This is Just a Test

By- Traci Taylor
November 2017

Walking out on that fresh cut, green grass
that instantly takes you back
to childhood
or the childhood
you choose to remember
the rest you’ve blocked out
for sake of sanity

People tell you when you are older
if you’ve still got that glimmer of hope in your eye
to “never lose that spark”
what does that even mean
And when did they lose that spark
to remember how important it is not to

Every day I wake up
I feel the weight of the world
and still I feel nothing
I want to understand everyone
because it is easier than trying to understand myself

Three years to thirty
and I haven’t shaken the angst
I always swore city lights and skylines
would break me from this mold
that a small town shaped me in

One day
that always seems to be the answer
even when I don’t remember the question

So I let my mind drift
back to the time when I let
the smell of fresh baked cookies
outweigh the screams
and the loud crashes
that used to be my lullaby

Because it is not where we came from
or where we are going
that matters
it is where we stand in the moment
how we act and react

remembering everything that built us
or broke us
was just preparing us
for the test of kindness
in the darkness of hate


A Hug In a Photograph

By- Traci Taylor
December 2016

When pictures
make the people
we love
come alive

Distant memories
of a time
where sadness
was merely
a skinned knee
soothed by Bactine

At a loss
for words
when not even
can heal the wound
felt deep in the pit
of a stomach
empty of feeling

Darkness of twilight
warm my lonesome self
with the sweet smell of home
wrapped up in yesterdays

The leaves change
to colors of golden amber brown
almost has the mind
forget the loss it has felt
since the sun set
in soft pinks
and cold baby blues

Making the heart
erase the reality
of photographs

The only time
I can feel
by your smile

Learning to Exist

By- Traci Taylor
September 2016

As eyelids wince slowly open
to the first dawn of emptiness

Roaming the earth in slow motion
existing without your presence
is an unbearable, unfathomable thought

To look out upon the horizon
and see the ocean go calm

To stare blankly into the crowd
and question how strangers
can keep living contently

The dots will just not connect
the picture looks intoxicated

Not being able to feel your spirit
has been more sobering than
losing you from the same world
I continue to exist in.


Keys to the Heart

By- Traci Taylor
September 2016
(In loving memory of Alice Valeri aka MomMom)

It’s within the streaking of the sky
that we often look for answers

When answers are not found
we try to create illusions to escape to

Breaking away from the body that traps us
and the emotions that in sadness drown us

In this life it slips our minds
that there is a beginning and an end

The purpose is to gain keys
that have the power to open hearts

And to create stories through actions
that leave memories for when the end is near

The streaks in the sky may fade
but the answers can be found within the turning of the key

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Power of Music

**Note from the author- This piece was written on a lighter note than most of the topics I’ve touched upon over the past few weeks. I believe music is a very important aspect of life and sometimes it is taken for granted. I wrote this to remind others that music is indeed created for enjoyment, but there are also other reasons music is a vital part of the lives we live. Just take a moment, read, soak it in, and then listen to the music play.

By- Traci Taylor
February 2015
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

There are many ways of expressing emotions in life, but what seems to be one of the most powerful forms of expression is music. It can alternate moods, trigger certain memories, tell stories, and draw connections between people. Imagining a world without music is quite difficult, but envisioning that world puts in perspective the vital role music plays in everyday life.

I had a conversation with someone once about how certain songs have the power to bring back memories of specific moments from the past. The reality of that is both joyous and sorrowful because not every bit of music brings back pleasant memories. However it demonstrates the significance songs can have throughout life. Often music is used as an aid to get through certain moments whether it may be a good or bad life experience.

Music has always been my core inspiration as a writer. I was never that musically inclined (minus being able to play a few guitar chords) but have always turned to music to spark creativity. I read an article not too long ago in Billboard when they interviewed Stevie Nicks and she mentioned the power advantage that a writer has. Just like stories inspired by life events, sometimes it is easy to forget that music is created in the same sense. Stevie’s words in the interview really kind of summed up my feelings about writing and music:

“That’s why it’s good to be a writer, because you get to lash back…. Just because a relationship ended badly, and shitty things happened, you cannot tell that to the world. But you can write a song about it, in three verses and a bridge and a chorus, that tells the really magical moments….”

It is an outlet of expression, there is no limit to music and that’s what makes it so fantastic. No matter how someone may be feeling there is more than likely a song that was written about that exact emotion. The connections with music and emotions are endless, regardless of the mood or genre.

There are genres for different emotions; it just needs to be narrowed down to the individuals taste. Although I am an advocate for mostly older tunes (there seems to be a more authentic feel to music from the past, in my opinion) I do indulge in music from the current era. The only true way to take full advantage of music is to explore all genres from different decades, and listen without bias. Music much like literature or any other art form is about expression, putting it out into the world, and hoping it makes some sort of impact.

Sometimes things that happen in life aren’t easy to deal with and there doesn’t seem to be any solution of making the situation better. That’s usually when I blast music, loudly. There are particular songs (sometimes despondent ones because there’s nothing better than a great sad song) that really help to brighten things up a bit. Never underestimate the power of a good crying session with the soundtrack of some of the best sad songs.

Sad songs are fantastic and having a playlist filled with them is something I am an advocate for. Whenever I feel that awful overwhelming feeling of melancholy kick in I listen to one of my favorite songs, “Landslide”. Ever since I was a kid this song has been the one that somehow has the power to bring tears to my eyes. For some reason it reminds me of my dad and whenever I begin to miss him, I like to listen to it. Recently I found the Fleetwood Mac album at a local record store in the city and the first time I heard this track on vinyl, I swear chills rushed through my body. Hearing music on vinyl is more than just listening; it’s an experience of sorts. Perhaps that is why I’ve always been so interested in collecting vinyl records over the years. Vinyl shopping and listening to records are my absolute favorite form of therapy. When in doubt, put the records on. When words are put to rhythms and beats it creates an escape for the listener to get lost, even for a few minutes.

Another song that can make me sorrowful is, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, This song I had on repeat for weeks after I got the news of my friend Logann’s passing. As dejected as I felt, sometimes sad songs have a way of providing comfort just to get through the day. Melancholy moods can’t always be cured with more sadness, sometimes that’s not the best solution. In which case music can still be the answer, just perhaps more upbeat tunes (that’s why music is so great, there’s a whole endless selection to choose from). My go-to “pick-me-up” music varies upon mood, but it’s usually: Glenn Miller, Grouplove, or certain Rap music (Kanye, Childish Gambino, etc.).

When I just need a little boost of confidence I tend to turn to Yeezy or Childish Gambino. (Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if people would listen to music without bias of an artist’s personal life it would be easier to hear the talent in their sounds). I’ve also been known to freestyle Notorious B.I.G. , but that was back when whiskey was my water and I’m not too sure how confident with my rap skills I am sober.

Music contains the type of power that can trigger memories from over the years that transport back to specific periods in life. There are some songs from the past that can bring back very vivid memories that were once forgotten. Personally hearing anything in regards to Whitney will forever remind me of that drunken night in Philly. The night she passed away was my first night with a girl and my friend repeatedly screamed “Traci loves Philly” loudly in the next room (never once did I imagine I would relate Whitney Houston with my coming out story). The memories music can draw attention to certainly aren’t always upsetting ones, there are also happy unforgettable (even momentous lesbionic) moments.

Even childhood memories can be triggered by certain songs from the past. My sisters and I had a tendency to make ridiculous music videos growing up whenever boredom struck. Now whenever I hear “Thong Song” or “I’m like a Bird” I laugh and cringe simultaneously. As fun as it was in the moment I dread the thought of anyone other than the three of us watching those videos (thankfully no one owns a VHS player anymore). Little were any of us aware at the time that those songs would contain such ridiculously humorous, yet precious memories of growing up together.

Everyday the soundtrack to life is being made by the song you choose to play. That very tune will have the power to bring you back to that moment in time, whether it seems to have significance now or not. Music itself tells a story with its lyrics and rhythms that it contains, but it is what that song means to you that make it memorable to your life.

Take a moment when you get behind the wheel and listen to those songs that make you feel an overwhelming sense of emotion. There’s nothing more intimate and relaxing than being able to drive around aimlessly listening to the music through car speakers. Since I moved to the city I no longer have that luxury, so I choose to walk around with headphones instead. While I walk I tend to look up at the skyline of endlessly tall buildings against the warm blue sky and reflect with a smile that I am the one in control of the creation to the soundtrack of memories to my life.


By- Traci Taylor
January 2015

Walking down the streets of cobblestone,
the bitter cold air burst with a recognized scent.
Suddenly the mind drifts back to a different time.

The senses have a power over the emotions
that can replay vivid memories within an instant.
A home that no longer exists remains in certain familiar ways.

With eyes closed images take over the imagination
and the elegant smiles fade in as quickly as they fade out.
Holding on to the past is only poetic if it is left to remain there.

Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable: Family

**Note from the author: The topic of family was chosen with the holiday season in mind. This pulled on a lot of emotional heart strings for me, and even so I must admit I left a lot out. For the people that know me, they know underneath my stubborn, hard headed exterior, there is a sentimental heart. This story is dedicated to each person in my life that has shown me that love really does exist and not just in the romantic sense. Thank you for letting me still believe that in each chapter of life good people can be found.

By- Traci Taylor
December 2014
Live, Thrive, & Be Vulnerable series

Life gives us two sets of family members: the biological and the chosen. Everyone has their own dysfunctional family story and tales from their childhood that are horrifying. I’ve heard them all, and I’ve lived a few of them myself. One thing that really irks me is when people use their broken family life story as an excuse for the choices they make as adults.

At some point responsibility needs to be taken and blame needs to be placed upon the individual, not the family. After all family isn’t limited to just blood relation- the people that offer love and support in your life are sometimes all the family you need regardless of biological connection.

I was raised in a suburban tourist beach town with two older sisters, and a Catholic father (who was actually supposed to be a priest but ended up being a chef- I’ll let that sink in for a second). My dad is undeniably my best friend and I thank my lucky stars every day for the relationship we maintain. Sometimes even though life gives us two parents, one really can end up being enough.

For years I tried to convince my dad that not everyone is meant to be a parent, and that is truly okay. He never really liked when I would remind him of that, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Whether it was he felt ashamed that I never developed a relationship with my mother or because he was so close to his that he felt I was missing out on something.

A parent (or mentor) should posses the qualities of strength, guidance, and support at all times. My dad raised me right, and I know this for plenty of reasons: I still hold doors for people, I say please and thank you no matter what, I say excuse me (especially in the grocery store), and I show respect for my elders. I’m sure I could go on and on, but I think that makes it clear enough. Call me old fashion, but a lot of those qualities are lost in the world today and I am just grateful I still possess them. If there is at least one parent or mentor in your life that has loved you unconditionally, you are as lucky as I am.

At a young age I was exposed to a lot, but ultimately it aided me in being mature beyond my years. When I was ten years old my mother left the family, and I still have so much respect for my dad for not only raising three girls alone but correctly, and with solid values. If it wasn’t for him, there’s a good chance I would not have ended up being the independent woman I am today who still continues to follow her dreams.

Every experience I have had in my family life has opened my eyes to realizing the term family is more about the development of a bond than about being related. In college I took a course on family violence that touched on a lot of different areas of abuse within the household. This ended up being a more emotional hard hitting class for me than I anticipated.

What really got to me was choosing to speak for the first time out loud about my own family story. It took a toll on me to talk about the emotional, verbal abuse my dad had gone through, and my sisters including me were exposed to. In a way it also took a weight off my shoulders to finally speak out loud about something I had held in for so long other than to people who knew me well. Strange enough I think all of the things we experienced as a family only made us stronger in the end.

The other kind of family are the ones you choose as friends, but somewhere along the line an unconditional love forms. When I went away to college for the first couple of years I dreaded it. I would drive three and a half hours home to New Jersey every other weekend. It wasn’t until my very last semester at Millersville that I found my group of lifelong friends.

My good friend Meg had introduced me to a few guys she knew. Before I knew it I was like their fifth roommate and I ended up sleeping on their couch every night that semester. Somewhere within a short six month span, plenty of late drunken nights, we all became family. Through the good, and the bad they have been there. It is friends like them that remind me it is about being there no matter the circumstance simply because you genuinely care.

After college was done and my dad sold the house in Jersey, I had to move. I knew it was time to begin the next chapter of my life, but I was hesitant of all the change. Moving anywhere new meant being away from familiarity and people I loved. Living in Philadelphia was very lonely at first, and being at a short distance from people I knew was a tough adjustment.

When I landed my second restaurant job in the city things began to look up. Finally I had found a place with people who were actually friendly and not pretentious. Although the job itself had more downs than ups, the people I worked with were my reason for going to work with a smile on my face. Seeing people every day, and spending hours together makes it difficult not to become so close.

There are a handful of individuals that I worked with there that have undeniably been there for me in my darkest of times. Family can be defined by who is there holding you above water when there is an anchor tied to you trying to keep you down below sea level.

During the holiday season remember if you feel lonely; that the family you are born into only defines you if you choose to let it. As years go by it is easier to see the bigger picture and that the past may be set in stone, but the future has yet to be lived. Take a moment to think about the people that matter the most to you, and who have been there without judgment.

Whether you come from a broken home, or from a picture perfect family think about how you have let that define you in your lifetime. Either way, it should be for the better. Family is given and chosen to raise us, advise us, and lend a hand. They may not always be by blood relation, but if an unconditional love exists that’s really all that matters.