let’s make up dances.

I’m into defining my years. Naming them. Calling them out.

I’ve had the bad year: circa 2009.

bad_year

sad sketches of me from a friend. and the appropriate end to 2009.

Then there were fours years in between that escaped official titling. I was feverishly tornado-ing through life and the west, looking for purpose, creativity, love, adventures, paychecks, and more purpose. I picked Evan up on the way and we kept on spinning.

Then there was the year of survival: 2013.

surviving_year

so much scar maintenance.

Then the year of thriving: 2014.

thriving_year

lots of smiling. lots of winning.

And then there was 2015. Well, January 21, 2015 through January 20, 2016. [I go by my accident anniversary to ring in the new year.] So we’re coming up on the time to call it.

Evan and I recently came home from our honeymoon in Maui. It was so many wonderful things, but—maybe mostly—it was a gentle, invigorating, beautiful time for reflection.

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a quick snap when I went back to the van to get the camera. it’s not the best photo, but I love so much about this moment. love.

Relaxingly sitting on the beach or in this van was the best place for some 2015 reflection, because even thinking about the last year is exhausting.

So much happened. We made so much happen. I’ve figured out, it wasn’t the worst year, it wasn’t the best year [though some incredibly good things happened].

It was the year of change. Things changed.

And a lot of that change began on January 13, 2015. Today—a year ago today—I was offered a job at MERCURYcsc. We had made many a sneaky trip to Bozeman to interview and expand on the opportunity and on January 13th, the conversation of picking up and moving ended with an exclamation point… and then a question mark… and then a period.

This job is—hands down—the best thing I’ve done for my head in a long-ass time. The people, the work, the laughs, the opportunities, the learning. But we had to leave Missoula. We had to leave so many of the amazing friendships we had made. It sucked. It sucks.

The move wasn’t all good, it wasn’t all bad. Change.

And things were so crazy [exciting! devastating. surreal.] changing in the last year, that I didn’t even look hard at a lot of them. So that’s what I’m doing now.

In an effort to jump-start some of my resolutions [drink less! write more!], I will recount some of those changes, these things, for better or worse, on this here blahg.

Here we go. Let’s look at this change. Reflect. Write some things. Connect some ways. Look 2016 in the eyes and dance with it… no matter what song it sings… there’s a dance for every note…

[thank you, ashely, for the heads-up on the kanye song. on the pulse, as always.]

[let’s make up dances.]

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

I want to be here.

It was a week ago today that I was in the ski accident. The ski accident where I lost control. Couldn’t gain control.

The ski accident where I hit a tree. With my face. Whiplash. Lost consciousness. Blood everywhere.

The ski accident when I broke my nose and cheekbone and bit through my lip.

The ski accident that gave me my first IV. My first CT scan. Two CT scans. The first when they thought there was bleeding in my brain. Where they might have to drill.

The ski accident where I was taken down on toboggan, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Bozeman, driven in an ambulance to the airport in Bozeman, flown to Missoula, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Missoula.

Right after the accident, there is a lot I can’t remember. There is also a lot I do not want to be reminded of about that day. That accident. The ski accident.

But there are some moments I don’t want to ever forget.

G E T T I N G   T W E N T Y   S H O T S   I N   M Y   F A C E

The pain of the actual accident was actually surmounted after the fact. After realizing what had happened to me, that it was serious, that I wasn’t going to make happy hour, that I needed to get about 40 stitches in my face; I waited for the plastic surgeon to come sew me up. A man walked in and looked at me. Just stared at me. Turned around.

– Hi, I’m Rachel. Who are you?

– I fix things like this. [stares at me again.] I think I can fix this.

And then he turns around again.

I give Evan the WTF? hands and he just shakes his head in confusion. The doctor prepares the needles and adjusts my bed so that I’m laying down flat.

– I’m going to numb up the area and then I’m going to stitch you up.

– Okay. I’m very scared of needles, but I think I’ll be okay.

I am scared of needles. When they put morphine in my IV, I asked, “Will this make me less scared of needles?” It didn’t. I don’t think it did anything, really. My adrenaline was too high.

This doctor did not care about my fear. He was so cold, he felt heartless.

He started putting the needles in my cheek. I tried to be brave; I really did, but it hurt so bad. And there were just so many needles in my face. So aggressively.

It wasn’t long before I started crying and it wasn’t long after that, when he started putting shots in my nose, that I started bawling.

He stood there silently, relentless, and stuck me over and over. It felt more aggressive with each needle.

By the time he got to my lip, I was begging. I was pleading with him to stop. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt and it felt like an attack.

Blood and tears streamed all over my face and I begged, screamed, as I sobbed, for him to stop. And he wouldn’t. Not for a second.

– Please, No, No, No, Please stop. STOP! PLEASE! NO MORE! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, please, please, no, no, no, no…

As I cry now, remembering it, I try to figure out why, why exactly, I want to remember this. Why do I want to remember?

Do I want to be able to compare every little pain I complain about to it? Remember what real pain feels like?

To realize that it was all worth it? In the end, the doctor did an incredible job stitching me up. His work was beautiful and those shots were ultimately a part of that.

To find faith in compassion? As I begged, he pressed on silently. As I bawled, he didn’t flinch. A hand on the shoulder or a “there, there, I promise it will be okay” would have beamed a bright light into my life. Empathy. Compassion. Something I want to remember.

T H E   S T A R S   I N   B O Z E M A N   T H E   S T A R S   I N   M I S S O U L A

The bathtub keeps bringing me back. I can’t take showers right now, to keep my face dry. So I take baths. To wash my hair, I have to lay my body down, my head horizontal, to dip it in the water. I’m rarely ever that flat, with nowhere to look but straight up. But recently, I was like that for a very long time. And these baths bring me back to the stars.

In Bozeman, they told me that there might be some bleeding in my brain and they were going to fly me to Missoula to get checked out. I cringed as they brought the backboard in. They put a neck-brace on me, they rolled me over onto my side, slid the board under me, rolled me back, and strapped down every part of my body, including [especially] my head.

The ambulance was ready in a parking garage, so it wasn’t that cold, it was nothing to see [upwards, at least].

When we arrived at the Bozeman airport, they opened the ambulance door and the cold took me over. After wheeling me out, I could instantly see the fog of my thick breath. But beyond that were the beautiful stars. So gorgeous in their perfect, comforting placement. It was like they were the only ones really [really] looking at me, understanding. We stared at each other with a pumping vein of tenderness and then I was lifted into the small plane.

The plane ride was almost miserable. I couldn’t move any part of me and every part of me hurt. Claustrophobia set in quick. A man who was flying with me, making sure I got everywhere safe, noticed my tears and rubbed my arm. When I told him my head hurt from the board, he loosened my head-strap and massaged the back of my head. I would have never guessed that the reassuring touch of a stranger would be so comforting, but it saved me.

We landed in Missoula. As they opened the plane door, the cold consumed me again. When they lowered me down and started rolling me to the ambulance, there they were. In the same exact place, the same exact pattern, like they had waited to make sure I arrived safely, the stars were there. And I realized that this was the same sky, these were the same stars, that shine on everything, everyone that I love. Everything can look up at these stars and find the encouragement of love, hope, and beauty.

This huge world filled with so much that I love, so much that I don’t even know yet, can all be united under this gorgeous blanket of stars. As they put me in the ambulance, my third ride of the day, I realized I want to be a part of that world.

Something I’ve never had to worry about wanting before, something I’ve never had to question, something I’ve had the privilege of being a given, suddenly became a question. And I answered with a feverishly adamant, “YES.” I want to be in this world.

I want to be here.

real life flourished.

I can’t let 2012 slip into the memories without genuinely declaring it the best year yet. The blahg took a hit, I know I didn’t give you much here, but real life flourished.

I got to…

ski in Missoula with friends old and new.

• celebrate my amazing manfriend with many Missoula friends at the 2nd Annual Eye Patch Olympics.

• race my first triathlon.

• be a part of the most. fun. bachelorette. party ever.

• get in a REAL LIFE Mario Kart battle… like in an actual golf cart.

• spend quality time with my family in Texas and watch my baby bro graduate.

officiate the wedding of two of my favorite people at the most amazing lake house after days of water tubing, trail runs, and laughing.

• dance the night away with fabulouses during Chicago’s Gay Pride week.

• TRAVEL ITALY, GREECE, AND LONDON WITH MY BEST FRIEND IN THE WORLD. [gosh, i still can’t get over how amazing it was.]

• Cycle the beautiful hills of northern Italy.

• drink the night away in a small, dark, Irish pub with old community radio friends.

start a graduate program that I absolutely love.

• dance and sing my heart out at a Macklemore concert in Missoula with one of my favorite friends and my bearded manfriend.

• surprise a dear lovely down in Texas for his 30th birthday/engagement party.

• and much, much more.

All the smiles and toasts and love and dancing and adventures. 2012. Ugh. I loved it.

I also had some of the hardest times. There was so much that 2012 taught me. About love. About family. About leadership. About being brave. About pushing myself. About pushing others. About people. About myself.

The feeling of gratefulness washes over me when I think of how much I’ve learned this year. I definitely feel older, maybe even wiser.

With newness, comes resolution. To be better. To be brighter. I’m very much in love with this project: To Resolve

Print
[print by Aaron Eiland. found from Ashely.]

There are plenty resolutions that I’ve made for myself this year, but one that I want more than most is to find a mentor. I feel silly saying that, but I really do. Someone to bounce ideas off of, give me advice, live up to. I have so many people I look up to in life, but I want an official mentor. Like a Liz/Jack from 30 Rock relationship.

I’ve learned a lot about leadership this year. To be a good leader, it doesn’t mean you have the most power or even the most knowledge. To be a good leader means encouraging those around you to be their best, try their hardest, create their dreams. I strive to constantly do that and I respect the hell out of people leading like that.

I want to find someone who’s down the road doing what they love, raising a family, confidently moving forward, creating beautiful things in life, kicking ass at life, and encouraging those all around them. Mentor Me. Help make 2013 even better than 2012.

[now accepting applications.]

fox in the snow, diamond in the sky.

The death plague that I’ve contracted from Jackson has given me pause with opportunity to document how wonderful the trip was. I didn’t get to spend time with all my favorite lovelies, but I did get to soak up some supreme mountain time.

[no energy for captions or correct spacing. just good times galore.]

-2glorywithanna newyearsloveliesnewyearsringingin skiingladiescompilationskiday misscolleenyancey   christmastreepie slitdrumbyev annaandsessi   skateskiingfoxinthesnow

hipsterevan friends cuties

helovesithere
[love it here.]

and there was a lot of interpretive rocking hard to this song [not sorry]:

van me twice.

This is what Missoula looks like today from my view:

winter wonderland

The story I’m about to tell did not have the same snowy setting, but it was colder… about 20 degrees.

This is what the door to our apartment looks like:

upstairsviewEvan and I live nextdoor to this lovely woman named Suzie… who I hardly ever see, but she’s kind and polite and the sweetest.

This is what the downstairs of outside our apartment looks like:

downstairsview

That aqua door enters to other common rooms used by Buddhists for meditation but it also holds the basement where we keep some of our stuff. This door is kept locked, but has a locked hide-a-key that we use. And then the front door to the building is behind this picture taker.

So, the other day, Evan and I decided that we wanted to go hot springing/camping. Evan was running around getting ALL of our camping stuff together and I was trying to pack my clothes. Evan was [rightfully] giving me a hard time about how I don’t do anything and he has to pack for two.

It was such a quiet Saturday and I was sure that Suzie was out hiking or working or hanging with her college student daughter somewhere.

I kept grabbing things like a toothbrush and a puffy coat and telling Evan, “Look, I’m ready to go!”

He found it mildly entertaining, so I kept doing it.

Then Evan went to get some things out of the basement and I put my bikini on and walked downstairs. I stood outside the aqua door and yelled down,

– EVAN, I’M READY TO GO!

–WHAT??

– I’M REEEEEEEEEEADY!

– Hold on! I’ll be right up!

He came out the door and I was standing in my best Superman pose as he saw me and laughed as he locked up the door and put the key back in it’s lockbox.

– I’m ready to go!

– Really? Do I need to pack your clothes for you, too?

All the sudden we heard a door upstairs open…….

With deer in the headlight eyes we looked at each other and I tried to get into the aqua door… locked. Then we started whisper yelling…

– It’s locked!

– Get the key!

– I forgot the code! What do I do?! I don’t want Suzie to see me like this!

– Go get in the van!

– Okay!

So I RUN OUTSIDE… IN A BIKINI… open the van and dive into it and slam the sliding door.

Immediately I hear Suzie come outside with Evan and they are having a lively conversation… which is fine… until it lasts for more than 30 seconds. Because, well, I’m hiding in a van wearing a total of 18 square inches of fabric in the freezing cold.

You would think that maybe since there’s a full bed in the van, we would keep blankets in the van, but we don’t. You know what we do keep in there? Reusable shopping bags. So, yep. After about two minutes, I started trying to cover myself up with shopping bags.

There I am, covered in shopping bags in a swimsuit in a van in front of my own apartment in the freezing cold listening to my boyfriend make small-talk with the neighbor. And I don’t know if this next part was justified or not, but I became LIVID. Saying things outloud like,

– WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, EVAN! Stop talking to her! Stop! Stop! Ugh, why didn’t I just let her see meeeeeee?

Lots of talking outloud, sitting on the floor of a van, covered in shopping bags…

After about 6 [SIX] minutes of conversation, Suzie made her way to her car [parked right in front of the van] and I laid flat on the floor of the van, terrified that I would get caught at this point of the debacle and have no idea how to explain myself.

She didn’t. She got in her car and drove off. About 20 seconds after that, Evan opens the van door with a coat in hand. I grab it from him and loudly say,

– What the hell is wrong with you?!

Neighbors a couple doors down are now [of course] outside talking to some seemingly visitors and they look over at us. [awesome.] With no shoes or clothes on, carrying the coat Evan brought me, I make quick, weird, walk of shame into the apartment and Evan sheepishly follows while the young neighbors look at us in complete confusion.

We get inside and I settle down and apologize for getting mad about my own joke gone awry and Evan apologizes for being the nicest person in the world and talking to our neighbor for SIX WHOLE MINUTES while his dear girlfriend froze hiding in a van… and we finally laugh about it all.

And then we went hot springing/camping. And it is wonderful. At one point during hot springing, we went back to the van for what I thought was going to be a hot second and I got in the sliding door to grab my phone and wallet and Evan got in and shut the door behind him…

– What are you doing? I thought we were going inside to change and get a drink?

– I’m gonna eat something real quick.

– Are you kidding me??

– What?

– Nothing. Van me once, shame on you… Van me twice? Shame on me.

VAN ROADTRIP // november twenty-twelve.

After getting back from a [wonderful, wonderful] trip to Texas, I came home to Evan’s lovely family visiting us.

They left the next day and Evan and I both would’ve guessed that we would just end up sleeping for the following 24 hours.

Instead, we went on a little road trip. It was ah-mazing. Just perfect. What I’ve been needing. Oh, so right. So much fun.

I made a little video about it…

[i’m falling in love with montana more and more by the minute.]

[i didn’t mean to fuel the fire.]