Saturday, December 26, 2015

A year without Santa

      Santa has come and gone for another year. In the blink of an eye all the tinsel, lights, and jingle bells will be stuffed away, awaiting their next debut. And we will sludge through another dull winter praying for spring. As I sit beside my little Christmas tree trying to soak in the last little Christmas light, love, and magic tears flood down my cheeks. Christmas seems a little (or a lot) different as I get older. Some, or most, of the magic has been replaced with to do list and obligations.
     But this season, as I turn off my lights on the tree for the last time, I'm not ready to pack up my Christmas spirit of the lessons Santa brought in his big red toy sack. This year I vow to not pack up my belief in the impossible. If during Christmas I can believe in flying reindeer and toy making elves then I can choose to believe in a world where we can end human trafficking, hunger, and prejudice. I can choose to believe in the world where there is magic and possibility around every corner and in every story.
    I refuse to pack up my belief in humanity. Even the darkest, coldest person can be reached with love. Even if they ba humbug as we try to get close-every human deserves compassion, forgiveness, love, and respect. As Charles Dickens has shown us for years and years the most unreachable soul is not a lost cause until they're dead in the ground.
      I refuse to pack up the spirit of giving. Realistically I cannot buy gifts all year round because well I'm a college kids and I'm poor. But there are some things I can give. I can give my time. I can put down my cell phone and give my undivided attention to those around me. I can give people my word and mean it, even if it's not fun or convenient. I can give my family and friends my unending love and support...investing in the things that mean the most to them. And when necessary I can give forgiveness. Not that cheap "forgive and don't forget" brand but the genuine forgiven, forgotten and loved brand.
     Every year the very end of the Christmas Eve service is always my favorite. The lights go down and the pastors each light their candles, passing it down the rows...from the front all the way to the back. As the light travels further and further back the light overtakes the darkness until it's just as bright as when the lights were on. This year I'm taking my Christmas candle with me all year and maybe as I travel throughout this year I can light a few more candles as I go. Who knows, maybe by the time Santa makes his grand appearance next year the world will be a little brighter place...even before his arrival.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Confident women.

     I should be working on finals...I should be studying my butt off to finish the semester strong but I seem to be having a hard time finding the motivation to finish up. This weird thing happens every year around Christmas, I get super down and depressed feeling. I know. Weird. It should be the opposite. I should be full of Christmas cheer and, as my favorite elf states, "singing loudly for all to hear." But instead I find myself picking fights with those I love most, revisiting painful memories over and over, dealing with nightmares, and just feeling completely overcome by a feeling of not being good enough. I follow some of the most amazing women on instagram: researchers, politicians, actresses, models, advocates, travelers, and so much more. As I flip through their pictures I find myself constantly think: "gosh she is stunning" "she looks so fun" "she looks so happy" "she has so many adventures" "she has done so much"...and in the midst of these good thoughts about them I find myself consumed with bad thoughts about me: "wow gained that freshman fifteen three years ago and the sophomore seventeen after that top that off with the junior jiggle and the senior slug" "I am so boring" "I am not smart enough" "I am unhappy" "Why can't I go places?" and it is exhausting and it is so wrong. I have forgotten how to admire the beauty that another has to offer the world without diminishing my own. And then it hit me. As I admire and awe of the dazzling women behind the screen I discover the one thing that each of these women, in vastly different fields and from different ethnicities, cultures, looks, skills, and lives, has in common. Confidence. And that confidence makes all the difference in their lives and, when I embrace it, in I have compiled a list of things confident women should have:

Confident women should have the ability to see another's beauty without questioning her own.

Confident women should be proud of their brains, intelligence and smarts without being pretentious or know-it alls.

Confident women should know how to love a man without needing him to love her.

Confident women should be able to argue without demeaning.

Confident women should know how to speak up and make their voice heard without talking over those around them.

Confident women should embrace their quirks and little mistakes without accepting the bad things in their lives as unchangeable/that is just how they are.

Confident women should be full of grace to forgive but never be a doormat to those around them.

Confident women know when to stay and when to leave.

Confident women laugh at life but are also serious workers when they need to be.

Confident women embrace the stress of life as fuel for living and not insurmountable wall.

Confident women smile...a lot.

Confident women love their body and what they currently have in themselves but they never quit striving to be better than they were yesterday.

Confident women love with abandon but protect their hearts as precious.

Confident women never dumb themselves down to please those around them but they also never dumb down those around them to make themselves feel pleased.

Confident women cultivate their passions but never quit looking for new things to be passionate about.

Confident women never hold a grudge.

Confident women enjoy the fine things in life, the simple things in life, and all of those things in between.

Confident women speak of someone without talking ABOUT someone.

Confident women take care of themselves but aren't too proud to let others help.

Confident women do it for them not for others.

Confident women "work for a cause not for applause"

Confident women are proud of who they are but are never prideful.

Confident women redefine humility.

Confident women don't need anyone to tell them they are worth it.

Confident women chase their dreams but they also relish the little, still moments.

Confident women are true to themselves.

Confident women just are.

So, take that chance, darling. Be a dreamer, a doer, an adventurer. Rest, run, relax. Dance, laugh, rekindle old friendships and spark new ones. Be dazzling, be daring, and be you. Let that confidence build and then leave footprints all over the world....never be afraid to let the world know you are here and you are proud of it.

Monday, November 30, 2015


    I was sitting down to eat my lunch today and my phone started to light up. I had planned on studying while I ate so I was tempted to ignore it but it was from one of those friends that you just love so much you can't ignore a text. I open the text and the first sentence was "don't take this the wrong way but..." Oh crap. I hate messages that start like this I took a deep breath, said a small prayer for understanding and read on "How are you always so self confident and assured." I literally laughed out loud at this message. WHAT?! She really thinks I am always so self confident? She must be crazy. However, she wasn't entirely wrong. I do not hate myself anymore and I know what I want (most of the time, unless my boyfriend asks me what I want for dinner then I got nothing) so I tried to compile a few pieces of precious advice that are engrained into my daily routine and soul but a list seemed so shallow so instead I wrote her a we go....

My precious and beautiful friend,
    Thank you for the deep laughs and dear moments we have shared. You asked me a simple question today-how am I always so self assured? Oh dear one, how I laughed...I am so far from that. I am flawed, I fail every single day. I feel unsure of relationships and my value when compared to those around me. I go to the gym and see these pretty girls and don't want to look in the mirror. I lose my temper or watched netflix instead of studying and then want to kick myself for wasting precious time. But, a key difference between me and the girls around me is something that happened to me about a year ago. I became broken.
    You told me that you were tired of feeling like you were not enough and it felt as if someone punched me in the stomach. I wanted to cry for you because I know that feeling all to well. That overhanging doubt that seems to shadow every single thing that you do. I remember not even being able to sit in my room alone without thinking that some how I was even doing THAT wrong-that I wasn't enough and never would be. So, I concocted a plan- do not be alone. Jump from relationship to relationship and show them that I am enough. Be a people pleaser with my friends so they would call me first when something went wrong and I would always be in the know. Be a straight A student so my parents could brag that I go to the best public school in the country. Do all the homework so teachers know my name and think "yeah that student is going place" and in the midst of this brilliant plan the weirdest thing happened. I did not feel like I was enough...actually the opposite I constantly felt worse and worse about myself. Like I wasn't measuring up so I would try harder and harder and it kept pushing me further and further down.
    And then it happened-I snapped under my not enoughness. I developed an eating disorder that rocked me to my very core. I was sitting in my counselors office after months of seeing her and feeling like I had no break throughs and then it was like the clouds cleared. I had to make a list of two things: what I am and who I am.
      What I am included my temporary titles. Those that I cherish and value but that cannot ever define me: I am a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a student, a worker. The who I am is what really rocked my world, because it is the very essence of my being: I am smart, I am kind, I am hot tempered, I am an adventurer, a wanderer, I am curious, I am me. The realization of the things that have always been locked inside of me changed everything. However, knowing those things and applying them are completely different. I could not just make a list of these things, read over them and then BAM suddenly feel like I was enough. I knew something had to change and so I did the scariest thing I have ever had to do...I became alone.
      I broke up with my boyfriend-not because I didn't like him (lets be honest I liked them all-even the losers) and not because he was a bad guy, but because I knew I was with him because he was my validation that I was somehow enough. He was the one who kept me from having to be alone, he kept me from having to deal with the heartbreaks from the last one, and he gave me someone else to focus on. I had to ignore the temptations to jump back into a relationship with the next guy because he was the same thing-oh he was fun to flirt with but he too was just outward validation. Those relationships were not about being in love or finding someone to be with but rather about proving that I was good enough, sexy enough, desirable enough, fun enough, just enough-to somebody, anybody. I quit being a people pleaser and it was amazing how quickly those "friends" dropped like flies. I quit striving for straight A's and began to just try to enjoy learning. I did what work I could in class to get the information but not at the cost of my health. And, in the midst of this transition, the worst thing in the world happened....I got sooooo lonely.
      That is exactly what you wanted to hear isn't it? I know it sucks. But it was in that loneliness that I found this self confidence that you say you see when you look at me. In this place of loneliness I was able to look around and find those things that made my heart beat faster, my smile reach my eyes, and made my life feel full. I realized the sunset was not any less brilliant without a boy beside me to enjoy it, I found that the ocean was not any less vast without friends to document every single moment with, and I found that I enjoyed reading-I enjoyed history, and classics, and autobiographies. I found that hearing about modern day human trafficking made my blood boil and gave me a cause to fight for and I found that I am obsessed with fair trade products.
    And then, once I was alone and no longer looking to please anyone and not looking to feed anything but my soul the most amazing thing happened. Those people who were supposed to be (or remain) in my life began to trickle in. I was able to listen to people talk without listening for some kind of validation towards myself but rather hear what they were truly saying. I was able to belly laugh so hard my side ached without caring who was looking. I read books on history and autobiographies that made the gears in my head turn faster than they had ever turned. I was able to sit in the quad and genuinely enjoy the time alone and hear the beauty in the silence of nature.
     Once I was completely alone I was able to build the life I had always dreamed of from the ground up. The people who were supposed to be in my life began to fill my time and space and with them came more joy than I had ever imagined. I was able to fall in love with a man who treats me like a princess, not to validate who I am, but just because he can. I was able to give of myself and drain myself completely in service to those around me. To revel in the act of service. I was giving of myself simply because I could, not so they would once again assure me I was enough. I was able to travel to distant cities by myself meeting lifelong friends along the way. But, being enough came from being alone, from being lonely and making a commitment to that.
     I pray one day you see that you are enough. There is no one like you in this world. There is no one with a laugh that has that melodious sound, there is no one who is excited by the same things, there is no one who can think the unique things you think or love the way you love. There simply is not. But, you are short changing the world and yourself if you think being what others consider "enough" will ever grant you that inner peace.
     As long as you are expecting someone else to validate that you are enough you never will be. It is only once you have reached that place-where you adopt you quirks and temperament and humor and interest and love that you will find that peace that lets you wake up every day and run through the chaos. I do not have it all together. There are still days I practically beg for someone to tell me I am enough. I determine if a picture can stay on my instagram by how many likes it gets. And sometimes I cry because my boyfriend didn't tell me I was pretty that day. And those moments are ok too. Because without those little dips in the road we could never appreciate ourselves on those other days-we could never see how far we have come or laugh at the journey it took us to get there. My self confidence comes from giving every single ounce of myself away not so someone else can tell me I am enough but because I already know that I am.
     I love you dear one and am here for you along your journey. It is the most beautiful one you will ever embark on and also the scariest but I hope you take it sooner rather than later because it is here that you find true thankfulness, sincerity, and fullness of life. Best of luck....and don't forget: you are enough, not because I told you that you were today, but rather because you are simply you.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The opposite of love is not hate...

     I am sitting alone in my room, the same room that has been mine for 10 years. It has changed a lot over the years-the pink walls replaced with a calming tan color, the posters of boy bands replaced with maps of the world and big girl artwork. Everything is different and yet everything is familiar. Everything in here I know: every crevice, every wall, every scrape and stain on the floor. Ten years this room has seen change and yet I sit here feeling like that same 11 year old girl. I look at the pile of boxes that will be moving back to school with me tomorrow for the last time, my senior adventure, what every person dreams of all throughout high school and most of college. And yet now that it is here I am terrified. I feel so unsure of myself, my future, my relationships. I strain my eyes and struggle to see the future and instead I feel like I am groping around in the dark reaching for the light switch that can't seem to be found.
      I have always had it all together, or at least been able to successfully fake it. I am, sometimes to the severe frustration of my friends, the mom of my group. I know how to be the supporter and the cheerleader but I never learned how to be the one supported. I am the one with the big dreams and the roadmap to get there. I am the one who has it all... but tonight, I don't. In fact I so far from don't I cried because I dropped my fork. But, in this messy, stressed out, place of uncertainty I finally realized that is completely ok to not know the answer but it is not ok to live in fear. And it is the most freeing realization I have EVER (and I mean ever) had (Thanks mommy).
        I was flipping through instagram and stumbled across one of my favorite pages, the (If you don't follow them you should), and tonight instead of a fashionable print the picture simply said "no fear in love" and my jaw dropped and my heart instantly soothed from the chaos that has been whirling around in my brain for the past few days. It was almost as if God was saying "do I need to create an instagram to get your attention?" Here is the verse they got that from 1 John 4:18 "Perfect love casts out all fear" OH MY GOSH!!!!! DID YOU GET THAT?! I know it is easy to miss because its short but "perfect love casts out all fear." There is nothing, literally nothing on this earth to be afraid of if you have love. That sounds so cheesy, and it sounds like I should owe Disney thousands of dollars for copyright infringement considering that is the climax in all their movies, but it is so true and so simple that I completely forget it ALL THE TIME.  And, when I forget, I end up in this weird uncertain, whiny, "do you love me" phase and it is annoying and ugly and hard to function. It breaks my spirit and yet the answer to healing is right in front of me all the time.
      But, when I am not living in love I am also not living in hatred, no hatred (in and of itself) can be very powerful and push your life in new directions (usually very negative directions-not something I recommend). No, I live in an even more dangerous place-I live in fear. And fear not only makes me feel weak and incapable and incompetent it cripples me in every single aspect of life; my school work, my friendships, my relationship. Fear leaves me treading water, not going anywhere and not doing anything. Fear is just as dangerous as hate. Kelsey and Kendall on the Radient life blog go on to state "fear holds you back from accomplishing dreams and it also holds you back from raw, open relationships with the people you love most." FEAR IS KEEPING YOU FROM LIVING THE LIFE YOU DREAMED-and the answer to fear is not one second of intense courage, or weekly planners filled with inspirational quotes. No, the antibiotic to fear is LOVE. Crazy, intense, passionate, selfless, I am willing to get hurt LOVE. Somewhere in my "I got this" life I have become so afraid to love. So afraid of not being enough: pretty enough, smart enough, witty enough, successful enough...just enough. So, instead of pushing through that fear with love I just shut down. I quit loving me and in the process began to shortchange every one else in my life.
   Sitting on a beach in San Diego last week my friend Maggie said "I just love love" and I thought it was one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard. But Maggie was so right-SO RIGHT-and I was too stubborn to see it. The imperfect people in and around my life love me so perfectly and yet I overlook it everyday looking for that deep philosophical answer to combat my fear, to combat the source of an empty life. So for tonight sitting in this little room looking to the years ahead and reflecting on the years behind I will look without fear because I will look through a gaze of love...Here are a few (and I mean very few- there are thousands of others) things/examples of love that immediately come to mind:

1. My mom has this collection of shells and rocks that my dad has collected from everywhere he goes-when I asked why they all look broken he showed me how they all make hearts if they are turned the right way. MY DAD GETS MY MOM HEART SHAPED STONES AND SHELLS OH MY GOSH! That is so gross....and cute...and gross.

2. My beautiful friend Maggie being an absolute cheerleader, rockstar, and just rock when I was freaking out about swimming in the ocean. Not only was I a whiny baby about it I am pretty sure I pouted like a 3 year old, but she NEVER and I mean NEVER stopped cheering me on. You would have thought I had found the cure for cancer how much she was cheering for me.

3. Staying up really late even though you know you have to get up early for work simply because someone needs you that night-suddenly 8 hours of sleep seems overrated (even though you really wanted it).

4.  The way my college pastor and his wife will stay awake until super late on a saturday night to watch the presidential debate with me so I don't have to watch alone (not only did they watch it with me they let me talk through the whole thing which can be really annoying).

5.  The way my grandma starts every phone message with "hey Megan, this is Mammaw..." Not only is it adorable but she took the time to call AND to leave a message-2 things that almost never happen anymore.

      It is so easy to turn on the news and think "there is no love left in the world-why should I care" but there are rays of light and love every where you turn. We will never change the course of our lives, our friendships, our nation, our world with hatred. But more dangerous than hatred (and a root of the hatred itself) is the crippling fear that we live in each and every day. You will never get anything done living in fear-so instead live in love and let your light shine....light will always, always, always overcome darkness.
    Today I choose joy, I choose contentment, and most importantly I choose love because it is literally EVERYWHERE and it is EVERYTHING. I choose to grab the chains of fear and throw them down because they only have power where you let them. I choose to live my messy, complicated, passionate life to the fullest and not waste one more day worrying my love isn't enough. I choose to live a real and raw life.

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened." Buddha

So, are you willing to love again?

Friday, July 17, 2015

12 mundane things I couldn't live without.

    Every time I turn on the news I find myself wanting to cry: shootings, earthquakes, murder, abandonment, broken politics, and so much more seems to encircle and surround us on a day to day basis. It is incredibly rare, if not almost impossible, now of days to find a story that fills you with hope and joy. Even my major is one that is filled with depressing statistics and realities that there are children dying of starvation every single day, young girls getting pregnant, father's leaving families and so much more. It can weigh you down, make you want to crawl in a hole, and forget how beautiful this life really is.
     On the reg. I find it so hard to look at my day and see anything but deadlines, expectations and broken dreams. But, not today. Today I choose joy. I choose to laugh, and be happy, and grateful for the little things that bring me immense happiness in the day to day. Those big, stunning moments, dream trips, and butterflies are wonderful but they unfortunately are not what my every day life is full of. My every day life is mundane, it is mostly quite, it is saturated in routine and until a few days ago that annoyed and frustrated me to the point of utter discontentment until I took a step back and looked around. I emerged from a fog of routine, took a deep breath, and inhaled just how blessed and wonderful my life really is.
    So, for right now here are the top 12 things that bring me absolute contentment-that don't need to be added to, don't need some deep earth shattering explanation, but are just full of simplicity and wouldn't have it any other way:

1. The smell of fresh coffee brewing in the morning. It wakes up all my senses and makes me feel all warm.

2. Waking up to a text message from someone who is thinking about you.

3. Beautiful friends from down the street, across the state, and across the country who send me a text message to ask how a big day was without being reminded. People who take the time to listen, invest, and pay attention to those that matter in their lives. "If I paid for my friends I did not pay nearly enough."

4. The way my mommy calls me "little one." I am 21 years old but hearing her say that makes me realize I always have the most beautiful woman in my corner who will protect me until I am 121. A woman who looks at me and knows all the mistakes, heartaches, ill-placed/short tempered words and yet still sees her little one who is worthy of her love-not because of anything I have ever done but simply because of who I am.

5.  Classical novels...ya know, back when people knew real literature.

6. Planning my big trip to San Diego to see one of the most cherished woman in my life. The trip itself is going to be AMAZING but the anticipation leading up to the next two weeks makes it so fun!

7. Online shopping with companies like 31 bits, 10,000 villages, TOMs, Amizma, Sseko, Pencils of Promise and so many more that means you can look cute, feel good, and still help save the world...totally worth the extra $10.

8. The soft creases in my bible in the book of Psalms when I feel so overwhelmed I cannot think of doing anything but crawling in bed and crying.

9. Blogs like Traveling Newlyweds, Radiant Life, and Kisses from Katie that are full of people who are just being totally real that make you realize how fun and beautiful and messy life can be...but also makes you so grateful it is not always perfect.

10. Long workouts at the gym. The kind where you just want to collapse on the floor after and you feel like your legs cannot move (or your arms) but you feel so accomplished. It is also incredibly entertaining to watch the men walk around trying to act too cool for makes me laugh.

11. The way fresh flowers look on a vase in the kitchen-full of bright colors and sweet smells.

12. The way the southern sunshine makes everything feel like a country song-slow, down home living, drowsy, ready for a nap!

    These are things that I see, feel, hear, experience on a day to day basis...nothing big or ground breaking but little moments I could easily overlook. I am tired of living life from one big moment to the next and missing all the little moments in-between....I want to experience life every single moment of every single day, and that means being aware of every little blessing in my life and cultivating a heart of gratitude and that journey starts today. What are 10 little things in your day to day that bring you joy you may have missed-if you don't open your eyes now you'll turn around and realized you missed your life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

5 things my best friends have told me about being single in the past week.

      As I trip and fall down the stairs busting my butt for at least the 7th time this summer I cannot help but laugh. I grab one of my best friend's hands as she is trying to hold it together and not pee herself and look up at her and say "I cannot imagine why I am still single." She bust out laughing as we walk down the street to get some iced coffee. While the question was meant as a joke, it is definitely something I have thought about in the last few it me? Maybe I should just run one more mile at the gym? Maybe I need a new interesting hobby? New outfits to catch the right eyes? Sure, I've had a few dates in the past few months but something is missing. That spark, that pizzazz. Some of theme were just idiots, others there were outside factors (distance, for example) that made the prospect of anything happening obsolete, and others were AMAZING men who were just somebody else's somebody.
     It seems like absolutely EVERYWHERE that I turn people are getting into a relationship or breaking up from one. Every time I talk to a friend I learn of a new heartbreak or triumph, and Lord knows that I don't think there is anyone on my Facebook news feed who did not get engaged or married this summer. And it is hard and it is exhausting and sometimes it makes me wanna chill out with my main men Ben and Jerry and gain 40 lbs and move to Russia. But, praise the Lord Almighty He has put some beautiful women in my life who are not afraid to speak truth into my life and call me on the carpet...also praise the Lord that it was these women who tried to speak to me and not someone else because had another person said these things to me I would be in jail for punching them in the face.
    Society tells me (I won't include all women but I feel like a lot of you have felt it...maybe men too I don't know) that the ultimate treasure and goal in life is to be in the killer relationship but I am calling bull crap. Since when did our worth become dependent one what we could give someone else? So this is my realities of being single...also known 21 year old, awkward woman's guide to the beautiful time that is your single 20s...aka advice from my friends:

1. Date yourself. Why as women are we always waiting for someone else to woo us? Why do we want someone to buy us flowers, tell us we are beautiful, take us places, etc. Why don't we do that for ourselves. My friend Lauren looked at me at dinner the other night and goes "girl, I know this sounds weird but you've got to date yourself again because when this phase is over it is over." So I am giving it a try: making time for friends in distant places all across the country, actually throwing myself into my summer classes, working my butt off to break my P.R. in a 5k, buying the long stemmed roses that I found pretty for myself. There are a lot of things that need to change but there is one thing I am really harping on: I need to fall in love with myself again. Not in a creepy like "oh hey beauty in the mirror what are you doing tonight" kind of way but I need to appreciate the little qualities about myself that I hope others admire because how can I expect any one to want this if I don't even want this? Love yourself!!!! Please! I promise there is something about you that no one else has. Maybe its the way you can decipher big numbers in your head, maybe it is your love of musicals, or the way your nose wrinkles when you talk, or the way you can fit an entire coke can into your mouth...I have no idea what it is but I do know that there are things about you that no one else in the entire world has...cherish them.

"You have to love yourself because when other people are competing with you for your own love you are much more likely to be a better judge."

2. Embrace this time being single. For two reasons: 1. It is the only time in your life that everything you do is absolutely about you and being that selfish is ok and 2. if you sit around just waiting for someone to sweep you off your feet that is incredibly boring and no one wants that.

So, go out with friends to sing karaoke, drive to the beach for a sunrise, eat an entire carton of ice cream, veg out on that cheesy netflix show, go out with friends that the last minute, learn a new hobby, instrument, language, something! Because sitting on your butt waiting for the "one" is 1. incredibly creepy and makes me think you need a therapist, and 2. not attractive...would you want to date someone who's soul purpose in life for the past 5 years was to meet the person to marry and then they would start living life? NO!!! You want someone with stories, excitement, mystery, hobbies! Be that person!

3. Mr. Right might not exist...thank you, Brenna for this reality check. After I finished my entire "HOLY CRAP I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE AND OLD AND WRINKLY!" freakout...this reality did not seem like such a bad thing. If your whole life is dependent on you finding someone else then you have an incredibly empty life. Men and Women throughout the course of history have gotten married later in life, or not at all, and had deeply fulfilling lives, adventures, and legacies. Mother Theresa never married and yet she changed the slums of India for generations to come..and I bet if you asked her if something was missing she would say no. You can love life, have adventures, leave a mark, and make a change without being a wife and a mother. MAYBE THAT ISN'T ACTUALLY YOUR CALLING AND THAT IS COMPLETELY OK!!! Maybe, it is a part of your calling but not the whole thing. Maybe, it happens next month, next year, six years from now, or when you are sixty! But, if your whole life depends on you being in a romantic relationship then when that relationship doesn't work out, or is rocky, or worse, heaven forbid, something happens to them then your whole world will be turned upside down. Embrace the love of your work, your passions, the causes that get your heart pumping, friendships, family, life!

4. Be you. I know that is literally the most cliche thing in the world but my stomach literally churns when I see women changing who they are to impress a man. Even if you do impress him that isn't going to last because you can only act for so long and it will be boring. When you are unapologetically yourself you attract people with similar beliefs, energy, dreams, ambitions, and interest and the connection will be much more sincere. I would rather be alone than be a fake because the good Lord up above knows that if I had to get up every single day and look perfect then I would be a little ball of fury.

5. Wait it out. I have spent years, and when I say years I mean years, dating Mr. Wrong. I have never, ever...maybe once...but rarely dated a man who was genuinely good for me, because of fear of rejection or being alone. But, I am tired of settling for someone who won't be my forever best friend because the moment seems too boring or I am too worried about what everyone else is doing. I would rather be single, and free, and adventurous, and myself than be forced into a mold for a three months and done relationship. Relationships can be beautiful but that can also literally be toxic to every single aspect of your is ok to step back and say "for now, this is about me, and you don't fit into that." OR to even take some time and say "I need to work on cultivating my life, my desires, and my future so that when I meet the right person I am ready and not a little emotional wreck because I don't know anything about myself." I follow this couple on instagram called "Traveling Newlyweds" and they literally look so so so happy all the time, like they are each others best friend...I WANT THAT! And, I am tired of settling for anything short of it because if a committed relationship is the biggest life adventure then why on earth would I want to take it with someone that I just kind of tolerate?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What Capitol Hill taught me about friendship

This summer has seemed like a dream and it has flown by. As I go into my last week as a congressional intern I literally feel like someone is ripping a piece of my heart away. This summer has taught me more about history, politics, patriotism, myself and friendship than any other single experience I have ever had. So, I thought I would take a few moments as I go into my final week to just share some of the truths of friendship and human nature that I have learned this summer.

But, before I begin it would be ridiculous for me to not give a shout out to three beautiful people who have changed my life this summer and for good. They have given me the time of my life and taught me a little something along the way.

Beeta, my persian princess. You taught me so much about being open minded, being willing to learn about other cultures, people, ways of thought and ways of life. You taught me to laugh at myself. To live life with wild abandon, to dance in the rain, to eat the taco, to belly laugh until it hurts, to go after what I want and so much more. You opened my mind and heart to other countries, you taught me to turn away the media and explore the truths of the world... past the hate and see the love, you taught me what unconditional love looks like.

Brandon, my joyful, jewish buddy! I cannot thank you enough for your patience as you have had to explain so much to me this summer. Thank you for showing me that there are still genuinely good good good guys in the world (and thank you for being one of them). You taught me how to not always live so guarded and how to embrace my emotions and be ok with who I am. Thank you for exceptional kindness and patience this summer.

Dixe, my Yale darling. In you this summer I found a special kind of soul mate and a future bridesmaid (as is Beeta of course). Our life talks have meant more to me than you will ever know. You have taught me the value of listening, of putting others first, and hard work. You have shown me how nothing is out of my grasp unless I believe it is. Through your patience and constant sense of sassy sarcasm you have kept me laughing and feeling like this summer was the best decision I have ever made. But, more than any of that you have given me hope. You have caused me to see myself again and like what I see. You have stood by me in some of the darkest, most confusing experiences this summer and helped me see the light is right there if I just choose to turn it on. You are one of the most beautiful and brilliant women I have ever met and I am so blessed to call you a confidant, friend, and role model. I adore you, darling. Thank you for the summer of a lifetime.

All that being said here is my list of friendships and human nature:

1. Never be afraid to go down the hall and ask for the wifi password for two reasons (1) Wifi is a necessity to life and (2) you might just meet a life long friend if you are willing to ask silly questions.

2. Never be too afraid/uptight to make jokes about yourself. When you can laugh about it other people feel much more at ease and can laugh too. (Thank you Brandon for the endless Jew jokes)

3. Those little quirks you find strange about yourself (the love of brunch, museums, women's rights, and history for instance) may be totally endearing to other people and help you build life long connections...and enable you to find the best $21 brunch place in D.C.

4. Don't be fake people can see through that and it is hard to recover from.

5. Friends are for late nights, deep conversations, camel back water bottles, and good laughs.

6. Not all men are jerks, not all iranians hate america (actually most don't), and not all ivy league students are snobs...please cut the stereotypes.

7. By indulging in other peoples interest you may just find a new passion/topic that you love and can change your life. You may discover "Filthy Lucre," a new way of defining terrorism, or a new taco place behind Union Station....all good things.

8. No one actually has it all together.

9. Kindness, acceptance, patience, and understanding will get you a lot farther in life than always having to be right, hate, or rudeness. As John Boehner said to the interns "be nice when you can."...Then he insulted some guys shoes but the advice was spot on!

10. "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, religion, or philosophy as a cause for withdrawing from a friend" Thomas Jefferson (aka friendships can survive the democrat vs. republican baseball game AND the TPA vote).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

I am from...

I went to a new church today and the preacher talked about being "from" somewhere and it really made me think about where I am from. This is what I came up with:

I am from the gymnast mat and a pink bedroom.

I am from a mother who sparkles and who can love deeper than the deepest ocean.

I am from a father whose fierce determination and strong leadership have shaped my life.

I am from a sister who is so beautiful that every time I uncover a layer of it I find there is another more.

I am from cowgirl boots and red high heels and running shoes.

I am from the great smokey mountains and a grandmother's flower garden.

I am from a quick wit and sassy sense of self.

I am from a young couple in the church who adopted me as their drama child.

I am from a college and youth pastor who never gave up on me.

I am from the most competitive of classrooms and the most sincere of belly laughs.

I am from the debate stage and the youth group's drama.

I am from "Away in a Manger" to "The Old Rugged Cross."

I am from the friends who have taught me how to love and trust and fight.

I am from an eating disorder that tried to destroy me from my core and from a God who taught me to love a broken masterpiece.

I am from summers that pushed me to the edge and then off the brink to teach me how to fly.

I am from betrayal and forgiveness.

I am from a hunger for justice and a desire for mercy.

I am from an old dirt road and the city street.

I am from childhood memories and grownup dreams.

I am from pancake breakfasts I will never forget and more love than I have ever deserved.

I know where I am from and even though I may not know where I am going to I know that the journey is always the best part.

"To make living itself an art, that is the goal"

Friday, May 29, 2015

Why I love being lonely

        I am sitting in a coffee shop by myself updating my blog. Listening to a business meeting in one corner, some friends effortlessly catching up in another, and what appears to be a first or second date directly beside me (poor guy is super nervous). And I sit all by myself sipping my chia tea. If you had asked me to do this three years ago I would have adamantly refused, I hated being alone. I thought that it was the simple fact that I got bored but then I realized it was a much deeper problem, it was because I didn't like me-actually three years ago I hated me. But, surprisingly, over the past few months and years my life has changed more drastically than I ever thought possible. My perception of myself, my future, and my world has taken on an entirely new frame.
        Until a few years ago I was constantly looking somewhere, anywhere, for acceptance and validation. I desperately wanted someone to tell me I was good enough, smart enough, pretty enough...just enough. I quickly discovered that is a VERY empty way of life. A life that is lived for the sole purpose of pleasing others and not myself. And, honestly, I just couldn't do it anymore. I do not know when it happened. I can't put my hand on one event and say "that, that is the morning I decided to live for me" but it happened. It wasn't one big event just a bunch of little setbacks, a few hard break ups, a few friends stabbing me in the back or simply fading out of my life-little things that on their own that weren't earth shattering but they added up to a heavy load that I just could not carry anymore. At first it was lonely as the people that I had always bent over backwards to please quickly vanished out of my life. I felt guilty when I enjoyed a pizza causing me to lose my size two figure. I felt incomplete when I looked at what everyone else was doing and where they were going and who they were becoming, but (strangely enough) slowly and surely I felt happier, more fulfilled, and more free. I was able to read things I was passionate about, my life became filled with people who were headed in the same direction as me and not simply people who I thought were cooler, smarter or prettier. And, more importantly my life began to soar to new depths and new directions that I never imagined. I learned to appreciate true beauty in nature, history, and myself. I learned to speak up for myself instead of simply being the cute little girl people could say or do anything to. I learned to love at levels I never even knew existed. But, to get here I had to be alone. I had to be lonely. I had to face myself-who I had become and who I truly was.
         If I ever go through an incredibly hard and lonely time again I hope that I come back to DC. This is the perfect city to come face to face with myself. Walking the same streets and halls as some of the greatest and most powerful men and women in history strikes a deep cord in my heart. Being in DC is empowering and yet humbling which is a dangerously powerful combination. Yesterday I had a whole day off when everyone else was working and I was so excited I couldn't stand it. As I was wandering around the city I stumbled upon the Supreme Court Building (I mean I knew it was there but I wasn't planning on going in). But that quickly changed as I realized I had nothing else to do and it was about a million degrees outside so inside I went. As I walked around I found myself face to face with an exhibit on Sandra Day O'Connor-the first woman to ever sit as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. As I looked at her life in pictures, mementos, and statues I couldn't help but wonder...was she lonely at times to? My favorite statue of her is one in which she is standing on glass shards representing how she shattered the glass ceiling. I can guarantee she did not get there by pleasing the crowds. She was a very controversial character-she wasn't the good housewifey woman that many in her era expected. Actually she was hated by many men for her outspoken spirit and quick wit and she was despised by women as unfeminine. But, by not being "the usual" she changed the course of history, not just for herself, but for every woman in America. And the best part? She didn't do that by being the most popular woman and pleasing the world. She did that by tenacity. She did that by living a life above and beyond what anyone ever dreamed possible. She did that by having periods of being lonely so that she could pass by those who did not want her for what she truly was. That is how I want to live. Full of tenacity and spirit and love and passion for whatever I pursue.
       Five months ago I was in a relationship with a man that I loved more than I ever thought possible. I poured every ounce of myself into that relationship (in hindsight not the healthiest decision). And then, one night, he literally looked at me and told me he didn't love me. After an intense screaming match-he won and I lost (bad). I drove home broken, not just in my heart but in my very spirit. I have never felt so worthless, used, disgusting, ugly, or incomplete. But, more importantly, I have never felt so alone. My friends and family went above and beyond-sleeping on my floor, taking me out, lots of hugs and phone calls, planning great weekend adventures. But it was no use. I looked around the world, my world, and felt like a completely useless outsider. I did not want to get out of bed but I didn't want to sleep..honestly I didn't want to exist. And then one morning the weirdest thing I happened. I went for a walk around campus BY MYSELF and felt satisfied. I felt complete with just me. I didn't need him to tell me I was enough because suddenly I WAS ENOUGH. Just me, without his approval and without someone telling me I was. I have been "lonely" for the past five months and I have learned so much about myself. I've reveled in history, I have laughed until I cried, I have danced in the streets of DC with strangers, I have met new people and more importantly I have flown way out of my comfort zone.
       He was not a bad guy...just to clarify. But, without him my life has taken on new direction and soared farther than the farthest reaches of my imagination could go. If I had been with him when I was offered this position in DC I wouldn't have accepted it. I would not be dreaming of jobs in far off cities. I would not have met half of the amazing people I have met. My life would be good but I can't help but wonder-would it be as great as it is right now? Would I have that feeling I get as I sit on the steps of the capitol every night watching the sunset-the feeling of being completely and deeply satisfied and like I am EXACTLY where I am supposed to be? Looking back now I realize that night in January was legitimately one of the biggest blessings that has ever been rained down on me. I am still lonely at times. Sometimes I still am like "what the heck am I doing?!"  (as I am sure most of the people who know and love me wonder at times) but I am learning to embrace these lonely moments as blessings. I am learning to look deep into these days that feel so isolated and to search for the hidden blessing because I KNOW it is there. I am learning to love being lonely. And that in and of itself is very tenacious...and being tenacious is the first step in living a life of tenacity.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

In These Hallowed Halls (17 Things I've Learned My First Week In D.C.)

 I walk into my first day of work and feel the breath leave my body. I am in absolute awe of the building that I will be calling home for the next few work weeks. The United States Capitol is the seat of freedom. It is the place where the crazy experiment of democracy was conducted (and continues to be), much to the shock of the entire world. George Washington is noted as saying "I give it twenty years" when referring to the idea of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And yet, here I stand 229 years later, walking past statues and portraits of the great men and women who changed the course of history forever. I assumed that the shock of where I am would quickly wear off (unfortunately it always does) but not this time. This time I feel a surge of pride every time I walk down the halls. I feel humbled to stand where men and women fought tooth and nail to shatter glass ceilings and create a whole new way of life. I feel grateful for the sacrifices made that I could never imagine. I feel awe as I look upon the rotunda. I feel small as I listen to the deep intellectual conversations and debates that happen up and down the hallowed halls and behind the tightly shut wooden doors. I feel...blessed.
      While DC has been an exciting experience I have also learned some pretty fun and important things the first week here are my top 12:

1. The Washington Monument and the Capitol Building are incredibly large buildings. Because of their immense size they look very close together and like a nice Sunday walk....this is a lie. They are actually 1.8 miles apart.

2. Georgetown cupcakes is absolutely worth waiting in line and paying $6 for one delicious bite. Honestly, it taste like a piece of heaven fell to earth.

3.  Taking one art appreciation class in college does not help you be an informed visitor to the national art gallery but it is still worth the visit. It makes you feel very sophisticated and you do not need a degree to appreciate beauty.

4. Until the Reagan administration inauguration always happened on the East terrace but Reagan insisted facing his home state of California. It has been on the west terrace ever since.

5. You can literally meet people on Sunday and feel like best friends by Monday if they are as amazing as my roommate/hallway mate. Kindred souls are all over the world if you are willing to open up and put yourself out there. You never know who you could meet and you will regret it your whole life if you do not try. There is literally nothing like connecting with someone you wouldn't have met if you didn't step way out of your comfort zone.

6. When you map quest the White House it will take you to the Department of not be deceived.

7.  DC will make you want to read every autobiography you can get your hands on about the founding fathers, supreme court, and president.

8. No one likes obnoxiously loud people on the metro...shut up boo-boo it is not cute.

9. Chinese take out is literally an interns best friend.

10. Who needs sleep when you have strong coffee?

11. According to a very reliable source if you lick the Washington Monument it taste salty.

12. Just because you made yourself a shopping list does not mean you will remember everything the first time, expect multiple metro rides and funny looks.

13. Most people you meet are willing to help if you are respectful and just ask. When you as a D.C. native about their city they love to show it off.

14. You cannot watch one news station and honestly believe you know the truth in any situation.

15. Do not be afraid to challenge what you think you know; even if you do not change your mind you end up strengthening your beliefs.

16. When you get lost in the city just look up....all roads (and some sketchy allies) lead to the Capitol.

17. There is nothing in the world like forcing yourself to move to a new city where you know no one, get a new job you have never done, and be a strong person you've never truly had to be.

My D.C. adventure is just getting started but I literally would not trade this for anything in the entire world....stick with me and I promise to fill you in on fun stories, great eats, and fun adventures.

"To make living itself an art, that is the goal"

Friday, May 8, 2015

So the adventure begins

       My mind wandered as I looked out the window on the way to DC today. Trees and highway were all I saw for six hours. Nervous? Not all seemed so surreal in the car. I am an adult (according to the law I have been for 4 years) there is no denying it now. But snuggled down in the backseat of the car and listening to my parents talk about summer plans I feel like a teenager again. As we pull up to the hotel my parents will be staying at for the evening I feel like someone hit me in the stomach...I am suddenly terrified. We get on the metro and head towards downtown looking for my new apartment, and home, for the next two months. Finally finding the building, we lug all three suitcases upstairs (since the elevator is out of course) and begin unpacking. When we finish it does look like I actually live here, kind of. My bowl made by my precious friend holds my make up, my pillows and blankets are on the bed, and that is the laptop I have written countless papers on but something feels off...different...foreign. This is completely different from any experience I have ever had. I am legitimately on my own for the first time in my entire life and I am so unprepared. Sure, I have spent the last four summers working at various places but I was accountable to someone, someone had my itinerary spelt out, but here I am literally on my own. I can already tell my mom is starting to get antsy about leaving me here. When she looks my way she sees the bouncing little girl with pig tails and skinned up knees; not the sassy adult who lives on her own and is entering the real world. Tears form in her eyes and I see them in the mirror of mine. Where did my childhood go? When did all of this (apartments, metros, and adult jobs) become my reality? Part of me wants to be little again but the bigger (and louder) part of me is so excited for this next adventure I cannot stand it!
     I have longed for this adventure for years. I am always scheming, pinning, reading, researching, hoping, saving, and longing to travel. I long to see the world, to taste new coffees in far off shops, to meet new people, learn new languages, eat exotic foods, walk down streets completely new to my senses and this is my chance! I throw some things into a drawer and see the look of confusion on my dads face (that would have been neatly folded if it were him) and then announce I am starving...honestly I just need to get out of this little box....and away from that refrigerator because it is making the worst sound I have ever heard (I did not break that it was already making weird sounds when I got here!).
      As soon as I walk out the door I can see the Supreme Court building which is an absolute dream come true. I walk out of the anxiety that surrounded me in my apartment and into a surreal realm where the modern world collides with precious history. DC is like a world all of its own. As I walk towards the Capital the countless men and women who have walked this path before me, who have paved the way, shattered the glass ceilings and laid the stones of the history that I cherish all comes to life before my very eyes. We take a few pictures and then find a place to settle down and eat.
     SIDE NOTE: If you are ever in the DC area and need a good place to eat head down Pennsylvania avenue and stop by a restaurant called Bull Feathers... BEST GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH EVER! Decent prices for a great location right down the road (less than a block) from the capital. Delicious food, fun atmosphere and you never know who might walk in. A nice family sit down that I would give two thumbs up. Our waiter was incredibly friendly and offered awesome suggestions on running trails and places to get groceries for the weekend.
      The dinner is coming to a close and I look at the two people who have given me more than anyone else ever could. Love and support, of course, but I look at my mom and see my cheeks and eyes looking back. I hear my laughter coming out of her mouth. I look over at my dad and see the embodiment of my fierce determination, stubborn will, and quick wit. These two people make up the best parts of who I am and I am so blessed. Suddenly I feel myself relaxing because I know everything will be alright...I am their daughter, after all.
     Now I am back at my apartment. My parents are gone and my roommates have not moved in yet. It is eerily quite and I have the TV on for sheer noise. I am an adult, this is an amazing opportunity, I can do this! But, I will definitely be pulling my baby blankie a little closer tonight. But, there is no turning back now, the adventure has begun and I am along for the ride no matter what so: big girl pants on, head down and plunge ahead.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Kids Will Be Kids

        Giggles reverberate off the creme walls decorated with bright posters advertising "Mr. Question Mark has lots of questions" and "RESPECT-give it." The smell of stale pizza and cafeteria milk lingers after a long lunch period in which thousands of children crammed food into their faces in the short amount of time given to eat. Little girls hold hands and skip down the hallway to their classes, little boys shove and laugh at the newest jokes. Kids are kids no matter where you are. But, this classroom, this school, it is different. These kids go to the lowest income school in the county. This school does not have adequate supplies or enough teachers. This school does not have new gadgets. This school has not had heating or air since January even though every other school in the country was checked to ensure comfortable conditions in the classroom. The day I visited it was easily 85 degrees in the classroom and since it sits on the third floor teachers cannot leave the window open for fear of an accident. The air was stifling, no movement or breeze...just thick, humid air. I sit down on a stool in the front of the room and begin to read. A simple children's book filled with bright colors, the theme "grateful to be alive." I hear giggles as I give the characters various voices, the kids enthralled in the random stranger sitting in the front of the room reading. They fire questions at me like little toy guns: "What is college like?" "Do you have homework?" "What's your favorite color?" I answer the questions laughing at the inquisitive nature and enjoying the pulling and shoving to give me a hug, hold my hand, play with my hair. I revel in the little faces that look at me with such beaming pride when I ask if they will be my new friends. They line up and go to recess, pulling me out the door with them and completely ruining my plans for the rest of the day and suddenly I do not care anymore.
      "Look around and tell me what you see" the teacher ask me. Puzzled I look around the play ground that resembles more of a beehive "Running?" as that seemed to be the dominate mode of transportation. "You see kids being kids" was her response. I smiled. Recess was the best time of the day when I was little. I remember running, laughing, sliding, climbing, playing tag, being a kid. It is still the best time of the day when I get to behave that way. "Unfortunately most of them will be high school drop outs, drug users, and teenager mothers." The thought made it feel as if someone had dropped a stone into my stomach, my knees felt weak, and my vision blurred. These kids are being forced into these roles by the very society that was supposed to protect them. They are pushed through a system without being able to read or spell their own name and by the time the system catches on they mock them, tell them they are stupid and incapable. These kids feel inadequate, not because they are, but because they have never been invested in, believed in, or told they were capable. THEY ARE CAPABLE. I saw quick wit, deep compassion, laughter, and optimism on that playground-but how long do we have? How long until that is doused?
      Children walk by and high five and hug their teacher. They show her their playground treasures of rocks, broken pencils, and sticks and then happily skip away. "I try" I look in her eyes and know she means it. This teacher has a special place in my heart because it is my older sister, and best friend. I hear the stories every night on the phone, I hear the tears when another child is hurts or slips through the system, I see the anger and frustration day in and day out. What the world doesn't know is that my sister stays after school hours, and hours, and hours every day. She works on lesson plans all weekend. She buys hundreds of dollars worth of supplies and books out of her own pocket (and not because teachers make bank either). I cannot tell you how many times she has recruited me to print, cut, or glue "one more project" for her. Teachers like this exist in every level of the school system but they are most needed at this low level-the level of the forgotten. She loves her job but it drains her, it drains all of them. When the last bus pulls out teachers faces wipe clean of the smile they have fought tooth and nail to maintain all day and they turn stoic, exhaustion seeping through in their gait, face, eyes. "I have one year." That is all these teachers have and then the kids are sent on to the next level (sometimes against the teachers recommendation) pushed into a system where they are a number not a face.
      Something has to change in this system that is sucking the souls of the students and teachers alike. Redistricting, better curriculum, more money for teachers, smaller classroom size, better supplies, something. Society turns on the news every single night and sees displays of power and rebellion. We see passion, anger, and frustration usually pent up after years of being unheard and forgotten. Many of these children's parents do not actively participate in their lives, and not because they do not care, because they work two and three jobs just to make ends meet. There is not PTA to step in the gap and make decisions, to call the school board when something isn't working properly, so it is time for voters to say something is not is time we stand in the gap. It is time for us who complain of injustice to stop running our mouths and actually take a stand and do something. These are not numbers: they are children. They laugh, they cry, the long to be hugged, to tell someone about their day who thinks they are smart and funny, they want to play. No matter where you go in the world; no matter the race, income, religion, they are children and that is a universal reality. Kids will be kids, and it is time for us to let them be.