Emotional Trauma: Processing Vulnerability and Shame

I haven’t written in a while. It’s not that I don’t have things to say because believe me, I do, but I tend to think that other people’s voices are more animated, more amplified, more worthy than my own.

My head is swimming with thoughts, drowning in its own self preservation and sadness at the world we are currently living in. I almost feel wrong sitting down to write right now with the intention of talking about myself and not what’s going on with COVID, the upcoming election, the BLM Civil Rights Movement, systemic racism and police brutality. There will never be enough conversation about these topics but that’s not what my blog is for. Forgive me if you disagree with this but I need one place to call my own that isn’t flooded with the outside world. So consider this that place as you continue to read and believe me when I say I have done everything I can to protest, petition, donate and educate friends, family and strangers on all of these topics. But today, I need a place to unload.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. Silently. And not because I don’t have people to confide in. More because I struggle with vulnerability, shame (I have two TedTalks to recommend at the end of this that I will link below if you’re someone who struggles with what I am going to write about), a bit of anger towards myself and resentment I’ve subconsciously held on to. These are all things we, as individuals, are too proud to discuss.

I wrote in January about starting therapy again. It was one of my many new years resolutions and honestly, long over due. I’m sure we are all like this one way or another but I am the type of person that thinks time heals everything. If enough time passes, surely the problems will just go away on their own. If I push things aside and bury them, they’ll dissolve. If I spend enough time pretending this didn’t happen to me, maybe I’ll forget it ever did. Wrong. 

I’ve spent 10 years trying to pretend.

I can’t do it anymore.

And this whole thing is so overplayed in my mind that I can barely even verbally acknowledge it to those I’m closest to. All because I’m so incredibly desperate to just forget, let it go and move on, but it’s been so glaringly obvious that I can’t do that. And it’s deafening. Even now, I’m struggling to write even though the words and the feelings are there.

I guess to start, I need to recap. I’m not going to go into detail, mainly because I’m writing this for myself as a sort of processing/release exercise, so if you want a refresher, read my post from February. 

Reading it back and refreshing myself, I’m realizing now that I am a total hypocrite. Who am I to encourage people to face their trauma and not let it define them when that’s what I’ve been doing the last 10 years? But I guess I should give myself a break because when that post was written, I really meant those words and I really had forgiven myself and those involved. It’s funny how resentment creeps back up on you.

The further I’ve delved into my sessions, the more I’ve realized I’ve been lying to myself and to my therapist (unintentionally). I have found that I am very good at putting on a brave face, convincing everyone (and myself) that I’m OK and moving on as if I’ve laid it to rest. We call that a defense mechanism. Pretend you’re OK and you’ll be OK. Act like you’re fine and deal with your emotions in private. This is what we call shame (I’ll get into this more later).

If I’ve learned anything through therapy thus far, it’s that, despite how badly I want to move forward and how hard I’ve tried to convince myself that I can move forward, I have to go backwards first and unravel everything. I haven’t done this yet. This is something I plan to work on in the coming months/years. I say years because it’s been 10 already and I feel like I haven’t even started.

I’ve gone over what happened but I haven’t gone over how it made me feel or the long term effects that I think I might be dealing with for the rest of my life. I wasn’t able to process my feelings when I was younger. Instead, survival mode took over and I did what I had to do to survive. I shut down. And the worst part about this entire fucking thing is that I am still entirely closed off, no matter how hard I fight or how badly I want to be able to open up to people. I have shut down emotionally and in turn, physically.

Opening up to people and feeling vulnerable is nearly impossible for me and for so long, I was made to feel like it was my fault. That this was just the way that I am when really, I was made to be this way. We mistake vulnerability as weakness and use our moments alone to give in to our emotions and the way we feel instead of letting people see us angry, in love, sad or overwhelmed. This is something that normal people do. 

For someone like me, for someone that was bullied and emotionally traumatized, the feelings that come with vulnerability are debilitating. I am met with fear, anger, anxiety, embarrassment and shame. All surrounding an emotion and a feeling that should be embraced because being vulnerable is beautiful.

I pride myself on being authentic, especially when I write and converse with others about my opinions and experiences, but how can I be authentic without being vulnerable?

I think part of this recovery process for me will have to be about embracing my discomfort and not running from the feelings that come with vulnerability. Unfortunately, we are inherently taught that being vulnerable is being weak and if you’re someone who thinks this, whether towards other people or towards yourself, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Reworking this and understanding this, even for someone who doesn’t suffer from emotional trauma, is extremely difficult.

So I encourage you, especially if you are someone who has not suffered from emotional trauma (this can go hand in hand with bullying, emotional abuse, mental illness, physical abuse, suicidal thoughts/tendencies and self harm), to think about your perceptions of vulnerability and how being vulnerable makes you feel. Are you uncomfortable? Now take that uncomfortably and amplify it to its most extreme.

I think the easiest way to help someone understand the way I feel would be to picture yourself naked on a stage with big, glaring lights in a room where every single person who has ever disliked you is holding a magnifying glass and looking at you through it, inspecting you, invading your space and your privacy, looking at every part of you that you’re insecure about and relishing in your discomfort. You know they’re going to tear you apart. Except the ones tearing me apart aren’t real people, they’re in my head. And they’re me.

My discomfort with vulnerability goes hand in hand with shame. This is probably the biggest and brightest emotion that comes through when I feel like I’m getting too angry or too sad or too passionate about something. I’m met with a wall of embarrassment and I shut down, even when I am doing nothing wrong. But the simplest laugh or the simplest glance in my direction will send me into a tailspin. Shame is one of those things that makes me feel like I’m too much but not enough at the same time. But shame with emotion is the hardest thing to process because although my head is telling me that I need to recede, it’s also telling me that I need to do more, feel more, be more. Yet, there’s a disconnect between these two parts that can’t seem to work it out.

Men and women process shame differently yet we are both taught from the same sources; our family/close friends and the media (social media, movies, TV shows, books, etc). I’m using binary terms here because this is where the difference is most profound. Of course, the feelings that come with shame and vulnerability can be processed interchangeably between all genders but almost all of the psychological studies surround men and women.

That said, women are inherently taught that a man should never see them cry. The public should never see them upset. They should always be cool, calm, collected and presentable at all times. If a woman lets her man see her cry, he won’t take her seriously. He’ll degrade her, take advantage of her emotions and deem her “too emotional” or “unstable.” If the public sees a woman cry, they’ll deem her “reckless” or “unhinged” or “not fit for a position of power because she is too emotional.” You can see how this will inherently effect young women. This is why having emotional women in our life is monumental for how we process and express emotion.

Take me for example; my mom has never expressed emotion in front of me. Anger, sure, but I have never seen her embarrassed and I have never seen her cry. In turn, I was brought up to think that emotion is processed in private. Did she ever verbalize this to me? Of course not, because she doesn’t feel that way towards other people, she only feels that way towards herself and this is what I saw. I don’t blame her, or any other women in my life, for this is how they were brought up, too. Except the difference between my mom and me is that her mother didn’t condone emotions where as my mother encouraged them. Still, she grieved in private and I learned to, too.

For men, and I don’t understand this even remotely as much as I understand women so please correct me if I’m wrong and feel free to share your own experiences, they are taught that they can never show emotion. Period. Vulnerability in men is immediately viewed as weakness by other men. It makes you less manly if you show emotion. They are expected to be the head of the household, the money maker, the bread winner, the stability and backbone for their women and their family.

But, as someone who has dated both men and women, women love when men are emotional and vulnerable in private but they get uncomfortable when men cry. It’s almost unheard of. If a man is crying, someone must have died. It can’t possibly be because he’s upset over an exam or a fight with his mom. If a man shows affection to his girlfriend/wife in front of other men, he’s a “whipped” or “soft.” Men are expected to be strong, stable and emotionless. And in turn, young men view their fathers, brothers, grandfathers and role models and see this type of behavior.

Regardless of gender, fear of vulnerability breeds fear of vulnerability. And we are all extreme examples of this. So how do we break it down? How do we debunk the myth that vulnerability equals weakness? The same way we teach our kids how to tie their shoes and brush their teeth. When they’re young. But what does that do for us who are already well into our lives and are struggling with this now? I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out.

And the only thing I can do is look inward. Look at what has caused this shame and fear of being vulnerable and rework it. I was talking to my therapist yesterday and coming from an emotional trauma standpoint, this is how they (they’re non-binary) explained what I’ve endured. When you fire a shotgun, it breaks into hundreds of little pieces that are scattered throughout the area. When you experience repeated emotional traumas, your brain takes these pieces of information and stores them all over. Little triggers and reminders and memories stored in the most imperative and important part of your anatomy, your intellect and your life. In my case, they’re all negative.

As I move through this process with myself, I have to collect these pieces and dispose of them. This could take years. Seriously, imagine shooting a shot gun in your backyard, leaving for 10 years and coming back after it’s been overgrown and covered. But you can’t leave until all of the bullet fragments have been picked up and thrown away. How long do you think you’d stay there? I bet you’d wonder if you’d ever leave. If you’d ever find them all.

And all of this, it doesn’t even begin to touch on the genuine resentment and hatred I feel towards the people involved. But that’s on me. I have held on to that for years, to the point where I have avoided my home town since the day I graduated high school. I still go back, of course, to visit my parents but the lasting effects are still there. I tried really hard to forgive, I genuinely did. I gave myself the space I thought I needed, I removed these people from my life and from my social media so they could never know what I was doing, I spent time engulfed in another life entirely and only came back when I absolutely had to. I thought I was ready last year, when I went to my class reunion. And I think part of me was. I really enjoyed talking to people I unfortunately didn’t keep in touch with. But the second I heard their voices or felt their presence, I reverted back to my 16-year-old self and shut down.

Unfortunately, this feeling creeps up every time I go back to town. Even the other day, my parents and I went out to lunch after the beach at a local hangout that I know these people frequent and I was beyond relieved to have a hat, sunglasses and a mask on because I was so genuinely fearful that I would run into them. Quick glances over my shoulder, an unfortunate awareness of my surroundings, my ears ringing for their voices, my face buried in my phone if I thought I recognized someone, an inherent self consciousness that if I did see them, they’d judge me for wearing my beach clothes to a restaurant or not having my hair and make up done. And I hate them for that and for what they did to me. I thought I had forgiven them but I just can’t and I’m not sure I ever will, even though I really want to for my own peace of mind. I hate even admitting the power they still hold over me. It’s humiliating on a very large scale and that in itself is something I struggle to admit.

But despite their apologies and their outward recognition towards me (which has happened a handful of times), I have been conditioned to believe their words and their actions are to make themselves feel better. Because that’s just how they are and I didn’t see through it. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, thinking we had grown up and matured but people don’t change and I’m the fool who accepted their apologies and told them it was fine. But it’s not fine. And I wish I had the courage to tell them that when I saw them and tell them that I will never be able to forgive them and tell them that they will have to live their whole lives knowing that they’ve hurt someone so deeply for just existing.

Still, they kept their friends while I lost mine. They kept their reputations as fun and outgoing while mine turned to dramatic and sensitive. They made new friends in college while I turned inward and graduated with a few. They kept their memories of high school and their emotions in tact while I still flinch if I even drive through town or passed a car that looks like one of theirs. And I can’t help but wonder if they sit around drinking their coffees and their cocktails, talking about how terribly they treated me and how damaging it’s been on me since. I wonder if they know. I’m sure they do.

But the worst part of it all is that they went on with their lives, made new friends, and told their stories where I undoubtedly played the villain because they’ll always be too ignorant and self absorbed to admit their wrongdoings while their friends and families have no idea what absolute, monstrous, abusive people they truly were. All without consequence. That in itself is enraging to me.

And I am sure there are going to be some people who read this and think “just get over it” and I wish I could – believe me, I would do anything to get over this – but I was made to feel things about myself and my life that will take an entire lifetime to undo. I’ve spent years staying silent, trying to move on, protecting their names and identities to avoid backlash and repercussions when I use the truth to slander their names but I’m done. I’m still not going to give names to these people, mainly because they don’t deserve my recognition, but I will hold them accountable and I will continue to talk about bullying and the emotional impact it has on people. Their names are pointless to me, just like their existence, but I am still left picking up the pieces of my old self and hoping that I will one day even remotely resemble the person I was before I met them. And unfortunately, I am reminded of the way they made me feel, the words they used to purposely hurt me and the experiences and memories they took from me every single day because of that.

I guess I just want people to know that these are real, lived experiences for some people and the effects are monumental and long term. Words are extremely impactful on young adults and can stick with you into adulthood. Be mindful of how you treat people and if you have children, be mindful of how they treat people and how they’re treated. Young kids and young adults don’t like to ask for help but the signs are more obvious than you  might realize. Speak up for them. They might beg you not to intervene because it will most likely make things more difficult for them but find ways protect them, even if that means educating them on their self worth when they’re at home. If you see someone being bullied or being harassed, please speak up. You could save someones life.

And lastly, if you are someone who has been bullied or harassed and are suffering the long term effects of it, we’ll get through this. It’s OK to ask for help, it’s OK to resent the people involved no matter how much time has passed and it’s OK to be vulnerable. The shame that comes with your vulnerability is normal, especially after enduring something as severe as what we’ve gone through, but listening to our shame without letting it consume us or change us is monumental to our growth as individuals and our recovery just like understanding the power that being vulnerable has. Check out these TedTalks linked down below by Psychologist Brene Brown. It helped me to better understand what I am feeling and maybe it’ll help you, too.

The Power of Vulnerability
Listening to Shame

As always, thank you for reading and I am always here to listen to your stories and your experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Blog: Costa Rica

When I think of Costa Rica, it’s hard not to be engulfed by the idea of warm, sandy beaches, lingering sunsets and all of the frozen margaritas you can possibly drink in a day by the pool. I opened my eyes to the computer screen in front of me and began thumbing through the Internet in search of the perfect getaway for my girlfriend and me. Quick glances around the office told me my boss was too sidetracked with shuffling papers and organizing orders to come check up on the work I was supposed to be doing.

Besides, I would only look for a few minutes.

When my best friend brought up the idea of a group trip, I jumped at the chance to visit Costa Rica. It was never on my list to begin with but when the opportunity presents itself, I am always looking to add another pin to the world map that hangs above my bed. The little red knobs poke through the Styrofoam perfectly with a little crunch, a sound I am constantly chasing. She and her boyfriend had a friend that would be staying in Tamarindo to do some surfing and they decided they wanted to make a little vacation out of it but when they realized they had their dates mixed up, it seemed as though the trip would be cancelled.

“Why don’t we go anyway?” I asked my girlfriend.

We had already gone to Europe twice but we stayed with friends or family each time and between working full time jobs and night jobs, we were both in dire need of some quality time. Laying in bed after a long day watching a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy every  night just wasn’t working for us anymore. Besides, we had already been looking at hotels in the area and read a bunch of reviews about Tamarindo.

The only negative thing we had discovered so far was the ride from San Jose to Tamarindo. It was about 5 hours of bumpy, mountainous roads just to reach the shoreline. We decided to take a look at Liberia which was a little more expensive but only an hour from the beach. We found a great deal on Black Friday via Expedia ($535 per person, hotel and flight included) and jumped on the opportunity. The Selina House was advertised as a bustling, upscale hostel with a variety of rooms from dorm style, to shared apartments to private bedrooms with private bathrooms. We booked the private bedroom and private bathroom and for the next couple of months, we prepared for our trip. A piece of clothing here, an excursion there, until the day finally came and we shipped up to Boston for our flight.

There were no red flags when we first arrived at the Selina House. The staff was very friendly and they got us checked in and showed us to our room almost immediately. The young man at the counter wistfully pulled his hair into a clump on the top of his head and grabbed both of our suitcases, motioning for us to follow him to a rundown building in the back corner of the complex. When we swung open the door, we were shocked, disappointed and frantic.

On the website, the room was described as urban and tropical. They had posted photos of gorgeous designs on the walls, a private bathroom with a waterfall shower head and a modern tub, perfect for a couple that was travelling alone. We were excited. Instead, we were lead to a room bordering a fence. On the outside of the fence was a trash pit that was home to rats and vultures at all hours of the day. The inside of the room was dimly lit by an overhead light and barely big enough to accommodate the twin sized bed that had been forced between the two walls. There wasn’t even room for our luggage. Literally, not a single drawer or bureau was available in the room. We couldn’t unpack which meant we would be living out of our suitcases that quickly found their home in the only remaining space in the room under the window. Which was also home to ants and other insects scurrying under the wheels and squirming their way through zippers and pockets into our clothing and cosmetics. I was disgusted.

We were then told that the bathroom was a few buildings over. It was supposed to be a shared bathroom with another two guests and we were given a key for privacy. Before we decided to leave, we told each other we can tolerate the small bedroom as long as the bathroom is OK. If you’ve ever gone to summer camp, you can picture this perfectly. You grab your crappy sandals and your shower caddy, sling a damp towel over your shoulder and run down the hill to the community bathroom at the bottom where you shower off quick and head to dinner. When you’re little, it doesn’t matter if you still feel dirty because you’re just going to climb into bed with a single sheet and no air conditioning and scratch your bug bites until you wake up at six the next morning for breakfast.

But when you’re an adult looking for a romantic getaway and you walk into a bathroom that looks more public than shared, you’re going to be fuming. The door to the bathroom was swung open, revealing another dimly lit rectangle of room with muddy footprints on the floor and mold clinging to the permanently dampened shower curtain. There wasn’t even soap to wash our hands and bugs were crawling all over the ceiling, buzzing noisily around the fading light.

I whirled around quicker than I ever have and marched to the front desk immediately. After we had checked in, it was like the boy didn’t even notice us. I say boy because he was most likely no more than 18-years-old and clearly couldn’t handle the responsibility of running the front desk of a “hotel” as there was almost a line out the door at this point with backpackers looking for rooms and angry customers alike.

When it was finally my turn, I calmly explained to him that this was unacceptable and we were less than thrilled with the conditions. He agreed to give us an upgrade for no additional charge but we would have to wait for the morning.

I told Jillian, “OK, we can handle this for one night. I just won’t shower.” She agreed, we wouldn’t shower. We’d take a dip in the pool, get through the night and switch rooms in the morning.

I trudged back to the room, key in hand and dirt smudged between the thong of my flip flops and my toes, the lip of the shoe flinging up puffs of dehydrated dust. We had been travelling since 5 a.m. and all I wanted was to take a nice, hot shower. Nothing is worse than laying down at night after flying all day and not being able to shower.

I sat down on the bed to take off my shoes and it felt like I was sitting on concrete. I kept reminding myself, it’s only one night. You can do this. The breaking point for us was when I went to lay down on the pillows and realized the cases were made of plastic and covered with a thin, cotton sheet. I removed the sheet to reveal clumps of black mold and dirt spread along the casing of the pillow.

You might think I am exaggerating but after two hours of checking into our hotel, we were running frantically from door to door at 7 o’clock at night begging hotels within a half mile radius to take us in for the seven nights we had scheduled.

Thank God I can speak Spanish because this would have been horrendous otherwise. It’s not that the people of Tamarindo don’t speak English but rather, their native language is Spanish and I don’t think I could have effectively communicated the urgency of the situation through the tears and exhaustion had they not fully understood my native tongue. Granted, I don’t fully speak theirs but they got the point after I took several deep breaths and wiped at my eyes for a few minutes.

We were turned away at every single one until we finally found a little hotel, called Luamey, at the top of the hill that was advertised as a restaurant first and a hotel after. They had a room available for us for the seven nights we would be in Tamarindo, but again, it was shared. I asked politely to see the room and Will (who was the manager of the hotel and was constantly checking in on us and making conversation – I can’t say enough good things about this man) took us to the back of the building, up a winding, unpaved road and a few flights of stairs. The room had a small common area, two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. We agreed immediately.

We paid on the spot, promised him we’d be back within the hour and ran down the hill to grab our luggage. I dragged my suitcase across the complex, into the reception area and told the boy we would be leaving. He apologized and tried to refund us but because we booked through Expedia, he wasn’t able to. I would have to file a claim online and see what they can do. Fine, just get me the hell out of here. (They were able to refund us).

Within minutes, we were trekking through the streets with our luggage in tow and it was in that moment that I swore I would never come back to Costa Rica unless the trip turned around. It only got worse from there.

The next day, I got a message on Instagram from the assistant manager of the Selina House. I responded, thinking it was to discuss the unlivable circumstances of the hotel, but to my absolute shock, he asked me out for drinks. I can only assume he asked the boy at the front desk what my name was and found my social media which lead me to believe they gave out my private, confidential information.

We quickly learned that Tamarindo is one of those places that you stay at for a couple of days and move on. In our seven nights that we stayed there, three different groups of people moved in and out of our little shared space with plans to see the rest of the country or having come from other parts already. Each and every person said the same thing; Tamarindo is not nearly as beautiful as the rest of the country, from the beaches to the scenery to the excursions to the locals to the mountains. Everything was better everywhere else.

Almost every single morning, we were woken up to the stench of sewage. I thought it was a freak thing the first couple of days until I finally googled it and found that because of the lack of pipelines and modern plumbing in the country, the sewage draining system wasn’t at all what you would expect for a highly developed tourist town. There were feces and urine running through the streets and when the wind blew, which was every day since we were there during the windy season, it wafted through the hinged windows into our tiny nook and I awoke many mornings with the covers wrapped so tightly around my face I could barely breath.

The beaches were rated as the best beaches in all of Costa Rica but where I come from, our beaches are ranked as some of the best beaches in the world so I might be a little biased. Nevertheless, the view was very pretty but we couldn’t lay out for more than five minutes without someone walking up to us waving handmade trinkets in our faces, desperately trying to sell us something, and not leaving until we verbally acknowledged that we weren’t interested. The current was too strong to swim and with the amount of surfing lessons happening, we were lucky if we didn’t get hit in the mouth by the end of a surfboard. It did make for some truly extraordinary sunsets though.

sunset3

After three or four hours on the beach, we had had enough. But by then, it was only noon and because we had anticipated being at the beach all day, we didn’t have any other plans. We decided to walk back to the hotel most days, take a dip in the pool whose water levels didn’t even reach the filter. There was so much debris, you really couldn’t spend more than five minutes in the water and the smell of sewage was overwhelming. We ended up confined to our room, looking for other hotels that had better accommodations. Some days, we wandered around town bopping into little boutiques and souvenir shops but there’s only so much you can do in a town that is about a mile in each direction.

By the end of the trip, we had watched cockroaches climb out of the shower drain, found tiny fire ants in our sheets a handful of times, shared the walls with couples who had no respect for the people in the next room (I’m sure you can pick up on what I mean) and woke up nauseous from the smell of literal shit almost every single day.

Still, we made the best of the trip. Despite everything that went wrong, it became laughable. We had a little system by this time – we didn’t need to make the most of every single day. It was OK to sleep in and wait for the little acai shop down the street to open up. It was OK to walk down the beach a couple of miles and find a spot that was secluded and away from the pestering locals. It was OK to spend $25 on the beach club that had a private pool and poolside service. It was OK to be in bed by 9 with a good book and the air conditioner.

By the end of our trip, we had gotten into the routine of things and learned how to avoid the things we didn’t like. We didn’t let the frustration of our circumstances affect our relationship and at the end of the day, we were together, away from the stress of our jobs and in a country that most people won’t ever have the privilege of seeing.

When we got home, my mom asked me how I could handle the Dominican but I couldn’t handle Costa Rica. A little bit of a back story to put this into perspective; when I traveled to the Dominican, I knew exactly what to expect. I knew we would be seeing modern day slavery in its purest form, I knew you couldn’t wander off the resort without being pestered by the locals, I knew there would be days that I wouldn’t be able to shower and when I did shower, it would be out of a bucket filled with stale, soapy water from days ago that had been collected when the water was running through town. I was prepared.

What made Costa Rica so upsetting was that I went in with expectations and I left with the knowledge that I would never return. Someone explained it simply while we were down there; stay in American resorts when you travel to Central/South America (except that the American resorts like the Marriott, Wyndham and Best Western were anywhere between $250 and $300 for a single night). What you see on Expedia/TripAdvisor is not what you will get. You will get what you pay for.

She also asked me what my favorite part of the whole trip was, which I think is super important to share. We booked a tour via TripAdvisor which took us to Rincon de la Vieja, a national park north of Liberia, about an hour from Tamarindo. If you go to Costa Rica, you must do this tour. No matter where you are staying, make it a point to do this. It included everything (zip lining, horseback riding, river tubing, natural hot springs and mud baths) as well as transportation, breakfast and lunch all for $145. If you’re looking to fill your time, I would also recommend the ATV Tour(which we didn’t do), a fishing trip with Capt. Lee Keidel and exploring any of the national parks in the neighboring areas which are filled with wildlife, lush rain forests, hiking trails and waterfalls – all of the things we didn’t get to do.

Note to the LGBTQ+ community: It is safe here but people will look at you and cat call you whether you are two women walking down the street as friends or two women walking down the street holding hands. It doesn’t make a difference to the locals there. At first, we were very skeptical of even showing that we were in a relationship in public places like the beach and around town but we quickly realized that we were being stared at because we were women, not because we’re a same-sex couple. We were happy to see other same-sex couples in the area and no one bothered us.

Note to women: Look out for predatory men travelling alone – we were invited for dinners, drink and hotel rendezvous way more than anywhere else. A lot of men travel alone there and will offer you drinks and drugs. One guy offered to rent us a car if he could come with us to travel throughout the country. Another couple invited us back to their hotel for a foursome (we declined obviously). Countless single men approached us on the beach and asked us to accompany them to dinner, even after we said no. Stay together, travel smart and be aware of your surroundings!

Note to men: Stop being so creepy towards women traveling alone! You might think you’re being nice but your harmless/suggestive advances are uncomfortable.

Recommended Restaurants:

Friends – Found within the Mercadito, which is kind of like a food court but more upscale. There are all sorts of food choices here from poke bowls to fresh seafood to different styles of Latino and American food. The Acai Bowls and Crepes at Friends are very good. Outside seating only.
Patagonia – Found next to the Mercadito. Known for their fresh meats and traditional Argentinian dishes. Good quality. Outside, covered seating only.
Wok n’ Roll – Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Thai food. Very good. Drinks aren’t the best. Inside and outside seating.
Pico  – Beach view. Gluten free and vegan bistro. Air conditioned inside, offers outside seating.
Sharky’s – Known as one of the best bars in Tamarindo. They offer very Americanized snacks like wings, burgers, nachos and beer. Indoor and outdoor seating but most people sit outside as there is always some sort of event (live music, DJ, karaoke, sports game) inside.
Rumors – We loved it here. Really good restaurant overall that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Live music most nights and it turns into a pretty active wine bar.

Coming Out Part 1: When I Knew I Liked Girls

At the end of the day, we as humans just want to be accepted as ourselves. This goes for all nationalities, all races, all religions, all sexualities, all genders. We just want acceptance. 

I don’t see myself as an influencer but as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I do feel a sense of responsibility to be open and honest about my story in hopes that it’ll inspire others to do the same. Being yourself is a scary thing in general but being yourself knowing that there are people who will hate you for your sexuality is an even scarier thing.

I have to keep reminding myself; this is my blog, these are my words, this is my story to share. Opinions and judgments can’t take that away from me. 

Since I came out, I have had a lot of people reach out to me with so many questions. When did you know? How did you know? Are you a lesbian? But you’ve dated guys your whole life, are you sure?

I decided today; this is such a big part of my life – I want to share it. And this is why I write.

To inspire, to influence, to hope that my words resonate with those who have gone through/are going through something similar, to be recognized as an ally for those who are still confused or afraid, to be someone’s safety net if they can’t talk to their friends or family.

When Did I Know

This is a really hard question for me to answer. When I reflect back on my life, from the time I was 12 until right now, there are moments that stand out to me. Looking at them from my current age and perspective, I can recognize that I was confused and having thoughts about girls but at the time, I had no idea. I just remembered being embarrassed and avoiding eye contact when I felt like that. But I didn’t know until I was 23.

And it’s not that I waited until I was 23 to come out because I had known my whole life, I genuinely did not let myself have these thoughts and I think I suppressed them for almost 10 years but they started to resurface and push through when I got to college and at that point, I just knew. All the signs were there and it all started to make sense why everything that felt wrong, was wrong.

There is one specific moment I remember from when I was 13 and had I listened to my gut instead of pushing down these thoughts I deemed “unnatural,” I probably would have come out a lot sooner.

So this specific moment, I had had my first kiss with a boy that summer, probably a few weeks before. Looking back, he was super feminine. As was almost every single guy I dated. Anyways, I went back to work at the family business after camp where I made $13 an hour so you know I was balling without a budget when I turned 14 that fall.

There was this new girl working there when I got back and I immediately took a liking to her. I thought she was so pretty and I would follow her around work while she told me what to do. She had such a positive energy and I just admired her so much and wanted to be her friend. I think she was 19 at the time, so six years older than me. 

Being the supportive employees that we were, we went to see her perform in a play. I don’t remember the name of the play or what her character was, I just remember she had on a white dress and had to kiss a boy at the end of a scene. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her but at the same time, I felt like all eyes were on me while my eyes were on her, which wasn’t the case, but either way, I was humiliated and embarrassed and having kissed a boy, I knew what kissing felt like and the second she kissed the boy from the play, I wanted to be him. Red flag number one.

I remember wondering why? Why was I having these thoughts, she’s a girl, why would I want to kiss a girl? At the time, I had no idea what bi or gay or lesbian meant so I swallowed my humiliation and continued to follow her around work until she went back to college. Pretty sure I cried when she left and I never saw her again until this memory resurfaced and I found her on Instagram. She’s married now and they are a beautiful couple and she looks exactly how I remember.

Flash forward to high school, I remember having so many memories of the guys I brought home and my parents always asked me if they were gay. I think I gravitated towards feminine men because I subconsciously knew I liked women but society told me to be straight, so I was straight. Plus, all of my friends in high school joked about there being “the one” in the group (meaning the gay girl) and they always joked about it being me.

*Disclaimer: I do not identify or refer to myself as gay, bi, lesbian or pan. I do not know and will not force myself into a label until I am sure.*

College is probably where I took an interest in girls but never acted on it. I had a boyfriend for three years and the whole thing felt wrong. Physically and emotionally, we just didn’t click. Little did I know, I wouldn’t click with any guy after him either. Give me all the red flags. I was a walking closet at this point, but I still refused to believe it or act on it.

Most women experiment in college and although I was too scared of what people would think or how my friends and family would react, I had a lot of bisexual friends and so I’d ask questions. The same ones I get asked by a lot of you. How did you know. When did you know. Were you scared. Do you still like guys. Almost as if I was doing some investigation work for my closeted self. All the while being absolutely in awe of these girls who were so confident in themselves and their sexuality. And I was jealous of their freedom and their fluidity.

At this point, something in my life wasn’t working. I knew it, my parents knew it, the guys I was with during this time knew it, but I wouldn’t let myself believe it was because I liked girls. In my mind, I hadn’t met the right guy yet. That’s what all straight guys tell pretty gay girls though, you just haven’t met the right guy yet.

Wrong.

There was no right guy. Still, I went on a lot of dates, met a lot of men, did a lot of things I ultimately regretted because even though this one didn’t feel right, maybe the next one would and on we went until I was really depressed and unhappy with myself.

You know that feeling when you walk into a store and you love how all the clothes look so you pick them out, drape them over your arm and head to the dressing room? You try on different shirts, different pants, different jackets but none of them look good on you. Your shoulders might be a little too muscular or maybe your butts too big for the jeans and the jacket doesn’t work well with your height and by the end of the day, you’re disgusted in yourself and all the clothes you tried on.

That was me. But with men.

And that’s when I realized; maybe it wasn’t something that was wrong with them, maybe it was something that was wrong with me. 

After graduating college, I only really dated one guy and I used “dated” loosely because we only got together a couple of times. When things with him didn’t work out, I gave up. I stopped giving guys the time of day, I put all my focus into my friendships and my work and accepted a job (working for Rob as the majority of you know).

In my mind, I didn’t have time for men and I believed that what was meant to be, would be so I put my dating life on the back burner and threw my energy into my career. For roughly five months, I traveled cross-country and internationally on this journey and it was one of the greatest experiences of self reflection and understanding I have had. Being one with nature will really do that to you.

It wasn’t through this journey that I discovered I liked girls, it was actually after when I had come home. It was one specific moment when I had the realization that I really didn’t want to date men anymore. In fact, I was so disgusted by the idea of seeing another man naked that even the thought of being with a guy made me cringe.

I won’t ever share with you publicly what this exact moment was (if you’re my friend, you probably know) but it went a something along the lines of “it just isn’t right” and “I promise it’s not you.”

I falsely assumed, having given up guys and dating in general for almost three months, I was just going through it. I don’t know what “it” was in this scenario but I had assumed I’d be back on my game when I got home and ready to try dating again.

I was ready to try dating again, but not with men. I kind of woke up with the thought one December morning, while this poor guy was still laying beside me, that I was curious.

I had yet to figure out what curious meant but I had begun to see women in a new way.

(Coming SoonComing Out Part 2: How I Knew I Liked Girls)

 

Debate: Gaffing Fish & Catch and Release

Wow, it has been an unfortunate amount of time since I have been able to sit down and write. Even now, I am at my office waiting for my boss to get out of a meeting and the desk I normally sit as it occupied by our accountant so I am sitting on the steps, computer in lap, feet on the magazines in front of me.

Truth be told, I have been in such a transitional period of my life between moving into a new house, spending time focused on my relationship (which is still relatively new) and working two jobs which literally occupies my attention seven days a week.

For those of you that don’t know, I am currently working for Hogy Lure Company which is a lure manufacturing company based out of Falmouth, Mass. where I recently moved to. On top of that, I still mate for my dad on the Columbia where we run sportfishing charters out of Rock Harbor, located in Orleans, Massachusetts. This I have been doing for six seasons now.

You know you’re getting too old for a job when the new generation of mates are between 13/14-years old. This will be my last summer with him, which is both sad and exciting at the same time. I might work weekends depending on what I’m doing for work a year from now. I hope to be with the same company (Hogy) as I truly enjoy my co-workers and the work that I do.

So, let’s jump into it.

There has always been controversy surrounding the tactics and methods of those within the fishing community, long before I became apart of it. Keep in mind that these following thoughts stem from my short 7-8 years of experience both as a first mate and now through my involvement with Hogy Lures and Salty Cape. I have noticed two common discussions arise through our social media posts on all accounts (Hogy, Salty and Columbia):

  1. Gaffing a fish vs. Netting a fish
  2. Catch and release vs. Keeping fish

And of course, there’s the unfortunate individuals who feel the need to message me directly about my practices and techniques, as if being a jerk in my DM’s is going to either change or influence how I work.

Let me be very, very blunt with you for a minute; messaging someone privately about something you disagree with, especially when you attack them because they do it differently than you, is rude. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but when you cross the line from a friendly discussion into personally attacking an individual or a business platform because you don’t like how they operate… No.

Gaffing a Fish vs. Netting a Fish

Before we get into this discussion, GAFFING A FISH IN MASSACHUSETTS IS LEGAL IF IT IS 28-INCHES+ AND YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE YOUR LIMIT OF ONE FISH PER PERSON. I do not know the laws and regulations of other states, but this is something I frequently hear when our business and our ethics are questioned. I can not speak for the rest of the states, but since we are located in Massachusetts and fish in Massachusetts waters, this is relevant to your knowledge.

That’s it. That should be the end of the discussion but regardless of the law, there are some people who still try to force their use of a net on you, as if their opinions are stronger than the laws put in play by policy holders, law makers and scientists.

I understand why people choose to use a net and I see no problem with it. But I also see no problem with using a gaff and let me explain why:

For starters, these are my personal opinions based on knowledge I have already obtained via personal experience.

When I am recreational fishing (going out for fun, enjoying the sport) I don’t use either a net or a gaff. I use my hands, unhook the fish, maybe snap a picture and release it as quickly as possible.

If I am choosing to use a net, which I have done countless times when fishing with Rob, it is for safety purposes both of the fish and to prevent myself from falling into the water while reaching for the fish.

When I use a gaff, and this is important, there are a few things you need to understand.  The first being, I work on a charter boat – for those of you that don’t know, charter fishing is both different from recreational fishing (for fun, for sport) and commercial fishing (to sell to markets). When charter fishing, Coast Guard allows up to six individuals to board the boat, plus the captain and the mate (8 overall). We are allowed to keep up to one fish per person, meaning we are LEGALLY allowed to have eight fish on the boat that are 28-inches or larger. The people who charter fishing boats like ours are fishing to keep, meaning they want fish to bring home to their families and their friends, to have for dinner, to make into a fish chowder, to freeze for a couple of months down the road. Whatever the reason may be, they want to bring fish home.

In this scenario, I always ask the groups when the board the boat, “Do you guys want fish to bring home?” And if they say yes, we fish to bring home. This is where the gaff comes into play – let me ask you, why wouldn’t you gaff a fish if you were planning on bringing it home and eating it? The gaff serves a variety of purposes – the most important being that it makes sure we get the fish in the boat. Since most people want to bring fish home, it does not matter if the fish is injured during the gaffing process because it is going to die either way. THAT BEING SAID, WE DO NOT GAFF FISH THAT WE ARE NOT BRINGING HOME. Even if the fish is legal, I will lift it over the back of the boat, unhook it and release it properly.

That’s all I have to say about gaffing. My final note being, before you judge someone and attack someone on their personal tactics, methods and techniques, PLEASE familiarize yourself with the states laws and regulations before taking time out of your day to approach someone for simply abiding by state laws. If you are going to attack someone because you disagree with this, your energy is probably best spent emailing those who put these laws into play in the first place.

Lastly, there is nothing wrong with either method. Whether you choose to gaff a fish or net a fish, make sure you are doing it responsibly and in the best interest of the fish. Simply, if you are not keeping the fish, do not gaff it. If you are keeping the fish, be sure that it is 28-inches+.

Catch and Release vs. Keeping Fish

There are laws put in place for a reason. And I can assure you, those of us who charter fish, recreational fish and commercial fish abide by them. Let’s run down the laws really quickly.

Recreational Fishing: One fish per person, 28-inches+. Cannot charter paying customers without a license, cannot sell fish without a license. You must apply and test for these licenses.

Charter Fishing: One fish per person on the boat, 28-inches+. Must have a license to charter paying customers. You must test for this license. Commercial license not required. If you have a commercial license and are also a charter fishing captain, it is illegal to catch commercial fish with the intent to sell on a paid charter.

Commercial Fishing: 15 fish per boat, 34-inches+. You must have a license to sell these fish. You must apply for this license. You are limited to 25lbs. per day. Monday and Thursday are the designated commercial fishing days.

These are the laws, put into play by law makers and policy holders. Why someone would try to argue the law based on their personal opinion is beyond me, but to each their own.

I have had countless messages from individuals messaging me, again verbally attacking me for what our family business does. They say things like, “you’re killing all the fish,” and “you’re the reason there’s no bass in Cape Cod Bay.” I even had someone go as far as saying “How dare you kill fish in my waters.”

Buddy, the ocean doesn’t belong to you. He then went on to argue that the “shore fishing isn’t what it used to be” while proceeding to tell me that “fishing from a boat isn’t real fishing.” That’s a joke if I’ve ever heard one.

Let’s jump right into it then. Simply put, these specific laws are put into play by scientists and analysts who have studied the migratory patterns of striped bass from their spawning season, through their spring run into their fall run and back into estuaries, streams, rivers, etc. to spawn again. Do people honestly think that these regulations would be allowed if these fish were endangered?

It’s one thing if it’s your personal opinion to catch and release, good for you, I suppose you think you are morally and ethically better than those who do not, but that doesn’t make us wrong because again, we follow the laws put into play by those who are actually educated on the subject.

Your experience on the water does not make you an expert.

Your personal opinions do not make you an expert.

Your personal practices do not make you an expert.

Honestly, if you haven’t studied and analyzed the increase/decrease of the striper population in both New England and the Cape Cod area in specific, you are not an expert.

This doesn’t make me an expert either.

But what I can tell you based on keeping up with these studies is that the striper population has increased greatly from the 1980’s and is being maintained, while increasing, well into our current era.  I can tell you that there are more schools of schoolie-sized fish in Cape Cod Bay than there have been in years. I can also tell you that the Great White Shark population probably has a lot to do with the scarcity of legal-sized fish in the area.

And adding to that, those of you that take the time to actually argue tooth and nail with me about us killing fish and ruining the population, I hope you realize that the fish are migrating, and Cape Cod Bay is just a stop on their list. Not seeing a lot of decent sized fish in the bay? That’s because they are moving north, as animals often do when they migrate. They have almost entirely moved out of the bay and should be showing up in Maine any day now if they haven’t already. That doesn’t mean they are extinct or endangered or that we are killing them, it simply means they have moved out of the area.

Again, I reiterate, if you are going to argue the logistics of the laws with anyone, it should be with a letter or an email to the law makers and policy holders. We abide by the STATE LAWS and I know some people think their opinions are more important than the laws, but they’re not.

Practice your catch and release, use your nets, have your opinions but please, respect local businesses and trust that we are simply following the rules and doing our jobs. You don’t agree with it? That’s on you. But being disrespectful and rude because of your own presumptions and disagreements simply won’t solve anything. If anything, it’ll create enemies and annoyances towards your fellow fisherman.

Links for Reference:

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/recreational-saltwater-fishing-regulations

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-striped-bass

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/commercial-finfish-regulations

https://www.dragonflysportfishing.com/state-federal-catch-limit/

https://www.onthewater.com/massachusetts-enacts-striped-bass-conservation-regulations

 

 

 

 

 

Myth Busting

The one thing that I hate most about being in the “public eye” (to a very minimal degree) is that I am constantly facing scrutiny and criticism. I often feel like I could solve global warming or impeach Trump and individuals would still have negative things to say about it.

There have been many comments towards me since I left Field Trips. Comments that I have let slide or just ignored because a response didn’t feel warranted. But the more time I spend away from social media, the more assumptions are made. I’ve been very quiet about what’s been it the works for me, yet I am still being questioned about my “relationship” with my former boss and even the “real” reason I left Field Trips, down to people questioning my identity.

So let’s set the record straight on this myth busting edition of “Jamie Is Really Mad.”

  1. “They’re definitely secretly dating!” “That’s the only reason he brought her on the show, so he can f*** her.” “She’s just eye candy to increase his following.” — It genuinely saddens me that the majority of people who commented on my internship/job/whatever it was automatically assumed that we were dating or I was there for some ulterior motive. I understand the assumptions, don’t get me wrong. A young, good-looking, 23-year-old moves into an RV with her boss after knowing him for only a couple of days and the imagination runs wild for those of you who don’t know me. I’ve heard the raunchiest, most disgusting things coming from some people and I can’t help but wonder, how would your mother feel if she knew you were categorizing me based off of your predetermined assumptions about a man and a woman living together? How would your wife or your child feel if you made the same assumptions about their platonic relationships with men? I bet they’d be pretty hurt and offended. So what makes me any different? I’m not allowed to speak up because I’m representing a business and have to control my responses? It’s safe to say I’m pretty happy I’m no longer falling into the category of sleeping with my boss or just being a part of Field Trips because I’m nice to look at. That being said, many of you have used the term “break up” in response to me leaving. To break up with someone, you have to be in an intimate relationship with them, at least because that’s what I’m assuming the majority of people thought. I know, here I am talking about not making assumptions and I’m assuming your thought processes. Don’t get me wrong, you can have a break up with a friend or a family member and many people would probably argue that’s what they meant but we all know it’s not.
  2. “She was really pissed about leaving.” — You guys. Come on. This one is actually funny to me because do you HONESTLY think I would take the time to write such kind things about Rob in my last blog post if I was angry about leaving? If I was angry, I probably would have A. Not even acknowledged it on any social media platforms, B. Deleted him off of all of my social media C. Unfollowed him on social media or D. Pretended I never worked for Field Trips in the first place. I really thought I was clear with y’all about the reason behind all of this. I didn’t need to take time out of my day to satisfy everyone’s curiosity if I didn’t feel genuinely humbled and appreciative of the experience I was given. There is absolutely no animosity between either of us and we still remain good friends. If you don’t believe me, feel free to stalk both of our social medias to notice we do still follow each other and we like/comment/support each other’s posts and what not.
  3. “I heard Nattie up North is why they split.” “She’s working for him now.” “Nattie got more attention in Panama.” — I am not one to ever get jealous of another person’s success, talent or relationship (unless it involves questioning loyalty or trust). I had the privilege of meeting Natalie in Panama after following her on social media for quite some time. She quickly became someone I aspired to be like and somewhat of a celebrity in my eyes. And just like Rob, she is the type of person who is super authentic, down to earth, real in what she does and passionate about fishing. I can only speak for myself but, as far as I am concerned, Natalie had nothing to do with my end on Field Trips. When Rob and I spoke on the phone about my internship coming to an end, he had told me this was something he had decided BEFORE Panama. I’m not sure the truth behind that as Panama was tough for both of us, but Rob has never given me any reason not to trust him, therefore I believe him when he says that. And even if Natalie was going to co-host and begin working with Rob, I would be excited for them! I think they would make a great team together. But she never came up in our discussion about me leaving the show and she appeared in the Panama episodes so much because she was there to fish at Los Buzos, she’s a bit of a YouTube celebrity herself and because she caught some killer fish.
  4. “She’s playing for the other team now.” — This one really got under my skin. For a variety of reasons. None of which is anyone’s business but because we have some homophobes in the house, I guess it’s time to address it. This all goes back to assuming Rob and I were dating in the first place, which I didn’t mind, but to go out of your way to boldly state that I am “playing for the other team” is absolutely not OK and will not be tolerated by me. That being said, if you have a problem with me having a girlfriend, I suggest you unfollow me REAL quick. My personal life and my sexual preference is absolutely no one’s business and not something I appreciate anyone talking about. By all means, if you want to assume I’m sleeping with my boss, that’s all on you. You’ll look like the fool at the end of the day. But to make comments on my sexuality, just because I left the show, AS IF THAT’S THE REASON I LEFT THE SHOW, is disgusting to me. And I really, really mean it when I say, if you don’t support me for ME  (gay, straight, bi, queer, a spaghetti strainer, an airplane, a donkey), take that energy elsewhere because it has no place here. And I am very happy with my girlfriend and very comfortable with my sexuality. Most of the people saying that are probably just mad they don’t have a chance with me, let’s be real. *mic drop*

With all of that being said, I am really excited to share some of the stuff I have coming up. But because none of it is set in stone yet, I have been staying quiet about what’s going on behind the scenes. I do have a really cool trip planned in August of 2019 which I am beyond excited to talk about but I want to wait a little longer until we have everything fine tuned. And of course, I don’t want to announce it months in advance and have it fall through. But it’s going to be worth the wait, I promise.

The future is always going to be a mystery. But between my last post in the beginning of February and this post, at the end of February, I feel like things are starting to fall into place a little bit and I should be able to make some announcements soon about what’s going on and where my future is headed.

I appreciate all the love and support and I really hate using this platform to talk about negative things but I can’t just sit back and let these things be said without acknowledging them or defending myself. Remember to be kind, think about what you say and be aware that everyone is fighting some sort of battle that you know nothing about.

Thank you,
– J

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Field Trips

Per my last post, I know I have left a lot of you with unanswered questions to my unanswered thoughts. Rob and I originally had agreed to wait until he was back from his trip to Australia to announce the new development to Field Trips but after our recent conversation, he said he would be OK with me discussing it.

As many of you have asked and guessed, Rob and I have amicably decided to split ways. Although it definitely saddens me to no longer be a part of Field Trips, I know at the end of the day that this is best for both of us.

Nothing specific happened to spark this decision. I spoke in past posts about our difference in work ethics and how, although we operate differently, it works well. But, the more time we worked together, the more different our motivations had become. I found myself feeling really lost and unmotivated and of course, I can’t speak for him, but I’m sure he sensed that my demeanor was beginning to change.

I do think Panama is where I realized it the most. My time there was truthfully so eye-opening and although I was left with a lot of frustration and confusion, I really had the time of my life in the moments that I felt I could be myself. From the gorgeous sunrises on the black sand beaches, to the abundance of fresh fruit and fresh fish that we were blessed with, down to the people from all walks of life that I was lucky enough to meet and share this experience with, Panama was a trip I will never forget.

I spoke briefly about what took place while I was there and I tried to keep it as vague as possible because I don’t want to talk badly about anyone or anything, but at the end of the day, it’s not the business. It’s not the company. It’s not any one person. Nothing specific happened to make me feel the way that I felt. It was a lot of little things combined that made me feel as though I really didn’t belong there.

But all of that aside, I met the most amazing groups of people. My first week there was for the Kayak Fishing World Championship where we had guys from all over the world (The United States, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Costa Rica). Talk about a rowdy group of men. I am so used to the rambunctious personalities of competitive men so it was almost comforting to be surrounded by these guys every day.

The stories, the memories, the personalities, the knowledge — I wouldn’t trade any of it. All of them were so kind and humble, so encouraging and welcoming, so knowledgeable and skilled in their own tricks and trades. I can only hope I made the positive impact on them that they made on me.

As for my second week there, we had people from the United States, Canada and Ireland. I can not speak more highly of this group of people. It was definitely a different dynamic from the first group as many of these guys (both men and women) weren’t nearly as experienced as the guys we had the week before. But they all knew what they were doing and more importantly, they all knew how to fish. Even the other Jamie, who had never been in a kayak before, kicked ass out on the water battling swells and strong fish.

The guys from Ireland were some of the funniest people I’ve met. But forget it when they start drinking. It’s nearly impossible to understand them. I asked myself so many times, are they speaking English right now? But the beer kept pouring and the conversation kept flowing.

As for Rob and me, I don’t think I could say anything bad about him if I tried. I’m definitely sad my time on the road has come to an end and if I had the chance to do it over, I know what I would change. But thankfully, I am young and will have the opportunity to start over in another career where I will carry his advice and knowledge with me.

To take a chance on a complete stranger, like he did with me, is not something a normal person would do. But Rob is far from normal (in the best ways) and I was really lucky to have him as a boss and a roommate and can absolutely call him one of my life-long friends. Sure, we had our disagreements here and there and we both had issues with one another at certain times. But he gave me a chance when I needed one the most. He made my dreams of travelling come true and fed my passion for fishing.

I remember many of our conversations, most of them leaning towards the passion to change people’s lives and I can honestly say, Rob changed mine. I leave the RV with nothing but gratitude and respect for Rob.

I had visions of us taking over the world and one day having our own TV show about our travels and fishing adventures, but nothing ever goes as planned. And that’s OK. When one door closes, another door opens. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. This internship gave me a taste of the possibilities I can make out of my life and even though I’m not much of a self-starter, I know I have a lot to offer to another business/employer.

Moral of my time on the road: You have the power to make the life you have always dreamed of having. Take a chance on yourself and others will take the chance with you, too. Believe in yourself, challenge yourself, push yourself. The outcome may not be what you thought, but you will learn so much on the journey. And the journey is the most important part; not the destination.

I don’t know my destination, but what fun is life if you do?

Unanswered Thoughts

The more time I spend away from my pen and paper (in this case, my computer and my keyboard) the more scattered and lost my thoughts become.

I took a class in high school at a local college on writing and one of the first exercises we did at the beginning of the course was writing for two minutes straight. The first thoughts that popped into our head. The most random of thoughts. The rules: our pens couldn’t leave the paper and we couldn’t pause to think. No thinking, just writing.

I think I’m going to begin this post the same way we began our classes. Don’t think, just write.

Go.

There are so many things I have in my head. So many things I want to write about but I don’t even know where to start. I’m babysitting the puppy this week. She is the sweetest little thing but she is so vocal. Constantly barks and cries when you’re not paying attention to her but the biggest snuggle monster. I want a puppy of my own one day. I have my dog now but he is a family dog, he isn’t MY dog. But before I can even think about getting a puppy, I have to think about moving out and to think about moving out, I have to think about a more stable income. Things I want to talk about but things I won’t be able to say for another couple of weeks. Panama came and went. That was an experience, one I’ll probably write about in the coming weeks as well. Or maybe today. Who knows. 

I’m sure after getting through my jumbled mess of thoughts, you have a lot of questions. What am I not able to write about yet? Well, I guess you have to wait and see. As for Panama, it was good and bad in a lot of ways. I left feeling very unwelcome and maybe that was something I brought on myself but I have a feeling it was something else entirely. And that all came to light in the following days after returning home.

I remember telling my mom a couple of days in, even if I was invited to go back to Los Buzos, I don’t think I would go. It’s hard for me to write negative things about a person or a business that has done so much for me, especially when I was there out of someone else’s pocket but man, I have never felt so out of place in my entire life. And that’s no ones fault but the dynamic was weird and as the first group left and the second group arrived, it became worse for me.

I’m not the only one who felt it. There were members of the second group who felt the same way about the situation but I ended up taking the brunt of it because A) I am a female and B) I wasn’t paying to be there. So I faced a lot of skepticism, a lot of sexism and just a lot of belittling my entire time there. I really felt like I had no place being there. I often found myself wondering out loud, what the f*ck am I here for?

That being said, those who paid were treated as they should have been. Those who did not pay (me) were not treated so great by individuals who I will not name.

One night I remember specifically, I ended up separating myself from the group and sitting down to write. I’ll share it, I guess. I would like to share more of my authentic writing like this, but I fear judgement.

January 15, 2019 at 8:47 p.m. (Pizza Night Week Two): I wish I could pinpoint exactly how I feel. It’s like the words don’t want to flow from my mouth that is always so fluid in the worst moments. I can’t seem to relate to those I am surrounded by but maybe it’s who I choose to surround myself with, as if I have a choice in most situations. I stare at my reflection and although I recognize myself, I don’t recognize who I have become. I feel like I’m constantly waiting for something to change but am I making conscious choices to change it? As if i know what IT is.

Loneliness sneaks up on me at the strangest times, when I’m surrounded by like-minded people with common interests, rooms filled with strangers that pay no mind to me. Why am I here. I long for recognition and appreciation and I pick apart my flaws when others around me have what I lack. A fluidity, an acceptance, a recognition, a light. I fear mine is dark. I fear no one will understand the depths of my mind in the way that I long to be understood. I fear no one will see me for what I contain, rather than for what I lack. 

I am surrounded by empty voices, voids of people speaking and breaking the muffled silence I am caught up in. Bits of their conversations slip into my head and I jump from voice to voice, clinging to something I can connect with. But I am stuck in the silence. My own silence that I have created. The words won’t form on my bland palette. I choke on my silence, I choke on my breath. I wish I could spit it out onto the plate in front of me. The voices fade once more and I am lost again with the stars above. Floating through my mind like satellites in space, waiting to discover my light. 

[Cue panic attack]

I don’t have much to say about that. Much like Forrest Gump when he finished a story and effortlessly glided into the next one. I finish one train of thought and effortlessly fall into an abyss of similar thoughts that have no place in my head. But they’re there anyways. Regardless, I needed this loneliness to discover the clarity I have been seeking. I needed to panic and write and isolate myself in order to see the dynamic of the situation as clearly as I see it now.

I have never belonged. And maybe most look at that as a weakness, but I have chosen to see it as a strength. Maybe because I have no choice but maybe because it makes me unique. When I am in a group of people, listening to them discuss their days and their experiences, I am often struck with the feeling that no one is being authentic with their words and I zone out. I mentally remove myself from the situation and let my mind wonder to places they don’t often go because I am rarely alone.

And sure, it pains me more often than not to feel like I’m not understood but I don’t feel as though anyone has truly tried to understand me. I’m not even sure I understand myself most days but it’s moments like these, moments like those, that I begin to see myself even more. Even if none of my words make sense in the moment they’re being thought, they often make sense later after I’ve had time to reflect.

This blog has no agenda. This blog has no theme. Much like my life and my thoughts. If we did the same thing every day with the same mentality, there would be no growth. And I find that growth often stems from the most uncomfortable or painful situations. Not saying Panama was either of those adjectives, but it definitely was a place where I was not comfortable and felt more like I was being tolerated rather than accepted.

That’s not a feeling I ever wish to feel again, which is why my removal from certain situations has been warranted, accepted and even appreciated as it now gives me time to focus on myself and my own future rather than someone else’s.

More to come soon.

 

 

Dating on the Road

Caution: Parents and family members of mine are advised to stop reading here.

Seriously, Mom and Dad – do us both a favor, let’s not make holidays awkward – don’t read this one. (If you choose to keep reading, pretend you didn’t).

When I took this job and was told I would be living in an RV full-time with my only source of consistent human interaction being my boss, my first thought was, “How am I going to meet guys on the road?”

You know what I really mean though. It’s like air; it’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.

Simply put, it hasn’t happened. Nor do I see it happening in the near future.

Establishing, and maintaining, any sort of relationship on the road, let alone a brand new one, is not easy. Sure, I could go on dates but it would go a little something like this.

Hypothesis: I can totally meet someone on the road. It might be through a crappy dating website like Bumble or Tinder but I can do it.

Introduction – Hello, my name is Jamie. I travel cross-country living in an RV full-time with my male boss who is eight years older than me. But we’re not dating or hooking up. I probably won’t end up hanging out with you and I definitely won’t date you, but tell me I’m pretty and that you like animals and maybe we can figure something out.

We agree to go on a “date.” Date used as a loose term because to me, it’s really just a waste of my time but I’ll humor you, stranger.

Tell me everything I need to know about you to convince me to go home with you.

If I don’t feel uncomfortable or creeped out, pretend we’ve known each other for more than 35 minutes so I don’t feel as bad about my future decisions.

Contemplate scenario of being raped or murdered. Yeah, I used the R word. It’s a pretty common thought every time women leave their homes and more so when they date. Poor men though, being thought of as potential rapists. How sad. Don’t get too close, my thoughts might ruin your reputation.

Conclusion: go home with said stranger that could rape/murder me (unlikely scenario) or go home to my bed (likely scenario).

Parents, if you have read this far, don’t worry – said scenario has not happened because realistically, I don’t have time to date. Why? Because what are the odds that I am going to take three hours out of my day to meet someone that I probably have no future with when I could be doing something productive? Slim to none. We’ll go with none.

Now, on top of all of the awkward swiping though dating apps and settling on someone that you could possible see yourself making out with, I have to ask Rob to borrow the truck. Tell him that I have a “date” and scramble around the trailer getting ready.

I’ll let you in on a secret – getting ready for a date, when you don’t have a blow dryer or a pair of heels, is time consuming and definitely not worth it. Total waste of make-up, too.

So, say said date happens. You borrow your bosses truck, request an evening off, and drive down to a random bar, in a random town, in a state that you’ve never been to before, to meet up with a random stranger you met online.

Guess what I found at the end of this magical, happy, love rainbow?

A guy in an ugly Christmas sweater that ordered meatloaf and made me split the bill with him.

Magical.

Said date lasted no more than two hours, after I had worked 14 hours of strenuous and time consuming filming.

I trudged home through the mountains and was asleep before 10. Before 10, on a night that I had a date, on a Saturday and before my parents were even home. My parents are in a time zone an hour ahead of me.

What does that say about dating on the road?

Unless I think you might be my husband, it’s not happening.

As Ariana Grande once said,

thanku next

 

Music City U.S.A.

Part of the reason Rob hired me was to help him differentiate between work and play, so he says. His work ethic is admirable and I hope one day to have the same ambition and motivation to sit for 16 hours at a time and grind out an edit or finish a project in one go. But finding a middle ground between work and fun is just as important as meeting deadlines and producing content.

We have been balancing the two quite well between hiking through state parks and trying to immerse ourselves in the truest parts of each state we visit. The part of New York we stayed in, for example, is well-known for it’s wine trails. Naturally, we had to visit a winery (that was actually four wineries in one) and try their unique flavors. And I may have gotten a bit drunk by the end of the whole thing. Check that out. 

Growing up horseback riding and being as obsessed with animals as I am, we had to go riding in Kentucky. It wasn’t even a question. The leaves were changing, the weather was beautiful and I hadn’t been on a horse in at least two months.

Tennessee meant Nashville.

I’ve dreamt of going to Nashville since I discovered what the city was all about. I grew up listening to country music with my dad in the backseat of the jeep, flying down back roads on crisp, summer days. Memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. He introduced me to my love for music in many ways and although I can’t sing, I’ll always belt out those tunes in the car.

Of course, being the naïve five-year-old that I was, I assumed every single country music star lived in Nashville. I pictured flat landscapes, Taylor Swift strumming her guitar on the sidewalks, backlit bars on every single street corner, cowboy boots and ass-less chaps. Any stereotypical scene from an old Western film; you name it, I pictured it.

And I wanted to see it.

I always thought it would be with my mom or dad, never while traveling cross-country living in an RV full-time with a stranger. I keep using that line but realistically, Rob is anything but a stranger at this point and truthfully, I don’t think I would want to travel the country with anyone else doing anything different than what I am doing right now. (Right now I’m on an airplane flying to Chicago to catch my connecting flight to Boston for Thanksgiving – but you get the idea).

Nashville was absolutely nothing like I expected. We got to the city and instead of seeing those Western bars and saloons I had pictured, we were greeted by towering skyscrapers. Although, there were a lot of people walking around in cowboy hats and cowboy boots. No ass-less chaps, though. You can understand my disappointment, I’m sure.

Our first stop of the day was at the Country Music Hall of Fame which was also nothing like I had expected. Three floors full of names and pictures of musicians I had never heard of who helped shape what country music is today. They’d probably roll over in their graves if they heard the pop-style, modernized country that we’re listening to nowadays.

Our second stop was a little more exhilarating. Being the terrible influence that I am, Rob and I went to get tattoos. His first and my eighth (sorry Mom). Rob has this weird thing where if you explain things in too much scientific detail, he gets really nauseous so he wouldn’t let me explain the process of tattooing beforehand. He kind of went in blind but thankfully, my tattoo artist started before his so he was able to watch my reaction and get used to the sounds of the instruments and sights of the needles.

To end our five/six hours in the city, we went out on the strip. I don’t actually know what you call it but that’s what they would call it in Vegas and that’s exactly what it felt like.

Nashvegas.

We came to a traffic light on Broadway, which is the main street in downtown Nashville, and to our left and right as far as the eye could see, there were lit up signs for bars with recognizable names like Margaritaville and Jason Aldean’s. We were hesitant to settle on the first bar we stumbled across but excited to see the nightlife of the city since neither of us have gone out in a while. About two and a half months for me and roughly the same for Rob, that I know of.

It felt like there was so much to see and even if we spent the whole night there, we wouldn’t have seen it all.

Every single bar had live music streaming from it’s windows from rock, to country to pop. We stopped at the second or third bar we found and ended up having such a fun night. The band was incredible, sang newer country music and involved the crowd throughout their entire performance. They played classic songs as well as old classics and everyone was dancing around the stage and buying the band shots.

They also had this amazing fiddler player. I have heard people play the fiddle before but never the way she did. The Devil Went Down to Georgia is one of the most iconic songs known for its fiddling and she played it brilliantly. If we could have watched her play all night, we probably would have stayed and listened to her until they kicked us out. I had the chills the whole time she was on stage.

We drove back late but the exhaustion was well worth it for the night we had. I really hope to get back one day for a long weekend or something similar. Probably will end up having my bachelorette party there if I ever get married. Rob will definitely be invited to that girls night.

That’s the most amazing thing about this little journey – crossing off cities and statues of places I’ve longed to see since I learned there was more to the world than Cape Cod. I imagine it was like finding out the world wasn’t flat.

So much to explore, so much to do and see and I know there are more little adventures and places waiting for me to find them and fall in love with them.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish…

Being from a small, coastal town in Massachusetts, living more than five minutes from the ocean felt like a nightmare to me. But, as I travel across the country in a toy hauler, I have noticed that most states are landlocked. Twenty-seven to be exact. Obvious to most but something I was oblivious to.

That’s 126, 352, 125 million people that potentially may never see the ocean in their lifetime. Thirty-nine percent of the United States’ population. How did I figure that out, you’re probably wondering. I did the math because I was curious, and I read somewhere that people like statistics when they’re reading lengthy articles.

Landlocked_US_States.png

Why does this matter? Because I will be spending the next four years traveling within the oceans’ borders of the country with no ocean in sight, (something I never dreamed of doing), except on special occasions.

And Louisiana was one of these occasions.

Arriving at Pointe Aux Chene, I could smell the murky, salt marsh before I stepped out of the car. The temperature was up around the 80’s, humidity was in full force and I was so excited to feel the sun on my face and breathe in that beautiful salty air for a few days.

I probably said it a million times while we were paddling through the marsh, but it reminded me so much of home. Cape Cod is filled with marshy areas and inlets. Two different states, two different oceans (I don’t know if you’d consider the Gulf of Mexico an ocean but, you get the point), hundreds of miles between the two yet, I felt more at home here than I have in any other state.

IMG_2378

For my birthday, my mom got me a sterling-silver bracelet that says “Salty Girl” on it to help me remember where I come from. Salt runs through my veins and coming back to it reminded me why I never wanted to leave in the first place. So obviously, I was more eager than ever to get my butt on the water.

Fishing for reds is different than any other type of fishing I’ve done. There’s two ways to do it; sight casting or just blindly casting and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, the water was murky and we weren’t able to sight cast, which is when you very quietly stand-up paddle through the marsh looking for tailing reds or loud splashes. They are very skittish fish and get spooked easily, therefore, fishing for them requires technique and stealth (both of which I don’t really have yet).

If you’re just blindly casting, like we were, casting towards the edge of the grass or little nooks and skinny canals in the marsh is your best bet.

Still, there were so many different occasions when I would kayak right over a red without seeing it and it would swirl in the mud less than a foot below me and shoot into the grass. Or, I would see it tailing, get excited and over cast or under cast, spooking the fish and just getting frustrated with myself in the process.

That’s the thing about fishing for reds. You have to be quiet but you’re so full of excitement and adrenaline, it’s hard to land your cast perfectly. At least for me, but even the most experienced fisherman have this problem as well.

The only way to get out into the marsh for us was to be towed by the skiff that our photographer (Brooks Beatty) and videographer (Jameson Redding) were using to film us during the day. We used straps to tie ourselves to one another and got a lot of looks while we were being pulled single file out to the fishing grounds.

Once we got there, we split up and I practiced using the power pole to hold me in place while standing and casting. On my fifth cast, I landed one of the first fish of the day. A feisty, beautiful, slot Red Fish that I yanked out of a weeded patch in front of me. Slot means it’s a keeper between 16 and 26 inches.

redfish1

Photography Credit: Robert Field

In my post about Kentucky, I had mentioned how rewarded I felt after persisting all day and finally catching that little largemouth. This feeling was pretty damn close to that. I have never fished for reds before and I was fishing with very experienced men. Being a woman in this industry, I find myself feeling pressured quite often to perform well and keep up with the guys. In this moment, landing a fish so early in the day before most everyone else, I felt exhilarated and really proud of myself.

I wake up every morning chasing that feeling. Whether that be writing a killer blog post that people can relate to, editing a really difficult portion of an episode, hitting a crazy PR in the gym or catching a new species or new personal best, I am excited to see what every day brings. Because it’s always something new and challenging with this lifestyle.

I don’t know what I did to deserve this amazing life of mine but I have such a great appreciation for every moment of the day. I try to live as presently as I can and this is advice I would give to anyone. Stay present, stay in the moment because things can change in the blink of an eye, when you least expect it.

It’s hard for me to preach my beliefs because many of you won’t understand. “It’s harder said than done” is something I hear often when people ask me how I made this choice to do what I do. After I tell them and urge them to follow their dreams too, that is the most common response I get.

And it’s true — but everything is easier said than done. Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back as humans. Fear of commitment, fear of change, fear of failure, fear of being uncomfortable.

But let me tell you something, if you are fearful of chasing your true desires and changing your life to suit your happiness, you won’t ever grow. You will remain in the same unhappy relationship, the same dreaded 9 – 5 job, the same boring town, because it’s what you’re comfortable with. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable to reshape your life.

This is just my opinion but at 23-years-old, to have left my small hometown and jumped on the road with a man I barely know (who has now become one of my greatest friends), all to pursue my dreams. I can tell you, it was damn worth it.