Twenty-Five

Today is my birthday! As of today, I am a quarter of a century old. A lot of stuff has happened in the past 25 years, and I wanted to share it with you, and me. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to write, but I wanted to make it special and poignant; it is a milestone year after all. After some thought and deliberation, I decided to assemble a list of things that have made me into the person I am today. So here is an assorted collection of 25 events, experiences, and random things that have made up these past 25 years.

I come from a large family. A very, very large family. I have more cousins than I can count on my fingers and toes, and your fingers and toes. Growing up in New York, surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins, third-cousins, people with my last name who swore they were related to me somehow giving me no choice but to believe them, I learned from a young age that family was the most important thing. And it’s true. My best friends are my siblings and my cousins; they’ve known me the longest and they know me best. I know I can always count on them for support, regardless of what I’m going through. My family has been one of the largest constants in my life, and they have always been there for me.

I feel constantly lucky and blessed that I got to be born into this line of amazing people. I’ve always been interested in learning more about my ancestry and my history. My great-grandmother, Wilmott Josephine Chandler, known to us as “Nanny,” was born in Christ Church, Barbados and got right to work when she immigrated to New York. She helped open Freedom National Bank and Carver Federal Savings and Loans, one of the first banks in New York that loaned money to black people. She owned a dry goods store and between her and her sisters and brothers, owned 5 brownstones in central Harlem that she rented out to families. She was very political, worked the voting polls to get Black people out to vote, and giving her grandchildren voter registration applications for their 18th birthday.

My immediate family has been my rock since day one. My mom and dad always have my back no matter, and I’ll never be able to thank them enough. My siblings make me laugh and hold me down and make me strong. I’m so lucky to have them, all of them, and they have molded me into the person I am today.

My family and my family history inspires me because it reminds me that I come from greatest and it motivates me to do better. When I think about how hardworking my great-grandmother was, I see that same passion and drive and initiative and heart in my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my siblings, my parents, and sometimes in me. Apart from being supportive, my family is strong. We were born to be strong and resilient and even though it’s hard for me to always see that, a peek into the past always reminds me that I got this, because they did first.

I’ve written about my grandmother countless times, but it’ll never be enough. She was such a formative influence in my life, even though I’ve lived nearly half of it without her. Nama was born 1932 in Harlem Hospital. She worked in the fashion industry as a receptionist and later became file clerk for the Department of Social Services. She served looks, always. She loved scary movies and The Twilight Zone and mystery novels. She loved video games and played Super Mario all the time; she even got the Atari when it first came out. She loved Atlantic City and loved to play slot machines. She walked with me down the stairs when I was scared of the elevator because she didn’t want me to go downstairs by myself. She let me sleep in her bed and try on her wigs. She had a cat named Bobby who was terrible and scratched my legs so I would never wear shorts to her house. She had her chair in the kitchen by the window that she would sit in. She would make us peanut butter toasted sandwiches. She taught me the meaning of arbitrary words and phrases, like “cold cuts” and “file cabinet.”

I could name fun facts about my grandmother until I’m blue in the face, but the most important one is that she loved me unconditionally. She made me feel loved, always. I always knew I could count on her and come to her when I needed and she’s made me a better person.

Living in New York seems like a lifetime away. I lived with my grandma and my mom when I was really, really little, then to an apartment with my parents on Central Park West. After that we moved to 41 Convent Ave in Harlem, where most of my memories of my childhood in New York are based. I went to a couple different elementary schools, mainly private schools, which helped me grow to resent school uniforms.

New York will always be my home. Eating coquitos in The Bronx, playing with the fire hydrants in the summer, school trips to the Bronx Zoo, getting over my fear of the subway, and playing with the elephants in Central Park. Most of my extended family lived there and I got to see them all the time. We’d congregate at my grandma’s house for everything, and honestly that’s why I have so much love for the city. I could talk about how I love the Big Pun memorial graffiti all over Tdhe Bronx and Mister Softee ice cream and shish kabobs off the street, but at the heart of my love for New York is it was the backdrop for my love of my family.

According to my parents, I watched The Lion King everyday as a little kid. I would come home from daycare, sit in my little rocking chair from Gymboree and watch it every. single. day. 1994 was clearly a very big year for me. Our copy of The Lion King was a bootleg version, complete with sounds from the audience and people getting up and walking in front of the screen. It didn’t matter. I loved it. I still love it. The Lion King will forever and always be my favorite movie of all time, I don’t care what anyone says. An friend of my mom’s had a daughter played baby Nala in The Lion King Broadway show and gave us tickets to the show. It changed my life. Every time it comes out of the vault, I buy it. When they had their 20th anniversary in 2014 and released it in the theaters again, I skipped class and bought tickets to see it. Twice. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

When I was 7 years old, my dad would read us books before bedtime in the living room. Usually the reading would go on for longer than anticipated, which meant we got to stay up later, and made it that much more enticing. I remember when he began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to us; I was 7 and I was, for the first time, enraptured with the story he read us. He would only read a few pages a night, and it wasn’t enough. I took the book with me to school and would read it in my 2nd grade class. I remember Ms. Velazquez getting upset at me for not paying attention to whatever we were learning, but I didn’t really care because I needed to know if Harry would ever escape the Dursleys.

Like so many kids, I didn’t like reading until Harry Potter. Words were too hard for me and it was discouraging being unable to understand the text in front of me. And even though I didn’t understand everything in Harry Potter, I was in love with the story and I needed to know more.

I distinctly remember seeing the trailer for the movie and I thought I was going to die. November 2001 couldn’t get here fast enough. I had just read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and it was already my favorite in the series, but I was ready to go back and relive the magic from Harry’s first year at Hogwarts. And after seeing that first movie in theaters, my love for the franchise was solidified.

All I asked for for my birthday was Harry Potter books and merchandise. All I talked to with my friends was Harry Potter, be it the books or movies themselves or our own dumb theories. I went to the book releases at Barnes and Noble starting with Goblet of Fire and the midnight movie releases starting with Prisoner of Azkaban. If there was ever a choice between finishing the book and homework, Harry always won. My entire childhood (and most of my adulthood, honestly) revolved around Harry Potter. I joined the Harry Potter Alliance in college and befriended other people whose childhoods mirrored mine. We dressed up in house robes together and went to Quidditch games.

During the summer of 2010, the year the last movie came out, I was set to be in New York to visit family. One of my aunts worked at the theater where the movie would premiere and I had to be there. It was excruciatingly hot and crowded and a little kid threw up right next to me, but I did not care. I wanted nothing more than to be on that red carpet and meet the golden trio themselves. And I did that.

My mom, the angel she is, got me a bracelet that allowed access to the carpet and I was suddenly in the presence of people I’d admired since I was a little kid. I got to take selfies with celebrities and get autographs and nothing else mattered. It was a perfect ending to a lifetime of being obsessed with the series and everything about it, and one of the most magical moments in my life.

The year before I went to high school, my grandpa on my dad’s side invited our family to a cruise to Alaska. Being a snarky teenager who was already bitter about everything, I was not impressed. Alaska? Please.

Let me just tell you guys that both Alaska and cruises are amazing. We saw eagles, we went white-water rafting, we learned about indigenous people of Alaska and the history of totem poles, we got to explore Juneau, we even stopped in Canada for a little bit, and had the LIDO DECK. The 7 day cruise was one of the most elitist thing I’ve ever done in my life and inspired me to be a mustache-twirling, monocle-wearing oil tycoon or something else that’ll make me rich so I can go on cruises all the time. And, akin to many of the things on this list, being with my family made it even sweeter. Even though I was younger and much, much more bossy and annoying and easily annoyed with my siblings, having my family along for the ride was awesome and made for great, and hilarious, memories that we still look back on.

I hated moving to Texas. Absolutely hated it. To go from living within walking distance of at least 3 cousins at all time to a place known for things like horse ranches and cowboy hats was distressing for me. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave my family and my friends. But New York was too expensive and my dad got a better job, and his brother lived out there, so it made the most sense for us to go.

School in Texas was weird for me. Learning about Texas history came as a huge shock. Actually, the entire school system was weird and different and I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t have any friends. I only had a couple cousins out there and they were either much younger or older than me, and I hadn’t known them my whole life like my cousins in New York. Everything was different and being a bratty little kid, I didn’t like it one bit.

However, as a sophisticated and well-rounded adult human being, I now recognize with great reverence that moving to Texas was a blessing. It was the most financially sound move for my family. My parents were able to buy a house and get paid more. Even though it was hard at first, as change always is, it was necessary, and the best decision for my family to make. As much as I make fun of Texas, and as many Sandy from Spongebob jokes I get, Texas is a part of me. I grew up there. I went to school there, I made friends for life there. I learned a lot about myself there, some things I liked and didn’t like, but learned to like. I went through trauma there, and learned to heal there.

My family is upper-middle class in Texas, something that’s nearly impossible in New York City for a myriad of terrible reasons we can get into later. I have the life I do because we moved to Texas. Even though I complain that I’m broke a lot, I have a financial safety net that a lot of people don’t, and it wouldn’t be possible without Texas. And, yeah, there’s a ton of stuff about Texas that I don’t like and absolutely hate, but it’s been good to me and it’s gotten me here.

I love dogs. I love dogs. I LOVE DOGS. 

Dogs are superior to humans in every single way and you’ll never be able to convince me otherwise. I know they pee and poop everywhere and lick their own genitals but I don’t care. They’re caring and sweet and emotional and amazing and they love us back. They are pure creatures who deserve everything.

My first dog was Dakota, who I’ve talked about here before. We got him in a Walmart parking lot and he turned out to be the best dog in the world. He was an amazing dog whose life was unfortunately cut short, but he made a huge impact on my life. Dakota was incredibly smart and perceptive; he could always tell when I was feeling depressed. He would come in my room and push his head under my hand to pet him and try his best to cheer me up. Sometimes I would be feeling so sad all I could do was cry and hug Dakota, and he would just stay there and let me until I got it all out. Even though we only had him for a short time, he helped me through so much and I’ll always be grateful to our lil Schmoopie.

Our other two dogs are Duke and Sadie, who we got immediately after we lost Dakota because we were just so damn sad. We got Sadie first, also off the side of the road, and Duke a few days afterwards from one of my mom’s friends. They were little tiny puppies who grew up insanely fast, and with personalities akin to Pinky and the Brain. Sadie, the devilsh plotter, is always up to something, earning her the nickname Shady Sadie. Duke on the other hand, is just happy to be included and always, always wears a very dopey look on his face. The two are quite a pair and I love them with my whole heart.

When I was in high school, I got the opportunity to go to Europe for 3 weeks. Every time I talk about it, it sounds very bougie, but I don’t really care. It was an amazing experience and I loved every second of it, even when we had to walk 3.5 miles to the laundromat in the heat with our laundry, and then walk back.

We went to France first and stayed for a week, doing touristy things like walking up the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Champs Elysees, the Louvre, Normandy, and Versailles. We ate frogs legs and escargot and crepes and a million different kinds of cheeses before travelling to the Isle of Wight, an island off the coast of England. We did a ton of crazy water sports at the United Kingdom Sailing Academy like…sailing, wind surfing and paddling. After capsizing in my dinghy boat, I decided that I hated sailing and never wanted to do it ever again. England was next, where we spent a day at a very posh and traditional British school where I realized that separating students into different houses is commonplace and not unique like in Harry Potter. We had homestay families, so for 3 days we had a mom and a dad and siblings who took care of us and packed us lunch and showed us what it was like to live in England. My family, the Mayalls, was the best one; out of everyone in my group, they were the only family to feed us traditional English food every night instead of hamburgers and hotdogs and stuff. England rainy and dreary and amazing. We went to Bath, Wells Cathedral, Oxford, Shakespeare’s birthplace and cemetary, Warwick Castle, the London Eye and we saw multiple filming locations from Harry Potter!

I made fast friends with many of the kids on the trip and even though we quickly fell out of contact, the few weeks we spent together were some of the best in my life.

Video games have always been a huge part of my life, mainly because my grandma was such a huge video game enthusiast. We always had a console in our house, starting with the Nintendo 64 and including the indisputable greatest gaming system ever in the world, the Nintendo GameCube. I’ve been playing video games since I was a little kid, I grew up with them and they’ve always been a big part of my life. From Super Mario 64 to The Sims, I’ve always been able to immerse myself in games and forget about the outside world. They’ve constantly brought me comfort and distraction whenever I needed it and it feels kind of awesome knowing my love for video games is genetic.

Also, the Sonic Adventure Battle 2 port for the GameCube is the greatest game ever. Do not fight me on this.

When I applied for college, I got rejected. My grades weren’t good enough for UT and they gave me a big ol’ thumbs down. It was crushing; I really felt like I deserved to go to the school and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I talked to my teachers about it, and they suggested I appeal my rejection. And I did. I compiled a resume painstakingly detailing everything I did in high school, wrote an essay describing why I deserved to go to the school, got tons of teacher recommendations supporting me, and even got a meeting with the Houston admissions office. I explained my case and after a couple weeks of consideration, I was finally accepted.

Honestly, I think it’s one of the most badass things I’ve ever done. I fought my way into school.

My time at UT was magnanimous; it was larger than life. I can’t describe in a few words or paragraphs how paramount it was to my life. The classes I took, the organizations I joined, the friends I met; everything about the experience helped shape me as a person. Dorm food, late night taco runs, foam sword fight Fridays, festivals, free food, football games, Halloween parties, cheap movie tickets, 6th street at midnight. The list goes on and on and on.

I met Issa Rae before she was a big star at UT. I joined Black Student Alliance and took the coveted Black Power Movement and learned to love myself better. We withstood racist white students dropping balloons full of bleach at us in the “white” section of student housing and fought against blackface parties. We went to Washington D. C. when Abigail Fisher tried to sue our school, and we won. The bond I built with the black students on my campus was strong and unbreakable, even to this day. I am thankful for the memories and the friendships and the knowledge accrued at one of the greatest schools in the country.

Living in Austin was where I first felt like an adult. I got an apartment with one of my best friends, I had a job that kinda sucked, but paid a lot. I had friends I could hang out with every night and there was always something to do. The nightlife in Austin was awesome, but even outside of drinking and partying, the pulse of the city was palpable. There was always a movie or a show or a food truck or a side street performance; never was there a dull moment in the city. I finally felt like a real grownup, even though I was only a couple hours from home. It was like an introduction to adulthood, and the best one ever.

I went to ACL only once, back in 2010. I’m not a big fan of concerts; I’m claustrophobic and I have tinnitus, which is worsened by loud noises, so concerts aren’t generally something I crave. Actually, ACL 2010 was the first concert I’d ever been to, if you count music festivals as concerts. The 3-day long festival was headlined by Stevie Wonder and I knew it was gonna be the best thing ever. I spent the weekend with my friends from the film committee, including one of my friends I’ve had the longest. We saw acts like Nas, Damian Marley, Cee Lo Green, Arcade Fire, Big Boi, Randy Newman, Ray LaMontagne, and even Kanye West. It was the era of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, meaning we got to hear “Power,” “All of the Lights,” and “Monster.” And when Stevie performed? I took videos of each performance, but they proved unusable because I was screaming at the top of my lungs in every single one. Superstition, Sir Duke, I Wish, Knocks Me Off My Feet, Pastime Paradise, Isn’t She Lovely, My Cherie Amour, For Once In My Life. Every single hit, he knocked it out of the park. One of the most legendary, iconic, amazing singers of all time, just a few feet away from me. Truly a masterclass.

SXSW is one of my favorite festivals ever, and that’s saying a lot. I volunteered with film for two years and got to become a theater manager my third year. The week-long festival introduced me to films and people I’d never get to meet. Each year I worked it, I promised I would watch one more film than the last year, which was a challenge because I watched 15 films my first year. Each year was even better than the last, and I got to meet so many famous people; I even got to be best friends with Olivia Wilde for a day.

*pic of me with earpiece; or collage

Although the festival lasted only a week, there was always so much crammed into those seven days that it felt like a lifetime. Although walking back home at 5am and returning to the theater at 8 the next morning wasn’t exactly my favorite, the energy and sheer awesomeness of the festival hold a special spot in my heart.

When I lived in New York, I started taking an ASL class with my mom. She was a cop and had a Deaf victim she couldn’t speak with until an interpreter showed up, and she wanted to be able to speak to Deaf victims in the future, so she signed up for the class. I took it with her, only for a couple weeks, but ever since then I’d wanted to learn ASL. I happened to be very, very bad at it as a kid and since I was a huge quitter, gave up really quickly. In high school I tried again, but, being an older quitter, I gave up again. Finally college rolled around and I decided to jump right in. I wasn’t gonna be scared of classifiers, even though I couldn’t wrap my brain around them. Wh-?’s would no longer terrify me, and I was gonna get my facial expressions on point. My first two years at UT I couldn’t get into ASL because they offered so few classes and it was very popular. My junior year, I finally was able to get in, and knew I was in over my head. Although it may not always seem so, I am a very shy person. Having to present in front of the class and go out into the Deaf community to talk to strangers terrified me. But, I was older now, I told myself, and I could do this. So even though I started out small and scared, I worked hard because I felt I’d owed it to myself. And after months and months and years of practice, it finally paid off.

My final year at UT, I attended ASL hour on Friday, where ASL students and teachers would gather to chat. I quickly met some of my best friends there and learned how to better get involved in the Deaf community. I started volunteering at the Texas School for the Deaf at football and volleyball games; my goal shifted from curiosity to wanting to be fluent. I immersed myself in Deaf culture classes my last semester and learned about ASL from different perspectives, both in and out of class. Other than gaining new friends and a new language, I learned so much about ableism and how hearing society views deafness and Deaf culture. It wasn’t something I’d ever thought about because I didn’t have to, and being introduced to Deaf culture in this way lent itself to making me more aware of things like accessibility in other ways too. And although ASL hour was mainly about practice and learning language, it helped me grow aware of a multitude of other things I wouldn’t have without it.

I love conventions. Anytime you stick a bunch of nerds selling patches and pins in a giant convention center requiring lanyards and badges for access, I am in. Before moving, my family and I would go to Houston’s comicpalooza every year. It was like a family tradition; we love meeting famous people and attending panels on stupid nuances in tv shows and video games. It’s the kind of nonsense we live for.

Oh boy. This is a big one.

Working on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign was the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. It will probably be the best thing I ever do in my entire life too. I found out about the digital development internship on tumblr of all places, and decided to apply. Having absolutely no experience in the digital space, I got an interview with my main man Dan Ryan, who would later become my boss. I even told him over the phone that I’d never created a website before. “We’ll teach you,” he said. I was nervous before the interview and then for days afterward. But getting that phone call saying I was in was one of the most amazing things to ever happen to me. I’m pretty sure I cried later that day.

The next summer, after much tension over whether or not I’d be able to go, I was in Chicago living in a dorm-style apartment with three other girls from out of state who’d also had internships in Chicago. Mine was the coolest, clearly. Everyone was nice, but Marissa and I became closest. We explored the city together, even in 100 degree weather. We went shopping together, cooked dinners together, and became fast friends.

The internship itself was a doozy. I’d never been more nervous in my entire life, and I get nervous about everything. Our first day we were divided up into teams based on the state we would be calling to ask for donations. I got put in the Colorado team, affectionately known as #TeamCO, and we were the best. After intern orientation was over, we dispersed to our respective departments and I was absolutely terrified. My supervisor Kyle had a couple things for me to do, including building a dummy website. Remember, up until this point, I’d been a huge quitter. So, naturally, since I wasn’t immediately good at my first task, I sent Kyle an email saying something along the lines of “This is too hard, please put me somewhere else I am so scared oh my god I can’t do this.” Kyle wasn’t going to let me give up that easy, though. Neither was the rest of the dev team.

Over the next few days and months, I got less scared of my environment. I started to get to know everyone and even make friends. The other interns felt very similar to me, lost and confused and as if we were moving too slow; it wasa presidential campaign so there was no room for slack. But we quickly got into the swing of things and learned how to make it work. We learned how to ask questions, and what were the right questions to ask. We learned how to take rejection from our cold calls and laughed about the funny voicemails we called to. In the digital team, I learned more than I think I can even remember at this current moment. I learned to make a website. I learned what HTML & CSS were. I learned about content management systems and what responsive web design meant. I learned that deadlines were always five minutes ago and how to use Github. I learned how to write and read code and how to use Ubuntu, even though I thought the only two operating systems were Mac and PC. I learned what quality assurance tests were and that if we donated to the campaign we were not eligible to win any of the raffles, which really sucked cus I really wanted to have dinner with Barack, Michelle, and Beyonce.

The digital development team became my family. I learned so much from them, not only about digital development, but how to operate in the workforce, how to work as a team, and how to be an adult. On my last night in Chicago, the dev team took me out for drinks, and we talked about how I was getting my first big kid apartment. They gave me advice on school and life and it took everything in me not to start bawling (which I did on the way home.) I came back in November for Election Day and I’ve never felt that good in my life. We had won a presidential election, all of us. We elected a president. Our work did that. All that frustrating, late night, confusing as hell work that I put in made a difference. It was euphoric. And the after parties were insane.

January of the next year, we all met up again for the Inauguration. It felt so good to see everybody again, like no time had passed. We had tickets to the Inauguration, the inaugural ball as well as our own staff ball. I’d never in my life been to a ball before; I thought that was just in old Disney movies. But I put on the fanciest dress I owned because no way was I missing this. It was a million degrees below freezing or something of the like on Inauguration Day, but we didn’t care. We shivered in the cold and watched President Obama be sworn in once again. The ball that night had performances by Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, FUN, and Brad Paisley, and we got to watch Barack and Michelle dance into another four years. The next day we were offered a couple special events to attend, most of which, including things like policy meetings, seemed insanely boring. The coolest one was The White House tour, so we definitely hopped on that. It was self-guided, so you could go in at any time after waiting in line. The wait for me was a bit longer, around 40 extra minutes, because I have a hyphenated last name and did not include that when I registered for the tour, and Secret Service was not happy about that. They kept us for nearly an hour to verify everything and we were finally able to go inside. The tour was nice, taught a lot about the history of the White House and showed a lot of fancy stuff. As we were about to leave, a Secret Service guy told us there was a special event happening soon and would we like to join. The answer, of course, was a resounding yes. We waited in another line and were told no cameras were allowed. This was it, I thought. We were finally going to meet President Obama.

Sure enough, as we entered the room, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Bo Obama were waiting for us. They shook hands (and paws) of everyone waiting in line and talked to us for a little bit. President Obama asked for my name and said “Hi, Cheyenne” after I told him. I told him I worked for his digital development team making donation websites and he said those were really important. I told him I went to UT and he did the Hook ‘Em Horns sign and I almost died. Next, I talked to Michelle Obama who thanked me for my hard work and told me I did a good job. I asked her if I could pet Bo and she said “of course!” I pet Bo, the most well-behaved dog in the world, and it was over just as soon as it started.

Working on the campaign was an absolute whirlwind. It was the greatest experience ever, giving me friends and mentors for life who still check up on me and are there for me when I need support. I love, love, love the people on the dev team and am grateful for everything they taught me and continue to teach me.

I have always loved meeting famous people, and I’ve met a lot of famous people. It’s a hobby of mine at this point. It all started when I was a baby and Steven Spielberg helped my mom open my stroller. Now, I don’t remember this one particularly because I was a baby, but I believe it’s where it all started. I could rattle off the number of famous people I’ve met, but I don’t even think I remember them all. I’ve met casts of television shows, like Holly Marie Combs, Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowen, and Brian Krause from Charmed and Jerrika Hinton, Jessica Capshaw, and Kelly McCreary from Grey’s Anatomy. I met the dancers from Dancing with the Stars. As previously mentioned, I was best friends with Olivia Wilde for a day. I met Ming-Na Wen, who voices Mulan. I met Charles Martinet, who voices Super Mario. I met Rene Auberjonois, who voices Chef Louis from Little Mermaid. I met Tom Kane, who voices the Professor on The Powerpuff Girls. I met Rosario Dawson, Chloe Bennett, Alfonso Ribeiro, Jason Isaacs, the Harry Potter cast, Whoopi Goldberg, Melissa Joan Hart, Ariana Grande, Stan Lee, Bruce Campbell, Seth MacFarlane, Jay Manuel, America Ferrera (twice), Duff Goldman, David Heyman, Jim Carey, Patrick Stewart, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Carell, Issa Rae, Grace Helbig, Cory Booker, Shaq.

love meeting famous people. 100% superficial. Did not help contribute to me as a person or any personal success. I just really, really like meeting famous people.

Ugh. Y’all, it is 11:52 in the morning and I really wanted to have this done by midnight. The last thing I wanted to do was write on my birthday. I mean, really. That’s no fun.

I love writing, though. I really do. I have a million ideas a day, seriously. If even a quarter of the things I think about somehow made it onto paper on into a laptop, I’d have content on this blog every hour. I love crafting sentences and eliciting an exact feeling using words. I try to be as precise as possible, which is one of the reasons I find writing so much easier and efficient than speaking. I pride myself on being a writer because it’s one of the things I happen to be very good at.

I also happen to be incredibly scatterbrained, which is not a very big help in writing. It actually makes everything a lot harder. It is insanely hard for me to focus on one thing at a time, what with my brain scrambling and jumping from thought to thought at a mile a minute. I can hardly ever keep up with myself and my fingers are not nearly as fast as the thought express train that whips around my brain every other millisecond. It’s sometimes hard to encapsulate what I want because as soon as I think of a sentence, I’ve thought of 6 more sentences, and that first one is long gone.

But, despite having the brain of a child who ate too many Skittles, I love writing. I love writing because it is the best way to get those thoughts out instead of having them overstay their welcome in my brain. It’s the only outlet for said thoughts to escape, and I make it look good. Or, at least I try to.

Ok, I know I’ve started off a lot of these with “I love _______,” but I love Twitter. Twitter is the best thing ever. Nowhere else can you get insightful commentary on social issues right next to inexplicably hilarious memes. The access to just about anyone and anything may seem like a cause for alarm or an invasion of privacy, but used correctly, interactions on Twitter are astounding. You can communicate more effectively with stores and corporations when you have a problem or a question, and you’re often responded to within the day, if not within the hour. You can keep tabs on news, politics, entertainment, and any obscure, niche thing you’re into. You can connect with people globally over a shared interest. I can’t even begin to explain how many genuine friends I’ve made through Twitter, people that live on the other side of the country from me that I never would’ve met otherwise.

Also, it’s super easy to talk to famous people, and we all know how much I love that. Tooting my own horn again here, a lot of famous people follow me and interact with me on Twitter and it just feels good. It makes you feel seen and valid. And before you start coming at me with how you shouldn’t rely on celebrities for validation, I’ll have you know that Sara Ramirez DM’d me that I rock, so take that.

Oh television. Sweet, sweet idiot box, how I love you so. I feel similar to TV as I do with video games, a constant comfort and/or distraction for when I need it. And the accessibility of television now is so great. I couldn’t imagine a life without the capability of streaming the musical episode of Grey’s Anatomy at the click of a button. There’s so much great tv and horrible tv and I love it all, and everything in between. I love how scripted fiction shows have the capability to be much more nuanced and detailed than movies and delve into plots and characters with intensity unlike any other medium. I love how varied television is now, and that I can see myself in shows like Master of None and black-ish and Insecure. I love how easy it is to connect with other people over a shared love (or hate) of a show or a character or a theory. I love how shows have tangible personalities and help us discover new things about ourselves and the world around us. Perhaps this is a bit too deep for something as broad as television in general, but the scope of tv and what it means to me is all of these things and so much more.

Beyonce is everything and everything is Beyonce. I have been to 2 of her concerts and I cried at both. She is a wonder to behold, powerful and strong. Her resolve in herself and in women is inspiring. To see a black woman as the most dynamic and popular entertainer of our time is moving and, at times, overwhelming. To see her handle dual attacks in racism and misogyny, often intermixed, with such ease and grace makes me want to be as strong as her. As I’ve already said, I don’t like going to concerts, but Beyonce concerts are an entirely different ballgame. You feel the power when you are in there and she commands the entire stadium. You are captivated by her presence and you are not going anywhere. Her graciousness, the ferocity with which she performs, how she gives so much of herself to the people that love her, everything. It is absolutely awesome in every sense of the word. As someone who has struggled to exist in the body of a Black woman, seeing Beyonce in person has given me a reverberating sense of self, dignity, pride, and power that I know will never burn out.

I hate when people ask me why I moved to California because I honestly don’t know. I say it’s because I wanted a change and I didn’t like Texas anymore, but that’s not entirely true. I say I wanted to spread my wings and just try something new, but that isn’t it either. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I decided to uproot my life, and I wish I would’ve written down some justifications, but I’m here now and that’s what matters.

It’s nice here, it’s good. I struggled a lot when I got here, and I’m still struggling, but I’m ok here and I’m learning to be ok here. Everything is different here. There’s no HEB or Whataburger or cowboy hats or damp, muggy summers. There are mountains everywhere and everybody has fruits and vegetables growing in their yards. Everyone bikes and skateboards everywhere. The weather is way nicer. Driving is still a pain in the ass, but some things never change.

Moving to California changed me in ways I never considered. It forced me to grow up very fast and learn how to figure out a lot of stuff on my own. I still have the help and support of my parents and my grandmother, but I also have to take care of myself by myself. I’m thousands of miles away from home, from my family. I’m by myself out here. I’m on my own. It’s scary, terrifying actually, but it’s made me more responsible. A little bit crazier, a little bit unstable, but as much as I wobble around, I’m still standing.

Ah, The Tech Museum. I would not have made it this far in California if it were not for this place. It’s a great destination for school field trips and tourists, but to me it’s the place that houses all of the people I love in California. It’s where I met so many incredible friends that I bonded with quickly and effortlessly. The museum isn’t a bad place, but it’s nothing compared to the people I’ve met here. Friends in the same boat as I am, wondering what they’re doing with their lives and trying to figure out how to be adults. The people I’ve spent the last ten months of my time in California with are the reason that I am still here. The overwhelming support I get daily is astounding and I feel so blessed. I’ve made friends here that have seen me at my worst and stuck by me still, and that kind of unwavering love is not something you stumble upon everyday. Even though I complain about being sneezed on by little kids and having to deal with annoying teenagers (and adults), the people I’ve met here are what get me through and I am so lucky.

We’ve come to an end my friends, the 25th thing in this cockamamie mosh-posh nonsense of a list. You’ve stuck with me for 7300 words, probably the longest singular piece I’ve ever written for this website, and I’m glad you did. Now it’s time to celebrate me!

I am lucky and glad to have come this far. I complain a lot, but I have been so uniquely blessed in my life. From having a family who loves and supports me, parents who have my back no matter what, siblings who pick me up when I need it and pick on me when I need it too, friends who’ve come in and out of my life at the exact right time, and once in a lifetime experiences that make me want to write a ridiculously long piece like this, I have truly been blessed. I’m happy I get to celebrate my 25 years of life with you like this. Whether you are someone who’s known me forever, someone who just met me, someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, thank you, because you are a part of my story too. I would not have ever been this strong or brave or smart or ok without people like you.

So have a wonderful September 2nd, guys. And happy birthday, me.

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