Missed Connections

I believe a teenage girl lives inside all of us. Someone waiting to be chosen. Longing for recognition. Longing to be loved and cherished and admired. And seen. Anxiously waiting for this to happen and waiting, on baited breath, for validation. Even if we don’t want to admit it, a teenage girl is there, at the core.

I’m young. I’m fortunate enough to say that I have achieved professional recognition. I’m a leader in my field, a master of my craft. I love my career, and I’ve received a wealth of recognition just from following my dreams.

Then there’s the place where the rational and the teenage brains meet: love. I’ve been rejected a fair amount by people in my life: men, women, friends, lovers, family, mentors, foes. I’ve been abused and damaged. I still hurt. Mostly, I hurt by those I believed from whom I should have received unconditional love, as well as by those whom I’ve loved unconditionally but lost tragically. Both forms of rejection continue to be unexpected, long after the blow was dealt.

Recently, I’ve been seeing someone romantically. It’s been some time since I’ve dated, since I’ve softened my heart enough to get shy around someone. It’s a difficult exercise for me, but with this person, I want to keep doing it. Every time I ask for what I want, I am rewarded by being pulled in, by his turning toward me. At this point, when he turns toward, I want to leap into his arms. I’m beyond smitten and am falling. Deeply. And I don’t want to stop. Some days I think I should, when my doubts and self-criticism creeps in, but most of the time, stopping this inertia is farthest from my mind.

We met in an odd way; on an online app where you match with one another within certain proximity. Yes, I’m talking about your run of the mill dating app where you swipe in a hot or not scenario, but both of us have no purchased features, so we need to be within proximity, age range, and also like one another’s faces and profiles. I’ve never matched with anyone on this app, and I’ve been fine with that. I was not seeking a partner.

This seems like a mundane way to meet these days, so why are the circumstances odd? My proximity setting was within a 1-mile radius and the only time he was in that radius was for the hour or two he was at a meal with friends. Otherwise, he lives 300+ miles away from me. And yet, we connected. The chemistry was immediate and electric, in every way imaginable. So much so that he attempted to reject me early on, only to reconsider. Things, feelings, were moving too quickly for the circumstances.

And yet, this has progressed. We’re in constant contact, at least daily (if not multiple times daily), despite not getting a lot of face time with one another. Our friendship and connection has deepened just through texting, calls, and FaceTime, and we make time to connect. I have noticed, at times, that he doesn’t share everything with me yet, nor do I, and while that bothers me a tad, I understand it. The anxiety isn’t there like it has been in the past with other potential partners. Perhaps it’s because I have matured and perhaps it’s because I notice the effort–to be honest, it’s probably both things, but I can’t be sure.

This gets me to thinking about connections. Those I’ve had in the past, those with whom I’ve had a stronger bonds and still have fizzled. What makes these things different?

I used to believe that the connection was everything. In 2010, I met, what I have called, the “great love of my life”. We met, quite serendipitously, in an airplane. It was the perfect “meet cute”, the perfect beginning to a romantic comedy. I wasn’t supposed to be on that plane and actually had switched seats only to stumble upon the person I spent years with sitting next to me. We both believed we were going to spend our lives together. Until, one day, years into the relationship and after much talk of marriage, he realized he wasn’t able to stay committed. I, loving and respecting him, understood, and let him go. My heart was broken into pieces, pieces I believed to be irreparable. This was my great love after all!

In the nearly four years without him, in the relationships I have had with others since him, and, most importantly, in the relationship I’ve had with myself since our parting, I have learned the best lesson:

Relationships are only part connection. They are built and sustained on action. Not only is there a space component to them, there’s a time component as well. If both parties aren’t ready, aren’t in the same time in their lives, no connection, no matter how strong, will keep them together.

No connection is ever really missed, just out of place.



When I saw you

I knew

no one would compare

I thought

Love at first sight was a hoax

Now I know it’s no joke.

When I felt you

I knew

All the trauma, the mistrust

Prepared me

To feel these arms

To recognize safety

To know you’d do no harm.

When I tasted you

I knew

What passion could


Should be.

My body lit up like a Christmas tree.

You reveal me like an onion

You protect me like a knight

You scare me like a beast

You are my love at first sight.

I want to hold you in my arms

get tangled up in your sheets

Go on wild foreign adventures

coordinate, align, live your heartbeats.

You make me wonder like a child

Giggle like teenager

feel like a woman

the most authentic versions of myself.

Light me up,

Set me on fire,

Fan the flames

Grow the desire.


I spent all evening

With someone

Who reminded me of you.

First, the face, the hair, the height

then, the accent, the snarky comments

the playful, professional flirting.

It was like looking at you,

hearing you,

Watching you hear me.

I wonder,

Without all the red tape,

What could it all have been?

I remember the night we finally kissed.

Electric, heart-pounding


I thought you were a cocky suit

With a fancy title and a fancy job

And raging insecurity.

I was right.

The night you came over

You melted in my arms,

Took off the armor,

And cried in my room.

In that moment, I loved you.

Not the tough exterior, the pomp,

But the jelly inside.

The kind, doubtful, sad soul

With the sad eyes.

I saw those same sad eyes tonight

And I loved them just the same.

If we’d met in another place,

At another time,

Would you still be curled up

Talking about fantasy novels

About administrative law

In my room,

Your head on my chest?

Would you be grieving with me?

Could I have made those sad eyes smile?

I spent all evening

With a man who looked like you,

Felt like you,

And, beside him, someone who knows you.

Find your way.

Take off the suit.

Remove your armor.

I’ve seen you without,

beautiful, vulnerable, deeply personal.

You matter.

Matter more.


The sweater 

About a month ago now

Has it really been that long?

I became enveloped in you,

As always

Leaving my sweater at the restaurant

Caught off guard 

By my utter lack of concern

For a piece of fabric 

I loved, so much.

I can pinpoint the moment

Where that sweater mattered nothing

When the attention shifted

From me to room to you,

To us.

At that moment,

There was one.

An us. 

Nearly a year in this dating game

And I saw it,

Clear as day.

Turning toward, with conviction.

I started to fall

An emotional moment that 

Took me by surprise.

You were my fling in the district

I, your transition person,

And yet, we transitioned,

Into something else.

Something more.

I began to fall,

Leaving that fabric behind.

You could have mailed it,

You know.

But instead, you took me up

On my playful advice

To keep it, hold that sweater I love

For ransom.

To see me again. 

I want to wear you on my arm

Like that beautiful sweater.

I want to snuggle you,

Pull you close to me in the autumn air.

I want to take you home,

Keep you in my closet.

All for me. 

I want people to compliment you

Compliment me for having you.

To be so lucky.


I want that sweater

In your closet,

me in your room

Enveloping me in you


Perhaps always. 

Perhaps not. 

But always, 



On suicide

When I was a child, my mother used to allow me to wander the library unattended. She is a genealogist, and for the most part, the library is where there were computers or other machines that connected to archives. I tagged along, happy to be left alone to explore my wonderland. 

I remember the moment I first laid eyes on that spine in the philosophy section. At first, I was drawn to the idea of a German female author (Emile Durkheim) talking about suicide. Little did I know it was a Frenchman postulating on the reason why people turn to suicide. I sat in the aisle, my back to the shelves, searching for answers. Turning the first page, I realized this book, this crisis, this epidemic of existential proportions, was older than me (1897!) I wasn’t the only one searching for answers. I had not come up with this concern myself. 

I was twelve years old. 

A year earlier, I had spent hours in the same library, reading my summer book list from start to finish, at times tagging along with my mother, and other times persuading my friends to come with me. To explore the library, full of possibility and knowledge. I rarely read non fiction, rather traveling through the young adult classics and fantasy sections, save for my time spent reading biographies of the greats: novelists, classical musicians, architects, artists. I was obsessed with the world’s beauty. I longed to be part of a world where beauty and luxury existed. I believed it was possible. 

At twelve, I experienced loss from suicide. She was 14, a girl I more than loved, a familiar. My tribe. My heart.

Sitting there, alone, tearing through Durkheim, I searched for the answers no one could give me. Why? How? What does this mean? Can I catch it? Is all hope lost? What happens to her now? To me? Why does this hurt so much?

The answers in this book puzzled me, frightened me, excited me, angered me. Mostly, they left me pondering more often how suicide happens. I was searching for answers and it just prompted more questions. 

That year, I began to tempt fate myself. It wasn’t like playing Russian roulette. I was alone and in pain. I was searching for answers, for comfort, and I found nothing. I’m convinced that my obsession to solve the puzzle of how pain turns into death, how people die in pain, has kept me alive. 

At 14, I became involved in group therapy where other survivors of suicide came together to communally ask the questions I found in the book. Some weeks I went to every group offered. It was then when I came to the realization that the pain that causes a suicide is transferred from the victim to survivor. It creates a link that perpetuates pain, and the only way to relieve it is to discuss it, in community. 

I started my own group, then found others with whom we started a non-profit. It became the thing I woke up for every day. I developed a peer mentoring program, an adolescent survivors of suicide group, then a train the trainer program that was taught throughout the country to peer mentors in high school and resident advisors in college. I created spaces where people could continue to ask Durkheim’s questions. I was obsessed with finding the answer to this problem through the pain left behind in survivors. 

But when I left these groups, when I came home, I was often in more pain. I was more disconnected. People were still attempting and completing, dying, all around me. Despite the hours logged managing a suicide hotline and teaching others about suicide prevention and self care for grief and loss, I never received the help I needed. 

Lesson 1: Sometimes the helpers need help too. Often, the helpers find little help. No one sees them as having weakness.

When I was 16, after the loss of my sister and grandmother, I created a plan to take my own life. The most serious of my several  attempts landed me a spot first in the emergency room, then strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance, and finally placed in an inpatient psychiatric facility for adolescents. “Why did you attempt to take your life?” A weary nurse asked upon intake, removing the laces from my shoes. I responded that I no longer could be in my family of origin. And, because of that, I had no one left alive who was safe. 

In this place, I had conversations with children and adolescents who had the risk factors and warning signs I used to teach teens when discussing suicide prevention. I was the hypocrite, and all I could think about was studying for AP exams. They were my only hope for leaving my family behind. I craved safety I had only read about in the books from the library. In this place, we openly talked about pain, about anger and loss. We all chased Durkheim’s questions. Alive but dying inside, we collectively pondered how we’d gotten to this point so early. 

Sadly, we didn’t come to conclusions. The majority of those I shared space with for 9 days died by suicide or overdose, or became incarcerated for drugs or violence. 

Lesson 2: Pain is rarely just physical. No substance, legal or otherwise, can lessen its grip.

At 18, i completed my first thesis on suicide, mainly highlighting and applying the works of Durkheim and others from that era to collected experiences from suicide support groups I facilitated and suicide hotline calls I managed. I analyzed themes, still desperately searching for answers. My cerebral approach created distance from my own pain. 

I was surprised when my mother asked to read my paper. 

One evening, after one of our long drives down the coastline, my mother taught me about my family history of suicide. My premature birth was a result of her own attempt following my father’s desertion just weeks before. I was horrified. Upon sharing this with my stepfather, he recounted the many times he prayed when my mother and I would take our iconic coastline drives. She used to write suicide notes, stating she was going to remove us from the suffering. She was going to save me from my future pain. 

Lesson 3: Pain can be genetic. It can be contagious. 

They say “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” In a family or environment where safety is rare, where love is conditional, where trust is optional, and loyalty is constantly questioned, children are never taught to seek community. They do not learn how to ask for help or share pain openly. The pain, suffering, anger, and loss is not resolved, and grief continues to take hold. 

Eventually, if not resolved, isolation, desperation, and paranoia sets in. Hope is lost. The existential noose pulls tighter, the box closing in, and options become limited by the weight of the pain. 

Lesson 4: The only way out is through.

What have I learned now, in my many years of continued research, exposure to survivors and victims of suicide attempt and completion, and from my own treatment for trauma? 

  • How someone dies fundamentally changes your memory of them. 
  • A shared distribution of weight lightens the load for everyone.
  • Pain is only lessened by the reduction of stigma and the increase in open discussion about what brings the pain.
  • Pain leads to shame, which leads to isolation. 
  • Some of the best medicine is community.

I have dedicated my life to making better memories. Only when we talk openly about and process the pain is it possible to remember people, places, and things with greater fondness. Only when we feel safe can we process the pain. 

Safety and community can break the cycle. Safety and community are the answer for which I have been searching. Safety and community, not substances, reduce isolation. Safety and community prevents suicide; it creates and maintains the best memories. It creates a beauty in this world that, too, can be passed from generation to generation. 

Lesson 5: It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to ask for help. 

I am forever grateful for the ones who have picked up the phone or answered my cries for help. There have been many along my path, and I remember them all. Thank you for reminding me that life’s beauty is not just something I can read in the fantasy section. 

And for the hundreds of souls who I have lost along the way, especially my heart, you continue to drive me to search for the answers, to create solutions. We can do better; we must be better. I carry your hearts in my heart. 

In the end, only kindness matters.



19 years ago today, I watched dirt pile over my best friend’s casket. I watched as what was left of her was lowered into the ground, inch by inch, the physical space between us mounting. I loved her, I did. 

Since that time, I’ve visited her grave often. I talk to her. I smile at her. I cry with her. I’ve moved away and still I sit with her when I’m home. Sometimes, people ask me if I still have friends or family in my hometown, and I want to say that’s she’s there. I want to raise her from the dead, keep her going. 

Last year, for the first time, I heard her whispering to me. I felt her presence. I experienced the games she still played on me. Now, you may not believe any of these experiences, you may think that dead is dead, but I know it in my core. I know she’s always around, wreaking havoc. Kokopelli girl. 

Today, as I was sitting in the sun at her grave, and I saw 2 blue dragonflies fly around us, finally landing on her headstone. Dragonflies are the sign of my spirit animal, my patronus. They mean I’m on the right track, where I need to be. That I’m doing the right thing. I had my angel sitting on the headstone at the same time, and I felt watched, guarded, protected, loved. I looked at her headstone and said, “i release you.” And she was no longer lingering, but the love and protection were still there. Peaceful girl. 

And always, I carry her heart. I carry it in my heart.