My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

To Be Brave

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be brave lately. Unequivocally and unapologetically brave.

I remember when I was five, my dad sat a very terrified and nervous me down right before my first tee-ball game and told me something that has stuck with me ever since. “Kiddo, it’s okay to be scared,” he said. “But if you allow that fear to sideline you from doing something, anything, you’re ultimately giving away your power. And bravery? Bravery is your superpower.”

Papa Hansen from the top rope amiright?

The truth is bravery is a daily choice, a practice, an opportunity to look fear in the face and do the damn thing anyway.

It’s also so fucking hard sometimes.

The Oxford dictionary primarily defines ‘brave’ as the following: Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. According to its definition, there are two primary parts, two very crucial ingredients to being brave – the ability to endure, and courage. I might add that when one is brave, two of these qualities have to co-exist, and they are both of equal importance.

IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND BRAVERY, ONE MUST FIRST UNDERSTAND ITS OPPOSITE – FEAR.

Fear. That dirty, four-letter word. It’s a creeper, a prohibitor. It’s an enemy, and a cruel one at that. Most people don’t like to get to know their enemies, but I am of the opinion that one must not only know their enemies, but also understand them.

If you search “How to overcome fear” on the Googles, InstaFaceSnapBooks and other areas of the inter-webs, you’re bound to be hit with a kajillion inspirational quotes (I love me a good cliché y’all, but for all intents and purposes, I’ll spare you).  The most profound thing I have learned about fear in my 30+ years of life is that there really is no escaping it.

BUT KNOWING THAT FEAR IS INESCAPABLE IS EXACTLY WHY BRAVERY IS A NECESSITY IN LIFE.

When I think of all the people in my life who have been brave, and who continue to be brave (you know you who are, you da real heroes and I am forever inspired by you),  I realize that bravery means many different things, to many different people, in many different moments.

Sometimes bravery means being the person who stands out in the crowd, who speaks up, and is a voice – either the voice they need to hear, or a voice for others. Sometimes bravery means putting up the fight of your life, and fighting till the very end.

Sometimes bravery means going against adversity and owing the remarkable person that you are. Sometimes bravery is taking down those walls and opening up your heart at the risk of it being broken.

Sometimes bravery is simply getting up every day and going through the motions, despite the hurt and pain and struggles you’re going through.

Sometimes bravery means to search for the things and the people who make you feel alive; to take chances, to be a long shot and an outlier. And sometimes, bravery means to be grateful with the state of your right here and right now.

BEING BRAVE DOESN’T MEAN THE ABSENCE OF FEAR – IT MEANS HAVING THAT FEAR, BUT DOING IT ANYWAY.

Was five-year old me scared walking up to that tee-ball tee for the first time? So much nervous sweating, y’all.

And do I still get take pause and get a little (or a lot) anxious anytime I’m standing on the edge of a mountainside ledge, or right before I give a big presentation, or attempt something knowing that I might fail and fail harrrrrrd at it? Absolutely I do.

But you know what, that’s okay. That’s good, great, even! If you’re afraid, it probably means you should do it. And the more times you do it, the less scary it gets.

Being brave is hard, but so is living a half-life based on fear. So do the things that scare you, and take those risks.

After all, that is our superpower.

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When I was younger, I remember my mom and dad telling me over and over to enjoy the little moments, the here and nows, because life has this weird way of going into hyperdrive with every passing year. I never really got it back then; but as I look back on the last few weeks, months and years, their words ring truer than ever.

Life moves damn fast.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately; the things I’ve done, experiences I’ve had, adventures taken and the incredible people I’ve met along the way. I’ve also realized that there is so much that I have yet to do and see and accomplish. And all of that comes by sticking a giant middle finger up to fear and taking big risks. Someone wise recently told me that life begins outside of your comfort zone and he couldn’t have been more on point with that. It was a reminder, and the kick in the ass I needed to get back to doing just that.

Here are 20 little things I’ve learned that life is way too short for:

1. Not petting just all of the doggos.

2. For loose ends, for feelings that were never acted upon and gestures that were never taken.

3. Not asking for a raise because you’re afraid of being denied. At the very least, you’ll learn what you need to work on so that you get one the next time around. Or it will give you confirmation to take your talent and drive and skills where you will be given that opportunity to grow.

4. Not applying for that job because you’re afraid you’re not qualified enough. Speaking from personal experience, you’re probably not giving yourself enough credit. You are a fucking rockstar. And you’ll never know what could happen unless you try. So try! Reach out. If nothing else, they’ll know who you are and remember you. That first impression is priceless.

5. Not introducing yourself to people you admire because you think they’re above you. They’re not, and they were once where you are now. They remember that.

6. Wearing heels when you want to wear flats.

7. Wearing flats when you want to wear sneakers.

8. Living for the weekend. There are seven days of the week, seven opportunities to see that show and go to that dive bar and stay up until the wee hours with your best friends, laughing until it hurts.

9. Letting the actions of other people dictate your own happiness. FOMO is a real, 21st century phenomenon. Just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s not bullshit. Live your life offline. Photo-worthy opportunities will arise naturally because of that.

10. Not telling people how you feel, whether if it’s that you love them, or that you have a great idea, or that you feel used or alone or scared or happy. Express yourself, at every chance you can. The people who care about those feelings are the ones to keep around.

11. Worrying about those five pounds. Kids, trust me when I say that nobody but you knows they exist.

12. Not standing up for yourself.

13. And your work.

14. And what you believe in.

15. And what you deserve.

16. Holding onto a grudge. There is great power in forgiveness, in others and yourself. You never know what’s going on with someone behind closed doors. Practice kindness and show compassion. The world could use more of that.

17. Beating yourself up for a mistake. Apologize once, and then work to make it better, but also remember to forgive yourself for being — of all things you might have the audacity to be — human.

18. Not watching cheesy movies or listening to catchy pop songs because you think you should have better taste than that. Netflix is full of fluffy rom-coms that do nothing but provide joy. Thinking you’re above a little lowest common denominator happiness just means you’re denying yourself potential happiness. It doesn’t make you any more high brow than anyone else.

19. Filling your life with so much unnecessary stuff just because it was cool or hip or you wanted it in that moment. You can’t take your mounds of stuff with you. Stuff doesn’t mean anything in the long run. You can’t put a price on the memories you make and the experiences you have. Sometimes practicing impulse control is only getting us ready and excited for the stuff that’s really worth it.

20. Not eating dessert. Like I said, you can’t take it with you, and that includes whatever jiggle you earned from eating that really delicious cookie. Or donut. Or cookie-flavored donut. Life will be sweeter for it.

Life moves damn fast.

So take the damn chance. Get on that plane, send that person an ‘I’m sorry’, tell them that you love them, that you’re IN love with them. Drive all night to see someone in the morning. I don’t care if it makes you vulnerable, if it exposes you. Expose yourself. Open the hell up.

Let life fill you with hurt, with happiness; let it weather you, let it teach you. Let it inspire you, let it break you down and build you up. You are here to risk your heart. And create moments and experiences and do things that equate to living a “F*CK YES!” life.

Please don’t ever forget that.

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The smiles will be lost to memory long before the laughter stops echoing in our heads, and the hazy feelings will linger in varying degrees. The hangovers will be forgotten as soon as we say, “Never again,” so intently in the moment, so disingenuously in reality. We will immortalize these memories one pixelated, filtered photo at a time. We’ll text and call and post and tweet that we’ll do it again, do it soon, do it together.

I was 11 the first time I ever said goodbye to anyone. My grandmother was ill for a long time, and we knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it easier. We grieved, we coped, and we honored her memory. She’d lived a long and incredible life, and inspired everyone she knew, me especially.

Years later I said goodbye to another person I loved, though it felt different, harder in a way. It was a few days after my 24th birthday. My cousin who had been dealing with severe depression took his own life. There were so many questions left unanswered, and guilt, a feeling that I could’ve done or said something to prevent this from happening. I was inconsolable. Not only because I missed him — I did and still do, terribly — but also because he had so much to live for. We all did. We were so young. Youth is often wasted on the young, as they say.

He hardly had that chance to waste it though, before it was wasted on him. It felt unfair. It was unfair. Loss always is.

 No matter how much we try to evade it, loss is inevitable.

It hurts every time, and we can’t outrun the hurt. We’re not supposed to. And that will be okay. We will grieve and mourn. We will honor and remember them. They are indelible, not just on our minds, but in our hearts too. We will learn how to live anyway, not quite for them, but not without them either because still, we will keep little pieces of them with us always.

Because living in the here and now is less about living fast and risking the consequences, but more about living deliberately — making our lives worth living, and living them the way we would have with the people who maybe didn’t have the chance we still do. So we laugh more and stay up later and travel further and run faster and take bigger risks and love harder. We search for that one mark only we can make in someone else’s memory, in someone’s life, in the great expanse of knowledge and in the world. And we don’t stop until we find it, and even then, we keep going. We keep living.

Though we may one day be gone, our memories won’t be.

How we made other people laugh and think and feel won’t be, either. The things we did and said and made and contributed will be our legacy, and whether it’s conscious or not, we aim to leave good ones. Legendary ones, even, in our own small ways.

So laugh louder and hug fiercely and brave the late nights that turn into early morning hours as best you can. Make more, do more, stop worrying about the possible negative outcomes. The ends will outweigh the means as long as you keep pursuing both simultaneously. Love someone so much your heart is fit to burst, and love as many people as you can this way. Love everyone this way, if you can help it. Everyone deserves that kind of radical love, and being free with your love doesn’t make it any less special.

Make a tiny masterpiece out of caring for another person. Start with a small bit of wonderful.

You’ll eventually realize that was always the only thing you needed. 

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When you think about the person who has a big heart, who cares deeply and cares hard, it probably conjures up a lot of assumptions.

They cry at movies and get weepy at commercials (woof, it just got dusty in here all of a sudden). They care about strangers more than they do themselves sometimes, they light up at the possibility of helping someone or making them smile — even if they have nothing to give in return — and feel things so strongly and so deeply, that those feelings often make their decisions for them.

They lead with their heart instead of their head.

You might mistake this person for being impulsive, for a ‘leap before they look’ kind of guy/gal. And in a way, you’re right. Because the head says ‘wait’ but the heart says ‘go’. And they’re not the kind that can ever sit still when their heart is telling them to run somewhere.

But painting them simply as someone who has too many feelings and too big of a heart, who doesn’t have enough of a head on their shoulders to really think things through isn’t giving them enough credit. It’s writing them off as someone who is just feelings. As if feelings aren’t valid or strong or worth noting.

The truth about the person who leads with their heart instead of their head that you’re probably too afraid to admit? They’re braver than you.

The person who leads with their heart instead of their head isn’t afraid of the possibility of failing. They’re too busy making memorable moments and soaking up every inch of life to worry about the repercussions that may come back to hurt them. They’re more concerned about doing what feels best to waste time weighing and outweighing options that may never even see the light of day.

They’re too busy loving, and in turn living, to unnecessarily linger on the possibility that something might be the wrong choice.

The truth about leading with your heart is that it’s the scarier choice. It’s the riskier option. More can go wrong when you leap instead of look, when you love instead of hold back, when you feel instead of giving into fear. It’s the bolder choice; the choice that leaves more open to come back and smack you with negativity and pain.

Which is why it is a choice that should be commended, not shamed.

So to those who lead with their hearts and not their heads, who are constantly giving without expectation of receiving, who unapologetically have those hearts on their sleeves for the world to take a piece of: I commend you. 

You are brave in a world that so often tries to make souls like yours afraid of what they’re feeling. You take risks in a world where doing just that is an act of rebellion. You put yourself out there when everything realistically is pointing at you to do exactly the opposite.

You remain loving in a world that is often so unkind.

Never apologize for being that person. Never make your love smaller to protect yourself. Never repress what you want to shout from the rooftops.

Because you are someone who leads with their heart and not their head, and that is brave.

And that is beautiful.

And the world needs more people

just

like

you.

Living in the Almosts

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There is a place in which most accomplished-but-still-self-doubting people frequently exist. It’s a creeping place, the kind that gnaws at you and refuses to let you forget that you are not there. It’s the land of the people who are successful but aren’t quite sure how, who feel like they lucked into something they actually worked very hard for — the people who hold their breath because they think one false move will make it all go away.

I call it living in almosts.

It’s the feeling that what you’re doing, what you’ve done, who you are — everything about you is almost but not quite good enough. Almost but not quite exactly what anyone else is looking for in that moment, in that instance, in that circumstance. Whatever the goal — a job, a relationship, hell, even a strong-enough credit score to land an apartment — there is some sinking, nagging feeling that you overlooked something, that you said just one tiny thing wrong, that you didn’t do everything perfectly, and so because of that one small, hairline fracture, everything else will come tumbling down.

So you overanalyze. You microanalyze. You lay awake at night, trying to find the flaw, picking yourself and your attributes over, even though you know by now that there is nothing else to glean. There is no more. What you did is what you did, and what will happen, happens. You say this like a mantra. Que sera, sera. What is out of your control will happen whether or not you worry yourself to death over it.

Still, though, there is that fear.

I have always struggled with the concept of almost, but not quite. I think I fear it more than I do abject failure, honestly, because in that small space of the “what could have been,” there is an infinite amount of questioning. If you fail outright, if you are told no, if you cannot pass go and cannot collect $200, you know that is it. It’s done. That’s all there ever could have been, and it’s that much sooner that you can lick your wounds, eat your pint (or three) of Ben & Jerry’s, turn around and find another path. You can learn from your mistakes that much faster. But when it is an almost — when you are strung along and think that maybe this (whatever this is) could really be it, The One, the moment at which you finally achieve your dream, only to find out that no, now is not your time yet — it feels almost like a waste. Like you could have tried harder. Like you should have said something differently. Like you were so very close to having everything, if it weren’t for something you did to sabotage yourself somewhere along the line.

But the fact of the matter is, almost does not shift the blame onto you. Almost means you’re actually on the right path — there just might be a little more work to do. Almost is an arrow in the right direction, if you can find it. And you always can. Sometimes it just takes a step back from the gleaning, the obsession, the manic fixation. Sometimes you just have to let things be.

Because sometimes, it simply isn’t your time yet.

I know that’s a trite aphorism, and so much of life is equal parts timing and equal parts working very, very hard, but how much of each can you rely on? Simply, then, you work very, very hard, and then when timing is ready for you, it will let you know. But that feels like you’re leaving a lot up to chance. Which, honestly, you kind of are. But that’s how the world works sometimes. Not everything is meant to be in our control.

First, though, you have to believe you’re good enough as it is. Or you have to tell yourself, even if you don’t believe it yet. Because if you don’t, who else will?

And even if you’re not — if you’re not yet, you have to tell yourself, because eventually, you will be, in some capacity for some role or someone or some dream — then that’s fine. After all, nobody’s perfect. And getting everything right on every first try is never the case.

So fail, and fail a lot.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my almost 32 years on this planet (woof, y’all. I turn 32 on Thursday) it is this: Fail spectacularly. Fail the most anyone has ever failed before. Get so close to something and let it slip out of your grasp by millimeters, because at least that means you reached as far as you possibly could — and maybe next time, you’ll be able to stretch a little further.

Maybe next time.

That little maybe is called hope.

And hope is what helps turn the almosts into reality.

Taking My Life Back

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**A very special guest post from one of the strongest, bravest, badass and most amazing people I know — my baby sister. Everyone has a story and hers has been filled with more fight than anyone should have to deal with. I hope this sheds some light on endometriosis, the challenges it presents and gives hope to anyone going through something similar. **

It’s been 7 years since I was diagnosed with endometriosis. 7 years since I was diagnosed with a disease that has no cure. Initially, I was relieved. It sounds strange, but after years of going to doctor after doctor, spending money I didn’t have, missing school & being told it was all in my head; after years of knowing something was wrong but being told I was just fine – I finally had an answer. Everything I was feeling all those years, was real. It had a name – I finally felt vindicated. And then, the reality set in. The reality that my life would never be the same, that this pain is permanent – there is no cure.

In the past 7 years since being diagnosed, I’ve had 10 surgeries and I’ve tried every treatment available – medication, physical therapy, a year and a half of medically induced menopause, alternative therapy, you name it I’ve tried it. But to no avail. That’s the thing about endometriosis, the treatment options are, well, there aren’t many. And the ones that do exist, aren’t often successful in actually treating the disease.

Women with endometriosis are warriors, we’re fighters. We put our bodies through hell in hopes that we get just a little relief. We fight for an inch of normalcy, for an inch of our old lives, for less days spent in bed because the pain is so debilitating we can’t move. We fight. We fight in hopes that one day they will find a cure. We fight so that future generations will hopefully never have to endure what we endure. We’re fighters and we’re stronger than you think.

During my last surgery, they found that I also have adenomyosis, which is a sister disease of endo. Because the endometriosis went undetected all those years, it found a home inside of my uterus, among other organs. But unlike endometriosis on your ovaries, intestines or fallopian tubes, it can’t be removed surgically unless you remove the entire affected organ.

The past few years it’s gotten much worse – with pain so bad I’ve, on countless occasions, thrown up and passed out. I’ve felt the full effect this pain and this disease has on my body. It’s tired, I’m tired. I’ve been fighting for a long time and I just wish it would stop, I wish I could get just one day without pain.

I wish I was a normal 27 year old who’s able to go out with her friends, who’s able to work without fear of being fired because of the days missed due to this disease. I wish I could do the things I used to do, I wish my old life was still my own. I wish a lot of things. But mostly, I wish I wasn’t a 27 year old, getting a hysterectomy in a month to cure my adenomyosis, which is only a result of my endometriosis.

It’s not a choice I ever thought I’d have to make. It’s not a choice anyone should ever have to make. This disease has stolen days, weeks, years of my life. I’ve lost relationships, I’ve lost friendships, I’ve lost the chance at the life I planned, the life I wanted. It has taken enough from me – it’s time I take something back.

To all my girls out there, to all the endo warriors – keep fighting.

To Honor and Serve

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I was 18 the first time he left.

A freshman in college, I was buried three-feet deep in text books studying for finals when my dad called with the news that he was being deployed to Iraq. Growing up a daughter of a colonel in the Air Force, I guess I always knew in the back of my mind that one day this might happen.

But when it finally did, I wasn’t prepared for the tole it would take on not only me, but my mom, my sister and the rest of our family.

I heard someone once say that if you have a loved one in the military, you are in the military as well. I never fully understood that until I experienced what a deployment was really like.

Not hearing from my dad for days, sometimes weeks on end.

Having Skype calls with him, only for them to be cut short because of bombs or chaos going on in the background.

Trying to live a normal life back home, when all you could think was if you would ever be able to see, hug, or talk to your dad again.

To say that is was hard, would be an understatement. I’m a doer, and a fixer. But sitting 3,000 miles away in my dorm room, I felt completely useless.

War changes people. And rightfully so. Our soldiers over there see and do and experience things that no one should ever have to endure. When my dad came back, I could sense that he was different; he was the same old loving goofball, but he was reserved, cautious, quiet whenever I tried to talk to him about his time overseas.

Yesterday, I got a call I never thought I would get again. My dad, who was set to retire in only a year, was called up one last time, one final deployment. My dad will always be a military guy – honorable, dedicated and willing to put his life on the line to make our country a safer place. I couldn’t respect him any more, and I am so proud to be his daughter, but it doesn’t make the fact that he will once again, be put in harms way any easier.

Being a quote unquote “military brat” forces you to grow up fast. You end up making a lot of sacrifices, and are dealt hands that can be tricky to navigate sometimes. But it also makes you appreciate life a little more, love a little harder, be gracious and thankful for the time you have and the people in your life.

The next six months will be one of those tricky navigational times, but I have to believe that what he is doing has a purpose, that he is going to do a lot of good for a lot of people, that he knows what he’s doing and will come home safe.

Faith is a powerful thing, and in situations like this, it’s the only thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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