my favorite laugh.

When Evan finished his first semester of—official—nursing school, I did a little celebratory dance for the occasion.

And—of course—I watched the video over and over, because I’m addicted to that laugh. The beginning of this journey feels like so. long. ago. Because it’s been a really long journey—this whole Evan-in-Nursing-School thing. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has pulled multiple all-nighter to study, write, and make it all work academically. He has been there for me as a husband, friend, and teammate. I’m amazed and impressed. And SO PROUD.

So for the end of his LAST semester in nursing school, I had an idea. On a trip with Allison, I told her about my idea to lip-synch a mutually beloved Drake song for Evan. Her response: “Well, obviously, I should do the Nicki Minaj part.” [this—and many more reasons—is why I love her so.] So we proceeded to have a weekend in Jackson where I relived my best middle school sleepovers and recorded MANY music videos. [the best. the funniest.]

So we went for it. And then we thought, “Maybe this would be even MORE fun if we asked some of Evan’s friends to participate.”

Evan was officially done with classes on Thursday and we were both just so ecstatic. Ev had to work Friday night, so I set it all up. I wrote on our chalkboard, “YOU DID IT!” I left him a card…

omg_youre_done_2

…with a bottle of whisky. The card included the reference, “I want some whisky!” which was from the night Evan found out he was accepted to Montana State University’s accelerated nursing program. A bookend bottle of whisky. [note: that post ALSO includes a strong Drake reference.]

I tried to stay up and wait for Evan, surprise him with all this love and then surprise him with this video I had waiting.

But I fell asleep on the couch. And could not be awoken. It was a long day!

So the next morning, I was shakey and excited and nervous and just wanted to show Evan this video. This ah-mazing video that our friends made so incredible.

So we were drinking coffee and I said to Evan, “Ohhh noooo… shit! I just got some bad feedback on a video I’ve been working on for FIB.” [lies.] [also, FIB = First Interstate Bank… a regular client.]

He was bummed for me. [gotta love him.] I asked if he’d watch the video with me and tell me what he thought of it. He stopped working on bikes to gladly watch. I set up my computer to secretly record on the coffee table [black tape over the Photobooth light, brightness turned alllll the way down so the screen is black… you’re welcome].

Oh my goodness. That laugh. So much of that laugh. Worth all the late nights. All the hard weeks. All the shitty months. All the alone togetherness. All the tears. Worth it.

I love it. I love him. I love this laugh. I love this video. Don’t even try to make me stop watching it thousands of times over.

[and all I can say is…]

I accept.

During a welcome beat of my new-found stride, I went on a hike with some badass ladies tonight. We hike fast up the “M” in Bozeman. It’s like the “M” in Missoula… same same, but different. Montanans love putting letters on mountains.

creehikes_and_rocksbeers

Afterwards, we hung out on a bench and talked and watched in horror as Cree [Rebekah’s dog] hunted a grouse and drank my new favorite beer and toasted a new [awesome] job [for Chelsi] and basked in this Bozeman life.

When we got back to the trailhead, we said our goodbyes and I got into my car. When I turned the key, I immediately recognized the voice on the radio and was excited that I was tuning in right in time for Hillary Clinton’s speech.

I decided I wanted to drive and listen to it. So I drove to a popular lookout for sunset. A few other cars were there, awaiting the fiery sunset. I cranked the speech, cracked another beer, and watched the sunset.

I couldn’t help but think of the journey that led us to here. Me to here. I sat contemplating the person I was with—myself. I drank a beer with a coozie from Luckenbach, Texas on it. Texas. Where I was born and raised. But now I’m in Bozeman, watching the sunset over this beautiful mountain town. How I got here is quite the journey. I moved here to work in advertising. That sentence alone makes me shake my head and smile.

I’m listening to a woman I’ve grown to admire. I’ve listened to so many speeches, debates, addresses. I’ve read so much about this election in the New Yorker—who am I?? But I have a subscription now, thanks to my mother-in-law. Yes! I am married. I have a husband—how did that happen? When did I let this grown-up world become me?

I thought back to my early jobs, my early hobbies, my early boyfriends, my early voting habits [sorry about that, America], my early goals, my early dreams—all while watching this sunset and listening to this incredible speech.

drankingsunset

Clinton’s words, “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit” rang over and over in my ears as I watched this beautiful sky. I half-smiled, because “The Sky’s the Limit” is the name of the latest tourism campaign my company executed. From dabbling in Photoshop at an office job when I was 18 to Art Director now. From women not being able to even vote to Hillary Clinton. We’re here now. I’m here now. A woman is running for president. This place, this life, this country accepts and encourages and applauds powerful women. My heart swelled, my eyes teared up, I took stock in this life and timeline and felt proud.

The sun made its final bow and the cars cleared the overlook, but Hillary was still speaking, still making history. I thought about how far we’ve come, how much I’ve grown up, as Hillary’s voice faded quieter and quieter… until silence. I was extremely confused. Was NPR fading out to start a new program??

And then there was the click of everything dying.

My car battery died. Of course. Oh, how quickly I felt not very adult at all. My husband was working and was not picking up his phone. Of course. Of course I am a child who doesn’t understand how cars or radios work. I called a friend. She was on her way.

I found the jumper cables in the back and waited. In the dark. With the opposite of Hillary’s encouraging words to listen to. All I had was the laughter of my own thoughts as they mocked how “far” I’ve made it in life. Dammit.

About five minutes later, in the absolute dark, a car pulled up. Not my friend’s car. It parked noticeably far away from my car. This car was either here to murder someone or round the bases with their high school crush. Considering my options—hero, victim, or buzzkill—I made my way towards the car.

I got too close to the car before anyone saw me for it not to be the most awkward thing in the world. I got close enough to obviously see this was the latter of my choices and I was about to be the biggest buzzkill. I startled the couple and motioned to roll down the window. I did this in the way that children born in 1999 or 2000 have no idea what I’m pantomiming—the big wooshing roll of the manual windows.

– My car battery is dead. Can I get a jump?

– Uh, sure. Do you have jumper cables?

– Yeah.

I called my friend and told her I found a jump. The car pulled up to mine, but not close enough. I had to tell the boy [the driver] to get closer. He quickly told me

– I’ve never done this before. I don’t know how to do this.

– We’re gonna be okay. Thanks so much.

I felt old again. I felt the familiarity of where he was, where the girl in the passenger seat who never left the car nor would hardly look at me… I knew where she was. I knew the uncertainty of jumping a car. I knew the freedom of being out in the middle of nowhere in a shitty car. I felt old in this way. Old in the knowing way.

I popped the hood and connected the cables. As I was connecting them to my car, I paused and stood up

– I’m Rachel, by the way.

– I’m Max.

I told Max to start his car. We waited. I started my car. It started.

I high-fived Max and thanked him over and over. Then, in par-for-the-course fashion, I said

– Sorry if I interrupted anything fun or important.

He awkwardly laughed at this stranded lady who must’ve seemed 100-years-old. We parted ways and I turned on the radio to hear just the recaps of Hillary’s speech.

It was perspective at it’s best. Humbling. Comical. Triumphant. Reflective.

I interrupted some frisky teenagers so that I could help them help me out. All so I could listen to our first woman presidential nominee speak and drink beer.

[god bless america.]

just like it.

dinner_time leisure_time

a friend from jackson [and then missoula] visited our new home. we expect her to make the move to bozeman soon. it’s just so comfortable having her around. so familiar.

and then we listened to a new ratatat song and I missed the KHOL days desperately. oh, the morning scramble. I miss it.

how awesome is that video, too? dancing times galore.

it’s just like it. just like it was, but new.

beautiful times.

two days of the simple.

It has been two days since my family left after a beautiful time of celebrating my graduation/birthday. Which means that it has been a little over a week since I finished my master’s in media arts. Which means that Evan also finished his semester in Missoula and then made the move to Bozeman. Which means we’re finally living in the same place after our two and a half months of being apart and being engaged. Which means we finally get to exhale and look at each other and smile.

It has been two days. And I feel like it’s been two of the most refreshing days I’ve had in three years.

Do not get me wrong: The last three years of my life have been absolutely incredible. I achieved more than I could have ever dreamed. I found terrifying challenges within me that didn’t know existed… and then conquered them. I made relationships with beautiful souls who made my life brighter and constantly deepened my curiosity and love for this world.

But ho-ly shit has it been exhausting. And now it’s been two days. Two days free. Two days with this old self — who has been in the waits — jumping up and down with comfortable excitement. A self I haven’t known in a while is welcoming me back.

I am discovering all kinds of me again. Miranda July is here. Evan is here. Elliot Smith [via some fresher favorites] [via a favorite radio station] is here.

Even these old comfy pants are here. The ones I bought for a dollar at the Bondi market in 2009. They haven’t been here for so long. Have I showed them to you? They’re here again…

pants_fur_blahg
Did you see that? Even taking-photos-of-myself-with-my-computer is here! Just like the old days.

The weird is here:

And affirmation for the weird is here…

“I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work. I didn’t know if the stupid stuff would alienate people. I didn’t know if the traditional stuff would be more appealing. And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.” – David Letterman

Two days of coming home from my wondrously creative job to go for a run on gorgeous trails right out my front door. Two days of running. In a row. [this rarely rarely happened in the last three years.]

Two days of the simple, lovely things. Reading. Being with Evan. Listening to podcasts. Listening to music. Dancing. Making dinner. Making phone calls. Journaling.

And instead of looking at my last journal entry from months ago with disappointment in myself, I find the pages telling me, Hey, welcome back! Isn’t this awesome?? We’re here!

In the last entry [from before I officially accepted this new job, this new life], I found a little message to myself…

“I spent a lot of time in yoga looking at myself. Identifying me. Rachel. Rachel Lauren Marie Stevens. I think I like who I see… but it’s time to get to know her again.”

I hardly remember writing that, but I couldn’t be more on board or more excited.

Here we go.

A new chapter with an old friend.

[let’s do this.]

engagement photos.

Evan and I have spent the two months of our engagement driving back and forth from Missoula, Bozeman, and Jackson. Things have been a little more insane than usual with us both finishing up our semesters (my final!!!!) and moving and new jobs and new communities and whatnot.

But being engaged has been amazing. I really thought nothing would change from knowing I was going to spend the rest of my life with Evan and then it being official by me wearing a beautiful ring… Things are different. Things are brighter. There is an excitement in this comfort of commitment that I did not expect. Being engaged rules. (I know that might sound braggy… not sorry.)

I never thought I’d be the person who wanted engagement photos, but when Danford Photography posted on Facebook how they were looking for newly engaged couples for a portrait session, I thought, Well, I love being engaged… And let’s throw one more thing into the mix for this crazy time!

Karen and Jesse chose us for a session and I was beyond excited! Evan traveled over to Bozeman for the weekend just for the shoot and we. are. so. glad that he did.

It was a blast driving down to the Madison River area and walking around in the wind, having our photos taken. Karen and Jesse are so awesome: totally casual and sweet and encouraging.

And we are in. love. with our photos…

RachelEvan35of36_0029RachelEvan7of36_0034 RachelEvan4of36_0031 RachelEvan3of36_0023 RachelEvan33of36_0027 RachelEvan32of36_0026 RachelEvan31of36_0025 RachelEvan30of36_0024 RachelEvan2of36_0012 RachelEvan29of36_0022 RachelEvan26of36_0019 RachelEvan21of36_0014 RachelEvan20of36_0013 RachelEvan19of36_0011 RachelEvan16of36_0008 RachelEvan15of36_0007 RachelEvan13of36_0005 RachelEvan10of36_0002

 

I cannot speak highly enough of Danford Photography. Karen and Jesse are incredible people. After the short time we spent with them, we consider them friends! If you’re in the Bozeman area and need any photography in your life… hit them up!

And all of my jewelry (in the photos and basically in general forever now) is Laurel Hill Jewelry. She is also incredible. Ahh, such amazing artists in my life!

thank you thank you, all! xxo.

merry + bright.

I’m up to my ears in final projects and films for the semester and I’ve lost my manfriend to his new mistress — the library/studying for finals.

but somehow we found time to find a tree and find each other.

christmas_tree_love
I love this time of year… maybe more than ever before.
being in the mountains and making art and being in love and laughing with friends is all I’ve ever wanted.
it’s home.
and that home has a semi-decorated christmas tree in it.
yay!
xxo!

[merry + bright.]

A Love Letter. Re: 20/Nothing.

Dear All,

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about 20/Nothing on this here blahg.

The whole International Documentary Challenge was an insane, amazing experience.

workingon20nothing
Through one of Missoula’s craziest blizzards, Sarah Meismer, Caitlin Hofmeister, Josef “Tuna” Metesh, and myself spent five days making a film we love about a guy we love: Evan Smith. We had 20/Nothing.

Then our film was named a finalist. We were beyond ecstatic. Sarah, Tuna, and I were lucky enough* to be able to go to Toronto to watch 20/Nothing on the big screen at the Hot Docs International Film Festival.

After watching all of the amazing films, we stood up on stage, aside so many other incredible filmmakers as they announced awards for this whole competition. We won “Best Experimental Film.” And then we won PBS P.O.V. Award.

I was shocked.

10012770_824297047600329_4766137471563233147_o

We were excited.

winningintoronto

We came back to Missoula. We were on cloud nine. But we still couldn’t show anyone this film we love.

Now we can. Now it’s in a competition on The Audience Awards website.

Before the competition started, I was not excited about this film I love going head-to-head in basically a who-has-more-friends-on-Facebook-contest.

But now? I want to win. Why? Two reasons:

• I want to win this competition in the same vein that I want to win scholarships, Scrabble, soccer, and that one cheesecake eating contest I entered. I work hard. I care hard. I put my all into a lot of things. And I want to win. It’s not the reason I play, enter, make, or eat… but it’s there.

• I am insanely proud of 20/Nothing. I want to put another laurel under this film’s belt.

1487428_807302909299743_7853354768635393646_n

So I’m asking you to vote for 20/Nothing. There is only one day left to do so. Today. Sunday.

But more importantly than that, I’m asking you to watch 20/Nothing.

And Maikaru.

And Nobody Loves Joel Romeo.

And Bruise Ballet.

And Hoofer.

I want you to see these films. (They’re short! They won’t be online for much longer!)

I want you to be inspired by them. I want you to know these subjects. These films.

I was beyond inspired by these films/filmmakers. We all celebrated in Toronto after the premieres and I got to meet and toast to a lot of the amazing directors and filmmakers. I met Amanda Harryman (the director of Maikaru… our toughest competition) and forced my business card upon her.

– Please contact me. I love your work. I want to ask you all kinds of questions.

When she emailed me a couple weeks later, asking me what questions I had, I kind of went blank. How do you ask someone, “How do I be like you?” ?

I admire her so and would be absolutely excited for her and the Maikaru crew if they win this competition.

I win sometimes, but a lot of times I don’t. People think I’m on a winning streak, but I don’t think people realize how much I put myself out there and how many times I really, really do not succeed.

I was rejected from five graduate programs before getting into the University of Montana.

I have had projects/films completely flop. I have been insanely embarrassed by my ambition.

I didn’t even win that cheesecake eating competition. And that one hurt.

But I have learned so much and have lived so much through this whole process. And that’s the winning. That’s why we all do things like this. The experience. The people.

I am so excited to have met Amanda and many of the other filmmakers. I have become like family with my crew and love them so.

1559285_847734111923289_1386824048647064089_o

And YOU. ALL OF YOU. My friends and family who have been so patient with all of this craziness. One of my dearest friends told me the other day, “I have to be honest… I’m a little sick of 20/Nothing.”

I know! Gosh. Seriously. I haven’t had a real conversation with many of you in years and then I’m bombarding you with “VOTE FOR MY FILM” nonsense… and then you do it. Wow.

My family has rallied. My friends have gone above and beyond. My professors have supported me beyond belief. You all have been incredible.

*There is no way we could’ve gotten to Toronto without the love and support from you all. We did a campaign to raise money and so many lovely people were so generous. THANK YOU.

I wouldn’t have known this kind of support without making 20/Nothing. I’m almost in tears. Struggling at every step to do something you love is one thing. Doing something you love and then having your community, your tribe, support you at every step is another. Having both of those things hand-in-hand throughout this whole process has been a whirlwind of a dream come true.

THANK YOU ALL.

Thank you, family: Mom, Dad, Ry, and Sarah.

Thank you, team: Tuna, Sarah, Caitlin, and Evan.

Thank you, Evan’s family… so many people I haven’t even met! All supporting!

Thank you, Evan’s friends.

(Sidenote: I was so afraid of the reception that 20/Nothing would have with Evan’s friends and family. You love a person so much and you want to do his story justice, but what if his family hates it? What if his closest friends think it’s dumb? Thank you so much for all of your kind words. It has meant the world to me that so many of you love it. Each time I look at a vote and have to ask, “Evan, who’s this person?” and he answers, “Oh, that’s my friend from childhood.” or “Oh, that’s my cousin’s wife.” or something along those lines, my heart bursts with joy. Thank you so much.)

Thank you, amazing friends at Adventure Cycling.

Thank you, University of Montana Media Arts lovelies.

Thank you, friends back in Texas.

Thank you, Missoula community.

Thank you, Jackson community.

Thank you, dear friends who I love so damn much.

Thank you, people I’ve met once, but know I want to have in my life more because they are so inspiring.

Thank you, Doc Challenge.

Thank you, Audience Awards.

Thank you, Hot Docs.

Thank you Amanda. Good luck!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you all.

I adore all of you.

All the Love,
Rachel.