Jamie’s 2017

This last year has felt crazy for me, in incredible ways that pushed me to work harder, and love more freely on everyone in my life, from coworkers to my beloved boyfriend ( we’re two years strong and happier than ever) to even myself. I had some wonderful people in my life this year!

I accomplished some big things too, like purchasing my first car debt free. That was huge for me. And I turned 23. AND I flew back to Georgia for a third time in May to visit James, before he then visited me for the first time in December! I made two best friends out of coworkers while working at Dairy Queen this year: my Ashlyn, the devil to my angel, and goofy good ol’ Trent, who I so desperately just want to adopt and protect haha! A beautiful cinnamon roll too good for this world, too pure. ❤ 😉

It’s been SO. VERY. LONG since I’ve made friends on my own like this, like, friends that can share your heartaches together, have each other’s backs when the pressure of life or work is too much, and cheer for and support you no matter what. Gaining that was HUGE for me this year! Like more than they’ll ever understand due to my past of constantly losing my friends throughout my childhood.

I learned A LOT working at Dairy Queen, but I definitely learned for myself that it is DEFINITELY in my heart to be there for people as the unjudging ear who will listen no matter what because I WANT TO. I LOVE TO. I CARE THAT MUCH. Doing so GAVE ME so many friendships! I definitely felt like my biggest job at work was just to be there for my coworkers, all of them. I love each one so very dearly: I listened to them all when they drove each other crazy, I absorbed the verbal punches, I empathized with their feelings so they wouldn’t feel invalidated and unheard anymore. Even when sometimes it felt like they all hated each other, I felt like they all saw me as their friend, someone who was there for them, and we got through the night together.

I found it incredible how much simply EMPATHIZING with ALL of my coworkers made work-life THAT MUCH BETTER. Besides that, I also felt very valued and loved by my coworkers, especially when I gave my two weeks notice at the end of the year and everyone was just so sad I was leaving. Just wow, it was so heartwarming to have people respond to me so wonderfully! It means to the world to me to have been a part of a family there, even though I’m not there anymore.

The greatest gift from this year was truly knowing there are people who were my friends who loved me very much. I feel very rich with that blessing. Ashlyn and Trent I especially got to know very, very well and they both mean THE ABSOLUTE WORLD TO ME.

Ashlyn is like my twin sister I never knew I was missing; she is so funny and she taught me to speak my mind more! She shares her beautiful two children with me and made me Aunt Jamie. I went to her extended family’s Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving parties this past year–she and her mother Eileen made me feel SO WELCOME as a part of their family. Ashlyn and I had some incredible adventures, from late night Wal-Mart shopping, visiting the gym to talk out drama and then eat McDonald’s (haha, we know we’re terrible XD), to racing the little one to the hospital at 1 in the morning. We just absolutely loved working together and being together, to the point that everyone else teased us about it haha! I love her so much, and we still have the best times together! ❤

And Trent. oh my goodness, that kid. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ I won’t share details because I want to keep private things private, but he changed my life so I want to share a little bit of that. And I just freaking love that kid TO UTTER DEATH. I loved working with him; he is so very hysterical! At the same time, he broke my heart in a way I’d yet to experience for another human being. He was that loud obnoxious kid with the heart of gold who just needed to be loved on, just needed some positive attention and encouragement from someone, somewhere, before something just snaps or dies inside. I’ve never felt so much compassion for another person like I did for him. So, all year, I loved on him for who he was and wow, it was such a rewarding experience! It changed my life; my heart grew so much bigger from it! It strengthened my belief that all everyone needs is simply an unconditional love from God which He can show through any of us, if our hearts are open to listen and understand, to see past the surface to the soul within, to not be afraid to love those who feel unlovable. I’m so happy that I got to watch him grow happier and healthier as the year passed and he truly became one of my best friends! I think he’s someone who can change the world with that big generous heart of his. I pray for him every day and can’t wait to see where he’ll go in life. ❤

He and Ashlyn were such BIG parts of making my 2017 incredible, with their gifts of friendship, honesty, love, and mutual support. They both made me feel so loved, needed and valued! Whenever we were in the same room it was like the air had a spark of energy and happiness for me. We laughed so freaking much while we worked so dang hard, and despite all the hardships, we shared so much joy in that little DQ building. I can never thank them enough for giving me so many fantastic memories from this year. ❤

Honestly, working at Dairy Queen this year was very huge in that I was kept very busy all year. I worked very hard. Honestly, I didn’t know I could work so hard, be so tough, push through it all and come out stronger and without it dampering my work attitude, but I did this year.

I came in every single time I picked up Boss’s call to come in on a night off or because she needed help. I worked nine days in a row: twice. Covered so many shifts, came in early, came in the middle of shifts to help out on nights off, pulled unexpected doubles… all while trying my hardest to still be thoughtful of everyone else and keep my aches and pains and moans and groans off the clock. I worked A LOT in 2017. I worked mostly night shifts, and if I didn’t go on an adventure with Eileen and Ashlyn afterward, which I very often did till 1 or 2 in the morning, I’d come home and collapse. This is why I didn’t blog very much, and I even dropped a lot of my seasonal anime shows just from being so freaking tired or emotionally drained if the vibe at work had been bad. In all honesty, Dairy Queen worked me to the bone this year, and I honestly didn’t do very much besides work my butt off. XD

BUT FROM ALL THAT, I learned that I am one tough BEAST and I AM capable to work a physically demanding job with a big smile on my face despite the rude people in drive-thru and the coworker drama–not just work my fair share, BUT WORK MORE THAN I SHOULD HAVE, and still come out feeling stronger for it. I’m dang proud of myself!

I learned this year that I can do anything I set my mind to. I really can. I know because I did it over and over again.

To that point, I’m looking for different employment now, hopefully in the pet/animal world. Fingers crossed. It’ll be a whole new adventure for 2018, starting a new job with new coworkers and learning new things. But I’m praying and believing that God is going to lead me to the right place, that needs me and the right place that I need. If any of you feel moved to pray for me to find that right place for the next part of my life’s journey, that would incredible. ❤

The only other huge thing that sticks out to me from this year, is James.

Oh, my sweet darling amazing most handsome terribly funny James. I LOVE YOU.

Best boyfriend a girl could ask for! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

It’s been two years since James and I started talking romantically and it’s been life-changing. I never thought in a million years that I’d end up with a boyfriend who could be so patient, so understanding and gentle with my emotions, fears, hopes, and supportive of my choices and who I am as a person. And on top of it all, do it on the other side of the country! Long distance has yet to stop us from loving each other wholeheartedly and working towards being together one day!

This year has been much more stable than last year for us! Last year we figured out how to make long distance work and took a lot of time to communicate fears and boundaries and expectations and just building a foundation for us. This year, we’ve enjoyed the fruit of all that labor!

This year, us being in a relationship was the new and amazing normal!

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Video^^^ He makes me laugh and laugh and laugh! ❤

Sparkler fun!

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Another video!^^^We lit sparklers in the moist Georgia night air and danced and laughed and killed bugs. XD

This year we settled into being boyfriend and girlfriend without having to talk about it haha! This year me flying to see him just felt normal! It wasn’t a rollercoaster year for us, but that in itself is amazing. IT’S AMAZING THAT OUR RELATIONSHIP JUST FEELS NORMAL! 😀 Throughout the year while we were apart, we played online games like Path of Exile and Minecraft together, when he wasn’t slaving away at school and I wasn’t getting called into work haha! We celebrated our first official Valentine’s together, and he spoiled me rotten with birthday and Christmas gifts (lots of Disney movies on Blu-ray and DVD, a Blu-Ray player, a new camera and wireless earbuds, and so many other gifts.)

And oh yeah, HE FLEW TO SEE ME THIS PAST DECEMBER FOR THE FIRST TIME! Wow! It was wild having him here in Arizona and meet my family! We had a blast! My mom loved him! Christmas was in the air and it was just too magical! I took him in to work to meet everyone; we spent hours in Zia Records; we went to my theater four times. He and my mom got along almost too well LOL! We snuggled on the love seat and watched lots of movies and musicals. I’ve been anxiously waiting for his visit allllllllllllllllllll year and it was just the absolute best thing in the world when it finally happened! All the snow in Atlanta couldn’t stop him from getting to me! Just, ajskdfajsldfkasldjf it was fantastic!

I couldn’t have asked for a better first visit for him to be here with me and meet Mom!

Thank you for another happy year having me as your girlfriend, James. I can’t imagine you not being my best friend, my life without you, or not being together with you like we are now! I’m so happy with you in my life, and I can’t wait for many more years with you by my side! ❤

2017 was a great year for me. I learned I was so much tougher than I thought I was. And I did get to do some pretty fun things when I wasn’t working!

I went to my first haunted house experience, The 13th Floor, with Ashlyn and her hubby and friends, had the time of our lives screaming our guts out! I ate lots of Panda Express. Visited both Wickenburg and Flag Staff to hike Walnut Canyon. Coworker Matt and I talked up our anticipation for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2” and “Game of Thrones Season 7” ALLLL spring, which was just the best, and we even went to see “Spider-Man: Homecoming” together (I miss you as well, Matt!) I gave in and got Snapchat. My coworkers spoiled me rotten on my birthday, from hugs and presents, to Boss having everyone sing! I got to babysit the cutest kids on earth as my niece and nephew. I filled my coin bank to the top with tips! I threw down so much cash to get Taylor Swift’s new album and merch (which IS THE BOMB!) I got puppy scars on my arm which are still there. I bought so many dream catchers (the count is up to 12.) Finally finished “Breaking Bad” after a year hiatus. I became a Pewdiepie fan this year–I know that’s super random but he’s given me some great laughs! I got to try acrylic nails for the first time, thanks to Ashlyn! James took me on a date to Arrowhead Mall! Sat in the parking lot after work with coworkers in the heat just because we weren’t ready to say bye yet.

It was a good year!

I named her Minnie. And we're going for a drive. 😎😜😍😊

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That happy moment when he goes to sleep. 😴😇 #babysitting

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A night out with Ashlyn is always a great night. ❤️😘

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So yeah, that’s been my year!

The year of finding real friendships and fun in my coworkers, the year I got my wonderful car, the year James at last visited me here in Arizona, the year where being boyfriend and girlfriend felt so freaking normal and real, the year my heart grew so full of love to give to anyone who needed it.

As I said above in that one Instagram post, my overall thought from this year is: I’m beat tired but I’m so blessed. I’m so excited for the new adventures 2018 will throw at me when I find my new job and visit Georgia again. I’m so ready to keep building towards my future!

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018. Throw your best at me; I can handle you. 😉

~Jamie

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My Small City Bus Adventure

sunny sailing

Monday through Wednesday, I attend a GED preparation school; within the past few of weeks, I’ve ridden home on the bus by myself twice. My first bus ride was an experience to say the least, from which I learned a variety of small lessons. Now I’m sure people have had worst experiences then this on the bus, but for being my first bus ride alone, it was an experience enough for me.

Of course it doesn’t help that my school is not in a nice part of town. However, in a big place like Phoenix, bad neighborhoods twist like veins throughout the entire city–there’s almost no avoiding that problem anyway. City life is not as glamorous as one might think.

When I’m by myself, I naturally walk very fast–mostly from walking the neighbor dogs. So, I was briskly trotting along down the street with my heavy school folder pack in my arms. It was quite warm (yes, it was a warm week for an AZ February), and I had several blocks to walk the right bus stop (a five to seven minute walk from the school to the stop, if you walk really fast).

black anchor

An African American guy on his phone passed me, then doubled back calling after me. He spoke in smooth compliments and huffed along to keep up with me. Then he tried to give me the tiniest fold of paper square you’d ever seen–he called it a souvenir but I was pretty sure it concealed a phone number for drugs. I said no thank you and he immediately stopped following me, which made me feel relieved but uneasy at the same time.

I skidded up to the bus stop and sat down on the shaded bench. In a laundromat parking lot behind me, about twenty Hispanic gentleman mulled about waiting for work, which did not make me very comfortable. Already at the stop was a man sitting on his bike, enthusiastically speaking Spanish to his phone but he didn’t bother me.

I fished about in my pack for a book but a Hispanic homeless-looking man, who appeared about seventy, came roaming up the sidewalk. He sat himself next to me, not close but still right there in my company. Between bits of silence, he told me his name, that he could understand what the man on the bike was saying and that I was pretty. I responded as naturally as I could but I turned my attention to my book so he would get the message that I wanted to read.

Old Man By the Sea

About ten minutes later a guy in a khakis and button up shirt came huffing up the sidewalk, the stop obviously his destination. He loudly asked if I had two dollars he could borrow for the bus fare (he swore profusely for his boss calling him in on overtime). He asked the bike guy then darted around to the parking lot to ask the people in the parking lot.

The old homeless man, Pueblo, said “Why give him money? I wouldn’t give him money. You won’t see it again!” And I nodded in agreement while flattening open my library book with frustration and checked to see if the bus was in sight. The guy soon came with two dollars and continued to swear up and down the sidewalk in front of me about how unhappy he was (he literally did not stop talking about it even after the bus came some time later).

For the thirty-five minute wait  my reading was disturbed by small remarks by Pueblo and the F word. I felt both uneasy and serenely calm at the same time–not sure how, exactly. The bus AT LAST pulled down the street and stopped. Pueblo said goodbye to me as I nearly pounced on the bus steps. I scrambled into the bus, double checked with the driver that it would pass my stop, and sat down as fast as I could near the closest woman.

Dangerous Voyage

The bus took off and I stared holes out the window to watch for my stop, even though it was ten minute drive down the road. I yanked the cord just before my stop and jumped out too fast.

As I began my trek into my neighborhood, my frustration began to emerge, now that I was alone. By this time, the uptight wait for the bus combined with the heat (and the stress I was dealing with over my computer issues), had worn me down. By the time I reached home my arms were exhausted from my heavy load and I was very hungry and hot (as I’d walked too fast downhill).

My mom let me complain at the kitchen table. Getting home is usually a quick process when she picks me up. Having missed the bus at noon and then the bus being late, coupled with the walking: It had taken me a full hour to get home on my own, while avoiding a drug dealer, busy traffic, homeless people, and a very germy bus ride in a heat that had come too early even for Phoenix.

Sail Peacefully

The moral of this story is that if things are bad the first time, they probably won’t be so bad the second–you just have to try again. Nowhere to go but up, right? My sister, who is a bus veteran, informed me that if I wore headphones, people would be more likely to leave me alone–apparently she’d never had my experience in any of her bus taking trips.

So, the second time I took the bus, I carried things in a backpack; what a help that was. The weather had cooled and there was a breeze. I wore my ear buds and played an unabridged audio book of Winnie-the-Pooh; the trashy street was a little less scary with Pooh and Piglet trying to catch a Hefflalump in my ear. While all the Hispanic men were still there looking for work, the homeless guy waiting there left me alone and stood about eight feet away.

Plus, I only waited ten minutes before the bus arrived on time!

colorful sea

The bus ride was also better now that I’d had an experience using it. Pooh and Company were now preparing to form an “Expetition” to the North Pole but sadly they weren’t able to make the bus feel more clean. I jumped out at my stop and bathed in hand sanitizer I’d remembered to bring. Roo fell into a stream while I, more slowly, walked into my neighborhood. Pooh discovered the North Pole by the time I got home.

That experience was so much nicer than the first one.

The lessons I learned? Experiences are always going to be different, even if you end up at the same bus stop with the same bus and bus driver. Life is full of people, from all walks of life, who we’re just going to bump into along the way. Winnie-the-Pooh makes things a lot better. A backpack makes a heavy load easier to carry. Ear buds keep drug dealers away from you (well, I’ll test theory again the next time). Walking slowly downhill won’t leave you huffing and puffing (and a breeze always helps).

anchor with flowers

But really, Pooh helped a lot. “After all, it’s more friendly with two.”

~Jamie