Are we there yet?

When I wrote my last post and checked my WordPress account, I noticed the little notification bar popped up on my screen, which it said, “Congratulations on five years of registering your domain name rachelbethahrens.wordpress.com! Happy anniversary!”

I can hardly believe it’s been that long, but as I look back, I think I can piece it together.

Five years ago, I was in my final semesters at Towson University, starting the very last year before graduation. It was before Miley Cyrus started singing one of the worst club songs ever written, which she had no clue as to what she was singing about—never heard of Jay-Z or Britney Spears until she went to the recording studio. “Party in the USA”? How about, “Party because I’m ignorant today”?

That same year when I started this blog, January 2010, I had just started a new blog on WordPress for my journalism/ feature writing class and only a few weeks in we had an apocalyptic snow storm headed straight for Maryland. Everyone on campus following the blizzard called it the “Snowpocalypse of 2010” and those who lived on campus built igloos, grabbed their snowboards and cafeteria trays to slide down the snowy banks outside the University Union and the Smith Hall science building, and quite possibly one of the largest snowball battles broke out in the Glen forest by the dorms.

Unfortunately, I missed all the fun because I was snowed in at home with my mom and dad, wishing it was delayed another week so I could be snowed in at the Farpoint Convention again, just like in 2003 when I was a freshman in high school. Farpoint 2003, which we convention goers called “Snow Con”, was the first year the convention moved from the autumn to the dead of winter in February, and another blizzard whipped right through Baltimore so no one could leave. The Cinnamon Tree restaurant at the hotel kept running out of food, everyone got the worst case of cabin fever, Governor Erlich instructed everyone to stay in the buildings unless you were dying or in labor and having a baby- do NOT drive at all, and all flights at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport were cancelled, the airport shut itself down completely.

That Farpoint was awesome, for my dad (who was born in New England) saw the snow as no big deal and loved this winter weather, and I got an extra day to be with my real friends. Besides, I needed that extra week of snow days from school, for my freshman year was spent being surrounded by bullies in almost every class I took (and I had no choice in changing my schedule because I flunked Algebra in eighth grade and had to take TWO math classes the same year; I wasn’t even allowed to take a music class), and every day I came to school I had to put on a façade and pretend to be something I’m not—one of the cool popular kids, which coincidentally didn’t hit me until my junior year.

That meant I had to hide my nerdy wiles like Harry Potter and the movie Fifth Element from everyone at school like a trade secret. Nobody knew I was a nerd except for my first boyfriend and my friends at Farpoint and Shore Leave. So being snowed in at a science fiction convention with a whole bunch of nerds like me and guests who were not allowed to leave, among them Erin Gray from Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century? (Gray, who’s from Hawaii, looked outside and walked around the hotel going, “Why can’t we leave? What is that white stuff on the ground? Why is my flight cancelled?” –I love her so very dearly!)

Erin Gray in her space suit as Colonel Wilma Deering in Buck Rodgers, 1979-1981. Don't mess.

Erin Gray in her space suit as Colonel Wilma Deering in Buck Rodgers, 1979-1981. Don’t mess.

And President’s Day morning, Gray held a relaxing Tai Chi demonstration that I participated in before we could all go home. All this upon learning I had seven more days of no school??? I had the most elated feeling in my life, and since then I’ve realized I will never have a single dull moment at any science fiction convention in my entire life, which is exactly what happened.

But that year, seven years after that awesome blizzard at Snow Con, I silently wished I could leave my house. Think cabin fever rated as a twelve on a scale of one to ten. My cabin fever during the Farpoint snow storm on that scale was about a two, and closer to zero. It’s better to be snowed in somewhere with your friends rather than your parents who’ve known you your whole life, and no one else is there with you, except maybe your pets if you have any. –That year, our dachshunds Cinder and D’Artagnon were still puppies and Cinder strongly objected to go outside in the snow unless daddy shoveled a spot for her to go potty. D’Artagnon was still a tiny little thing, the length of my forearm at least, and though he loved the snow he didn’t like the strong winds and he’s still terrified of walking out at night.

But I wasn’t the only Towson student who had a severe case of cabin fever. While I frantically fretted over an article I found out I was supposed to write at last minute, thinking the deadline would be postponed until I saw an email from my professor after the storm (I still had little to no internet access at home that year too), my best friend suffered a case of the same stuff much worse than I had. Her dorm floor mates were the kind of frat party goers and mall sluts who had no interest in things like steampunk, 90s and industrial music, or her favorite shows NCIS and X-Files. Her roommate too.

The saddest thing about that was, I had never met her yet. That was until about a week or two after the storm was over and class was back in session. She had dyed her hair blue that weekend and I finally left for Farpoint and came back with my assignment ready to turn in, refreshed at last. And that Friday night when I was about to do another story for class, I sat by the couches of the Union with my borrowed laptop from the students with disabilities center on campus working on some other class stuff and listening to the good rock and roll I used to know while mourning for my long lost band Fall Out Boy. (2010 was the year Pete Wentz and the band announced they were on hiatus and possibly breaking up before he and Ashlee Simpson filed for divorce; I was heartbroken.) Amidst my hard working efforts for my professors and woes of temporarily losing my favorite band (thank God for Save Rock and Roll in 2013), I looked up from my computer screen and glanced at the couches in the middle of the lobby and there she was, her blue hair faded to a deep chartreuse.

She was deep in conversation with the nerds of the couches sitting with her, but she looked like she needed another girl’s input. Setting my computer to the side, I walked over to add something right at the moment when she got on the subject of dying her hair that previous snowy weekend and how she transferred from a college she hated, McDaniel.

“I love how you did your hair,” I started. “I love that shade of green, is it green?”

“It’s supposed to be blue!” she wailed before smiling. “I can’t trust Manic Panic anymore, it always fades after the first wash. The stuff is crap but it was the only stuff I could find here in blue.”

“Yeah, well don’t get that stuff anymore,” I said. “I’m sure there are other brands that are better in quality. I’m not the best judge, though, because I never want to dye my hair.”

“Please don’t,” she said. “Your hair is so much prettier than mine. Mine is brown and thin where yours is red and has more body to it. My hair sucks, which is why I like to play with hair dye.”

“It looks good on you.”

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Rachel,” I said, shaking her hand. “You?”

“Kerensa.”

“Kerensa? I’ve never heard that name before.

“I know, it’s unusual, but I like it. I was named after a character in a book my parents liked. My sister was named after the actress Marlene Detrich, Marlene Hayes, but we call her Marly.”

I know this conversation isn’t the exact same one verbatim, but we’ve been best friends ever since.

Kerensa and me at Farpoint during the Ten Forward party, 2013.

Kerensa and me at Farpoint during the Ten Forward party, 2013.

It’s been five years since this blog got started, the same time I met my best friend, who started getting me into things like Neil Gaiman’s Mirror Mask, Club Orpheus, The Fratellis and a whole bunch of rock music from the 90s, and began helping me improve my self-image through taking pictures of us in different outfits and laughing through it all. She called them pin up photo shoots, and yeah, they were fun. She also let me rediscover my love for Don Bluth’s animation and I introduced her to the karaoke mysteries and local bands Fools and Horses and The Lake Effect, who I am friends with the twin brother frontmen of that group, Darryl and Elliot.

And in those five years, the biggest goal we worked for, and are still working towards, was to get rid of each other’s current stress levels and eventually become roommates.

Now that it’s 2015, she’s still in Gaithersburg close to D.C. and I’m still in Baltimore County close to Pennsylvania, an hour away if you drive. She and an old college friend of hers are now considering to be roommates since Kerensa has a new job lined up, and even though I also have a new job starting this Tuesday, I can’t join them as far as living there. My job is still in Maryland, further past the Hunt Valley Light Rail line in Sparks. Not even the public transit buses go up past the train to Sparks. It’s basically the middle of nowhere, but the good thing is the job is two minutes away from where my mother works.

To make matters worse, if it can’t get any worse, I’ve had two panic attacks in the last seven days because of the crap happening at home (See my last post). Plus, other crap hit the fan last week as well. My baby puppy D’Artagnon had been sick for two weeks and had to go to the vet, just to find out all he needed was some chicken soup, which perked him up in just a couple of days. And on top of that, Kerensa called me late at night when D’Artagnon went to the vet to tell me she lost her very last house pet, Gizmo.

I am a dog person, and I am terribly allergic to cats, but I have met Gizmo and found him to be one of the sweetest kitties I’ve ever met. So in the last five years of meeting Kerensa that I’ve known Gizmo, I am very shocked and devastated that her loving cat has crossed the rainbow bridge to Asgard. I could tell how sad and terrified she was over the phone, hearing her breaking down and fighting to hold back tears, no matter how much I asked her, “Are you ok, honey? Are you sure? Do you want me to come over?”

In this month alone, too many terrible things have happened enough to make me question why I’m still a Christian and if I should become an atheist. My DORS counselor didn’t contact me for more than a week because someone in her family died, I lost my reduced fare ID and my bus pass in one day, I learned I had to switch to a third therapy clinic in one year and start from nothing all over again with a new therapist, a friend of Kerensa’s lost his mother to breast cancer, and so many people everywhere kept getting sick or slammed with new work and school schedules. Don’t even get me started on the current crises of Isis terrorists and kids getting measles after going to Disneyland.

2015 is already turning out to be a dirty depressing year already. I just hope it doesn’t last the entire year.

But to end on a lighter note, Farpoint is coming again this year in about two weeks and I’ve already made plans for going down to Hampden for a writing oasis on a weekly basis. Yesterday, I met some new writers much like me, including a friend I haven’t seen in years since The Charred Rib closed down. And one of those writers was the first person to ever ask me about Doctor Who as to the question, who’s your favorite Doctor?

madman with box

After watching every episode from Eccleston to Capaldi in Deep Breath, I had to say Eleven. Matt Smith, Mr. Bow Tie and Artful Jammie Dodger Boy, has officially stolen my heart. He high-fived me when I told him.

Even though I got lost trying to find the place for nearly half an hour walking around in the biting cold and I forgot to bring my laptop with me because there were no public computers at Litmore, I did have an awesome time there. It’s very tranquil, there’s a little antique typewriter in one of the rooms, there’s tea (yes!), and did I mention the place is across the street from a wedding gown bridal shop in a larger than life building that looks like a castle?

I felt like Giselle in Disney’s Enchanted just looking for the place. “Could someone please direct me to the castle? I’m looking to wed my true love, Prince… (yelps in pain) EDWAAAAARD!” -Courtesy of Disney/ Buena Vista

I felt like Giselle in Disney’s Enchanted just looking for the place. “Could someone please direct me to the castle? I’m looking to wed my true love, Prince… (yelps in pain) EDWAAAAARD!” -Courtesy of Disney/ Buena Vista

All of this just brightened up everything and now I’m ready for my new job, Valentine’s Day weekend and Farpoint. All I need to do now is figure out when and how I’m going to visit Kerensa to help her with the loss of her pet, as well as her friend with his mother’s passing away. I told her over the phone point blank, “I love you and now it’s no longer a ‘want to’, this is an emergency; we need to see each other as soon as possible. It’s obligatory, no exceptions, I am coming over there to see you as soon as we’re both free and we have the time and energy to do so.”

Because when that much tragedy happens to someone you love, you do not leave them in the dark for long. You drop everything and help them repair. That’s what I intend to do.

Happy fifth anniversary, everyone. May your writing stay sharp.

Playlist selection- been listening to this song since I bought the album Hopes and Fears yesterday.

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