The Day I Took My Ex’s Sweatshirt To Goodwill

Melissa Faulkner:

Little known fact about me: I reserve my serious writing for Thought Catalog.

Whenever I write something serious or vulnerable (read: about love), I keep it safely inside a Google Doc folder, where it can’t see the light of day. But I usually submit it to Thought Catalog first. It’s therapeutic. It’s emotional release. It’s a diary – but better. I can share my words and deep feelings – without any consequences. Because shocker: I never get published. Thought Catalog probably gets 3,000 submissions an hour. So I can confidently submit my words without repercussion. And it does feel nice. But today – that game changed. I was published for the first time ever. And despite the content, I am damn excited. And damn proud. Nothing compares to the feeling of having my words read and appreciated. So cheers Internet! Enjoy seeing inside my soul!

For full article, click here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/melissa-faulkner/2015/05/the-day-i-took-my-exes-sweatshirt-to-goodwill/ 

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

I had forgotten about your sweatshirt’s existence. I was looking for an extra set of sheets – inside a polka-dot canvas box, high on a corner shelf inside my closet. I don’t venture there often. My high school water polo parka lives there. The one that is conveniently Packers Green and Gold. I wore it to our first Packer game, and you ridiculed me for wearing “tampons” on my feet (I found out the hard way that Uggs are not waterproof…)

My suitcase lives back there. The new Michael Kors suitcase I bought for my first business trip to Europe. The last time I had been to Germany was with you. I was hundreds of miles away from that city, and yet I still found myself walking through Munich, reliving inside jokes. Like the fact that you can’t go to a karaoke bar in Germany without hearing Oasis Wonderwall.

I…

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Winthrop, Washington

If you drive three hours northeast of Seattle, you will find yourself in the grand Northern Cascade region. Mountains have always fascinated me. Something about being so small and insignificant is strangely comforting. LIke the details of life are so irrelevant – who you are, or who you were before you succumbed to the will of the mountain. Because in those moments (and hopefully hours & days) that you are in the wilderness, you are at the grace of the snow-covered beasts. They will decide your short-term future. And you simply just have to be there and adapt to whatever they decide to throw at you.

DSCF9569Goals are simpler when you set out to climb a mountain. Take in air. Stay hydrated. Keep your limbs dry. Have KIND bars on hand. Get to the top. In fact – I’m not even sure getting to the top is always the goal. Just get somewhere. And get back in one piece.

Now – I know it sounds like I’m talking about some Everest excursion – but Maple Pass was my own kind of Everest. At least in October of last year. And it did not involve nearly the amount of prep work that Everest requires.The only prep work was an e-mail to my friend Andy. “Take me to this picture.”

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I had been in Seattle for work, and the pictures of Andy’s Cascade excursions had teased me long enough. We set out from Seattle with two Whole Foods breakfast burritos & some beef jerky. My hiking gear consisted of lululemon crops, a rain jacket, and some old Nike tennis shoes. There was only so much I could fit in a carry-on for business and leisure…

20141011_141308Before we hit the trails, we stopped at Mazama General Store – which was basically Little House on the Prairie meets Ina Garten. I picture my mother running a store like this. Pristine, organic, locally grown vegetables. Hand made gourmet cheese and gruyere baguettes. Apples the size of my knee. Specialty coffees with choice of soy or almond milk. And alpaca placemats available as souvenirs for a whopping $30. I guess when you are the only inhabitants for a 9 mile radius, you can charge whatever you want for alpaca placemats.

It was at Mazama General Store that we ran into Doctor Capp. Capp turned out to play a pivotal role in my Washington adventure. Capp is Andy’s local physician in Seattle – and it really threw them both for a loop to see each other in such alternative contexts. Capp and his wife are 5 foot 9 packages of solid muscle and steel. They just reek of physical fitness and mountaineering skills. They advised us to take on a smaller pass that day – seeing as Maple was reported with snow, sleet, and dismal views. Having no intention of hiking multiple days – Andy and I decided we’d already come that far. It would be worth it to wait an extra day. We’d do the smaller trail Capp suggested, and tackle the famous Maple Pass loop tomorrow.

Two hours later, utterly soaked, and cursing Capp for showing us a road to a piddly little lake (oh, and possibly getting us murdered by a solo hiker from VT in short jorts…), we made plans to refuge in Winthrop, Washington.

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If you drive just one hour past the Cascades, you will find yourself in a western lookalike town.

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DSCF9396Winthrop, Washington looks like it belongs in southern New Mexico – or more so, in Disney Land. The place seems totally unnatural. Like a Hollywood movie set, meant to depict the Wild West. As if a fake rattlesnakes should adorn the wooden plank sidewalks.

But there was an extra room available above the Mexican cantina/motel. It had hot, running water. And there was a beer nearby. We were sold.

I’ve never been much for clubs and seizure-inducing light shows. But put me on a barstool at the local dive bar, and I come alive. The people watching. The decor. Their stories. How did they get here. Why haven’t they left? What makes them tick? Could there be some secret essence here that I am meant to experience?

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DSCF9400The reason they all came? Opening day of hunting season. How naive of me to think hunting was confined to to the Midwest… It seems I cannot escape the hunting life wherever I go (see previous post: 7 Misconceptions I Had About Hunting). Two older men gave us sound warning: “Ohh yahhh. Hunters be all over dees days. You bettah wear blaze orange tomorrooh if ya know what’s good for ya.”

I’m sorry….what? Are you serious right now?

Did these old men have a Sconnie accents, like they vividly do in my memory? Likely not. But my mind still plays tricks on me when I think back to the Twilight Zone that is Winthrop, Washington.

There would be no risking it – serious or not. Andy and I purchased two blaze orange skull caps from the Winthrop General Store. And I picked up a cotton sweatshirt that looked like something from a Billabong catalog.

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The picture I was taking, while the above picture was taken. So. Metta.

DSCF9546We love your hats!” can probably still be heard echoing through the mountain ridges of Maple Pass – as Andy and I traversed the narrow trails like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in matching blaze orange beanies.

But. We did not get shot. Or mistaken for deer.

And who did we find also traversing the narrow trails? Doctor Capp and his wife. And dog. All three of them sprinting. Yes – you read that right. Apparently mountain running is a thing. You run up a mountain, and you run down it. Capp was headed the opposite direction as us – meaning he had already gained 2,000 feet in elevation, reached the 6650 foot peak, and was 3 miles away from finishing the 7.6 mile loop. In under 3 hours.

Some people.

Some people AND their dogs…

It took Andy and I a bit longer… and there was no sprinting involved.

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DSCF9576We went from desert sand in Winthrop, to wet, cool forest at the base of the pass, to snowy tundra at the peak. And back again. In 7 hours. Between the sweat and lack of proper attire, I was once again soaked from head to toe.

Ya know that feeling after a day of skiing? It’s maybe 2 in the afternoon, and you know you need to get some fuel in you if you expect to do any more runs. And that bite of rubber, tire-like burger and non-melted Kraft Single from the rest lodge is the best damn food you have ever eaten in your whole life? Like the Food Gods themselves had blessed that burger with only heaven-sent ketchup and holy mayonnaise?

That is how I felt about the pasta carbonara we devoured back in Seattle that night. There is no sweeter ecstasy than the first meal after a return from the wilderness. After the mountains have allowed you to leave unscathed, looming in the rear view, reminding you that your small, simple existence is nothing compared to the grandeur they see and the roots they hold.

I might have left unscathed, but I left the Cascades a little taller. With a little more appreciation for being small in scale, but powerful in nature. Powerful by human nature, and powerful as a piece of the nature that surrounded me for those two days in Winthrop, Washington.

My picture of the picture that started it all. Full Circle.

My picture of the picture that started it all. Full Circle.

*all photo credit given to Andy Brawner: http://andybrawner.com/Photography

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I Had To Go To Europe For Work

20141202_142324I recently had to go to Europe for work.

Now – let’s just get it out of the way and acknowledge how downright pretentious that sounds. It’s just oozing with jerk.

So if you will now allow to me to clear the air, I’d like to counter-act the jerk with some sincere and utter gratitude for said opportunity.

I am beyond grateful for this experience, for reasons that go so far beyond “OH EM GEE. BUSINESS TRIP TO EURO!!!”

Work has done nothing short of save me these last few months. For those of you who follow this blog – you know the kind of year I had. 2014 was less than stellar for me. It started with a move to a new city – ripping me away from everyone and everything I had formally known. Then there was an extremely painful breakup with the person I thought I would spend my life with. And then, to top it all off – I broke my face. Having my cheek and eye socket reconstructed with metal plates was definitely not how I envisioned spending my summer.

As I’ve mentioned in a lot of previous posts, healing from trauma is measured in months, not weeks. And at the risk of sounding overly dramatic – all of 2014 was traumatic for me. And coming back to a still-foreign Minneapolis after my accident was not an easy task. But I’m a big believer in the “fake it til you make it.”20141202_113854

So I poured myself into work when I returned. It was the perfect distraction from everything clouding my head (physically and metaphorically). It was the only thing that made me feel normal.

As Q4 approached, business picked up in general. It is just the nature of the beast. And everyone in our company felt it. But the intense workload and pressure did more than keep me busy. It gave me a sense of worth and purpose – in a time in my life when I frankly felt worthless and undesirable. Work tasks were tangible problems, that I could objectively solve. Rather than the subjective matters of my heart and soul.

My daily work decisions were about the only thing I could put confidence in. And I was glad to devote my brain to work – the motivation being immense gratitude for a company that provided me short-term disability during my entire recovery. That benefit was just something I signed the dotted line for – and it ended up saving me. You never think you will need such a thing, until the day you need it. And I was grateful to have an employer that provided this benefit. And I felt the need to give back to the company that had given so much to me.

The accident put a lot of things into perspective for me – and work was a huge part of it. My job, my capabilities, my brain, my circumstancece, my growth potential, my benefits – all of it seemed to be in a different light when I returned post-accident. And I knew I owed it to the company to give everything I could after how gracious, supportive, and understanding they had been throughout the whole recovery process and beyond.

Fast forward four months from w20141205_114638hen I had facial reconstruction. And I am sitting in a beautiful hotel in Munich.

20141205_181532My intent of this post is not to paint myself as some marketing goddess. My intent is not to brag, or boast, or build myself up. All I am saying is that while I was on a train this afternoon, drinking a Hefe Weizen and eating some Brie, I started to cry.

I can feel myself in the middle of a change. I am in a very static place right now. I can feel
my mind and my heart shifting, and it all hit me today – as if the Deutsche Bahn train itself had catapulted into my heart.

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.”

I read this quote 18 times a day when I first returned to Minneapolis. I was depressed for countless reasons, and I read that quote every day, convinced that I would some day believe it.

And it was on the train from Füssen today that I think I began to believe it.

This year has done a lot of molding. And it still is. But I can feel myself in this state of change. I can feel myself being molded. Static. Changing. Growing. Learning. And in some ways – coming to peace with 2014.IMG954296

So what is the point of this post? To share my heart. Because life was meant to be shared. And these moments are meant to teach us, right? And I find I learn best when I write. And I feel best when I share.

I am so grateful to be in a career field that allows me to travel and meet brilliant people from many cultures and pasts. I am incredibly grateful for a working mind – that allows me to communicate, network, engage, produce, and create the things I ultimately love. Which is relationships. Relationship building is the basis of my job, and the reason for this European trip. And it has been extremely rewarding to be in this field – both professionally and personally.

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Doner. My long-lost European boyfriend.

I am grateful I took this job in Minneapolis one year ago. It set the stage for a lot of change in 2014, but it has helped teach me to love myself again. It has helped me feel like I bring value to the world. That I am capable of doing a lot of things. That I am capable of standing tall and strong – even when I am alone. That I am okay – just as I am, in this moment. This moment being alone in a hotel room in Bavaria. I am proud of myself in this moment. And I didn’t get to say that a lot in 2014.

Stay tuned for more on the EU travels. Like the time I was eating a stick of brie cheese. Gnawing on it like it was a hot dog. And crying. While sitting across from an Italian family. I gave the daughter a Hanuta cookie as peace offering for my strange behavior. Her parents wouldn’t let her take it. Sounds a little more comical than life changing now, doesn’t it? #crazyAmericans

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The Time I Tried To Date JJ Watt

It wasn’t hard to spot JJ Watt on UW Madison’s campus. It didn’t really matter if you “knew” him, because anyone that went to UW during those two years “knew” him. They’d shared a class with him, spotted him on the sidewalk, heard his name fill Camp Randall (Said like Lil’ Jon: WATTTTTTT), or caught glimpses of him on a moped. Think Tommy Boy. Big man on a little moped. Hilarious.

Professional Family Portrait ya'll. In Badger gear.

Professional Family Portrait ya’ll. In Badger gear.

Now…I don’t want to taint my college years and proclaim to the world that I was some kind of “jersey chaser”. Any female that says they didn’t perk up when seeing an athlete in their class is lying. We were all jersey chasers to some degree. Even the guys.

And honestly, my only defense is “I got it from my mama.”

Anyone that knows Lydia knows how much she LOVES her Badger sports. Her screams on game day can be heard all the way from Boston. She tends to shop around from season to season…but the player that has continually captured her heart is JJ.

It couldn’t have been more than 2 minutes after a post-game interview that my mom texted me. “You should date him.”

4cf1bca2509b9.preview-1024Yeah, sure Mom. I’ll get right on that. Me and every female on this campus.

My mom was serious. A week later she sent me a “Just Cuz” care package – filled with a beautiful scarf and earrings. The note was signed, “A little something for you to wear when you run into JJ!” Subtle, no?

At the time, I was taking Portuguese classes at UW. Little known fact: but Portuguese is the class all student-athletes are assigned to if they have no foreign language background. Why? The woman that wrote the textbook is the private tutor for the athletes. No big deal.

How did I end up in this class? Well, technically I came to UW as a student athlete. I was recruited for rowing, having never rowed a day in my life. One ACL tear later, and that dream ended. But I was still enrolled in Portuguese, and the athletic department actually let me continue using the student center for after-hours Portuguese help. Not sure they appreciated me using the computers, free printing, and free snacks for a good six months after I quit rowing…but….details.

4c8bc87d78a44.imageSo. There I am. In Portuguese class. With 25 other student athletes. And Louis Nzegwu (also a UW Football player), starts telling a story about his roommate JJ. And that’s when my wheels started turning.

Christmas was upon us, and I wanted to give my mother something sentimental. What better gift to give my jersey chasing mother than a signed photograph of JJ Watt – her dream man. At this point in JJ’s career, it was clear he would be going places. At the very least, the picture was bound to earn my mom some cash in later years. So it was really a two-fold gift.

I asked Louis if JJ would be willing to sign a photo for my mother as a Christmas gift. He didn’t seem too alarmed by my request, so I told him I’d get something printed for him to pass along.JJ Watt JPEGAt the time, Google Images of JJ Watt were pretty slim pickings. Aside from his UW head shot. I opted for a field candid. Side profile. Signature arm bands. Black eye paint. I mean…honestly…it was pretty sexy.

I still remember the look on the Walgreen’s cashier’s face as he asked “Are these your 8 by 10 photos of JJ Watt?”

Um..yes. Yes, those are for me…

Sometimes I am clever and witty. But only sometimes. And as I was placing the photos in an envelope to give to Louis, genius struck. I put a post-it note on the photo that said “If you ever want a signed photograph of me, here is my number. ”

It is only years later that I have realized the awkward and bizarre implications behind that post-it note.

And so a week passed. And then one day Louis strolled into Portuguese with my envelope. Inside was the signed photo…with the post-it note still attached….

I wish JJ could have at least humored me and taken the post-it off….

Don’t worry JJ. No hard feelings. You can do no wrong.

DSC_0074Christmas morning came. My mother was ecstatic with her gift. I am pretty sure it lives on her nightstand. Next to my parent’s engagement photos.

Because. Badgers.

I ran into Louis and JJ many months later at College Library while they were promoting a blood drive. I have no memory of what I said to JJ because I completely blacked out. Something like “I’m that girl…that…well…..”

Perhaps my brain blocked the memory on purpose. It’s too difficult to relive.

I’ve still made subtle efforts to rekindle the flame. My former roommate Leigh (UW Madison soccer star extraordinaire) has run into him a time or two in Texas. While I was recovering from face surgery, she asked for my address to send a little something. I asked if that “little something” could be JJ. She said the shipping would probably cost too much…

So needless to say…I never did date JJ Watt. I dreamed big, but I’ll admit, I didn’t work very hard.

Time to Google “What do rich people look for in a future wife…”

*all joking aside – congratulations to JJ. Any former Badger can be proud of another former Badger, whether they “knew” each other or not. Another reason why UW Madison is the greatest place on earth. We’re all family. Keep killin’ it JJ.

JJ-Watt

 

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Saving Face Part Two

One week post accident

One week post accident

When it comes to trauma, recovery is measured in months, not weeks. It has been six weeks since the initial fall, and five weeks since my facial reconstruction surgery. If you could assign a percentage to my healing process, the doctors would say that my face is about 50% healed.

If you could assign a percentage to my emotional healing, I’d say that’s about 10% healed. Getting back to work this week was a true testament of how far I have come, and how far I have not.

Since my return to Minneapolis, everyone has reacted as expected. “You can’t even see the scar!” “You look beautiful as ever!” “You look great!” “You don’t look any different than before!”

My initial reaction is to jump into a dramatic episode called MTV True Life: I Shattered My Face. “You think you know, but you have no idea.”

My cheek is still swollen and puffy. I have four metal plates in my face – including one supporting my eye ball that the doctor compared to a Lay’s potato chip. My eyelid has a scar across it that makes me look like I got in a knife fight in prison. The stitches in my mouth haven’t dissolved. The feeling has yet to return across my cheek and scalp – making for awkward meal times, brushing my hair, and applying lip gloss.

My left leg is one giant mass of hardened blood. It’s gross to touch.

My shoulder is as good as a limp noodle.

But.

I can walk. I can type. I can see. I can drive. I no longer need narcotics for the pain. I am able to use a treadmill. I can still sing. I am still fully able to live alone in my adorable Uptown apartment. I can cook meals for myself. And I can still think. Some days are better than others, but my brain still works.

And so does my heart.

10392520_10152388805173640_2638462995214832988_nA big part of the healing for me is processing how to move forward after feeling all this love, attention, and care. And I truly believe the only way to truly process this is to Pay It Forward.

The accident has caused me to think a lot about the kind of person I am, and the kind of person I want to be. It’s caused me to think a lot about identity, and beauty, and what criteria is important in the concept of “self.”  It has caused me to think about what is important in my life. And by what, I really mean “who”.

And by important, I mean the idea of placing someone else’s needs entirely above your own. No strings attached. No hidden agenda. No Catch 22. Just putting someone else first. Maybe for a good reason (like an accident), or maybe for no reason at all beyond “Just Because.”

So many people have put my needs first, over their own, time and time again over this recovery. And I believe the greatest thing I will learn from this experience is how to fully love.

I’m not necessarily talking about romantic love either – just loving people because. Not needing a reason, or a fact sheet, or a give and gets checklist. Just loving others because loving others feels good. And sometimes there doesn’t need to be much more to it. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be a reason.

Of course Meatball came. Registered "therapy" dog.

Of course Meatball came. Registered “therapy” dog.

My mother and father dropped everything to be there for my surgery. Jobs, clients, trips, vacation plans – everything. I mean, you could argue that parents really forfeit their lives entirely the day they bring children into the world. My parents have put their kids before their own lives every moment of every day since we were born. This accident was no exception. And I wasn’t the easiest patient to deal with. Immediately upon waking up after the anesthesia, I told the nurse “Don’t let my mom touch my face. She’s a kisser. Don’t let her touch me.”

My mom was standing right there.

That night I may have sworn a time or two (or twenty) from the pain. My mother’s response was to rub my feet.

Making the most of a broken face on my birthday.

Making the most of a broken face on my birthday.

Matt made the drive to Madison countless times to help take care of me and attend to my every need. It was only recently I learned that he was supposed to be on a house boat during the majority of his one-month summer vacation from school. I am sure there are MANY things that would have been a lot more enjoyable than preparing my breakfast yogurt and watching Pretty Little Liars. But he never complained once.

Am I the kind of friend that would give up a house boat vacation to take care of someone just because they needed it?

I don’t know if I am. But I want to be.

Will I be the kind of parent that will alter all my life goals for the sake of helping my children attain their goals?

I don’t know if I will be. But I have the best examples that a daughter could ever ask for. My dad has always said “My dream is for my kids to chase their dreams.”

I hope to be that kind of parent.

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20140727_123905My brother Steven opened up his house to friends, family, and strangers alike for more than a month – never even thinking twice about it. Talk about having your life completely disrupted and all your privacy invaded. My little sister got coffee and lunch with me every day – and let me crash any social engagement she had, even if it was weird to have your older sibling tag along like a lost puppy…

20140807_220827Am I the kind of sibling that can open up my doors and every other aspect of my life to accommodate my brother and sister’s needs?

Am I the kind of person that is willing to feel uncomfortable for the sake of helping someone else be comfortable?

I don’t know. But I hope I can be.

I’ve lived most of my life believing the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” I’m not sure I can find a reason for breaking your face. But I can find a reason for needing love and devotion, like the kind I received from everyone the last several weeks. The reason is to send that love right back into the world. And be the kind of person that people were for me when I needed them most. To be like my parents, my siblings, Matt, Jenn, Janelle, Bailey, Mickey, and Jake – and countless others.

People have always said “You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.” I always thought this phrase pertained to an individual’s struggle and trials. But I am beginning to think it has nothing to do with the individual. You don’t know how strong and capable you are, until you have to be for someone else.

Saving Face is beginning to feel a lot more like Saving Heart.

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One day before I returned to Minneapolis.

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Saving Face

sf 2 It started out as the greatest weekend ever. Five best friends from college. One storybook cabin. Set on the most picturesque lakefront in northern Wisconsin. A whole weekend to play and laugh – and pick up right where we left off since the last time we were together. We had been planning the reunion weekend for months, and things were already sublimely perfect that Saturday afternoon.

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We were taking turns on the rope swing – the same one Bailey and her family had been using since she was a young child. The first time was certainly intense, but everyone successfully made the jump from the wooden platform to the deeper part of the lake. All our fears were subsided. Mine included. But it turns out that the third time really is a charm – and on my third jump, my legs caught hold of the land, and I was dragged into the water, landing face first on a rock in the shallows. At least that is how it has been described to me. I immediately got a concussion and have zero recollection of the next 2 hours of my life.

I’ve had some time to deal with the trauma of breaking my face and losing all physical components of my identity…but honestly? The one trauma I cannot even begin to comprehend is the one shared by my friends, as they had to drag my unconscious body out of the water. I wish this kind of awful event on no one – and my heart goes out to beautiful, incredible souls that were there that afternoon. Yes, already my best friends. But my love and connection to them has grown leaps and bounds because of this incident. I will forever be in awe of Bailey, Jake, Jenn, Janelle, and Mickey – and all that they did for me that day and have continued to do for me every moment since.

I know everyone went into immediate action mode – from retrieving me, stabilizing me on land, calling 911, and following me to not one, but two hospitals across northern Wisconsin. My first undeniable gratitude goes to Jake Dahlin – Bailey’s boyfriend.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had been hoping for a pure girl’s weekend at the cabin. I knew it would be fun regardless, but I was still being a whiney 7-year-old girl at the time and craving alone time with the girls. But Jake’s presence that weekend is proof that everything truly does happen for a reason. If Jake had not been there, I am not sure I’d be typing this right now. He remained completely calm and collected in the face of this tragedy, (a trait that does not come naturally to us girls – sorry ladies) and was able to pull me from the water with the help of Bailey and Jenn. He kept my head and neck completely stable while my blood fell on his lap. I will forever be grateful for Jake and the immense support he provided to my friends as they dealt with this unforeseeable accident. I’m sure this statement is against a feminist code somewhere: but I am so happy a male was around – and one as capable and caring as Jake.

I know that Bailey and Jenn helped cradle my body as well – while Mickey and Janelle called 911, and waited for the ambulance. Not only did these girls have to deal with the trauma of the moment, but they also had to deal with me being a relentless bitch when I finally came to.

You see – I am the go-to girl in the group. Or at least I usually like to think so. Whatever you need – physical, emotional, or mental – I have you covered. I am always in control. So when I woke up on a hospital bed with a neck brace, a morphine drip, and a bloody swimsuit, I went into hyper anti-vulnerable mode. Post-concussed Melissa apparently started barking orders at my friends – demanding to know where crucial things were like my air mattress and my sparkly headband.

You know. Important things.

You wouldn't want to lose that sparkly headband either!

You wouldn’t want to lose that sparkly headband either!

This reaction apparently helped soothe my friend’s concerns. I was certainly acting like my typical, sassy self. And if you ever get the chance – ask them for their take on my hospital visit. It’s a tragedy turned comedy. I apparently requested a beer at one point….

Only one girl was allowed in the emergency room at a time, and they all took their turns holding my hand, rubbing my head, and assuring me that I was going to be okay – despite my sass bucket attitude.

Mickey held my hand tightly, and did not flinch once as the doctor had to suture my eyelid. She even prompted me to use my yoga breathing to deal with the pain. The thought of her saying those words brings tears to my eyes still – because she knew exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. And she didn’t flinch when I proceeded to projectile vomit all over the room from the pain meds…

And then there is Matt.

No questions asked, Matt traveled an hour and a half on a Saturday night to be with me in the hospital. The girls had been through enough between Minocqua and Marshfield, and Matt took the reigns. He immediately dropped everything to come to my aid. He stayed with me all night in my hospital bed – through countless episodes of pokes, pricks, pukes, pain meds, and tremors. And lying in a twin hospital bed is no easy task for someone that is 6 foot 7….

20140720_130419When I was finally allowed to eat the next day, he went all over Marshfield colleting every item I could have ever wanted – Culvers custard with hot fudge, pulled pork sandwich, bacon cheeseburger, Burger King fries, hash browns– and the ultimate care package filled with Band-Aids, Neosporin, Ibuprofen – everything. It was later we learned that my recovery would take a lot more than Band-Aids. I would need to have facial reconstruction surgery to repair the multiple broken bones across my cheek and eye.

And so the train phone began. To my brother in Madison. My parents in Boston. And everyone else from California to Denmark. It was difficult for me to communicate with anyone – so Matt became my impromptu nurse and my telephone operator, making sure my parents were constantly texted, called, and informed until they could be there themselves for the surgery.

Pretty funny how it takes breaking your face to make you realize that you are the luckiest, most loved individual on the planet. The love and gratitude that I have for everyone that has been by my side since the moment I fell astounds me. To the point that I can barely find words to continue.

I mostly wanted to write this post to say “Thank you”. Thank you to everyone that has shared their time, thoughts, words, prayers, and compassion with me. It has not gone unnoticed. It may seem like a simple text to you – but it means the world to me. Because words mean everything to me. So thank you to everyone that has shared their words. Thank you for reminding me that home is not about a location. It’s a place in my heart where all your love lives. Thank you for brining me home.

More to come on Saving Face…

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A Writer’s Dream Come True

sally-fieldsAs a writer, there is nothing more flattering than having someone like your work enough to want to publish it on their site. When I found out that my work would be featured on Fulfillment Daily, I had a Sally Field’s moment. “You like me! You really like me!”

Fulfillment Daily is new website with one mission: give you daily doses of inspiration to help you live a happier life. And those doses are all backed by science. Pretty neat, huh?

It’s has been incredibly rewarding to work with the Fulfillment Daily crew thus far, and I feel I have already grown leaps and bounds as a writer. It’s another way to reach people with my words – and there is really no greater joy for me.

Be sure to give them a follow. It will probably be one of the most productive things you do today.

And now for a little shameless self-promotion: go give my latest article a gander. “5 Healthy Ways To Deal With Loneliness After A Breakup.”

It was definitely hard for me to publish something that hit so close to home. Which is maybe why I haven’t written about said topic here. So thanks Fulfillment Daily for giving me another outlet to deal with all the crazy thoughts swimming in my head!

Melissa Faulkner

 

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The Great Bull Run of 2014

20140621_123045Matt Backhaus can be summed up by his signature phrase “I’ll try anything twice.”

So when he asked me to join in him in an event titled “The Great Bull Run”, I didn’t really think anything of it. I was not the least bit surprised.

In fact, I was almost a little offended. I pride myself on knowing about all the quirky, awesome, local Minneapolis events, so when he discovered this before me, I was a little peeved.

I enthusiastically accepted.

And then I read the event description. “Face the adrenaline rush of a lifetime as you run beside 1,500-pound bulls stampeding down a quarter-mile course, then celebrate with thousands of thrill-seekers in a massive, day-long festival that also features our insane tomato food fight, Tomato Royale!”

Festival? I can get down with that. 1,500 pound bulls, and a tomato food fight that requires protective eyewear? Eh, not so much.

But Matt asked me. And I didn’t really have a good reason to say no (see previous blog post about trying new things). I’ll admit, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I said “I always want to take new adventures,” but I was certain it would make for a killer story.

20140621_115453And apparently the local NBC news station thought so too.

A couple days before the run, a message went out to the Great Bull Run participants, stating that NBC was looking for local runners to interview. On a whim, I sent a two sentence email: I am running with the bulls. And I am not camera shy.” Three hours later I was being interviewed outside my boss’s window. Apparently I didn’t really fit the “Bull Runner” stereotype, which made for an interesting twist to the story. You can see the video in all it’s glory below. Including an excellent clip of me laughing at my own joke in typical Melissa fashion.

http://www.kare11.com/story/news/local/2014/06/18/controversy-around-minnesotas-first-running-of-the-bulls/10817061/

Until this point, I hadn’t really publicized my weekend intentions. Not even to my parents. But obviously I wanted to share my 15 minutes of fame – and that’s when the calls and emails came flooding in.

“WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?”

“MELISSA. THIS IS REALLY DUMB.”

“Melissa, please don’t do this. It is dangerous.”

I even got concern from strangers. One brave gentleman Facebook messaged me and said “I saw you on the news. You’re kinda cute. If you survive, we should get drinks. Sorry if this is creepy.”

Yes. Yes, this is creepy.bull 4

And so the big day of the event arrived. I enjoy a good cup of coffee before I risk being gored by an animal, so I headed down to the local coffee shop. In typical Minneapolis Nice fashion, my barista asked me what my Saturday plans were. Ironically, I just happened to be at Bull Run Coffee. When I responded  with “running with the bulls” I think she thought I was making a joke.

Nope. No joke. Actually running with bulls. And sorry I came here and made things super awkward for all parties involved…

The Great Bull Run certainly delivered in festival-atmosphere. Country music, Bud Light, Foam Pits, mechanical bulls, absurd costumes (Fred Flintstone, fanny packs, “Insert Horn Here” shirts, tutus), and of course: muscular, non-castrated, male bovines.

You’re herded into the arena (pun intended), and you’re handed your red bandana. You say a gimmicky chant about honoring the bulls and Ole and stuff, and then they lock the red gates. And then the bulls come out in four waves of seven. And you run.

It looks something like this:

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Six minutes later it was over. And all we got were a bunch of bull selfies (see what I did there?). And a lot of bragging rights. And my name on a PETA hit list. And some minor street cred. And a good story for the bars that night. And a great topic for this blog post.

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Oh, and my first TV appearance. Not how I originally envisioned my 15 minutes of fame, but I’ll take what I can get.

Worth it? Most definitely. And my co workers have spared me no expense since.

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Defining Yourself After College

In 5 days, it will be exactly one year since I graduated college.

Hollister T's all day every day. Circa 2002.

Hollister T’s all day every day. Circa 2002.

When I think back on 13-year-old Melissa, I think 13-year-old Melissa thought she would have things figured out by 23. I thought that I would graduate college, and I would know who I am. I would know what gets to me, what makes me tick, what makes me sick, and what brings me joy. I thought I would step into this role as my “real and true” self. I was pretty sure that by 23 I would know who I was.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about what it means to “define yourself.” When I introduce myself at social gatherings (aka bars), usually the first topic of conversation is what I do for a living.

Well. I do marketing. But is that what defines me? Is that who I am? A marketer?

downloadWhen I switched my major in college to marketing, I was 100% certain it was my calling in life. Applying to Wisconsin’s School of Business was the best decision I ever made. I made the decision after taking a year off of school – a year filled with a lot of soul searching. I was pretty certain I had figured out who I was at that point. Or who I was supposed to be. I was certain that I would obtain my marketing degree, and take a job that filled me with energy, passion, and excitement. I would change the world as a new marketer! I was certain I had found my key to happiness. Marketing would define my future, and I was okay with that. I was down right excited about it. Marketing was me. The real, true me. That’s who I was. A UW Business student. A marketing major.

IMG_6919In college, you get so used to having this label – this title that defines you – that I think you leave college and crave that same title. You crave the elevator pitch that defines who you are, and what you offer the world. “I am a University of Wisconsin Business Student.” Boom. Done.

Taking a full-time job in your field of choice (hopefully) seems like a great way to define yourself post-college. “I am marketing specialist for an agency.” Boom. Done.

After all, you’re going to spend 80% of your week doing that job. Your job will consume your days, and it will provide you with a title to place on your Facebook, your LinkedIn, and your email signature. And that will define you. And that feels comfortable because a definition is what you are used to.

I’m starting to realize that, to some degree, a job is always going to be a job. And if I rely on my job to define me, I am quickly headed for the path of un-fulfillment.

Yes. I do marketing. I do a lot of marketing.  Marketing defines my days, but does it define me? Is that who I am? Is that the real me? How do I figure out who the real me is? Is this the key to happiness? Figuring out the dictionary definition of Melissa Faulkner?

glitterIn these conversations about “defining yourself” – there always tends to be some tangent about knowing who the “real you” is. Defining ourselves is not about one activity – like marketing – but a lot of activities. And finding all those things that get deep under your skin and light up your soul….those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make up the “real you.” Supposedly when you are doing these activities that define you, you shine. And it’s obvious to everyone around you. Like Twilight. Literally your skin will glisten with diamonds.

Anyway.

I’m starting to have these thoughts that I don’t want to be defined by anything.

I still love marketing. I still love social media. And I really love yoga.

I also love organized dresser drawers. And I love iced coffee with a little bit of soymilk. I love cotton nightgowns. I love having proper glassware for every type of cocktail. I really like bike riding. I really like bike riding with a buddy. And I love grocery shopping. I love buying things I don’t need and not needing any justification beyond “Because I wanted to.”

But I don’t want any of this to define me. I’m not sure I ever want to 100% know, without a doubt, who I am. Who the real me is. Because that’s when the adventures stop. That’s when the fun, and the growth, and the change stops. I constantly want to test the limits of who I am. I constantly want to be learning and growing – and discovering myself. I don’t want to be afraid to do new things, because it might not be in line with what already defines me. I don’t want other people to be afraid to ask me to try new things, because it doesn’t seem to fit with what defines me. I don’t want to be a definition. Or a title. Or an email signature.

IMG_6957I want my soul to be one giant, empty book – nothing but blank pages waiting to be filled. Stories to be written. Experiments to record. Data to collect. Songs to be sung.

It has been one year since I graduated, and I still have absolutely no idea who I am. And I think I am okay with that. I am not sure I ever want to know exactly who I am. Because I want to redefine that every day. Because I never want a reason to say “no.”

I know I am not unique or special in this post-college identity crisis. But I really want to stop thinking that this identity crisis is some disease that I need to cure. Maybe this identity crisis is a blessing in disguise. Maybe it is a reason to always say “yes.”

In closing, I’d like to quote Viktor E. Frankl from his book Man’s Search for Meaning. “Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

I’ve decided it’s time to just stop caring about finding myself, defining myself, finding my true self – whatever you want to call it. I’m just gonna let it happen.

Bring it on, Life.

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My Pick Six in Minneapolis

Being a transplant in a new city inevitably means that you will have visitors. Or…at least I hope so.

Dear new person in a new city – I really hope your friends from your former city come to visit you.

Dear former friends of new person in new city– GO VISIT YOUR FREAKING FRIENDS. MOVING TO A NEW CITY IS REALLY HARD, OK?

Fortunately, I haven’t had to be that blunt with anyone yet. I have been very lucky to have many visitors from my former life.

Planning weekend visits is beneficial for two reasons. 1) You get the chance to reflect on all the things there are to do. Suddenly you realize “Wait…this place isn’t that bad. Look at all this cool shit to do!”

And 2) Your friends are equally impressed with all the cool, new shit to do. And suddenly you find yourself bragging about how awesome your new life is, when in reality you spend a lot of nights home alone contemplating why the hell you ever left your old life behind…

jayIts kind of this self-fulfilling prophecy – tell everyone how awesome and cool your life is, and then all of a sudden, your life actually becomes that cool and awesome. And your friend’s positive reaction to all this cool stuff only validates that. And I’m all like “LOOK AT HOW I RUN THIS CITY! I LOVE MY CITY AND MY CITY LOVES ME!” like I’m Jay-Z throwing down for Brooklyn every damn day.

Not really.

But anyway…The Minneapolis Pick Six.

The top six places that I have taken my friends and family to show them just how awesome my new life is (without giving away that I miss them desperately and just wish we were all still together…).

Bryant1. Bryant Lake Bowl

And the award for most hipster joint in North America goes to…Bryant Lake Bowl. Craft beer, vegan, organic, locally produced menu, a vintage sign that hasn’t been touched since the 60’s (even though the place opened in 1993..), and an ironically never-renovated eight-lane bowling alley just casually chilling at the back of the bar. Bryant Lake Bowl is honestly the shit. You can bet your ass we are going there if you come to visit me. Doesn’t hurt that it’s only three blocks from my place…so no one has to feel bad about having one too many PBR’s…or rail tequila shots…

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1029_lobster_roll2. 1029 Bar

Bingo starts at 2. And if you want any hope of sitting down, you best be there by 1. You’ll be sitting next to the North East locals that haven’t left the bar since 1975. Stella will call out the numbers, but don’t you dare give her a $20 for a $1 bingo card. She ain’t got that kind of change. And when you find yourself a little buzzed from their homemade bloodies served in plastic cups, you can order the infamous Smack Shack Lobster Roll. And you will never be the same.

3. Indeed Tap Room

In fact, any tap room is on my list. Tap Rooms are a new concept to me, as to probably most of the world. A couple of years ago, you used to not be able to serve beer in Minnesota at the same place you brewed it. Then one brewery decided that staproom1ucked, and the Surly Law was passed. So breweries started adding tap rooms to their properties. “Tap Room Lyfe” is very different than the Minneapolis bar scene. Tap rooms are usually only open til 10 PM, and they tend to feel like big open warehouses. Lots of windows, lots of wooden tables, lots of board games. You can actually hold a conversation with people. And – food trucks normally swing by since the tap rooms rarely serve food. Nothing like sipping a craft brew pint at 4 PM while playing Cards of Humanity over a wooden barrel.

TOURIST VFW flag4. The VFW

It’s hard to miss the VFW in Uptown. See Photo. The VFW holds all sorts of tantalizing events –  Meat Raffles, Two Fisted Trivia (I have no idea what this actually is…), and of course, karaoke. My personal favorite. Karaoke is so popular at VFW that you to have to arrive early just to get your name on the call list! There is nothing sadder than when old man Richard gets up from behind his DJ Station to sing God Bless America at 2 AM…signaling that it is time to GTFO. You have missed your chance to sing Hit Me Baby One More Time.

5. Common Roots Cafe

common rootsI am in a serious love affair with Common Roots Cafe. Their slogan is “Don’t compromise your values or your taste buds.” And they aren’t messing around about that. Everything is made from scratch using local and organic ingredients – making for the most orgasmic breakfast sandwich I ever had had the privilege of eating. The staff is so cool that I almsot don’t feel worthy ordering from them – but they do provide great style inspriation like purple hair and white washed jeans. And they constantly rotate the art in Common Roots to feature different local artists – one of which I ordered a custom cow print from. Yes. A painting of a cow. And the artist turned out to be the sweetest woman ever, and now we follow each other on Instagram, so we are basically best friends. Because that’s just how Minnesota works.

6. Lake Calhoun

lakeNow, in my former life in Madison, we all bragged about the lake. But I am sorry to break all you Madison lake lover’s hearts – Minneapolis KILLS Madison in lake life. All the lakes (all 12,000), are lined with walking and biking paths. As opposed to Lake Mendota, where it’s not plausible to traverse the perimeter of the lake due to….well…Maple Bluff. It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 degrees or 80 degrees. If the sun is out, all of Minneapolis can be found walking/running/biking/frolicking on the path at Lake Calhoun. With their dogs. And their babies. And their smiles. Lake Calhoun is the place that makes Minneapolis winter’s worth it.

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