But it’s who we are.

Kesha put out her newest song this week, entitled “Praying” and I will be the first to admit that I ran the whole gambit of emotions listening to it, including the compulsion to listen to it on repeat for hours on end. Although the song itself deserves more words than I could give, it actually made me think about a different post I’ve been chewing on. (But don’t worry-there will be a Kesha post before I leave this state.)

I met up with a friend this week for coffee before I make the journey. She and I have been friends since second grade-making that just about 18 years. We’ve been strong friends since freshman year of high school and I consider her one of the people I hold most dear and close to my heart. It was during this coffee meeting that we talked about our lives, the directions they were heading and without breaking the level of commitment to each other, we spoke of doubt and concern and fear.

I told her that we didn’t have to tackle the heavy stuff, and she told me that that was who we are. I don’t know about you, but having a friend who you can make jokes with and take on the messy bits with-without fear of judgment or losing conversation flow is one of the nicest things I think a person can have. She makes me so sad that I’m actually leaving this state, because I won’t get to see her face.

But I had a point.

Sometimes you have all these external battles you have to face. Work, school, bills, moving, other people. And these battles can take the form of physical, mental and spiritual ones. But sometimes you have internal battles. Depression, anxiety, doubt, fear, a lack of self-care. And those battles are no less important. They just also happen to be really hard to fight, because sometimes they coincide with external stressors.

Life is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. And so many times I have a heart to heart with myself about what it is I’m doing. Because it feels like I’m just a drop in the ocean of chaos. There doesn’t seem like there’s a meaning, a purpose to everything. And that’s such a hard place to be-because you’re the only one who can pull yourself out of it, but you’re the one in there fighting.

Love doesn’t mean coddling and over-protectiveness. Love isn’t shielding you from every bad thing that can happen. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be in pain, be scared, be sad. Love isn’t something that covers everything in bandaids and rainbows. Especially when your heart is in the right place.

Love is the thing that keeps you from giving up because it’s hard. Love means letting yourself get hurt because that’s how you grow and that’s how you learn to be a light for others. Love is the reason that you wake up every day, facing those battles that feel like they’re too much to handle.

I saw a post the other day on Facebook that said something like: “You were born to bring love to someone else. They need your laughter, your kindness, your hope. That’s why you make it through the tough times-so you can be a light for them.”

And I made a comment on that post that said just five words.
“And that person is yourself.”

So many times we forget that if we don’t pay attention the our own needs and our own brokenness, we can’t possibly do all the good we aspire to do. You are worth every ounce of love and laughter and empathy that you give out to others. And it’s not being selfish-it’s your duty.

I’ve spent a long time angry at the idea of God. I felt abandoned, I felt forgotten. I ran so far in the other direction that I passed deity and went straight to bitterness. And I spent a long time there. But bitterness can only take you to the rock bottom you were so desperately trying to avoid. I spent a long while looking for answers to those big questions, those “Why?”s. And I can’t say I have the answers. But I have the ones that keep me going, hoping for a better tomorrow. Religion and self-care have a lot in common. And whatever the “truth” looks like to you-if it isn’t wrapped in unconditional love, it’s just not the truth.

I think that each person has their own idea of truth, the truth that is true to them. And if that’s Christianity, that’s okay. If it is Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Paganism, that’s okay. Because at the end of the day, you can only do your very best. And that very best is love. The love that doesn’t prevent pain, but endures it. The love that doesn’t disguise fear and doubt, but prepares you to battle it. The love that reminds you that you are just as worthy of happiness and empathy and care and hope as everyone else. No matter where you find that kind of love, it has to start within.

“I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come.
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying.”
-Praying, Kesha.

unconditionally and irrevocably in love…

with COFFEE.

tl;dr: I rant about my week in coffee and then tell you all the cool things I’m about to do.

This post will have no bearing on your day, on your wellbeing or really even on anything at all. Today, I’m giving myself the right to just write. And I want to tell you the story about this past week, as it pertains to my very favorite beverage.

So I stopped drinking soda (pop-whatever) at the beginning of the semester. I told my brother that we were going to compete for who could be the most healthy/fit by Christmas. So off the list it went. Since then, my only substantial form of caffeine has been coffee. And even before now, I’ve been a devoted coffee drinker. Since like 8th grade. It’s a huge part of my life, and I totally inherited it from my parents (who consume 2-3 POTS of coffee per DAY between them). And anyway, I drink tea, water and coffee. I still make my own in a little percolator and it’s great-saves me money, tastes fine, I customize it, everything’s wonderful.

So I went to the store a couple weeks ago and bought everything I thought I’d need for the month. I meticulously plan and so far, I’ve been spot on-except for one kinda important thing: creamer. I hadn’t realized I’d be so stressed theses last few weeks with law school and current school and all the things, so I’ve been pounding down the coffee like it’s an emergency-because for me, it was.

So long story short, I ran out of creamer. On Sunday. My busy schedule prevents me from just popping into the store in the mornings, and I’m exhausted at night (but could reasonably do so). I chose not to go Sunday. I chose, instead, to do a LOT of homework and get ahead. Monday, I lucked out and it was office coffee day. Excellent. Tuesday, I made a mocha-ish coffee out of black coffee and hot chocolate mix (no milk) and it was bitter and I didn’t like it, so I only drank half. Wednesday, I used part of my last giftcard to get Starbucks (becuase HOORAY). Thursday, I drank orange juice. FREAKING ORANGE JUICE. And I was exhausted the whole day. I got fairly nothing accomplished. It was awful. Friday, I asked my husband to grab me a coffee from the library before he went about his day. Yesterday, I tried my hardest to drink my coffee straight up, but I wasn’t built for that, so I just chugged water all day.

Today. Today I realized that I had a really problematic love-hate relationship with my coffee/creamer balance and went to the store specifically for just creamer. Now, thankfully, I live only a block or so from the store so it wasn’t that bad, but I battled Sunday-post-church traffic specifically for a bottle of creamer.

Anyway, I really wanted the Hershey’s Chocolate Caramel one, and it only comes in a small bottle, so I’ll be out again before the week is up. Which is a shame, but this is my very last week of undergrad, so I think it’ll be alright.

That’s right. I have exactly 7 days before I’m 100% done. I have 2 more finals (I did the rest last week) and then I’m done-one on Wednesday and one on Sunday (I know-a Sunday final????? But it means that when April is done, so am I).

And I know I did the alphabet review of my time in undergrad, but I think on my last day (just 7 days from today) I’m going to share with you all the letter I wrote to myself for when this day happened. I haven’t quite decided yet, but I think that if I make it public, then I’ll be able to come back to it-regardless of where I am.

Anyway, happy Sunday! Let the countdown begin.

Oh! Also!

I’ve got some epic-cool things happening VERY soon.

  1. I’m going to be hosting a raffle for Nico & Tucker: Full of fun prizes and swag
  2. I’m going to start writing for Channillo-finally get those stories pub’d
  3. I’m going to open an etsy store-where I can sell essential oil stuff and things
  4. If you’re interested in reading an ARC in exchange for writing a review (it can be short!) PLEASE let me know-I have a couple, in a few different genres. You’d really be helping me out. I market books for authors (so these are THEIR ARCs, not mine) and that’s how I pay for college and coffee.

An Interesting Day

Today has been the epitome of interesting days. It’s Reading Day-which roughly translates into “Everyone stay home because there are no classes or exams today”. I made it to campus around 7 this morning, work started at 9 and I will be here for at least 2 more hours. Things to highlight today:

It was supposed to rain, my hair frizzed up enough, and then it got completely cleared. Hair still fluffy.

I’ve only seen two other undergrads on campus today. One of them was at 8AM, one of them at noon.

I got into a philosophical conversation about eating placenta. (And how you can eat it with rice and broccoli apparently.)

I got into a conversation about how not knowing who Prince or the Beatles are makes you uncultured.

I (and my coworker) thoroughly creeped out our boss by telling her fast food restroom horror stories (I worked at Subway, she worked at Chipotle and my husband worked at McDonalds).

I have thusly survived on one cup of coffee, two peanut butter sandwiches, a handful of walnuts and a handful of chocolate chips (and plenty of water).

I completely used up a whole highlighter in my job this morning, and half of another one.

I found out that I may have a research project open to me in the fall.

One of my bosses has been playing Prince for the past hour or so and I know all the songs.

I started out this morning listening to my Spanish Pandora station-where only the commercials were in Spanish (and I thusly complained).

I printed out too many labels this morning so I have been wearing TWO labels which say “Independent Study Grad Student”. I am neither a grad student, nor am I in independent study-I am in fact paid to work as an undergrad. 

Honestly, I live for days like this. Seriously, this has been the weirdest day I have had in such a long time that it’s about to become my absolute favorite day ever. I don’t even know how to make it any better, but it’s gonna be hard to top it.

Just Breathe

If you had to sum up what I am most passionate about in terms of what I blog about most often, that list might look something like:

Women’s Rights

Self-Care

College Life with Bipolar Disorder

Poetry

And if you added in coffee, I would not mark that as wrong. But I want to come at those things from a different angle today. I’m gonna do a humdinger post, where literally all the things come together and we hopefully have a work of art. Might work, might not.

I have a couple months before my lease is up, and my husband and I are looking for a place to move that we can afford with just the two of us (we currently live with roommates). We have one car, and while that doesn’t seem to be bad right now, it means that we don’t have a bunch of space for moving everything all over hell’s half acre. We’re probably going to move again when we graduate, and that’s okay. It also means that there is one fatal flaw to this process.

  

(This isn’t my personal stack of books, but it’s basically the same thing.)

While I may not be a hoarder, I happen to attach emotional value to lots of things-namely books. Every time I approach moving, I discover that somehow I have accumulated a large quantity of knick-knacks. What happens then is something I like to call Purge-aggedon. I go through all of my clothes, my books, movies, general stuff and everything I own and start throwing away or donating whatever I have that I don’t need. It’s akin to shedding off a layer of skin, or getting several feet of hair cut away. It may cause me exceptional amounts of stress, but once it is gone, I feel loads better.

The thing is, like so many people, I create barriers around myself to protect myself from life. I used food as medicine for the longest time, creating a layer of fat to protect my feelings. It was like I had a protective coat which wasn’t me, but would take on all of the negative things from other people. Some walls are not physical, but completely mental and mostly subconscious. I broke through one on accident this semester and it was a disaster. Some walls are very much physical and yet mean so little. I keep clothes which do not fit either in hopes that one day they will or because I feel “rich”because I have multiple things. And while that is all fine and well, sometimes it’s more important to be completely okay with myself as myself rather than the illusion I make of myself. I really hope that makes sense.

  

Anyway, I sat down this morning and actually drank my coffee while watching the sunrise. I took a pause in life, looking at the bigger picture. I didn’t weigh myself down with worries and stress, I just was. And it was wonderful. I know that not everything can be solved by stopping what you’re doing, but one of the most helpful things I learned from a counselor was that if you spend too much time in the past, you’re depressed. If you spend too much time in the future, you’re anxious. If you spend just enough time in the present, you will live life to the fullest.

I’m not an expert in the way life works-or even the way I work. I have good days, bad days, days with both and days with neither. But I know that I left my hair down today, watched the sunrise, drank my coffee slowly and just breathed. I have no idea what the rest of my life holds. But for today, all I need to know is today. And that’s something very doable.

So, it’s clear where two or three of my list comes to play, but what about poetry and women’s rights you ask? I’m glad you brought that up.

Part of what I’ve been doing at work today is working on some ideas about how to help children with body safety (as a stand alone project). And if you can’t see the poetry in a cup of coffee and a sunrise, then I will add in some very lovely words to close.

My eyes, once the vision saw

Melted into the watercolor sky

Without so much as a hello

Without needing to say goodbye.

My heart, once the sun rose 

Fluttered once then stood still

The life which beat within me paused

Then soared out from it’s window sill.

Kafe Kerouac

To be sure, there are few things I enjoy more than coffee. I think I could probably list them on one hand. But I come across as rather a bit of a coffee snob-that is to say that the type of coffee and the quality thereof is something I am particular about. As it would turn out, I was introduced to a gem of a place by a good friend, and I have since become singularly attached to their coffee without fault. And that place, is Kafe Kerouac.

Found on my campus, I am delighted to report that this is everything I’d hoped a coffee shop would be. It has coffee (clearly), but there is a bar, a bookstore, record store, an area for open mic poetry, and there is indie music playing at all times (some of it local-or maybe all of it, except for the NPR sometimes) as well as art from local people for sale. And the coffee? It’s named after authors. I always get the Jane Austen. And the shop itself, gets its name from the author Jack Kerouac. He is most known for On The Road, the pages of which line the walls. There are couches, folding chairs and an outdoor area for patrons. None of the cups are the same and it feels like home.

The thing is though, that there are plenty of things which could be said about it, but it is the atmosphere itself which draws you in. It is a place for artists and coffee connosouiers alike. People come here to hang out, catch up, study, create magnificent pieces of art (or homework, whatever) and everyone is equal. If all the tables are taken, you make room for other people. It is possible to start conversations with strangers and come out the better for it. The cofee, no matter the blend or the cup, comes to you filled to the brim, but no one ever seems to spill. It’s common for people to take a sip before moving to their seat, after having picked from half a dozen types of “milk”.

I’m going on about the specifics again. Seriously, it’s hard not to thrive in the details of this place. Every time I take a look up to survey the general splendor, I find something tiny which makes all the difference. I just caught my eye on the bargain book section- everything under $3. And the way the foam at the top of my cup jiggles with each typo I make (but hopefully have caught.)

I try so hard to not overly romanticize things, and I didn’t post this up on Tuesday when I began it, just because I wanted to look over what I had to say. I have nothing but great things to report. I keep going back, even though it is out of my own personal way (I work next to TWO coffee shops) because it represents everything I wanted it to. The stuff above was written in a semi-caffeine induced mania, but it still holds true. I shall deeply miss Kafe Kerouac when I graduate. Maybe I’ll make special trips back for my birthday.

coffee.jpg

Semi-Charmed Life

With the spurt of inspiration prevalent, I’ve picked up an old book idea and I’m running with that. I’m in the last month of my semester, and it’s running away with me. I have an interview at a coffee shop for a summer job, and that’s pretty cool (because you know how I feel about coffee)! And I have a friend date/meeting with my oldest friendship today-at a coffee house. I know I seem a little extreme with the coffee, but it’s delightful. It brings a smile to my face and it’s got caffeine. But anyway.

I woke up this morning and had to decide the order I needed to do things in. Take the dog out: number one. Shower, dress, breakfast, blog, wake up the husband (albeit, not necessarily in that order. It ended up being that my go to way to prepare myself for a coffee date was to, you guessed it, drink my morning cup of coffee. I know, it sounds a little redundant, and I guess that’s entirely fair, but if I’m going to show my inner Lorelai (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) then I might as well be proud of it.

LG
GILMORE GIRLS (Season 2) A – Tisket, A – Tasket (Episode #227463) Roll 51, Frame 15 Pictured: Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore Photo Credit: © The WB / Ron Batzdorff

I am not some wise guru, by any stretch of the imagination. I make mistakes, I change my mind, I buy the wrong kind of corn at the market (sorry, honey) but I live the best way that I can. I drink my coffee strong, I find ways to smile every day-even when I don’t feel like it, I try to be my absolute best. And you know what? Those simple ideas led me to the person I am today.

People are known by the things they hold on the inside. My oldest friend, for instance, I look at her and I see beauty and grace and faith. I look at my husband and see kindness, passion and love (I may be a little biased!). When people look at me, I hope that they see my burning desire to help people, my deep love of rainstorms and sunny mornings (the kind that you see in the “I love, I love, I love you…most ardently” scene from Pride and Prejudice) and a fierce warrior. Those are the things I aspire to, the things that make me who I am. But they are just one part. And that is true of everyone. I have a dorky side that laughs at silly jokes, watches Disney movies on repeat and is really insecure. But no matter how many facets you put together, you still only get to see a part. And I’ll tell you a secret.

That’s my favorite part.

I switched from being a biology major to an anthropology major because I love learning people’s stories. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it’s the knowing that no matter how much I know about a person, I’ll never really know them that fascinates me the most. I haven’t changed since that first time I did ethnographic research. I still love listening to stories. And that’s why I’m going to law school-because with a law degree I can take those stories and give them hope, justice. I am a story activist. Because everyone deserves the chance to be the hero(ine) in their own story, and I can help.

But apart from my personal mission statement, I think it’s positively beautiful that we’re all little snowflakes, little diamonds. Each one of us is so different, but we are all the same. I live for that. It wakes me up each morning and I think that’s how it should be.

snow.jpg

Coffee Cups, Confusion and Compassion

Today’s title seems more like the one I would give my autobiography. (Which is actually a great idea-so if I ever write one, you’ll know what to look for!) Anyway, a little more seriously. Today was served by a healthy dose of the aforementioned things. I don’t necessarily know where today’s blog is headed, but I know I need to write it out. It’s gonna be an adventure for both of us, I guess.

I grabbed my coffee cup this morning, the sleep still clinging to me, unwilling to let go. It felt like a stay-in-bed-and-watch-movies-all-day kind of day. But I drank my coffee anyway and got to work. I’ve spent more or less the past two months being frustrated, confused, brokenhearted, angry, and a whole host of other things. I’ve spent a great long while in depression, I pulled into hypo, I’ve been swamped with homework, stress and just when I think it’s never going to change, I find myself at today. It’s a day filled with more necessary-to-do things.

I told myself when the school year started back in August that I was going to be a new person. I would be stronger, be better, be basically everything that I believed I wasn’t. And now, with a little less than a month to go until the end of the term, I have to take a moment to reflect. Am I any different?

On the one hand, I’ve only lost 14 pounds since August. But I no longer binge-eat. I am more educated buy a year. But I feel that I am nowhere near as educated as I need to be. I’m better at budgeting, and I haven’t paid bills late once. But I stress out more, and most of it is money related. I drink more water. But I still drink soda. I know myself more. But I’m still conflicted about who I am.

In just the past eight months, I have discovered my passion in life, my niche, my calling. I have felt more conflicted about it than I think I believed I could. I have found the worst emotions possible, so much so that they tasted like bile in my mouth at the mere thought. But I have also found great motivation to change those feelings into something that could make the world beautiful. I have faced adversity and smiled through it. I have faced my dragons and tamed them. I have made excellent coffee and shared it with friends.I have remembered things I would rather have left forgotten, struggled with my mind and come out the victor.

I set out in August with one goal: to get through the year. I had to learn how to adapt, to assimilate. I have never felt so alone in my life. But by December, my goals changed. I had to become stronger-a better version of me. And these past two weeks found me driving myself into (and back from) class THREE times a week. I went from being secluded in my own home to gaining great ground in just three months. But the journey is not ended. Because soon enough I shall be off to some distant land where everyone is a stranger and I know nothing.

It is that understanding that brings me to the last part of the title. You see, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own issues, your own pain that you forget there are other people suffering too. I have changed a fair amount over the past year, but there is one thing that I can quantifiably say has changed for the better: I care more.

Let me be clear here: I do not care haphazardly. I do not let myself take on the pain of others. But I am learning to walk the line between compassion and empathy. I used to make other people’s struggles my own. I would break for them as though I were them. And now, I feel for them, but I do so from my own standpoint. And that’s important.