But everybody needs a little forgiveness.

I like to think forgiveness isn’t that hard.

I like that – mostly – because I keep so many people in my life who have done hurtful things. I keep them around, so I must be good at forgiveness.

But I’m starting to finally realize forgiveness is a process, not an action. It’s many actions.

I suppose it’s recognizing hurt. I guess then we accept an apology. We recognize sometimes things happen. Sometimes life is hard. We all make mistakes. I understand – we all make mistakes.

But then we have to move on. And that’s the hard part. The moving on.

Because what’s the appropriate way to move on? It seems almost detrimental to my own emotional well-being to completely brush over an issue. That’s how I end up with all of these people in my life who don’t really deserve to be there.

But the other option doesn’t sound great. I don’t hold grudges. I don’t often feel like I know how. Plus, if someone meant something at some point, why would I cut them out of my life? Certainly, they add value to my little time here on this planet. And I would hate to lose something that could be good at some point later.

So letting something go – completely forgetting it – seems like a bad idea. But letting someone go and completely forgetting them sounds awful, too.

Either way, the baggage is still there. The hurt sticks around.

I know at its definition, forgiveness is letting go of hurt. It’s extending grace to another person.

But how do we extend grace to someone else, and still learn a lesson from it? The hurt is what provides the lesson.

These thoughts fill my head before I go to sleep. They keep me awake some nights.

I guess for tonight my resolution is this – show grace. Wherever possible. Maybe lessons get jumbled sometimes in there – but the idea of grace and forgiveness so baffles my heart in the best way possible – I’d rather have that than a story of someone who hurt me.

And I suppose once we get to that place – where it doesn’t hurt anymore – the moving on happens naturally. The baggage disappears.

And I raised my voice to the air, and we were blessed. Everybody needs a little forgiveness.

I carry your heart in my heart, some with every song.

I suppose there are people in the world who don’t associate every moment of their lives with certain songs. Maybe they don’t remember their dad’s voice singing along to “Carolina in my Mind” on a family road trip when they were eight.Perhaps they don’t remember putting Nobody’s Crying” on repeat on Christmas Eve, two weeks before their grandmother died.Maybe they don’t have a memory of an ex-boyfriend singing “Thunder Road” regularly before they went to sleep.

Maybe other people don’t have those kinds of memories. But I do. Music pervades every crevice of my life; it’s etched in most moments I remember.

There are a lot of songs I keep to myself now. I won’t listen to them around other people. Not because I always have an overwhelmingly emotional reaction to each of them – but because they’re mine.

Well, those memories are, at least. And sometimes I just get a little selfish.

Because in my mind no one else’s memory of “Thunder Road” compares in any way with mine. I heard it several times a week for years – often times my heart so full of love for each and everyone one of those moments I had no idea how life could get any better. It has – but I certainly didn’t know that. And those words encompass some part of that feeling. That it’s as good as it’s going to ever get – the joy that comes with feeling like you are exactly where you are meant to be.

I also remember the song I wrote on the back of his Christmas present one year. And the one I framed.

So I won’t listen to any of them with anyone else around.

I still can’t listen to “Nobody’s Crying” often – I so fully remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach that said the most important person in my life was soon not going to be around to hug. She wouldn’t ever tell me to chase my dreams or follow my heart again. She wouldn’t tell me stories about her grandpa’s farm and Sunday dinners with potlucks and chicken necks. She wouldn’t ever tell me she loved me again. I remember that paralyzing grief – and how I couldn’t listen to any other words but those. I probably listened to that song 20 times that night. I sat on my floor and stared at the wall. And I listened.

I listened to Stephen Kellogg’s “See You Later, See You Soon” when I found out she passed away. Oddly enough, I’m filled with joy every time I hear it. Because I know I will, I suppose.

I remember a random Tuesday listening to Phil Collins in my mom’s car. Because my parents were all about Genesis when I was growing up. I remember my dad singing along to pretty much anything you would let him – but specifically James Taylor.

There are countless other examples. Vivid examples of moments I’ll never be able to erase, and don’t really want to share.

I spend time building a mental playlists of sorts. Of songs that are taken. I play it sometimes when I’m feeling lonely. Because for all of those memories – for all that may have happened since – those words feel cozy. They feel warm. Like I belong.

I suppose not everyone remembers moments like that. Maybe their memories are separate. But I just can’t even imagine it.

Rain.

I’ve always loved rain. Well, being inside for rain. Sometimes outside – but only when my soul needs cleansing, which is more often than not, truthfully.

I woke up two hours before I had to be awake today – the day after my birthday. I was cursing it, because it’s Friday and I have two HOURS left of sleep. I also had approximately one drink too many last night and would have appreciated a little extra sleep.

The truth? My birthday wasn’t the best day of my life – but it’s what made sense for 25 in a new town. I missed my friends and family. Holidays are hard without them – I love cards and flowers, but they don’t compare to the hugs I’m missing. (Do not mistake this as me saying I love hugs. I do not. I love personal space, except when I really love someone.) I understand that’s a glass half empty mentality, and I try not to have that – but it’s where I’m at this morning.

My birthday was what it needed to be. Full of twists and turns and ups and downs and honestly a little bit of heartache – but what better reminder of being alive? I had a little bit of a mental breakdown around lunchtime. I kept saying I’m officially an adult – and I finally felt like it. I ate Subway in my car alone for lunch and thought about how – out of the guys I’ve dated in the past five years – the only guy who told me happy birthday was my ex-boyfriend, who actually has every right to hate me at this point. So I sat in my car at a park and contemplated getting older and probably dying alone because I have the absolute worst taste in the history of the world. I started the day unhappy about not being around the people I love the most and was determined for the day to be everything awful about that situation. So I started throwing myself a pity party – one of my most frustrating and all too present qualities.

But the day got better. I left the park and heard a song on the radio that my Granny always loved – I think she was reminding me that I’m where I need to be. I ran into a homeless couple I talked to for maybe five minutes, who were so kind I have no words to explain it. I walked up to my door and realized my parents and best friend sent me flowers. I went to a lovely friend’s birthday party – which was a beautiful reminder of how joy radiates from people, if you’re willing to put it out there. She is, and it was so evident with how many people showed up to celebrate her. And I saw so any of my favorite people in Nashville – who gave me big hugs and loved on me.

So maybe birthdays change as we get older. Life does, so I guess it only makes sense.

But I woke up this morning and was pretty hard on myself, as usual. Did I say the wrong thing to someone last night? Did I embarrass myself? I wish there was a cancel burton on texts you’ve already sent.

The truth is – even if all of those things are true, there’s always room for an apology. People who love you are usually understanding. If they don’t, the friendship was probably never worth much in the grand scheme of things. And life moves on; it did you a favor.

The thing is, life always moves on. That’s the great thing about it. There’s always a chance to start over.

And I suppose that’s why I love the rain.

Choices.

One of my favorite conversations so far in my life was with a stranger on a plane. It was an early Saturday morning flight, and turned out to be one of my favorite examples of fate. How people end up in our lives for a reason, always.

I’m a bit of a nervous flyer sometimes, and he built airplanes as a hobby. I didn’t tell him I was nervous, but he still explained how the plane worked. I’m not always the greatest at talking with strangers, but felt like I needed to talk with him.

Right before we landed he asked if he could tell me something. I said sure.

“Remember you get to choose who you spend your time with. You have so many things going for you, and you always get to choose.”

Funny how a small sentence changed my life, but it did. I think about that man almost daily, and his advice.

All of life is a choice. When things stop making you smile, it’s time to move on.

And that’s always a choice we have.

25.

For the past month or so, I’ve been trying to make myself write a list of things I’ve learned in 25 years. The important stuff. Then it turned into 25 things I’m proud of myself for. And I kept getting stuck – not because I can’t come up with that many things, but because the words sounded funny each time. None of it was right and just seemed like too much. Like when you see an ex and they ask how you are so you go into more detail than either of you ever cared to know or share. That kind of too much.

It made sense this afternoon, though.

What am I the most proud of myself for learning in 25 years?

For realizing life is so good. So fucking good.

So beyond my imagination, wildest dreams, happiest moments, joyful thoughts kind of good. It’s all of those things. And I’m so thankful for mine.

It’s not what I expected or what I thought I’d have in my daydreams. But damn, if it isn’t just perfect as what it is sometimes.

Love.

I turn 25 in 13 days. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned and what’s mattered most to me in those 25 years. It’s a pretty long list, but right now I mostly feel like I need to tell a story. About love – from the perspective I remember it.

I think a lot about my grandparents around my birthday. I was born on their anniversary – something I know was nothing short of divine intervention.

Papaw and Granny were married 52 years before he passed away. Fifty-two years. At this point, that amount of time is beyond my comprehension. That’s some people’s entire lifetimes. They got married in 1944 – when Granny was 14. There was a 20-year age difference between them. It looks weird on paper, I know – but 52 years. Granny practically raised her brother and sister and I think she figured if she was going to raise kids, they might as well be her own.

Granny and Papaw had four kids – three girls and my dad. They had their problems – most of which I’ve learned about as an adult. But 52 years. Papaw built their house – a little white house with a garden on one side and peach trees on the other. They lived in the garage while he built it. That was after he was a cook in the war – his pancake recipe is still regarded throughout the family as the best pancakes you’ll ever have. (There’s a secret ingredient, of course) He worked as a janitor. Granny was a nurse. They both worked so hard. Papaw saved everything – absolutely everything. There are still cans in the garage full of nuts and bolts that he just may have needed some day.

My favorite Papaw story is when he tried to trim tree branches in his 80s. The man climbed into a tree in his 80s to trim tree branches. Granny got worried and called my dad – and eventually the fire department came out, if memory serves me correct. Well, memory of the stories – I was too young to remember. But that’s not the story I’m telling.

I was born on their 46th anniversary – at 25 weeks. I don’t think anyone really knows what happened, just that it happened and I was born. My entire family will tell you the same thing – exactly two people were sure I was going to live. My Aunt Susie and Papaw.

Granny told him when they walked in the hospital not to fall in love with me. But he did, and he was sure. Everyone prayed for me. Strangers prayed for me. But I think Aunt Susie and Papaw being sure had a lot to do with me actually living. I’m still pretty stubborn, I guess.

Since I was so early and so little and possibly had things wrong with me, I wasn’t allowed to go to daycare for a few years. Granny and Papaw watched me for a few years while my parents worked. That little white house remains my favorite place in my mind – more so even than the house I grew up in. Their house held every family gathering we had. We all crowded in the living room to open presents on Christmas Eve while Papaw played Santa. I remember hiding in the back room while they hid Easter eggs.

I remember all of my memories more, though. The ones I got to myself. The kitchen was so small that only three sides were regularly used – the fourth side was pushed against the window. I liked to climb into that seat. I was surrounded by them on both sides and the wall on the other. It made me feel safe. I remember how they let me drink coffee with them – a healthy blend of cream and milk in my cup, of course. Papaw’s cookie jar was always filled with those mismatched sandwich cookies. I can see the pattern on the jar in my mind – I don’t know what happened to it, but if I could ever find it, I know it would be one of my most prized possessions. I still buy those cookies when I’m having a bad day. They’re my comfort food.

And Granny’s BB gun by the door. Because squirrels can’t ruin gardens and the neighborhood wasn’t great.

I remember Fridays at the beauty salon, filled with older women who spent every Friday morning there. I remember Ms. Vicky the hairdresser, who later kept school pictures of me next to her own kids at her booth. That’s how much time I spent there. 10 a.m. Every Friday.

The pictures from their 50th anniversary are the silliest. I tried to help them open their presents, and Granny let me sit there in her lap in so many of the pictures. I’ve always thought that was one of my favorite displays of love.

I had pneumonia when I was five. Papaw brought me a talking doll to the hospital. I thought he hung the moon. That was another one of my favorites.

Papaw died the next year. He was pretty sick before then – which is what happens when you’re 87. He couldn’t really remember anyone the last time I saw him in the hospital.

It’s almost been 20 years and I still cry about how much I miss him. A little bit because I don’t remember all that much, and sometimes because I don’t feel like that’s fair. But I know that’s how life goes.

Granny got remarried the next year to Jack – a boy she grew up with. They were married 11 years before she passed away. Jack adored Granny, and I think of him as my grandpa. Truthfully, I’ve known him longer than I knew Papaw. I feel blessed to have both of them. Their story is one of my favorites to tell about fate, and one I’d like to tell another day. It’s really a wonderful tale and I know they were meant to end up with one another.

But that’s another day.

Granny passed away my freshman year of college, in a rather painful display of things I don’t understand about life. I was angry for a really long time, but have since made some level of peace with deciding I’ll just never understand.

I was Granny’s favorite. She told me once. I guess grandparents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but Granny and I had a pretty special bond. She believe in me with so much of her heart, I still lean on that fact when I’m feeling less than confident. I think she truly thought I could do whatever I wanted with my life, and knew I would. She always reminded me to dream, and gave me so many opportunities to use my imagination – as many as she could come up with.

We also watched a lot of Petticoat Junction and Andy Griiffith. I was okay with that, too. TV Land was my favorite channel – well, and Nickelodeon.

I also remember the day she tuned my radio to the country station. It’s odd the things you do remember in life – “I think you’ll like this,” she said.

Sometimes I wonder if I like country music so much because she did. I’m not sure.

I learned so much about the human capacity for love because of the two of them – whether I remember every detail or not. They taught me the importance of family and faith.

Granny’s obituary said she was a dedicated, loving woman with a free spirit. I have no doubt she taught me how to dream big and follow them with my whole heart.

And how to love. They both did.

Enough.

I’ve realized in the past few years that I’m extremely competitive – in the strangest ways.

I wasn’t good at sports as a kid. There were a few ill-fated seasons of various things – I tried softball until I realized I’m a slow runner and my hand-eye coordination is poor at best. Then volleyball until I was suddenly terrified of the ball halfway through the season – and that hand-eye coordination thing. I should have realized after a disastrous tumbling class before all of it – that sports were just not my thing.

Because I failed so miserably at all of these things, I just assumed I wasn’t very competitive. I never really cared if someone else won a game, because I knew sports were not my thing. And I had books and random pop culture facts to sustain me for most of childhood.

I’ve realized, though, that I am highly competitive about the things I care about – a small list of things, but my list of things. I take complete ownership of them. And I care a lot.

Thanks to this newly discovered competitive nature, I finally have an explanation for why I’m so hard on myself. I don’t like not being the best.

So I don’t always accept it very well when I’m not.

And the truth?

There’s always someone faster.
There’s always someone smaller.
There’s always someone prettier.
There’s always someone prettier.
There’s always someone smarter.
There’s always someone sweeter.
There’s always someone wittier.
There’s always someone with more class.
There’s always someone more charming.
There’s someone who’s more everything.

But this life is mine – it’s far from perfect, as am I. It’s got cracks and breaks and holes and mistakes. But it’s mine. And it’s enough. Just like I am. I am enough.