What Your Twenties REALLY Mean

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She had come to give a presentation for the “Last Lecture” series during Iowa’s Senior Week. With a month or so left before I graduated college, I was anxious for the change and transition ahead. Listening to her speak was like talking to a like-minded friend; apparently I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to Carpe Diem or base my decisions off of “you only live once.” Her belief that your twenties are a defining decade, setting the foundation for years to come, resonated with me. The actual book was both insightful and refreshing.

Reading it was one thing, but living it out was an entirely different story. As I applied for jobs and made a genuine effort to meet people, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was on a race against time. It had less to do with Meg Jay’s Millennial-based philosophy, and more so with the horrifying tragedies that seemed to occur on a daily basis. Do I really have enough time? What if it all ends before I actually accomplish something? I was told that it was normal to struggle, but the urge to do more and to be better still lingered.

My personality and interests were also changing and evolving, and I wondered if I was turning into an old lady who didn’t know how to have fun anymore. My alcohol tolerance was going down, and I could barely fathom the idea of staying up past midnight for a consecutive amount of time. I longed for a partner, and to be surrounded by those who let me be as serious or as silly as I wanted to be. These were natural desires that related to growing up, but I needed confidence to understand it.

An enlightening conversation led me to watching Meg’s TedTalk, having forgotten the majority of her previous presentation. She frequently discusses women’s fertility and marriage, and insinuates that females are less desirable after the age of thirty. She can spell out what young people should be doing, as though there’s a type of concrete formula that bridges certainty with success. I could see how her ideas would not bode well with some, and leave others in confusion.

But what if it’s not about having to choose between prolonged adolescence and responsibility? What if our twenties were the starting platform of merely being intentional with our dreams and decisions, rather than just taking it to one extreme or another?

Sure, you’ll still stumble around and make mistakes, and things might not happen when you want them to. But there’s a difference between exploring/pursuing, and trying to conform to some BS culturally infused identity because either you’re scared or you don’t know what you want.

Whether you’re a young one or a few decades in, adulthood is always going to involve adjusting to both the messy and the beautiful. It’s the time to learn about who you are and fully embrace it, even if that means setting an example and being a leader for the people around you. You’re no longer living in this ridiculous, unrealistic bubble that surrounded you in high school, and maybe even college. Every path is different, too complex and layered to have a singular “classic” experience.

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The thorn of it is that nearly everyone is going to try to give you advice. Age might make a person wise, but it does not always make a person right. With social media, comparison is almost unavoidable, especially in regards to careers and personal relationships. The internet is one big smorgasbord of opinions, and if you ‘re not careful they’ll drive you crazy. You’ll feel like you’re in a tug of war, like you have to choose one side or the other.

But you don’t; you can be proactive without an insane amount of pressure. You can have fun and be curious, while still setting boundaries. You can spend part of the night at a bar with your friends, and then go home and watch Netflix in your pajamas. You can be romantic and realistic. And you can go through changes on the outside, but still be exactly who you are on the inside. Anyone who says otherwise is probably insecure or has an extremely narrow view on life.

Maybe you’re comfortable with who you are, and self-doubt still persists. Maybe tuning out the noise seems exhausting, and you can appreciate the occasional affirmation once in a while. It’s not about being ignorant of the fact that you’re human, but rather keeping it all in perspective.

At some point you have to ask, why am I doing this and who am I doing it for? If your answer doesn’t involve you or God, than you need to take a step back and figure out why.

The “Glory Days” exist because someone was willing to put a vision into action and make the most of the opportunities they were given. It’s not about age; you experience different things at different times because of maturity (or lack of it), surroundings, and recognizing what you can’t control and what I can’t. I was a bit of a late bloomer in certain areas, and I understand now that it’s because I wasn’t ready. Yet I’m grateful that I took risks and chose to be vulnerable, because it’s better to discover that something isn’t right than to wonder I have regrets and wish I had gone about it differently, but if I got everything I ever wanted at one time, I would probably take it for granted.

Forget the list of cliche things you should do before you’re twenty-five or thirty. Traveling, marriage, independence, cultivating habits, and so on are great, but don’t make it about a checklist. Focus on experience, and making every experience count.

It can be overwhelming and frustrating, knowing that you have time but not necessarily all the resources or ability to do what you want.  I can’t predict where my own path will lead, but I do know that I intend not to waste any of it; and in hindsight, when you have the right attitude and surround yourself with good people, you never waste anything at all.

Photo Credit

 

For Those Who Inspire (And Struggle with It)




 
You’re an inspiration.
 
You’ve probably heard this phrase a million times before, or at least a variation of it. There are days that you want to publicly declare that you’re not a role model, or maybe you already have. Perhaps it has come to a point where you feel like a fraud, doing one thing in front of hundred, if not thousands of people, and then be a completely different person behind closed doors. If you could, you would spend a few extra minutes explaining that you career or calling is not always the feel good, glamorous badassery that the media makes it out to be. You miss your family, and have probably missed out on some important moments. Maybe your body aches, and you feel like you’ve aged ten times faster than anyone who doesn’t do what you do.
 
Perhaps you don’t believe that you’ve done anything worth being praised for. You were just a kid with a dream who was bound and determined to make it happen. You had a story to tell, and one of the few reasons you’ve gotten to where you are is because you were brave enough to be yourself and tell the truth. Chances are, you wouldn’t be where you are if things had gone a little differently, or if you had gone in a slightly different direction. It’s amazing how even the small choices shape us, how in the moment they don’t seem very significant, but eventually come together for a much greater purpose than we can envision at that time.
 
Regardless of where you’re at, it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve grown tired of feeling like you have to live for everyone else. It’s all about good PR and making sure that you maintain a positive image. Or at least a cool image. And all you really want is just to be you again. Not the superstar or celebrity. Not the poster person for the cause you’re advocating for. Just you.
 
Expectations should be realistic on both sides, because at the end of the day you’re a human being and imperfect as the rest of us. But telling anyone to think a certain way doesn’t mean that they will; just as you can’t always control who sees you, can’t always control how they see you. Hero worship is most certainly dangerous, but when you’re a little kid or only know somebody through a specific lens, it’s tough to just shut that off.
 
So what then? How do you honor your fans, your audience, while staying true to yourself?
 
It’s simple, really: don’t take anything for granted.
 
When you can appreciate the fact that you’ve been given a gift, and therefore have had opportunities that others would literally sacrifice their livelihood for, everything else falls into place. You don’t have to try to be “good” or “squeaky clean” in order to make healthy choices. It’s fun to indulge in the finer things every once in a while, but excessive substance use or racking up conquests will only satisfy up to a certain point. While it’s true that you only live once, a single poor decision can shatter what you’ve spent your whole life working for.
 
No, you don’t necessarily owe the public anything, but remember that you didn’t get where you are today by your own sheer willpower. Whether it was your parents, coaches, mentors, teammates, peers, or co-workers, somebody played a role in your success. At the very least, you owe it to them to be the best you can be, and learn from your mistakes when you make them. You’re not above the rest of the world just because you get a bigger paycheck and a lot more attention.
 
 When all of this is said and done, what do you want to be remembered for?
 
 You always have a choice between acting like you’re invincible and living like you understand that you’re not. The difference is in consequences.
 
Whether they know you personally or not, there are many who are rooting for you, praying for you, and ultimately want you to do well. Either you can complain about the pressure, or you can remember what really matters and put your energy toward that.
 
To start off with, the next time someone approaches you and tells you how much you mean to them, just smile and say, “thank you.” Leave it at that.
 

 

It’s enough, and so are you.
 

Caring Less, Caring Differently


The older you get, the less you should care about what other people think.




 I’ve been learning and absorbing this, both in my own experiences and in other reflections from various bloggers and thinkers. There comes a point in every adult life where you realize that you’re no longer living in a bubble; you’re in control of what you do with your time, your energy, and your heart. You’re not necessarily surrounded by all the same people who are always doing the same things, so therefore you’re not saturated in specific culture or way of living. And even if that’s the case, you have the choice of going with what’s easy or embracing the awkwardness.
I know this, but it still takes effort to believe, to practice, and genuinely act on it. For years I’ve lived as an impressionable person, believing that if a chorus of people told me something (especially if they were older and family), then they must be right. It never occurred to me that might be wrong, or they could be neither wrong nor right. It about perspective more than anything, and mine is one that I’m in the process of learning to trust and see as valid and worth talking about.

The less you care, the better you become at dealing with rejection, ignorance, hatred, pain, self-doubt, and so on.

I can agree with this to a point; it’s important to know how to be resilient, to stand up and keep going (even if it means hobbling for a little bit). But I’m not sure that giving the finger to those mentioned above is the answer; people love to rant and complain about how entitled, self-centered, greedy, and narcissistic this current generation is, but forget that we’ve grown up in an era where vulnerability and transparency equals weakness. Our primary education has been through technology and one-sided media outlets, rather than real-life conversation; when you’re exposed to all these different view-points and ideas and so on, of course it gets overwhelming. So you retreat, buying into the lie that if you don’t tell anyone how you really feel, it will all go away on its own.

But it never does; pretending that you’re immune to being real and complex only creates disconnection and resentment. I’ve done my damnedest to convince myself that I’m a lone wolf, but I’m a people person inside and out. And honestly, are any of us really all that better off alone?

Don’t stop caring, but rather, choose to care differently. I’m finding that this is two-fold:
One, you stop living in your head and actually let it out. Sometimes it’s in a journal or sometimes it’s in the presence of another person, but I have to be able to acknowledge the darkness, the not-so-pretty stuff in order to make room for what is good.

 Vulnerability is both terrifying and liberating, but I have to be able to talk about All The Things to at least one person. Silence gives the enemy golden opportunities to fill my mind with BS, leading me to believe that those I care about would be better off if I wasn’t around. But when I speak, scream, lament, however it comes out…God uses people to act as a tender voice, or maybe a bullhorn, to speak truth into my life when I need it most. Then once I’m done heaving word-vomit (or tears), I take a step back and am able to see the situation a bit more clearly, because my head isn’t going in a million different directions.

Two, acknowledge the truth and then do something about it…

We’re all human here, humans who long to be loved and taken care of. We’re all scared of rejection, of failure, and ultimately wasting our lives. It seems like in your twenties you have so much to prove, but what about what you have to offer? What about the gifts you have to share?

It really comes down to this:

People will judge you and criticize you, but the loudest voice is often the one in your head. I have no qualms admitting that I am often my own worst enemy.
The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. It might be through whispered prayers or blunt questions, but ask nonetheless. Looking back on my younger years, I wish I had done more of it.

What’s the point in going out of your way to get people to understand? I’m tired of over-explaining and having to justify my intentions, my desires, and what brings me joy. If I want to go on an adventure or try something new, I will.
In other words, if you’re by yourself and you want to have a drink, go out and do it. You’re not the first person to dine alone, and you’re not the only one who will feel weird about it at first. Friendships can happen in bars, on street corners, and the most unexpected places. Be open to the possibilities.
Worry less about having answers and focus more on being present. I believe in listening and being sensitive to others, but sometimes I get so sick of tap-dancing around certain subjects because they might be uncomfortable. Death, suffering, sickness, pain, and depression are all difficult to cope with, but avoiding them won’t erase the fact that they’re part of life.
Know when to apologize and when to own who you are. I’m sensitive. Quirky. Sensual and child-like. They’re all part of me, but they’re layers that aren’t exactly visible on a daily basis. You can be a social butterfly and still appreciate taking time for yourself. I call it being an antrovert.
They all have to be practiced and preached a thousand times over, always a work in progress.  But that’s the beauty in it, realizing that you don’t necessarily have to decide just once, and can change and evolve is time goes on. 



If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be able to relate to anybody. But there’s a big difference between caring and putting my livelihood on the backs of someone else’s opinion.

And it’s not a bad thing, being able to show what’s important and what matters, versus what is a waste of time. If someone asked me what’s really attractive and appealing, especially in relationships…I’d say it’s actually giving a damn.

I’m not an acrobat, so I’m not going to act like one. But we’re all better together than we are apart.

Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)

 

 
 
Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)
 
 
What makes a real woman?
She asks
As she curls her hair, her lashes
While trying to stand up-right
*Stares at unpainted nails*
Her closet begs for change
Sentimental remnants long-since hanging by thread
Wear the black heels, they said
Raise your height so that you can actually be seen and heard
Take care of yourself so that others can take you seriously
Walk right, speak firmly but softly, don’t appear foolish
Act the part, and she might believe it
She sees her body as a vessel
Yet unsure of the role it’s meant to play
She’s no Victoria’s Secret Angel
Child-sized with flesh and muscles
Meant to give life and share intimacy
Untouched, but demanded to perform and please
Though not just in media or magazines
Sacred texts take it to the other extreme
Let a man lead without question
A clean home paves the wave to a clean heart
Look up at others, because she doesn’t know any better
She was not raised, but she can be taught!
Sensuality is a light switch
Still a performance, albeit joined by a ring
The images come together as I quiz my reflection
Preferring what’s in my head to what’s in the mirror
Fighting labels the way some have fought for autonomy
I am
Complex
Layered
Worthy of love and connection
A child-like heart molded by my Creator
Eclectic and multi-faceted
Wanting to be wanted, but still valuing independence
Dancing and laughing
Simultaneously wearing a cross around my neck
Shining gold or silver pairs with red lipstick
You cannot measure a woman by the size of her jeans
Or the height of her shoes
Beauty doesn’t necessarily fade
But it changes
We’re all different kinds of colors and flavors
Sweet, spicy, determined, and feisty
Marked not just by what we give
But how we love, embrace, and honor
Let’s honor ourselves as human beings
Speaking in kindness and bravery, with-holding judgement
That’s the real thing


 

photo credit: Time. via photopin (license)

For The Graduates



Dear Class of 2015,

Some would say that I’m not qualified to write this because it has only been a year since I graduated college. But a lot can (and does) happen within the span of one year, and I don’t think it’s about the number of years you’ve spent doing something as much as it is having something to offer. This time last year I was in your shoes, relieved to be nearly done with the semester but absolutely terrified of what loomed ahead. The anticipation was such an emotional roller coaster that I would be laughing and crying at the same time, carefree one minute, than a total mess over the inevitable ending of an amazing four years. It’s perfectly normal to be doing those things, along with soaking in all the traditions, cheap drink nights, and so on as much as you possibly can. For almost all of you, Graduation Day will be the definition of bitter and sweet, where the amount of emotion can leave you overwhelmed by the time you take off your cap and gown. Make a point to celebrate, because not only did you get your diploma, but you had life-changing experiences and memories.

So what’s next?

This is where it gets tricky, because at this point it literally is different for everyone. Some will move to new cities and start working right away, while others might have to return to their hometown roots in order to regroup and figure out which path to take. Some may take the next step in their romantic relationships, and some may choose to travel and cross things off their bucket lists. After college, very few friends are in the exact same place anymore, though it’s likely they’ll share the same emotions, fears, and uncertainties. Regardless of the exact circumstances, the transition from college to the real world is not easy, so allow yourself to cry and let it out when you feel the need to. Though you never really permanently adjust to adulthood due to it’s own various stages, that doesn’t make it any less important to be gentle with yourself. And as you move from one chapter to the next, please do yourself and your friends the honor of saying goodbye. It’s hard and gut-wrenching, and no one is ever really “good” at it. But it will give you and the other person peace, as a way of acknowledging that you were here, you lived, and you did it together.

It’s likely that in the months that follow, you’ll feel somewhat lost and unsure of what to do, even if there are clear opportunities ahead. The transition for me was twofold; not only was I leaving behind a family that I had grown to love in cherish, but I was coming back to a family that was in the midst of a lot of changes in itself, much of which I didn’t know what to do with. The hardest part was not getting a kind of support that I felt like I got at school, where I was accepted for being emotional, sensitive, and messy. Making friends can be a slow process; you might reconnect with those you lost touch with after high school. You might very well be in a place where you don’t know anybody or aren’t surrounded by very many twenty-somethings, and I’d say utilize technology to the best of your ability. Websites like meetup.com offer so many social and interest-related groups, even if it’s just for the sake of getting out and being around people.

Yes, you’re going to experience loneliness and nostalgia; you’ll picture your former days in your head like a movie montage, yearning for it in a way that almost hurts. It’s perfectly normal to want to go back, and I’ve gone back to Iowa several times in the last year. It really helped me to understand that it wasn’t just the activities that made college what it was, but the people. And when you get to do something that has such a profound impact and transforms your life, it becomes part of you, and in a sense that place will always be your home. I promise that there are beautiful things about post-grad  that you’ll come to appreciate, especially the little things. You’ll be able to read for pleasure again, and hopefully have the chance to get a solid night of sleep. It is possible to go out and have fun without waking up with a hangover in the morning, and I’ve learned to enjoy activities like going to movies by myself or doing other things on my own.

As you grow and mature, you will have regrets. It’s tough to look back and not beat yourself up over what you could have done differently, but remember that there are circumstances in which one can only know or do so much. If need be, apologize and ask for forgiveness, but also forgive yourself in order to move forward.

 While you’ll never have anything completely figured out, it’s important to be aware of the fact that anything you do (or don’t do) from this point on is A.) completely up to you and B.) could very well affect or even change the course ahead. For most, there are no longer set points in time to start over; you have to be the one to create your own new beginnings, to decide what is true and right for you and what isn’t. 

With that being said, please don’t wait for the perfect job, the perfect person, or even the perfect time in order to start building your own life. Not just because perfection is non-existent, but because none of these aspects will fill you and make you whole. While it’s true that that the initial path may be one of the most frustrating and depressing stages you’ll go through (sometimes more than once), I whole-heartedly believe in the purpose of it. There was at least a month or two when I was going on multiple interviews at a time, and the concept of going out in the world and kicking ass was absolutely awesome. Yet, I started to notice that after a little bit I’d get cranky; I was trekking to the city and going through this lengthy process to not only get rejected, but for a short time it was all I was doing. Every disappointment was reminder that I couldn’t put my joy or identity into my career, that only God could give me peace and contentment. General worldview aside, you are not defined by your relationship status or your income. You still matter, because everyone matters. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or accept help when it is offered. Realistically, none of us ever gets anywhere without the guidance and mentoring of someone else. Sometimes you have to pay your dues and bite the bullet for a little bit in order to get to where you want to be. A lot of people will want to give you unsolicited advice, and all I will say for that is to trust your instincts (which is true for just about everything) in terms of what needs to be taken to heart. Pursuing and doing what you love is one thing, but making time for people that you care about is another. Relationships truly do have to be intentional,  especially when additional aspects like work and finances are involved. While paying the bills helps one survive, quality time feeds the soul. Make plans and make memories, because the emails and messages will still be there. No, I’m not saying put one foot in and one foot out, because each requires both. It means understanding your limits and respecting them. 

Being excessively busy doesn’t always equal success. We all have stuff to get done and it’s important to stick to it, but I could never live with a constant, fully packed schedule to the point of being unavailable. If you think that’s who you are, take a step back and ask yourself why.

Forget the lists that tell you what you should be doing at what age, or what you should have done by then. Traveling is a beautiful thing, but it’s perfectly fine to put your finances first or to want to find the hidden gems closer to home. There are those that choose to get married because they have found someone they want to share their life with, and they are emotionally, spiritually, and financially ready to do so. There are those that choose to be single because they want to get to know themselves better or outside of a particular environment. Both are honorable choices and deserve to be respected, because it’s really no one else’s business. And some not-so-good habits are just part of people, regardless of how old they get. Sometimes you just have to compromise.

It’s OK to do things simply because you want to, without any justification or explanation. God doesn’t always give clear cut answers, and I’m guessing that’s so we can learn to own and take responsibility for our decisions. 

But more then anything, this is the time to truly be yourself. One of the nice things about being outside a collegiate environment is that there is no longer a concrete way of doing things, especially when it comes to what kind of relationships you have and how you treat other people. I have always known deep down that I cannot be categorized or compartmentalized, but I didn’t know how to live that out when it seemed like you had to be one thing or the other. There’s so much talk about finding who you are or creating it, but I tend to think it’s more about embracing it. To some degree a person knows their truth, but they never completely do because they’re always changing and evolving as they go.

 Instead of walking around like you have something to prove, show that you have something to offer. Do what moves and inspires you, but also give as well; and when you give, give out of your own heart rather than obligation. 

The ending of college may seem like the end of the road, but trust me when I say that it’s not. It is only the continuation of an already awesome story, a new chapter. Whatever you do, make it one worth telling.

You are strong and courageous. You can do hard things. 

Love always,

Alyx

photo credit: via photopin (license)

An Encouragement Drought


I’ve been noticing something lately, both in the online and offline spheres that has begun to bother me. I’ve seen it in blogs and articles, and unfortunately in my own circle. It’s nothing new, but I’ve witnessed and experienced the sting of this negative trend, and I feel like I can’t keep quiet anymore.

Regardless of the subject and regardless of the environment, it seems like all we do is criticize and focus on the bad, more than we encourage and focus on the good. What more, we’ll make a list of everything that’s wrong, but refuse to acknowledge that we have the ability to make a positive impact and change, if only it be a small ripple. We do this to our leaders, our neighbors, and even our loved ones, not even willing to admit that chances are we’re only aware of one part of the story. We point fingers at each other instead of joining hands.

I am not exempt from this: in the months following graduating and leaving Iowa City, I lashed out at people, mostly family, as a way to protect myself. I had held a lot in for the sake of not being an inconvenience, and was tired of being made to think that my pain and struggle (particularly regarding my parents situation) didn’t matter. Did the screaming and yelling out a list of grievances help matters? No. But I didn’t want to be looked at or treated like a doormat. I was not wrong, but yet I was not right either. It was an act of desperation, one that wouldn’t have been necessary had I recognized that I’ve always been strong enough to express myself, and that I didn’t need the guarantee of a positive reaction to do it.

The conversation is not about eliminating criticism in and of itself; people need to be called out on when doing harm to others. Mistakes should be brought to light so that they can be rectified. There are times when a different, much more edifying path can be taken than the one a person is currently on. True criticism is when somebody is willing to balance out the strengths and the need for improvement. Real critics tell the truth and give direction, but they’re firm and encouraging in the process. 

It appears that from observation (and my own experiences) that there is very little of that. That’s why I have such a hard time talking about work-related and personal goals with certain people; it’s not that I can’t or am unwilling to have a conversation, but I have an acute sense of when a person is crossing the line from being a critic to a bully. My defenses go up because I refuse to be around someone who points out problems for the pure sake of doing so, rather than also offering suggestions or solutions. It’s somewhat of a knee jerk reaction from my younger school days, where I would get picked on and emotionally shut down because I couldn’t get them to back off. The sad part is that currently, this kind of exchange often happens with those who should be willing to say “I’m proud of you,” and more than just at graduations or big life steps. 

Yes, I’m sensitive; part of it is due to my own nature, being a creative and having a responsibility to notice and experience things in the deepest way possible. The other part involves being told throughout my life that I needed to be better, stronger, more able, and without an equal amount of praise that I was already doing well. Now I’m in a place where I don’t feel the need to be pushed or prodded, because I already do enough of that myself. 

There is no such thing as tough love, at least in the sense that it can be applied with such force and still have positive results. You can nag at, belittle, and yell at somebody and there’s a chance that they can still grow and do something great with their lives. But let me tell you, that will not be without a hardened heart toward real love and beauty that surrounds them. It will not be without an inner struggle of agony, which could eventually lead to tragedy. I put up walls, and I have been at the brink several times. For those that don’t believe in coddling, I get it. But far too many confuse coddling (a lack of boundaries and relying on fear) with real nourishment. People can still be leaders, innovators, and hard workers while still being compassionate and having a backbone.

It looks that way with the different generations, especially when it comes to older ones talking down to the younger (and the younger ones flipping the bird to the older). It’s true that laziness, lack of motivation, and entitlement do exist, but that seems to relate less to age and more to personal history. Instead of using ageism and stereotyping as an excuse to put  everyone into a category, why not give each group a chance to learn from one another? We all have a story, and we all have something to offer. What might look like laziness may actually be someone trying to keep themselves sane, to feed themselves emotionally and spiritually in the midst of navigating the real world. I don’t want to put my identity solely in my work, so I need to make time for God and friends and doing things that fill my soul. 

I want to build a career, yes, but I also want to build a life. With only so much physical and emotional energy in me, I have to rest and recharge. And I think that’s true for everybody. 

There’s a knowing that deep down, you can’t force anybody to be outwardly loving, affirming, and a giver of grace. I don’t want to simply lay down and accept that this is the way the world works, and convince myself that it’s me versus whomever. There’s hope in the idea of the way that we treat others does not completely reflect who we are, but what we choose to do. In addition, knowing that my God is for me, and because of that, baseless opinions should not matter.

There are days where I’m sure, and others where I have absolutely no idea. I can ignore the noise and simply nod my head without having to agree, but only so long before I want to collapse from exhaustion.

Sometimes the hardest thing is doing for yourself what you wish that some would do for you. It’s being able to see past what you don’t have and recognizing the abundance that’s already there. Show the world who you are in confidence, regardless of who’s watching and who isn’t. Be willing to give, but be willing to accept what others have to give in return. You are strong and you can do this. 

Listen. Be willing to meet in the middle. Learn, build, and lift people up.

It’s never too late to try.


photo credit: fadedlove-tiltshift via photopin (license)

Sentiments Behind The Song




Music 

What is your favorite song from 2013? 

This year was a great year in music, and I love sharing new songs/artists that I find through my “Music Monday” series. From “Sunny and 75” by Joe Nichols to “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, it’s so hard to choose just one. But if I had to pick a favorite I would say….


Mirrors, by Justin Timberlake


Call me an old-fashion romantic, but I’m a sucker for love songs, and this is about the closest thing to one this year (at least within the pop genre). I don’t consider them a lost art, but I tend not to hear them very much now a days. While I’m not sure if I’m believe in the notion of a “other half,” I can get behind the idea of two people complimenting each other. More so, they bring  out the best in each other and make their lives better, which is part of what this song is about. 

I’ve never admitted this before, but listening to it reminds me that love does exist. Despite what I’ve been through and what I’m still working through, I don’t need proof in numbers or success stories to know that it’s possible. It’s just a matter of being open to it and having the right attitude. 

There is a very powerful music video for this, but unfortunately was unable to find it on Youtube.

And yes, I would one day like to slow dance to this!


Gems To Hold Onto

Unforgettable

What are five things that you don’t want to forget from 2013? (prompt credit: Hope Wallace Karney

1. If something is intentionally done with love, there should be no guilt or shame afterward

-My therapist offered me this piece of wisdom early on in the semester; I love letting people know that the mean something to me, whether it be sending a random text, a hug, or offering to do something nice in any way. At the same time, sometimes I wonder if I’m heard or get taken seriously because I do it a lot, and at one point I was questioning whether or not I should scale it back a bit. However, this year has taught me how to cherish people, and if that means coming off as somewhat cheesy, I’m not going to apologize for it. 

2. Don’t forget to bring the good stuff in!

-One of the trends that often goes around the internet (especially the blogosphere) is how to remove negativity from your life; it could be people, it could be limiting your time on Facebook or in front of the TV, etc. But rarely have I ever heard or read anything relating to how to include what is positive and what is happy; it doesn’t necessarily have to fill the empty space, but it can if it ultimately makes your life better, then I don’t see why not. 

3. Make time for those you love

-For many, the term “busy” doesn’t just define a temporary season, but a way of life. I understand that some careers or oriented that way, and that there are those who are constantly used to being on the go all of the time. But from my own experience, doing so eventually gets exhausting, both physically and mentally. I’ve also realized that my second love language (next to physical touch) is quality time. I’m fascinated by people’s stories, and having a strong support system is what has helped me to get through the many rough patches I went through this year. Again, I recognize that some have little to no control over their academic/work schedules, and that realistically time is not something that is freely given. Yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year in particular, its that life is fragile and nothing is ever guaranteed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back on my years and wish that I had seen more of my friends and family. So even if it’s just stopping by a loved one’s house after work or catching up over lunch or coffee for an hour, don’t forget to surround yourself with good people. At the end of the day, I’d rather keep my sanity over success, whatever that make look like. 

4. Indulge in fun (and child-like) things

-Along with making time for loved ones, it’s also important to make time for doing fun stuff. It doesn’t have to involve going out and getting drunk, nor does it have to involve alcohol in general. In the last five months, I re-discovered activities that I used to do as a kid, and I still get a kick out of at the age of twenty-one. To celebrate the fourth of July, my friends and I went to a local carnival and had a barbecue. In October, we went apple/pumpkin picking and then had a pumpkin carving party. It’s no secret that I love watching Disney movies and I’m determined to host a game night or two before graduation. Contrary to popular belief, adulthood doesn’t have to always be about choosing what’s necessary over what you want. In other words, it doesn’t have to suck. You just have to be creative (particularly if a budget is involved) and intentional with what you’re doing if it’s a big event. That being said, it’s OK to be spontaneous too!

5. Let yourself BE

-If there’s a singular roadblock to being vulnerable, it’s when you focus on how to say something rather than just saying it. I’ve spent so much of this year trying to explain certain happenings and feelings in a way that everyone can understand, and in the end I wound up making it harder than it needed to be. In the grand scheme of it all, I cared too much about what other people thought and landed in an emotional prison because of it. While whole-heartily do my best not to intentionally hurt other people or cause conflict, I’ve learned that the more you try not to hurt somebody else, the more you end up hurting yourself. The reality is that not all will understand or empathize with the situation, nor will they care. It’s not a question of whether to be selfless or selfish, but how to set boundaries and take care of myself. And it’s a process that I’m still going through. 

There are plenty more gems of wisdom that I picked up this past year, but these are the top five. What are yours?

photo credit: Esparta via photopin cc

Privacy Cravings: The Sacred (Part 1)

For most of my years, I have considered myself pretty open about my life; there are things that I won’t necessarily shout from the rooftops, but neither will I deny it if anyone asks. What exactly do I have to hide? Yet in this digital age where it’s possible for people to document their lives on a minute by minute basis, whether it be through pictures, tweets or statuses, part of me now suddenly finds myself shrinking back when it comes to updating on “real time.” I can’t pinpoint a specific reason exactly; it’s not that I totally want to disengage from technology, because I do consider Facebook and Twitter to be positive forces when used appropriately. But when online platforms somehow morph into online diaries  (which happened a lot when I was a teenager), then it becomes a problem. 

Recently, there was a bit of an uproar in regards to this subject: there were a period of days where at least one person would say something along the lines of “I hate it when people post…” almost to where it turned into a laugh-out-loud rant. Then I came across 7 Ways To Be Insufferable on Facebook which I might have considered interesting had it not come across as conceited and taken on a holier than thou tone. Everybody that engages in social networking will say or do something ridiculous and most likely more than once. Demanding that users do or stop doing things because supposedly “nobody likes it” is not going to produce change. While I’ll agree that there are things better left off the world wide web, I cannot control it. It’s actually rather simple: if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. And if a person is going to take trivial stuff that seriously, perhaps the problem isn’t just other internet users. 

However, there are times where I see something and wonder not about the actual post, but the motivation behind it. Do some users update Twitter and Facebook because they genuinely care about the subject, or is it just for the sake of reaction? I’m not as concerned with the political fiends or the gym buffs, but more so with the romantics. There’s no shame in applauding your significant other/spouse in regards to their achievements and your milestones together. On the other hand, when you constantly proclaim your love over the internet, whether it be literally or giving a detailed synopsis about what you did that day, I scratch my head. What are you trying to prove? 

I understand that not everyone has the same views on how to treat a relationship, but I’d like to think that connection and possibly real love is fostered face to face, not screen to screen. When you constantly broadcast details that should remain between you and that person, it suddenly becomes everyone else’s business; as much as they shouldn’t be nosy, anything that goes online is almost fair game for criticism or questioning. Being able to distinguish the difference between gratitude/humbleness and a honeymoon-like phase probably makes it easier to stay rooted in what matters. 

With that being said, I wonder if it’s a bad thing if I choose not to share every single detail, not necessarily just online, but also in terms of “gushing” around friends. I’m definitely a believer in vulnerability, but dissecting the event or a conversation is not going to get anywhere. Overall, I’m just really selective now a days about who I confide in; it really depends on that person’s attitude. 

Lately, I’m more focused on my social media profiles being positive and encouraging to others. When used in a healthy amount and for the right reasons, Facebook and Twitter can be a good thing. As a writer, it’s very important for me to be active in using the internet in order to get my name out there. I’ve connected with a lot of people through things like LinkedIn, and ultimately it has given me a lot of insight in terms of the career path that I want to take, which I might not have found otherwise. 

But it’s not just about what you post/upload, but when. It’s almost normal to take a picture and then spend five to ten minutes afterward trying to put it on instagram. Tweets document the most trivial stuff in regards to when and where something is taking place. In my personal opinion, the worst is hearing the news of a loved one’s passing on Facebook before getting a phone call or text. I say that because I’ve been on the tail end of it several times, and it’s all the more devastating, not to mention inappropriate.

I’m not saying that it’s ultimately a bad thing to share photos or news with others, especially those you don’t get to see often. Rather, I think sharing right away often takes away from the sacredness and beauty of the moment, because then it becomes more about presentation then anything else. Instead of trying to keep everyone else in “real time” focus on celebrating, mourning, or doing whatever you need to do with those that you’re surrounded by. You have to be present in order to get the most out of an experience, or process something in a healthy way. The internet can wait, and it will still be there in the days and weeks to come. 

This is not meant to knock anyone down or demand change. This is more for the sake of pondering in an era that is largely based on virtual and constant connection. More so, I’ve learned that the number of views, likes, and comments is not going to fill you in the long run. If you take the time to put down your phone, get off the computer, and devote your attention to what’s right in front of you, you’ll eventually find out what will.  

Life Lately: In Seasons





It’s no secret that over the last couple of years, fall/autumn has become one of my favorite times of the year. While nature begins to slowly change and the air starts to chill, it’s also a time where I feel incredibly close to the people around me. I’ve taken to calling in the “wrapped in a warm blanket” type feeling. Everything is just warm and cozy and comfortable.

These special (and somewhat sentimental) occasions are what keep me sane when the homework load gets heavy, or I experience a bout of senioritis like an overnight flu bug. My friends and I have celebrated a plethora of birthdays, went to an orchard/pumpkin farm and indulged in everything relating to pumpkins and apples (with a semi-photo shoot to boot), cried over the Cory Montieth tribute while watching Glee, and other memories that seem insignificant to the rest of the world. However, they mean the world to me.

As I look back on the fall season as a whole, I’ve noticed that it’s when a lot of wonderful, crazy, and even life changing events have taken place. In the span of four or five years, I’ve met and found many of my closest friends, grew deeper in my faith, and learned how to deal with painful aspects of my history. And it suddenly occured to me that while some seasons are better than others, life truly does happen in seasons of love. 

It’s not always deep conversations over wine or hot chocolate. Schedules are hectic, and there are weeks and days where prayer requests and “thinking of you” via text takes the place of bear hugs and face-to-face interaction. While I do believe in not letting to-do list’s and school work dominate quality time, I’m beginning to understand the other side of the coin: it’s not a matter of whether or not you want to, but whether or not you can without reaching the point of exhaustion. Right now I’m walking a thin line of packing so much in all at once. It’s frustrating because on one hand I feel like I’m on a race against time, trying to make the most of every moment before it all runs out. On the other, that’s all you really can do; appreciate the time you do get with people, even if it’s small and insignificant when it’s happening. 

That’s where I’ve learned to appreciate random run-in’s, where all you can do is exchange a hug and “how are you?” that lasts all of five minutes before you have to go to class or run to catch up with whomever. That’s where I’ve not learned not to focus on what place somebody has in my life or try to be best friends when every person that I know. I’m not going to obsess over who has treated me right and who hasn’t. It’s just not worth the energy, especially now. 

Leaves turn. Things happen. Don’t just measure good by what you have or what you can give, but how you grow.

photo credit: blmiers2 via photopin cc