hi billy joel. yes we did, in fact, start the fire.

the title was between an 80s song reference and a cheese joke, but if you’re already disappointed by my life decisions then you know the protocol (close the tab & go find your own cheese & dad band to listen to).

i guess ill begin somewhere. you know when someone gives you a really good compliment, and it kinda sticks in your mind for a couple days. one that doesn’t just acknowledge an aspect you can’t control or is too close to the surface (ya know like your eyes – “thanks i got em from my momma” – or what you’re wearing – “thanks i got it from my momma”). one that maybe praises an insecurity or something you’ve been working on (like, “hey, you have such an amazing, warm smile” when in your head you’re screaming “oh my god do you even see how lopsided it is i’m basically a freaking walkin’ picasso”).

but even despite the mental chaos (imagine a bunch of mini me’s running around in pure panic with picasso paintings & everything is in flames), suddenly the amazing, warm smile bursts through & you show mona lisa how it’s really done. because someone else saw something in you that you cannot.

i think, at some point i realized that i might not always get to say these stick-in-your-mind compliments before it’s too late (@ one republic, is it still too late to apologize).

i guess then i also realized that id rather excessively go out of my way to make someone understand how appreciated they are, than to not. everyone wants to be happy. everyone wants to know “am i doing this right? am i doing life right?” (cue the mental chaos / picasso / flames scene) so sometimes i overly express my feelings or remind a person too many times about a certain wonderful characteristic bc it’s important for them to know. for both of us.

maybe i make you a bigger deal than you think i should sometimes. you think, “jesus christo, mujer why did you send me a short novel as a text message” or “why you trippin’ tryna say how cool you think i am. i know i’m coo. i’m ice cube coo.” (just to assure the readers, i have not yet experienced the latter response. however i’m still holding out.) you may not wanna hear it and you may be too ice cube coo for me, but i’ll be there waiting anyways (imagine me singing you’re beautiful james blunt style while standing in the pouring rain) (basically as melodramatic as it gets). but you should know; that yeah, you’re doing it right. you’re doing life right.

*kitchen timer buzzes to cue extensive, personal, freshly cooked anecdote*

this may not apply to many people; but have you ever had a deep passion for something and then one day, it’s not the same. like the metaphorical fire inside you has kind of died down, and it’s dwindled down to metaphorical embers, but you don’t have the literal motivation to metaphorically add more kindling? so to stop being vague, i guess ill be forthright and say that, at some point while abroad i lost my internal, very metaphorical fire (but if we’re being very literal then the deep passion or whatever) for photography. i was reluctant to take photos. it seemed more a chore than what i could look forward to. and i don’t even do my chores anyway (mom pretend you didn’t read that).

but today felt different. two chainz different. so as i left my house to drive to seattle with the most guapa of chicas: i was ilusionada. i couldn’t wait a second longer to get behind the lens of my camera. literally i could not wait. i almost made her pull over so i could go full paparazzi. (i waited though. i do have chill.) we pulled up to gasworks park and it was theres-a-storm-a-brewin’ kinda cloudy weather. while i usually prefer a “bluer than that abbadee abbadiee song that no one knows the words to (if there even are words tbh)” kind of blue and a sun so glaring that you actually can’t see clearly now the rain has gone; well today the gloomy gray skies gave the decayed/grunge/moody industrial setting a life of its own.

the lighting was bright and dark at the same time. we walked down the hill to a concrete structure of giant archways that are beyond description (ok if anything, just picture stonehenge but if it got a little tlc/wasn’t falling apart). i stood center underneath the first concrete arch. my feet shifted a little in the grass, first my left foot then my right. i dropped all my bags and crap i was carrying, since im basically a human sherpa at any given time for no justifiable reason.

a breeze lightly ruffled my hair (which obviously instantly brought to mind the ‘ruffles have rrrridges’ slogan). i pushed my hair away to keep it out of my face (& because unfortunately the ruffles would just have to wait). i looked down at my hands. holding my camera. worn and well used. the camera ive used and relied on for four years. the camera that’s miraculously survived all the crazy shit ive done (vague flashback that won’t go into detail from when i fell in a river – no recorded casualties). i shifted its weight from one hand to another. i felt scared to take a bad photo. i felt worried about not capturing even an ounce of dani’s natural beauty. i felt nervous to disappoint myself and finally admit what’s been manifesting in the back of my mind: that ive lost it.

i shifted in the grass again, still standing beneath the stonehenge-esque arch, and bit my lip – as habit when im nervous. i looked down at the camera again and stared at it. somewhere. i can’t say for sure where. i lost my confidence. i lost my creative eye. every photo i took was filled with doubt; i couldn’t find the angle, get the right settings, compose the shot. all the things i used to do so quickly you could time me for the book of world records. and then i just. couldn’t anymore.

i haven’t admitted this to anyone but myself, but it made me sad to hold my camera. albeit i persisted and didn’t stop trying; it always ended a discouraging disappointment. simply enough it might be that i lacked the response of others. with only myself as a judge, i had tunnel vision that focused solely on the flaws at the end of the photo tunnel. i wouldn’t look for the strengths. maybe i didn’t know where or how to look. so. trying to clear my mind of all my judgments, i walked out of my metaphorical courtroom and blocked out the haterz (a jury of me. and the judge of also me. judging myself) (tbh all i wanted was for someone to bring out the dancing lobsters). taking a deep breath in, i switched on the camera as i brought it up to my face. dani glanced up at me. waiting a million years for me to finally take the photo. but this time the breeze ruffled her hair.

i didn’t even realize i was ready until after i took the photo.


later, as we sat there waiting for our food (but only after i horrified basically the whole restaurant by asking the waitress if you actually had be 12 or under to order from the kids menu) in the hip, seattle joint (meant as in a place not the other thing. but hehe. double entendre.), we scrolled through the photos on my small camera screen.

i guess just in those few moments, watching them look at the photos, there was something warm and emotional in my soul. and as cheddar cheesey and tree sappy as it sounds – it is in fact the verdad. and also yes, they may not have liked the photos as much as i assumed they did & were just graciously offering noncommital noises bc we were all slightly damp and low key hangry. but (regardless if they actually would rather my photos burn alongside the picassos) that for every smile or laugh, a sense of overwhelming gratitude and love for those two humans washed over me (like a wave, or ya know, other similar things that wash). in the moment, i sat silent in my metaphorical emotion wave.

driving home, we let ourselves be swooned by the classic billy joel spotify playlist (because he’s not just dad music ok – he’s timeless). was it coincidence? or was billy himself there with us in the car? (that would actually be horrifying oh god i take it back i take it all the way back) but when ‘we didn’t start the fire’ began, i sent a quick mental peace sign god’s way (along with a suhh dude). because we did start the fire. (& also adele just came out of nowhere to belt out some notes but ya know, she made a really good point about the fire that was starting in my heart).

we did start the fire. & apparently that’s normally considered arsen or whatever, but these two wonderful humans helped me restart the *strictly metaphorical purposed* fire. it wasn’t until i was back home and replaying the day in my head that i wished i had said how grateful i was in the moment.

this next part applies to everyone in my life, whether close by or far from home. aka if anyone besides my mom is reading then hopefully you made it this far because this applies to you now. yes you.

i wish i had been tree trunk sappy. i wish i had been cheddar cheesey. i wish i had been any cheese, really. i wish that i more openly expressed all the good things i think about you. it doesn’t matter if they’re sappy or cheesy. they should be. i wish i’d told you things like “thank you for being my friend.”

“you have a truly beautiful soul. ya know. the kind that inspires a jesse mccartney song.”

“thank you for tolerating my weirdness/insert any annoying quirk here.”

“you are such a talented [insert talent here]. it’s incredible the things you do with that talent.”

“i just want you to know that you are a truly remarkable person in the way you live your life and the way you see the world. it means a lot to me that i get to know you, and be part of it and watch you grow.”

“you are a really good human being. like, dude. bruno mars totally wrote ‘just the way you are’ bc of you.”

if you’ve heard something similar to any of these before, it’s because it’s true (i do get more creative though lol i promise). i mean it genuinely. like tbh so genuine that even leather ain’t got nothin’ on me. i wouldn’t just meaninglessly say words (that’d probably sound more like the blue abbadee abbadiee song in all honesty).

it is a vital part of life, and by extent our human existence, to be positively reinforced. we remind each other who we are. we are made to recognize our talents and traits, whereas we habitually, internally gravitate towards our flaws. we remember our worth.

it’s everything i can do to vocalize these thoughts to you (yes you. still you.) what if you’re going through your own mental block and your internal fire is nothing but a wee baby flame. that doesn’t mean it has to go out. ill reassure you.

i just, i guess i just want you to know now. you shouldn’t be reminded as an afterthought, or if i think there’s a better time, or even after it’s too late and i never get a chance to say anything to you ever again. it’s always now. you deserve to be reminded you are loved.

ok ok, yes. it took me the road less traveled by to get to this point in the story. but today was an incredibly significant milestone in my blog writing inspired personal journey of figuring out life. today started for me the metaphorical spark to the metaphorical flame (ive given up trying to ever be literal about this. everything’s a metaphor. im givin em out like oprah with cars) in my heart for one of the greatest joys in my life.

but today also reinforced the need and value of expressing and sharing all my positive feelings and thoughts with you (yes you. always you.)



(end note: i wrote this entire thing thinking about how much i want cheese and only just remembered i’m lactose intolerant)

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