It’s late October, I’m leaving the hospital after visiting my mom who had been recently admitted. This is nothing new, she’s been in and out of the hospital for the past six years since she’s been seriously ill. I’m walking through the parking structure and suddenly realize I can’t find where my car is parked. The next thing I know, I feel the air being robbed from my lungs so violently I start gasping not knowing what is going on. I realize I am having a panic attack and am too caught off guard to fight the feeling of losing total control. I have never really experienced something like this, since I am usually able to get ahold of my emotions before it gets to this point. I think I must’ve blacked out for a few minutes, but I remember sobbing and trying to catch my breath while pacing the floors of the structure, feeling so terrified, alone and lost. I call a close friend and she attempts to calm me down. I then call my sister and she is able to stay on the phone with me until I get safely into my car and am breathing normally. Her calming presence knows empathy more than an average 18-year-old which I am forever grateful.

It’s now March, my mom is again at the same hospital. Every time I visit her there I have to overcome my fear of what that garage means to me. It’s a pit, a void where I might lose myself if I don’t fight to maintain reality. This entire month has been a blur. A string of slow days oozing together into the next, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Don’t get me wrong, there have been happy days, but it’s hard for me to pick them out from the bad ones. A mix of insomnia, sleeping too much, and feeling sadness in my heart like I have never felt before.

I just read an interview with Stevie Nicks in Rolling Stone where she describes her eight year long battle with Klononpin. She talks about how she lost those years to the drug and what she could’ve been doing if she would’ve been present in her life during that time. Although I’ve never taken that drug or built a dependency in that way, I know what it feels like to not have control. And that’s what I’ve felt for the last 6 months- but if I’m being honest with myself, much longer. Stevie has always played a role in my life (although I don’t know her personally) I feel like she’s been guiding me through various highs and lows for a long time. One of the last good memories with my mom that felt “normal” was two days before this last Christmas, I was driving her from Ventura to Los Angeles for a doctors appointment. We were both upset about the timing during the holidays, but knew it was necessary because of her rapidly declining health. It had put a dark cloud over the entire season that was our favorite time together as a family. There was a lot of tension between us in the car ride, until I realized Fleetwood Mac Rumours was in my car’s cd player. I pressed play and she and I started to sing along to every word. She told me the story of her buying the record when she was in college and how the group had influenced her 20s so heavily. I saw her light up in a way I hadn’t seen in a long time and saw the shackles of her illness fall away for just a brief hour and a half long car ride. As we moved along with the music, I think we both really believed in the band’s powerful lyrics. Ones that are meant to help through times of heart ache and pain and uncertainty. It was healing for both of us and a memory I’ll cherish for a long time.

Tonight, I went to visit my mom after work. This was my first real day back at a “real person” job for over a month, after coming to the realization that I have to pull myself out of this Klonopin-like self induced fog. I thrive when I’m working on lots of projects and have real attainable goals. Last week, I had a conversation with my dad and he said in a stern voice, “Aly, you need to focus on your career because it’s what’s important right now.” He wasn’t devaluing how I have been trying to help my mom for the past month while she’s been in the hospital, he just saw me losing focus and ultimately myself.

After checking in at the hospital, I marched  down the long newly shined eggshell yellow linoleum floors with the sound of my heels clicking during each stride I took down to the ICU where my mom is. I knew she hadn’t had a particularly great past few days health wise, so it might not be the best visit. But nevertheless, I drew in a long breath (as I always do right before entering the floor), pulled my shoulders back and pushed through the heavy double doors into her unit. When I got to her room, I was met with a weak “hi sweetheart”- something I’ll never get tired of hearing. I immediately started telling my mom about all the new ventures I was working on and reassured her things were good “on the outside.” While I watch her struggle with things like having a strict fluid intake and diet restrictions, I try to distract her with things she might find interesting, and try to keep the conversation as positive as possible. I am barely able crack a smile on her face, she has had a hard day and has been extremely tired. I describe to her the warmth and brilliance of today’s LA sunshine and we talk about how it will be even hotter tomorrow. She eats dinner and I realize it’s getting late and I need dinner myself. As I go to leave, stroking her forehead and peppering kisses on her forehead like she would always give me growing up, she asks, “hey, do you want this Rolling Stone?” I take it and point out Stevie’s name on the cover and she explains that she doesn’t know who any of the other artists are that are featured. I chuckle as I notice Ed Sheeran on the cover and I say goodbye and walk back down the long hallway to the elevators all the while reading Stevie’s interview. She stands in her affirmations and is unapologetic about her womanhood, sexuality and the struggles that come with that. I reach the elevators and a man is there waiting as well- I can feel him looking me over like a piece of meat. I pay no attention to him and continue reading. We enter the elevator and he reads my name tag and says that he thought it said “angel” because that’s what I am. I don’t respond. I exit the elevator and thank my long limbs for carrying me swiftly away from this 5’3″ elevator creep. I cross the street back to the parking garage and am able to play back in my head where I am parked and feel a wave of relief wash over me when I see my Camry waiting for me, just where I left it.

Everyday is filled with new challenges, and finding small victories are essential to keep on keepin’ on. I’ll consider this a victory for today, thanks for guiding me, Queen Stevie.

It Can’t Be Winter Forever

One blistering hot summer day almost 4 years ago, I was heading to the beach in Malibu to meet a friend who had just moved to LA. She told me to meet her at lifeguard tower 3, being a native, I naturally should’ve known she meant lifeguard tower 3 at Point Dume (important nuance to SoCal beaches). It was August, the beach was packed, people were circling in their cars for parking spots like vultures in the middle of the desert. Somehow I ended up at Zuma Beach (next-door) looked at the line of cars and decided to just park. Now, at this time my 20 year old self was not always making the best decisions. So, I knew I had some bomb weed in my car, found my pipe and began to puff away at a fresh bowl and hotboxed the s*** out of my Toyota. I felt fine when I got out of the car, but as I started to walk and called my friend on the phone, I had the stark realization that I was alone at the wrong beach and I began to trip out. I avoided the lifeguard towers because I didn’t want them to see how stoned I was, I kept my sunglasses on so as to not make eye contact with any of the families enjoying their day off. I was in a complete and utter daze. Finally, I gave up on finding my friend and plopped down in the sand littered with colorful towels and those strange tents families insist on bringing to the beach. I was annoyed I hadn’t been able to find my friend, but realized I was just going to enjoy the day on my own nevertheless (plus, I most certainly could not drive). Still high as a kite, I plugged in my headphones and turned Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” album on (that was fairly new at the time) and zoned out. I remember feeling almost out of body listening to her moody tails of lost love and the unquenchable sadness that makes her so appealing. I went into the ocean and it didn’t feel cold, I let the waves pass over my head and just took in the moment. Back laying on the sand it felt like a warm, glowing euphoria- no one knew where I was, I didn’t know anyone around me, I had no idea what time it was and I felt completely at peace.

Fast forward to today, I hardly every smoke anymore. My party girl ways are somewhat in the past as I’ve grown older and learned different coping mechanisms and how to channel my feelings into other outlets. It’s not that I don’t like weed, it’s just not part of who I am anymore. This week has felt like a montage from a bad soap opera or maybe just a regular episode on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s real life. On Monday, after my mom was in the hospital for exactly two weeks, we were alerted that they had found a donor for her double lung transplant that we have been waiting for nearly seven years since she was diagnosed with the chronic disease known as Pulmonary Hypertension.

The series of events that day happened like this: My mom called me at 9am (I was just getting out of bed running late per usual) her voice was shaky with excitement as she’d clearly been crying and she said to me in a soft but steady tone she uses when breaking serious news, “Aly, they found a donor.” I immediately started crying with her, we were blubbering as she would say- it was one of the most, if not the most important phone call I had ever received. She hadn’t even told anyone yet, and she chose to share that information with me (a testament to the closeness of our relationship). The rest of that morning and afternoon was a blur. I called and texted a string of close friends and family who were overjoyed with the news (as my role in all of this has been to communicate updates). The anticipation and excitement almost seemed too good to be true. The surgery was scheduled for 9:30pm that evening and they were “okaying” the lungs around 8pm. I met my dad and sister at the hospital at around 6:30pm we sat and chatted all together for about an hour or so and things felt “normal” for the first time in a long time- whatever that means. The hours passed, 8 o’clock rolled around and we hadn’t heard anything from the doctors. We were starting to get anxious. Two anesthesiologists walked in and were surprised to find that no one had alerted us that the time of the surgery had been moved to 3:30am. I was livid, but attempted to stay cool as I know everyone was trying to do their job. The nurse on duty put me on the phone with the Transplant Coordinator who is responsible for getting the team of surgeons and the holy grail (lungs) where they need to be for the patient waiting. She explained to me that the time is never certain and the lungs were coming from out of state.. blah blah blah. I thanked her as she assured me we were set on this surgery start time at the ungodly hour. I walked back in and the anesthesiologists explained the surgery would take about 8 hours. What were we supposed to do for that long?!

Cue my longtime besties Jessica and Stephanie. They walked in the hospital room like ladies in shining armor and assured me it would all work out, bags of pillows and sweatpants in hand. It was going to be a long night. The rest is all kind of a blur. I sat with the girls downstairs in a lobby where we pulled chairs together to lay down and fall asleep with bright florescent lights blazing in our faces. I sent them home at around 2am, my sister and I moved into a waiting room on the floor my mom was on. I set an alarm for the time of the surgery but must’ve slept through it, because I heard the door creak open and saw my dad’s face as he walked in. It was the look of total fatigue and defeat. He told us that the lungs were not a match after all. We were all crushed. I tried to pull it together as we went to say goodbye to my mom and assured her it would be ok (it’s now 4:30am). I got home, pulled the sheets over my head and fell into a dark heavy- but not at all restful sleep. I knew the next day would entail me having to re-break the news that the surgery did not in fact take place. I was not ready to deepen this wound, but knew I had to do it.

I woke up a few times on Tuesday sporadically to return some calls and texts, but I had no real energy to engage in conversation or even leave my bed. I woke up at around 3pm with a throbbing headache and realized that I needed to eat, ordered some pizza, ate and then went back to sleep. It was like being in an awful nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. A couple of my friends sent me messages to try to console me and make sure I was still  functioning. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure I was. The next day, Wednesday, I felt like I was swimming through molasses to try and get out of bed, but I received a text from a cousin I hand’t seen in years that she wanted to meet up and talk. So I went. I was able to really confide in her and am thankful for the relationships with women like her I have to fall back on in times when I really can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the afternoon, I gathered my strength, stood up straight and walked into the hospital to see my mom with a new found sense of resilience that I thought I had lost. We had a really positive visit and just sat and chatted about various things, I think for a moment we both forgot exactly where we were.

Today, I woke up feeling less sluggish, looked out the window and realized that the sun was already warming the sky with its brilliant presence at 8am. I decided I was going to go to the beach before visiting the hospital. With the goal of recreating a moment like that one years ago- filled with peace and escapism that my Libra soul has to have in order to keep moving forward.

I got to the beach and read Gloria Steinem (one of my deities), did a bit of writing (which I haven’t felt motivated to do as of late) and I waded into the ocean and let the small glossy waves cleanse my skin and my soul of all the hurt from this week and years past. I allowed myself to feel. I walked in the place where the waves wash up upon the sand and noticed one single white rose that had drifted onto shore right as I had gotten there. This rose was perhaps meant for a lost loved one or maybe someone else had cast their hurt into the endless ocean and needed to be cleansed as well. I don’t know what it meant, but I took it as some kind of sign. The color white is traditionally associated with cleanliness, or freshness, so maybe it’s some kind of fresh start for me.

I know that the road will continue to be rough ahead, but like my extremely wise sister Sarah said to me recently, “it can’t be winter forever.” And it won’t be, as long as there’s sun.

Mexico City

A couple of months ago, my best friend Alex convinced me to buy a ticket for a flight to Mexico City for the contemporary art show Zona Maco. I did it on a whim, not knowing anything about the city, what the show was or where we would be staying, but was ready to fulfill my insatiable hunger for adventure and experiencing new places. Before I knew it, I was boarding a plane at LAX, passport in hand, still having not done my research as to what to expect. I had some pesos in my purse, walking shoes on and my camera I always traveled with slung over my shoulder. What more could I need?

I landed in the airport, passed through customs, and instantly had issues with my phone and getting onto a wifi network in order to use Uber (which was recommended). I had anticipated this being a problem, but unfortunately didn’t think that far ahead. It was late, I was slightly panicking, but took a few deep breaths, got my bearings and remembered I could speak Spanish and asked an armed guard where to order a cab. I road the twenty minutes to our Airbnb and was greeted with a warm hug and kisses by none other than my amiga íntima. Alex and I talked and shared stories like no time had passed at all even though it had been months since I had seen her last.

The next day we made our way to “Zona” as they call it- Alex had used her powers to acquire us two VIP passes which came in handy. We entered the fair and I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size and volume of work. We entered gallery after gallery and I quickly identified work by artists like Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic and even Andy Warhol. We spoke to artists and curators from all over the world in different languages that all melted away when talking about the universal language of art and how it influences us and makes us feel. It was such a breath of fresh air from the political turmoil I had been so absorbed in for the last several months. It restored my faith that art and self expression moves us to  greater things than simply the moment we are in.

The days following were a colorful blur of weaving through museums and parties and cafes and sipping glasses of wine in chic bars. We strolled through gorgeous peaceful parks, people watched and tasted the most incredible mole I’ve ever had in a market tucked away in an unassuming neighborhood. We spent time with Alex’s beautiful extended family who cooked for us and taught us all about Mexican culture. We discussed politics, Mexico’s education system and even why American’s warn “not to drink the water.” We drank cerveza and laughed with new friends who promised to visit us sometime. We ate fresh coconut while exploring Frida Khalo’s Casa Azul. I felt the warm golden afternoon sun give my skin the vitamin d it had been craving while sitting on our tiny apartment’s rooftop. This all reminded me that I was “here and now.” Something I’ve been working on this year: living in the present.

The night before I left, I cried to my friend in the bed we were sharing. I didn’t want to leave this slice of heaven that had served as an escape from all of life’s realities, I cried because I realized my home of Los Angeles has jaded me so and put me in such a bubble of comfort that I am so desperately working to claw my way out of; and mostly I cried because I knew I would be leaving my friend’s warm embrace. She reassured me we would be taking a trip like this again soon and that we would be reunited in another place and another time. For now I hold onto these memories through photos, as I always do during post vacation blues.

See some of the highlights of our trip below. All photos are by myself (Aly Nagel) and Alexandra Alvarez shot on a Canon rebel t5i. Edited by me.

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Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)

It’s Wednesday night, Donald Trump has been President of the Free World for six days now. My heart is sad even after a day of organizing, and planning with several different strong, inspirational women. I’m listening to my go-to in times of strife and uncertainty, Janis Joplin. As she wails her deep gut wrenching cries, she screams the affirmation “I’m gonna try just a little bit harder.” I realize that this affirmation Janis poured onto the stage in front of thousands of psychedelic festival goers in 1969 Woodstock, is exactly what I (we) need to hear right now in 2017. I love her music because it is built upon affirmations, reassuring herself that she is lovable even after people were so cruel to her for a majority of her short life. Her words represent a bleeding nation experiencing struggle, hate and uncertainty, and what it means to really wear your heart on your sleeve.

Janis was introduced to me by my father, a baby boomer who worked for everything he has. He put himself through school without the help of my grandparents, bought a home, cars and worked with my mom to give everything in their power to my sister and I including a college education. I respect him more probably than anyone on this planet and crave his approval in all my professional endeavors, as if to say, “look, what you gave me paid off.” He is one of the last of this kind, a dying breed, the hard working middle class who stays in their traditional ways, reads the newspaper, stays off social media and has hope that a glimmer of “The American Dream” still exists.

One word that has stuck with me from childhood into my journey to adulthood is “quit.” My parents are both part of that generation that believed with hard enough work, you could really reach your dreams. I remember in 10th grade after I had been playing the Flute for about five years, I became dispassionate about practicing monotonous 16th note scales for hours on end and trying to get my trilling just right. I remember playing at a recital and I choked. In reality, I probably did ok, but it wasn’t up to the standard I had held myself to in years past. I remember looking at my family, seeing their disappointed faces and feeling ashamed that I hadn’t just practiced like I had done so diligently in the past. Later when we were home and I was bitching about playing, my mom said “what are you gonna do? Just quit?!” The word lingered in the air for a couple seconds and sounded like it was the worst possible crime I could commit. I was silent for the first time as a teenager.

It’s been four days since the Women’s March happened, which I was lucky enough to have a role in planning. It served for many as a cathartic release of emotion. A place where people from different races, genders, and walks of life could gather and visually see that our numbers are great as a untied people, and our voices are LOUD. Louder than accusations of lies, and hate and discrimination. Although the march is receiving mixed reviews, it was effective for me and my healing process, and I’m sorry if that sounds selfish, but I need to be whole in order to help make a difference and fight the good fight.

Tonight, I along with so many others am plagued by the heartache of what our nation is to face in the next hundred days and the ominous next four years. I feel sadness for my immigrant friends and family and am disgusted that they would ever have to live in a place where they are not granted the same freedom and rights as someone who was born here. I am bleeding with the water protectors who are being exposed to atrocities I can’t even began to imagine and are being stripped of land that has been theirs for so many generations past. I am hearing the echoes of the cries of my African American brothers and sisters begging for “the man” to value lives of inner city males just as they would white. While I let this grief set in tonight, because sometimes it’s good to let pain seep into the depths of your soul, it is not healthy to wallow in it.

I am aware of my privilege and all I’ve been given and believe the universe dealt me this specific set of cards to have the ability to help others. For what is life, if you are just living it for yourself and own self gain? This affirmation is what has been keeping me going for the past couple months just like Janis does with her words. Tonight, I will get a good nights sleep and start a new, as we are all needed in this fight.


My writing often is a deeply personal reflection that happens during the hours of what some may call a “booty call.” It’s the time when I’m alone with my thoughts, my aspirations, my fears, things that are so purely me, I often forget exist or suppress them sometimes unconsciously or without knowing.

Sometimes I look for an inspiration so big it never seems to come, or in turn, I fixate on things that didn’t go in a way I might have planned and thus feel they aren’t worthy to divulge in detail.

The concepts of “growing up” and “adulthood” have been on my mind a lot lately. In the traditional sense of filing taxes, paying bills and eating more than just Dominos Pizza (if you so choose that lifestyle), and in an untraditional sense of learning to live a “life of substance” as William Miller’s overbearing mom preaches to rock star Russell, which instantly brings him back down to earth (+5 points if you get this reference).

Secretly, I think the word “adult” is just a term people over 18 or 30 or whatever age use to qualify their thoughts, feelings or actions. “After all, we’re all adults here.”

Even though my compilation of studies on adulthood have only ranged the past 23.5 years, more specifically in recent years when I’ve started to reach for a grasp on such a vague and intangible term- kind of like the word “brave.” You don’t know what it is or what it really means. Would you be able to describe it if someone asked you to? However, you know what it FEELS like, and more importantly, can identify it in others.

I think Adult is a similar idea in that it has to be seen by others to be felt by you (does that make sense)? I am pursing my lips and rolling my eyes at myself using this example, but several weeks ago, at my college graduation I felt Adult. Yes, I said it, and you’re probably expecting me to give some BS spiel about the real world (ew) or I’ll miss this (those words would never leave my lips) but no, it was in a different way. Feeling Adult was living in the moment of sticking to a folding plastic chair for three hours, listening to a string of speeches about success being mumbled over the loud speakers, and looking with glazed over thought-filled eyes at a sea of eclectically decorated graduation caps. In that moment, I pictured myself worlds away, hardly even a memory at this point, in my second year of college fully depressed, having an unhealthy relationship with multiple substances, not wanting to really continue going to school, having friends, or doing anything for that matter. That person, although it’s hard for me to remember her now, I know was part of this journey to Adult. And sometimes I get frightened when I see assemblages of her, but I comfort in the feeling that I can only move forward and never move back.

I recently gave someone from my past a second chance at getting to be part of my life (something I have only recently realized is a privilege). To know my thoughts, my goals, my desires, my fears, just me- this is something that is the toughest thing in the world for me to do. Letting people in to see all my parts, not just the physical facade the rest of the world sees. Unfortunately, I gave this person a glimpse, and they didn’t take it. I think they hadn’t reached that archetypical moment of Adult, and I’m not saying that in a condescending way, it was just apparent their inner demons were getting the best of them.

I’ve only cried real happy tears maybe twice in my life. Once, when I finally got to see my little sister Sarah come home from the hospital for the first time when I was six years old, the other, my college graduation. The minute I could see and touch Sarah when my dad and grandma brought her home in a tiny car seat, I brought her these two mini koala TY Beanie Babies from McDonald’s Happy Meals that I had specially saved  for her. That act of selflessness was a HUGE deal for me back then, saving a toy and planning in advance like that was pretty noteworthy (I think even my parents were impressed). I placed one on either side of her premature-sized bald head and told her they were her friends and gave them some ridiculous cutesy names I can’t even begin to try and remember. I looked down at this situation with pure joy, gloating because I had a little sister and she was all mine. It had been so long since I’d felt a feeling like that.

I felt a rush of emotion and warm endorphins circulating in my insides, wanting to burst out of the fibers of my very being as I ran to meet my mom’s embrace post walking across the stage at graduation. I think you can only experience that type of emotion with warm tears of joy and inexplicable explosive endorphins when you’ve passed a threshold of a truly Adult moment, never to look back again.

Life in Paradox

I’ve always admired California Wildflowers that adorn the dry hillsides in the spring and summer months. They grow in spite of the little rain we are gifted or the fact of anyone wanting them there, much like a weed, but they are so strikingly beautiful that they are left to flourish for a few treasured months out of the year. I particularly love the California Poppy’s that always seem to create a sea of tangerine dreams that are nearly impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced them. My fondest memory of them was when growing up, my family and I used to take trips to Mammoth in the Sierra Nevada’s, and on the seemingly endless car ride we would pass fields of vibrant poppies on the highway in the middle of nowhere that stretched for miles. I remember trying to sketch them in small notebooks but the graphite on my flat page never quite did them justice. The vast fields of lush flowers burned like a bright wildfire piercing through the landscape, only to find juxtaposition against the daunting edifices of the great Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. And it wasn’t because they were well kept or anyone even cared if they were there, they were just there defying laws of nature and making onlookers believe that elements of magic are in fact very real.

My parents a couple months ago, scattered wildflower seeds in a stretch of soil in front of our house and the untamable flowers seemed to pop up overnight. The poppies are particularly incredible, and recently, as my mom and I were walking past them, she said “did you know they close up at night?” I paused in that moment and took a harder look at the flowers. This simple fact I had never realized about these flowers I love so much made them seem even more magical to me.

It’s amazing how much has changed in a little over a month’s time (since my last post), I began working a full time job in which I feel inspired every day and have regained a sense of purpose and direction in my life which I have truly never felt before in this way. I am making the commute to LA from Ventura (60-70 miles one way) about three times per week which is wearing on me, but I’m thinking (hoping) my perseverance will pay off, which it already has in a lot of ways. The reward of feeling inspired is enough in itself. It’s kind of a paradoxical life where part of me is safe in sunny Ventura and the other half of me wants to roam the unruly streets of Los Angeles, however, if they unite in one place they don’t feel entirely whole.

As I move forward in this new chapter of my life, I can fully look back and see past mistakes and shape them into learning experiences. Especially in the past year. I had this incredible realization the other day that “Wow, I have grown up.” And in no way am I as intelligent as I make myself seem or wise by any means, but this quantitative collection of experiences and knowledge has lead me to decide to write a book of memoirs showcasing experiences (for lack of a better word) of the first 25 years of my life or my silver anniversary (haha).

As I grow more and more into adulthood, and hatch from the shell of my reckless youth, I see myself how I was and how I am (sounds like the lyric of a Cranberries song from the 90s lol). Not really from a given time but maybe in a relationship perspective and what I valued, or maybe when I felt the most self-loathing versus how I am choosing to live and view myself now. At the risk of sounding utterly ridiculous, I feel like I am an excellent metaphor of a California Poppy as they are a paradox. I, like the flowers, continue to bloom beautifully proving to the world my inherent value because of my vibrant and indistinguishable beauty. (I know this sounds sickeningly vein but please stay with me here). However, this beauty dampens the value of the resilience these seemingly weak flowers must endure in order to remain something worth looking at. I am a poppy.

This month I have watched my mother go from bad to worse and lose most luxuries of living in which most of us call everyday menial tasks like going to the grocery store, walking the dog or even washing your hair on your own. I haven’t been able to truly face what is going on until now really because it’s so much different to be able to take emotion to pen and paper (hypothetically) than to actually recognize what is really happening, in your life, in that moment. Watching her everyday struggle is like having a razor blade chip away at little pieces of of my heart knowing that soon it will be completely mangled and not something anyone would truly want to have. Tonight, I had to fight to hold back tears while I helped her wash her hair in the kitchen sink, knowing how much she feels stripped of so much of her power to be and do things on her own. To me, she is still so powerful, how could you ever see your mother as something other than that?

*For the record, she is not able to wash her hair normally in the shower because she has an iv medication that was surgically inserted into her chest that cannot get wet under any circumstances.

But in these moments of despair I remember my somewhat silly “poppy paradox” and realize that there are even smaller luxuries in life that we forget to enjoy every day. Like laughing with your family at dinner, feeling the sun on your face during a hike and really feeling what it’s like to have someone truly love you.

I sometimes have an internal battle with my own paradox as the role I have been outwardly prescribed to play in this world is a blonde, pretty, young, straight female- things I identify with but don’t feel define me. These contrast with the multi-faceted person I feel I know to be true to my character that unfortunately is not told well by storytellers in power in our society today. In film, beauty and charisma automatically equate to happiness or, if the character is unhappy, there is always some sort of solution to her silly woes (usually always involving a man) because why would she ever have to deal with anything challenging because she’s pretty? Queue all my favorite heroins in movies: Katarina in 10 Things I Hate About You, The Princess Bride, Penny Lane, or even Cher in Clueless. All blonde, all their woes are solved by men… And to further prove this point that it’s not solely a white girl prob I give you the examples of Brandy in Cinderella waiting for her prince, Jennifer Hudson pinning for a lover who just upgraded to Beyoncé in Dreamgirls, Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard, and even Teresa in my favorite telenovela La Reina Del Sur. I think I’ve given enough of a variety to prove my point, but I won’t get into that now… The other end of the spectrum is, if you have any real human feeling as a female in film you are treated as some kind of a black sheep excommunicated from normal functioning society like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. Where it’s apparent that she’s hot, but you stay away because you know she’s “crazy” and you’re not really sure how blonde her hair is… The day there are multiple representations of the female/human experience represented in mainstream film will be a huge triumph because mental health is not something to be ashamed of. Okay feminist rant OUT… (much like Obama’s mic drop).

I was recently able to open up to a friend about “the darkness,” which is something I think we all possess in our deepest and darkest corners of our soul. However, through this experience with my mom I have seen the brightest, kindest illuminating lights of people’s souls which is somewhat of a paradox as well. Because in the dark, you can always find light and even though I don’t believe in God in a traditional sense, I feel a higher power in the universe is rooting for my family and I by granting us compassion and love by a network of fantastically giving people we would have not been blessed with otherwise.

This weekend my mom will be attending my college graduation with my family which is something none of us even dreamed would be happening several months ago. It will be most symbolic in that sense, that I can share something that is a milestone in both our lives and means so much to her.

Thank you all for your continued love and support. I don’t discount any of it.

X Aly



New Beginnings

Loneliness isn’t something you should be ashamed of, it should be something that you grow and learn from. It’s okay to spend time with yourself and know yourself and truly feel emotion- this is something that took me a long time to understand. Because, in being lonely you can learn to love yourself and find your best qualities as well as your ultimate downfalls. I will update you, my readers on the narrative of my story in the past months since I have neglected to share it before…

In December, I finally finished my nearly 6 year long and extremely difficult journey of obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree. Several weeks later I packed up my room in my small apartment in LA, and said goodbye to my roommates and the life I had there which was extremely difficult. In the past year I had experienced several different jobs, the hardships of finishing college and my first real breakup. I had friends there, it was a big city, the transition back to my small hometown of Ventura, CA was going to be difficult. I lust after the feeling of newness and the sheen of discovering new things and people, how was I going to discover that in a place I already spent 18 years of my life in? I was so naive only 2 months ago to think I was coming back to nothing. When really I was coming back to a family who loved me unconditionally and was waiting with open arms to receive me and congratulate me on my recent as Facebook would call it “Life Event” of finishing school and “starting the rest of my life.”

However, in that moment I was still hung up on the all-consuming feelings of a broken heart, close friends moving away and my life I had come to know and love in LA seemed like such a distant memory already. I was having a lot of trouble accepting this feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty- I suppose it’s what most people must feel like when they’re naked.

After days of frustration and the omnipotent theme looming over my head of “what the f*** am I going to do?!” I found solace in a close friend who had been staying on and off with my family in Ventura who suggested I drive back with her to San Antonio, Texas and we would make a road trip out of it. So, as an optimist always keen on finding ways to escape reality, I packed a suitcase, and booked a return flight from San Antonio to LA for the following Sunday. We spent about 24 hours total in the car and stopped to hike Joshua Tree’s incredible desert peaks as well as explore the much talked about eclectic contemporary art scene in Marfa, Texas. It was awesome- we were Thelma & Louise and the world was our goddam oyster. In the minuscule town of Marfa (really we walked the entire circumference several times), which has inspired the greatness of so many writers, artists and musicians, I myself found a transformative experience. Not that I am in any way great (at least my mom might think so). I found myself standing in a field of coarse tall grass looking at sculptures by a well known contemporary artist that were framed by beautiful never-ending blue skies, and I felt so small and so alive at the same time. The cold dry desert wind whipping my face, my nose running, laughing with my friend, feeling like there wasn’t a care in the world until I came back home and dealt with reality. The fact that I was a college grad, without a job, without a clear direction, with a nearly empty bank account and without a sense of independence that my Libra soul craves. I had to make the decision to be happy.

On that same trip I became extremely inspired by feminist narrative story tellers and poets like Eileen Myles (who we actually ran into in Marfa), Eve Babitz (an incredible muse to many and a self-proclaimed adventurous) and Janice Joplin who preached the longing of my melancholy heart in her signature raspy drawl blaring thru my headphones as I sat alone in the airplane terminal at 6:30am.

I returned home already missing the trip, waking up the days following wondering what my next move was. All the while taking for granted that although so much had changed, I was in a place where I was loved and cared for. Something that I’ve failed to mention in this blog for so long that effects mine and my families life everyday is the state of my mom’s health. It’s not often that I share something so personal with the entire world wide web, but hey I need an outlet.

The word reality for me (and probably many of you) has for my adult life thus far had a negative connotation. I remember one summer taking a class where we annotated “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and I told my professor I did’t like the book because it didn’t allow for fantasies or escapism (my feelings have since changed). For me, a long time reality has been my mom being very seriously ill since my last year of high school (nearly 6 years ago she was diagnosed with a rare and extremely debilitating and incurable lung disease). It has been something that has reshaped the way I view life and value relationships because there’s always the feeling that what you love can be taken away from you. Watching the person who brought you into this world struggle and have to fight for so long is the hardest thing I have had to experience in my short 23 years on this planet, and honestly I would not wish it upon anyone.

In the last month and a half that I have been home I have been trying to make peace with the reasons for me being here and having faith that there is still a journey in which I will take and be happy. And after getting to spend some time with my mom going to various doctors appointments and negotiating with doctors about what we think the countless meds are doing to her now weak body, I look at her and this experience and I struggle to find justification as to why this might be happening. A friend recently told me there is a reason clichés exist- it’s because they hold assemblages of truths that we secretly know to be true. I could get into “life is so precious” and blah blah blah but instead I am trying to do something else, which is allowing myself to feel a certain way and come to terms with where life is leading me at the moment. Sometimes, selfish acts and ways of thinking reflect your selflessness towards the people around you who you care about. And I want you to know, that the positives are quite exciting right now and may even overshadow the feelings of remorse for not spending more time with my mother. I’m sure when she reads this she’ll say “Aly, spare the dramatics” because I have a tendency to embellish detail (possibly from watching so many telenovelas as of late)- which says something about her character.

So yes I cry, but what’s wrong with that? Is it because reality is not the reality I’ve hoped for? I recently spent a lot of time and energy deeply caring for someone who was too blind to appreciate their current reality, and instead spent most of their time pining over other things and eventually completely lost site of what was eminently important. And yes, as the queen of clichés I can preach to you, my readers who may be feeling some of the grief or uncertainty that I’m going through, I leave you with this line from a Fleetwood Mac song I recently got tattooed on my body forever (lol):

It’ll soon be here. 


1.14.16 in Marfa, TX.