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?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear Brianna

**A letter addressed to my younger self, from the future. 
To Brianna, age 9
From Brianna, age 19**

Dear Brianna, 

I know you are young and impressionable. I know you think these years may be the hardest of your life, but you are still pure, unscathed from the harshness that presents itself in the real world. You are young, but aware of your standing on every matter in the world. You are stubborn, which contrary to the belief of your friends, family, and teachers, is not a bad thing. Protect yourself and guard your stubborn ways, like I am confident that you will. 

You were born with a voice for a reason, don't be scared to use it. Speak up and let your voice be heard. Don't let the world silence you, the fight to tune you out, is a fight that will never cease. Fight back.

 You may choose to pretend like you have no fears, but I know that you do. You have many, and that to me is a beautiful thing. You must live in spite of these fears, and do what scares you the most. This is what initiates growth. Fear keeps you raw and vulnerable, fighting them makes you strong. You are a warrior in the making. Facing your fears is the only surefire way of not being afraid. 

So much time is spent focusing on what others think about you. Worrying about what others are doing, thinking, or saying is putting your life on hold, allowing others to live your life for you. As soon as you learn to let this go, your life begins. Take control of the reigns, and live life in whatever way makes you feel the most alive. Don't apologize for it, and make no attempt to validate your existence to anyone. What other people think of you is none of your business. Becoming preoccupied with these things will only create issues, that most of the time don't actually exist. Let it go.

Never seek validation from a man. When you live life unapologetically, the man of your dreams will come to you, and accept you the way you are. Don't conform, don't adapt, and don't settle, just be you. You are enough the way that you are right now. If the man doesn't acknowledge that, keep walking. 
Don’t look over your shoulder. 

Time is precious, but no matter how busy you think you are, always make time for your family. Call Nanny and Pop-Pop everyday and tell them about your day. They love to hear it. You are never too old to draw them pictures, or send them letters. No matter how old you are, they will always show off the pictures and letters you send them to their friends in the neighborhood and anybody who stops by for a visit. The smile on their face when they open a card addressed to them, from you, is something you will never forget. A phone that doesn't ring, is something you would only regret. They will not be here forever, but when they are gone one day, you are sure to miss them forever. Make the moments count while they are here. There is no turning back the clock. 

You are young, and you are stubborn. You say things you don't mean to the people you love, and you fight with your family. Let go of the notion that your family members are your enemies. They are the only ones that will still be on your team, even if you disqualify yourself from the game. 

Life is too important to be taken seriously. This is something you will learn as the years go on, and the world grows colder. You aren't here for that long, have fun with it, and dwell on nothing.

Be kind to yourself. The world is harsh, you don't have to be.

Dear Brianna, 

I wish you would listen to me. I wish I could save you the time. I wish I could save you the 
heartache of having to learn these lessons the hard way. They are so simple, really. If only you
 would open your eyes and see it. 

Dear Brianna, 

If only you weren’t so stubborn. 

Dear Brianna, 

You’ll learn someday, the truths that were beside you all along. I wish you would take the 
shortcuts I have provided you. 

Dear Brianna, 

Although I was urged to, I took no shortcuts. 

Dear Brianna, 

I learned the hard way, too. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Write Yourself Alive

It is no secret that I admire poet, Tyler Knott Gregson. He has created his own style in the genre of poetry, and brought attention back to the art. Tyler put together a 30 day writing course called 'Write Yourself Alive,' challenging writers to develop a 30 day writing routine to write themselves back to life, and out of their ruts. I feel so lucky to be taking part in this class, and I'm excited to see how the challenge plays out.

As Ernest Hemingway so delicately said, "there's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." While I've only used a typewriter once or twice in my life, I'm very familiar with the concept of bleeding ink. Writing is the only way I can allow myself to bleed all day without fear of death. I consider myself to be extremely lucky that I had never considered what I want to do for a living. My living found me by chance, and kept me alive.

Often times as writers, we are guilty of putting our craft on the back-burner, because the routine of every day life gets in the way. But, do we blame circumstance? or do we have ourselves to blame? One can't alter circumstance, but you can alter the way you respond to it. If you love to write, make the time to write. Whether that time is at 3 o'clock in the morning, or 3 o'clock in the afternoon when you're stuck in traffic. Do what you love. You owe it to yourself. You deserve to do the things that make you happy, and it's time you realize it.

I call myself a writer. I write for HerCampus, our school paper, the Minaret, the Tampa Tribune, USATODAY College, and whatever other publications will accept me. However, when I am not doing that, I am a waiter. I have never once had a routine where I wrote every day. I no longer write for pleasure. The truth is, I'm terrified of my own love.

The one thing I think that holds me back the most from writing on a regular basis is my fear of feeling. Writing is a gateway drug to an endless array of emotions. Although you're in control of the movements the pen makes, you're not in control of what your heart feels, or where your mind goes as a result. I'm afraid of unveiling painful memories, confronting uncomfortable situations that I have successfully avoided for so long. I'm afraid of blacking out, having my mind shut down and abandon me, heading off to cower somewhere hard to find. It's happened before, and it's hard to escape. 

When I sit down at my desk to write, I feel overwhelmed. Where do I start? What do I write about first? The truth is, it is so easy to begin, all I need to do is sit down. Once i'm comfortable, one would physically have to pry my cramped and aching fingers from the reigns of my peanut butter stained keys.

I'm taking accountability for my delay in writing, and changing the pattern today. I'm excited for the challenge, and vow to write every day for 30 days, for at least an hour each day. I vow to be raw in my writing, and not be scared to go to those dark places, that I've protected and hid in the back of my mind. I vow to stop writing for other people, and start writing for myself, and remind myself of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. I vow to stop waiting, and start writing. I vow to confront my fears head on, rather than run from them. I will stick with the uncomfortable feeling for as long as I can bear, then let it go, and move on. I vow to be fair to myself, and let myself create. 

Let the bleeding begin... 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Leadership Exchange in Memphis, Tennessee

"Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar." Orrin Woodward
I am firm in my belief that I am naturally shy and socially awkward by nature, and this is why I'm a writer. I speak at the wrong times, say things that aren't always funny, but people laugh anyway (with me, of course), and I stutter when I do so. But, I love people and I love helping them.

Here at the University of Tampa, we have amazing opportunities to volunteer through the P.E.A.C.E center. Although I have good intentions of going to these trips, I always tend to cancel, because I'm too scared to go. Just a few months ago, fate gave me the kick in the ass that I needed to step out of my comfort zone.

I was going to Memphis, Tennessee for a leadership exchange program to volunteer to help the homeless.

There was no way I was backing out of this one. I signed up alone, not knowing who would be on the trip, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I thought to myself worst case scenario, if I didn't end up talking to anyone on this trip, at least I'd be in Tennessee, and how bad could that really be?

4 A.M. wake up call. That was ugly. Somehow, I was up at 3:15 making coffee. When we all met to leave, it was anything but awkward. I only knew two people on the trip, but we quickly bonded as a group.

When we landed in Memphis, the students from the University of Memphis participating in the leadership exchange were waiting for us at the airport. We would waste no time heading to our first stop. We were planning to help serve lunch at a local homeless shelter.

The first thing I noticed were how many people were at the shelter. Seeing so many people grateful for the chance to have a hot lunch in front of them slowed me down. So often I feel like eating is done on the go. I don't often sit down and enjoy a meal, and think about what I am eating. I am picky as hell, and I shouldn't be. I noticed the attitudes of the people whom we served. They were so grateful, so hopeful. Although it may have seemed like they had nothing, they acted as if they had everything. They had their faith, and that would suffice for the time being. The workers, too were so cheery. It made me smile to see people genuinely happy to do nice things for other people, and not expect anything in return. It is so easy to get caught up in the routine of daily life, and forget about helping other people. No matter how well off you may be, there will always be someone who could use your help. We need people to raise their voices for the voiceless and make a difference. No matter how small that difference may be, one small difference can initiate a snowball effect of improvement in the community.

One of our favorite visits was to Lifeline to Success, an organization that helps ex-convicts reenter society, and change society's perception about them. To do so, members of the 'blight patrol' work to beautify the community. We worked alongside them to clean up around the community. It was cool for us to be able to talk to members of the Blight Patrol. What we learned here is that this community writes off no one. Instead, various organizations work together to boost the community as a whole. We're all people, and people make mistakes, and that doesn't make us any different from one another. The people in Lifeline to Success are not bad people. They are people who faced bad circumstances, which should not define them forever. I am grateful to the members of Lifeline to Success for sharing their stories and their struggles with us, and opening their hearts and trusting us enough to let us into their hearts.

You can read more about our work with Lifeline to Success and University of Memphis here.

Something that is so important to me is ensuring our veterans have proper care when they return home from serving our country. I was thrilled to learn that Memphis has taken action to help our veterans readjust to society, and help them find housing, work, and provide them with the resources they need to adjust happily and comfortably. This organization is Alpha Omega. It was shocking to me to learn that 10% of our population is made up of homeless veterans. When returning home, those that serve for our country are never the same. It is our duty to ensure they have the safest, healthiest, and happiest transition back into society that they can. Alpha Omega ensures veterans will have a home, and counseling when they return.

You can learn more about their mission here.  They are currently working on getting their following up to 10,000 on Facebook. If you know anyone who could potentially benefit from their services, please share this information. You never know, it can change a life.

For lack of better words, this trip has changed my life in more ways than one. We came together with the kids from University of Memphis as strangers to help strangers in a city that half of us adopted, but by the end of the week, grown to love. We quickly became one unit, connected by hope, love, and the desire to make an impact on this community.

Thank you to the kids at UM for giving us such a warm welcome, and being so eager to show us your beautiful city. Thank you for opening your rooms to us and letting us snore on your couches. Thank you for showing us all of the local spots that you like to visit. We look forward to hosting University of Memphis at the University of Tampa in March and reconnecting with our family, and getting back to work on our end. 

In terms of being a leader, I learned that you are never too small to make a difference. Sure we may be in college, but that doesn't mean we can't make an impact. If I were to write a check, I think I have about $0.25 in my bank account, but I've got a lot of love to give. We have time, and we have heart. Sometimes simply sitting with someone and talking to them like we're the same people can have a huge difference. If you're good at math, tutor kids in your community. If you like to be outside, clean up around your local school. Put in time, and expect nothing in return. There are still good people in the world willing to good things for nothing in return. Be one of those people. We are the future. We have the ability to change the course of the future, and if that's not powerful, I don't know what is. 

Finally, I learned that your comfort zone is a lot wider than you think it is. The only one standing in your way is yourself and your incessant doubt. Stop doubting yourself! This life is too short not to be on your own team. The only way to know how things will turn out is to try. 

This was the best part of everyday we were in Memphis. Never have I ever witnessed something so raw and so beautiful. At the end of the day, when I ran out of words to describe how I felt, the sky took the words right out of my mouth and arrayed it in a collection of bright, beautiful colors. I have hope for the future.