The voice of Amanda

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Bali style 

I made a conscious decision to make travel a bigger priority in my life. Especially since my dad passed, I’ve wanted to ensure my life is filled with zero regrets. So in the last few months, I’ve visited Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and as of this last week, Bali. 

I’ve loved every place I’ve traveled for different reasons, but Bali filled me with absolute love and happiness. Never have I encountered an entire culture of people who are so authentically kind. As I’d walk on the street, people would stop me to ask how my day was going and shake my hand. They would ask where I was going and actually want to hear the answer. People would invite me to hang out and mean it. I felt myself being kinder in return and laughing more, letting little inconveniences or worries slip away. 

One true indicator of this cultural kindness was when I had a motorbike accident. In my American way, I looked at my phone for directions, then tried to make a left- but into the wrong lane. My mind was preoccupied, even after a lovely visit to Tanah Lot and a delicious (yet ridiculously inexpensive) breakfast. As I turned I saw a motorbike coming at me and I quickly tried to readjust, only to wipe out completely on my left side. I smacked my chin, broke part of the helmet, and got road rash and bruises up my left side. Not fun. But immediately 4 or 5 people rushed over, moved the bike, and helped me to their shop to get cleaned up. They brought me coffee and water, cleaned my wounds, asked if I needed the hospital, all without wanting anything in return. A woman wiped my tears away from my face, telling me “don’t cry.” 

In that moment I cried not just because I was a bit scared and in pain, but because of a story from my childhood my dad loved to tell. When I was 4 or 5 we went horseback riding. A snake scared the horse, which bucked me off, knocking the wind out of my lungs and frightening me thoroughly. My dad ran over to see if I was okay, to which I replied “just a little scared, dad.” And we continued. So 20- something years later, I wiped the dust and blood away and once again got back on.

I cried leaving Bali, knowing I’d miss my new friends, the peace, the beauty. Not all tears are bad, though. I’m lucky for living adventurously, lucky to even make these memories. I cried, but I will get back on a plane again and continue to live just as my dad taught me. 


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La La Land

Movies are meant to catch you in the feels. I watched La La Land last night, and it did that and more. It rang with the nostalgia of the bygone glory days of jazz and musicals, two things I’m immediately all about. It also reminded me of my streak of dating musicians based out of Los Angeles. 

Ever watch something and it’s almost not enjoyable because it’s too true? The element of escapism vanishes because you’re just watching scenes from your own life? Thankfully the beautiful musical numbers saved me from that, but the conversations could have been taken verbatim from my past. “You’re touring? For how long?” 

The conversations between Sebastian and Mia echoed those I had with a former flame, an incredibly talented jazz musician who prompted me to move to Los Angeles in the first place. His career was growing and I didn’t know where I fit. I was happy for his success but left feeling forgotten and a bit jealous as an artist, too. Was I surprised to see his name roll on the credits of the movie? Not completely. It seemed fitting. The ending of the movie seemed fitting. My ex has had a great career. I saw he did numerous performances with Michael Buble and has toured internationally. He is living his dream. 

And do you know what? I am so happy for him, but thankful we were not together for it. I am glad I have forged my own path and done some incredible things in my career that I know I would have ignored had I been focused on our separation while he toured. I’m far from perfect, and so was he, but in the end I’m proud of his achievements and proud of myself for mine. 

I cried hard during the credits because it all resonated. It wasn’t a sad cry. Plus the girls next to me lightened the mood after I exclaimed “of course my ex worked on this movie!” And they replied “fuck him!” I’m not angry, nor sad, or anything negative. Perhaps wistful is the word. We always wonder what could have been, but I know I made the right choice in leaving. 

I sent him a text to let him know I saw the movie and his name, I hope he is happy and well, etc. To me, it was the smile at the end of the film. It was acknowledging what was and is, and allowing a brief montage of the “if” before we both continue our true existence. 

The ending is only sad if you let it be. 

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Christmas past, Christmas present 

My older sister was kind enough to send a few meaningful things from my dad’s house, including his #1 Dad hat, the shirt he wore to his wedding (that he kept not out of sentimentality so much as just never buying new clothes), and a 1937 coin from his collection. Coins. This isn’t the first year I received coins from my dad. 

I’ve been lucky to have had a good relationship with my father over the last ten years or so. However, we faced some rough years while he was fully in the grips of his alcoholism. Since his passing my memories are naturally centered on happy thoughts, nostalgia, sadness thinking about the years he suffered, and potential future events that he will miss. My mind has glossed over some of the terrible things about my dad. He was far from perfect, and though I will always think of him has my “#1 Dad” he caused me pain growing up. 

I had my absolute worst Christmas 14 years ago. I spent the night of Christmas Eve over at my dad’s house, which was messy and undecorated. He got drunk, which of course led to him getting angry. His mouth twisted over insults about my mom and step-dad, then turned to me and the man I loved (the one I ended up marrying, perhaps partially out of love but also spite). As he smoked his cigarette, my dad told my sister and I that he hadn’t gotten us anything. He grabbed a purple Crown Royal bag, flung it on the table, saying “here. You can have these.” And it was a bag of coins. As I went to my room to cry, I heard him telling my little sister he wouldn’t be surprised if my step-dad was molesting me. 

I didn’t need presents. I needed my dad, and the terrible person in front of me at that time didn’t seem like him. It was lonely, it was infuriating, it was exhausting. I knew his history and tried to rationalize his behavior. His parents both died when he was young, he suffered horrible foster families, and he mostly lost his family when he and my mom divorced. I wanted to be able to fix him and make him happy, but I also wanted a dad to be there for me. 

His coins and those bad memories found their way back to me today. I’m struggling because he eventually mellowed into the man I needed growing up. His love and affection these last few years don’t erase the bad times and the bad things he did. But do I want to hold onto those memories? Is it fair to let them fully escape, essentially erasing part of his existence? Or should I focus on the best parts of the man I truly did love so much? If I have children, should they know him only as the witty, darkly funny, foul-mouthed tough man who called us “Charlie’s angels,” or should they also get to know his demons? 

I’m not sure if there is a correct answer, but I do know that I won’t figure it out tonight. It’s only Christmas for two more hours. I’ll wrap up my questions for the night and enjoy the peace. 

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Old man- the conclusion

October 21, 2016. 

I walked to the door step of my date, ready to celebrate his birthday. My phone buzzed with an unknown number, a number from Washington. The familiar skip of my heart convinced me to take the call, as I have taken the wrong number or solicitation calls in the last few months, afraid of who might be at the other end. This was the one I had been dreading. 

My dad’s nurse was on the other end to say he had a fall and suffered cardiac arrest because of the trauma. He was resuscitated, but sedated and fading. I asked what that meant and she said “minutes or hours.” I rang the bell as my body vibrated, the air rushed out of my lungs. There was no way I was going to make it in time and absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. 

Knowing that something is going to happen can only prepare you so much for it actually happening. I was simultaneously bowled over with losing my dad, but grateful that he wasn’t trapped in his body anymore. He was always muscular, lean, proud of his strength and work ethic. The last few years gave him time to be still and think, but also drew him closer to death. As he told me, “I am no longer able to make memories in my life, so I sit here quietly and think back over the ones I have, the good and the bad.” 

He will never get to make me feel awkward in front of my future husband. He will never hold his future grandchildren. He will now live as stories and memories that we have the great honor and responsibility of sharing with the rest of our family, in the same way he made sure we heard about his parents who had died when he was a child. 

It’s selfish of me to wish we had more time. His voice on the other end of the phone was still that of my dad, but his mind was restless in the body that was no longer his. I learned to live adventurously through my dad and he would laugh as I told him my newest plans. I had just told him the night before he died that I am leaving for Denmark in a month. He chuckled and said “I’m not surprised. You barely get one foot back on the ground before you’re ready to take off again.” 

I hope this time he gets to go with me and laugh along with the journey. As he took part of my heart with him in his passing, I will take a part of his with me living life with enough adventure for two. 

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10 years

Ten years have now gone by, ten long years since my body and my trust were violated. Ten years of rebuilding my self-confidence, my body image, my perception of sexuality. The letter written to Stanford rapist Brock Allen Turner by his victim brought on a wave of emotion- sadness, anger, frustration. I need to say a few things, too. 

This woman deserved her moment of truth. Her words were eloquent, heartbreaking, honest and raw. She sounds like she could be anyone’s friend, sister, daughter. Her attacker was caught in the moment, her rape was obvious from the moment it happened. And STILL she was tormented during a trial, having to defend herself as if she was guilty until proven innocent enough for the world to care. Despite all this, her attacker only got six months. Six fucking months for forever damaging her. How is this justice? 

The country has surprisingly supported this woman and outrage has been flooding social media regarding the rapist’s light sentence. This story isn’t new. We can’t possibly be surprised that an affluent white athlete was given a pass. Are we suddenly outraged because this victim is the one we needed? The circumstances left nothing for us to judge about her? And even with this ideal victim a rapist gets a slap on the wrist. 

This. This is why I held my tongue ten years ago. Society had already trained me to question how I had brought about my own rape. Did I fight hard enough? I knew my rapist and he was a friend of mine. Maybe I sent mixed signals (even after pushing him off me, crying out “no,” maybe I wore something slutty?). I had been drinking a lot. What was I doing at a club drinking if it wasn’t to “hook up?” Maybe he only did it because he liked me and I shouldn’t be so offended. With these thoughts swirling in my head, I’m not surprised I tried to kill myself shortly after it happened. 

I didn’t want to admit it was rape. I didn’t want to be one of those people who had been raped. The way I would explain it in my head was “I am really confused why he was inside me when I didn’t want that.” It wasn’t until after I tried killing myself and saw a psychiatrist that the word rape was even brought up. At that point, legally speaking, it would be my word against his. And clearly I was crazy, I had just tried to kill myself! Who would believe me? What was the point of pressing charges? 

Years later I found out my rapist had done the same thing to two other women I know, though they were in high school when it happened. From what I understand they also didn’t feel anyone would believe them and kept quiet, allowing him to continuously prey on new women. Our silence was a heavy burden within our own selves and a dangerous pact that guaranteed more to join us. But the legal system and societal norms continue this tragic pattern. We do not believe victims. We judge them. Even when the truth of what happened is right in front of us-witnesses, physical evidence-our legal system does not stand with them. 

I wish I had been able to address my rapist in a courtroom, see the fear in his eyes as he realized the consequences of his actions. I was not someone to strip down and dehumanize, I was not a “passing bit of fun,” I was not your power trip. I didn’t get that moment of reckoning, but I hope this outrage against Brock Allen Turner helps another woman get hers. I hope this outrage creates a backlash against our rape culture, our victim shaming/blaming, our rapist apologists. 

Rapists be warned- you will not be able to hide behind a cloak of alcohol, the guise of athleticism, the blanket of wealth. We are seeing the monster underneath and will plaster your face on every social media outlet until you feel as exposed and vulnerable as the ones you have tried to victimize. Your days are numbered. 

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Old man

Denial can be a saving grace, like a door allowing the slightest sliver of sunlight to pass through. Hope still lives in that fading glimpse of happiness. 

I’ve battled the logical side of my brain, denied the cold hard facts of my dad’s health. He’s been an alcoholic for years, smoked like a chimney, broken his bones several times over in accidents, falls, fights, you name it. He is a man larger than life in my memory and now smaller than me in reality. His skeletal frame is on the brink of closing that door, closeting his secrets forever. 

My dad. There are incredible stories, amazing laughs, outrageous fights, indescribable sorrow. And now it all comes down to this. His body is failing and his doctor has stated that it is now a matter of how much we can prolong his life. It’s unfair! He is 61! He has lost so many, he’s suffered so much, he deserves peace and old age! I want to simultaneously cradle his head and protect him while crying on his lap like a child. 

Denial. It’s been a gift, but the door is closing. I’ve seen the signs and joked them away with him, making light of it all in hopes that his problems were all pretend. Silly doctors! Forgetful dad! Daddys are made to be strong and live forever. 

I’m scared about the possibilities. I don’t want to know he is in pain, I don’t want his body to shrivel to nothing, I don’t want to hear his bold laughter become rusty hinges creaking to a close.

I’m not ready to lose my dad. 

 Old man

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New respect for Edward Cullen

Never in my life did I think those words would come out of me, but then New Year’s Eve 2015 happened. 

It all began innocently enough. My night began with picking out a cute outfit, glittering up my face to represent the sparkle of each new possibility in 2016 or some bullshit like that. I was excited to dance my face off…a seemingly benign thought that would turn all too real right after midnight. 

Now part of my super cute outfit were some killer high heels. Not terrible to walk in while sober, but after the fourth or fifth shot they felt as high as Lindsey Lohan circa 2007. Flirting with disaster? Hell, I was gonna get married to it.

At some point my memory blacked out. Next thing I knew I was being held by a friend and felt something strange- my own teeth piercing my lip. During this blackout, I was turned into a glitter-covered crazy ass vampire face. Welcome to the dark side, idiot. 

I’ve already got the pale skin and scary bitch face thing down. I’m getting better at darting behind things, hiding my face and moaning into the night about how nobody understands me. No matter how bad it gets though, I never see myself falling for Kristen Stewart. 

Thankfully, I’ve found the cure. His name is Dr. Cho and he is going to return my face to normal, but not until Monday (damn you holiday weekends!). If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that you should never get your New Year’s kiss from the pavement in a dark alley outside of the club.