Break-ups: It's Not You, It's My ISH

Break-ups: It's Not You, It's My ISH (Artwork created by Michael LeTang)

In this Season 3 opener of Adult ISH, Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen get the party started with … breakups?! The co-hosts call up friendship fallout expert (a.k.a. Justina Sharp) on what to do when you lose a BFF. Nyge and his best friend Greg Hill say goodbye to their firefighting dreams. Merk reads a breakup letter to her boyfriend that would make Lin-Manuel Miranda proud.

Scroll to the bottom for the full transcript of the episode.

BFF Breakups with Justina Sharp

Lifestyle content creator Justina Sharp, also known by co-hosts Merk and Nyge as the "expert" of bestie break ups looks at the camera while sitting on a couch. Through a phone call, she gives them and listeners advice on how to deal with friendship fallouts.
“I’ve broken up with multiple friends but never with a romantic partner!”
(Photo courtesy of Justina Sharp)

Lifestyle content creator Justina Sharp recalls getting organically swerved at Trader Joe’s by an ex-best friend (rude!). Since then, Nyge and Merk have hailed her as the queen of bestie breakups. She gives advice to them and listeners on navigating relationships with former friends and says it’s totally okay if you stay unfriended.

Farewell To Firefighting

16-year-old Nyge (left) and Greg Hill, 18, (right) in his EMT uniform.
(Photo courtesy of Nyge Turner)

Back in the late 90s, ever since his pacifier and diaper days, Nyge had a dream to become a fireman. But he had no idea what this would cost.

Merk’s Breakup Letter

Merk and Samuel, her boyfriend of three years, look out at a blue sky in Seattle, Washington — a state they're both from. In this segment, she reads a heartbreaking letter about leaving him so she can move to Los Angeles to pursue her voice acting dreams.
“Samuel, what if I find myself out there and don’t want to come back?”
(Photo courtesy of Samuel Escudero)

Merk has written love letters before but never a breakup letter … until now. And it’s addressed to her boyfriend, Samuel Escudero. If you’ve ever experienced moving away from someone you love, took big risks to pursue your dreams or questioned what you truly want, then you’ll definitely be able to relate.

Episode Transcript

Nyge: What’s up everybody! It’s Nyge and Merk. Our team has been working really hard on season three! But, like all of you, due to this whole coronavirus pandemic we’ve been dealing with a whole new type of “Adult ISH.” 

Merk: Yeah. Some of the segments and interviews you’re gonna hear were recorded in a pre-social distancing time of life. Remember those good old days when you could go to the studio and hang out with your guests? Yeah, we remember those days too. We’ve heard from some listeners that this show is what you’ve been looking forward to during the quarantine. That it’s been a super nice escape from your social feeds, news headlines and other things that might make you anxious. 

Nyge: So we’re going to honor that. But before we get into today’s show, I kind of just wanted to take a second to talk about how the coronavirus has affected my life and Merk wanted to do the same. 

Merk: Yeah but if you wanna avoid hearing anything COVID-19 related then you can skip to the start of this episode. Our senior producer Davey is gonna tell you where to jump to right now…

Davey: Fast forward about 5 minutes.

Nyge: So, Merk… 

Merk: Yes?

Nyge: What’s one of the hardest things that you’ve had to deal with so far with the whole pandemic going on right now? 

Merk: Well, I’ve had some bad panic attacks. One of them was last month when I went to the grocery store. I was trying to just get some rice but when I got to that aisle, which I’ve been to a hundred times, it was completely empty. Seeing that made my stomach drop. And at the same time, my big brother was sending me a whole bunch of texts saying how important it was to stock up. And that freaked me out because even though I had been preparing, I felt so unprepared in that moment. So I just got into my car and started ugly sobbing. Yeah… all of that outside of 99 Ranch Market, which I thought was called Ranch 99 for the longest time!

Nyge: But in that moment you realized that wasn’t what it was.

Merk: Yeah! I was like “Oh, my whole life is a lie!”

Nyge: I can for sure relate. My dad has been dropping COVID news like a football game and it is giving me dummy anxiety. Especially because I have family friends who actually got the virus. While some pulled through and a few of them haven’t. Weird to even say that.

Merk: Yeah…

Nyge: Alright. One more question to change up the mood a bit before we officially start the episode. ‘Cause we are all cooped at home, are there any DIY projects that you have taken on?

Merk: Umm… 

Nyge: I put you on the spot. I can go first with my story. I can go with a fail. And then you can come up with yours.

Merk: Yes please. Lead the way!

Nyge: So basically, I was trying to make this little breakfast burrito. So I’m chopping up everything. I got sausage in there. I got bell peppers, tomatoes in there. I got onions. Turkey too. It’s looking smooth. It’s starting to really look good.

Merk: Oh yeah. Sounds delicious.

Nyge: And then I was just like, “Dang, I don’t want it to be dry. What am I gonna use as kind of like a sauce inside?” I’m going through the cabinets. I’m like, “I can’t find nothing. I don’t want to put ketchup on this thing.”

Merk: Why not? Ketchup is so good!

Nyge: It is but I wanted, like, some salsa or whatever. So then I was like, “Oh, we do got some Preggo.” You know? The spaghetti sauce. I put some spaghetti sauce on it and then it tastes exactly like spaghetti. And so then I made the breakfast burrito and my dad came down and he said, “Oh, it smells amazing in here!” And then he was like, “Let me get one!” I was like … I don’t know. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t gonna be good. So I made it and I saw him take a bite out of it. He pretended to just get on the computer and never touched it again. 

Merk: (laughs)

Nyge: And I was like, “Yeah, I know.” I took an L. It was not one of my proudest moments. What about you?

Merk: Well, I have ants in my bathroom and I don’t like them because when it’s that time of the month and you look into your trash can and you see all these ants crawling over your blood you’re like “Eww!”

Nyge: (groans)

Merk: I know. Really, really gross. So I was like, “Okay, I’m on a mission to defeat these ants!” One of my best friends told me, “Oh, use cinnamon. Sprinkle that in their holes. They don’t like it.” So I put that basically all over my bathroom floor. That worked for a little bit until it didn’t. So… 

Nyge: The ants are still in there?

Merk: The ants are still in my pants. Figuratively.

Nyge: All that to say, we know it’s a very strange time to be alive altogether. But our hearts go out to all the essential workers out there, from the UPS dude who dropped me off my little medicine ball, like, last week to the DoorDash lady who just dropped me off some fried catfish.

Merk: Employees at 99 Ranch Market…

Nyge: Not even to mention all the health care workers out there.

Merk: And you’ve probably heard that those health care workers are facing a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment. That’s also known as PPE. So, if you are fortunate enough to spare a couple dollars, check out They are trying to get our health care workers the equipment they need so that they can stay safe while saving others.

Nyge: And like we said before, we’re all goin’ through this together. So if you do need someone to talk to, hit us up! We’re just chillin’ at the house right now. We don’t have nothing else better to do.

Merk: (laughs) We’re not going anywhere.

Nyge: I’m on Twitter @nygelt and on Instagram @unsp.gully. Then Merk is on Insta @ultraraduberfad. Yeah, hit us up!

Merk: Yeah, for real. Before I try Raid and massacre those ants, I want to try a more peaceful solution. So if you have any suggestions, ya girl would super appreciate those.

Nyge: Alright. Now that it’s clear that we’ve broken up with our normal lives, let’s get into this episode about breakups!

Merk: Yay!

Nyge: Hope you guys enjoy it.

[Episode Break]

[Cold Open Recording]

Merk: (Muffled sounding) Hey everybody, you’re listening to Adult ISH. It’s your girl Merk, heyyy. I just got my wisdom teeth out. It’s part of adulting, here we go. Haaaa.

[Music Break]

Nyge: Wait, what did you say?

Merk: I said it’s part of adulting! Here we go, heyyy.

Nyge: All I heard was (gibberish sounds).

Merk: I don’t even remember recording that! I got my wisdom out four months ago. I listened to it, I think, just a few days after. I was like “Oh my gosh, this is going to be a great way to start off season three!” You were on dental drugs [too]. I remember calling you and I was like “I’m so scared of this!” 

Nyge: I really don’t remember anything about it. I just know stories people told me. I remember trying to get up out of that chair. They [the dentists] were like, “You can walk,” and I was like, “Okay.” And then I put my legs down and I tried to lift myself up, and then I instantly buckled. So they put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out.

Merk: So dramatic!

Nyge: I remember I got into the car and I was flailing my arms around and screaming how much I wanted red potatoes. That’s about it.

Merk: (laughs) Well welcome everyone to Adult ISH, a show where we talk about Nyge’s flailing arms and the legal and literal highs of dental drugs! I’m Merk.

Nyge: And I’m Nyge. If you’re listening for the first time then an extra welcome to you! It’s been a cool minute since Merk and I have been your real-life adulting tour guides. 

Merk: Tour guides sounds boring. How about theme park operators?

Nyge: Theme park operators? Very “Merky” title.

Merk: Let’s do it!

Nyge: Fasho. So last year at the Adult ISH theme park what did we get into? Umm, got roasted by our exes, then comedian W. Kamau Bell helped us win some concessions … See what I did there?

Merk: Ahhhh!

Nyge: … By guiding us through a game called hot potato racism. I also talked about my very first slave plantation tour and what it’s like to be my mom’s caretaker.

Merk: I got my communist-y buzzcut that caused a bumper car of emotions with my parents and I.

Nyge: Ayeee.

Merk: Nyge and I also hung out with actress Asia Jackson where we all said no to glutathione shots. 

Nyge: No!

Merk: Those are injections that make your skin lighter. We all love our brownness. We also talked about pap smears … that was fun, and male birth control, which Nyge isn’t into because he thinks only women should struggle with the pill.

Nyge: Whoa whoa. I did not say anything of that sort! I just needed somebody to try it before me because I didn’t want to be the guinea pig dude. I got to see how people react to it.

Merk: You mean you won’t be the sacrifice that will save humankind? Yikes!

Nyge: No! I’m the type of humankind that wants to be saved.

Merk: Okay…

Nyge: But, as you can see, our adventures are far from over.

Merk: Way far from it. I’m 23. Nyge is 24. So, Mr. Wiseman, when do you think young adulthood ends? 

Nyge: Oh yeah, because I’m so much older than you.

Merk: (laughs)

Nyge: Honestly, I think once we get to Davey’s age. (laughs)

Merk: Davey is our boss.

Nyge: When we hit 30 we can no longer say that we are “young young” adults.

Merk: Ouch!

Nyge: But for right now, I think we’re good for the rest of our twenties.

Merk: So while we’re young, Nyge, what are some adulting highlights you’ve experienced in these past few months?

Nyge: Ummm … So I moved. Sorry, Grandpa but I had to get out of there! Have also been traveling a little more with friends.

Merk: Where to?

Nyge: To the South, my favorite. I love the South, baby. What about you?

Merk: I think my biggest highlights were caramelizing onions for the first time; I’m a pro at it now. Getting a car under my name, so I’m a vehicle owner. That’s exciting! I would also say getting those teeth out. It was time for that.

Nyge: And as you heard in that beautiful recording that Merk shared with us, your teeth just had to move on to other stuff. Other endeavors.

Merk: Outside of my mouth.

Nyge: That relates to today’s episode because it is all about different kinds of breakups, and it’s called It’s Not You, It’s My ISH.

Merk: Oh, I am no stranger to that line. I’m sorry to the last person I dated. I used this line on you.

Nyge: No sorries.

Merk: Yeah, I guess we’re not sorry! Anyways, whether it’s in our relationship lives, jobs we’ve had or whatever it may be, we’ve all had to part ways with things we deeply care about.

Nyge: It’s been a real struggle for me too. Recently I started this diet, so I have to part ways wings. I love wings so much!

Merk: Who doesn’t?

Nyge: I know, but it’s like 700 calories in three wings.

Merk: Nooo! Don’t tell me that!

Nyge: I had to back out of them, but I know it’s going to result in some big gains later on.

Merk: Yeah, big gains because Merk is going to eat all your wings for you.

Nyge: I’m going to be on Instagram like… (grunting noises)

Merk: So later in the show I’m gonna share with you all a big loss of mine in the form of a letter I wrote to my significant other. It’s a breakup letter. And probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write.

Nyge: You’re going to make me cry just thinking about it. We’re also going to get into a breakup with a career dream that me and my best had when we were growing up to be firefighters. I’ll share a personal story about why that never worked out for us. But first, we’ve got a special guest to tell us what it’s like to get organically swerved in the Trader Joe’s frozen food section and what it’s like to lose a best friend.

Merk: Alright, let’s get into that.

[Episode Break]

Merk: So we’ve got lifestyle content creator Justina Sharp. She’s the person behind the blog and brand “a bent piece of wire” and she’s finishing up her senior year at Cal State Fullerton! Justina, you’re here to talk about bestie breakups ‘cause you’re like a pro at it or something?

Justina: Something like that.

Nyge: Something like that? Kind of a pro?

Justina: Yeah, I don’t know if that’s something you want to go around bragging about. But I do my thing.

Nyge: So you recently wrote an article for YR Media about how you ran into an old best friend at the grocery store. Instead of being like “YO IT’S MY GIRLLL” when you saw each other things were … different. What happened when you ran into her?

Justina: Real life goes down in Trader Joe’s. (laughs) I was grocery shopping with my mom. You know when you try to push your cart past somebody and try not to make eye contact even though you know that aisle is too small to contain you both?

Nyge: Yeah.

Justina: I looked over at the person next to me and I was like, “Oh my God, that is my best friend that I have not spoken to in two years!” I hadn’t seen her, I hadn’t talked to her and we just kind of glided past each other. “Oh, so it’s going to be like that. We’re not even going to say anything to each other? Okay, cool.” And we just kind of both went on with our lives. Then I went home and Facebook stalked her like a normal person. That is what inspired the piece.

Merk: So, a more philosophical question for everyone. Do you think friendships are supposed to last forever?

Nyge: I think they do. They’re supposed to last forever. All my homies, we can’t get rid of each other. Personally, a big thing for me in my life was we were literally all at a party and I learned that my grandma had passed away. I left to go out to my car and then all my boys got in the car. They’re in there like, “Where we going?” They rode with me to the hospital. Everybody was out there laid across the couches in the waiting room, everything like that. So, I don’t know. After you go through something like that with somebody I can’t let you go. We’re rolling through life together. That’s it. 

Merk: Dang, that’s really sweet. How about you, Justina?

Justina: I know I’m not making the best case for myself, but I am a people person.

Nyge and Merk: (laughs)

Justina: I don’t wish any animosity towards friends that I’m not friends with anymore. I’m recognizing that there’s reasons we’re no longer in each other’s lives. But if you called me tomorrow and you’re like, “Hey, let’s go get coffee. Let’s go hangout” I’d be like, sure.

Nyge: Exactly, I feel the same way. Now we have an audience question. Let’s play the clip. 

Audience: What’s up? My name is BP. I’m from Richmond, California. Back in middle school I had this best friend. We were real close. But I ended up switching schools and I got a new phone number and lost her contact. We didn’t see or talk to each other for like a smooth four years. We ended up reconnecting over social media. She actually reached out to me to kick it. At first, I was a little nervous because it had been so long, but we ended up hanging out and things are real cool. It wasn’t awkward at all. To this day, we still talk to each other every once in a while but minimal. So, I guess my question is, do you think people are in your life for seasons or do you think you should fight to maintain the connections you once had with people? 

Justina: Ohh, this is actually a really good one. This is something I spent a lot of time talking about.

Merk: Ohh, perfect.

Justina: Yeah I’m ready for this! I think that it is so important to have people in your life who are just there for certain parts of it and then to have people who are there all the time. I have a very, very close social circle of people I talk to every single day. Those are my best friends, my people. And then I have friends who I have a lot of love for, but they’re in specific parts of my life or they came from specific times in my life. It kind of places a limitation on that relationship, which is what I think this person is talking about. And that’s okay.

Merk: So you know how in romantic relationships there sometimes this thing at the end where you break up, get back together, maybe have a little makeup (tongue sounds)? But then you remember why you broke up in the first place and end it for real? Do you think there’s a friendship version of that kind of thing, Justina? Don’t mind the (tongue sounds).

Nyge: (laughs) Don’t do it again!

Justina: (laughs) That was intense! This is going to be really funny to everybody because I have broken up with multiple friends but I have never broken up with a romantic partner.

Merk: What? Like, they’ve been the one to break up with you?

Justina: I had a lot of ghosting before … I guess I was the ghost. I am the ghost, of course, unsurprising, before I met my partner. We’ve been together for three years now and I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I mean, I guess we’ll find out when he hears this!

Nyge and Merk: (laughs)

Justina: But, with friends, I definitely have done that thing. Actually, I put it at the end of the article. You get what I call twitchy fingers. You know when you’re bored and you’re sitting by yourself and you’re like, “I want to talk to somebody.” Then all the sudden you’re on Instagram and you see this person and say “That used to be my best friend! I used to be in those photos with them.” They have all these new people. “Let me DM them and see if they want to get coffee or go hangout.” That is a bad idea. You need to put your phone down the same way you would if that was an ex-romantic partner. 

Merk: (snapping fingers) Snaps.

Justina: That nostalgia is trying to trap you and you need to say “Not today, Satan!”

[Music Break]

Merk: You can follow Justina Sharp on Instagram @abentpieceofwire and check out more of her lifestyle blog on

[Episode Break]

Nyge: Aight, Merk. We talked about friendship breakups. Now, I want to share a story about a different type of breakup. Before we get into, I do want to give a heads up that this story does contain a brief graphic moment and a mention of suicide. So, listeners, discretion is advised. With that said … Let’s get into it.

[Music Break]

Nyge: “Nygel, get up!” My mom yells from downstairs. It’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday. I’m 15 and, again, it’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday. “Nygel, come on! I have a surprise for you.” When she said surprise, I was out of my room in under a minute! “What is it?” “Just get in the car boy!” And 10 minutes later, we pull up to this huge yellow wooden tower in the middle of a gated area. The wall is covered with overgrown vines so you can’t see what’s in or out. But once we get in, I start to see high schoolers my age walking around in these navy blue uniforms, some doing pushups, and others racing each other while pulling a firefighter water hose?! I’m so excited because ever since I was a little kid, there was only one job I could ever see myself doing. I’ll just have my dad tell it.

Nyge’s Dad: When Nyge was a baby, we had one of the most difficult times keeping clothes on this young boy. We would come in. He would have no diaper on and he would always have this fireman’s hat on. Would be just naked as a jaybird, walking around as happy as he can be with his fireman’s hat on. So, we knew early on that he was going to be a fireman.

Nyge: Firefighting also runs through my bloodline. My grandmother’s brother was the first black firefighter in our city.  Everyone in my family still talks about him to this day, especially my dad. When he was younger, he was THIS close to becoming a firefighter. Like, job offer in hand and everything. But my mom wouldn’t let him. And here, 21 years later, the same woman was driving me to the Firefighter Youth Academy. The fire chief meets me at the door. 

“What’s your name son!” “Ugh, Nygel.” “Last name son!” “Turner.” “Cadet Turner from now on!” “Umm, okay.” “Okay what, Cadet?” “Okay thank you, sir?” “That’s it, that’s it…” And like that, this place becomes my second home. Every Saturday, we’d train at the academy from eight to 12. The first thing we would do is line up and drill. That right face, left face, “at ease, Cadet”, “are you lookin at me crazy, Cadet?” That kind of stuff that you see in every military movie. I complained about it a lot, but secretly I loved it. 

(music plays)

Nyge: Another reason I loved going to the academy was because my best friend was also there.

Greg: My name is Greg Hill. Nyge is my bro, we go back since … Sheesh, forever it seems like.

Nyge: Greg’s dream to become a firefighter began when he had a literal dream about becoming one in middle school. He was 2 years older than me and had already been training for a year.

Greg: My favorite thing to do was cook breakfast foods. My eggs are fire and bacon is too. That was fun. Also the cleaning and doing drills. Just knowing that I had Nyge and me made it more fun. I was actually picked to be one of the best drill people to represent or group of fire academies. 

Nyge: We also learned how to triage.

Greg: They brought down actors with real blood, clothes were cut up.

Nyge: Fire room simulations.

Greg: They started a fire in the room and we had to walk in and crawl on our hands and knees and stay together at the same time and search for people in the fire room. It was definitely a rush.

Nyge: Even though the instructors were always yelling at us to run through walls and crawl through fires, they also became our mentors.

Greg: There was one instructor that we liked that was different from the others. I wouldn’t say like, I would say love. Just because he helped us to understand and really made it a lot easier to get through the academy and not be so nonchalant about it. 

Nyge: This instructor was by far my favorite as well. He was serious but a fun serious. He also took the time to ask us questions and check in about how we were feeling about “The Box.”

Greg: As a firefighter, we are always first at the scene. It could be a shooting or an impaling. So this instructor really got to us in having us understand that whatever situation we get in, we never want people to know that we are panicking. So whatever emotions we have, you have to put it in a box and shove it away and focus on the job. Then later on when we go home, we go to that one person that is a good listening ear and let open that box and flow out our emotions about what is going on. So, that is what really stuck with us most. Especially going through life too.

Nyge: For the next two years, Greg and I gave our blood, sweat and tears to this dream of becoming firefighters. Like when the counselor at my high school asked me what college I was going to, I would proudly say none. ‘Cause after I graduate, I was gonna follow Greg to EMT school, then the actual adult firefighter academy. 

Nyge (To Greg): Did you know that I looked up to you in the academy?

Greg: Stop playing…

Nyge: So you remember that picture you posted at the Folsom Festival. You were standing there with your earpiece, the full pants, boots, the whole setup? I remember you posted that and everyone in the academy was like, “Yo, Greg made it!” How did you feel in that moment when you posted that pic?

Greg: So first of all that festival was wild.

Nyge (To audience): As part of his EMT training, Greg would work festivals and events in the Bay Area. In full uniform and everything.

Greg: It’s a fetish festival. It involved a lot of crazy things that you think people need medical attention to but people often denied that. For example, there was a tent with sharp things that they cut each other with. Like the sensation of losing blood turned people on. So sometimes people would pass out and we would run over there and keep them conscious. I saw a live birth. My first ever live birth, I’ve seen at a festival. That just blew my mind. So how I felt in that suit was that I was there to protect and serve. People looked at you like, “Okay.” They said hi, gave you things, so just knowing that you were there for the people was a great feeling.

Nyge: Then one Saturday, I show up and I can’t help but notice that our favorite instructor isn’t here. After class I ask about him and all I can get from anyone is that he had a really bad emergency call where things just didn’t work out. He lost someone. I think, Okay, well that happens from time to time. I’m sure he’ll turn up when he’s ready. But next week? Nope. And the Saturday after that?

Greg: We could just tell from the other instructors that something was wrong. The way they looked and talked, there wasn’t as much yelling. So everyone knew something was wrong. They sat us in the room and that is when they told us the news.

Nyge: Our favorite instructor had passed away. No other details were given.

Greg: That was the guy who made us happy when he came into the door. Changed our whole mood up, so that hurt.

Nyge: We all stand in a moment of silence for him. And then we’re dismissed.

Greg: What hit us so hard about the news was this was the instructor who told us about The Box. But he took it very hard and they put him on leave and unfortunately, it took a bad turn.

Nyge: Did that make you waiver from your decision to be a firefighter?

Greg: Not at all. Instead, it strived us to be better for him. It sparked a fire in us to remember the key things he told us. For example, The Box. So whenever we felt that emotion of missing him, we would go to one another and talk about it. We would motivate each other to keep on going strong. And to never stop.

Nyge: I’m on kitchen duty that day making eggs and bacon for everyone and all I can hear is the other cadets whispering about the announcement. I can’t make everything out, but one word I keep hearing is — suicide. I try my best to ignore all of it but I don’t know … Instead, I just add these feelings into my box.

(music plays)

Nyge: Eventually, it’s my senior year of high school. Greg has now graduated from the academy and is onto EMT Training. I have to do what are called ride-alongs with a local fire station. Almost every hour we all hop in the truck and head on a call. The rush when you climb on to that truck with sirens blasting while talking to the crew through your headset is like nothing I can explain. Except that most of the calls are for small things like, “No, Miss Brown. It’s not a fire, you just need new batteries in your smoke detector.” 

(music stops)

Nyge: One morning, we hop in the truck and almost instantly I can tell that the mood is a lot more serious. Once we arrive at the home, the firefighters ask me to follow them to the scene. But they also motion for me to just hang back a little bit. So we inch into the backyard and we find a man just sitting there in his hot tub. Very still. I can only see the top of his head. I’m like 20 yards away so I can’t really smell much but I see everyone’s face scrunch up as they approach him. I see a firefighter check the man’s pulse. “Nothing”. Then the captain says, “Let’s get him out”. So the three firefighters position themselves around the man to pull him out. As they lift the body, the man’s skin slides right off. I throw up.

(tense music plays)

Nyge: The captain sits me in the truck while the rest of the group carries on with the job.  On the way back to the station, we grab burritos. And we move on with the day, like nothing happened. When I walk back to my car from the station after the day is all over I don’t think I can ever build that box. Not truly. And just like that, I was done. 

(music stops)

Nyge: But for Greg? The dream went on. He tells me that he didn’t pass his EMT test, but that’s normal. All he’s gotta do is retake the test in a few months and that we’d celebrate when he graduated. A couple months later, I get a text from my friend Micah. “Yo, check Greg’s Snapchat.” 

Greg: So I had Snapchat rolling and I was on my computer looking at my test results going down slowly looking at each category because there were four categories. The first one was a pass. The second was a pass. The third one was a pass. I was like cool, just one more. And the fourth one was a fail.

Nyge: What I didn’t know was this was Greg’s fifth time failing the EMT test. He was just one or two questions off, just like in his previous attempts.

Greg: That’s when I lost it. I felt worthless. Like I had nothing else to give.

Nyge: A few minutes later, Micah drives to my house with our other friend, Abe. Once I hop in the car Micah takes off, going over the limit and making sharp turns. I say, “Yo why are you driving so stupid, you’re about to kill us!” “Bro check the group chat.” As soon as I open it, I see a message from Greg saying… 

Greg: This was the end of me. This was my dream and I can’t do it. I didn’t feel like living. I wanted to crash my car, I was going like 120 [miles per hour]. But I just couldn’t do it for some reason. But I really wanted to. That’s how I felt.

Nyge: We pull up outside of Greg’s place and call his phone. He doesn’t answer. We start banging on his door. His mom lets us in and we run up to his room. 

Greg: Then Micah, Nyge and Abe bust in my room and I’m like, “What the heck!?”

Nyge: We slowly walk in and see Greg on the edge of his bed. We sit on the floor and we all just talk. We talk about all of our failures. 

(music plays)

Abe: Bro, I spent thousands of dollars trying to start my own business. It blew up right in my face. I just had to keep on going.

Nyge: How we all shot for the moon…

Micah: You remember that cement mason apprenticeship thing I did? I spent 10 months everyday on it, but just didn’t make the cut.

Nyge: And landed flat on our butts. Out of all of us, none of our original plans worked out, and that’s a heartbreak that was probably the most difficult to swallow, but we have to. 

Greg: Lot of the times when I go through situations, I don’t say I need people. I rarely say that. So just knowing that you guys didn’t really ask what happened and just came by… that is what really helped me get a grip of this emotion.

(music stops)

Greg: So after we talk, Micah comes out of nowhere and tackles me and Abe jumps on top and Nyge is there just laughing. By the way, these guys came from basketball so it was smelling and stinking. So when they tackle me, I’m mad. I was like, “Bro, y’all stink like sweat!” I’m trying to feel bad, have my self-pity but these guys aren’t letting me. That’s when I know that even though I’m done with my dream, I’ll never give up on them. No matter what.

Nyge: Firefighting stayed just a dream for us and I guess that is what’s meant to be…  

Greg: Because there’s always other moons out there to shoot for. 

[Episode Break]

Merk: Dang. “Other moons you gotta shoot for.” That’s a bar shoutout to Greg. Nyge, before you produced this story was this something you two, and i guess the rest of your friends ever talked about with each other? 

Nyge: Umm, no. (laughs) I mean kind of in a non serious way. We’ve joked about that Snapchat before in the group message because we are horrible friends and…

Merk: What? That’s so dark!

Nyge: I mean we just can’t be serious about anything for way too long. So I mean, obviously in the moment we were like, “Greg, you good?” But once he was feeling better and stuff it was kind of just like, “Yo that Snapchat was wild.” We joked about it for a minute but we’ve never really talked about it before this piece.

Merk: So what was that like for you and Greg for the first time?

Nyge: It was a little weird at first but when we were actually talking about it and like, “Yo, that’s how you felt about that? What?” I mean it was cool at the end and it kind of gave me, like, a different perspective and what he was going through during that moment.

Merk: Yeah, I mean that’s one of the things I loved about your story ‘cause you could feel how real the bond is between the both of you. And I know that I’ve had great bonds with people and also had to help them out at low moments. But sometimes I don’t know what’s the best way to support them in a moment like that. So were you scared when he was on his bed? Like, [were you thinking] “Oh shoot. Am I gonna say the wrong thing?”

Nyge: Heck yeah. (laughs) Who knows what to say to any of that stuff? But I guess what I thought about was that a friendship is a two-way street. So I think about when Greg was there for me in some of my low moments. One that comes to mind is when my grandma got sick and ended up passing away. We were all at the hospital and Greg came by, and people make fun of him to this day about it, but he started crying more than anybody there.

Merk: (laughs)

Nyge: So I was there comforting Greg at the hospital for my grandma and everybody’s like, “Greg! What are you doing?” But honestly, I just appreciated him being there so I just wanted to be there for him in his low moment.

Merk: Well someone who’s been there for me like that is my boyfriend, Samuel, who I wrote this next segment for. It’s a letter that has defined 2020 for me so far, besides the coronavirus, of course. But this letter isn’t just for him, it’s for everyone who has had to “move on,” you’ll know what I mean soon so … let’s get into that.

[Episode Break]

Merk: Dear Samuel … This is not an “I’m breaking up with you” letter but it is a breakup letter. Because I’m leaving you yet again. 

(music plays)

Merk: The first time I saw you was when we were in high school. I was a junior watching one of the school’s band concerts and you were a freshman trumpet player, but I was already dating someone. Plus, you were two grades younger than me. So, we didn’t start talking until a few years later when I was single and in college. We went to different schools on different sides of the state but that didn’t stop us from finding similarities: both the youngest of three, both proudly left-handed cat lovers, both believing in a loving God. Three things I never simultaneously shared with anyone else before.

(music changes)

Merk: You know we’ve had our differences too. I definitely wasn’t used to being with someone who was so quiet. Because I am so… not. Remember when you picked me up for our first date? You barely spoke, at least in the beginning, so I pointed that out. And then you said, “Yeah, that’s just the way I am.” Then more silence. And then you cranked up your car stereo and blasted the Hamilton soundtrack! Wow, I thought: someone equally confident and expressive as they are quiet.

(music stops)

Merk: My last year of college I moved back home, in part to see what being in a relationship with you would be like. One year flew by, then came graduation when shortly after I told you I was offered a job in New York City. I asked:

“Samuel, I don’t know if long distance is gonna work. I’ve tried it before. Look what happened. Samuel, I don’t know if I fully know who I am yet and what if I find myself out there and don’t want to come back?”

You were quiet. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Then you said:

“We’re finally experiencing what it’s like to be together. And now you’re gonna be so far away. I really don’t want to lose you. But also … I know you’ll go no matter what.”

There was no hiding the pain on your face. And even though you’d said you were fine about the move, I couldn’t help but think part of you didn’t actually mean that. When people asked if you were coming with me to New York I’d say, “No, because that’s part of my plan, not his”. But then I started to wonder what our plan was. Then, I grew doubtful and constantly asked myself, “Am I being selfish?” I moved back home after a year. I missed you and my family way too much. But when I got here, it didn’t feel right.

And now, I’m realizing it’s not where I’m meant to be. 

(music plays)

Merk: When I’m home, I mold myself into a version of me that I think my parents want to see. So when they started calling you their son-in-law and meant it, I felt validated. I was even surprised when they supported my decision to move away a second time. This time, to Los Angeles. But what they didn’t know is the big reason why: a lot of who I am is wrapped up in who they are and I fear I’ll lose myself because of it if I don’t leave. 

But you know that and you know how badly I want to start my voice acting career. To represent for people like me on the big screen. It keeps me up at night knowing that I could get rejected and go broke, yet that’s the motivation behind why I wake up in the morning. So, I have to leave you again. And I get a feeling I’ll be there for more than a year.  

(fireplace crackling)

Merk: Remember when I went to your house a few nights ago? We snuggled close to your fireplace, just sitting in silence, and then I hit you this new set of hard questions?

“Samuel, would you actually move down to California if I want to stay and I know we’ve talked about having hypothetical children. But what makes you so sure that’s gonna happen in the first place? And what if you find someone you’re more compatible with … or what if I do?”

You listened, you let me cry, and responded with silence. Lots of silence.. And then you said:

(music plays)

Merk (as Samuel): “Yeah, I’d consider moving but only after finishing school and with my career on track. And of course, I don’t know if kids or marriage is gonna happen for sure. But I know that being with you for the rest of my life is something I want, so I’m gonna work toward that. Last but not least, if you want to see someone else, fine. But don’t expect me to come back to you because you’d be breaking up with me. So whoever you’d leave me for better be awesome because I believe I’m the best there is for you.”

Merk (as herself): This conversation helped me understand that my questions … were actually insecurities about myself. About us. I don’t mean to be doubtful about our future because everything tells me you’re the one. But I can’t make that promise yet. Maybe it’s because I’m so sure that I also feel ready to go. And you of all people don’t deserve an empty promise. 

(music stops)

Merk: So … I am breaking up with the version of us that was just a couple that reconnected after high school. I am breaking up with the idea that you’ll always just be my boyfriend. But doing that means I won’t be around for a while. I have to know if being with you forever is something that I truly want or if it’s just validation from my parents that I seek. Maybe it’s both — and then you, my parents and I will all get our happily ever after. I guess only time and distance will tell.

(music plays)

Merk: No matter what lies ahead for both of us, I want you to know that you’ve made me feel absolutely marvelous and you never failed to tell me that every single day. I’m sorry to be leaving you again, but as Hamiliton once said “there’s a million things I haven’t done, just you wait…” Love, Angela.

[Episode Break]

Nyge: Sheesh. Thank you for sharing that Merk. It was beautiful, but still at the same time heartbreaking to listen to. How are you feeling about everything now that you’ve actually moved?

Merk: Ahh, I feel great. Honestly, I know it’s only been a month, but I am becoming part of the community there, especially the Vietnamese American entertainment community. I go to comedy shows to support other people who are in the business. I just feel welcomed and like I can become the best version of myself here.

Nyge: That’s big!

Merk: It’s big!

Nyge: For anybody in your situation, what is a self-care tip that you would give to them before making a big decision like moving to LA?

Merk: Well, there is a song by one of my favorite artists Lauv and the song is called “For Now.” It’s about this long distance relationship. When I first heard it, it just made me cry because I was like, “Oh my gosh this is so real! I feel this!” But, really it just reminded me that I’m not the only person that goes through something like this, and there is music out there and people who feel the same way so you should connect with those people and suffer together. Maybe not suffer! (laughs) But, you know, let you know you’re not alone. (Sings) Reunited and it feels so good!

Nyge: So freaking good! With that, thank you everybody for listening to Adult ISH by YR Media  — a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation.

Merk:  Big shout outs to our senior producer Davey Kim, engineers Cari Campbell and Galnadgee Joe-Johnson, executive producer Rebecca Martin, Adan Barrera for transcribing our web and social content, and all the young people at YR who made the art and music for this episode. Now that you’ve listened all the way through, let us know what you think by, ahem, rating us with five stars and giving us a nice review if you’re feeling extra generous!

Nyge: Yeah, we super appreciate all the digital love and speaking of which, you can follow us on all the socials @YRadultISH and at

Merk: We’re also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX. An independent listener-supported collective of some of the most creative shows in all of podcasting. Find them at

Nyge: Before we go, we gotta warn you about next week’s episode because… there WILL be blood! 

[Teaser Audio]

Mystery Guest 1: We heard from a lot of people that had the designated period sex towel. You put it down, then you put it away. 

Mystery Guest 2: Hopefully you wash it? 

Mystery Guest 1: Ooh I skipped a step, you wash it then put it away…

Merk: Mmmmm… how hygienic and fascinating! Guess you’ll have to listen to our next episode to find out what’s goin’ on down there.

Nyge: But for now, it’s time for us to dip out of here! Bye! It’s not you, it’s us!

(music stops)


Merk: No matter what lies ahead for both of us, I want you to know that you’ve made feel… (burps) gassy. (laughs)

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