To My Love

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Our first photo together in January 2017

Today is a really special day because six months ago, the guy I liked said to me, “I told all my friends I have a girlfriend.” With my response being, “Oh really? Who is she?” He rolled his eyes at me and asked me to be his. I guess you can say that was our “official” day, even though we considered ourselves together before then.

I met Lenny in November of last year.

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I’m back!

Well, it’s definitely been awhile. I’ve decided to return back to the writing world, and therefore I have essentially rebooted my website. I’ve hidden all but a few posts, keeping the ones public that have more meaning to me or my friends.

A lot has happened since my last update in Fall of 2016. From weight loss, a new relationship, graduation, new job… it’s a lot! So feel free to read what sections you’re most interested in 😉 Warning – there will be a ton of photos!

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Remembering Pulse.

Today it’s been four months since 49 beautiful people were taken away too quickly in Orlando. Which also means it’s been four months since I’ve had the strength to write on my blog. I think I’ve been struggling to find the right words to say and I’ve come to realize that I might never find those words.

Four months ago I woke up in London: it was my first morning there, and I was about to get ready for the day before going to my orientation for my study abroad program. Being five hours ahead of Orlando, the news of the Pulse shooting was still brand new. I saw something about it on Facebook, but the only information was that there was a “Shooting at a nightclub in Orlando”. My first thought was it was a fight outside in the parking lot, so I didn’t pay much attention.

After taking a shower, I was back on my phone and the headlines had changed: at least 20 injured in shooting at a nightclub called Pulse. That’s when my heart stopped.

I lived in Orlando for four years. After only being there for a few weeks, I already knew what Pulse was. I always thought of it as the most popular club in Orlando. The more friends I made in Orlando, the more I realized how many people I knew frequented this place – and sometimes it was every week! It was known as a place to go dance, have fun, and most of all… be yourself without any judgement.

So when I sat in my dorm bed on Sunday morning, it turned into a day of trying to get a hold of every single person I knew. And although I was in London, I had friends in Orlando trying to get a hold of me to see if I’ve heard from “so-n-so”. I had texts coming in, “Have you heard from —-? They’re looking for him on Facebook.” Or, “I’ve been calling —– but they aren’t answering. Have you talked to them today?”

I used to think Facebook having the “mark safe” feature was a waste of time. But suddenly my phone was going off every second with, “2 friends checked in safe in Orlando,” “20 friends checked in safe…”, “200 friends checked in safe…”. I was going through that list like a mad woman.

Two of my friends weren’t responding on this list. As I sat in orientation for my London experience, there were posts on Facebook begging people to share information if they had it about these two people. But then there were my other friends who were missing four, five, six friends or family members…

You never think these kinds of experiences can happen to you. Some of my friends make fun of me for being on edge when I’m in public places or on campus, because I usually try to have an exit plan in case something happens. I’m sure my friends at Pulse thought the same thing… This can’t happen to me… This is my safe place. 

My friend Matt finally got news that one of our friends was okay. It was a relief in the chaos of it all. But our other friend, Xavier, was still missing.

The next day I found out the news: Xavier didn’t make it. Xavier.

I worked with Xavier at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in the Dreamworks department. I didn’t hang out with him outside of work, but the people I worked with at Dreamworks became another family of mine. We were all close. We spent so much time together at work goofing off on set, gossiping in the break rooms, and eating as much food as possible at our work buffet. What I loved about Xavier was how passionate he was, especially when he was paired up with his best friend Wilma.

The way Wilma and Xavier worked together on set was contagious. When I got to work with them I knew it was going to be a good day. I felt even more lucky because I also got to work with them at Disney, and they were amazing there, too.

When I became a character performer for Dreamworks I had a few people to look up to, and Xavier was one of them. He was just so good at his job and made me want to be better. He was also this amazing dancer: it was one of his favorite things to do. I was a terrible dancer so I always wished I could be just half as good as he was.

I know it’s cliche, but try to live without regrets. This experience has humbled me into the kind of person that wants my friends to know how much I care about them, how much I love them, and how important they are to me. I don’t want to miss out on any moment with the people I love because you really, really never know when it can be taken away. Don’t stress over the small things. Spread love. Be excellent to each other.

Wilma, I am so sorry you have to go through everything that’s happened in the last four months. I know Xavier’s spirit will live on not just through you but the beautiful son you had together. And whenever you feel alone in this pain, remember that there are countless people who love the three of you that will be there for anything you need.

I really want to give a huge thank you to Universal Studios. Thank you so much for honoring these people not just on your social media, but by putting them in the park forever with the window display, and for the small touch of, “Be Excellent to Each Other” at the end of the Bill & Ted show.

To my friends, I know you’re all still hurting from this. You aren’t alone.

There are days when I think about what happened and I just break down. I try to not be scared when I go places, because I know I should be enjoying my time regardless, but it’s hard not to be sometimes. I went to a concert a few weeks ago and just seeing a rainbow flag made me lose it because I immediately thought of my old home and what all my friends have to go through. It’s not easy to deal with. I don’t really know how to still.

Thank you to the people of Orlando for coming together in a way I never imagined a city being able to do. I’ve never felt more proud to have lived somewhere.

I know I’m at the point of rambling now… so maybe I should cut this short.

I miss you, Xavier.

I love you all.

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Dear Orlando,

It’s times like these you can never find the correct words to say. Each sentence doesn’t feel like it’s enough. There’s a sense of hopelessness because all you can do is sit there and hope for the best even though you already know it’s unlikely.

I never really knew what it meant to be in love with a city. Who could ever love Orlando? It’s humid, crowded with tourism, and I-4 traffic. But then you meet the people. They are full of life, passion, and love. People that are barely making enough money to survive yet continue on because they are so passionate about the work they are doing. A few years ago I asked people to send me their stories about how they ended up in Orlando and almost every person had a similar response: that they were looking for a place of acceptance. Here’s a quote from a dear friend of mine that states it beautifully:

I moved to Florida because it always seemed to be a beacon of hope for me that the world was bigger than my small town. Florida would be the place where it would be ok to be myself, away from family bonds. Florida was freedom and sunshine wrapped in optimism for me.

When I woke up to the news this morning, I was devastated. I felt as if I was inside of a nightmare – some kind of cruel joke. I was desperate to get a hold of everyone I knew, and I couldn’t stop shaking each time I touched my phone. I was nervous to refresh my social media for fear of seeing the name of someone I knew.

Orlando is a part of me. I see these terrible things happen all over the world and never imagined that something so close to me could be a part of something so tragic. Two of my friends are missing that were last seen at Pulse – and I can’t do anything but wait. But it’s not just me, it’s hundreds of people are sitting at their computers, at hospitals, or on their phone just searching for signs, updates, hope, or confirmations. People who are looking for their family. Their friends.

If I learned one thing from living in Orlando it’s to spread love. The people in Orlando aren’t okay today, and it’ll take time before they can be. But they are still out there doing what they do best by helping those in need, comforting those who are in pain, and making sure that everyone else is okay. It’s okay to be speechless today. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to try and remain positive through this mess. Don’t let the hatred that started this tragedy win.

I love you, Orlando. Thank you for being a city that has given so many people hopes and dreams to be who they want to be.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, Momma DeBrino

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Hi Mom. I wanted to make a special video for you today, but I couldn’t hold myself together long enough.

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When you came to FL and we went to EPCOT on my day off

I wanted to take today to say thank you for being my best friend and biggest supporter. Without you and Dad, I’d be completely lost. The guidance you have given me has shaped me to be the person I am, and hope to be.

 

Being away from home this long has been the hardest thing for me. I miss you every single day, which is why I call you every chance I get. It’s the reason I make my goodbyes short when I leave from Seattle back to Vegas — or where ever I happen to be living — because I know I’ll turn into a sobbing mess when it hits that I don’t get to hang out at home with you, Dad, and the animals once I get on the plane.

When I got accepted into the Disney College Program, you could sense that I was scared to go. I remember you saying, “If you get accepted, you can’t back out. You have to go.” I guess you have always known me better than I’ve known myself – you know I get scared of taking chances on doing things for myself, and if it wasn’t for you, working for Disney would have never been a thing in my life. And going to Florida with you is one of my favorite memories, ever. I still can’t believe we spent an entire week in a car, with no

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When we left for FL and we both couldn’t stop crying despite getting to spend the next two weeks together

breaks from each other, and we never once got in an argument! (ha) It was the most perfect road trip.

 

Before I moved to Vegas, I was so stuck on what to do next with my life. Where to go to school, what to major in, where to live… and you told me to just open up my own business instead. You have always had faith in me that I could succeed, no matter what path I decided to travel down.

You inspire me every day to be who I want to be, and not who everyone tells me I should be. You’ve been there for me during every moment in my life, good or bad: you’re more than my mom, you’re my best friend.

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On our way to Oregon during my Spring Break

I can’t wait to be in the same state as you again (which hopefully will be soon), because when I think about home it doesn’t feel the same without you around. Thanks for being the most loving, quirky, and fun mom. I love that I grew up in a house that encourages being silly while also encouraging me to try my best in everything I do- and to also not worry about the people that try and hold me back from doing so.

So thank you, mom. Thank you for being there for me even when you’re busy. Thank you for answering the phone even though you’re eating dinner. Thank you for encouraging me to live where I want to live, and to follow my passion instead of money. Thank you for supporting me to go to London this summer, and for helping me plan each moment of the trip. Thank you for being you, because it’s the best.

I’m sorry I can’t be there in person to celebrate Mother’s Day with you, but I am counting down the days until I get to see you next: only FIVE to go!

I love you, mom. See you soon!

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Mom at the Riverwalk in Texas