No.

Three days. It feels like a countdown to doom. Just a couple short moments until the world as we know it pauses. I know that good things come from dire places, but doesn’t it feel a little *too* dire?

I’m trying. I’m trying to be the optimist here, to be the person whose logic and reasoning skills are intact. I’m trying to not let the fear and the crushing weight of all that is happening allow me to come undone. Really.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are a great many things that I feel. There are facets of my life that both thrill and terrify me (in the exhilarating, stressful way). And then there is just three days from now-when all the lowest things about human society become what everyone sees of my country.

I know I have a few international readers-and I do hope you see this for what it is and not an insult to your reasoning skills-but I have a message. A request, really.

Please do not look at January 21 and think that all Americans are like that. Please do not think we all hate differences, are afraid of people who aren’t the same as us. The loud minority is drowning us out, but we are here and we are fighting. There are those of us who care for the water and the planet we live on, who weep at the injustices at Standing Rock. There are those of us who value the lives of other human beings, both those who look like us and those who don’t. There are those of us who love openly, and rejoice when others can do the same-regardless of whether or not it fits our idea of love. There are those of us who are working to make the world better-not drag it back into hatred, ignorance, bigotry and fear mongering.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. I am.

But do you know what I know?

I know that in dire times, good comes. When human kind needs it most, who should appear but Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Shirin Ebadi. The list goes on.

I can’t wait to see who our next humanitarian leader is. Maybe I’ll get to meet them. Maybe, dare I dream it-I might be them.

Sleep peacefully, readers. Be safe, be loved.

You have value. You are valid. You are irreplaceable.

We’ll make it. Together.

Learn the Language, the Rest Will Follow

Howdy all! I return as my slightly charged, post-GISHWHES self. I thought I’d ease into this week with a simple reflection before getting into full swing. These are my last two weeks before my senior year!! I’ve got a lot of things coming up, and I’m very excited about all of it!

It wasn’t until college that I really understood the title for today. I’d taken four years of Spanish with a wonderful woman who stressed conversation over written (of which I am eternally grateful), including an entire year with her where all we did was speak Spanish. I took 3 semesters of Swahili (a language that one of the most influential teachers I had in elementary school took as well) and I’ve been nosing around a couple languages on my own.

It was an anthropology class that drilled home for me the “learn the langauge, the rest will follow” lesson. I’m pretty midwestern. I have southern family, and that’s why I say “ya’ll”. I drink sweet tea like it’s going out of style, I mean, I don’t have to list my “credentials” but I’m trying to paint a picture here. I grew up on a farm in Ohio, the fun things to do there included mushroom hunting, digging for arrowheads and spending days being lazy.

I never really understood how people struggled with learning English because I’m a native speaker. And then something weird happened.

I’ve done a little research on this (just enough to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind) and found that my experiences are pretty common.

It started around the time I was finishing up my last year of formal Spanish education. I remember I was waiting at our local fair, talking about foods and I said the words: You know, I’ve been here all week and I still haven’t gotten any…. and I forgot what the food was called. I believe I called it sugar cloud and then someone figured out I was talking about cotton candy. That same concept has happened to me so many more times than I thought possible-made compoundedly worse with each language I study.

Suddenly, I was only able to find the words I needed if they were in another language. It’s kind of like when you’re learning a new language and you don’t know all the vocabulary, so you will in with English (that’s where the idea of Spanglish comes from) except it was happening to me in reverse!

And then it all made sense (after that anthropology class). Or well, I tried to make it make sense. You see, in a culture is like a locked box, you need a key to get in or you will never understand it fully. That key, is language. And if you master the language, you’ll be able to understand the culture. There is a culture all its own or non-native speakers learning English and although not from their perspective, I learned how to open that jar of panic, of “outside-ness” and peer into the life of someone who is still growing as an individual.

Those memories came to me this morning as I people watched from my landing steps. Diversity is a great gift-if you have the compassion enough to see that it is a blessing.

 

These Days Are Ours

Hey all! I’m in the process of moving and as I’m sure you can all relate to-that means I’m busy, a bit frazzled and somewhat lost in time. Today’s thoughts aren’t a lecture per se, nor are they really anything more than just my thoughts. But they’re good’uns and it’s about one of my favorite topics: self-care!

I came across a note I’d saved in my phone and was blown away by my younger self. The date on it was 27 June 2015 and it reads like this:

I’m glad I’m heavier than who I was. It teaches me to be better: to redefine myself every day. I’m glad I threw out that damn dress, because it teaches me that I don’t need to be blonde to be beautiful. I’m glad I change my mind every time I change my mood. It teaches me to be flexible. I’m glad I’m not the girl I used to be. It teaches me that all things change and I must learn to adapt. I don’t have to have everything in the world. I just need to be me. I know some days I’m going to be so depressed I can barely move (and maybe a lot of those days) and some days I will stay awake for hours and be manic (and maybe I’ll be super productive). But I’ve been looking for reasons why I can’t improve my life. I stress about money, I stress about life. So now, I have some things that are going to happen.

I go on to list about a dozen things which I wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year. I managed to get about a third accomplished. But I’m not here to talk about the list.

I could not possibly have known all of the changes which were coming to me this past year. But it coincides with an event that happened yesterday and I thought that it was pretty nifty serendipity.

I send all my packages to my parents’ place because that is the only place that mail is reliable. And I hadn’t picked up my mail since about Christmas. I got my mail yesterday and opened it. I had a bunch of clothes I’d ordered, but hadn’t needed immediately.

I fall into the trap of thinking that I can wait for things. I delay so long that I usually talk myself out of the purchases with sentences like “Oh, well, now it’s not on sale.” or “I’ll buy it when I lose fifteen pounds.” And I neglect myself. I tell myself that I don’t need to buy clothes because the ones I have are still functional. I use my electronics until they can no longer function at all. And I’m proud of that. I feel that I am incredibly thrifty.

But I splurge on other people. I delight in being the one who looks completely together, completely giving. People from my first job can attest that if I had the ability, I would drive from my house to the nearest Starbucks (a 35 minute drive) at 6AM to pick everyone up a drink. And I love looking at people who receive my birthday presents. I love it all. I crave those moments.

But I deny them to myself.

Why would I do that? Why would I abuse myself and neglect myself when I put so much value in others?

The long and short answer? I’m still learning how to love myself.

I know that’s a story that a lot of people can relate to. It’s not something that our society values. The line between self-care and narcissism is muddled. Self-care is preached to people with medical conditions, to nursing students, to a variety of people. But it is often the people who are doing the preaching who lack the ability to fulfill their words in their own lives.

That’s so sad.

As I’m going through my stuff, in order to pack it up or recycle it in some way, I realized I was holding on to a lot of baggage with my possessions. I have a great giant pile of “If i lose X amount of weight, I can wear this.” I have a stack of “If these conditions are met, I’ll use this.” and the occasional “I don’t want to get rid of this because I got it from blah.” But all that translates to one basic thing: I’m holding on to this because I’m not happy enough to let it go. My husband can attest-since coming to that realization, I bagged up 6 bags of stuff and got rid of it. Clothes that were too small, too big, too old. Knick knacks that I’d held on to for the sake of holding on to are gone.

Sometimes loving yourself means giving yourself the same luxuries you give other people. Sometimes loving yourself means cutting yourself loose from unnecessary burdens.

Just a thought for today. See you all soon!

 

A Delight

Yesterday was the last day of classes (unofficially) for me. I still have finals and I have work, but it is the last time that I will need to bring a pen and paper with the express purpose of taking notes. And that serves as more than enough reason to reflect. Reflection is something I do quite a bit, but since it’s the end of something and the beginning of something else, I think it’s worth it.

August 2015: Moved to the big city. Started college at the big campus. Was entirely overwhelmed and became a recluse, having frequent panic attacks and long periods of depression.

September 2015: Began looking for a job. Driving was non occurent. Stayed home as often as I could. Panic attacks frequent in car.

October 2015: Admitted I needed a mental health day for the first time. Anxiety levels still high.

November 2015: Found job. Made an effort to sit in car longer. Began more attentively budgeting.

December 2015:  Made resolution to drive more. Began working on deciding what I wanted to do with my life.

January 2016: Went to job and class, drove to the store only-with husband.

February 2016: Began to discover women’s issues as field of interest. Took LSAT for law school.

March 2016: Convinced women’s issues are “my thing” and received LSAT scores. Began looking at law schools.

April 2016: Drove self to school each day, narrowed down schools, began Operation: Educate Everybody

May: I guess we’re about to find out.

This summer will be hectic. And I will love every minute of it. I’m planning to get some serious balls rolling, including a new and improved list of resources, which will be just bursting with information for everyone. I’m very excited about it. This summer I will be working my absolute hardest to do something I haven’t before: acted on a passion. And it took more growth than I knew it would to get here. Now that I have roots, it’s time to rise and shine.

Step one of O:EE complete. Now on to phase two.

The Start to a Great Day

This past week was a brutal week for human beings. Earthquakes, bigotry, hatred, fear and on my own campus there was a display of some very xenophobic graffiti. But there were also some wonderful things which happened. The grafiti was covered over by messages of acceptance and love. The bigotry and hatred was combatted with hope and kindness. Aid was given to those who needed it.

Yesterday was one of those weird days when I missed something from my old life: routine. Not the kind that I’d expected, but I missed having songs to sing to my deity. I had seen a video of someone singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and vividly recalled all the times I spent in church singing that song (and playing it on the piano) and then all the times I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t even want to sing the song. I wanted to revisit a time when there was a routine in my life that made everything seem simple. That is the way it is because is is that way. You know?

It was a weird feeling, but I think the point of it wasn’t that I found a hole in my belief system, it was that in those days, everything was simple (for me at least). I lived in a small town of people I knew and who knew me. I could walk all over the county by myself without fear. I could stop by people’s houses if I needed to call my parents or get a drink or hang out with people roughly my age. I missed the simplicity.

And yet, there are things I would not change about today. I braided my hair for the first time successfully all by myself. I got up on time, I dressed up today (I’m channeling my inner Snow White-red lips, blue top, yellow skirt) and I even managed to get rid a bunch of homework done. I didn’t panic when my husband drove us in this morning, even though I’ve grown accustomed to driving by myself. I got in to work early and successfully set up for the day. I’m a stronger, more independent person than I was six months ago. And what’s more, I accept myself for who I am more so than I did when I moved here. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a little different, but it means that I am not ashamed of who I am now.

  We are all products of our pasts. For me, that past means walking barefoot through grassy fields on the way to a raspberry patch to get my fingers completely covered in red dye. It means traveling downs dirt roads covered in arching trees and watching baby rabbits run across your yard right before a huge buck comes sniffing for roots and tulips. It’s picking apples off the trees while waiting for the bus to take me to school and bonfires with burnt marshmallows (which my parents had to eat). It’s dressing up on Sunday’s because that’s what respectable people did and then going home to pick garden produce.

  And we choose what becomes our future. Coffee dates with friends, and making time for people. It’s proving to yourself over and over again that you’re not the mistake you thought you were. It means taking the time to capture life’s little moments, watching a sunrise even when you’d rather be sleeping, making the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten and then being surprised that it tasted that good.  

  It means choosing to feel good about yourself and “I’ll be damned if I let other people shame me out of my own life”. It means giving up every reason you have for not being happy and just taking chances anyway-because you’ve finally decided that it’s in your best interest to believe in yourself.

  At the end of the day, we’re not always going to listen to the naysayers. And doing so will only hold us back. We’ve got to start living with love and passion, or else we don’t stand a chance of living at all.

(All photos today were taken by me and as you can see, are on my Instagram. Ya’ll can hop on over and browse about if you feel so inclined, but this is basically what I take pictures of. Only now it’s my dog and campus, but hey.)

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.

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!)