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The World Emoji

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This article is dedicated to the person whom I consider to be my first best friend. The person who introduced me to video games and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The person who teased me throughout my whole childhood and thought tripping me was the funniest thing on the planet. The one who would play outside with me for hours on end and then watch the same movie with me over and over again. The one who, not until recently, I realized actually loves and cares about me more than I thought possible (I always thought he hated me lol). And the one whose birthday is today: my big brother.

In a lot of Hollywood movies, they frequently depict a family with an older sister and a younger brother; the little brother is usually super annoying and the big sister might enjoy dressing him up like a girl. That’s just one example of a stereotypical relationship they show between a brother and a sister; for me however, my relationship was the little sister and big brother. So instead of a big brother dressing up his little sister as a boy, my brother made me more so act like a boy. What I mean by that is, playing video games was one of my favorite things to do, I thought Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Power Rangers were so cool, and I was (still am) obsessed with the Lord of the Rings. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a pretty girly person, but they should also know all the “boy-ish” type of things that my brother influenced me to like. All thanks to him I am in love with movies like Avengers, X-men, The Dark Knight, and Star Trek. I still have my Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! playing cards and honestly still think they’re pretty awesome. And if I was actually any good, I would play video games all the time. When I was younger, because I thought my brother was the coolest person on the planet (and because I really wanted him to like me), I had to become interested in the things he liked. Needless to say, that plan worked out pretty well. As much as little kid Landon would probably deny it, I think he was pretty happy to have me around.

Trying to be friends with my brother, as his little sister, wasn’t always easy though; it was hard work. Like all big brothers, he can act like a total jerk and a lot of the times is just that. Boys are mean and my brother is no exception. Landon sometimes comes with a short fuse and it’s hard to tell when he’ll get annoyed with me and shun me away. That is why, through the years, I have perfected the amount of interaction and questions that can be asked before I reach the point of annoyance. It’s truly an art form. But something that many people may not know about Landon, is that he is nothing less than a big teddy bear. He acts all tough, hard, and macho on the outside, and not to say he isn’t those things, but he has the sweetest heart I have ever encountered. Out of our family he is the most kind, the most selfless, and possibly even the most emotional. He hides it well by sometimes being a jerk and also by being very funny, but altogether he’s a secretly complex amazing human being.

Not until recently have I been able to experience that side of him for a longer period of time than what I am used to. What usually occurs with my brother is that I only get a small blurb of his sweetness here and there, and then his hard exterior will return and close him off. One moment I remember so clearly because it was so unexpected, was on the evening of my first prom. He had just gotten home from work, right at the time that I was all dressed up and ready to go. He called me into the kitchen, gave me the tightest hug, and with tear-filled eyes told me how beautiful I looked. He released me from his grasp and turned his face so I couldn’t see his eyes, which gave me the perfect opportunity to wipe my tears as well. Afterwards, we played it off real cool and casual and went on with our nights. It is tiny moments like that, where he breaks down his walls and lets me in for a second, that I appreciate the most. But since I have been away for college, those moments have become more frequent. For the most part they aren’t emotional, but they are moments that I get to experience the big brother that is so vital to my life. It can be as minor as a simple text or snapchat, just a small gesture to show me that he’s thinking of me. If I didn’t know any better, I would say I think he might miss me sometimes.

Landon has a very unique way in which he shows his love. It’s incredibly subtle and also rare, but that’s what makes it so powerful. Perhaps these examples may sound unsubstantial, but to me they speak volumes. This past summer, my family and I attended a family friend’s wedding and because of certain circumstances, me and my brother were each other’s dates. I’m an absolute sucker for a wedding and will literally cry throughout the whole thing, but what surprised me were my brother’s visual emotions. During the bride and groom’s first dance, Landon pulled me in close to him and squeezed my hand real tight. It was a small gesture, but told me exactly what I needed to know. The next day, he posted a picture of me and him from the wedding on Instagram. The caption? A single world emoji. At first I didn’t understand it, but suddenly it clicked. In the simplest way possible he was claiming that I am his world.  It meant so much to me to see that and I would be lying if I said tears didn’t fill my eyes. Because Landon rarely shows the sweet and loving side of him, and more so resides on the annoying sometimes jerk-like persona, something as subtle as those moments are that much more special and mean everything to me.

Having a big brother is an extremely special gift, but having my big brother is an even better gift. My brother brought much happiness to my childhood, taught me how to be silly and taught me how to play. He helped me learn how to appreciate the small moments and the depth of his heart that he seldom shows. He reflects my father in so many ways and exemplifies the qualities that I will look for in the man I marry one day. I am blessed beyond words to have a brother that cares for me the way that he does and who inspires me to be as kind and selfless as he is. He keeps our family laughing and reminds us not to take things too seriously. And without a doubt, our family is so much better because he is in it.

Landon, I now speak directly to you. Happy Birthday! Thanks for introducing to me to my favorite film series, letting me watch you play video games, teaching me how to be silly, and never failing to make me laugh. Thank you for all our movies dates, for being the big brother every little girl needs, for being confident in me as I went to college, and loving me in the special way only you know how. Today is your day, and I hope it has made you feel as special as you are to all the people you encounter. I love you!

Thank You Andrew Lloyd Webber

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Dear Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber,

There will never be enough words or the right words that would fully describe how thankful I am that you created Cats the musical. If you ever do actually end up reading this letter, and there is only one thing you can take from it, then I want it to be a huge fat enormous THANK YOU. I don’t precisely know why this musical decided to make a home inside my heart, but I want to at least try and explain the density that it carries. I would like to share with you my personal Cats journey and how this beautifully complex story resonates with my soul more than anything else in this entire world.

As crazy as this may sound, my love for this musical began when I was only 18 months old. I don’t exactly know how it started, I just know that my grandma bought me the VHS of Cats and I have been watching it since the very beginning of my life. I believe it is where my love for Broadway, dancing, and musicals began. My family speaks of how something inside of me just snapped when I first watched it. My mom tells me that even at an extremely young age I understood what was happening and would cry when Grizabella ascended into the Heavyside Layer. My soul, for some reason, had an undeniable connection to this musical, the characters, and the story. So truly I tell you, I can’t remember a time in my life where Cats wasn’t a part of it.

I’ve always said how the story of Cats is more human than any story I know. The cats show and feel incredibly human emotions; it just takes a special person to see and understand it. The kittens are much more accepting towards Grizabella than the older cats are, just like with humans how children are always kinder and more accepting than adults. The final song which speaks of how you should address a cat, highlights the fact that every person you encounter deserves respect. These cats show everyday human qualities, such as being protective, curious, silly, rejected, flirtatious, angry, judgemental, and accepting. One way I use to defend this claim is when the cats sing about their name. They speak of a cat having three different names: an everyday name, a fancier name, and a name that only the cat himself knows. I interpret that as how people have a version of themselves they show to their friends and family, a version of themselves they show to the outside world or in more professional situations, and then the version that they themselves only know, which is the core depth of who they really are. That’s all this story is, a hidden and deep-rooted proclamation of the beautiful individuality and community that comes along with being human.

When I was younger, I assigned a cat to each member of my family based on the cat’s role and how they compared to that certain family member. My dad, naturally, was Munkustrap. He is the leader, he is protective, and even has a small humorous side and was the perfect fit for the head of my family. The cat I assigned to my mom was Jennyanydots. She is the only female cat Munkustrap introduces and sings about, plus I always saw a little chemistry between the two. Jennyanydots is very motherly but also extremely silly and those are two great descriptions of my own mother. I gave Cassandra to my older sister because of how graceful, beautiful, and mature she is. She sings the line, “Jellicle Cats have moonlight eyes,” and my sister has stunning crystal blue eyes. My big brother gets none other than Rum Tum Tugger. When I was little, and probably still now, my brother was my rock star. He is extremely funny, boisterous, and very handsome, so you can see how Tugger is a perfect fit. And for myself? Well Victoria, of course. I was never much of a singer, but rather dance is what held my heart. Victoria is the only cat with a dance solo and is always a key part in most of the group dances. She is gentle, innocent, kind, and accepting, all qualities I see in myself. Now last but certainly not least, Old Deuteronomy. He was accurately assigned to my late great grandpa, whom I called PawPaw. He was the leader of our extended family and radiated love, compassion, and the true meaning of family. Every time I see Deuteronomy I am reminded of my PawPaw and a sense of ease comes over me and I instantly feel at peace and comforted.

Growing up with this show at my disposal, naturally I came to memorize every lyric, but also all the choreography. I know this musical like the back of my hand and I also know each cat’s personality and how they would react in any given situation. I have come to realize more and more how extremely important each cat truly is. One cannot be without the other, regardless if they get along or not. Every song and every piece of the story leads effortlessly into the next. It demonstrates a cultivating community of individuals ultimately coming together to celebrate the same thing: the virtues of being a cat. Which in turn could be interpreted as the virtues of being human, showing love towards others, and embracing who you are.

There were a few occasions throughout my childhood that I could have attended a showing of Cats on tour, but I always denied the opportunity. Because this show meant more to me than words could ever fathom, if I were to see it live, I wanted it to be the best of the best: Broadway. No matter how long that took. And for a while, I believed that that chance would never come. However, one day in the middle of class, I saw an article on Playbill.com confirming Cats the musical would be returning to Broadway and immediately I started crying right then and there. No matter what it took, I was going to make my way to New York City to witness a masterpiece. And I am extremely blessed to have amazing people in my life who were able to make that dream a reality.

This musical returned to Broadway at the peak of social media, therefore I was able to follow the cast every step of the way. I cannot tell you enough what an absolute PERFECT cast was chosen. Every single person looks exactly how they should for the particular character they play. Lili is so little and cute like Electra. Christine is tall and gorgeous just like Bombalurina. Ricky is the most incredible dancer and perfect for Mistoffelees. And Quentin did a miraculous job as Deuteronomy. And that is just to name a few! Following their journey via Instagram before I even made it to the city just got me more and more excited to see it live.

Stepping into the theatre, a wave of emotion overtook me and tears began flowing from my eyes. It looked exactly how I imagined it would and staring up at the Jellicle Moon sent chills down my spine. I never thought this moment would happen and my anxiety before the overture began was out the roof. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, eyes furiously scanning the stage at every moment that passed. Jennyanydots’ number certainly got the show rolling with high energy, following Tugger with his ridiculous song and dramatic attitude. Every song that was sung, each dance that was performed, and the utter emotion that was exalted throughout the show was simply captivating. One moment in particular I was extremely anxious for was Old Deuteronomy’s song. When it finally began I continuously looked behind me waiting for him to walk down through the aisles. I knew he would be coming, I just wasn’t sure when. This song is the one that makes me the most emotional, and when he finally arrived I felt at ease and as if there was a sense of calmness in the air. Now that he was there I could finally relax and enjoy the show because with him around, I felt at home.

Before that night I thought my love for Cats had already reached its peak, that it was impossible to grow any more than what it already was. But witnessing pure magic like that, right before my eyes, my love exceeded limits I didn’t even know existed. One thing that was so remarkable about this experience was that it illuminated characters I had never favored before. This Broadway version made me aware of specific cats that I never paid much attention to, but now love so deeply and realize even more so how important each cat genuinely is. The cats that impacted me the most and opened up my eyes to their significance would be the twins. Growing up watching the VHS version they were never noteworthy to me, I never saw their value. They sort of just blended into the background but I now know how, in a way, that’s what makes them so unique and vital to the story. Coricopat and Tantomile on stage were fascinating and demanded to be watched by how enchanting they were. The synchronization of their movements was mesmerizing and it became very clear to me their purpose in the show. They aren’t meant to be in the spotlight, they are meant to give hints and inferences to every shift that occurs and realizing that blew me away.

It might sound odd to use this analogy but I guess, to try to understand it, this musical is sort of like my first true love. Every time I watch it, I understand it more. Any time I hear the music, I instantly get happy. It amazes me of the depth that this show carries. I feel as though most audience members can watch it and appreciate the music and dancing, yet lack the understanding of how beautifully intricate and detailed the story truly is. The complexity of each cat and the important role in which it plays is a defining factor in the overall story. The pure innocence of Jemima, the arrogance and big-headedness of Alonzo, the flirtatious and alluring attitude of Bombalurina, and the liveliness yet also working maturity of Mistoffelees. How Tumblebrutus loves to show off, how witty and playful Carbucketty is, and how graceful, beautiful, and elegant Victoria is. All qualities that illuminate and seek to embrace individuality yet also showcase a perfect puzzle in which every single piece matters.

Every inch of this story ignites my soul on fire like nothing else in this world can. I feel as though I continue to repeat myself but it is so difficult to put my love into words. I can’t thank you enough for creating something so beautiful, so deep, so magical, and so real. I know how humble you are and how likely it is that you would say, “If it weren’t for T. S. Elliot,” which yes I will give credit where it is due. But you, sir, you made it all come together. Your mastery with the score is absolutely breathtaking and every element of the music emits liveliness and purpose. If nothing else, I want you to know how your single creation has become a part who I am. Cats is in my DNA and because I know this story, and the love and forgiveness that it teaches, I am a better person. It taught me to embrace what makes me unique and how to love things deeply without being ashamed of it. I compare how this musical makes me feel to the ending of Moments of Happiness, when all the cats suddenly rise up and take in the moment in which they are singing about. It is a feeling that no words can explain and all you can do is stare blindly into space, take a breath, and let the moment consume you.

Believe me when I tell you I could go on for days talking about Cats, explaining to others what it means to me, what everyone should know about it, or the importance of every individual cat’s role. I could continue talking about how deep-rooted the underlying story is, how mesmerizing the choreography is, the beauty of the music, and the genius behind it all. But at the very least, know that this musical will live in my memory forever. It will continue to inspire me, remind me of what’s important, and above all else, make me feel most myself. Thank you, thank you, from the very bottom of my heart. These words still do not do justice, but just know the true magnitude of my love for Cats is utterly ineffable.

Loyally,

An incredibly devoted and loving fan

Being “Marriage Material” in College

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As long as I can remember my one wish in life has been to find the man I am going to marry. But I have also always had very high expectations when it comes to guys, which has resulted in many letdowns. In particular, during my time in college. College is a crazy time as it is without adding boys to the mix, but of course that is one of the most interesting parts of it. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out and partying with guys is extremely fun and a lot of them bring on lots of laughs and good times, but for me it only goes that far.

Being “marriage material” in college comes with many challenges and I am here to tell you why, but first I will explain what exactly I mean by marriage material. Ask anyone who knows me well what my biggest dream in life is and they’ll say finding my soulmate. And they will be absolutely right. Ever since I was a little girl all I wanted was to find my “Prince Charming.” Of course I grew up having many other aspirations as well, some that have stuck and some that have changed, but the one that still remains is the search for my husband. Since I have had that mentality for so long, I am way past the casual dating phase or being in a relationship just for the heck of it. I have absolute no desire for that. I am looking for someone who wants mutual commitment and the actual development of a meaningful and loving relationship. For most people my age nowadays that sounds like a trip to hell, and I’m being serious! Most would rather have a casual hook up so they can cling to their singleness and independence, but still get their “fix” when needed. Which in no way am I saying that that is wrong, because to each its own, but for me I just can’t do that. And with the pool of guys I have to pick from (fraternity boys) I have very little luck anyway.

I have come to learn that this generation is afraid of commitment and getting hurt. In result of that, they have created the term “talking,” which basically is the lowest level of dating without ever actually moving forward in the relationship. Now I know the people in my generation are probably screaming inside because I actually used the word dating to define talking, which is a huge No-No. But that really is, in a way, what “talking” is. It is a pathetic stagnant excuse for dating where both partners have a completely open way of leaving the “relationship” simply by not texting the other person back. I have yet to fully understand why people, the ladies in particular, put themselves through this. But for those of you who still don’t understand, this is just a small example of how “talking” works: Probably begins with two people being introduced to each other by mutual friends at a party, that night they might make out or hook up. The next few days they get to know one another solely through texting. But don’t respond too quickly or add too many emojis because then you’ll seem too interested. Try to say funny and flirty things so the conversation stays light and never truly goes into depth of who each other are. Come the next weekend, these two people meet at a party again. They dance, flirt, and hangout, and then leave together that night to most likely hook up again. This goes on for maybe a few weeks, but still their only interaction is texting, maybe meeting up for lunch a couple times (but it wasn’t a date), and leaving together after parties. Then one of them (usually the guy, but of course not always) gets bored, or sees the other person becoming too clingy or actually starts to like them (God forbid, right!?) so they stop replying to texts and start avoiding them at parties. The other person involved has to accept the decision that that person has made and move on like nothing happened (even though, more times than not, they are very upset inside) but then the story just ends there.

Doesn’t that sound awful? Like who actually wants to go through that!? The problem is, girls do. Not that they like going through something of that nature, but because they think they have no other option.  I’m not going to lie, I’ve done it and I’ve experienced it, but for me twice was enough. As I stated earlier, with the high expectations I have, I knew I deserved more than that type of treatment. Women deserve to be wanted, deserve to be taken out on dates, and deserve enough respect to have a conversation on why the relationship is ending. Yet I am surrounded by so many girls my age who don’t realize that and just accept what boys put them through. Me however, I won’t put up with it, which in return doesn’t exactly make me seem like the best choice for guys my age.

Another obstacle that I am faced with when being “marriage material” in college is the physicality that guys crave and demand. I have never been the type of girl that will randomly or even routinely hook up with a guy, so instantly I become undesirable. It is almost unbearable sharing this side of the story because it is so heart aching. The boys of my past and still to this day continuously minimize me and determine my value based on what I can give them physically. They don’t want to know my favorite color, they don’t want to know my dream job, they don’t want to know why I love sad movies, all they care about is how far I will go with them sexually. Which in my case, is not far at all. As soon as they find that out, I am useless to them. It’s the easiest thing in the world for a guy to move on to the next girl and find someone who will actually satisfy their needs. In simplest of words it made me feel worthless. For a while I let this define me. Once the fact that I was saving myself became common knowledge around the boys I hang out with most, I was barely noticeable to them. They almost didn’t want anything to do with me and I let it break my heart for awhile. But the beautiful word in that sentence is awhile. I let that last for only so long and then I told myself it was enough.

Through much self-reflection and countless prayers, the Lord reminded me where my worth is found. Which is in Him. He says I am beautiful, therefore I am. He says I am worthy, therefore I am. He says, “Be patient child,” therefore, I’m still working on that one. But bottom line is, I know the type of man that will be standing at the end of the aisle on our wedding day. I just had to go through a few bad eggs for me to fully realize that. I also realized that all along I had been looking in the wrong places, but more importantly that it just isn’t my time yet. I am seeking a man that loves Jesus before he loves me, a man who is respectful, humble, intelligent, selfless, and kind. Yet I cannot expect those things of him if I am not all those myself. So instead of wasting my time weeding through all the bad seeds, I will start working on who I am and what I want to become and in the process become the best version of myself there is. I know the Lord is working on the perfect man for me and we will meet when the time is right and I can barely contain my excitement for when that day comes, but in the meantime I’ll be patient.

Let the Words Be My Dance

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I can still remember my first day of dance class. Little five-year-old me in her pink leotard and tights trying so hard to turn out her feet as far as she could to make a perfect first position. That very day I was hooked, I knew right then and there that dance was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Isn’t it so fascinating how certain activities just happen to bring us more joy than others? That joy has never stopped; dance fills a spot in my heart like nothing else can. What I didn’t expect though, was to find something that exceeds that joy in ways I could have never imagined.

My dream job as a little girl was to be on Broadway. Singing, dancing, and acting ignited my soul with a fire that could not be extinguished. I wanted to be on a Broadway stage performing for the rest of my life; but as I grew older and came to know myself a little better, I realized there was a certain important quality I was lacking. I didn’t have the singing voice that would take me to Broadway. Heck, I didn’t have the singing voice that would take me anywhere. With that in mind I began thinking of a career solely based in dance. Unfortunately, however, I never got the type of dance training that would send me to the professional level. A huge coming of age moment for myself was realizing my lifelong goal of becoming a performer was no longer a possibility; reality hit me like a bus and I had to let go of my childhood dreams. Even though I knew dance was not an option for me as a career path, I wasn’t ready to give it up entirely. I kept dancing all the way through high school and my love for dance continued to remain strong; that is, until the competitiveness of it made me blind to the joy it once brought me. Soon I realized it wasn’t something I felt passionate enough about to carry on into college, so I let it go.

I am a very emotional person and I genuinely enjoy telling others how I feel, what my thoughts are, and how life in general affects me. Dance used to be the outlet I used to meet those needs, but during my first year of college I didn’t have that or any substitution. I really had no way of expressing how I felt or releasing my thoughts in an artistic atmosphere and I truly believe it was one of the causes that led to my loss of self and core identity. So with living a year in a half without doing something I had done my whole life, I decided I needed to start dancing again. Come spring semester of my sophomore year I signed up for Ballet I and Contemporary Jazz, two perfect classes that would ease my body back into the movement of dance. Around the same time of starting these classes I began getting very serious about my writing and even contemplated starting a blog, something I had dreamed of doing since high school. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed immensely and something I believe I’m fairly good at, but it wasn’t until this time that I started to feel truly passionate about it.

Writing gives me a freedom I didn’t know I had; a chance to create something all my own and give it out for all to see. I’ve noticed this new piece of myself where my soul willingly bleeds onto the pages in front of me and exposes the deepest depths of my heart. I’ve even found myself randomly writing my thoughts down on sticky notes just so I don’t forget them. Using the art of words and the challenge of articulating them so that they flow smoothly and elegantly has given me a new sense of identity and purpose. Perhaps some may think, What’s the difference in telling others how you feel verbally versus telling others how you feel through writing? Well I’m glad you’ve asked. The difference is that it isn’t as vulnerable or personal. At least that’s how it is for me. I struggle a little bit with explaining to people exactly what is going on in my mind and having to defend my emotions right on the spot during a face-to-face conversation. When I am writing however, it becomes deeply intimate and special where I can take my time delving into how I truly feel and getting the expression of the words just right. I have found a new home in the form of written words and I am ecstatic to share them on my blog moving forward.

Dance has been, for a long time, what makes me feel most myself, and it is clear that during my first semesters of college I sort of lost myself without it. And I am happy to have dance back in my life again, but I’ve come to realize and accept that it doesn’t fill the ache in my heart like it once did. My new passion for writing showed up like a knight in shining armor ready to save the day. It rescued me from my tower of isolation and brought me to a land I never knew would be so fulfilling. Through years of maturing as well as becoming more familiar with who I am and how I act, I’ve come to realize that all I want is to be understood. I have struggled in the past with showing people who I truly am with the fear of disapproval or dislike in mind. I used to keep my thoughts and feelings inward and let dance be the words I was afraid to speak. But now I say no more, I say let the words speak for themselves. From here on out, the keyboard will be my stage and let the words be my dance.