“Don’t Let Fear Decide For You”

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Dear Reader,

Cal asked me to write about a life lesson, or many lessons that I’ve learned, for her blog. I was very flattered and excited that she asked me to do so. Back in the day (aka not even a full year ago) I majored in Communications Studies and would whip out papers left and right. Research papers were my jam and essay questions never intimidated me. I was excited to have a reason and a purpose to write something (though after writing this – I see how writing serves a purpose of clearing your mind and making sense of your thoughts – and that is a good enough reason to write something).

I started to jot down any thought that came to mind about this topic. Any sort of mantra I live by, any philosophy I have adopted, and any lesson I’ve learned in my 22.7 years of living (where my millennials at?!). Here are some lessons I came up with:

  1. You don’t have to find friends just like your other friends.
  2. You can literally do anything you want to do.
  3. Don’t be judgmental of judgmental people.
  4. Better late than never.
  5. Eat and live in color.
  6. Balance.
  7. If you are a kind person and do good for the world – you will be okay.

So yes, all of the above are great lessons that I’ve learned from past experiences and am retaught them all of the time. I’m guessing many of you have also learned the same lessons. Therefore, I wanted to focus this post on a single lesson I’ve learned that either trumps all others or is most relevant to my life right now. As I’m sitting in Terminal 1 of the San Diego Airport writing this entry, I have stumbled upon my BIG, MACHO lesson. Who knew the airport would be such an environment for creativity and introspective thinking?

I ventured to the newsstand to buy a book for my 3+ hour flight. This process was pretty difficult for me. When presented with too many options, such as an entire wall of books and novels, I get too obsessed with picking the best book and to not waste any money or time on an alright book. I skimmed the shelves hoping that a certain title or cover would jump out at me. Was I in the mood for a fun and flirty book about New York’s Upper East Side women?… No, that story line is old. Was I in the mood for a comedy novel by Amy Pohler, Tina Fey, or Aziz Anzari?… Maybe, but which one?! Then I thought, if I’m going to spend time reading a book, I should read something that will help me get smarter about my career and my future. After facing an inner struggle over which book to buy for about 7 minutes, I almost gave up and walked out of the store without a book.

DUMB.

I went back, grabbed a book titled, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and bought the dang thing. I couldn’t believe that I had spent almost 10 minutes deciding which book to buy and almost left with nothing – as if all of the mental progress and effort I had just made was wasted or non-existent.

DON’T OBSESS OVER ACHIEVING THE PERFECT OUTCOME.

Why do I think this is terrible?

It’s partly because asking yourself to achieve perfection is setting yourself up for failure… or confusion… because what even is perfection? Perfection is so subjective that it really can’t be measured, so you’ll really never know when you get there, wherever that is. Rather than saying something is “perfect,” I’d like to say something is “just right… for me… right now.”

So, setting yourself up for failure is definitely part of it, but I think there is another part that is even worse. I find that obsessing over achieving the perfect outcome is terrible because I end up doing NOTHING.

I am indecisive about a lot of things. If you take me shopping, I spend hours going through every single freakin’ clothing rack on the floor, I try on more clothes than I can carry into the dressing room, and I end up buying NOTHING. Sometimes I’ll feel bad for wasting a sales clerk’s time that I’ll buy a chapstick or something of the like as a consolation purchase. This same thing happens at the grocery store. I look at every single product on the shelf and ask my self, “Which granola is the most affordable, tastiest, contains the least amount of sugar and the most amount of protein?” Once I finally pick the best granola option and put it in my cart, 87% of the time I’ll go back to that aisle and swap it out for another one. Same thing goes for ordering food, going out, or even choosing a workout on class pass.

LIKE, ARE YOU SERIOUS?

I do this in more serious terms as well. I put so much pressure on myself to find the perfect career. I think part of it is because of the nature of our society these days. We are told to be extremely efficient, work overtime to outdo our colleagues, and strive for success in social or financial standing as the ultimate goal. Nowadays it’s not if you went to college, it’s where you went to college, how many internships you had before you graduated, and whether or not you got a job upon graduation. I love competition and I value hard work but it should be driven by a motivation to be a better me rather than to be a better him/her/them.

I think the other reason I can be indecisive is that I know I am capable of a lot, and I want to pick the perfect tool to showcase all that I can do. I know I have these hidden jewels and talents that can be used to do something amazing. You do too. We all have something special and unique about ourselves. So, isn’t the actual ultimate goal in life to find our true purpose and define success by our overall happiness? Sometimes I wish I could test out a few different lives, pick the best one, and then do it over again. In one life I’d pursue a Broadway career. In another life I’d pursue a teaching career. In my third life (if I’m only granted three chances) I would start my own business.

But the reality is that I can’t live out three different lives. No one can. In this life, we get one shot to try out ALL of our dream lives, determine the best fit based on our successes and our failures, and just enjoy the ride!

So how am I going to stop obsessing over becoming the most successful/talented/perfect version of myself there is? I am going to buy that Amy Pohler comedy novel at the newsstand, and if I don’t like it, try another book on my return flight. I am going to trust in the process and just go with it. I need to listen to whatever signs the universe sends me and be open to and inviting of them. I need to keep my ambitions but let go of expectations. I need to be more decisive and confident in my choices. I need to follow my head and my heart and make decisions based on a good feeling rather than an irrational impulse. Lastly, I will definitely not let fear decide for me.

And if I don’t do any of these things, then I will do nothing… and I’m not cool with that. Ja feel?

Don’t let fear decide for you,

Kailey

“Live a lil and laugh at yourself”

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Dear Reader,
I was asked to write something for this blog about a month ago, and I kept putting it off because I couldn’t figure out how to articulate exactly what I wanted to say (sorry Cal!).  For anyone that knows me, they’ve gotta know how hard I find it to fully tell a story (or convey anything) without the help of hand gestures and facial expressions, but I’ll do my best, cause often times that’s all ya can do.
It’s a strange thing to think of, “happiness,” because it’s really different for everyone – something that might make one person grin from ear to ear could be the bane of someone else’s existence.  Happiness can be felt in eating a peanut butter and pickle sandwich (mom) or splurging on Kylie’s latest Lip Kits, or even scoring tickets to the Rose Bowl or finally picking off that one scab that came from a scratch on your ear; but however you look at it, “being happy” is complex because it takes so many forms and fluctuates so aggressively from day to day.  What I do know though (I think), and what I hope you can take from this post, is that simply being patient with yourself in learning to appreciate happiness in all of its random forms can work wonders amidst this strange rollercoaster of a life.  After brainstorming and writing multiple drafts of this, I could boil down all of my random ideas into 8 major takeaways that happen to be little phrases and tidbits I not only tell myself on a daily basis, but also the people that I love the most and keep closest to my heart (#5 goes to 4005).
Now I leave them here for you:
1. Everyone is human
  • No matter what struggles you may encounter in your life, everyone you interact with is also dealing with their own personal struggle: they have emotions, feelings, wants, desires, aspirations, and setbacks just the way that you do. People make mistakes, but also feel the need to find redemption; people may wear their emotions on their sleeves and lash out on others, or may stay reserved in hopes that someone reaches out to them. But at the end of the day, we are all human, living and breathing and trying to get through life one day at a time…imperfection is healthy, and teamwork makes dreams work
2. Smile!!
  • Make someone else in your life smile and it’ll make you smile too…smiles never hurt (smiling also releases endorphins – try it out when you’re working out next time; it helps take the pain away from that .5 mile run you’re just about to call quits).  Show appreciation and gratitude to those you love, and show love to those that you feel like could use a little pick me up in their day – crack a joke, spare some change, wave hello, give a hug, send a text – it could make someone’s day.

3. Everyday is a new day

  • Every time you wake up and get out of bed, you have a whole 12 hours (more or less) to accomplish SOMETHING. That something could be anything, whether it’s finally starting that diet that you’ve been meaning to for 5ever, exercising at some point during the day, catching a few extra zzzz’s (or not reaching for the snooze button!), sorting out your career path even though you’ve exhausted nearly all your options…whatever it is, when you wake up in the morning you have the world at your fingertips.  Get out there, eliminate that one pesky justification that you’re holding on to to not do something, and just do it.  Take a chance and be in the moment. And if you aren’t successful with it, be patient with yourself, because you have another chancetomorrow – patience pays.
4. Everything happens for a reason
  • Sometimes you may have those moments where you feel like you finally have some sort of grip on everything going on in your life; other times (most times) you may feel like everything’s falling a part all at once and everything is spiraling out of control – these ups and downs and general swings and loops of life I think are what allow us to appreciate the good moments, and also give us a chance to recalibrate ourselves.  Take and appreciate the bad moments just as much as you accept and relish in the good moments: you can’t have one without the other; if things in your life were just ALL good ALL the time, then even amidst “all the good things,” there will still be some “lesser good things,” which would then still just be considered “bad” things.  These fluctuations are gonna be there whether you want them to be or not; you just have to ebb and flow with the motion of the ocean. You can’t force fit something into your life that isn’t mean to be there in the first place – time always moves forward, everyone and everything grows and changes at different paces, and it’s whether or not you grow with someone or apart from someone that can determine whether or not a relationship or friendship will last; you can’t control it, no matter how hard you try, so just let it come.
5. You win some you lose…a lot
  • but it’s all about how you get right back out there and show them what you’re made of, because we’re all made of something mighty
6. Do yo thang/You do you/go ahead with yo bad self
  • Be yourself in the best way possible, and don’t let the haters bring ya down…RISE ABOVE!!!  If you’re having a good day, relish in it – if you’re having a not-so-good day, roll with it, order some cheesy fries, watch some Triple D, and engage in a competitive wet willy fight. Live a lil and laugh at yourself, and relax the way you know best
9. The sun is always shining 
  • Even on the cloudiest days, the sun is still gonna be there to give you a fog burn. Get out there and find the sun…it might even be in the middle of Iowa (@Tess)
And last but not least
8. Believe in yourself.
  • (and if you can’t do that alone, find other people that believe in you, and hold them close)
There it is. Take what you may from it –
Michellie

Don’t Be Afraid to Rewrite

“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” 

-Mo Willems

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If you asked someone to describe me, there are an array of colorful words that would be thrown around: loud, bubbly, inappropriate, bossy, etc. Overall, I try to be strong for my family, loyal and compassionate for my friends, and loving to myself.

During college, I decided to write down my plans for the future. My story. Who I wanted to be. Here is what I came up with:

I wanted to live in Los Angeles (it was New York but after dealing with Iowa winters I decided the California sunshine was more for me). I found my passion in advertising and wanted my life to be a real life episode of Man Men (minus the misogyny and smoking but definitely the cute outfits and good-looking men). I wanted to continue my writing in an environment that inspired me. Most of all, I wanted to be happy, to grow, to be challenged by the people and places around me.

After graduating college, I felt very lost. I didn’t have a job and I clung to a relationship I thought defined me. Slowly, the fire that once burned in me was being extinguished. The dreams I had during college disappeared as the fear of the unknown took over. If I wanted to live out these dreams, I had to give up the comfortable life I had and I didn’t know if I was strong enough to handle that.

Fast-forward a year later: I was working a job I didn’t enjoy. I was no longer confident in myself and became a shell of the person I used to be. I doubted every decision I made. It had been 6 months since I felt inspired to write. My friendships faded from lack of effort and I stayed in an unfaithful relationship because I was so weak I felt like I deserved it. The fire that once burned so brightly was completely gone. I didn’t even recognize who I had become.

One day I was cleaning out a drawer and I found the list I made. When I wrote that, I had real goals and aspirations. If college sophomore Emily met this Emily, she would have probably slapped her straight in the face. It was at that moment I realized I couldn’t live my life this way. This couldn’t be my story – something had to change.

A week later, I quit my job and decided to move home until I figured out my next step. Even though my plan was not clear at the time, the cloud that formed over my life slowly began to fade. I knew this decision would start the end of my relationship, but I couldn’t be in a situation that limited my potential and didn’t provide me with the happiness I deserved.

The next few months were hard. Every single morning I woke up, cried, and wondered if I made the right decision. There were some days I didn’t think I would survive, I persevered and remembered how strong I really was. Then each day, the sadness would slowly fade and I would find myself laughing and smiling like I used to. Until eventually, I found myself excited about my future rather than holding onto my past.

There are times now I still don’t know what I’m doing. I make mistakes every single day. But I can look in the mirror every morning and be proud of the person looking back at me. I am now writing my story the way it was meant to be written.

 

Don’t be afraid to rewrite,

Emily

“It was a tough decision, but was ultimately the best choice for me.”

“Dear Reader,
Every person has an identity and what makes up that identity is different for each and every one of us. Some may consider art a part of themselves but for me that was sports. Ever since I was old enough to play, I have played. Everything from baseball to volleyball to football and everything in between. From wiffle ball in the backyard to bean bags, you name it I gave it a go. Sports were always a no-brainer. In high school I played baseball and football and loved it, but as time goes by and you get older your life changes and the things you never thought about start to become factors in big decisions about your life. The first time I had to think about sports in that way was half way through high school. It was about that time where high schoolers start to think about college and where they would like to attend. Because of this, it was the first time I had to consider quitting a sport I loved to play. Baseball would be that sport.
Fast-forward to college. My first two years I enjoyed playing football and had good friends on the team. But college is a time to explore and find other interesting things to become a part of and I could see all my friends had something they really enjoyed to do. The more I thought about that, the more I thought about how much time football required of a student-athlete. For the second time in my life I had to think about what was more important to me. The more I thought about it the more I saw a sport I loved, for majority of my life, become less of a priority. I realized that there was no other benefit to play other than for enjoyment. I had made friends and the team was a brotherhood which made my decision much harder in the long run.
The way I looked at it was that I needed to focus on myself, as I realized that football was just for enjoyment the more I thought about what I would do in the future as I knew football would not be a career path.
With that knowledge, came the second time I would no longer play a sport in my life.
It felt weird at first. A person who identified himself as an athlete, no longer plays sports. It was a tough decision, but was ultimately the best choice for me.
The decision was hard enough and I thought it would get easier with time but there were other factors that I had not taken into account with my decision. Our school was pretty small and as I had mentioned before being a part of the football team was like a brotherhood. What I had not taken into account was how my personal decision would affect my teammates and friends.
With a decision that already weighed heavily on me, the after effects continued. I didn’t think of how my decision would affect those around me, primarily teammates and friends on the team. For the most part friends were supportive and that made it easier to move on to a life without football. What I soon found out was that some teammates had gone on to resent me for quitting the team. I had betrayed the brotherhood of the team by leaving. I had no idea some would feel this way and had made it difficult to deal with the decision as it was very tough personally.
The more I thought about it the more I felt bad about my decision. But like for many other situations, time is the only thing that helps. The more time went on the more I realized it didn’t matter what they thought and they’d eventually get over it. I finally realized that I made the decision for myself and I am better off for it.
I guess the point of this story is to always put yourself first. It doesn’t matter what other people think as long as you make decisions for yourself first because in the end that’s all that matters.
Keep on keepin’ on,
Max”

“Take chances, pop the comfort bubble, meet new people, share stories, and ask more ‘stupid’ questions.”

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I think most 20-something-year-olds can attest to feeling lost, unsure or even despondent at times, but I believe these feelings are very “normal” for this age group. For most, it is a transition period away from the comfort of home and the cherished relationships of family, or possibly it is a place where one is the lowest on the totem pole of achievements, in relation to one’s coworkers, colleagues or even some peers.

I know what it is like to feel unsure or hesitant that everything you dreamed of may not come to full fruition, but maybe, it will. As an optimist, I want to try to help my community, my fellow twenty-something-year-olds, find the many lights in these “unsure” times.

Last Thursday, on my daily dose of distance – to many, the grueling task of a long-distance run – I started to think about everything, like most long-distance runners do (to many it is their form of therapy, their time to self-reflect, their happy place or their runner’s high). On my run, I remembered an article I had read previously in the year. The article was written by a thirty-two-year-old practicing internal medicine physician, who had a happy baby and had met the love of her life. In it, she stated that she had come to the realization that she was finally in a good routine, but not an exciting routine. She had missed the days where she felt as though her heart was exploding out of her chest from the discomfort of a high-anxiety presentation in front of her, then, chief of medicine and staff. She missed the days where she failed and then learned and grew from her relative “failures.” She missed the feelings of heartbreak and lost love because it reminded her how precious life can be. She regretted the times she waited until other classmates had completed a task before taking initiative; she wished she were the first to raise her hand in her residency. She wished she could go back to her twenty-something-year-old self and tell her to take chances, to feel uncomfortable, to pop the comfort bubble, to meet new people, and to ask more “stupid” questions.

It was then, that it all “dawned” on me. Soon, these unsure feelings, this discomfort, and these heart-racing moments may turn comfortable or “normal.” We may lose those physiological and sympathetic responses, the ones that make our heart feel as those we are crossing the finish line at a Usain Bolt speed. This is our time, twenty-something-year-olds, to take advantage of the discomfort and to feel comfortable stepping out of our comfort zone. This is our time to recognize that a heartbreak can lead to more love, not only for others and ourself, but also for the love of life. This is our time to embrace these unsure feelings and to fill them with experiences that will add value to our life down the road.

We want to live an exciting adventure, and adventure starts by stepping out of one’s comfort zone! Do not be discouraged by heart-racing moments or complete and utter “failures,” for failure brings growth and growth brings inspiration.

Embrace the heart-racing moments and believe in your greatness,

Calcal

“When you think you know, but you still don’t know.”

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First I was dying to finish high school and start college.
And then I was dying to finish college and start working.
And then I was dying to marry and have children.
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work.
And then I was dying to retire.
And now I am dying… And suddenly I realize I forgot to live.
-Anonymous

My two dominant personality traits: perfectionist and goal oriented (to a fault). I never would have admitted this a couple of months ago but a few things have changed since then. My personality traits may seem positive and at times they definitely are and have no doubt been pivotal in getting me where I wanted to go in life. However, at times I find them to be my biggest weakness.

If you were to listen to my thoughts for the last few years they might sound something like this:

HIGH SCHOOL

  1. Stay focused on soccer – go to college of choice
  2. Straighten my hair everyday before bed
  3. Must eat healthy
  4. Boyfriend = no, must stay focused on #goalzzz
  5. Check make-up at lunch before class
  6. Strategic fake tan before bed to even out tan lines (soccer girls will understand that the permanent t-shirt, shorts, and socks look is a constant issue)

– can you say obsessive…….

PRE COLLEGE

  1. Workout (must impress new teammates)
  2. Practice for soccer
  3. Need all toiletries & cleaning products for dorm
  4. Go out like once a month because #focussss
  5. Healthy eating always

– my super fun & wild summer before college went something like this

COLLEGE

  1. Weights, class, practice, study hall, shower, bed
  2. Repeat #1 everyday
  3. Free time spent researching internships or interning
  4. Healthy eats obvs
  5. Boys? still a distraction, nothing serious
  6. Apply for jobs post college
  7. Partying – rare appearances

Basically I was living my life like a robot. I wanted things to go EXACTLY as planned and I wanted to control what could/would happen next. I look back and realize what I snooze I was. I think why didn’t I go to that party, why didn’t I date that guy that was totally wrong for me, why didn’t I stay out past my bedtime (yes, I was/am a grandma that goes to bed at around 10/10:30…still working on that one), why didn’t I open up and let people see more of the real me – the goofy and awkward side that only those closest to me get to see. I realized I wasn’t living and enjoying life. My life was calculated and limited. With that all in mind I told myself that I needed to get away, travel, try something new and find a balanced life. Naturally, I choose London as my next life stop. Is moving across the country alone a bit extreme? Absolutely. Has everything gone as planned? Not at all. If anything, nothing has gone to plan. I get lost all of the time, I couldn’t find a job for two months, and I still don’t get why Brits eat Christmas food every Sunday. There are times when I think I made the wrong decision. Days when I miss home. When all I want is to see my family and hangout with my friends. Yet, some days I can’t imagine moving back to the states and London feels like my home. Times when I find myself with a silly smile on my face thinking ‘this is really my life.’ I’ll admit that I’ve fallen down the stairs getting off the bus more than I care to admit (they stop very suddenly at times, okay), I’ve looked like a clueless American and I’ve bombed a few interviews. I can actually say that I’ve never been happier. Sure things aren’t perfect and usually what I plan for doesn’t happen. I still have my goals in mind but they aren’t the end all be all in my life. I don’t try to come off as perfect and for the most part the friends I’ve made have seen the real me straight off the bat. I strive to live in balance and enjoy the simple things. I might have a croissant for breakfast, a glass or three of red wine, and a beautiful French meal all in one day without an ounce of guilt that it wasn’t gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. I take time to go for walks, meditate, and meet new people. Recently, I’ve made it a priority to go out, unwind, and enjoy spending time with friends (sometimes more that once in a weekend – gasp). At the end of the day I still want to make sure I live the life I’ve imagined but I don’t want to do so at the expense of every other part of my life.

Amanda x

@goherefor

@amanda_dudley

“With each new challenge, I found inspiration and motivation in a unique corner of my personal network.”

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Dear HappyforHappYness Reader,

People. Through the course of my twenty-two roller coaster years of life, I’ve come to truly value one thing across all of my experiences: the people. Whether they’re parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, teammates, co-workers, or bosses – the people who have decorated the events in my life are what have made them memorable and sometimes bearable. I feel so fortunate to have a family that I can turn to for anything, and to have teammates and friends who will stand by me no matter what, and also to have teachers, coaches, and bosses from whom I can gain an infinite amount of knowledge. It wasn’t until college that I began to truly realize my wealth in people.

College (college soccer in particular) introduced a whole new set of challenges for me. I underwent two knee surgeries, two coaching changes, and transferred universities. These obstacles have indeed made me stronger, but they have also made me wiser. With each new challenge, I found inspiration and motivation in a unique corner of my personal network. After realizing the importance and impact of people on my life, I have learned to follow the wise words of Edmund Lee: “surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see if yourself.”

Find your people,

Paige

 

When you make time to do the things you love, you will make a life you love.

I have found that whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed with the what ifs or the could bes of life, it is in those very times, that I am not adding the things I love to do into my daily regimen. Instead, I begin to feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders, and inevitably, the waves of stress start to crash in on me. As soon as a take a step back and observe the life I am leading, there is usually a common denominator: that is, I am forgetting to do “my three.”

“My three” are the three things I try do every day, which fill my world with organic light, with the smell of my favorite memory, with unconditional  love, and leave me with the feeling that everything will be okay. “My three” may not be the same three as the previous day, but I know that once I complete them, I will start to feel as if my life it effortless, stressless, and has a meaning.

Welcome to “my three”

  • 1. Random Act of Kindness (I commonly refer to this as ‘RAK’)

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Whatever you’re RAK of the day may be, I promise you, it will fill your life with more light than when you first started your day. One of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite mentors is, “When you’re feeling helpless, help another.” For me, spreading light into the life of another, grounds me and gives me a new perspective.

 

  • 2. Exercising with friends image2

Often, I feel like I am too stressed to take thirty minutes or an hour out of my day to run. However, it is in the days I do not exercise that I feel most stressed out. For me, running help to alleviate frustration, anticipation, worry, stress, and many other negative thoughts that my mind seems to jog in those jogless days.

I encourage you to find a bestie and check out a new workout class or hit up a new running or walking trail in your area.

Explore, move, and exercise off those negative thoughts.

  • 3. Be creative with your food

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As a planner, many variables in my life are planned out extensively. I love planning, do not get me wrong, but at the same time, planning takes the fun and spontaneity out of life. Therefore, I try to make time to create new recipes, try new foods, or test out new restaurants in my area.

I love  this one on “my three” because I am able to try, test, attempt to perfect, and in the process, create recipes that bring my family and friends together.

 

Whatever “your three” are, I encourage you to make time for them every single day! Some days may be harder than others to fit it all in, but I recommend that you at least try! Say good-bye to the excuses and hello to a new-and-improved, happy YOU!

 

Believe in your dreams,

Calcal

“Pain, disappointment, and failure are sure to come if you continue to live, but what I know for sure is that we all have to ability to get through it!”

Learning to Trust through the Unanswered Pains of Life

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I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in church with a broken heart and spirit as I listened to my pastor give a sermon on trusting God and His plans for our lives even when we do not understand the ups and downs of our journey. We have all experienced, or will experience at some point in life, where there is simply no answers to the pain or disappointment we have or will experience. But I will tell you as I was taught that day, even when we don’t understand the pain, upsets or failures, we still must trust that God is still with us and will never leave our side.

After losing my sweet child to cancer, I was broken, unhappy, and to be honest upset with the entire world. I had so many unanswered questions: Why would I be given a beautiful child, only to see him suffer through surgeries, chemotherapy, and other ailments? Fight through all of this with no complaints, only to lose him after a two-year battle! All I could ask myself was, God why? He did not deserve this; he was an amazing boy! I did not deserve this; I am a loving mom! The pain and resentment was indescribable. That was 2013, and even with all of those questions and brokenness, I found strength and courage to fight through every single day to, finally, arrive at peace in 2016.

This experience has provided me with so much clarity into the women, mother and global citizen that I was born to be.

I made a promise to my son: I would go on to complete my education. AND in August of 2013, I arrived at Penn. I remember it like it was yesterday – getting the news that I was accepted into Penn while in the hospital with my son and seeing the sheer excitement in his eyes for me! That gave me the courage to continue to go on and persevere during this entire experience.

I am in my last semester and it is not the degree that I will be most proud of, but the fighter and survivor that I have become. I’ve learned to be happy through good and bad times, and that makes me most proud. I live every day through my son’s spirit. (He would have been 18-years-old this year and graduating from high school.) I will march down Locust Walk in his memory. I will march for all those that have lost love ones and felt that they could not go on. I will march to honor all those that did not make it to see such a beautiful moment because God decided that He needed more angels.

Don’t ever stop betting on yourself! Don’t give up! Pain, disappointment, and failure are sure to come if you continue to live, but what I know for sure is that we all have to ability to get through it! Lastly, do not forget to take away the lessons that are meant to come out of the storms so that you become more compassionate and sensitive to the pains and disappointments of others. Be happy and be inspiring!

Best and XO,

Natalie

“Be confident in your abilities, work hard, and trust the timing of your life.”

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When all my peers were getting their grad school acceptances or job offers during my senior spring, I felt pressured and overwhelmed because I did not know what I wanted to do. I almost took a job in an industry that I found uninteresting just so I could have something waiting for me after graduation. Instead, I dedicated my summer to figuring out what it was I wanted to do. I stopped being consumed with what other people were doing and I quit obsessing about needing to have an answer when people asked me what I was doing with my life.

It is now February, and I am now laughing about how many times I called my mom during this time last spring freaking out about my life. A little over a week ago, I was accepted to Penn Law, my top law school choice. If I didn’t take the summer to figure out my life, I never would have chosen law because it was not even on my radar last spring. There were times during the fall, while I was studying for the LSAT and feeling uncertain about the strength of my applications, that I questioned if I made the right choice. This was mainly because I allowed myself to be affected, once again, by my friends who were making money, living in cool new cities, or loving grad school. Looking back, I am glad I stayed committed to my path because in the end everything fell into place and feels right, like it was meant to be all along.

Yet, as cliché as it sounds, that is how I think life works. We face difficult times and things go wrong in order to lead us to greater things. This is why I believe that it is important to focus on the things we can control. If you want to go to grad school, but don’t feel confident in your resume, then take a gap year, and add more experience. Don’t make a serious life decision in a moment of desperation. Not everything has to be rushed.

In twenty years it really won’t matter if you started on your career path at 22 or 25. Personally, I am so grateful for my gap year. It allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do and I had time to do things I never would have been able to had I rushed into a job. Stop trying to force things and instead focus on what you can control, you will be surprised at the new opportunities life rewards you. Be confident in your abilities, work hard, and trust the timing of your life.

Love,

Megan