Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gratitude turns what you have into enough

After 11 years of battle, and not much progress, gratitude has proven to be the most effective method for loosening the reigns depression has had on my life.

Like Timber Hawkeye teaches, "gratitude is about turning what you have into enough."

When you think this way, you leave very little room for sadness to slither it's way into your life. Sometimes, in the chaos of our daily routines, we forget to be grateful for the things not everyone has. When we take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the things we have, we feel at ease, because our lives feel abundant. When you train your brain to think this way, you realize there is very little missing from your life. You just haven't been opening your eyes wide enough to truly see what is in front of you. Whatever it is that you choose to focus your energy on will multiply. If you choose to focus on the negative things, or what is missing in your life, that energy will take over. You will feel sadness, you may feel the need to fill that hole with something that isn't healthy. However, if you choose to focus on all the wonderful things that are already in your life, you will feel content in the moment you're in, in the place you're in. You won't wish for more.

At first thought, it may seem complicated, or even overwhelming to integrate the idea of gratitude into your life. You may say: "I am grateful for my friends, family, etc." I encourage you to dig deeper. Why are you grateful for them?

For example, I am grateful for the fact that even though my sister lives 3,000 miles away, my dad lives 1,000 miles away, and my mom 100's of miles away, I never feel that distance. We are still closer than we've ever been, and stay connected through the phone, letters, and visits as much as we can. I am grateful for the friendships that are easy. Even when we are on vacations, and don't live in the same states, nobody has to put too much effort into the friendship, it's natural. We can go weeks without talking, and with one phone call, we pick up where we left off. The people in your life will always be there, and are just one phone call away. That's how you know you have surrounded yourself with the right people.

You can slowly add the notion of gratitude into your life by thinking of three things you are grateful at the end of each day. This helps to reinforce the idea that you have enough, and keeps you happy. Of course, it helps to think about the big picture, too. It helps to avoid taking things for granted.

For me, I've learned to be grateful for life in general. I have learned how much I have taken it for granted by not treating my body in the right way, and not living up to my fullest potential. I see people lose fights with battles much more severe than mine. These are people who were clinging desperately to a life they weren't ready to let go of. But they weren't given a choice. And here I was: selfishly wishing away a perfectly good life.

Everyone is on their own path, at their own pace. It's not only important, but essential to acknowledge and honor the progress of others.

What are you grateful for?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing is...

I used to think it was very strange to see how often writers were writing about writing, and what writing 'is.'

"Isn't it obvious?" I thought in ignorance. "If you chose to write, you must know."

I know now that it's not that easy. I truly believe everyone is capable of writing, but not every one is capable of calling themselves a writer. Although I have been writing since I learned how to hold a pen, I don't know if I would call myself a writer just yet. While most writers often have a set schedule for writing, I am often guilty of being a sporadic writer, which makes me a waiter.

It's not so much that I wait to stumble upon inspiration. Everything inspires me. If I wrote like that, I would never leave my computer. It's more that I wait until it isn't so painful for me to put what I really want to write about in ink. Which is the worst thing you can possibly do, because you lose a little bit. Sure, I can easily write about something else, but let's be real, how many writers sit down and write when they're happy about something.

I hear a lot of people say what I write is too personal, too deep, things along those lines. Since I started writing, I have always been honest. That raw emotion is something that will always be in my writing. I don't care who likes it, or what anybody has to say about it, because what I say will always be the truth.

My number one rule for writing is to never look back. Once I have written what I wanted needed to, I never go back and edit. Often, I don't even re-read it. I have had instances where I wrote about something that really hurt me, and rereading it sent me into a depression. I didn't write for a year after that. I don't reread anymore. I want to move forward. To go back and edit would be a disservice to the moment. If you edit, you alter your state of being in the moment you sat down to write that piece. The words you wrote was everything you were thinking and feeling in that moment. No one was in your head. It was you alone with your thoughts and your emotions. That's where the raw honesty comes from. It's not something that can be toyed with. If you try to fake it, people will catch on right away. You can't feign honesty. That makes you a bullshitter.

Anybody can write. You can sit down and recap your day, write about how much you love your boyfriend, or how much your mom's rules suck, anything. It takes a special kind of person to be a writer. Writing provides a confidence that no other medium can provide. Your voice is uniquely yours, and no one can take that away from you. You have a voice, why wouldn't you want to be heard?

Being a writer is extremely painful sometimes. Putting your most painful experiences in ink is draining. To do that everyday of your life is to bleed. I have never had an open wound that felt so good.

Although it may hurt sometimes, not writing hurts a lot worse than it does to let it out. Think of it this way: if I don't write, the emotions, the thoughts, and the hurt is trapped inside of me. I feel heavy, weighed down. Once it's out, I have confronted any lingering demons that I needed to address, and I can move forward in a healthy way. Liberation. 

Writers are often quiet. It's not because we're weird (well, sometimes), but I think it's more because we're all sponges. We are constantly observing and listening to what is happening around us. Writers are quiet, because we spend a lot of time trying to make sense of a world that does not and might not ever make sense. I like to say writers have a heightened sense of emotion and feeling. We feel everything on a deeper level than ordinary people do. It's not a bad thing, but not everyone can do it. It's hard. Your brain never sleeps. If your emotions have not already gotten the best for you, you feel for other people, too.

Writing sucks (sometimes). It's impatient, painful, challenging. But, it's also liberating, fearless, and beautiful. To me, it's hand-in-hand with breathing: a way to sort through all the noise in the world, and focus on what makes sense, or what no longer does. Writing sucks sometimes, but it is the greatest and most challenging thing you can ever do. Writing sucks sometimes, but I will never put down my pen.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Free Spirit Fantasy

"If you try to tame her, she will fly away, because pretty little spirits like her never like to be caged." -Nikki Rowe


1. the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.

Free Spirit

1. an independent or uninhibited person

I've been referred to as a 'free spirit' quite a few times. I hear the term get tossed around a lot, but I think it's one of those terms that have a different meaning for everyone. While some people believe it to have a negative connotation, I believe otherwise. Everyone is a free spirit in their own sense, as it should be. Life is meant to be lived free. Your soul should feel light and free, not bruised and stifled.

For me, being a free spirit means not being married to any one thing. I am completely open to whatever possibilities life may present me. I am young, single, I am not opposed to leaving my city to explore other areas. I don't have anyone or anything here that would stop me from packing up my suitcase, and leaving. Luckily, I am in a career where I really can be anywhere and everywhere, so long as I have a laptop. And I love that. Nothing in this life is permanent, and once you learn to accept that fact, life will be a lot easier for you.

I think part of the reason free spirits are misunderstood, is because many people can not understand how someone can be so independent. Free spirits don't want to have to rely on anyone, because they fear disappointment or rejection. So before this can happen, they run. While the independence can often be mistaken for arrogance or selfishness, it is quite the opposite. Many people who refer to themselves as free spirits have major or minor pasts that involved quit e a bit of self-destruction. Now, they spend the present focused on self-repair.

When I am not in school, or working, I spend my time off traveling or exploring. At any given time, I can be found living out of a suitcase for months after vacation ends. I love the feeling of leaving, and picking up in a place you've never known. Trying new restaurants, meeting new friends, adventuring up and down roads you've never been on. I love going places where I don't have cell phone service. The sights are for my eyes only. I am seeing them with my own eyes, not the lens of my iPhone or camera. I don't have to check in with anyone, and no one knows what I'm doing at any and every given moment. It's liberating.

I live in a beautiful city. Sometimes, it makes me sad how often that I take it for granted by wishing I was somewhere else. I'm at a point in my life where I'm not ready to plant roots. I'm still moving back and forth between New York and Florida, and when I'm not doing that, I like to go elsewhere. Any time I can, I go as far as I can.

Being free is not trying to be hippie, or any other kind of label. It's exactly the opposite. It's being blind to the 'trends' of what is 'cool' and 'not cool,' and creating your own 'cool.' If you like something, wear it. If you enjoy doing an activity that your friends don't want to do, go alone. If you do what you enjoy without worrying about anyone else, you may meet people who share the same interests along the way. If not, you still spent your day doing something that makes you happy.

I don't like being told what to do. I'm not talking in terms of law or at work. I follow the law, and I love what I do so much, it's almost unfair to the system to call it work. I do what I love, and get a paycheck at the end of the week. I have no complaints about that. My style is very eclectic. I don't think it can really be defined. One day I may dress like a 70 year old grandma, another day I might dress in all black, and another day I will wear a dress and cowboy boots. I have shirts that are ugly, but I love them. If I don't feel like wearing makeup one day, I won't. If you disagree or disapprove of my appearance, I don't mind, because it doesn't your opinion won't affect my decisions. Being free is surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and encourage you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. They accept your flaws, and love who you are regardless.

I'm finally getting to that point in my life where I'm learning to be a little bit selfish, and put myself first. I'm surrounding myself with the people who enjoy my company, and I enjoy theirs. There is no better feeling than having people in your life who accept every quirk, flaw, and unique aspect of your personality. I'm not wasting my time searching for validation, because I have already given it to myself. I've had a lot of loss in the past, that made me extremely protective of the things I love. I guard my family, friends, work life, and happiness with a lot more care than I used to. That's something I'm very proud of. I hope my independence is never mistaken for arrogance. There is nothing shameful about being able to stand on your own two feet, and be comfortable that those feet are your own. Stop measuring your life progress by the checkpoints society tells you you should have hit (college, moving out of your house, work, marriage, babies). Be happy where you are at. Be proud of your accomplishments, because they are entirely your own.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Understanding Depression

I remember being a kid going on vacation with my dad, and crossing the bridges in New York City. Going over the bridges, I was never scared, just curious. Not curious about the length, structure, or the potential of it collapsing into the water. I was curious about why so many people jumped off bridges.

“How could somebody be so unhappy that they want to end their own life?” I asked my dad.

He told me something along the lines of circumstance. So many things have had to have gone wrong in their life that it snowballed into something that was much larger than them. They felt trapped, and desired a quick solution.

I still didn’t understand, but I sympathized. I wasn’t sure why I sympathized with a situation in which I knew nothing about, but I believed that everybody should enjoy their life.

The last time I remember being truly happy, I was eight years old. At eight years old, I didn’t have a phone, I didn’t text, and my parents were still together. At eight years old, my biggest concerns in the world was who was going to take me to basketball practice, and how could I get my mom to let me stay up past 9:30?

I think it’s important for people to remember that depression does not always mean that the sufferer has a bad life, or that they are always sad. For me, I don’t know what external factors causes my depression to rebound like a boomerang, thrashing through my life, whenever I begin to feel the slightest bit settled. It is not something you choose. No human being, regardless of life circumstance would choose mental illness.

It is less about placing blame, and more about finding a solution. We all get to points in our lives that we go through some rough patches. A mental illness is much like any other illness in the sense that it needs to be treated. Why is it that it is so easy to get antibiotics when you have a sore throat, but when someone says they’re feeling blue, so many people try to avoid talking about it? By addressing what may appear ‘uncomfortable,’ we will get comfortable. Life is tough, and it is a lot more bearable when we help each other through it through understanding and compassion. Untreated, depression can be life-threatening.  The world will be a lot brighter for many people when we stop avoiding things we know nothing about. Take the time to learn something new and try to understand somebody else’s circumstance, you’ll become all the better for it.

I am extremely fortunate to have a strong support system in my family and close friends. I am fortunate that when they see me start to slip, they work as a team to pull me out of the darkness.

For me, I have happy moments. I feel as if living with depression means, your equilibrium is set at numb. You are still capable of feeling joy, but it comes in small doses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the sadness comes in much heavier packages. This packages is dropped on top of the sufferer, leaving them lying on the floor, flat as a pancake. At this, it takes mustering all of your inner strength, plus some borrowed from outside support to slowly rebuild the trust in your limbs. When you manage to do so, you stand up tall, stretch your arms out to the sky and soak up the sun, and the weight breaks you down again. The longer you suffer, the shorter it seems the span is between each cycle.

The important thing I think a person can do for a friend or loved one who has depression is be sympathetic. Never ever blame a bad day on depression. I know it can be aggravating when plans get canceled, or moods are low, but have patience. Don’t wait until you are in the same position to develop sympathy. Depression is not something that can be controlled. No one chooses depression, depression chooses you. Whether it is life circumstances gone awry, or unbalance in brain chemistry, depression is anything but a choice.

Be a friend when you see someone needs them. Listen more. Ask what you can do. Sometimes, all someone suffering with depression needs is patience, love, and understanding.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For The Mothers

To all of the mothers-
          To the single moms who serve as two parents without ever blinking an eye, to the dads who have taken on the role of a mother, all the while serving as our superhero daddies, to the strong women in our lives who may have never had children, but loved us like their own; This day is for you to show appreciation for all that you have done, and continue to do, without ever asking for anything in return.
I heard someone say that "thank you" is what you say when someone holds the door open for you, or lets you cut in front of them on the highway. "Thank you" to the woman who gave you life, or supported you throughout your life seems almost insulting: a flat, cliche gesture. So what do you say?

The answer is: there are no words. 

Only actions. 

It doesn't matter what your current relationship may be with your mom, call her. If you have a distant relationship, take the initiative to open the lines of communication no matter how difficult it may be. Take that opportunity while you have the option to do so. If you don't talk to your mom as much as you would like, make a promise to yourself to call her more often. She needs you there. She wants you there. Be there.

There are not enough words to express the gratitude you feel for all of the times you were kept up at night with a hurt stomach, and your mom sat by your bed until you fell asleep. The feeling of relief for all of the times you were going through a breakup, and your mom hung on the phone, listening to you cry your heart out for hours at a time. Whether it was falling off a bike, coming home from school early with a sore throat, or a heartbreak, where you swear your world is coming to an end: mom was always there.

No matter what your dream might have been, your mom always seemed to have more faith in your ability than you believed yourself. Although, she encouraged you to be realistic with your dreams to avoid future disappointment, she wholeheartedly supported any endeavor you wished to pursue. Remember: mom has always been, and always will be on your team. She's wearing the team jersey, after all.

Whether you want to admit it or not, growing up you refused her advice. You wanted to be an adult so bad. You insisted her rules were suffocating, you might have even muttered the words "I hate you" on occasion, out of frustration. You swore you couldn't wait until the day you could move out of the house. None of that was true. If you didn't know it then, you know it now.

The truth is sometimes, us kids tend to let our pride get in the way of accepting the truth from someone we know knows best, all the time. It can be frustrating to admit that someone is right all of the time, and that somebody is not you. Mom, we may acknowledge that you have never been wrong in the past, but we will always hang on to that small glimmer of pride that suggests maybe this time we will prove you wrong. Maybe this time we will teach you that we know a little something about life, too. This is not usually the case. There's a reason they say mom know best.

As we get older, we learn to appreciate moms better judgment and her wise advice that she so desperately tried to pass down to us.

The encouragement she provided never halted after high school. If anything, it only got stronger.
Mom is always the first one to step up when you need guidance, encouraging words, a pep talk or three, or that kick in the ass that you need.

Once in college we have the freedom that we so desperately begged for, only now, we don't want it. In the first few weeks of college and living away from home, you encounter all the things your mom warned you about. You take a deep breath, realizing she prepared you for these moments. Only now it's up to you whether you want to listen to her, or you want to give in to your pride egging you on to find out for yourself.


I for one, feel entirely grateful for my mom preparing me for those moments. Because my mom put the trust in me to make my own decisions, I didn't want to let her down. With freedom comes responsibility. I don't want to test the waters. I'm not interested in finding out what happens if I betray someones better judgment. I wanted to prove that: contrary to popular familial beliefs, lectures weren't going "in one ear, and out the other." I was listening, and taking notes the whole time, and college was my chance to prove it.

Mom, I will never take for granted the fact that I have you in my life. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have your support. I couldn't imagine having anyone else on my side. Although we don't live in the same city anymore, I never feel the distance. Thank you for answering the phone at all hours of the day when I need you. I value your advice in life and my career. To date you have never steered me wrong once. Although you are always right, I can't say that I won't try to make my own decision, just to be sure.

Thank you for all of the times you have been patient with me when no one else was. Thank you for sticking by my side even when it was difficult.

I'm sorry for all the macaroni necklaces. I'm sorry I fell in love with journalism, so macaroni necklaces won't be a thing of the past anytime soon.

Moms, this day is for you, to appreciate all that you do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tampa Tribune Internship: Recap and Wrap Up

This Tuesday was my last day interning with the Tampa Tribune. I've had a great experience interning and writing for Metro.

Walking into the newsroom on Tuesday was definitely surreal, because every week I was there, I felt so comfortable. During the course of my internship, I have become more and more sure each week that this is what I was made to do. I love every aspect of the job. I love the uncertainty. Going in each week, you have no idea what kind of story you are going to write, because it is different each time. I have covered a wide range of topics, and I love that. Each story is different, and it never gets boring. My favorite thing is interviewing people. Depending on the type of story, I like hearing people tell me about what their passionate about, I like hearing each side to every story to allow my story to have that balance. I have heard some powerful and moving stories during this time.

The worst part for me each week was leaving. Because I was only taking internship for two credits, I could only be in the newsroom for seven hours each week. The real walk of shame, I've learned is finally getting on a roll in your story, then having to stop the flow to shut down your laptop and go home for the day. Walking out each day, I debated if I should just bring a sleeping bag in the next week, and camp out under my desk.

Walking in the first day with the other interns, we were so sure that we would be referred to as "intern 1," "intern 2," "intern 3," etc. However, everyone at the Tribune was so welcoming and excited to meet us. Most of the staff knew our names. It was shocking to me to have the managing editor know our full names, who we were writing for, and what section we were with. After introductions, we all were handed reporters journals and press passes. Being the journalism nerds that we all our, obviously we stared at it every hour on the hour, just to make sure it was real. We had our own desks, our own extension number, and our own emails. Prior to coming in, I expected I would maybe sit in the corner of someone's cubicle, or maybe if I was lucky get a chair, and fact check their article before it got published. Honestly, I would have been excited to do this, just because it was in a newsroom, and not a classroom.

This was not the case at all. We all got assignments on our first day. My favorite part about this experience, was that my editor started all of my assignments with, "I don't know how you're going to pull this off," or "I don't know how much you will get accomplished in such a short amount of time, but see how you do," and I pulled it off every time.

I thrive on being challenged, and I love the pressure that being in the newsroom sometimes brings.

I am so grateful for our Professor, Tiffini Theisen for everything she has done for me and all of the other interns this semester. It has truly been an honor getting to learn from you. I have gained so much from Multimedia this year. Who would have thought that I would ever go from not understanding a single aspect of digital to being obsessed with audio, pictures, video and editing?! Thank you for your patience and sharing your experience with us. Thank you for being the guidance that we needed all semester to push us in the right direction, provide advice, and the occasional pep talk that we all need sometimes. You have truly made me a better journalist, and we will miss you so much next year.

I was lucky to work with such hardworking journalists who inspired me and challenged me each day to be a better journalist. Thank you for all of your guidance and pep talks along the way.

What I've Learned:

-Talk to everyone. You never know who someone knows, or what information they have. At my boxing gym, I have met a journalist who works with Nancy Grace, and my trainer has contacts at the sheriffs department. I would have never known this if I wasn't always trying to make small talk with everyone around me. 

-Not every story tip is a story and that's OK. After receiving a tip, do a quick search. Who gave the tip? Are they credible? Is this story interesting? Is it relevant? Is the tip truthful? A quick search will usually be all it takes to determine whether or not you want to pursue the story. 

-Write how you talk. You're not trying to impress anyone, you're trying to convey a story. What is the quickest, most effective way to do this? Write like you're talking to a friend, not like you're practicing for the SAT's. 

-Pay attention in class. Things that come in handy on the job are the things that may not seem important to you at the time. For example, when your professor is teaching you InDesign, or how to look up property assessment or public record. You may not need it then, but you will definitely need it in the future. Also, your professors all have previous experience in the industry. Listen to their advice. Ask them about their career path and what jobs they've had and how they got to where they are. 

-Not everyone will call you back or answer your emails, they often "forget." Persistence. Call back three, four, five times. Leave emails and follow up. Do whatever it takes. 

-Follow up. Sometimes, your story will change before publication. Follow up with details to make sure they are still relevant before your story is published.

-Stay open minded. You do not direct the story, the details that unfold will direct you. What you think is the main idea of the story, may not be the main idea at all. This point may change several times as more details come to light. 

-Every story has at least three sides: side A, side B, and the truth. 

-Don't say "asshole" in the newsroom. More than one person will turn around at any given moment.

-Get quotes from both sides. As a journalist, you do not want to have bias in your story. Get both sides of the story and get enough information that will allow your reader to formulate their own conclusion. 

-Keep a source book. As you gather contacts, it helps to store them in one place to stay organized. You will often use the same sources so you want to have this information on hand. 

-Keep your eyes and ears open. You never know where you'll find a story. 

-Don't bring chili to the newsroom, it smells. (see: Tuna). There should be a chapter on this in the next edition of the AP Stylebook.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Disconnected in a World of Connectivity

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, connection by definition, is a "a relation of personal intimacy." In the age of instant connection, we have become more disconnected than ever as a whole. There are so many outlets that allow us to search friends and family members that we may have lost touch with somewhere in the past. Not only are we able to receive information about where a person is living and working today, we can get updates on their life down to the minute through outlets like Twitter and Instagram. While these outlets have many undeniable benefits, where do we draw the line on updating the public about our day-to-day activities?

Check my Twitter to see my rants about traffic on the way to work, complaints about slow grocery store lines, or passive aggressiveness towards friends who are constantly on their phone, but never seem to "get my texts."

Check my Instagram for pictures of my lunch- did you hear I'm trying out a new diet? Try to contain your "awww" at the sight of my chubby baby legs on #TBT. If I don't post pictures of my boyfriend every Monday with #MCM, is it really love at all?

Where do we draw the line and why do we care about these things? Excessive use of social media inevitable leads to comparing our progress in life with the progress of those we went to high school with, worked alongside briefly, and possibly someone we never even met. Why do we need someone else's permission to accept where we are in our own lives? Give yourself permission to appreciate how far you have come in life. Whether you made it through school, got a promotion, got engaged, you are allowed to cheer yourself on and be proud of all that you've done. That doesn't mean you need to do so publicly.

A relationship is meant to be between two people. Why do we feel the need to share the intimate details behind it with the world? Take more time to focus on building your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, and spend less time trying to frame that relationship in the perfect light (or filter).

Since when did connection mean drawing us farther apart? It's something I think about when I have no phone, because it's so incredibly liberating. Without a phone, I can be fully focused on the conversation I am in. I can actually be in the moment. When I shut down my laptop to go for a walk, go to class, or have lunch with a friend, the re-connection is done and I'm solely focused on the moment I'm in. I'm not catching up with a long lost friend, placing my mindset in the past. I'm not worried about the future and my plans for Friday, I'm only concerned with right now. You have my full attention.

I crave human connection on a deeper level than being your "friend" on Facebook. I want to have a conversation that doesn't start with "what's up." Connection to me is knowing someones fears and why they believe those irrational things are out to get them. To know someone, I want to know their dreams, even if it's a long-shot. I want to know how they plan to get there. I want to see the fire ignite in their eyes as they talk about their passions.

I crave more than an insignificant and distant connection.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

20 Things I Learned Sophomore Year in College

Sophomore year is far from over, but I've already learned so much about myself, and the people around me. I consider myself to be a sponge. I am always learning, soaking up whatever I can. Whenever someone I know talks to me about a mistake they made, I try to see if I can figure out where they went wrong, so I could avoid that situation in my own life. Although it takes me longer to learn lessons from my own wrongdoings, I eventually get the message. I am grateful for every mistake and wrong turn that I've made in my life, because without it, I wouldn't have been taught anything. I am grateful for the people good and bad who have walked in and out of my life, because they have all had something to teach me: lessons that I will hold close to my heart, and hopefully in my mind for my entire life.

Sophomore year far from over, but sophomore year has not been shy to silly slap me with reality, to remind me that I am not always in control.

Here's what came as a result of that slap from reality:

1. Ask for help- I am someone who does not like talking about their feelings, ever, and that's why I write. However, no one can help you if you don't ask. People don't read minds. More than likely, there are a group of people who are ready to be there for you, should you let them in. And you should.

2. People grow apart and go their separate ways- More often than not, we are protected in college by the harshness of reality. The reality is: eventually you are going to go your separate ways from the people you now see everyday. Emails and text messages will phase out, Skype won't happen. Appreciate the memories for what they are, and don't dwell on the past.

3. Sweat it out everyday- I get that after a long day of work and/or classes, you are mentally exhausted, and you don't want to be physically exhausted, too. It is important to take time each day, if only for 30 minutes for a workout. You will never regret it.

4. Step out of your comfort zone- Smile at people you don't know, talk to those who are in the elevator with you. Take chances that you're not sure of. Make mistakes, and dust yourself off. Go at things alone. It is your dream you're going after, and no one is going to hold your hand along the way. If it was a comfortable road, there would be more people on it.

5. Look UP from your phone- Stop hiding behind your screen. You are missing so much. While walking to class on campus, everyone looks like a bunch of zombies, with their heads down, captivated by their screens. Put your phone in your bag, and take a look around. It's a beautiful day, but you would never know it. Would you rather see the flowers bloom in real life, or through someone else's Instagram page? Stop trying to capture every moment, and live in it. Talk to the people around you, smile at strangers, and make yourself approachable. Stop fearing awkward moments, and being scared of silence.

6. Pay attention to how people react to that new guy you're interested in- If your mom, sister, and best friends all hate him, they're probably not wrong. There's something your making yourself blind to, that they can see. These are the people who know you best, and know who is not right for you. Don't be angry with them, but take a second look at what you might have overlooked.

7. Mom is always right- This is a lesson that I will re-learn every year, because I never listen. Your mom knows you best. She knows what people aren't right for you, and may potentially be holding you back. Your mom is the person that is always there to listen to you talk about your dreams, and what you want out of the world. If she reminds you something isn't what you want, or may stand in the way of what it is you want, listen. Your mom got her wisdom from your grandma, so she is doubly wise. When she gives you advice, take notes.

8. If someone is desperate for you, they are of no use to you- Desperation is a sad and lonely disease. If someone is desperate for you, they don't want you. They want someone. They are trying to patch their loneliness with a body, and that body doesn't have to be yours. You are more than that, and you deserve more than that.

9. Trust your gut- it knows almost as much as your mom.

10. When someone shows you their true colors, believe them- When someone acts shady, says something rude to you, or does something that goes against your morals, an apology doesn't make all of that disappear. When someone acts differently than how you perceived them, you have a separate image of them in your head of what you want them to be. You love the thought of them. Take them as they are, and all that they're showing you that they are. If they hint that they're not a good person, believe them, and walk away. Stop putting up with it.

11. Take time for yourself and take time to have fun- Sophomore year is a lot different than freshman year in the sense that you actually have work now. Don't let being busy run your life. It is important to have down time for yourself each day in order to remain sane. Don't let being busy serve as an excuse to blow off your friends. If you keep telling them no, eventually they will stop asking. You have time for lunch.

12. Talk to your professors- They are experts in your field. Most professors are really sweet and more than willing to help you get to where you want to be. Most professors have worked in the field, before they started teaching. Find out what it is that they did, how did they go about getting their job. Overall, just be nice. Show your professors respect. Show up to class, don't show up in sweatpants or your bathing suit. Act like going to class is you going to work, because it kind of is at the moment.

13. Chase your dreams with both hands- Actions> words. Don't tell people what you want, prove it to them by getting it. No dream is unattainable. Go for it.

14. Your family is always on your team.

15. Let people laugh at your dreams- Then laugh harder when you're where you want to be, and they're at home.

16. Smile, talk to strangers, compliment people and mean it.- It goes a long way, farther than you will realize.  

17. Experience everything- If you're presented with the opportunity to ride a mechanical bull, do it. You may get an oddly shaped bruised to show for it. You never know when and if you will get the chance to do that again. Go on road trips that weren't planned, explore your town, explore different cities, and do it with your eyes wide open.

18. Make mistakes and get lost- This is the only way for you to keep learning, and eventually grow. Once you stop making mistakes, you stop living.

19. Don't let a broken heart make you cold- So you've got your heart broken? So have most people. Don't let one broken heart force you to stop loving. Don't take your past out on other people. People are not all the same. Take risks in love.

20. Be a sponge- Learn from everything and everyone. Everyone has their own story, and therefore, something to teach you. Learn from their mistakes, and hopefully that will teach you to learn from yours. It'll come in time.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dream On

One of the many things that I've learned from my family, is that dreams have no limitations, if you're willing to put in the work. 

Growing up in a small town, many people feel like they're boxed into the confines of the town limits: they know everyone they grow up with, graduate high school, attend the local community college, move on to get a degree in something they're not passionate about, settle for a job with average pay, then start a family of their own somewhere along the way, and the cycle starts again. Call it "the small town curse." This is not the case for the dreamers, for the wanderers, for those who wish to explore different avenues in larger cities, and will stop at nothing to do so. 

Growing up in a small town, I didn't know of many people who have left. We've had a few (notably one) who left to pursue music, and they will probably be the talk of the town for the next century. So when my sister told me that she was planning to move across to country to California, to a big city to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer, I laughed so hard I cried. 

"Good luck trying to convince mom," I told her. 

My sister does not talk about her feelings a lot, so I remember this day clearly. She looked me in the eyes, and explained her dreams to me, and explained how hard she is working to make it happen. I believed her, and I believed in her. 

Mom was not happy, but was willing to help her if she did her part of getting into a good school, and getting a reasonable amount of scholarship to make the move worthwhile. She did. After she moved, my mom cried for two weeks, maybe more. Sometimes, I would catch her crying holding on to a picture of my sister. 

"What are you mourning for?" I asked her, "She's still alive." 

"I'm just sad," she cried.
"Why did you let her go?" I questioned, although, the first night she was gone, I slept in her bed, missing her more than I thought I ever would. 

"I would never hold my girls back from their dreams, just because I will miss them," she said. "That would be selfish of me, I want the best for the both of you. Always." 

This would not be the first time my mom would remind us that she is always on our team. She is waving the team flag, she would say. We have to trust her, because she only wants the best for us. I wonder if she ever regrets saying that, when we call her at 2 in the morning to tell her a joke that isn't funny, or we call her twelve times a week, crying over the same stupid boy. 

Since I was ten years old, I never had a home. After my parents divorce, I spent half my time at my moms house, and half at my dads house, very careful that each parent was getting enough time and attention. I never felt like I had a place I could call my own. This continued when we moved to Florida, traveling back and forth from New York to Tampa, to see my friends back home, and leaving behind those I never took the time to make in my new "home." I'm unsettled and still roaming. Just like my sister, I want to find my place. After exploring Tampa, and realizing I don't belong in a big city, I have always dreamed of moving my roots permanently to Tennessee. That's my place, I'm sure of it. It is comforting to me that although the dream might sound crazy, my family never laughed at me not once, but is supportive. 

First step is graduation, which I am trying to make happen earlier. My mom on board, said just like she did for my sister, she wants to help me make the move. This touched my heart, because I have never felt more at home and more comfortable in my situation, than I did while I was in Tennessee. I felt a sense of belonging for the first time. I want to pick up my city roots, and settle for the first time in a small town. I want to work at a small town paper, where I can do what I love everyday, comfortably. My only dream in life is to keep going up. I never want someone to look back on all of my accomplishments and say, "oh yeah, that's where she peaked," or "what happened to her? she was doing so well?" I set high standards for myself, and from here, the only place to go is up. Keep challenging my comfort zone, keep putting in the work, keep dreaming, and making those dreams come to life. 

The only limitations on your dreams, are the ones you impose on yourself. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Write Yourself Alive: Day 17: Romance Isn't Dead

Romance Isn’t Dead 

You are a romantic, you say, 
as we walk hand-in-hand 
towards the sunset. 

So romantic, I thought, 
that your girlfriend is at home 
waiting for you to return. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stop Being Scared of Being Alone

"So what are you doing for Valentine's Day?" my roommate passive aggressively asked me one afternoon. 
"Probably going to watch Nicholas Sparks in my pajamas," I told her. "Same as always."
I'm at a point in my life where I've never felt more comfortable being alone. I'm really proud of my 11 P.M. bedtime. I'm also really proud of the fact that I don't have to share my twin bed with anybody.

The pressure to be in a relationship used to take a toll on me, like it does a lot of college students. I would often stress about it, but I was just never willing to settle for someone my heart just didn't connect with. I was never willing to settle for someone who wasn't everything I dreamed of. I wasn't willing to settle for a love that I wasn't excited about. Love isn't a thing that can be forced, measure in an amount of time, or meet a set of expectations, it just happens. And it should happen naturally, not because outside forces were pushing for it.

I have always been independent, and I have a hard time depending on someone else when I don't need to. My mother raised me to never require validation from another to feel comfortable in my skin, and for that I will always be grateful. My mother raised me to be comfortable on my own, and not feel the need to be waiting around on a man. My mother raised me to never lower my standards, and settle for a man who is sub-par.

It's a basic human need to feel loved. Besides that, everybody wants to be loved. Everybody wants someone to share the journey of life with. Being alone and being lonely are not one in the same. At this time, you may not be sharing your life with someone, but you are never alone. There is so much love in your life that you're not aware of. You just have to open your eyes, and open your heart to allow that love in. Break down the walls, and love will flood in.

It breaks my heart hearing someone I love tell me that they're scared of being alone. I hear it too much. First of all, hello, you're telling someone who loves you beyond belief that no one loves you: that in itself is insulting. Secondly, I just want the people in my life to realize that they're worthy of a love that's great, beautiful, and everything they've ever dreamed of. I never want to see anyone settle for something less than they deserve, simply because they're scared of being alone at a certain point in their life.  I think that's the problem in love: too many people are settling, because they don't think there's anything else out there. If we start sticking to the standards of what we expect from our partners, being honest with them and to ourselves, there will be a lot more happily ever afters and a lot less divorce, I think.

I know a lot of people who are notorious for relationship-hopping. The moment they have a breakup, they're planning dates, and have a new boyfriend or girlfriend the next week. The reason your relationships are failing? You don't know how to be alone! You have to first feel comfortable with yourself, if you ever expect to feel comfortable with another person. If you go through a breakup, you need to give your heart time to heal. If you jump into another relationship too fast, this is when the past sneaks its way into your future. Your old relationship threatens the new one, as you start to put up guards to block issues you had in your old relationship, from making its way into the new one. Solve them first. Don't take out problems you had with an ex, on someone who had nothing to do with it. They are not the same person. Your past should not be their future. If you go through a break up, take your time to heal, but don't be scared to love again. Sure, sometimes things don't work out, but sometimes they do. Sometimes you may get hurt, but sometimes you won't. If you never jump, you'll never fall, but if you never jump, how can you ever feel?

Love more, not less. Love fully, not conditionally. 
I never had a  Valentine for Valentine's Day, but I never felt lonely. I have witnessed so many beautiful loves in my life that have been so inspiring to see first-hand. I have had many of my own beautiful loves. Sometimes they didn't end well, but I wouldn't change the lessons they taught me for anything. I am so grateful for all of the lessons I've learned about love through first and second hand experiences. I have so many beautiful souls in my life that it is impossible for me to ever feel alone. I'm grateful to have family that I can call at midnight to tell a funny story, that isn't actually funny, but they listen anyway. I'm grateful that no matter the miles, states, and time differences that separate us, I never feel distant from any of my family members. I'm grateful for the friends who understand when I've had a bad day, and will turn up the music, and jump on the couch, and dance with me. I'm grateful to have friends where we can fight like sisters, and then get over it once someone wants lunch. Being alone doesn't mean you aren't loved. I feel such an abundance of love in my life, and I couldn't possibly wish for anything more. Once you are comfortable in your skin, and learn to love yourself, all the rest will fall into place.

I never had a Valentine for Valentine's Day, but I want a relationship full of passion 365 days a year, not just 1. And that's what I'm holding out for.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Write Yourself Alive Course Progress

It's day 13 of Tyler Knott and Andrea Balt's 'Write Yourself Alive' course, and I can't believe it. Almost 2 weeks in, and I have quite literally wrote myself dead. These prompts are painful. Often, the prompt of the day left me staring at my computer screen for up to two hours, trapped in my own metaphors, unable to find the precise arrangement of words to properly convey what I was hoping to.

There's pain in honesty, in writing about situations that have scarred you, that you had managed to successfully bury deep for quite some time. There's pain in writing about people that hurt you. To put something in ink means to confront the situation, and accept it. That's painful, and sometimes, a self-induced death sentence. In order to move a matter to ink, you have to pull it out of the great depths of your soul, where it's been hidden for so long.

For Days 1-5 I was committed to honesty. I allowed myself to confront those situations that used to hold so much power over me. I was determined to confront my demons, release them on paper, then stifle them in ink. I felt empowered. I would write my responses to each prompt religiously before I went to bed each night. Writing at night, and writing in the morning is some of the best times, because you have the silence.

By day 5, I grew a sense of arrogance in my words. If I was writing about someone who hurt me, I wanted them to know it. You hurt me, it sucked, I sorted it out in ink. Let's move on. Of course, what's the fun in writing about someone who wronged you, if they don't know you did it? Reed it, and weep. What's the point of apologizing to someone, if they've never read it? You did wrong, and so did I, let's move past it. Each person I wrote about, I sent them the piece they inspired. While I didn't receive any responses, I was never expecting that I would.

While I promised I would open up my wounds, and release the pain, only for a brief moment, and then move past the situation, I submit to the pain. Have mercy. Some things hurt too much to be in ink. I created limits for myself- 'no write zones' so to speak. When you get even the slightest feel of heat when one of your limbs accidentally brushes the oven, you don't hold it there, you move your hand. You're gonna get burned. 

My schedule this semester is hectic, far too much for me, probably. Instead of allowing myself to enjoy 20 minutes a day of doing what I love, I submit to the chaos. I must get as much done as possible, as quickly as possible. I must not rest. I don't have the time to write. The excuses are our comfort blanket for taking action, that we know will change our lives. We are not ready to accept change. I am not ready to accept change.

What I realized is how good I felt after I finally gathered the right words, in the right order to convey what I had to say. I felt powerful. I felt the release. What a relief. I feel no better leaving the words trapped inside me, to flow through my veins, and dance around my brain, than I do cutting open the vein, and letting it all drip out. It may hurt, but all wounds heal. It hurts less to let it out, than it does to fight everyday to keep it in. Like John Mayer said, "say what you need to say."

Two weeks in, I may have tapped out a few times, kicked my feet, and threw my fists in protest, but I am determined to reunite with my keyboard. I owe it to myself to devote the time each day to do what I love. The hardest part is the first glide across the keys, than the hardest part is prying my tight, cramped fingers off the keyboard. If the name of the course is in fact true to the title, two weeks in is the point I should begin to write myself back to life, It only makes sense that in order to 'write yourself alive,' you first have to write yourself to death.

For these final two weeks, I promise to commit the time necessary each day to complete the prompts. I will break down my walls, and release my tongue to say whatever it needs to say the most to feel free again. I will not protect myself with the comfort of excuse after excuse, and let myself bleed as needed. These final two weeks I will be committed, honest, and fearless. These next two weeks I will write myself back to life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hey Pretty Girl

Hey pretty girl,
don’t worry 
whether or not your thighs don't touch. 

Hours spent snared in your reflection
will serve you no good.

Take a step away from the mirror, 
it’s blurred. 
Take a hiatus until you can see clearly. 

It won’t happen overnight, 
but a lesson learned in time. 
Practice makes perfect,
learning to be fair to yourself. 

Quit your pinching, 
your bones were made 
to hold some meat.

Quit your counting, 
you must nourish your body, 
for it is the only place 
you have to live. 

Quit your counting, 
and hide the scale, 
it will only lie to you. 

Hey pretty girl, 
you are not a number. 

Quit your pulling
and quit your tugging:
can’t you see,
you were made

Hey pretty girl, 
quit your crying-
the beauty inside of you
is something far too great 
to overlook. 

Hey pretty girl, 
I’m trapped inside of you. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

I'll See You on the Other Side

“He doesn’t have much longer,”
the nurses informed us.
They remained a respectable distance,
but somehow, still too close. 
“It’s time to say good-bye,”
they said, 
taking a step back 
to allow more room. 

I clutched on tight 
to my mothers hand, 
hoping if I squeezed tight enough,
and shut my eyes hard- 
the moment we were in
would turn out to be  
a horrible nightmare. 

My pop pop wasn’t sick. 
I had just spoken to him on the phone.
He ensured me everything was fine.
The surgery went well, 
and he was at home, recovering.
We laughed, and I told him 
I knew he was a fighter. 
I told him, even though we were states apart,
if he ever got scared, 
to shut his eyes, and know I was thinking about him.
The school year was coming to an end,
and after my tests were through, 
mom and I were moving south 
to be closer to Nanny and Pop Pop.

I wasn’t there then, but
I was there in spirit. All of the time.
He ensured me everything was fine.
It made perfect sense to me:
the source of my strength was
one hell of a fighter. 

He ensured me everything was fine, 
but I still called everyday.
I kept him on the phone as long as I could,
trying my best to make him laugh. 

He would give me a five minute warning:
Judge Judy was on at four, 
he never missed it. 

Our calls got shorter, 
his responses slower. 
But, I still called everyday.
“I will get on a plane right now,”
I warned him.
“I love you,” he said.
“You have school.”

I got on a plane the next day.

My pop pop lay 
in a hospital bed in the sun room,
light shining on his face 
from every direction.
So fragile, yet still so handsome.
So peaceful, yet still so stubborn.
My pop pop.
What happened?

I sat beside his bed for three days.
I held his hand, and told him stories.
I watched Judge Judy, 
and told her she was out of line, 
just like he would often do.
The nurses would rub my back, 
suggesting it was time for bed.
Angrily, I waved them off. 
I didn’t need sleep, 
but to stay right here. 
I hoped he wasn’t scared.

I waited until everyone had left
the room before I cried.

“He doesn’t have much longer,”
the nurses informed us.
They remained a respectable distance,
but somehow, still too close. 
“It’s time to say good-bye,”
they said, 
taking a step back 
to allow more room. 

I didn’t understand the concept.
I wouldn’t say good-bye.
Saying good-bye meant accepting.
Saying good-bye held a sense of finality.
Saying good-bye meant good-bye.
I was stubborn, too, 
I wouldn’t say good-bye.

I whispered desperately through the tears, 
“Don’t leave me.”
“I need you here.”

As soon as I uttered the words, 
I saw the peace my Pop Pop held. 
He had accepted it, 
I was the only one left.
I was stubborn, 
not selfish.

I grabbed his hand. 
“I promise to take care of mom,”
I started. 
“Nanny will be tough, 
but I will keep her in line, too.”
I kissed him goodnight.
“I’ll see you on the other side.” 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I'm Sorry I Let You Drown

We were wrong for each other in more ways than one. Everyone around us could see it, and I think at some point, we may have even acknowledged it, too. Though, we wouldn't throw in the towel until we destroyed each other, just to be sure. 
We were wrong for each other, but we needed each other. Two broken people hoping two halves would make a 
When a relationship is built off a foundation of desperation, the fall is inevitable. We couldn't see that. We wouldn't accept that. We refused any sense, and tuned out outsiders who were relentless in their attempts to see us understand: we were wrong for each other. 
Circumstance had dropped us in the middle of the ocean, forgetting to provide life preservers, like circumstance often does. Two broken people left to brave the choppy, unforgiving waters of life. I didn't know how to swim. I could have forgotten, but I'm not quite sure I had ever learned. 
We vowed to face the waves together. We would find the shore, if it killed us. I served as the arms, and he was the legs. I would stroke, and he would kick. I would stroke, and he would kick. 
When you start out, the sense of determination, the feeling of endless possibility serves as the sail, the driving force pushing you forward. Who needs sense? We carried on for what felt like a hundred miles, just going through the motions. Stroke, kick, stroke, kick, stroke, kick. We seemed to have developed a pattern. We were getting the hand of the mundane motions we had come so accustomed to. 
The funny thing about life is, when you think you’ve got it all figured out, and convince yourself you can tread water, 
life sends you an honest reminder that you don’t control the direction of the sails. No one possesses that kind of power, the 
inflated ego has only blocked out any better judgment
Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, kick, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, kick.
Eventually the legs grew tired, limbs lazy. The arms were forced to kick it in gear in order to stay afloat. 
The arms got faster, strokes harder, determination stronger. The legs got weaker, descending now. If both forces were to go out, they would both drown. There was no sense behind that logic. The legs gave out, falling under water. 
The arms kept going, pushing forward, trying to gain sight of the shore without use of the legs. 
Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke. 
Without the help of the legs working in conjunction with the arms, the arms too grew tired. One cannot survive without the other. Instead, the parts submit themselves to larger forces of the ocean, giving in to the riptide. The individual forces were pulled further from the shore, further from the temporary bond of each other. The further away these forces became, the closer they got to becoming whole. 
We were no good for each other. I think I knew it from the start, but I couldn’t have made it through the waves, without you working as part of me.
I’m sorry I let you drown, but we were no good for each other. 
I refuse to sink with you. 
I’m sorry I let you drown. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

What if it Hurts?

What if it Hurts?

I call myself a writer, 
but I rarely pick up the pen. 
From time-to-time, my fingers 
flirt with the keys of my 
The relationship never lasts long. 

I call myself a lover, 
but I don’t date often. 
Once, with no expectations.
Twice, with hopeful eyes, 
then a dreadful good-bye.
Three times and it gets hard 
to swallow the fact that
relationships don’t often last long. 

I call myself a writer, 
but I rarely pick up the pen. 
       I rarely tap into that place
deep in my soul 
that houses the demons,
       I fought so hard to bury. 

The things we deem unbearable, 
possessing the capability
to defeat us, 
are the things that get buried deep. 

I, for one, am reluctant to 
stir the dust, 
and bring the demons 
to the surface.
What if it hurts?

What if I can’t bear to 
confront the beast 
What if he takes me down?
What if I lose?
What if it hurts?

So I don’t touch the pen.
Instead, I avoid it like the plague.
As if the mere touch of it 
would burn my skin, 
forcing me to live among the demons. 
What if it hurts?

I call myself a lover, 
but I don’t date often. 
I have to much to lose, 
because I’ll give it all. 
I can’t love with half 
of my heart, 
and sometimes I fall to soon.
I can’t stay guarded 
I have too much hope
that there is something beautiful
out there waiting for me. 

I’ve fallen, and I’ve been burned. 
I’ve loved, and I’ve lost. 
I fought, and I lost. 
I built guards, and I broke them down. 
I put them back up, and took a step back.
What if it hurts?