with bravado

one man's 29-year-old quest to live and share a worthy story

for forever.


For Forever. I met Robbie almost two years into a four-year chapter. When we met, he was a graduate student hoping to pass his final exams and find meaningful work, and I was a hall director that had been assigned to get him from place to place through a busy twenty-four hours of interviewing. I don’t remember much about my earliest impressions, except that he spoke in a language I understood. To him, stories were vital, life was rife with lessons, and there was meaning in everything.

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in closing: the second ball state chapter.


i. I arrived at this chapter out of money and out of breath. That May, after decades of pushing my heart down beneath the surface, I came out to my parents. Letters typed with shaking hands, placed on the countertop in a house I didn’t expect to find empty. This was the beginning of a brave new chapter, I’d told myself, but I didn’t prepare myself for all the change my courage might bring.

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the last solstice.

It was the summer solstice, bringing with it the promise of more sun than we’d seen in a good, long time. That morning, I woke amidst the late darkness, climbed into my car, and found the right kind of song to greet the earliest sunrise: Murder in the City, the Avett Brothers, nostalgia and love through acoustic guitar. Windows down, I picked up friends and we grabbed coffee from a wearied barista.

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2017: here, now, on the eve of everything.

But me? Well, it’s hard to know. I’d like to think I’ll be proud of the life I’ve chosen to live, that I’ll look back on the year…for evidence of courage, love, and sincerity, and I’ll see the fruits of my efforts.

But there are answers I cannot have right now. There are trails I’ll have to run, no promise of anything at the end, in the hopes that my hustle will not be in vain. I’ll dig and run and write and love and try anew.

I wrote these words at the dusk of 2016, a year that left me feeling uncharacteristically battered and bruised. I sat down, that evening, and allowed the pain I’d been bundling to unfurl: My heart was broken (still), my courage was tentative, and my direction was unclear. Around me, my country somehow cast its faith into a man who did nothing to disguise motives of division, oppression, and dishonesty. Through all of it, I discovered, I was holding onto hope. Obstinate, pervasive hope, beckoning my hands to search the night sky for stars.

I wasn’t sure where I was going, at the dawn of 2017, but I knew I’d need to run. I’d need to start showing up –– for myself and for the people I love, trying anew, letting loose my frayed and dangling threads and weaving new ones. And so it was that I set out into the new year.


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hey so here’s a taylor swift track for every step of your breakup.

Today, after work, I was jamming to a playlist that includes some of Ms. Swift’s work, and I realized the song –– ‘Come Back…Be Here’ –– perfectly captured the feeling of missing someone we know we might be better off letting go.

Then I thought, ‘Hey. I wonder if Taylor has written and performed a song for every step of a breakup?’ (The answer, I’m sure you can guess, is yes.)

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part x: return to the breeze.

user's manual

There was a time, when you were running, that you glimpsed at the world around you and saw beauty in every direction. To your left, crops swayed gently in the breeze, and, to your right, a warm brick home sat amicably on a grassy knoll. Ahead of you, the morning sun peeked over the horizon, spilling golden rays onto all the everything. Lifting your arms into wings, your closed your eyes and basked, for a moment, in your existence.

This is you at your most yourself, reader. Joyful, hopeful, aspiring, and marked by wild gratitude.

To get here, to find yourself at this point, you will have to take a variety of steps. Now that we’ve reached the final section, we’d like to reiterate them to ensure you’ve properly reconstructed your broken heart:

You will need to learn to run again. When you set out before, when you chased after what you wanted, closed your eyes, and stopped counting your steps, you tripped. Your body was pulled to the earth, your hands and knees scraping against cold, cruel pavement. Your Heart was startled, your Mind rushing to compute: This is not what we’d calculated for! And so you hobbled onto your feet, onto wobbly legs, and took stubborn-ass steps.

Your first few steps of running again will, of course, be tentative. You won’t be sure your limbs are okay, and your Mind will find you scanning the horizon for pitfalls. Not on my watch, your Mind will say to itself, protecting your healing Heart from another jolt.

But, eventually, you will need to trust yourself again, to close your eyes, lift your head, and let your arms be wings. Yes, this will find you vulnerable, but, my God, you will discover you have missed this joy.

You will need to believe in it again, the beauty of it, the light in every direction. You will need to seek meaning from every corner of the world, to make mountains out of molehills, to continue deriving incredible significance out of ‘meaningless things,’ and to apologize for none of that.

To lift your arms, to truly allow them to expand, you will have to believe you deserve to expand, to stretch your limbs so emphatically in every direction that your being perpetuates love in supernovas around you. You will need to expand, expand, expand, until you’re no longer willing to give yourself over to anybody who asks you to shrink.

You will need to trust them, your words, and the role they can play in the stitching and the unstitching. You will need to believe in your strength, in the light that you uniquely bring.

In order for your fingers to know the breeze, they cannot hold onto what came before, onto heavy things like why somebody left when you were so willing to stay, and so you will need to be sure they are empty, cleared by forgiveness and acceptance and the summer winds.

Your eyes must be fixed on the horizon, no longer searching for love where it does not dwell, and your Heart must be at the helm of your existence, calming your restless Mind and paving your way forward with reckless, breathless courage.

A closing note: Sounding like yourself again, aren’t you? It seems that you’ve made it, shed what you needed to shed.

Well, we’re glad to hear it. No, no –– we’re okay. We’re just, well, we’re glad to have been with you through it.

Brave travels, reader. We’ll be here again if you need us, so w –– okay, enjoy the run! Congratulations on doing it, transforming those scars into stars.


part ix: the art of letting go.

user's manual

Here’s a radical fragment of honesty: You saw him, as you see him now, the entire goddamn time.

You discovered that the man you loved could not be filed under People Who Stay, but instead under People Who Leave, but the truth was that a part of you suspected it all along. But the truth is you love as you live –– with stubborn conviction –– and your Heart drowned out your Mind.

But, the moment he left, whether you wanted to acknowledge it or not, a small part of you exhaled. Because you had begun preparing to lose him a thousand miles ago.

You prepared to lose him day that you sat down to talk with him about the writing you’d shared with him, the bits of your bared soul you’d shared so that he might see you, and he started listing out all the problems with your choice of words.

You prepared to watch him leave you behind the afternoon you drove him home from a weekend in the city together, when he subtly let you know that he didn’t want you to linger at his apartment for long.

You prepared to feel his hands let you go over the stories he told you of leaving his ex, and the time he ripped up the airport parking stubs and told you to ‘stop saving meaningless things.’

Part of the letting go, reader, is discovering that your heart didn’t actually shatter in a singular moment. Rather, he broke it in steps, in a series of stories in which no one meant to hurt anyone. This is the reason that, on the morning he finally told you, after all the tears and the shock subsided, you began to feel early rays of relief. He had been right.

And that realization, you will find, will have a way of unfurling your clenched fists. Your fingers, nails previously embedded in your palms, will soften and stretch unto the air. As you let go of him, the idea of him and the love you fostered, you will find that the past is not a place you hope to return.

Another part of the letting go, you will find, is deciding not to remember him in only these dimensions. Your Heart was not wrong to love him, to see the charisma burning in his body and the courage waiting to emerge from within him. You will remember the times you held one another, you lost yourselves in the magic of it, you laughed together, running with hands held beneath the stars.

If there are People Who Stay and People Who Leave, you have made peace with where to file him. Perhaps, to someone else, he will become one of the People Who Stay, but that is his story, and not yours.

As for you, reader, you have learned what it is to be somebody who stays, who shows up, who loves with courage and honesty. And you have learned, whether you liked it or not, that you will not die if your Heart is returned to your shaking hands.

So let go, one finger at a time. Exhale, inhale, exhale.