment where we learned our first lessons of marriage: how to navigate our own selfishness, how to sacrifice for one another, how to pray together, play together, and calmly discuss the merits of paper towels versus dishrags. It is the first place where we were profoundly confused by each other. It was the first place that we felt truly, deeply known by each other. It will be the apartment where we first began to love each other — not in the way we thought we loved one another while we were dating, but with the vulnerability and intimacy and barefaced rejoicing that only marriage could bring.

Thomas and I regularly discuss the details of next apartment. Since he lived in this one for an entire semester before I arrived, our next home will be the first one we pick out together. We dream of an open floor plan, high ceilings, and huge windows situated in a loft apartment high above the downtown of whichever city we’ll be living in. in this dream, he can bike to work and I can pour a cup of coffee and sit down to write at a huge desk spilling over with natural light. Our demands might be a little steep for our next place or even the one after that. But no matter where we end up moving, this ridiculous, dark, tiny apartment will always  be the first home we shared and the beginning of our story together.