Long Friendships and Hard Goodbyes

It’s a strange thing to be young and have your whole life ahead of you waiting to be lived.  Life is both very short and very long.  It is a conundrum that leaves us feeling lost in our past and scared of our future.

Last week I was sitting on the deck with the people I have been friends with since my freshman year of college.  Which seems like it should have not been as long ago as it was.  We were sitting out there just listening to the rain crash down on the red Oklahoma dirt.  I now understand the phrase, “when it rains it pours,” because in the south when it rains it always pours.

Rain is good thinking weather.  I started thinking about how crazy it was that this might be one of the last times we are all together.  Maybe not the last, but certainly one of the few last times.   We are all growing up and moving on to become doctors, lawyers, and biologists.  At least that is what we will try to be.  Life might redirect us along the way.

Never the less, someday we will be moms and dads.  Some day this moment will be a distant nostalgic memory of the time we spent with friends we haven’t seen in years.

And I wonder, will we stay in contact over the years?  Will we continue to be apart of each others lives?  Or will life slowly pull us away from each other?  What will all of our lives be like in five years?  In ten years?  Will we be married? Parents?  Will we have succeed at becoming doctors, lawyers, and biologists?  Will we remember the nights we stayed up way too late?  Will we remember each other at all?

Of course we will, I think.  Moments and people like these are not easily forgotten. 

I think people come into our lives for a reason.  A deeper reason than  just our human need for relationship.  People are sent in certain times of our lives to teach us and to inspire us.  People are sent into our lives to show us there is someone in us worth believing in, that we have a future that is worth fighting for.

Some people are meant to be in our lives for a long time, maybe even for our whole lives.  I am blessed to have a large group of people who have been in my life for the long haul.  There are always there in my corner pushing me forward, believing in me far more than I deserve.

There are others for that are only meant to be in our lives for just a moment.  Those people should not be easily discounted.   Some times they can be the most influential people we met.  I can’t explain it, only that it seems life only gives us a few moments together so we fill it like a lifetime.

The hard part is when that time expires. When we must say goodbye to someone who has taught us so much. When we must move on because life is moving on.  When we must let someone out of our arms, not sure if they will ever return. 

I use to be scared of goodbyes.  I was scared of getting too close to someone because I knew one day soon they would be gone.  I have learned that hard goodbyes are a good thing, because it shows just how much that person meant to us in the first place.

I plan to live a life full of hard goodbyes, because no matter how hard a goodbye my be, it is still better than never knowing that person.

Friends 2

Photo Credit: Kari Lena

“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

On Feeling Desperate

I was recently talking to an old friend about how awful the time period is after you graduate college and you have to find a job.  No one really prepares you for the long haul of it.  We graduate college expecting to be more or less handed our dream job.  After all isn’t that why we went to college?  Isn’t that why we studied and starved ourselves for four years?

That angst jealous that pokes its hands at our fragile ego as we watch everyone else in our class get jobs before us.  Our egos take a hit with each rejection letter that we get from jobs we thought we were perfect for.

I was working in a coffee shop at the time during and after college.  It was a good place to work, and we had a great manager.  He made people’s lives better everyday.  He was 80% of the reason I still worked there.  So while I was looking for adult jobs constantly,  I wasn’t really desperate for one.  Until our manager announced that he had put in his two weeks.  He was leaving.  It hit me like a bowling ball.  All of us shift supervisors agreed that there was no way we would want to keep working here without him.

Suddenly I was desperate.  I didn’t just want a different job, I needed one.  Luckily for me that is when I started getting a lot of interviews.  Also luckily for me that is when the right job came along.  I pulled out all of my stops for this job.  I practically begged them to give it to me.  Luckily for me they did.  But I wonder, if I hadn’t been desperate would I still have ended up here?  Maybe, maybe not.

I decided to dive into this feeling a bit more, because I always thought of desperation as being a bad thing.  Now I am not so sure it is. So I brought it close and studied it.  I found that desperation can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  The difference lies in how you react to feeling desperate.

If you let it, desperation will be the small voice in your head that tells you it is time to move, it is time to change. 

Desperation can be driving.  Desperation pushes us forward.  It pushes us to do all sorts of things we wouldn’t dare do otherwise.  Because we know all to well that often it is not the things we want to do that we end up doing, it is the things we have to do.  Desperation drives the want to in us to the have to.

Desperation can be readiness.  It forces us  to acknowledge that we need to change.  Unfortunately most of us don’t change unless we have to.  Desperation brings that push we need to take the first step into a better life.  Desperation corners us to admit we have mistakes to fix.

Desperate has a very negative connotation in our society. We think of desperate people as those who settle because they don’t think they can do better, or the people who lie and cheat to get what they want.  It is true that side of desperation exists.   But there is also a very different side that we do not give enough credit it.

The side of desperate that creates the moment when we decide to pull our future dreams into our present reality. 

I like that feeling of desperate.  I want to hold it close.  I want to be able to hear the small voice in my head that says: now, this moment, take it, grab it, and go.

Mask PC-Caitlin WorthingtonPhoto Credit: Catilin Worthington

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” – William Burroughs.

“Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.” –  Benjamin Disraeli

Lessons on Love

Ed Sheeran’s Afire Love is one of my favorite songs.  I can rarely listen to it and not get  a little teary eyed.

V. 1 Things were all good yesterday
And then the devil took your memory
And if you fell to your death today
I hope that heaven is your resting place
I heard the doctors put your chest in pain
But then that could have been the medicine
There you are lying in the bed again
Either way I’ll cry with the rest of them

V. 2 Things were all good yesterday
Then the devil took your breath away
Now we’re left here in the pain
Black suit black tie standing in the rain
And now my family is one again
Stapled together with the strangers and a friend
Came to my mind I should paint it with a pen
6 years old I remember when

I lost two grandparents to memory related diseases, so this song really hits home for me.  If you have never listened to the song I would recommend it.  You can listen to it here, just make sure you bring a box of tissues.

Family is a weird concept.  Family can mean the people we are born with, the people we are married to, our extended family, our immediate family, or friends who feel like family.  There many definitions, and angles, and possibilities, and people to what a family can be.  All of which leaves slightly overwhelmed and lost in what our family actually is.

Losing a family member is painful.   A ghost appears, haunting you in the spaces that they use to fill.  Reminders of them are like knives that cuts through our hearts just when you think it has healed from the shattering.

We go through the stages of grief, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards.

Stages of sadness;

Stages of anger;

Stages of confusion;

Sometimes all of these stages at once mixed with unrelenting demand for the answers we know we can never have.  

So how do we cope?  How do we move on so that we can begin to love again?  How are we suppose to open up our hearts again when they already feel so rubbed raw?

My family recently got together for my niece’s dedication.  We filled up two rows at church just like we always do when we are all together.  It is a beautiful thing.  I was in the back corner of our mob, and I just watched my family interact with each other.

The pastor was talking about marriage and building a foundation of love that will last.  The whole time I just watched the way that they loved each other.  I thought about the foundation may parent’s molded into our lives.  The type of foundation that was weathered, but still stood strong.

Family

It was then that I knew we would be okay.  Better than okay, because somehow through all of the anger, sadness, and confusion we had found each other.  We had learned what it means to be a family.   A family who had arms to welcome us home and shoulders to cry on.  A family that absorbed each other into our lives fluidly as we came and went.  A family that taught me about love, the real kind of lasting love.

They taught me that love is learning to rely on each other, like clinging to a tree when all of the ground is crumbling underneath your feet.

Love is fighting for someone when the other person isn’t strong enough to fight for themselves.

Love is open arms with open hearts, even if those hearts are still a little raw.

Love is family, no matter what definition that may be.

Restlessness and the Pursuit of Happiness

“And how is work going?”

“Work is going good, I really can’t complain.  But . . . I don’t know I have been in kind of rut, it is hard to focus.”  *My mother made some soothing listening nosies* “I’m not sure exactly what is wrong because honestly I have a great job with great bosses, I should be happy with it.”  *more soothing listening noises*

Then finally realizing I would never get there on my own, she chimed in, “You’re restless.”

“Well, I mean I don’t know . . . yeah I suppose you are right.  I’m restless.”

My whole life I have struggled to be content, even in the times when life is relatively good. I didn’t want to live my whole life waiting for the next best thing.  I had to learn to think of life as a journey not a destination.  It wasn’t so much about where I was going in life that mattered but what happened along the way.  It helped with the restlessness because I started seeing life as something to enjoy as is and not as somewhere I needed to get to. I do mean helped.  I am far from cured.

I started spending a lot of time reading and thinking about what it meant to actually enjoy my life no matter where I was or what my circumstances were. Life gets hard and it moves way too fast.  I have been trying to find ways to make the most out of the time I have and the best out of the bad situations.  In my youth and naivety I decided to create a list of things which have helped enjoy my life a little bit more.  I don’t want to saying that this list has made me happy, because happiness is fleeting and not something that can be permanently attained.  But these things have at least made me happier and less restless.

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What Makes a Home

Growing up I was lucky that I never had to move as a child.  Perks of being the daughter of a farmer, moving isn’t normally in the cards.  This place will always be my true home and I am grateful that ever time I leave I know it isn’t goodbye forever.  I love the way the cherry trees bloom in the spring and the how the apples trees smell in the fall.  I love the anticipation of turning out our long gravel driveway and knowing that I am almost home. 

Home

Home 2

 However since I have been 18, I have moved twice every year.  I have become an expert at moving.  I have a very tried and true packing system.  I have also learned just how easily I become attached to the places I call home.

There is something heart wrenching about see the place that you use to call home, empty and unrecognizable from the place you came to love as your home. It is if all the memories you have there, all of the adventures, all of the growing, all of the nights you stayed up late trying to figure out what it meant to BE in this life, are just gone.  Washed away in the bare walls and the empty cupboards. It just gets me every time.  I walk through to say my final goodbyes and replay the best moments.  Then I see the empty rooms as erased memories and I just cry.  I am not sure if I am weird or normal for doing this, but I have always been a bit of sentimental sap about these things.

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For John

I think the hardest thing about leaving Caribou Coffee was leaving behind the regulars that I had gotten to know well.  Sure there were the ones that I that I purposely hid from in the back, but there were also the ones that I loved seeing everyday.  They just had a way of making you smile or just treating you with a since of dignity that one does not always get as a barista.

In a sense, our Caribou regulars became like close friends.   Only they were the type of friends you know by drink order and not by their actually name.  As baristas, we watched many hours of their life in Caribou.  It was like getting an inside peek into the movie of their life.  We got to watch as they drank gallons of mango black tea trying to finish their masters thesis.  We watched them fall in love on their first date, and cried as we watched their break up.  We knew more about their lives than you would probably want your barista to know.

But my favorite regulars of all of my favorites were this endearing older gentlemen that came in every weekday morning.  They were like a band of brothers laughing and aruging as they sat at the same table everyday.  I like to think that I was also their favorite barista.  It didn’t matter if I wasn’t working front that morning, I took care of them.  Even if it was just me whispering over the headset to the new girl, “citron green tea in a mug, medium dark roast and don’t you dare put a lid on it.”  I can’t put into words why these guys touched me so much, I only know that they did.

I stopped into Caribou about a month ago one morning before work.  I had seen these guys in months and I wasn’t sure if they would remember me.  I saw them sitting there like a perfect picture I had never left.  They were all happy to see me and fussed grandfatherly.  They told me that being a paralegal suited me, but that being a lawyer would suit me better.  They asked if I had made a decision about law school yet, and offered me about five hundred references for when (when not if) I go to law school.  I was reminded again why I was so touched by them.  They were just so endearing, and they cared about an ex barista they barely knew.

One of them was named John and some of the newer baristas thought he was cranky.  I guess could see how some might see him as a little cranky, but I never saw him that way.  Sure he could be gruff at times, but in the way of someone who is weathered and storied not someone who is mean.  Mostly he just got upset when the new people would put a lid on his coffee.  I never did though so he liked me.  I could always see the slight sigh of relief when he walked in and saw that I was working.  I would have his order ready for him before he got to the counter and his eyes would smile like we shared a secret every time I remembered to keep his lid off.  He would give me his money and then share bits and pieces of his knowledge and wisdom.  I never thought much about our exchanges until one of my old coworkers showed me this picture.  She told me John had passed away suddenly from a heart attack and that they tipped over his favorite chair in his memory.  It just broke my heart.

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I don’t think that death is something we ever get use to.  Whether it be the death of a near stranger or the reminder of the death of a dear one we lost years ago, death still crashes into our hearts in a way that makes us believe something is trying to rip our hearts from us.

So for John, thank you for your smile everyday.  Thank you for sharing bits and pieces of your wisdom and knowledge.  Thank you for always treating me with dignity and respect.  Thank you for teaching me that the way we interact with the people we see everyday matters, because our influence on the lives of those around us matters.  Thank you for showing me how you saw people as people and not just a means to an end.  Because you knew how easily someone can come into your life and touch it in a way that you are not the same after they have left.  For John, thank you.  You will be missed.

Sweet Summer Memories

As the weather gets nicer, dreams of summer begin.  I start having dreams of lakes, boats, shorts, and the sun making my skin darker and my hair blonder.  There is some magical quality contained in the hope of those six letters.  SUMMER.  It sounds restful and awaiting adventure at the same time.

B & L

Ah yes, sweet blissful summer how we pin for your freedom and warmth.

There was a time when summer meant packing my bags and heading to my second home.  No it wasn’t a glamorous summer vacation home, it was a small cabin at a summer camp.  I spent the most defining and memorable moments of my life there.  So naturally whenever the hope of summer draws near I find myself thinking back to the summers I spent there.

Those summers were marked by a sense of freedom and carefree whimsy as I ran barefoot through the grass and snuck to the lake late at night.  It was  place where my soul felt at rest; the place where my soul felt at home. I could not imagine spending my summers anywhere else.

It is hard to explain in words how a place can mean so much to me. Camp is a special place but it is just that, a place. It is just land with poorly grown grass, a wasp infested storage facility, wooden cabins that are falling apart, trails overrun by bugs, and a lake so dirty you can’t see your hand when its six inches under water.

What makes the place so special to me is the memories that are so deeply ingrained in that place that they become inseparable.

The poorly grown grass is where I spent many hours playing rec games, getting tackled in the cone game and tackling others. The wasp infested storage facility is where I spent most of my second summer on staff painting a mural with all the campers. The wooden cabins that are falling apart is where I spent many summers counseling, and where I first learned to be comfortable in my own skin. The bug infested trails is where I drove the gator as fast as it would go as the wind whipped my hair around.  The gross lake is where I spent every afternoon being the queen of dunking children, and trying to not get dunked by the hordes of angry children determined to get their revenge.  The gross lake is also where I lost my favorite necklace and almost lost a sinking jet ski.

The horrible things become the beautiful things when we take them into our life and make them our own.

The director of the camp, Jerry, remains to this day one of my favorite people. I hope everyone has the chance to have a person like Jerry in your life.  He is an intelligent, wise, and hard working man, with a quick wit and a childlike whimsy that made him the perfect person to be director a camp. He taught me a lot about what it meant to live a life with love and without fear.  I have a lot of favorite Jerry quotes, but one of his most used one is, “Safety is overrated, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.”  Jerry was also a big believer in the impact that telling stories about our life would have for the people who listened to them.

I have many stories I could share from my summers at camp.  Stories about midnight skunk hunts and sinking jet skis.  Stories about catfish in toilets and giant rats in our staff lounge.  Stories about learning to love and learning to be loved.  As I said, my summers there were some of the most memorable and defining moments of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  But for right now I want to share with you the story of the time I learned to sail.

One evening towards the beginning of my first year on staff, Jerry offered to teach us how to sailboat. I, in typical Lori fashion, quickly sprung on the opportunity and was undeterred by the fact that I was the only girl staffer who wanted to learn.

Sailboat 2

This was not the day that I learned how to sail.  I wish it were, but then I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

The day I learned how to sail was terrifying.  This is was about our reaction . . .  Crazy singing

Just kidding that is actually from an improv skit we did, but I am sure that is about how we all felt.

Not long after we had the sailboat masked, a storm began to roll through. Jerry being Jerry was not going to let this stop him.  It had a relentless pursuit of life that I always admired.  Needless to say, Jerry ended up teaching us how to sail in 40 plus mph winds.  40 mph winds really doesn’t seem out of the ordinary for South Dakota, but it was the equivalent of driving  75 mph on the interstate the first time your hands were behind the wheel of a car.  Like I said, terrifying.  But also ridiculously fun.

For those of you who have never sailed before, the steering is introverted it.  You have to turn the opposite way that feel natural.  If you turned the wrong way into the wind, you could expect to be dumped into the water, and surface to find an upside down sailboat. This of course was not a frightening notion for someone who was just learning how to sail. Not at all.  Although sometimes the best times in life are the ones when we are absolutely terrified and clueless.

Once I got the hang of things, I dared to go a little faster.  Then I accidentally turned just a tiny bit too far into the wind and was abruptly yanked off of the sailboat by the power of the sails.  One minute I was sailing along, and the next I was flying into the water.  It was a good thing that Jerry was right there beside me (even if he was laughing), otherwise the sailboat would have surely tipped and I would have been a sitting duck.  I could have quit right then.  I could have decided that the sailing life was not for me and asked Jerry take me back to the safety of shore. But I didn’t.  I have never been one for quitting. Jerry pulled me back into the sailboat and I handed me the ropes.  I took the ropes and tried again.  I didn’t let the fear of failing again stop me.  I just grabbed the ropes and learned to sail.

We are often taught the mindset that failures define us.  I don’t agree with that.  What defines us is not the times we tried and failure, but rather what we did when we failed.  Failure shows us what we are made of, it shows our grit.  Do not define yourself by the moments that you splash in the water arms flailing, but rather by the moments when you pull yourself out of the water, grab the ropes, and try again.

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Oh Brother . . .

Growing up with brothers.  I was so lucky (or unlucky) to grow up with three older brothers whom both adored me and tortured me throughout my life.  Honestly, I was lucky.  I came into this life with three loving older brothers who were ready to show me the world, and who would do anything to protect me.  Growing up with them was always an adventure, there was rarely a dull moment in the Rensink house.SCAN1246 I know adorable (I promise this isn’t just an excuse to show cute pictures of my childhood, well mostly). I also grew up with two older sisters who cared for me and taught me about living with grace, dignity, and gentleness; all of those wonderful things that I am still trying to learn.  I could spend a long time talking about the impact they had on my life, but right now I want to talk about my dear brothers.   I won’t bore you with psychological talk about developing schemas, but basically imagine a blank slate waiting to be written on.  As we grow up and our brains develop, we develop schemas based on the world around us, and that in turns affects the way that we view the world in our later adult years.  The interactions I had with my brothers were some of the first interactions I had with the world.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how far of a reach my brothers have had on my life.  I really have never given them enough credit for all of the wonderful things they taught me.  So I just want to take a moment to talk about these crazies and the life lessons they taught me.

Number 1: They taught me how to be a fighter.  Having older brothers is like having your own personal body guard of assaliantes ready to protect me should anyone try to mess with me.  Partly because they love me, but mostly because picking on me is their job, and no one else is allowed to do it.  I have been defending myself from being sat on and tickled since about the age I became ticklish. Whether it was a witty comeback, or a jab at the ribs, I became a pretty feisty person.  I still remember after baton training at the penitentiary one of my friends there told me about how dumbfounded he was that a girl my size could hit something that hard.  I get this type of reaction a lot, and I just tell people, “I grew up with three older brothers.”  Leaving it at that as though there is no further explanation needed, because well honestly there isn’t.  My brothers instilled in me this over eager confidence that even if someone was twice my size, I could still take them.  But that attitude goes beyond wrestling with my brothers as they try to tickle me.  They taught me a much more valuable lesson, never be intimidated by anyone or anything because you are “too small.”

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Number 2:  They taught me that if you can dream it, you can do it.   I mean seriously, my brothers had some of the craziest ideas you can imagine.  From turning our basement into a working carnival to turning our old granary into a skateboard ramp, there was nothing they couldn’t will into creation.  I spent many hours as the silent sidekick, in awe watching them as they built things.  I still remember spending a whole day sitting in the snow in our grove as my brothers dug one of the most elaborate snow forts I have ever seen.  My brothers taught me that you and only you have the power to limit what you are capable of.  I grew up with the belief that no idea was too crazy, and you know what, I have some pretty crazy ideas.  I recently ran one of my newest crazy ideas past my brother.  I meekly asked him, “Is this too crazy?”  His response, “Not crazy enough sis.” SCAN1253

(I apparently didn’t feel the need to look at the camera for this picture.)

Number 3:  They taught me to live fearlessly.  I swear my brothers were not afraid of anything.  I personally blame them for each of my mother’s gray hairs.  However gray hairs aside, they taught me that a life without a few risks is no life at all.  If you haven’t jumped onto a trampoline from your roof or let your little sister drive the go-kart into the ditch, then you haven’t lived.  Life is too short to spend it scared of what could happen.  As a young girl, I think we are sometimes taught to be more fearful because there is the belief that we are more fragile.  My brothers never treated me like I was fragile.  I don’t mean to say that they were careless but that they treated me like I was just as tough as them.  My brothers very graciously let me tag along in all of their shenanigans, never once telling me I couldn’t keep up because I was a girl.  For that I am grateful.

SCAN1251SCAN1236 Number 4:  They taught me that life is funny, laugh at it. I was quite honestly probably more serious as a child than I am as an adult.  This is all thanks to my brothers who quite literally probably taught me how to laugh.  They taught me that life is full of bad and embarrassing moments, but that you can’t let those things stop you from picking yourself back up.  They also taught me that life is full of really wonderful and hilarious moments, and they should be cherished as such.  I owe them what sense of humor I have.SCAN1254

SCAN1233 And just because I think this one is adorable. SCAN1229

My brothers taught me how to think outside of the box, how to view the world differently.  They allowed me to stretch the limits of what I believed I was capable of, allowing me to dream any crazy dream I could imagine.

So to my dear brothers, I could probably not say thank you enough, but I am going to try.  Thank you for being the first people to influence how I view the world, I love the world that you taught me how to see.  Thank you for letting me tag along all of those times and treating me like an equal,  you taught me to be strong and brave.   And thank you for helping me grow into fearless and sassy woman I am today. “There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.” – Terri Guillemets.

Love, your lil sis.

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Growing Pains

I wasn’t planning on doing a reflection for 2014, or even one of those Facebook picture things.  It just felt cheesy and overdone. Then a couple days ago a friend of mine asked me how 2014 was for me.  Sadly I already feel like I am at the age where the years just fly by in a blur, which is the answer I would normally give every year.  However this year was different.  I realized this year was actually very eventful.  Some good, some bad; some happy, some painful.  Through all of it I had grown more than I imagined possible.

I was really blessed this year to get to experience some truly wonderful adventures, and be surrounded by some truly amazing human beings. I had the opportunity to travel to some wonderful places:

Ames, Iowa with these lovely gems

Ames group

Newton, Kansas

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Philly where I also got to ride along with the Philly PD

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And my favorite Zambia 🙂

Zambia waterfall

Would you believe my wandering feet still don’t think that is enough travel for one year?  I know they are hopeless, but what is a girl to do.

This year I also got to be apart of two of my dear friends weddings.

Bre Wedding w katie

Bekka wedding

I went rock climbing

Rock climbing

I got to know this goober really well, and learned that my brother and I are basically twins

Dave

My brother also bravely taught me how to shoot a glock

Gun Shooting

2014 was also a year full of changes, such as graduating college.

Graduation

I went from life at full steam ahead with lots of coffee and little sleep, to life coming to a near dead stop.  I am still trying to figure out what people do with free time.  Although having a free saturday to sit by a fireplace and drink delicious coffee while I write this blog isn’t a bad life.  Still it was a big adjustment.  Suddenly my whole life is there for me to do whatever I wanted with it, and I realized just how little I knew what I actually wanted.  I am still trying to figure out that one out too.  Which leads to the next big change of 2014 – starting my first big girl job as a paralegal. Which has honestly been wonderful.  I have a great boss who genuinely cares for people and does everything he can to help those who need help.  Which in turn allows me in small ways to be able to help people as well.

Yet despite all of the wonderful things that happened this year, I still had one of the hardest years of my life.  I will save you the sob story details, but one day I realized that this is not the life I had planned on living.  At all.  Things just kept happening and it felt like my life was falling apart at a rapid rate.  This wasn’t suppose to be how my life turned out.  I am the girl with the plans and the won’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude.  Not the girl crying on her deck one late summer night because she felt like she failed at life.  Since that night, I have given up thinking that life would follow my plans.  Life is not a plan; it is a journey, a rough adventurous one at that.

Looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing (expect maybe the dramatic tears), because I learned an important lesson.  If I cannot learn to know that I am enough during my failures, I will never be able to feel like enough during my successes. It is not about the things that we do in this life, it is about the person we are while we do them.  You can be an extremely successful person, but if you cannot love yourself for who you are without all the glamor of success, then no amount of success will ever be able to change that.

It is called growing pains for a reason.  It is painful.  I still remember the growing pains I use to get when I was young.  It was not fun, and quite honestly I felt awkward for a while until I adjusted my long limbs.  Life is a lot like that.  It is painful, and you know what you will probably feel a little awkward as you adjust.

In America, we seem to have this idea that to struggle means you are less of a person.  Struggling is the equivalent of weakness. We hide our struggles because we don’t want people to realize that we are weak or that our life is messy.  Can we just stop for a moment and realize how ridiculous this is?  The best people that I know are the ones who have struggled.  They are real, they have been refined by fire, and they are anything but weak. They are the people that are aware of the world around them.  They are the people that know how cruel life can be, but they love life anyways.  They are the people who have such a deep sense of appreciation for the life around them.  I know that for me, I could not have become a better person, a stronger person without a little growing pains.

My favorite movie is the Count of Monte Cristo.  If I haven’t forced you to watch it with me, then we should talk about our friendship.  There is a scene in which the count gives the birthday toast to his son (only at the time he doesn’t know it is his son).  He ends the toast with this, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!”

Maybe you are like me, maybe 2014 was a rough one for you.  Maybe your growing pains still hurt or maybe they just feel awkward.  Now I normally avoid science as much as possible, but I have been an athlete for long enough that I know in order for your muscles to grow stronger they first must be torn and broken down.  The human spirit is like a muscle sometimes.  In order for it to grow stronger, sometimes it must first be broken.  But what we sometimes forget in the midst of our struggle, is that our human spirit will bounce back stronger than before.  When the next storm of 2015 hits I know that I will smile and say, “Do your worst, for I will do mine.”

Half Written Songs

Life is a strange thing. One day you are young with dreams of someday and then before you know it, someday is today, and then today is yesterday, and your dreams become just that, dreams. In one day so much can change, yet it feels like nothing is different. One day we are born and learn to take our first steps, then soon we are graduation high school and saying goodbye to the only life we have known to start an adventure all our own. We go to college and have the best and craziest four years of our lives.

We laugh and we cry, we struggle and we thrive.

Then before we know it we find ourselves facing another graduation.  We are given a piece of paper as if that can sum up all that we learned about the world and ourselves over the last four years.We are pushed into society and forgotten about as we try to make sense of a life that is void of the formal education system we have known for most our life.

And we wait.

We wait to find our dreams and we wait for our dreams to come true. We wait to find that perfect job that will make the last fours years of studying all night long and eating ramen worth it.

Day after day passes of nothing really changing but somehow it all adds up to a lifetime of changes. Time is a stranger in that way. We look back at our lives and see all the changes that brought us to where we are today. Sometimes those memories seem like yesterday, and sometimes they seem like they belong to someone else’ life like we are reading them from a book or watching them on a screen. And how on earth are we suppose to feel like we belong in the present when there are so many memories lost in the past and so many questions about the future?

Suddenly we feel lost because we are faced with the immensity of life. That overwhelming feeling of having all the time in the world and yet not a second to spare.

A good friend once told me, “Our dreams are made up of half written songs.” She was talking about her own dream to be a musician someday, but instead she just had a bunch of unfinished songs. She was also talking about every dream that has been held in the heart of someone but never seen fulfilled in the life they lived.

When we are faced with the immensity of life, it can be easy to feel like our dreams will never come true. And I think it is unrealistic to expect our dreams to come true the second we decide to chase them. I also think it is unrealistic to think that life is about our dreams coming true.

Sometimes the beauty is in the attempt.

The bravery we had when we took that first step, the grace we had the first time we failed, and the guts we had to pick ourselves back up and try again. There is so much to be lived in the messiness of life, because those are the moments that define who we are.That is why it is important to enjoy the moments that take our breath away; the moments that make our heart beat a little faster.

Before long that moment will be added to a long list of memories that will one day no longer feel like they belong to you. But if we can hold on to that moment for one second more, we can stop time and know how it feels to be fully alive. Can you feel it? The beating of your heart, the thrumming of your veins? Can feel the way your heart aches after it has been broken? What about the fear you feel when you finally find something worth fighting for?

Embrace that life and this moment are incredible gifts, no matter what you may be going through. Embrace that this moment is shaping the rest of your life. Embrace that you will fail and that life won’t be what you expected it to, but don’t let that stop you from trying.

Embrace it.

Embrace the uncertainty, embrace the fear, and embrace the restless stirring of your heart that pulls you to your feet to chase your dreams. Sometimes the beauty is in the attempt.

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