December 30, 2015

We're All Human Here

It stirred in me as I read Brene Brown's, Rising Strong while on a CTA train to Chicago. In one of the chapters, she poses the question, what would happen if we chose to live life with the attitude that everyone is doing the best that they can? More recently, I came across a video talk by Marianne Williamson, who basically said that there is more substance in identifying with being like everyone else, (that we all have problems and insecurities), rather than our uniqueness. Sifting and meditating on these ideas, I kept coming back to one simple phrase: 

We're all human here. 

It's a common thread that binds us all, yet the one thread that seems to be ignored or forgotten the most. 

I knew it before December, and desperately wanted to shout it from the rooftops. To tell anyone and everyone with eyes and ears. My God, I just want to feel like a human being again. 


I have not felt that way since I was ten years old; aware of it, yes, but I never completely allowed my spirit to rest in it. And now here I am, worn out from being a perfectionist, like an amateur attempting (and failing) at a complex Russian ballet routine. I've been constantly trying to defy expectations, to prove that I'm capable and enough. And I don't need to or want to. No one does.

It's a relief and terrifying at a the same time, like putting a target on my back and challenging the world to take its best shot. Critics and outside observers will always look for a reason to pounce, and vulnerability is often one of them. It's one of those things that has more questions than answers: 

How do you love yourself where you're at, while still striving to grow and improve?

How do you love without putting up walls?

How do you acknowledge reality without wallowing in it? 

How do you move forward in a way that doesn't turn into numbing/self-medication? 

How do you show grace and extend forgiveness without feeling like you're giving someone permission to hurt or take advantage of you? 


But it's not just about me; if I'm going to give myself permission to be human, I have to be able to do the same for those around me as well. When I read that chapter in "Rising," I cringed because it sounded like such a bitch and a half to put into practice. A long time ago, my brother told me that people bullied and walked all over me because I allowed it, and so I developed a habit of fighting back (to the extreme) whenever I sensed anyone trying to do that. It is possible to set boundaries and still accept people for who they are. 

I've been learning that it's a lot easier to take something at face value than over-analyze and try to come up with stories to fill in the blanks. Distance and silence does not always mean that you or I have wronged someone else. It might have more to do with where that person is at and how they communicate. Regardless of what the truth of the matter is, none of us is responsible for the actions or choices of others. There is only so much anyone can give, and that goes both ways.  Even the ones who created us, bore us, and raised us have their limits. 

And as the saying goes, sometimes we expect certain thing from those we love, because we're willing to do the same for them. 

Not all battles are worth fighting, and they must be chosen wisely. Sometimes truth waits for opportunity, and being honest doesn't mean that the circumstances will change and/or automatically get better. 

On the other side, reality often trumps comfort, or at least it should. We may not want to hear it or acknowledge the pain, but if someone confides in you, consider it a blessing. We all need to vent at least once in a while, and will occasionally say things at the wrong time and without much of a filter. Don't worry about solving problems and focus on listening and just being present Life is tough, and that's exactly why every single one of us needs to quit running from it. 


I can't say that I'm going into the coming year with warm fuzzies in my heart and confetti in my eyes. I'd like to think that being human means to literally take things one day at a time, to balance intention with allowing myself to be shaped by faith, truth, and love. I stopped making resolutions years ago because I didn't want to put my sense of joy and happiness onto a singular goal, or a list that in hindsight will be forgotten somewhere down the road. 

I refuse to be afraid of my own humanity, of living and breathing and being. I will savor the good moments and grit my teeth through the bad. I choose to not necessarily set expectations, but be open to the possibilities. 

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

 Cheers to a new year, new blessings, and whatever it may bring.

December 28, 2015

Connection Complexion

If there was one thing I found myself starving for this past year, one thing I find myself needing the most in the coming year, it's connection. By nature, I am absolutely fascinated by people and what their stories are. I love getting to know a person, discovering what they're passionate about and what makes them tick. I consider myself both an introvert and extrovert, where I can appreciate solitude, but more lean toward togetherness. 

I didn't get to experience much of that, at least in ways where it felt like I was doing more than just surviving a really difficult season in my life. I felt closer to people that lived in different states or even different countries, and incredibly distant from immediate family or friends that lived in the next town over. I was insecure and scared, constantly torn between facing the reality of what I was going through and desperately wanting to move beyond all of it. I didn't know how to articulate what I needed, and didn't want to come across as selfish or inconsiderate. There were times where I didn't even know what I needed, if it was to talk about the matter at hand or to distract myself for a little bit. It was self-imposed pressure to choose between one extreme or the other. 

I held a lot of things in, and that festered into a pain so great that I couldn't see beyond it. As a result, I often shared parts of my story at the wrong time, (or at least what seemed like bad timing) or put my insecurities onto others. When someone didn't show up or get back to me about spending time together, I automatically blamed myself. Certain relationship experiences made me want to put up walls and close myself off for a while. I was so afraid that I barely went to church and at times had to force myself to go out and be social. It all came down to a very large and very bold-faced lie: 

I've been abandoned. I'm not wanted. And I'm definitely not lovable. 

How terrible and sad is that? It's no wonder how that attitude slowly turned me into a different person

That's not to say connection should, or has to involve baring your soul in front of people. One of my favorite memories from this past year took place when I went back to Iowa for homecoming weekend. I met up with one of my closest friends at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, and we basically spent the night drinking beer and margaritas, watching sports, and making fun of each other. I've never heard him curse so much in the time that we've known each other, and after midnight I was fighting to keep my eyes open because I didn't want it to end. 

It was unplanned, unexpected, and wonderful. Quality time should be intentional, but not totally manufactured in the sense that it could easily lead to disappointment. A lot of times I can just enjoying being with someone without having to carry on much of a conversation; a comfortable silence, as it's called. 

Connection, especially in today's culture, seems to have more questions than answers. I can't pretend that I understand why being busy has become a badge of honor, or why we do so much to the point of being unavailable. We're supposedly so attached to our cell phones, but yet I know more people that don't answer calls or respond to text messages. It's sad when they only way you know if someone is even alive is through updates and photos on Facebook, though that is better than nothing.

I've learned the hard way that most of the time, all you really can do is take it with a grain of salt. Life happens. Everyone goes through rough seasons, and it's not always about whether or not those of us on the other end did or said something wrong. I have friends where we can go weeks or months without speaking, but that doesn't mean we don't care about one another. The older you get, the more people you have to keep up with, and eventually we might have to choose who we want in our circle and who we don't. It's not personal, and it's not meant to be hurtful.

In light all of that, I've realized that the best connections I can make are with myself and with God. By standing firm in my identity, and having a keen sense of self-awareness, everything else kind of falls into place on it's own; interacting with others becomes easier, and there's a lot less fear and anxiety involved. I'm not choosing individualism over community, but I can't be dependent on people or circumstances to bring me joy and happiness. Change is constant, and while I can't control what happens, I can choose to be calm and trusting about all of it.

In hindsight, I do wish that I had been stronger, and had handled some things differently. I don't always know what the right thing is, and that's OK. There is no formula, but there is grace, forgiveness, and redemption. I choose that road, not just with others, but for myself as well.

Photo Credit

December 22, 2015


What surprised you this year?

I've been sitting here for a while, unsure of how to respond to this topic. There wasn't any one specific event or even a series of happenings that caught me off guard, but I won't say that this year was entirely predictable either. However, it's not what what has happened on the outside that has me taken aback, but how I've been responding and reacting to it inwardly.

I can't hide the fact that I've been an angry person, regardless of whether it was justified or not. Part of it did relate to my parents' situation, along with both my personal and professional lives looking nothing like I had envisioned  as time went on. I had a lot of outbursts, and each time I asked myself why the hell I'd get so worked up, since some of it had no bearing on me. It might have been something specific in the heat of the moment, but the cause went much deeper.

A few days after Thanksgiving, we all gathered at my mom's house to watch football and eat leftovers for the majority of the day. I was sitting on the couch and happened to overhear a conversation involving a subject that makes me uncomfortable at best, and has me seeing red at worst. It was like I had become The Hulk, except I had to shove down my feelings down and keep my mouth shut. And whenever I hold back, my defenses go up and I snap pretty easily.

Even after there were plenty of opportunities to talk, I was still crabby and stubborn. I cursed and cried and thought a lot of things that I wouldn't dare say out loud.

What on earth was wrong with me? 

Anger is healthy. Sadness is healthy. But eventually I began to grow tired of what was now becoming a ball and chain, and just wanted it to go away. Don't think, don't feel...just stop.

But I couldn't do that, at least not in the long run. I finally wrote it down it my journal:

When I can't express my feelings, I get cranky.
When I'm ashamed, I get defensive.
When I can't connect with other people, I get depressed.
And when I sense that anyone is trying to change me (or change how I feel), I lash out.

Who am I? What have I become? 

I would admit to my therapist a week later that I didn't recognize myself anymore, and that I didn't like what I saw. My heart was as hard and cold as it had ever been, and I often wanted to project a "Don't Mess With Me" attitude toward anyone I came into contact with. I've always had a bit of a rough and tumble side, a warrior spirit, which has kept me going through numerous surgeries and obstacles. However, my mindset was beginning to cross over to some pretty dark places, and I was a little afraid of where it would lead.

I'm not a controlling person, but I did wish that I had some influence over how everything was being handled. Though no longer a child, I resented not getting the kind of protection that kids usually have when their parents are splitting up. I was hurting not just because of what was happening, but because I felt like I couldn't be honest about it. I lost a large part of my identity, and had no clue what to do except sit there and grieve. These feelings dominated most of the summer, apart from wanting to escape from them. And despite was it looked like, I kept a lot to myself; most of my support system was from a distance, and I didn't want to risk the pain of trying to make everyone else understand my experience. 

Being stuck inside my own head made relationships somewhat difficult, and at this moment I'm wrestling with an interesting mixture of gratitude and regret. I'm not going to speak for anyone, but there are probably some that were upset by the way I acted. I can't imagine the kind of impression I made on those that I was just getting to know, and might have pushed away as a result. I'm not sure whether to apologize or simply say, "thank you" for being there when I was not in the best place. Maybe it's a balance of both.

There's freedom in taking a step back, in realizing that I can't be responsible for others' choices or happiness. I'll have to set boundaries when appropriate, and there are still triggers that need to be dealt with. But I feel a lot calmer now, a lot more at peace. It's all on a day by day basis, baby steps and then some.

And that's why I'm looking forward to starting over.

Photo Credit

December 18, 2015

Not-So-Hidden Magic

I've always had a child-like heart, a natural attraction toward the simple things and stories of make-believe and whimsy and wonder. I've held on to my inner ten year old for close to thirteen years, as I debated on how to nourish her while still allowing myself to grow and mature at the same time. But this past year has made me realize how important that is, regardless if people think I'm crazy, or need to "grow up" in order to be taken seriously. 

I'm not going to pretend that I know the in's and out's of sports, because a lot of it goes right over my head. I get nervous watching certain games to the point where I'm pacing around the room and beating my fist into my palm because I'm not sure what else to do. But when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this past June, I literally felt like a little girl at Christmas; I was jumping up and down and giggling like crazy, forget the fact that I'm twenty-three years old. I do experience a sense of magic when I'm watching any Chicago sport, even if they're losing or the team isn't doing well at the time. My grandfather and I have started an official tradition of watching the games together, or sometimes I'll go to a bar if I feel like it. Nothing really beats yelling and cheering at the TV though; aside from exercise, how else am I going to let all that aggression out? Not to mention that hockey players are actually pretty nice to look at. 

As a creative, I'm not sure how I forgot about coloring books. I heard about the ones geared toward adults a while ago, and bought my first one that was on sale at Barnes and Noble around Halloween. It's really soothing to color while playing some kind of meditation or relaxation music in the background, and I need to put that into practice more often. 

I love affection, and I love people who feel the same way. This one is kind of self-explanatory....

The majority of my favorite childhood and family memories involve being near a body of water. When I went to South Carolina back in March, I hadn't been the ocean since I was sixteen. Even though the water was too cold to swim in, it still gave me a sense of peace, and a little nostalgia along with it. 

I firmly believe that you can never be too old for Disney; I gladly went out and bought the Blue-ray combo pack of Aladdin after waiting what felt like a decade for it to be released again. I watched a special celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Toy Story with a glass of wine in hand and am currently geeking out of the anticipation of seeing the new Star Wars movie. My mom and I have a running joke that I'm going to get married at Disney World, and I will say that I'm a bit overdue for a trip. 


I still love listening to boy-bands on Pandora or Spotify, and the city of Chicago has become like a bit of a playground for me as I've visited different neighborhoods and met a ton of people in the process. I can still eat ice cream faster than anything that's actually healthy. I kind of miss going to theme parks, even though riding roller-coasters tend to make me queasy now. 

It might look like a coping mechanism, but deep down these things are just part of who I am. When it comes down to it, embracing this side of myself is what makes me feel alive. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, especially that we now live in a world that becomes more dangerous and cynical with each passing day. Life is not having to choose between what's beautiful and what's reality, but a balance of the two. 

Someone once asked me what happened to the happy little girl that I used to be; I can now say with confidence that she's re-emerging, albeit ever-so-slowly. I'm thankful for those who are willing to appreciate and celebrate such things without making me feel like an idiot or bad about it. And yes, any man who wants to be with me must be able to bring out that side of me as well, and honor it. 

If it's now socially acceptable for kids to grow up too fast now a days, why can't adults incorporate the other aspect into their daily lives? If it makes you light up, then it shouldn't be ignored, regardless of how old you are. That kind of magic should not be hidden, because it's the kind that teaches us how to fall in love with life.

December 16, 2015

Decision and Transformation

I rang in 2015 underneath a balcony of a twenty-plus year old nightclub, my best friends and I trying to find some breathing room in what felt like a crowd of a thousand people. We spent the first twenty minutes of the brand new year trying to avoid getting trampled, albeit when I look back it was somewhat funny having to crowd-surf in order to get down the stairs. We danced, helped ourselves to free cocktails, and met some pretty attractive men in the process. It very much a once in a blue-moon experience, especially on a holiday like New Years Eve.

I often tried to re-create it several times afterward, from birthday celebrations to weekend trips to Iowa City. It's not that it wasn't necessarily fun as it used to be, but it didn't feel as easy or as natural as it did nearly two years ago. I'd go with every intention of staying out late, but literally would be half asleep by midnight. Whenever weekend plans consisted of simply going to dinner and a movie, I'd start to wonder if I was limiting myself in some way:

Was this normal or acceptable for someone my age?

Would I miss out if I wasn't doing something crazy or adventurous?

Am I becoming a boring person because my interests and priorities are changing?

Some days are a yes, and others are a no.

I could talk about how lately the ideal Friday or Saturday night is a combination of catching up over drinks and then eating pizza and watching Netflix or DVR'd TV shows in sweats. I could say that maybe I'm more inclined to explore the nooks and crannies of my favorite concrete jungle as opposed to traveling the entire world. I'm not one for "dating all types" because I of not just what I want, but what I need in a relationship. If I went out with anyone and everyone, I'd be doing it for the wrong reasons.There's nothing wrong with seeking out substance, and I am becoming more comfortable with resting in the middle, as opposed to going to one extreme or the other. However, I have noticed traces of comparison and even jealousy, which leads me to believe that this is more of an identity issue than anything else.

This is nothing to be proud of, but some areas of my life have definitely been wrapped up in what I was "supposed" to do, or even what I "should" be doing right now. It's challenging to avoid being swayed by articles detailing the ideal post-grad working person, or habits that need to be broken by the time I'm twenty-five or thirty. Some of us mature faster, and some of us are late bloomers. It might take a lifetime to learn how to be productive, mentally tough, or loving toward ourselves and others. To put a timeline on anything is unrealistic, and eventually becomes more about people-pleasing than becoming a better person.

Self discovery often seems like a thirst-quencher after a major change or transition. It provides comfort and security in the midst of what seems like a big question mark of unknowns. The reality is that we never really "find" ourselves, because we're constantly changing and evolving. The only thing I can guarantee to be true about myself every single day is that I am a child of God, as well as a human being.

Maybe it's time to stop searching and start embracing what is in front of me, and what is within me.

It doesn't mean that I stop paying attention or go wherever the wind blows. When I'm in tune with who I am, I'm more likely to be truthful about the reasons behind why I'm doing something and to set myself back on course, if need be. There are things that I've done out of curiosity, but then they slowly turned into self-medication and numbing from what I didn't want to feel (or face). And no matter what I did to try and escape, it never worked. The real hurt came from the fact that I was refusing to love myself as God made me, and anchoring my heart and spirit in my faith rather than my actions.

It's a brick wall that I've run into on a number of occasions, mostly because every time I've tried to get back up, it was by my own strength alone. I know that I need to make some changes in my life, but this time I want to allow myself to be molded by truth, grace, encouragement, and hope instead of trying to do it all on my own.

If you want to call it a transformation of sorts, it is far from complete. It will always be present and always be in progress. This time around, I pray for one major difference: I need accountability, a person or couple of people who can check in with me every so often to see how I'm doing. Whatever this is, it has been a long time coming, and I'm tired of getting stuck in the same dark place on a repeated basis. 

I'm ready. I surrender. And I don't want to go back.

December 10, 2015

When Love Came To Stay

Why is it so hard for you to love yourself?

I repeatedly ask myself this question as I look at my reflection in the mirror, which is now covered in “name tags,” or words and phrases that come together to form a definition about who we are. This exercise comes from an e-course that I’ve been involved with called Be You and Love It, allowing me to wrestle with my own identity, but to also experience wholeness in the process. I can honestly say that it has been a lifeline, and am beyond grateful for the woman who created it.

Yet the question still remains…why is it so hard?

From a general standpoint, self-love seems apathetic, as though you don’t care for anyone else around you. If you speak it outwardly, you’re either labeled as conceited, self-involved, or perhaps even bitchy. In some Christian circles, loving yourself is akin to not fully loving Jesus, or not putting Him above all else. And whether I’m looking at it from a spiritual standpoint or not, it seemed superficial and preachy; as though by following a particular formula, you’d somehow find the answer and instantly feel good. And I can’t stand that kind of sugar-coated thinking.

In my own experience, it has been challenging because I was never taught how to accept the way that God made me, to embrace my imperfections as opposed to trying to hide or change them. It’s possible that those who should have been examples didn’t know how to love themselves either, therefore passing it onto me.  And because certain messages where coming from those older than I (most of them were adults and family members), it didn’t occur to me that their views were only one perspective. Even after I became a Christian, that perspective often drowned out God’s Truth.

That’s exactly why it has taken me thirteen years to fully understand the concept; wherever I turned, there was always somebody telling me that I was not enough, and I felt like I never would be.

I suppose I’ve been afraid to love myself because it seemed to indicate that I had to walk alone.

“Do what you can for yourself, so that you won’t need it from someone else.”

But real love isn’t independent, least of all from God. It’s a partnership, an equal partnership.

Self-love is hard work, and to espouse it means to be saturated in the love and Grace of God. That love pours out onto you, and you in turn pour that love into others.

If we can love others, why shouldn't we be able to do the same for ourselves? It doesn’t always have to involve making a list of personal attributes or reasons why we have worth. I’ve realized that love and acceptance isn’t just rooted in identity; it’s about what we do for ourselves as well. We need to do things that make us come alive because being ourselves is how we truly live. It means setting boundaries, because we know that we can only give so much before exhaustion and resentment sets in. It means recognizing that some relationships are for a lifetime, while others are for a season. It’s knowing when to keep fighting and when to surrender. It’s taking responsibility for our own actions and choices, but understanding that we’re not responsible for that of others.

 For me, it’s nourishing my inner child that adores Disney movies, laughing at random moments, and going on adventures. If I can’t do that, I withdraw.

If love is allowing another person to be human, then we must give our own person that same permission.  Permission to show up, mess up, and not stretch ourselves to where we’re trying too damn hard.

To love ourselves is to merely be ourselves.


I did the name tag exercise after I wrote those words in my journal; I needed to be alone, without distraction and without needing to explain what I was doing. I used yellow for the “bad” thoughts/opinions, and orange for the “good” ones. I started sticking the yellow tags on my mirror, an instrumental version of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” came on my iPad, followed by Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off.” I don’t usually pay attention to signs or symbolism, but something was happening and it brought tears to my eyes. These words, many of which had been stuck onto me over a decade by peers and others in a state frustration, stared at me like a tiger waiting to pounce.

The orange ones were composed of a much shorter list, and I felt rather indifferent as I wrote them out. It seemed cliché almost, as though I’d heard those words a thousand times before and they no longer meant anything. I knew they were true to some degree, but I’ve always struggled with actually believing them. I can tell the difference between a genuine compliment and being buttered up; it’s why I shudder and bristle when a random guy calls me “beautiful” or “sexy” instead of being flattered. It’s a matter of trust, mostly, as opposed to words themselves. I can trust someone that knows my heart and has seen me at my worst, but definitely not a slime ball who only wants to take me home for the night.

But as I looked at them, I kept thinking how none of those names, good or bad, actually define me. Some of them are opinions and some are flat out lies. Others are just reality, and there are even those that have actually become assets over time.


It really is a journey, and one where I continue to grow and evolve, one day at a time. I accept that it is not a singular transformation, and there are days where I’m going to dislike who I see and wish that certain things were different, like the fact that I am deep and sensitive. I’m thankful for those who have been a positive influence, and continue to be as I experience different stages and transitions. I’ve been blessed to know some amazing men and women who exude a confidence and sense of self that I’m almost jealous of. But I’m getting there.

Love does not need a thousand reasons or adjectives, but a simple foundation that offers quiet strength. I will keep saying this until I run out of breath: I am a human being and a child of God, and I rest in that. 

December 09, 2015

It Takes Two

What surprised you this year?

I started going to networking events this summer as a way to not only to meet potential professional contacts, but as a way to get out and and be around people if the majority of my friends were busy. They're definitely a great way to make connections, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's to always be open to the possibilities.

I can't remember who initiated the conversation; it was one of those things where we both saw each other at the same time (albeit walking in different directions) and just started talking. He was a year or two older than I and had gone to school in the city. I discovered that we both shared a liking for adventure and going out and doing things (as opposed to binge-watching Netflix all the time). He was independent and well-traveled, and was close to his family.

He asked for my number by the end of the night, and the best way to describe it was like finding twenty bucks in a washing machine. I'll call him Adam, as he looked more like one than his actual given name. We went out for drinks soon after, and being with him was a breath of fresh air, especially in light of what else was going on at the time. I was definitely attracted to his personality, but there was something about him that was both mature and sexy. He had his own place and was very ambitious.To cap it off, he pursued me, complimented me, and overall made it clear that he was interested.

I might have been getting ahead of myself, but it felt good to be wanted by a man. A man who wasn't a kid. Or at least that's how it felt when I was around him.

But then things took an unexpected turn; we were supposed to go put on what would have been our third or fourth date, and he never confirmed with me what was going on. I didn't hear from him for almost a week, and what he told me that he would explain the details, that call never came either. From then on, communication was sporadic, and I had to literally keep my phone on all the time because if I missed a call or a text, I could never reach him after the fact. I sensed that it had little to do with me, but that didn't stop the insecurities from coming out in full force. The last time we'd gotten together in person, I'd shared a little bit about some difficult experiences in my life, though kept it very-surface level. Let's just say he responded in a way that made me wish I'd hadn't said anything at all, and I occasionally wondered if that had something to do with the void in conversation.

By the time we actually got in touch again, I was very anxious and didn't want him to see me in such a state. It had been about three weeks since we'd last seen each other, but I needed to calm down first. I asked him if he wanted to touch base after Labor Day, but never received a response. We haven't spoken since, and while there are times where I've wanted to reach out, I didn't want to waste my energy on chasing him. It would have just been out of loneliness. 

I was sad at first, partly because of it being over, but mostly because of how it ended. I realized how much I hate being left, or not being the one to have the last word in a situation like this. It was like getting a carrot dangled in front of my face, only to have it taken away a short time later. 

Yet, meeting and getting to know him wasn't for nothing; for once, I was truly able to stand firm in the truth that I am NOT responsible for others' actions, choices, or opinions about me. 

I won't deny the possibility of influence, but in any kind of relationship, both parties are completely capable of being honest with one another. Whatever his reasoning, he should have been able to come to me about it, even if something had changed at that point. We hadn't really defined what we both wanted, and because of that there might have been assumptions on both sides. And maybe it was one of those things where because you haven't spend that much time together, it's easier to just stop talking. 

When that happens, it sure as hell hurts. But the best thing to do is to thank God for the experience and for what it taught me, and to hold onto that perspective.

I certainly can't depend on people to give me peace or closure when this stuff happens, but I do understand now that I need communication with the other person in order for a relationship to work. Regardless of where we're at, that doesn't change the fact that we're human. We might not owe each anything early on, but if he can't recognize that I'm human (whether that be emotionally or sexually), than that's not a man that I want to be with. 

If there's one thing it comes down to, it's this: 

It might sound selfish or conceited, but I stand by it. I can't blame myself anymore, and I won't. I know what I want, but I also know what I need.

December 03, 2015

An Adventure For Champions

Do you have a favorite picture that you took this year? What was the story behind it?

My alarm went off at three o'clock in the morning, and I boarded a train by five. Every passenger was like herded cattle, where all the seats were taken up and I had to brace myself up against a wall in order to stay standing. The train ended up making only three stops afterward due to nearing capacity, so I made it to the city a lot quicker than expected. Right away I knew that this was one of the few days that Chicago collectively woke up before dawn. And being that this was my first time at any sort of sports-related championship celebration, I knew I had to be somewhat cautious. My mom had spent the days beforehand fretting about my safety, in which I reassured her that I had bopped around enough to where I had some idea of what I was doing. After meeting my friend inside the train station, we began making our way through the already-crowded streets toward another's apartment. 

"You look like a woman on a mission!" She was referring to the determined look on my face.  

"Well, it's not every day we get to see the Blackhawks raise the Stanley Cup!"

 Granted this was the third time in six years, but not until now was I motivated enough to stand among thousands and cheer for it. The parade would take place first and then follow with a rally shortly after (we would only attend the second part because we had highly coveted tickets for it). Regardless, I felt like a little kid at Christmas, and was determined to be there even if danger was a possibility.

By the time we made it into the stadium a little before noon, both the temperature and humidity had risen a bit, and I was a little bit desperate for water. I'd chosen to forgo alcohol for safety purposes, and because I wanted to experience this with a clear head. I can't remember how long we waited for it to actually start, but we did pass the time with people watching and eating french fries. 

It didn't take long for the atmosphere to electrify, so much that at one point I simultaneously had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes. It wasn't just about winning or history; it was about being surrounded by well over thousands of people who rooted for and were passionate about the same team. Not to mention we were all crazy enough to be here in the first place. 

I felt happy. Alive. Absolutely alive is the only way to really describe it. And I knew right than and there that it was something I would always savor.

Call me a fair-weather fan or bandwaggoner, though I only avoided watching the playoffs because I get way too anxious. I'd like to think of it in the sense that sometimes you don't appreciate something until you open your eyes and really look at it. 

I was beyond exhausted by the time I got home, but couldn't even take a nap because of the excitement and adrenaline. I'm fortunate to have been able to experience something as incredible as that, particularly in the midst of such a crazy summer. 

My grandfather and I now have tradition of watching the games together (and yelling at the TV a lot). It's one of those little things that make me light up. It's competitive, it's aggressive, but it's also something that I can share with people that I care about. 

And that's the best adventure of all. 

December 02, 2015

When Lists Become Prayers

I have never been a huge fan of lists unless they involve groceries. I'm not one to use a variety sticky notes trying to keep track of everything that I need to do or a calendar of events, though perhaps I should. However, there are two kinds of lists that have become sacred to me; ones that I keep tucked away in my journal, and only speak of when asked.

During my last semester of school,  my therapist and I spent several sessions discussing what I wanted, specifically in a romantic relationship. She suggested coming up with at least six non-negotiables, something that I'd never given much thought to up until that point. I'd been told quite often that my expectations were too high, so I usually kept it at "I want a guy who is nice" (high school), and "I want a guy who is nice and will take me out on the weekends" (college). But I wasn't a child anymore, and if I wanted to find love, it was necessary to not just decide what I wanted, but what I needed as well. It felt refreshing to not only narrow down the important deal breakers, but to proclaim them on paper. Each time I buy a new journal I write them down again on the last few pages, even though by now they're pretty much stuck in my head. I probably should keep them posted on my bathroom mirror, especially in moments of loneliness where my values can easily take a backseat, or I feel like buying into the "twenty-something free-bird" mentality.

I've keep gratitude lists on and off since I was a teenager, but couldn't stay disciplined enough to do it every day. Sometimes the concept seems like one of those happy-go-lucky fads, a band-aid to put on when desperate to ignore reality. Yet, I've picked it back up again recently; instead of waiting until the end of the day and looking back, I record thankfulness as I experience it. I focus on the small, mundane things that don't seem worth being grateful for, but it helps me to recognize the beauty right in front of me as opposed to looking too far ahead or around me. For anyone who has read Ann Voskamp's 1,000 Gifts, it's very similar to her practice. I also took a bit of guiding from Soul Keeping, which my church did a series on about a year ago. 

Translating these practices to a communion with God is a work in progress. When I have my quiet time each morning, I experience the self-pressure to say things a certain way, to make sure that I balance gratitude with what is on my heart. Sometimes I cry when giving thanks, understanding at that moment how much I've been blessed with. 

And in terms of praying about relationships, that can be a tough one. I have moments where I almost don't know what to say, let alone how to say it. I toggle between praying about a person I have yet to meet, and wondering if I've already met him but the timing isn't quite right. More than anything, I don't pray about it often because I don't want to become obsessed or stressed over it. I don't want to use love is a bargaining chip (i.e. Lord if you give me an affection man, I won't curse like a sailor ever again!)

In my faith journey, I've been told that God created us so that He knows our words and thoughts, even before we say them. Realistically, there's no need to pray out loud if I don't feel moved to do so. I'm still getting used to the whole pray-like-you're-talking-to-a-friend formula. 

I think lists are like prayers because they often get to the heart of things, the bare bones of what we want and need. In hindsight, that's what God wants when we pray to him; no embellishments, no ancient language or ritual. Just what is. 

It seems very silly; almost as silly as saying, "and please let the Bears/Blackhawks/Hawkeyes/Cubs win, AMEN!!" But if that's how God made me, than why not welcome the cheesiness? Who says sacred can't be light-hearted and almost humorous?

Writing that stuff down (length aside) is a way of remembering. I want to look back. I want to remember. For the memories, no matter how painful, are the ultimate prayers. 

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