“stay positive”

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S.S. & S.E.

3.31.07

Seven years seems like yesterday.

The pain, the sadness, the loss, all still so real.

The memories, the words, the laughter all still so vivid.

The worst days are those days when the hurt takes over.

The best days are those days when their memories bring smiles.

Within seconds lives were altered and destroyed.

A keychain, jacket, and handwritten note are all that remain.

Flowers, balloons and candles, are ways we celebrate them now.

The destruction of two empowered the revival of so many.

They saw potential in me when no one else did.

My cold heart is now filled with their warmth.

A kid that was scared and troubled is now steady and brave.

Because of them a soul that was once lost now has purpose.

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Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the deaths of Shanna Stines and Savannah Edgar, two amazing and beautiful girls that left this Earth too soon. I was sixteen when I got the call explaining what had happened. It was my first experience with death. I remember everything about that day, from the thump of the ground when my knees buckled to the unbearable ache in my chest. It was a time in my life when I felt confusingly connected and disconnected with the world around me.

The days, weeks, and months that followed were mostly a blur, but amongst all the chaos and emotions there was this one moment of clarity. A significant moment where it all clicked for me. It was as if someone had opened my eyes for the first time, as if I was finally able to see the world. I was finally able to feel the warmth of the sun, hear the whispers of hope, and see the power of kindness. It was that moment where I stopped existing and began living. It was a moment I know Shanna and Savannah experienced with me. That flash of clarity forever altered the course of my life. In the years after their death I learned how to live my life with and for others. Life is no longer about what I can achieve for myself, but rather what I can do with others to attain and spread happiness.

It shouldn’t take incidents of death to remind us how fragile and precious life is, but sometimes that is what it takes. For some unknown reason I am allowed to carry on in this world while they are not, and that is something I do not take for granted. Losing two incredible people was exactly what it took for me to lead a life worth living. Sometimes I still make mistakes and lose my way. Yet everyday I wake up trying to be better than yesterday’s version of myself. I live my life to honor Shanna and Savannah. I live my life to honor the loved ones they left behind. I live my life to honor all those who have lost the ability to live.

“Stay positive!”, were Shanna’s last written words to me. It makes me smile to know during her last thoughts of me the words stay positive came to mind. When I feel lost, consumed by the darkness, or beaten down by this world, I cling to those two words. It is because of Shanna and Savannah that I now know the power of positivity. A giggle can ignite a sea of laughter and a smile can fill a room with warmth. A simple gesture of kindness can lift a spirit and a word of encouragement can foster triumph.

There is a saying that with death comes life. Seven years ago two lives were lost, and seven years ago my life began. I will never forget Shanna and Savannah. They showed the world an abundance of hope, kindness, beauty, and love; all of which I now carry on within myself.

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“So what would you think of me now, so lucky, so strong, so proud? I never said thank you for that, now I’ll never have a chance. May angels lead you in, my friends.”              -Jimmy Eat World

life is for living not existing

This week I celebrate my 23rd birthday. As I sit back and reflect on the past twenty-two years of my life many emotions begin to flow.

Instantly I feel a sense of relief. Mainly because I have done it, I have survived another year on this planet. We live in a world that can sometimes be so twisted and cruel—to be frank I’m a dangerous mess or as my mom says “an accident waiting to happen”—and yet twenty-two years later I’m still here.

Then I realize, getting older is not just about existing or surviving. It is also important to consider where I have been, where I am, and where I am going. I try not to overanalyze my life, but every once in a while a bit of self-reflection can be productive. So just a few things…

During my twenty-two years I have:

Walked among the poor and the wealthy, to learn wealth is not defined by materials.

Read books that allowed me to feel emotions I did not know existed.

Engaged in meaningful conversations with strangers and loved ones.

Rearranged my life for another person only to find they weren’t ready to reciprocate.

Helped save a life, even when it meant risking my own.

Taken in the sunsets and the sunrises accepting I may never see another.

Allowed one other to see my soul, even when it meant exposing my demons.

Fallen for the flirtatious temptations of addiction, and fought through recovery.

Reached the tops of mountains while my body was ready to give up.

Been broken by love and realized it is only love that can heal.

Wandered around foreign places and found pieces of me I didn’t know were lost.

Experienced the depths of my darkness without letting it consume me.

Felt the beauty of love and the suffering that comes with lose.

Accepted the fact that things do not always work out as planned, but they always work out the way they are meant to be.

 

A few things I still want to do:

Write and finish a novel.

Road trip across the U.S.A., with my dog.

Scuba dive, bungee jump, and sky dive.

Take my family to South Africa.

Experience something that leaves me speechless.

Wake up one morning, without planning, and travel to somewhere I have never been.

Make and keep a long-term commitment (other than my tattoos).

Allow myself to take in the delicious ambiguity of life without hesitation.

 

So in review: up until this point I have been really living and I still have a lot more living to do. No matter my age I always want to be learning, experiencing, and thriving.

People say that 23 is the worst year of the twenties. It is an age when many people are in limbo between school, work, and figuring what to do next. In preparation for my 23rd year I have decided to defy expectations and make it my best year yet. No, I am not certain where I will be, how I will financially support myself, or who will be in my life. I am however healthy, happy, and hopeful.

You know that saying when life gives you lemons make lemonade? Well I am gong to make lemonade, add vodka, and then chug.

Get ready world.

 

live with love

In today’s society too many people are living for themselves. We all seem to be searching for what makes us happy. However, there is a difference between making a decision that positively impacts one’s self and making a decision for self gain despite the well being of others. Recently I have found that self-derived happiness is short-lived and insubstantial. Instead, deriving happiness from the happiness of the people around you gives you a source of contentment that is constant.

I have written in the past about the importance of our shared humanity. It is important to realize that every decision you make in life contributes to the preservation or destruction of our humanity. Desmond Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” More importantly we must understand that it is also little bits of harm put together that can overcome. Even on a small scale, acts such as littering and lying promote and spread hate, and those are typical of people who are living through selfishness.

Looking around the world I see too many cultures driven by consumerism, self-indulgence, and desire for success. More often than not, we forsake the whole for the benefit of a few. It doesn’t matter how big or small the benefit may seem every action has consequences. A decision out of greed or ignorance can cost someone his or her family, home, or life.

I have ventured to parts of the world where people, just like you and me, are living without food, water, or a roof over their schoolhouse. Most of these conditions have been created and sustained because of decisions made by and for the benefit of an individual, rather than collectives. Before I traveled I only knew a narrow perspective from a small corner of the globe. Traveling has allowed me to realize you can not just live life through one perspective. People all over the world have shown me that loving, living, and laughing require only a willingness to connect with one’s neighbor. This willingness is independent of a need for material ownership and is one that comes with few harmful effects.

That is why everyday I try and live through another’s perspective. I live through the people who endure suffering, people who have lost their lives, and people who can only dream about the opportunities I relish each day. I live for the ones I love and the ones I have lost. Some say it is my greatest attribute, while others say it will be my downfall. Regardless I chose to make decisions in my life after considering how they affect others, because I know we cannot go on living life positively through a single perspective. Most importantly I live by others because I want do my part to encourage the advancement rather than the deterioration of our society.

As a civilization we have come so far and yet still have so far to go. This couldn’t be more evident than when a country that prides itself on freedom, diversity, and equality recently dispersed more hate than love over a multi-lingual super bowl advertisement.

In the end, our happiness depends upon the fullness of our hearts. Our hearts are filled with intentions. Our intentions are driven both internally and by the collective mind. For our intentions to be wholesome they must stem from our shared happiness with others. Ultimately, it is the heart that both believes and pursues that which is not real and good in this world.

So now I ask you, what are you living for? What or who fulfills your heart?

If your answer focuses heavily on self profit or recognition take a minute and think about the potential implications. Instead allow your fears of failure and the unknown be overshadowed by your inherent goodness and ability to love.

Here is my challenge to you: take one whole day and put your needs on the back burner. Spend the day living with someone other than you.

Live with the children without homes.

Live with those who have fallen while securing the freedom of people they never met.

Live with the soul mate you have never met or the one you let slip away.

Live with the ones who keep thinking, creating, and dreaming even when everyone calls them crazy.

Live with those who love each other but can’t legally be married.

Live with the ones that died too young.

Live with the ones who spoke out when everyone else stayed silent.

Live each day of your life knowing that you will leave this earth a little better than it was before you.

on parenting

Yesterday my incredible mother celebrated her 55th birthday. I couldn’t be more proud or lucky to have a woman like her in my life. The love and support I have received from my mom over the years can’t be quantified, because it is infinite. I will never be able to thank her enough for the strength and compassion she has given me during my twenty-two years as her daughter. She has always supported my decisions, even if they were at times misguided or foolish. She has let me make my own mark on this world allowing me to triumph and fall, and always being there to pick me up when I needed her most. She is my biggest fan and my best friend. I would be a lost soul without her, and to her I will forever be grateful.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about parenting and how much parents and guardians influence their children. Making the decision to have a child should not be one that is made lightly. Men and women must consider what it means to be a parent before having children. No I am not a parent, but I am a child of two parents. And we all have heard those sad stories about the damaging effects some parents have on their children. Issues range from abuse to abandonment to neglect. It doesn’t matter whether parents are biological, adopted, homosexual, or heterosexual, their responsibilities are generally the same. Every child needs a great deal of guidance, support, and love from their guardians. When a person decides to become a parent they acquire a whole new set of responsibilities. You are no longer responsible for yourself, but you are responsible for making sure another human being lives, learns, and loves.

Don’t get the wrong impression; I am not here to tell anyone how to parent. Like I said I’m not a parent, and I certainly don’t have enough experience to write a handbook about proper parenting. However, I do know from personal experiences how damaging a parental relationship can be for a child if parents don’t take their responsibilities seriously and with the upmost sincerity. My only aim is to share my outlook on this topic with the hopes that parents will critically think about how their actions and decisions directly affect their children.

As a child I started the first few years of my life with two loving parents. As time went on I realized one parent was genuinely more in tune to the needs of my sisters and I, and eventually it took a toll on our family stability. So it wasn’t a complete shock the morning I woke up for school and saw the suitcases lined up in my parent’s bedroom. Still as an eight year old watching your dad walk out the door and never knowing when you will see him again isn’t emotionally easy to deal with. What is worse, is growing up to realize the man you once idolized, the man who was supposed to show you what real love is all about, isn’t a man worthy of your effort or affection.

For the past fifteen years the roller coaster of a relationship with my father has had ongoing side effects on my well-being. As a child I should be able to count on my father for advice, discipline, support, guidance, compassion, truth, lessons, adventure, and love. My father is supposed to protect me from the monsters under my bed, the bullies at school, and the boys who try to break my heart. But over time it has been upsetting to realize that my father is the one who breaks my heart time and time again.  His misguided actions and unkind words scar my heart and soul in ways no on else can. For as long as I can remember he has chosen to lead a life driven by his own selfishness. After he left I knew he wouldn’t be around very often, regardless every time I had a game or award ceremony I always scanned the crowd hoping I would see him standing there smiling with pride. He never showed.

As I grew older and came into my own my father and I drifted even further apart. When we talk on the phone now I feel as if I am communicating with a stranger. He doesn’t know me and I feel as if he is a man I no longer recognize. Now as an adult I do take some fault for our nonexistent relationship, but that doesn’t dismiss the many years he chose not to participate in my life.

My relationship with my father has left me damaged, cold, and now numb. I have gotten to a point where nothing he does or says surprises me anymore. Let down after let down he has contributed to me being emotionally guarded. I lack the ability to trust others because the person who always had my trust and love abused it too many times to count. The pain he has inflicted upon me over the years has spilled too many tears, and because of that my tears don’t fall anymore.

As humans we all have our faults and stains, and I don’t blame all of mine on my father. One of the best things my mother ever told me was, “Haley, you can’t use your dad as an excuse anymore. You have to take responsibility for your own actions.” She was exactly right. My decisions are my own and I deserve everything I want to achieve in this life. Instead of using my dad as an excuse when I make poor decisions I now make smarter decisions in order to make my mother proud. For she is the only light that pulls me from the overwhelming darkness my father has left inside me.

What parents must understand is that a child’s love for his or her guardian is like no other bond we witness. It is a bond that that can never be removed, and can always be preserved or reclaimed. Parents need to realize the power they have when it comes to their children. The influence of a parent on their child’s life is compelling like no other. My father’s inability to deliver the affection and devotion I required as a young child and even still today has damaged me in a way that is impossible to forget. As children when we are with our parents we are at our most vulnerable state. There is no need to have a guard up because our parents are the ones who are assumed to love us unconditionally. It is through our parents that we learn to show compassion, generosity, and respect. So it is critical as parents to not tarnish your child’s vulnerability, because it can be forever wounded with lasting affects.

As mentioned earlier, my mother is an amazing woman. She did everything she could to fill the void  in my life after my father left, and she did an unbelievable job. She is at no fault for the pain my father has caused me, and I know she would do anything to wipe it away. Sadly there is nothing that can be done by her or anyone else on the matter. What is done is done. We don’t get to choose our parents  and we can’t change the way they chose to love us. We can however carry on with life and make the best of what we have. Although I can’t forget the hurt my father has caused me I can still live my life with an abundance of love and the ability to always forgive.

So parents, don’t just give your children the chance to exist in this world but also give them the capacity to thrive in this world.  Allow your son or daughter to know compassion and kindness and when they experience pain or suffering in their lives make sure your love is what they have to help them get through the worst of days. For it is the parents of the world who are shaping and preserving the future of our humanity.

i didn’t go home for the holidays

Every year, since I can remember, my family has assembled together at Meemaw’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve. The evening is always filled with an abundance of booze, foods, gifts, and of course love. There is a certain comfort and warmth about spending the evening with my whole family at Meemaw’s house. Yes, every year, even if it is 70 degrees outside, we have a wood burning fire, but that is not exactly the warmth to which I am referring. It is warmth that can only be felt when we are all in the same place. As time goes on it has becomes harder and harder to get everyone together. So for or me the holidays are always an exciting time of year. We all get together, catch up on our lives, and are reminded once again of the love that bonds our family, and also the reason that we tend to only gather once a year.

I moved to France in October knowing I would not make in back for the holidays, but it didn’t make things easier as the end of December crept up on me. This was the first Christmas spent away from home, away from family. So instead of moping alone in the house with the cats and a bottle of vino, I decided to be proactive and get out of town for the week.

Living on the coast of southern France makes traveling quite simple. The train runs all along the coast passing through Toulon and Marseille to the west and Antibes, Nice, Monaco, and then into Italy through the east. I decided to head east venturing into a country I have never been, Italia. After all spending Christmas in the land of pizza, coffee, and wine wasn’t such a bad plan. Due to my lack of ahead of time planning I chose a city nearby, San Remo. It is only about a two-hour train ride from Cannes, and was recommended to me by local friends.

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view from my hotel, San Remo Italy

To a lot of people that live in France Italy is known for cheap shopping, freshly made pasta, and excellent quality coffee. San Remo is a popular destination for French natives because of the ideal location. The city it not large but certainly big enough for a two day adventure. Notable characteristics of San Remo include the immense Casio built in 1905, its production of extra virgin olive oil, and the San Remo Music Festival. The beautiful city is also known as the “city of flowers”, but considering I visited during the winter I didn’t see many of those blooming.

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San Remo Casino

My only plans for San Remo included:

eat pizza

drink lots of coffee and wine

visit the famous open air market

wander around the city hopefully stumbling upon something memorable

As a got off the train my first impression went something like this, “wow Italy is mesmerizing.” It felt as if everything was moving so fast but so slow and graceful at the same time. It had the hustle and bustle of a French city yet everything was so calm and smooth. I guess it is one of those you need to be there to understand what I am saying kind of things.

The forecast wasn’t so hopeful the weather was quite dreary with rain on and off all day…but I didn’t let that stop my exploring. So I grabbed my rain gear and set off.

First stop a busy little coffee shop for some breakfast. I sat down barely able to contain my excitement as I ordered my first Italian cappuccino. I also decided to order a croissant to soak up all the caffeine I was about to ingest.

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my first ever Italian cappuccino

Finally minutes later there in front of me sat a beautifully crafted Italian cappuccino, something I could even say I had been waiting my whole life for (okay maybe not my whole life but certainly for sometime now). The cappuccino was everything I imagined. The first sip was perfection. Not too hot not too cold, just strong enough to taste the espresso but not too bitter, and topped with just the right amount of a lovely cloud like layer of foam. What did I feel in that moment? Pure happiness. The more I drank I noticed below the layer of foam there was a little heart on the inside of the mug. It was adorable and made the cappuccino that much more enjoyable. I thought, ah it really is the little things in life.

made with love

made with love

After that wonderful start to my morning I set off in direction of the popular open-air market, which goes up every Tuesday and Saturday. When I finally stumbled upon the market I was overwhelmed by all the different goods. It kind of reminded me of flea markets in the States, but bigger and better when it comes to quality and variety. You can literally buy everything at this market, from food, to shoes, to toys, and even underwear. The market got hectic at times with all kinds of people shouting Italian phrases in different directions. I didn’t really have anything in mind to buy, but I ended up leaving with a few things: including two hats, two necklaces, and some fresh fruit.

an elephant necklace I bought

an elephant necklace I bought

After the market I kept walking and ended up at the sea. I glanced at the waves trying to figure out what it is about Italy that had me so excited. I wasn’t sure what sets Italy apart from the rest of the places I have visited. Well that was until I had pizza for dinner…

Italian pizza

Italian pizza

I actually had pizza for lunch and dinner that day. For those of you who know me that may come as a shocker, considering I hardly ever eat pizza. I know a lot of people are kind of obsessed with it, but honestly I think the only few times I have actually craved pizza was on a day I was really hungover. Other than that, if I have a choice on what I want to eat pizza and pasta are usually last. Let me just say, if you have a bucket list add eat pizza in Italy to it!

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San Remo coast

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The rest of the day I wandered around the city with no real plan. It is one of my favorite parts of traveling and I always say you get to know a city best after you when lost in it, literally. Since walking by the water helps me clear my head I headed back south for the beach. It was an overcast day and the beaches in San Remo didn’t seem as beautiful as the ones in southern France, but it was still so calming to hear the waves crashing against the shore. I had stopped for a few minutes to take in the amazing view when the next thing I knew I was giggling out loud. I quit reminiscing about my past and worrying about my future and just allowed myself to soak in my surroundings. I completely immersed myself in the present. I realized I am doing exactly what I want to do, travel and write. I am getting to do the two things I love most in this world.

I am one lucky girl, but I have been spending too much time lately feeling nostalgic thinking what I should have done and what I could do next. So one of my New Year’s resolutions in to live more in the moment, yes cliché I know, but it is the truth.

I left magical Italy a little early due to hurricane like weather the next day, and headed to a few hours north in France for some skiing with the family. I got to ski two days on fresh powder in the French Alps and it was incredible. I had never seen that much snow in my life. The first night there was a crazy snowstorm and we ended up getting over a meter of snow. Coming back from dinner that first night I was walking along the what I thought was the snow path when suddenly I was waist deep in snow (this is not an exaggeration)! I yelped out in shock and it took us almost five minutes to get me out because we were laughing so hard. At least now I can say my uggs have officially met the snow. Here are some pictures from my ski adventures in Isola 2000, the ski resort where we stayed.

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Day 1 snowstorm

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so much snow I could barely see

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Day 2 was beautiful

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All in all my first Christmas spent away from home was lovely. I returned to Cannes feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to take on 2014. But still I think next year I will try to make it home for the holidays 🙂

pang’ono pang’ono

During my time spent in Malawi I learned a Chichewa phrase, pang’ono pang’ono, translated it means “little by little”. I initially thought the commonly used phrase was a way for Malawians to excuse laziness and lack of punctuality. Like that time I ordered personalized wood from the market and the items weren’t delivered on the expected date. The market man came to me and said that these things take time “pang’ono pang’ono”. So now you see why while I was in Malawi my understanding of the phrase might have been misinterpreted.

Lately though my grasp of pang’ono pang’ono has expanded. Upon my return from Malawi I visited my 22-month-old nephew. I was in the room the day he was born and I held his tiny body when he was only a few hours old. At that time he wasn’t able to do much of anything on his own, but during my last visit I saw how he had completely transformed into a somewhat independent young boy. He is now able to run into furniture, throw objects across a room, fling his food at his parents, and more recently he has been working on his vocabulary. There was one moment during my visit when I was sitting with him trying to get him to say something other than his personal gibberish. I would point to an object and say the word, like “dog”, waiting for him to respond. I could see the determination in his eyes to repeat what I had just said, and he ended up mumbling something that sounded like “bog”. Of course I told him well done (close enough) and I remember thinking to myself pang’ono pang’ono. With some more time it won’t be difficult for him to articulate words and before we know it he will be forming complete sentences. Sure enough little by little one day he will be bigger, stronger, and wiser.

We as humans begin our lives as infants who can’t survive without the constant care of another and little by little we grow into surviving and thriving adults. Everyone knows this doesn’t happen in one night or even one year, it takes time effort and a lot of patience. I was hoping by 22 I would have things a little bit more together than I do. You know, love, a career, life in general; I was hoping I would have it all figured out by now. Sure would make things a hell of a lot easier.

It has been a crazy year for me, I graduated from college, took a job in Malawi for three months, returned home from Malawi in August, moved into a new house in Charleston, took a job in France, moved out of the house in Charleston, moved to France, and then after a couple of months decided to move to a different part of France. I am finally starting to feel settled and hopefully I can stay in one place for a while.

In all my late chaos and adventure I have come to realize, life doesn’t come at us all at once but rather in pieces. Little by little we are given new pieces and each one encompasses something different, whether it be love, friendship, or adventure. Sometimes the pieces fit together perfectly and other times they crumble, either resulting in sorrow or in bliss. We know some of the pieces won’t fit, but day-by-day we try and make the pieces form as one with the hope of achieving some kind of happiness. Trying to fumble my way through this game of life I can see that contentment doesn’t happen over night, it is an ongoing process, pang’ono pang’ono.

As cliché as it can seem anything worth it in life doesn’t happen quickly. Succeeding at your passion, keeping the one you love around, making life-changing decisions, picking up and starting over in a new city, it all happens little by little. You have to be patient, stay determined, and listen to your heart. When it is something you really want, someone you really love, or somewhere you really want to be you can’t give up just because the pieces don’t seem to fit in that moment. Whenever I feel like letting up or giving in I just think to myself pang’ono pang’ono, because hopefully whatever I want, need, pursue, or love in this life is worth the struggle and wait.

So as the holidays draw near I am just trying to collect all my pieces and make the best with what I have now. Life really is too precious and short to be unhappy. No matter what, I know the pieces I have collected along the way have purposefully placed me here, right where I need to be, well at least for now.

 

**Life update**

 I have switched families due to some complications, but everything is great now. I am living in Cannes, which is about 5 hours south of Geneva located in Côte d’Azur (French Riviera). Cannes is about half an hour from Nice and famous for the annual Cannes International Film Festival. For information on the new family check out the “About” page of my blog.

 

 

on being lost

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines lost as, “not knowing where you are or how to get to where you want to go : unable to find your way”.

When I first meet someone new our casual conversation usually leads to the question, “what are you doing with your life?” My current response usually includes these details: in May I graduated from college, left home to work in Malawi for three months, and now I find myself working as au pair in France for a year. Depending on whom I am talking to their reactions can vary. If they are older than me usually, 30s and above, there is always an awkward pause and then they say something like “oh so what are actually doing with your life?” I sigh. If the acquaintance is a fellow twenty something she or he usually has a very different reaction, it is more of an unspoken understanding like oh yeah I know what you mean I have no clue where my life is headed either. Honestly I am surprised more “adults” aren’t supportive of the typical life of us twenty somethings, I mean you were our age once (in case you forgot).

Anyway like I was saying, most of my good friends are in their twenties so lately a lot of my talks with them have centered around being lost in the game of life. Many of us seem to be trying to navigate the waters between who we are and who we want to be. All of this has got me pondering what do I think it means to be lost.

Lost in place.

As my recent days are spent traveling foreign lands and I very often find myself lost in place. I wander around in unknown cities down timeworn streets with no real destination in mind. I love these days where I get to adventure to a new place and on my own time with no schedule. My mind becomes free from worry, stress, and obligations and just floats to a place of explorer’s bliss. I soak in surrounding sounds, smells, and sights. When I am lost somewhere I discover things I may not have come across before. When I go looking for something somewhere I tend to miss out on all those things that make that place special. I find that getting lost in a place is the only authentic way to discover it. Getting lost is also one of the reasons I love traveling so much.

Lost in love.

Whether it is love for a friend, family, or that particular person everyone at least once has felt lost in love (if you haven’t yet you will). Love typically makes us all do and say crazy things. When I find myself really in love with another I will do whatever I can to keep them in my life, simply for the fact that having them around makes my life worth living. Sometimes I find that people I love will leave, but that doesn’t change my love for them. After they are gone I can’t help but feel lost in love. I try to carry on with life but without them things will just never be the same. Loosing someone is painful, confusing, frustrating, and mainly just sad. The emotions that come with loosing someone I love can be so overwhelming, so suffocating, and those are the moments when I feel completely lost. I realize love is life’s most precious gift and feeling lost will always be apart of it, but that doesn’t always make it easy.

“Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who she should be.”

 Lost in life.

 In today’s society there is a lot of external pressure to make something of yourself and to succeed (whatever that actually means).  At my age everyone seems to be waiting for me to make my next “big move” towards success, a move I am absolutely not ready for. For the majority of my life I went to school, did my work, and got grades. School is really the only thing I know how to do well. So now here I am finished with school (maybe) and not a clue what to do now. It is exciting and also really terrifying knowing that I can do whatever I want next. I think that is why sometimes I feel so lost in life. On one hand I have society insisting I need to either go back to school or get a good job and eventually settle down with a family, and on the other hand I just want to be happy. Sometimes I feel so lost in life because I realize my happiness doesn’t always coincide with society’s formula for a successful life. There are nights I don’t sleep and days I can’t get out of bed because I feel so lost in my life. On these days I reach out to those few people who know exactly what to say and remind me to breathe because everything will be okay. When it comes down to it I know at some point I will realize who I am and what I want to do with the rest of my life, but for now I will continue to float around figuring it all out.

So here is what I have come to realize during all my time spent being lost. It is OK to be lost, to not know whom you are, to not know where you will go next, and to not know who you will be tomorrow. Being lost doesn’t have to have a negative connotation; rather it should have a positive one. Part of the beauty of life is being lost and embracing it. If you are lost don’t fret and don’t obsess about finding your way, rather let life take you on your journey and relish every moment. Sometimes you have to be lost to find your way. I promise eventually you will be found; you just have to love the life you live. So simple yet so significant.

So, lately I have been thinking being lost isn’t such a bad thing. After all who really wants to be found anyway? I mean what evens comes after that…

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oh the people we meet

Think about what you did this week. Did you walk around the block, hangout at a bar, take public transportation, go to church, or spend some time in a coffee shop? Now think about who you encountered when you were out in the world just doing as you pleased. Did you meet up with a friend, a lover, family, or maybe crossed paths with someone new?

I spend a lot of time, well maybe all of my time, thinking about the people in my life.  Some people have always been around, like my family. Some people have been with me for a long time, like my old friends. Some people I lose connection with over time, like summer flings. Some people I only know for a short time, like a person I met on a plane.

When I think about the people in my life I often wonder why and how I came to know someone or build a relationship with them, and if I get really immersed in my thoughts I will think about how knowing them affects me. This kind of thinking reminds me of a book I read one summer, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I don’t consider myself a religious person, I could call myself spiritual more than anything, but regardless when I read Albom’s book it had a way of getting me to think about my relationships with others. In this novel the story is based around a main character that is killed while saving another’s life. The character is sent to heaven where he encounters five people whom critically impacted his life before death. To me the setting is irrelevant but rather the character’s relationship with those five people is thought provoking. The book made me ponder about the people I know, have known, or will one day know, and the relationships I have with them. How do my relationships  with other people impact me and the life I am living?

I tend to consider myself a wildly imaginative and highly emotional individual (my best friend will attribute this to me being a Pisces) and these characteristics have me spending a lot of time thinking about possibilities for my future. I am always contemplating about who I am, who I want to be, and what I can achieve in my short lifetime.  What I have come to realize is that the people I surround myself with are constantly shaping me. Some may say this is a bad thing, but I disagree. I am not saying I let others define me but I try to take into account that, like the character in Albom’s novel, the people I meet along my journey of life are placed here for a reason.

Whether it is the high school boyfriend who taught me how to really love someone other than myself, or the best friend that showed me how friends can be just as important as family, or the stranger who made me strengthen my faith in humanity by helping another, or the two friends that died too young but taught me to always be kind to others, or the professor who told me my future is mine and I decide what I do next, or the coach that believed in me more than I believed in myself, or the mentor that made me realize no dream of mine is ever too big to achieve, or even that someone I met abroad who reminded me “the things that make you happy are essential”. All of these people and so many more I have encountered have made me who I am today.

I think that is why I spend so much time thinking about the people in my life and the relationships I have with them. I also think that is why it is so hard when I lose someone who has impacted me for the better, someone I love. When a relationship is broken or lost it is hard to come to terms with because I feel like I am losing a part of myself. A part that will never be the same, a part that I will never get back. You could say I become attached to people too quickly, trust too easily, and see the good in everyone; that is probably all completely true. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt because I believe relationships with others teach me how to sacrifice, forgive, and love. Without these encounters or relationships, positive and negative, I cannot learn, grow, evolve.  I do think that everything happens for a reason, the good and the bad. I am placed in certain situations and I encounter certain people because it is all part of fulfilling my life’s purpose. A purpose I don’t quite have a grasp on understanding, but that is another blog post for a different day.

 

be who you are

Some people spend their whole lives trying to be accepted by others. People will use up all their positive energy trying to be someone they are not. I know this all too well because I use to be one of those people. Growing up I tried so hard to fit into the mold of our society’s “perfect girl”. A girl who is funny but not cynical, skinny but not scrawny, athletic but not butch, sophisticated but not snobby, down to earth but not a hippie, educated but not superior. I did whatever I could to not be myself and to make sure I was the girl everyone thought I should be. Luckily somewhere along the way I realized how stupid I was being for trying to be anyone but myself. Don’t get me wrong I am still trying to figure out exactly who I am, but I do know I will not be anyone but myself. As I travel and meet more people my understanding about just how unique each individual is in this big world becomes enhanced. Every person is special, yes that is actually true. We all have our little something something we bring into this world, and if we use it right we can make a positive difference.

My profound “I don’t give a f*%$” attitude (sorry mom) has honestly made my outlook on myself and life significantly more positive. That doesn’t mean I go around doing as I please at the expense of others. You can be yourself and at the same time respect those around you.

Being an au pair for two young girls I can see how the pressure to fit in weighs down on them, much like it did on me at that age. Today I was wondering how I could somehow influence them for the better, so that they will see that it will all be okay. I want to reassure them that one-day silly things won’t matter anymore, things like what brand of clothes you wear, if your hairstyle is “in”, or how cool you appear to others. Then I thought what better way to show them than to just be me, and all I can hope is that is enough.

So my advice: go out there and do you! Do what makes you happy with who makes you happy, it is that simple. My hope is that your positivity will rub off on others when they need it most. Oh and don’t forget to smile 🙂

Happy Monday!

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind Dr. Seuss 2

thank you dr. seuss

Malawi to Monaco- finding your “warm heart”

Last weekend I went for a run through the gorgeous country of Monaco. For those of you who don’t know Monaco is a tiny country, about 2sq km, located at the south of France and it boarders the Mediterranean Sea. I started the first part of my year in Europe in Monaco while visiting a friend, adjusting to the time change, and playing the role of tourist before I become a French “local”.

During my run  I found myself doing less running and more taking in the view. Monaco really is beautiful beyond words,  and some of the port and scenery reminds me of parts of Cape Town, South Africa.

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Cape Town, SA

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Monaco Port

On most runs I focus on the run and more importantly the terrain in an attempt to not fall and bust my face open. This particular morning though my run was different. I found myself lost in thought, and the thought drifted to my recent time spent in Malawi. It was more of realization that less than three months ago I was living in a very different part of the world. As someone who loves to travel I go from place to place trying to hold few prejudices in order to come to my own understanding of each new environment. But I am only human and there are times I can’t help but compare the places I have been.

Monaco is known for its immense wealth, the famous Monte Carlo casino, and as the backdrop of recent James Bond movies (Daniel Craig ooh la la). I looked around and saw designer everything including Chanel, Mercedes, and Ferrari. Before I left the house to go exploring I always made sure my hair and make-up looked nice, my clothes were decent, and that I had enough money to buy a drink or sweet. I didn’t really feel like I “fit in”, and I didn’t really care.

Malawi, besides being known for the Madonna catastrophes, is famous for its “warm heart”, welcoming people, and beautiful simplicity. All the time I spent in Malawi I put on make-up maybe twice, never cared what clothes I wore (as long as I was respectful of the culture), and cherished my interactions with others and adventures more than any materials. Malawians always took me into their arms with a heartfelt acceptance, and during all my time there I felt like I was home.

My next day in Monaco I went to explore the city alone. As I walked about I became frustrated at the people surrounding me; mainly because of how infatuated they were with all of the fancy cars, gigantic yachts, and ritzy high-rises. To get away from the chaos I headed to a tiny beach my friend had taken me the day before. The beach is kind of hidden under the museum off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

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The Oceanographic Museum

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view from my favorite place on earth

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the beach, not the best photo, but it will do.

As I sat on the beach I began to focus on the crashing of the waves and amazing view, eventually calming my mind. I then thought about Malawi and its people and wished more than ever that I was back in the warm heart of Africa. But after a few deep breaths I realized that no matter where I go, how much I am surrounded by, or who I am with I can find my own beautiful simplicity in all that I do. Every place on Earth world has a warm heart, whether it is a small beach, a park bench, or a cafe, you just have to wander around until you discover it.

You know that cliche, “money can’t buy happiness”, well I believe it and you should too. So each day take a minute or two to stop what you are doing, inhale then exhale (repeat), look around, hug the ones you love, take it all in, and remember to find the positive in everything you do. If you aren’t happy in the moment make a change. Never forget we are all linked by our happiness, so get out there and spread the love.