because we change

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Think about all of the transitions you’ve been through during this season of your life.  Maybe you’ve began to raise a beautiful human being that exists with an infinite amount of possibilities or  became a beginner again as a new college student.  Perhaps you’ve had to navigate this portion of your life without the comfort of a hand you’ve previously held, tiptoeing  atop the earth knowing that a part of your soul is in the sky.  I like to think that parts of our selves,  like leaves, fall to the ground during autumn too.  And perhaps the only thing we will ever come to know is that it all changes; the leaves, the weather, our existence.

 

I moved to a new state four months ago and said goodbye to some of my hearts greatest treasures.  I left a job I loved and became surrounded by new people, the mountains, and a different culture.  I became a stranger in a city I once somewhat knew, lost again amongst all of the streets and forever trying to find my way.  There’s nothing like change in the literal and figurative weather to stir things up inside, creating room for us to reflect, grow, and heal.

I like to think of our individual cracks-  the hurts, disappointments, setbacks, heartbreaks, failures, traumas, and losses- as the same veins that characterize our favorite marigold yellow, burnt orange, and red leaves.  For the leaf, these veins carry vital nutrients; for us, the life lessons, experiences, and unknowns meant only for our hearts. I believe that some of our most beautiful lessons can be our most painful experiences, if only we might be able to find the meaning deep within ourselves.  Within each crack is the ability to be transformed and soothed. I am not suggesting that we forget, but am gently offering that we don’t have to hold on to everything.  I believe we find the strength in our healing.   The trees teach us that we must learn to let go, that we can find sweetness in the fall.  My sweet friend, we can be shattered and still rooted to the ground.

 

During this transitional period of your life, what would you like to let fall to the earth? We can let go of people that are no longer parts of our stories, experiences that only remind of us of pain.  We can let go of the beliefs we’ve held on to about ourselves that feel real but are not true.  We can let go of expectations about we are supposed to be be, knowing that we don’t have to be everything for everyone.   We can let go of the messages we’ve created or received about our worth and allow old behaviors to fall away, making room for something new.

We can offer ourselves more time, sunlight, or compassion.  We can be good to ourselves so that one day, we will open our eyes and find that everything is covered in light again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my dear friend, our favorite season of fall only exists because things change.

you’ve transformed in beautiful and difficult ways; this is your gentle reminder that we can do hard things.

 

…because of roadmaps and treasure chests.

as you may know, i am the kind of person that is easily overwhelmed.  by the kindness of a waitress on an ordinary day or the breeze that blows through the summer air. and on a daily basis, i am overwhelmed by the indifference of the world in light of all the suffering that takes place. i get anxious about small things like passing a licensure exam or an interaction that didn’t go as i had hoped. and i’ve always been the kind of person that can be overwhelmed by how much i have left to do and how little i have done.

so it’s no surprise that i was standing in the hair and make-up aisle when i was suddenly overcome by the number of products i was surrounded by.   hair extensions, highlights, blush, foundation, and mascara.  eye shadow, lip liner, and eyelash extensions. age-defying cream and wrinkle prevention lotions.  there are lotions and sprays and tanning beds. straighteners, curling irons, and hair sprays.  the magazines that tell us what we are supposed to look like, the headlines that call on us to be thin, tan, and flawless. the implications that our outward appearance is a determinant of our individual worth.  and all i could think about was how many products tell us that the way we look- the way we are- is not enough.

 

i don’t watch television and i generally don’t skim through magazines, but i hear the messages all the same.  we tell them to ourselves.  we’ve been trained to become insecure about a blemish on our face, a haircut that’s a little too short, stretch marks on our stomaches, or weight gain in all of the wrong places. to be clear, i wear make-up on a daily basis and i work out as often as i can, i reward myself with new clothes and even bought eyelash extension cream once.  in no way am i suggesting that there is anything wrong with wanting to feel beautiful and confident, i just don’t believe that a flawless outward appearance is the only way to get there.

in high school, someone once told me that it didn’t matter whether or not i understood advanced placement calculus because ‘at least i was pretty.’ while i understand that they were trying to be comforting, encouraging, and nice, i can remember my exact feeling of outrage. the anger that arose because i was supposed to feel relieved by someone’s perception of my outward appearance; of the implication that the way i looked would somehow be enough to help me get a scholarship so that i could go to college.  that somehow the way i looked would help to determine whether i would develop enough self-discipline to finish what i started, that somehow my appearance would help me to further my career. and i remember wondering when ‘being pretty’ began to outweigh our intelligence, capabilities, attitude, and our individual contributions to the world.

i find that sometimes we place so much emphasis on what our body looks like that we forget about the amazing things it does for us. your legs- regardless of their length and width- have carried your body for all of these years.  they have held you up on your weakest days and were there with you to jump for joy in moments of celebration.  they’ve ran through the grass during summer nights of hide and seek and they’ve rooted you to this earth. and your arms, they work. they can bend and they can write. they can pick up a child and hold another’s hand.  they’ve helped you to feel objects and to build things, they are your ability to reach out to the world. your mind, it is a wonderful, magical, and complex tool that continues to guide your perception and understanding of the world.  i could go on, but you get the point- each and every one of your body parts has served you in some way. each and every part continues to do something for your life. let’s not forget that every minute detail of your being is made with extraordinary and intricate capabilities.

 

 

i have always believed in not being attached to something as impermanent as our physical appearance.  of being attached to short hair, long hair, thick hair, or thin.  of what color it is or what color it’s not. of not being attached to the number on a scale or the amount of space between your thighs. the way you look can change.  it will change. and it is always changing. i was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who taught me that what i looked like was not who i was.  it has never been my job, responsibility, nor my dream to be beautiful.  i am not alive for that purpose.  we all have so much more to offer the world than our physical appearance.

 

who you are as a person, that’s what matters. that is what is constant.

are you beautiful on the inside?

 

 

i believe in intelligence. i believe in the ever expansion of your mind through books, travel, and new experiences.  i believe in having conversations with people who have a different point of view than yours and in staying current on world events. of challenging yourself to set higher expectations and to dream bigger dreams. and i believe in health. in eating healthy, nourishing your body, and being good to your soul.  i believe in exercising to add longevity to your life, to add strength to your mental and physical abilities, and to foster self-discipline. i believe in pull-ups, cardio, and strength-training.  i believe in getting adequate amounts of sleep so that you are energized throughout the day. i believe in confidence and beauty in the form of a smile to a stranger, of a hand that reaches out to help without question or reservation.  kindness towards others, determination to succeed, and the courage to forgive; that is beauty.  our internal integrity, our ability to respond with grace, the gifting of our time, and the mark we leave on the world- that is the beauty that should define us.

 

 

i believe in beauty that is real.

in the naturalness that can be observed when you become unapolgetically who you are.

 

 

i believe in our bodies serving as road maps to remind us each where we have been.  that scar on my left leg from the bike crash i had as a second grader, the indentation above my left eyebrow where i ran into a door, and the deep stretch marks on my thighs and around my knees when i went through my first big growth spurt in seventh grade. i believe in growing old and your body having all the proof to show it.  i believe in wrinkles.  i believe in flaws, blemishes, and stretch marks.  laugh lines for a life well lived. greying hair for all of the challenges you have overcome.  extra weight around your midsection from the babies you’ve birthed, from the celebrations you’ve had the opportunity to experience, from those delicious desserts you were able to indulge in. worry lines on your forehead for the uncertainty you felt during troubling days. i believe that your body is a treasure chest holding within it all of the goodness you’ve received, the love you’ve given, and the pain you’ve endured.

 

 

you are more than beautiful.  and you are more than something to be looked at.

 

 

 

you are strong. you are brave. you are intelligent.                                                                                                                                      you are kind. you are funny.                                                                                                                                                                              you are a giver, receiver, a dreamer, and a doer.                                                                                                                                        you are an athlete, a thinker, an encourager, a creator.                                                                                                                            you are as bright as the sun and you are so much more than the simplicity of your outward appearance.

 

 

you are so much more.

…because we are leaves.

by now you probably know that i like to collect leaves on a regular basis. i really do love them that much.  you might think it’s because of their perfect golden and amber colors or the crunch they make when you step on them on a cold day. but mostly, i like leaves because they are a lot like people. i’m not a leaf expert, trust me.  but did you know they are designed to maximize their exposure to light? and they are carefully arranged on a plant so as to not shade one another from the sun, to make sure they all grow. kind. that’s what those leaves are. and these vibrant oranges and sunshine yellows have evolved to adjust as necessary to obtain what they need. you see, they do their best to do their best. and from what i know, leaves are a product of their environment; their design and structure is dependent on the climate they came from and the external factors they were exposed to– like available nutrients and posed threats.

don’t you see?  humans are the same.

 i believe we are designed to search for the good. and i believe we all thrive when we have enough exposure to light–whatever it is that your light may be. and much like leaves, when people are being their best selves, we allow room for one another to flourish. and we help each other get there. we are products of our experiences, environments, and challenges. and i believe whole-heartedly that we each, individually, are doing our best, despite our present circumstances.  we too are weathered. and that’s what make fall, and all seasons of our lives so beautiful.

and did you know that leaves don’t actually fall?  they are let go of by the tree; by gracefully drifting to the ground they help the tree survive. and as they lay there decorating the earth’s ground, they contribute their remaining nutrients to the soil. every bit of their ‘life’ characterized by beauty, grace, and selflessness.  

the leaves fall, land, and change for a reason.

we do too.

and so if you can look down at the ground and find beauty in the leaves that have fallen from their tree, can you do the same for people?

when you see someone going through a difficult time or living their life in a way that is incomparable to yours, can you challenge yourself to place them in a different light?  before you make that harsh judgement, can you look them in the face and find their beauty?  can you appreciate their uniqueness? can you remember how beautiful they once were and still are? can you remember, that like leaves, seasons change for people too? and can you adjust your life accordingly so that they too can have some exposure to light?

leaves have taught me that just because someone may not be high up on a tree, radiating their best autumn color, does not mean they are not adding brightness and value to the world.

 

 

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and at the end of your life, i’ll wonder how gently you walked the earth.

did you plant something that will grow?  a seed of kindness? a smile on your face to light up someone else’s? a vegetable garden?  a whisper of hope?

and did you grow your roots?  did you invest in something that will outnumber all of your days?  did you form loving bonds with your family members that cannot be undone?

and did you sit in silence on a cool, fall day and marvel at the wonder of the world? did you appreciate it’s beauty? did you offer it thanks?

did you take a deep breath in, close your eyes, and tilt your head up to the sky?

and did you allow yourself to see how perfect it all is?

…because of my first summer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8R399dzIHU

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it was two days full of ‘center of the universe’ snowcones and jalepeno corn dogs. bottles of water and fedoras. we sat in the unbearable heat on the  fleece blanket i made my boyfriend and played card games while we waited. it was the ‘gentelmen of the road’ tour this weekend and we went to hear mumford and sons play. the silence of the crowd as we all listened intently to their musical talent was well worth the nine and a half hours  we endured in the sweltering heat.

and though it may still be over 90 degrees, i kind of considered it to be my farewell to summer.  my first non-school summer, which meant no staying up all night and sleeping in all day.  it meant not getting to spend my afternoons stretched out in the grass reading or eating snowcones all day.  there was no getting lost in the streets of new york city or  traipsing  around croatia with the wind in our hair. but this summer was one of new kinds of new experiences. weddings. forming new friendships and re-connecting with old ones. it was a summer of working harder and doing better. my first professional career growth and lessons about being an adult without feeling like an adult. it was a summer of adapting to what my life currently is while still reaching for all that it can be. 

 

and i always like the shift from summer to fall, from fall to winter, and winter to spring.  the ease with which we transition from laying outside in the grass on a blanket all day to cuddling up on the couch with a warm cup of tea. i like seeing us looking forward to change.  the excitement that is centered around a new season and different kinds of days.  the anticipation of colder weather, pulling out our scarves and boots, eating homemade chili and drinking chai tea.

 

and so i wonder if we could learn to be grateful for the changing of other seasons in our life.  the ending of a relationship, the farewell to the familiar, the beginning of a new job. seasons of career decisions, changed hearts, and transformed points of view. i wonder what it would be like if we could embrace those difficult days in the same way we appreciate the crisp air and vibrant oranges, burnt reds, and perfect yellows. i think life provides us with constant change in the same way that the earth provides us with seasons; we may want to hold on just a little bit longer, but there is always beauty in letting go. look for it. find it.

 

celebrate the shift from certainty to the unknown  in the same way we look forward to wearing those boots and scarves; move as seamlessly from an old expectation to a new beginning as we do from cold lemonade to hot tea and pumpkin flavored coffee. from fresh cut grass to stepping on those crunchy leaves. change might be hard and uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be labeled as bad.  change is what you make of it, what you learn from it, and what you do with it. and that can always be a good thing if you let it be.

 

so what if we could just let it all go, and let whatever it is just be.  without trying to resist, judge, or change it.  what if we could accept difficult days and move gracefully with them to wherever they take us.  it may sound cliche, but what if we really could dance through life like those leaves in the wind, twirling and winding. landing wherever you fall and moving on.

because the fall is a beautiful thing.

 

 

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and even though fall has been my favorite season, what i’m really looking forward to is all the change that comes with it.


…because of mirrors.

i’ve been trying to figure out how to write about self-love and somehow i keep getting drawn back to the girl at the mall rolling her eyes and saying “ugh, she’s so fake” behind my 16 year old self after I smiled and complimented her outfit, or the group of teenagers sitting outside the hall after class during my senior year telling me my clothes didn’t match.  i keep going back to the comments that have been said about my dark skin, disastrous hair, and annoying personality.  i’ve heard some of the putdowns with my own ears, and i’ve heard about the rest from others.  it’s kind of funny how eight years later i can still recall the exact store.outfit.person. that hurt my feelings. the person that first made me feel insecure about who i was. and not only can i remember the first person, i can also remember all of the others.

 

for me, the moments are isolated.  and to be clear, i can’t pretend to know what it feels like to be bullied while growing up;  i got along with everyone fairly well, was in a lot of activities and feel like i had a lot of friends. and from what I know, i was generally liked by my peers. but i do know what it feels like to have someone challenge your self-worth–to make you feel insecure. then and now, i’ve kind of fought this internal struggle with being the kind of person that everybody likes while not compromising who i am in an effort to seek approval from someone else. 

the truth is, i think self-love is a journey. 

 

maybe for you it comes easy, or maybe you are still on the road trying to figure out what that means.

wherever you are at, i think it is important that you get there.

 

because when i think about self-love, i think it is colored by other people’s opinions of ourselves. and i especially think that too often, our self-worth is influenced by those who think the least of us.  by the girls who talk behind your back or make fun of the way you look.  by the people who judge you based on your personal beliefs or sexual orientation. by the guys who make you feel insecure about the way you look or what you stand for.  by the person that won’t return your phone calls or text you back. by the customers at a restaurant who say “that girl needs to take a bath” when actually referring to the color of your skin.

maybe you care about what other people think about you, and maybe you don’t.  either way, i hope you care about the way you perceive yourself.

 

 

i’d like to believe that along the way i’ve grown a thick coat or tough skin.  but the reality is that i’ve developed an internal mirror. i’ve been able to develop this sense of security about who i am as a being, an ability to look at myself on the inside.  and so i’ve learned that the more sure i became about myself, the less i had to be defined by what other people had to say about who i am. 

i’m lucky to have a strong sense of self–who i hope to be, and what i stand for.  but it’s come through lessons and challenging myself to care more about what i think of myself than what someone else does. and on some days, it’s harder than others.

along the way i’ve learned that just because someone sees a part of myself as a flaw, doesn’t mean I have to.  that the better i am able to accept my weaknesses, the less someone is able to use them against me.  i’ve learned to care for people, regardless of their opinion of me. and i’ve learned to accept people how they are. I’ve learned to differentiate when someone’s actions and words are more of a reflection of them than they are of me. i think some of self-love is about confidence, and some of it is about self-esteem. and then some of it is about knowing who you are and what you are not.  and i think it’s about being okay with other people’s perception of you.

 

and at the end of the day, i think most of us want to be liked.  we want to be accepted. and we want to be loved. i hope it starts with yourself. but the reality is that sometimes- even when you are sure of who you are- words still hurt and they still burn. i hope you remember that what you say matters. that you have the power to challenge someone’s security.  that the things you do can hurt someone else’s heart. that it doesn’t feel nice to be mean.  and i hope you remember that your actions and words are always a reflection of yourself. and i hope you hold yourself to a high standard.

 

 

and then it all goes back to self-love.  i think if you can develop an appreciation for who you are as a person, you can start to respect who others are as people too. 

 

 

 

 

 

…because i usually can’t cry while i am running

i started crying on the treadmill today. one mile in, just as i had turned the volume on my music up and increased the speed.  i am generally good at blocking out the rest of the world as i try not to die while running- so i really didn’t realize that i was actually noticing anything, until i was overcome with emotion.  and then it was me, falling behind on a too fast paced treadmill, struggling to push the buttons to slow down the speed, staring at a couple across from me, crying.

i may be a little dramatic or emotional, but i also take pride in my hypersensitivity over how wonderful the world is and how amazing people can be. after starting this blog project and making a conscious effort to find the good each day had to offer, i became very easily to move me to tears. i don’t know how many times i would find myself in my car literally overflowing with gratefulness. tears streaming down my face because i had just witnessed a random act of kindness, warm gesture, or love.  maybe it is silly, or maybe i just really am in love with the world that much-despite all of its flaws and the work that needs to be done. 

today i was crying because on the opposite side of the room was an older couple i frequently see at the gym.  they were doing incline on the treadmill and had been there longer than i had.  like me, they were sweating profusely.  the man was gripping the sides of the treadmill and the woman was breathing hard.  it was obvious they were tired. but what was more obvious was how hard they were trying- how hard they have been trying.  this couple is always there before i arrive, and generally stay later than i do.  i’ve watched them work together in figuring out how to use the machines and cheer each other on. and i’ve also watched them make progress. i don’t know their names and they don’t know how much their effort means to me-well, not yet anyway. there is something moving-no pun intended- in seeing people try to make themselves better.

 

what i am trying to say is that the world is beautiful and i hope you notice it. 

 

i don’t say this to discount all of the bad, horrific actions and events that take place on a daily basis. nor am i suggesting we simply accept the world for what it is.  i say this to remind you that despite all of this, wonderful, ordinary, and extraordinary things are unfolding all around you. look for those.

and let them amaze you.

…because of scattered florets

for me, home is not so much a place as it is a memory.  

it’s making mud pies at the bottom of the stairs outside of the apartment complex i lived at while our house was being built.  it’s watching kids get their first kiss behind the dumpster in the parking lot. home is the cold winters, the harsh winds, the empty space.  home is that brick house with the large rock i carved my name into, its the trees we planted and the branch i attempted to whittle. home is jumping off our back porch onto the trampoline during sleepovers in the middle of the night. it’s looking at constellations with my uncle’s telescope.  it’s the thirty-two stuffed animal monkeys that filled up every inch of my closet- all with their own made-up names, personalities, and stories.

home was also my first and second good-bye. to the biggest pieces of my heart and the harsh reality i wasn’t ready to understand. and home was down the street at my best friend’s house, crying on her driveway on the night before i moved away. home was ap chem club and early morning student council meetings.  it was collective action and singing ‘don’t stop believing,’  into the end of a broomstick. and it was those friday nights, themed outfits, and cheering for our team. those mountains.tumbleweeds.and desert.

 

and then home was that fall. those leaves. the excitingness that surrounds experiencing things for the first time. home was the cramped dorm room, the cafeteria food, the first big 10 football game. it was failing my first exam and learning how to write a paper.  it was making my first new friend and staying up all night. it was study dates in the quiet room at the union and in the grass.  it was the black squirrels and bubble tea. the trees. the air. the water. it was all the places i had the opportunity to go to. louisiana, tennessee, and new york city for the first time.  it was expanding my knowledge, and learning about the world.

at one point in my life, home was on a ship in the middle of the ocean. the vibrant colors of Turkey and the conversations over tea.  it was getting lost in Marrakech and running through the bazaar. home was those four short months; a four am trip to the pyramids by camel, the candle light dinner in Greece. it was living in and out of hostels, sleeping on dusty trains and cold floors. the unbearable heat.  the navigating. the submersion into different cultures and grasping frantically to take everything in.

home was my first heart ache. my cancelled plans, and lessons learned. it was finding friendships in the most unlikely of places. eventually it became the oklahoma sky,the never ending summer, and that friendly stranger wave.  the dirt roads, the rural homes.the flat lands. it became monday night wine dates, first annual traditions, and happy dances. it was second chances, cupcakes, and personal growth.

 

and through this all, i guess what i am trying to say is to not be tied down by your roots. for me, home has never been about being attached to a particular place or focusing on where i came from; home is remembering all of the places i said i would go to, the person i aspired to become. my home is movement, change, and progress.

 

 

in second grade i found out i was allergic to dandelions after making grass cakes all recess and decorating them with touches of yellow and white dandelions. i remember crying in the bath my mom prepared for me because i wouldn’t be able to touch them anymore. i think nearly everyone’s favorite part about a dandelion are the little florets that you can blow on to see float across the air. the little fairy flowers that spread themselves all over the grass, those little pieces that end up creating more. the thing about dandelions is that they are easily up rooted. and that’s my favorite part.

you see, my home has never been in the roots i’ve stemmed from, but rather, in the growth i’ve made in the places i’ve landed.

 

 

i guess i am more of a dandelion than a tree anyways.