Why I Love "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again" So Much (and yeah, I am aware that this is three months late)

Before you ask, yes I did see this movie back in July. However, it has taken me up until now to really sit down and write about just how much I loved it.* While watching the movie (as well as the first Mamma Mia movie), I couldn't remember why I knew all the words to a lot of the songs used. It wasn't until later that I remembered that I used to listen to ABBA all the time between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. I didn't tell anyone, though, because I assumed people would think it was weird that I loved listening to music by a Swedish band. So I listened to the songs in my headphones at night, silently memorizing the lyrics. For whatever reason, I'd blocked out those memories to the point where I couldn't remember why I knew all the lyrics while watching the movies. 

I think that, most of the time, people listen to these songs thinking of a romantic kind of love. I know that's what I thought of when I was 13 and 14. But when I watched the movies, all that comes to mind is the love that family and community can provide. The music of ABBA and the stories the songs given to both Mamma Mia movies make me feel so much so deeply. The relationship between Donna and her mother is sometimes reflected in my own experiences (though not with me and my mom), and I see a spark of familiarity with Sophie and Sam.

Donna's belief that she is going to live a great life, even if she doesn't know what it is going to look like, reminds me a bit of myself. Her ability to pick up her life and run off to a place she knows very little about is, in a way, inspiring to me. Like Donna, I’ve always assumed I would lead an extraordinary life, I’m just not always sure how I’ll do it. Donna’s ability to pick up her life, travel to somewhere she’s only heard of maybe once or twice, and start anew all without seeming anxious about it is inspiring. Unrealistic, maybe, but still inspiring (and it’s a musical, so are we really concerned about reality?).

As Sophie, I have my own Bill and Harry as well. I am surrounded by love, family, and community. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible people and role models who have taught me so much about life and what makes it beautiful. I can relate to the ABBA songs I loved so much in middle school, just differently than I originally thought. Now, when I listen to their music I think  of the love I am surrounded by on a daily basis. Their music is there to remind me of all I have to be thankful for and to be happy about. Of course, their songs are also great to listen to when you’re in a bad mood so you can turn that around.

Anyway, if you still haven't seen Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, drop everything and go find a way to see it. It’s a beautiful movie that celebrates the joy of family, the beauty that can be found in grief, and the wonder in a new adventure. I really loved it, and I would see it again in a heartbeat.

*Parts of this was taken from the Twitter thread I made after watching the movie, it just took me until now to be able to elaborate on my thoughts. 



Big Fish, Little Fish

I have officially been a college student for eleven days. I'm still dealing with some degree of culture shock, but I'm definitely enjoying my time in Washington. So far, I've moved in, gone through a week of orientation, and had three full days of classes. A lot has happened and while not all of it has made me feel like this will be a good school year, most of it has. For today, here is a summary of what my life has been like lately, as well as a realization I had before moving up.

I got to campus on the 15th, where I was able to move my stuff in a little early. This was good because it meant I was able to get to campus on the official move-in day without actually having to move all my stuff in. After moving in, having lunch with my mom, roommate, and her family, my mom and I walked back to the car where we said a tear-filled goodbye. Then we drove back to the building where I’d have a meeting and I had to get out of the car and go be a college student and stuff. If you’ve read a piece I wrote back in June called Not So Scary Anymore then you’ll know how much I hate leaving the car (and my mom!) to venture off on my own. But somehow, after many “last” hugs goodbye, I found a way to leave the car. I then got lost and dear Annaliese had to come find me, but I still left the car. Later that day I would also find a bug in my room and get myself locked out of my room, but considering it was my first day I think it could have been worse.

The rest of my week consisted of taking placement tests (I tested higher in French than expected, which was cool. Math went exactly as expected), learning my way around the campus, and getting used to living away from home (at least a little bit). I called my mom and then my dad, and texted my Grandmother and aunt. I FaceTimed my brother and one of my best friends all in an attempt to make the unfamiliar a little bit easier. I cried many tears, tried to look on the bright side, and have made many, many cups of coffee.

I think one of the biggest things I've learned so far is that even though I'm now a little fish in a big pond, I haven't actually shrunk any. I may be smaller than the other fish, but that's just because the other fish have had more time to grow bigger. At the end of my senior year of high school, I told one of my friends that I wasn't looking forward to being a Freshman again because I didn't want to feel young and small. But what I neglected to realize is I am still the same person I was after graduating, I just get another four years to grow into an even more mature, capable, and strong person.


The First Time I Didn't Want to Grow Up

I grew up by the beach. Although I didn't go as much as you'd expect, I loved being on the sand dunes. Jumping off them, rolling down them, sitting on them. I loved the sand, and I loved watching the water. There was a particular cluster of sand dunes that I loved very much, as they offered the perfect  height for jumping off, were steep enough to roll down, and had a lovely ditch in the middle for sitting in. One night, I was at the beach with my family to watch the sunset when I discovered that my favorite cluster of sand dunes had disappeared. As a third grader, I knew that of course nature changes things and wind will blow dunes in different directions, but as a nine year old whose parents were separating, this was the final straw on my little camel's back. 

I remember feeling like crying, screaming, and throwing sand around all at the same time. I don't remember what I ended up doing, but I do remember my mom taking me in her arms and talking to me about change. The first picture below was taken at that moment, and even though there are many pictures of us, this will always be one of my favorites. I remember not wanting things to change, and as silly as it may seem, this loss of those particular sand dunes symbolized to me that I was growing up. I realized (although I already knew it) that nothing was going to be the same forever, and certainly nothing was going to be the same as it had been when I five, six, seven years old. As I've gotten older, I've realized that it's a good thing life isn't the same as it was from 2014 downward, but as a nine year old I didn't yet have the gift of hindsight. 


That day on the beach is the first time I remember not wanting to grow up. Today, September 16th, is my first day of college. My first day of classes is next Monday, but today is the first day of orientation. When I wake up, I'll drive with my mom to the university and unpack all my stuff in a room that I'll be sharing with Annaliese for the next school year. I'll experience all the news things one experiences during orientation week and then I'll have four years of new stuff. This is not the second time I've not wanted to grow up, it's probably the fourth (16th birthday and 18th birthday were the second and third), but this feeling now is just as strong as it was when I was nine. 

It's been almost a decade since my mom and I sat on the dunes and she told me that change is good and growing up isn't a bad thing, and I would be very surprised if she didn't tell me the same thing on the drive to Washington. That day on the beach, I couldn't think of anything worse than having to grow up. But so many wonderful things happened in the past nine years that it almost seems silly how scared I was. That's what I'm reminding myself as I prepare to leave Sacramento. Right now I may be thinking that growing up seems awful, but there must be plenty of good things waiting on the horizon. There always have been. 

My mom will probably insist that this picture also be shown, so here you go. Clearly, I went through a wide range of emotions that night. 

My mom will probably insist that this picture also be shown, so here you go. Clearly, I went through a wide range of emotions that night. 

Trust Your Process

A couple weeks ago, I got my driving permit. Yes, I do realize that it may seem strange that I'm writing about this after only getting my permit, but this was a giant hurdle to get across, so you're going to have to bear with me. After two years of taking driver's ed, studying for the test, and failing it twice, I finally passed. I read the handbook four times, took dozens of practice tests until I practically had them memorized, and even tried meditating. I went to a different DMV and tried to breathe as deeply and slowly as possible. I sat down at the computer to take the  test, and tried to go as slowly as possible. As I went through the test, I realized that I knew the answer to al the questions. There were a couple questions I skipped because I wasn't 100% sure, and there were only two questions that I got wrong. I ran out of the DMV after being handed my permit, and I gave my mom a gigantic hug. I passed. I finally passed. 

I realized recently that in the last two years, I've decided to do things relating to getting my drivers license when there was a lot of other stuff going on. I started taking my drivers ed. course the summer before I started at a new school, and so much of my brain space was filled by thinking about that. When I took the permit test the first time, me, my mom, and my brother were living with my grandparents again because our AC was broken, and I was kind of focused on that. When I went to take it the second time back in November, it seemed like all my friend's lives were falling apart, and they were my priority. Basically, all my brain space had been filled with too much stuff. 

That's what this all comes down to- brain space. From February-July, I went to therapy once a week, with the exception of a Thursday here and there. Because of that, I was able to start peeling the layers of the onion away and dealing with a lot of stuff I'd been holding in for years and years. When you've been carrying a lot of emotional weight, your brain starts to store it and pay attention to it even when you don't think you are. When you start to process everything and start taking care of your mental health, your brain is able to open up space for more things. Since I was in therapy and dealing with some of my emotional weight, my brain was able to open space for me to focus on getting my permit. It may seem strange and a little too simple, but trust me on this, brain space is a huge thing. 

I had also begun to take care of my anxiety. I have always been a very anxious person, but the last year has been especially hard. After a rough month of May and a fairly stressful graduation season, I knew something had to change. I'm not saying I magically cured my anxiety, because I don't think that's possible, but I was able to reduce it greatly by doing a few things. I started exercising more, which released endorphins that made me happier. I stopped eating gluten as much as I was because, seriously, your gut is connected to your brain.

But the biggest thing I started doing was distracting myself in the middle of a negative thinking spiral. This was the hardest, but I think it's also what made the biggest difference. When I felt myself starting to spiral into a void of negativity, I did whatever I could to change my environment. Whether it was as simple as changing the genre of music I was listening to or the show I was watching, or something bigger like physically leaving the room I was in and going outside, I distracted myself.  Sometimes it doesn't work, and sometimes it's much harder to get myself out of the spiral, but I haven't stopped trying. It was (and still is!) hard, but now I can feel myself starting to think far more positively. 

I have friends who got their driver's license right after turning sixteen, and I know people who didn't start the process until half way through college. I have friends who are dealing with anxiety and depression who had no problem passing the permit test the first time, and I have friends who, like me, had to take it a few times before they passed. There are people who had to process a lot more before they could succeed at something, and there are people who haven't even started to process stuff and they may not realize how heavy a load they are carrying. 

What I'm trying to say is that everyone's process is different, and this definietly doesn't just apply to driving tests. If someone is getting somewhere at a slower pace than you did, don't call attention to it. It only makes the anxiety worse, so be kind to people, and believe them when they say they are trying as hard as they can. And if someone is finishing something faster than you are, don't worry about it. If you need extra help, let people help you. You don't have to do everything by yourself. You'll get to where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. Make some room in your brain, and trust in your process. 

Juggling Balloons

Back in April, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. The first week of the month consisted of musical performances, lots of essays and assignment due dates, and a general feeling of anxiety the whole time. I spent the entire week on the verge of tears, and on the Friday afternoon I wound up in the office of my then Religion teacher/vice principal crying. 

Before I can get into the balloon part of this story, let's go through all that was going through my mind that week, shall we? My dad had just gotten married a couple weeks prior and my brother wasn't handling it well and I was worried about him. There had been hours of musical rehearsals and even though I was happy to be on stage, I was also not getting enough sleep. I was in the process of getting over a heartbreak and even though I'd been doing really well, a few things had happened that week that had caused me to step backwards a little bit. I had multiple assignments that were either due very soon or were a few days overdue. College was looming over me and I wasn't sure where to start with the enrollment process. My class had received multiple speeches about how some of us were in the red in terms of graduating, and I had taken all that stress and started panicking that I wouldn't graduate (even though there was no chance of that not happening). I hadn't had coffee that morning and even though it wasn't a big deal, it was the cherry on top of an awful ice-cream cone. And to sum it all up, I'd missed my therapy session that week. 

So there I was, crying into my sleeve while my teacher nudged the box of tissues towards me. I ignored the tissues as she looked at me in sympathy and said, "Have you ever heard of the balloon analogy?" I shook my head no. My teacher smiled softly and told me about an analogy that changed my entire outlook on the remaining weeks of the year: "Imagine you have a blown up balloon. You can hold it and deal with it just fine, and once it deflates you can move onto the next one without any problem. Now, imagine you're holding two blown up balloons. It will take you longer to deflate them both. It's doable, but a little harder.  You have so many, fully blown up balloons that you are trying to juggle. It's hard to take all of them and fix it by yourself, because you will inevitably drop a couple of them. Sometimes we need someone else to come around and take a couple of our balloons." 

"My problem is it feels like I need to keep all the balloons because I'm the only one who can deflate them."
"I know the feeling. Think about it this way: Some of these balloons belong to other people. You're trying to juggle all of your balloons while also trying to help everyone else juggle theirs. It's okay to let everyone deal with their own balloons until you've popped most of your own." 

I stayed in her office a little while longer, and after I left I felt much better than I had. When I went home I had some coffee and put the sunflowers my mom had got for me into some water. I did some work and then took a break. It had been a really long week, and taking a break felt really good. 

In my teacher's office that day, I learned two things. 1.) When you have too many of your own balloons, it's okay not to help everyone else with theirs, and 2.) Popping balloons is extremely therapeutic, whether figuratively or literally. In realizing that I didn't have to take care of everyone else's balloons, I was able to have a less stressful end to my school year. I didn't start avoiding my friends and I didn't turn into a apathetic friend, either, but I was able to listen to them talk to me without turning their problems into my balloons. 

I tell you this story because the balloon analogy was really helpful for me. It helped me put things into perspective, and that was something I really needed (and still need quite often). I have a feeling this analogy will stay with me for a long time, and I hope it was able to help someone reading this as well.