On Being Small

Some days I feel small.  The truth is I think I have always felt a bit small.  I was a shy timid child who never really felt like I had much of a voice.  Growing up I knew that I felt like I had a part of my that was buried, the part of me that was fierce, the part of me that was brave, the part of me that was not afraid of my own voice.

Slowly I began to find that girl.  I kept pulling her out, until one day she began to feel like she belonged to me.  Suddenly my own voice didn’t scare me anymore.  I began to believe that the things I had to say mattered.  Maybe not everything mattered to everyone, but it all mattered to me.  And that is what truly mattered, learning to stand up for myself, learning to speak up.

Some days my voice still scares me.  Some days it doesn’t feel like it belongs to me, because some days I still feel small.  I like to think that even some of the most important people in the world feel that way too.  It can be hard to find your voice when it feels like no one wants to listen to it.  Some days it can feel like everyone is against you.  Some days it can feel like all you are trying to do is breath hope and love into the world, and all you get is hate in return.

But my voice matters.

Your voice matters.

You matter.  And you playing small doesn’t help anyone, including yourself.  Because the truth is, the really hard truth is that if you don’t believe your voice matters, no one else will believe it either.

Some days you will feel small.  You will feel like your voice doesn’t matter and that you can’t even inspire yourself.  That’s okay.  I wish I could give you a magic fix all, but I don’t have one.  I can tell you that just because you don’t feel like your voice matters, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter.  Because I can promise you that someone out there is feeling small too, and that someone needs to hear the exact words that you have to say.  So find your voice, big or small.  Find your voice, and never be afraid of it.

Image result for quotes on playing small nelson mandela

Just Me

It’s just me.

Just me sitting here another day, wanting something more.

Just me wondering why I am so scared to chase what I want.

Wishing I could be more than a Just.

Only I have no idea how.

I am nothing but a Just.

 

But its not just you.

Just you is a presence that cannot be shaken.

Just you does more than some people ever dream.

You are more than a Just.  So much more.

Only you have no idea.

There is nothing Just about you.

 

It’s just me, and it’s just you.

It’s just us, and what a wonderful Just that would be.

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Photo Credit: Unknown

Life in the Slow Lane

I have always been fast.  Ever since I could walk, I started running and I didn’t stop.  It’s just in my blood.  I want to go, I want to move.  I never saw this a problem until recently.  Life has turned into a blur.  I can barely separate the days out from the last year.  Christmas has come and gone months ago.  Now spring is here begging for my attention.

How did this happen without my notice?  I thought this was just something that happened when you get older.  When you no longer have a school calendar to break up your time, everything kind of runs together.  I started to get nervous.  I am only 24.  Am I going to blink and wake up 50?  Life was moving too fast, and I was letting it.   Where am I in such a rush to get?  Certainly not my death, so where?  Where am I going that is going to be so much better than where I am?

Something was wrong, something needed to change.

I woke up, another Monday morning, another week laid out in front of me.  All mornings are tough, but Monday mornings are notoriously tough.  I woke up this morning thinking of all the things I would have to survive this week before the sweet beautiful weekend arrived once again.  You are probably reading this thinking, “I feel ya sista” without a second thought as to how backwards this way of thinking is.   Since when did life become something we need to survive?

It is hard to just be.  There is so much uncertainty that surrounds us.  We begin to notice all the things we tried so hard to hide with our busy schedules.  We notice how lost we feel.  We notice how hard life has been.  When we stop we give ourselves a chance to listen to the small guiding voice.

We get gentle.

We take a moment to breathe.

To process.

To hit pause on a life that never seems to stop moving.

I went on a hike a couple of days ago.  It was beautiful.  Spring was emerging.  Green grass breaking through cold melting snow.  I was eager to blaze the trails and get to my destination.  But I didn’t.  I went slow.  I took my time.  I soaked in the nature and let it effect me in the way that only nature can.  Winter melting into spring, just as the seasons of my life are melting into each other.  New life coming from what was once barren and ugly.

I took a moment to listen to what I had been to busy to hear.

My journey has taken me far and wide.  The last year alone has been filed with devastating disappointment and overwhelming joy.  I have broken and I have rebuilt.  I became both malleable and resilient.  And slowly I started to turn into the person I never thought I would be brave enough to be.  How could I not be grateful of a journey that has brought me so far and taught me so much?

I have been so focused on where I am going that I have completely lost sight of where I am right now.  I have being living my life like the destination is the point.  It’s not.  It’s the journey.   It’s about finding the person we never believed we would be brave enough to be.

Life isn’t just about the big moments that take our breath away.  It is also about the small moments, the forgotten moments.  It is about taking our time to get where we are going.  It is about life that is sweet and slow, not a life that is rushed through.  It’s about taking the time to ponder where we have been and where we are going.  It’s about being fully present in the moments we are given. It is about a life lived in the slow lane.

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Dear You – You Were Made for More

Dear You,

You were made for more than to just be born and die.  You were made for more than working 8-5 and looking forward to Friday.  You were made for more than paying bills and living paycheck to paycheck.  Dear one, this is never the life that I had planned for you.  When you were breathed into existence, there was far more dreamt up for you than this.

You work so hard to do everything that you are told you are suppose to do that you completely miss the things that you are meant to do.  You are so busy following who those around you tell you to be that you silence the voice in you that says they want to be someone different.  Find that voice again.  Find your voice again.

You were made to struggle, to explore, to rebel, and to thrive.  You were made to live – in every definition that one can live.  You were made to laugh, and to go off on adventures.  You were made to take chances, and yes even to fail sometimes.  Stop trying so hard to survive that you miss every reason that you are alive.  There is so much that this life holds for you if you only stopped to notice, if you only believed you could have it.

I want you to do great things,  I want you to believe in great things, and I want you to fight for great things.  I want you to see the world as a beautiful place, and to see yourself as a beautiful person.  Life is too short to let you insecurities silence you.

There will be tough days.  Days that challenge you.  Days that make you want to hide and cry.  But on those days you will learn what you are truly made of.  You will push back because you are resilient.  You will not let the bad days ruin the good days.

There will also be good days.  Days that you laugh so hard you cry.  Days when you will make memories you cherish forever.  Days when you are brave.  Days when you are kind.  Days when you fall madly in love.  Those are the best days – the days that makes us glad to be alive.  On those days never believe that you are not deserving of this much happiness.  You are every bit deserving.

Life won’t be everything you have dreamt it to be, but if you let it, life will be more than you expected it to be.  Stop molding your life to everyone else’s expectations and go chase your life.

Feet.jpgPhoto Credit: Lori Rensink

Let That Be Enough

Happiness is fleeting.  I have been told this my whole life.  Happiness comes into our lives as quickly as it slips through our fingers.  Life gets hard, and bad things happen.  We will have moments on top of the mountain, and we will have moments in the rut.  But I am not convinced it is that simple.  I think it goes deeper than that.

By this standard, everyone should have relatively equal amounts of happiness and misery.  Take a look around you, and you will realize how inaccurate that is.  Some of the most miserable people have everything, and some of the happiest people don’t.  It has nothing to do with their current life situation – it has everything to do with them.  

Maybe happiness isn’t that fleeting, maybe we just don’t know how to appreciate it when its right in front of us. 

We see our happiness, and we want more.  Good things happen to us, but there are better things that we want to happen.  We see our life but our friends lives look better on social media.

We have become a society wrapped in our own greed.  And when we find that our greed for material things cannot be satisfied, we replace it with greed for the perfect life.  We need to have the most elaborate proposal, the most pinterest worthy holiday dinner spread, the mother that can manage all.  We run ourselves into the ground trying to chase this perfect picturesque life that we don’t even want only to wonder why we are left feeling miserable.

Bad things happen and we push through them, and they make us stronger and more resilient.  But then good things happen and we brush them aside.  We don’t take the time to see what is right in front of us.  We have so much, but we push it aside because we don’t think it is enough.   We are try harder than ever to capture happiness, and all we get is this feeling that there should be more to life.  There is, we just can’t see it because it can’t be bought in a box or posed in an Instagram post.

It is right there in the midst of the messy part of our life.  It is right there in the moments gone forgotten.  It is right there waiting for you to stop looking for other’s to approve of your life.

You don’t need the world’s stamp of approval, you just need yours.  Let that be enough. 

We have lost sight of the life that happens in the margins, the life that happens when social media isn’t watching, the life that isn’t perfectly cultivated at our fingers tips.  We have lost sight of what it means to be alive, because the best things in life can’t be planned, they just happen.

It is a hard thing to be human, it is a very hard thing.  It becomes even harder when we refuse to let ourselves be human – messy, unsure, imperfect.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We have no clue what we are doing most of the time.  We feel things deeply, sometimes too deeply.  And we are forever haunted by this voice that tells us we are not enough,  that we will never be enough.  Silence it. 

Let life your life with its messy imperfections be enough.  Let what you have be enough.  Let the things you do be enough.  Let who you are be enough, even when you believe that you never will be.

Be messy.

Be imperfect.

Be real.

Be you.

If you don’t, you will spend your life chasing someone else’s happiness.  Chase your own happiness.  No one else but you can decide what your own happiness is.  Chase your dreams relentlessly, and always believe that you are capable of more. Be complex, be confused, be chaotic, be content – be human.

Your life is beautifully imperfect, and that is enough. 

So, I’ve been thinking about this whole being happy thing, and I feel like people get lost when they think of happiness as a destination . . .  We’re always thinking that someday we’ll be happy; we’ll get that car or that job or that person in our lives that’ll fix everything.  But happiness is a mood, and it’s a condition, not a destination.  It’s like being tired or hungry, it’s not permanent.  It comes and does and that’s okay.  And I feel like if people thought of it more that way, they’d find happiness more often.” – One Tree Hill

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Photo Credit: Erwin Blumenfeld

Frozen by Doubt and Fear

I am going to do it, I think to myself, I am going to start applying to both law schools and writing schools.  I have been putting this off for too long now.  Oh don’t worry, I had plenty of good excuses reasons.

I start looking at schools that are far away, because I promised myself that if I am going to do this then I am going to make an adventure out of it.  I have no idea where I will end up.  I am mostly hoping that if I throw enough things against a wall the right one will stick.

My throat starts closing up, is this what it is like to have a panic attack?  Don’t be ridiculous, I try to console myself, you have wanted this for a long time.   My sub-conscious has no empathy for me.  Which just leaves me feeling ridiculous.  For all of my talk of bravery and stepping into the great unknown, I am a big chicken. 

Don’t judge me.  It is easy to talk about going out into the unknown while you are safe in your warm bed.  It is a lot harder when you are dangling off the edge of a cliff.

It is hard to leave everything and everyone you have ever known to venture out all. by. yourself.   Oh it is easy to do for a couple weeks, months even.  That is manageable, because I know I will return soon.  But to leave for years, or forever – that is even harder.  To know that my 2 year old and 3 month year old niece might not even remember me when I return, well that is the hardest of all.

So I find myself torn.  Torn between chasing my dreams and seeing where life takes me.  Or staying in the place that I am surprised to say I have fallen in love with.  Then the panic starts in, because I think that if I don’t leave now then I never will.

It is hard to pinpoint what exactly I am afraid of.  I know I will be fine.  I know I will survive.  But knowing that doesn’t stop the fear from creeping in.   Knowing this is what I want should make it easier, but it doesn’t.

So we convince ourselves that our dreams our merely meant to be pretty pictures put on our shelf of someday.  Thought about and admired, but not something we ever dare lived.  Letting go will probably be terrifying.  Until it isn’t, until I am fine.  It can be terrifying to let go of our comfort, of our safety, of the life we thought we had wanted.  But what is even more terrifying is the thought that we can miss out on the best parts of our life because we were too afraid to let go.  

Suitecase Sarah Moldovan

Photo Credit: Sarah Moldovan

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.

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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

Guilty Vacations

I am on vacation this week.  This is the first time in a long time that I had a vacation that didn’t involve something along the lines of building a house in Mexico or going to a conference in Philadelphia.  In fact I didn’t have anything planned for this vacation other than seeing old friends and sitting on a boat.  Then again it is hard to plan much of anything when you are going to Eufaula, Oklahoma.  When I told people where I was going I always got the same response, “What is there to do there?”  Nothing, that is the point.

I am completely awful at doing nothing.  Is it just me?  I feel guilty for doing nothing, especially if I have been doing nothing for more than an hour.  My brain starts to panic, I haven’t been doing anything productive for an hour I am wasting my life away.  Sometimes doing nothing is more stressful for me than being productive.

Yesterday I laid in the sun on the back of a boat for probably close to two hours.  I dozed in and out, and I have never been more content.  It was fabulous.  Who knew that doing nothing could be so much fun?  This morning I sat outside drinking coffee and watching the flash flood.  I know a flash flood in Oklahoma, what is this?

Stress wrecks havoc on us.  It is a silent killer, because we often are not even aware that it is happening.  Once I finally allow myself to rest, I realize just how tired I really am.  I haven’t been doing anything I shouldn’t be this tired.  That isn’t entirely true.  I haven’t been doing anything today but that doesn’t mean my body isn’t exhausted from the last few weeks, months, years.  It reminds me just how much our bodies need to rest. I don’t just mean getting 8 hours of sleep a night.  I mean truly rest.  Like sit on a lake and not think about work type of rest.  It is good for our bodies, it is good for our brains, but most importantly it is good for our souls.

Do nothing and don’t apologize.  

The world can wait for a few hours.  Everything that you need to get done can wait for a few hours today.
Photo Credit: Lori Rensink 

Following Breadcrumbs & Finding Purpose

I have been restless and relentless.  Searching for the answer to the daunting question of “What am I going to do with my life?”  It has turned into my own little research project.  I have read as many books as I can get my hands on, and talked to as many people who will answer my questions.

I was desperate.  Desperate to not end up doing the same job that I hated for the next 40 years of my life.  Desperate to not miss my calling, my purpose.  Desperate for answers that no one seemed to have. Desperate for some lightning bulb, neon sign, or message from above that would tell me what to do with my life.

All I got was breadcrumbs.

Little bits and pieces of information that I was somehow suppose to puzzle together into an answer.  I started listening for the little pings that went off in my heart when something felt right.  Slowly I started to form a little breadcrumb trail of pings.  A trail that could be easily overlooked if one was instead looking for a neon sign.  I haven’t figured out where I am going yet, but with each new ping I feel like I am getting one step closer.

I think it is normal for young people to feel lost in life.  Maybe old people feel this way too, I don’t know I haven’t made it that far yet.  If we are honest, we can admit we have no idea where we are going, but when we stop to take a look at how we got here, we can realize just how far we have already come.

I think about all of the places I have been, and all of the places I am going.  When I look at where I have been, I feel successful. Not in the tradition sense as I am far from being rich or famous.  But I feel successful in the way of relationships, memories, and adventures that money can’t buy.

Successful is maybe the wrong word, but I like to think of success in broader terms than the traditional sense.  I heard a story of a friend of a friend who had spent his whole life building an empire, only to find himself old and with no one to give it to.  I thought this sounded like the saddest way to live a life, yet often that is how we define success.

The friend who told me that story has been running a camp with his family for about as long as I have been alive.  He has little to leave to those behind him after he dies, but that is because he has already left so much.  He has lived one of the richest lives I know, and he has made others lives richer because of it.  That is the type of life that I want to live.

When I think about the future my life could hold it is exciting but overwhelming, because in the grand scheme of my life I seem too little.  I am left feeling like life didn’t know my shoe size so it gave me ones that were way too big.  Shoes I desperately want to fill, but know I never can.

Then the doubt and the fear creeps in, strangling the seed of hope that sprouted there.   I begin to wonder, am I enough?  Am I really?  Do I have what it takes to keep walking forward?  Or have I been found wanting?   Who am I?

Who am I really to want these things, to believe I can chase these things?

You are you.  When has that ever not been enough?

Me

Photo Credit: Christin VanderPol

I have learned that the question “What am I going to do with my life?”  doesn’t have an answer, it is an answer.  It is an action, one that you are constantly doing, constantly adapting to.  And on the day when what you are longer doing no longer fits, that is okay.  You can do something new.  Purpose is fluid that way.  We define it with our life, rather than our life being defined by it.

Many people fear regret.  The fear of making the wrong decision can paralyze us from making any decision.  Then we grow old, and we realize that our biggest regret was not the times we stepped out of the box, but the things we never dared to try.

The beauty in life is that there are no destinations, only defining moments that change the course of our path. So run hard and jump high and trust yourself to make it to the other side.  Follow your breadcrumb trail and know that where ever you end up, where ever you are, it is a good place to be.

“What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.” – Michael A. Singer

The Question about Truth

I ran into one of my old professors at Barnes and Noble the other day.  He works there part time because that is how much he loves books.  So every now and then I run into him, and he is always happy to see me.  He always asks me if I am still writing, and he always tells me to write more.   He teaches LAR, which is a general writing and literature class that all freshman at USF have to take.  So I am honored that after five years of teaching many different freshman, I am still one of his more memorable students.  He was the first professor to tell me that my writing was good, and he has been encouraging me ever since.  When I started writing satire pieces for the school newspaper, he always read them and always told me the same thing, “keep writing.”

However, the other day he told me it was more than just my writing that vaulted me to his student hall of fame.  It was my response to the question he asks every class on the first day.  He asked if I remembered, I said vaguely.   He told me that every year he writes the word truth on the board, and asks his students to come up and write in one word what the word truth means to them.  He told me every year he has waited for someone to have a better answer than me, but no one has yet.  The scene was starting to come back to me.  I could see a shy freshman me, nervous to go up to the board because I hadn’t yet learned how to share my thoughts.  But I couldn’t remember what I wrote.  I felt a little guilty that over five years and hundreds of students, this professor thought I had the best answer and I couldn’t even remember what it was.  As if to rub salt in my wound, he asked me if I remembered what word I wrote.  Ashamed, I said I didn’t.  “Void,” he said, “You wrote that truth is void.”

I have always been a little bit of a rebellious thinker, the type that likes to think outside of the box.  So while this didn’t quite surprise me, I was curious as to what freshman me thought when she wrote that truth is void.  I know I didn’t mean truth is void in the sense that the world is a hopeless place where you can’t trust anything or anyone.  I wasn’t quite that angsty as a teenager.  And although I wasn’t a science major, I do know that there are some truths in science that are more or less absolute.

Truth is a big word, one that is scary for me to talk about without people thinking that I have completely dropped off the deep end.  But I am going to try, so here it goes.

Since I relate my thinking to the social sciences, I think I meant that social truths are more static than we like to believe.  Meaning that truth can so easily be skewed depending on the perception we have at the time.  There is no absolute truth when it comes to our perception of the world.

Let me give you an example of this from my own life to better make sense of this.  I was a criminal justice major, and like so many people in America, I believed that criminals deserved to be locked up.  Then I spent over a year working in a penitentiary, and my perception changed.  Because suddenly I didn’t see inmates as dangerous people who made the world a worse place.  I knew a lot of inmates that were better people than some of the people that strut around in a suit and tie.  Suddenly I saw inmates as the people that society had forgotten about.  The people who grew up in foster care or on the streets.  The people that we as society don’t know how to deal with so instead we just hide them behind prison bars.

My perception changed, and so did the truth attached to it.  Now it breaks my heart if someone tells me that they think a criminal deserves to be locked up.  I just want to shake them and say, “You don’t even know what you are talking about.  You have no idea of the horrors that are locked in the closets of their childhood.  Who are you to judge?  You who have grown up with a place to call home and a family that loves you and supports you.  Who are you to say what they deserve, because it certainly wasn’t the childhood that they got.  So yes they grew up as deviants, but who is to say that you would have not turned out the same if you were in their shoes?”   But I don’t, I just bite my tongue and try to offer grace because I know they do not have the same perceptions as me.

My point is that sometimes we can think one thing to be true until we experience something that shows us a different side that we never considered.  So I don’t want you to think that I am saying we should never believe anything.  Not at all.  Instead I want you to look at the world with open eyes and discover what it is that you believe and why.  Because I think so often we accept things as “truth” because we are told to, but we never stop to think why we believe something to be true.

Maybe it is just the way I am wired to see the world as gray instead of just blank and white.  Maybe for others truth is more set in stone.  But for me I have to analyze everything from every point of view before I am willing to set an opinion on something.

Truth is a big word, one that holds a lot of punch because truth holds such promise.  It is the promise of something to believe in, something to put our faith and hope in, something that we can trust to always be true.  Until one morning we wake up and realize just how empty truth can really be when we just accept it without hesitation.

So five years later, do I still believe that truth is void?  Yes, yes I do.  This is just some thoughts about truth, but if truth is indeed based on our perceptions, then I would love to hear yours.  How do you view truth?  In keeping with my professors original question, what one word do you associate with truth?  Please leave your comments below I would love to hear them.