May 27, 2013

Unexpected Hiatus

Earlier in the month, I had planned on taking part in a blog carnival called "Every Day in May," similar to doing Reverb12 back in December. It started off nicely, but my schedule started getting a little crazy with finals and it being the end of the semester. On that note, my emotions were running very high and there were times where I wanted to blog, yet could not find the "right" words  relating to the topic. I'd have all these thoughts regarding the prompt for the day, yet I didn't know how to bring them all together in a way that made sense. There was so much going on that I could barely find the time to sit down and actually do it.  

But things are a bit calmer now; I'm at home for the next couple of weeks, enjoying some downtime with friends and family. The slow pace of life in the suburbs is always an adjustment,  but I welcome it. I've been reading for pleasure, I'm exercising more, and just soaking it all in. Life is good, and God is good. 

One of my goals this summer is not just to write more, but to write with a deeper sense of honesty and vulnerability. I always have ideas and thoughts swimming around in my brain, yet only half of them ever get articulated in some way because I'm terrified of putting it out in the open. A month or so I posted a status on this blog's Facebook page where I said "the more I write, the more I realize that I want to be a 'hallelujah-somebody-finally-said-it' kind of writer. And not that I'll be the first person to write or talk about it, but definitely someone that's willing to do so." 

That's the only way to ever be truly successful as a writer, in my opinion: to be willing to talk about the things and issues that are closest to your heart without the constant fear of criticism or hatred. While athletes say "leave it on the field," as a writer I find myself saying "leave it on the page." 

It feels so good to be doing what feels natural to me: reading, writing, being in community. I would still like to continue blogging about things relating to "Every Day in May" as well as continue with Love In Action, a series that I started but unfortunately lost momentum with soon after. The school year may have come to an end, but I have a feeling that this is the start of something that is just beginning.

May 08, 2013

My Other Purpose

If you couldn't answer with your job, how would you answer the question "what do you do?"

On any given day, my answer to this question would probably be a great number of things. But not too long ago, I blogged about a deep desire that I felt God has placed on my heart, especially in light of the tragedies that have happened in these two months.  Before that, I probably would have said that I write, I dance, I laugh, I talk. Lately, I'm realizing that there's a bigger purpose above having a job and career. Aside from being a student and a writer, my main purpose is to love.

 I'm still learning a lot about what "love" as a verb actually is; it's not just about how much you do it, but how well. There is so much negative rhetoric out there in regards to caring about other people, the most famous adage being "the only people you need in your life are the ones who prove that they need you in theirs." Personally, there are some gray areas in that line of thinking: what kind of proof does it refer to? Is it fair to ask anyone to prove anything? What is the difference between wanting a person to "show up" for you and having expectations that are just too high?

We all want unconditional love, yet when the time calls for it, we're often unwilling to be the ones to give it ourselves. And while there definitely should be a form of meeting halfway, it's though we treat love as a result or a reward for something. We shouldn't need all these specific reasons to treat others with kindness and compassion. When looking at the bigger picture, that's what love is: kindness, compassion, forgiveness (even if they don't "deserve" it), patience, humility, and so on. Even more, it's about putting these traits into action regardless of who the person is or what place they have in your life.

That being said, it is important to have boundaries; not in the ways that you treat people, but in the context of the relationship and maybe even the environment that you're in. From my own experiences, I now understand that there are those who I'm not meant to be best friends with. I'm very selective about who I confide in and who I share my history with. There is always the possibility of being taken advantage of by anybody, but it's more a question of who will empathize and who won't. But that doesn't mean we can't interact; it's nice having people to just have fun with and not get into the tough stuff that goes on in our lives. Or maybe it's just giving that person a hug for five minutes whenever we run into each other around town. It varies, but the point is that not every relationship has to be the all-or-nothing deal. 

Boundaries become blurry when you and/or another is dealing with very personal issues. I have been on both sides of the fence, neither of which can be pretty. As I've gone through my late teens and early twenties, I've developed a keen sense of when someone is in the thick of extreme brokenness, especially when they're running away from it. When they're labeled as "bad" or an idiot by the rest of the bunch, I want to get to know them even more. Part of it is because I know what it's like to be misunderstood, and because I do have somewhat of a selfish desire to be needed and useful; that is, I want to take care of others instead of it always being the other way around.

It is possible to be a part of another's healing process, and vice versa; the thing to remember is that it's not up to you to be the one to orchestrate it. Support them, listen to them, and just be present. But when you feel the need to don a superhero cape, that's when you should take a step back. No one is immune to getting sucked in to a bad situation and being crushed by it.  

What the ones who hurt you over and over again? I guess it really depends on the circumstances; A  lot of (but not all) college students tend to be kind of selfish; they do what they want and don't pay much attention to how it's affecting the people around them. It also just might be part of how they are; I have friends who don't always call me back and let me know what's going on when we have something planned. I have friends who are often late to those kinds of get-togethers or outings, or go off on their own once they have a few drinks. It used to both me a lot, and there are occasions where it still does. 

Again, it's not completely black and white, and it's up to the individual to decide what they can and can't take in regards to another's actions. While I do believe in going to that person and being honest if something is really bothering me, I also understand that I have this habit of taking a situation too personally. We all want to surround ourselves with friends who aren't going to hurt us or make mistakes, but that just doesn't happen. 

And that's where love truly shines; not when someone is at there absolute best, but at their worst, in whatever case that may be. Should you put up with them if they constantly walk all over you? No. But it doesn't grow unless the relationship gets a little rain, or even a thunderstorm. 

The main aspect isn't why, but how. I've learned that when you don't know where to start, it's best to start small. I've been trying to walk around without my ipod so that I can actually say hello to people as I pass them by. I'm writing letters both to good friends and friends that I've lost touch with. I like sending out "thinking of you" texts. My favorite thing to do is to hug someone really tight and make it last for about ten seconds or so, because love doesn't always need words to be given, experienced, or felt.

It might not seem like a whole lot, and there are instances where I feel like I could be doing better. But when you think you're not doing much, chances are you're doing a whole lot more than the people being impacted by it will be able to put into words. 

What I'm focusing on right down is being able to do all these things without getting bogged down by the bitterness and cultural crap that's out there. I was writing about this very topic in my journal yesterday, and the page that I was writing on had 1 John 4:7 inscribed at the bottom of it: Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 

That was very powerful for me, and reminded me how vital it is to pray about the relationships that I have and those that I encounter. When I do things impulsively and with a selfish spirit, it usually doesn't work. But when I take time to talk to God about something that is on my heart, I'm able to approach it with a clear mind. 

I completely understand how people of all ages, especially women, want to protect themselves from pain and suffering. So we try to use love as a bargaining chip; if you do this for me, I'll be this person. If you don't hurt me, I promise to go out of my way for you. I know that not everybody does or thinks that, but that seems to be the general attitude these days. And while it may protect you, supposedly, does it enable you to have what you really want? If anyone can attest to that, please share. I just don't see how it helps.

Pain is a risk I'm willing to take in order to interact with people, to hear there stories, and to share my heart with them. Risk is a reflection of how I love, and love is a reflection of how I live. That's enough for me.

May 05, 2013

Words I'm Loving Lately

Technically, I am supposed to be on day five with this, but I've realized that doing it every single day isn't going to be possible. With finals week fast approaching, I need to focus on school and finding a job/internship for the summer season. So Instead of trying to do every prompt for the rest of the month, I will just respond to the prompts that I find most thought-worthy or  appealing.

What is your favorite quote (either by a person, book, etc). and tell us why you love it. 

This is so hard to choose; I could easily write a book on the combination of quotes/sayings that I adore and try to live by. But for now, I'll just give you the one that I feel like resonates most with where I'm at in my life right now: 

While I don't know how I feel about her personally, I relate to these words so much; For years, I have struggled with accepting myself exactly as I am rather than try to mold myself into who I think I'm supposed to be. It has been a battle, especially with tweets, status updates, photos, etc. and the ultimate fear of rejection in one way or another. It is a battle that I still fight, sometimes on a daily basis. 

I don't want to be perfect, or even close to it. I've been thinking a lot about what I have been through in my life and the pain that has come with it. Everybody has a little brokenness in themselves, and there are circumstances where it takes a long time to truly heal from all of it. But does mine only take root in past events, or does it also have to do with my bending over backwards trying to define myself, or at least do so in a way that looks good? 

I can say that I now know the answer to that one. 

A couple of days ago I was lamenting to one of my best friends about how I felt like I was constantly taking one step forward, then going two steps back. There's so much pressure to define yourself and find your identity in something, whether it be friends/family, God, a significant other, etc. Sometimes I have no idea what any of that means, much less how to go about doing it. 

But here's the thing: maybe it's time for me to stop trying to define myself and just be. I can't control anyone's perception of me as it is, so why try to put a label on it. 

For now, I don't see myself as completely whole, but not completely broken either. I'm simply...human. 

May 02, 2013

What They Don't Tell You (As A Writer)

Day 2-What are you good at? 

I came close to wanting to discuss how to be hard-headed and stubborn, because other than writing, digging my heels in something that I am incredibly good at. But I'd rather focus on the more positive side of things, and I've learned so much this semester about writing, especially since being in the program. 

That being said, there is a lot of stuff that most professors or instructors don't tell you; not because it's a huge secret, but because they're things you often have to learn by experience and not by word of mouth. I'm not going to instruct anybody on how to go about the writing process, because every writer does it differently and therefore it doesn't always work for the rest of us. However, I would like to offer a few tips that make it a little less daunting. 

1. Let go of your inhibitions

Depending on their personality or the duration of the class, some professors or TA's will tell you to have your first draft of anything as polished and flushed out as much as possible. When it comes to spelling and grammar, you should always double check that. But when it comes to actually getting words onto paper or a screen, it's so much easier to just let go and write. The reason why it takes me so damn long to get a first draft done is because I'm constantly editing and and second-guessing myself. The goal of the initial first round is getting your ideas out of your head and getting something started. Don't think. Just write. 

2. Too much feedback can be dangerous 

The more I've gotten into writing, the more I understand that you do have to have thick skin; while criticism can and does sting sometimes, it can also make the revision process confusing and overwhelming. I've realized that I don't have a ton of time to read every single critique letter, so I'll either just rely on the notes I took during a workshop or the comments given to me by my teacher. I respect advice and opinions, but when I feel like I'm being pulled in a ton of different directions, I start to get frustrated over where I want the story to go and what I want it to mean. If you try to make every single little change because someone else tells you to, nothing good will come of it. Thankfully I've learned how to pick up on other people's writing style, and whether or not I truly agree with what they're saying. If I don't, I'm honest with myself about it and then I move on

3. Take breaks and take them often

One thing I've noticed, particularly this semester, is that there comes a point where my brain has simply had enough for that period of time. I get headaches when I constantly look at a computer screen for more than an hour. This past week I wrote two six page papers in a span of eight hours, and it was almost like I had pulled an all-nighter. It's very old school, but when I want to keep writing and can't do it on a computer, I take a notebook to a coffee shop and keep going. I absolutely love going for walks around campus, so I do that almost every day just to clear my head for a little bit. Next to making writing a habit, it's also important to know how to decompress from it. 

4. Find an Inspa-location 

Anyone who knows me well understands that I'm very much an extrovert, and tend to go stir-crazy when I'm indoors for insanely long periods of time. While I haven't done it yet, I'm looking forward to finding several places on campus where I can write, since I am staying here for the summer. That is, a place that is both a good space and motivates/inspires me to write. I have a feeling I'll get a lot more done that way, and maybe even crank out more ideas because of it. 

There you have it, your creative writing lesson for the day! While this does not qualify me to be a teacher, I sure hope it helps at least one person.

May 01, 2013

Junior Year in One Paragraph

I've decided to take part in the blogging challenge, "Every Day in May"! Each day in the next month, I will blog about whatever prompt is listed, but might change it up a little bit. For instance, today's topic is telling your life story in two hundred and fifty words or less. However, my life story is weaved in other posts on here, and since my junior year is drawing to a close, it seems perfect to try to sum up this academic year in just one paragraph. 

Day 1-Story

  Junior year began with caution; after the cluster you know what of sophomore year, I was trying not to set my expectations too high. I decided to live by myself in a one bedroom, and despite the fact that it’s a double edged sword, I am grateful to have a space that I can call my own. I continued with group therapy and joined a new Christian student organization on campus with one of my best friends, which were both difficult and edifying at the same time. I dated and always wished I was with someone else. In November I was accepted into the Creative Writing Track, a very prestigious program here at Iowa. Two weeks into second semester, I finally turned twenty one. I loved (and still do) being able to finally go out without having to do so before ten o’clock or sneak around. In a way, it was like freshman year all over again; so many new things and I didn’t know what to do with it all.  I danced a lot, drank a little, and even had my first kiss. In a month, my confidence level skyrocketed. I officially cut a relationship out of my life that had meant the world to me for the last seven and a half years. I realized that I still do struggle with depression and am learning how to love myself and not care so much about what others think. By being more open about my life, I think I’m opening new doors for myself. And I thank God for that.

I'll definitely write a more eloquent and detailed post about this in the near future, but for now this is what I would consider my third year of college in a nutshell.