On Staying

Two years ago, in the produce aisle of an Orlando Publix, I begged my mom to let me quit.

“I want to go home,” I sobbed. “I can’t do it, I don’t know anyone here, I’m not ready, it’s too hard.” Through tears, I gave every excuse I could think of; most of them valid.

I was over 500 miles away from the comfort of the familiar and the ease of routine. I felt like I had just jumped into an unfamiliar pool with my eyes closed and suddenly I forgot how to swim (which was quite literally the opposite of my job description). Who was I to leave my school, my family, and my friends, to work as a lifeguard at Walt Disney World? I was overwhelmed and unprepared and I wanted to quit before it even began.

“You can leave if you want,” my mom said, pulling me into her arms. “You can fly home with me tomorrow. But,” she looked me straight in the eye, “this is your dream.”

Isn’t it interesting that we get the most scared when we are the closest to achieving our dreams? As we teeter on the edge of all we’ve ever wanted, the reality of realizing our dreams becomes too much. And sure, working for Disney is a silly dream and one that’s not particularly unique to me, but the lesson I learned that night is universal: When we choose to stay instead of run, when we say yes even though we’re terrified, when we wipe our tears and dig in our heals, we inch closer to the person God has called us to be. I believe that our hopes and dreams are God-given, to be realized for His glory. When we make those leaps of faith, however big or small they may seem, we are learning to rely not on self, but on God.

I didn’t quit. And got homesick, and I messed up, and my social anxiety was through the roof, and I didn’t know what I was doing and it was hard. But I stayed and that made all the difference.Castle1

3 Or Less: January 25, 2016

I had my first test of the new semester this morning, so naturally, instead of waking up early to study some more or to exercise & get the blood flowing to my brain (#science), I woke up early to drink coffee and to listen to my favorite podcast. The She Didn’t Text Back Podcast is crass and rude and hysterical and the perfect thing to listen to at 7:54 a.m. (That statement is also #science).

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIn a lot of ways, I’m not a morning person, but there is just something so undeniably great about having plenty of time to do your makeup and sip that life-sustaining juice that is coffee. And it’s an added bonus when your mug is stinkin’ adorable.  Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

In keeping with the lazy Monday theme, today’s OOTD featured a tee shirt proclaiming my general feelings (Ok, but first coffee) and yoga pants for the ultimate test-taking comfort.

I’ve been trying for literally years to practice yoga Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetconsistently. As much as I love it and can recognize the positive impact it has on my health and happiness, I just can never seem to make it a part of my daily routine. And then I feel all negative about that and so very un-yogi like, perpetuating my distance from my practice. But today’s a new day and I’m celebrating making it to the mat! A nice stretch to start the week off right. Now to tackle that paper I’ve been putting off…

 

3 or Less: January 22, 2016

It’s been a rainy, dreary day here in Tennessee, the kind that makes you want to skip your  classes and just stay tucked up in bed. Thank goodness for coffee and rain boots.

Processed with VSCOcam with acg presetRainy day = Simplicity. Black jeans, loose tee and my go-to jacket for the OOTD.

The only logical thing to do after class on a gross Friday morning is to reflect and reminisce. For Christmas, I received the most lovely set of paperback journals. Each has a theme and simple little prompts to get the words flowing. A Dr. Pepper in my sparkly cup, some Beatles music, and making a list of tiny pleasures I want to enjoy more; what could be better?

Processed with VSCOcam with acg presetI’m generally a pretty introspective, nostalgic person, but this week I’ve been feeling particularly reflective. Two years ago, I left school to work at Walt Disney World for a semester. This week has been a mess of emotions remembering that time and it seemed fitting to take a look through my scrapbook this morning. So many sweet memories.

Processed with VSCOcam with acg presetSleepy, simple Friday mornings are easily one of my favorite things. No rushing, no stress. Even the nasty weather can’t spoil this glorious morning.

 

On Failure

I failed.
I missed-it-by-miles, should-be-ashamed, utterly and completely failed.
Last year, I nailed NaNoWriMo, easily crushing 50,000 words in 30 days.
But this year was a whole different beast. The first few days of November were jam packed with school stress and I quickly fell behind my daily word count goal. I’d chip away at it, trying desperately to catch back up, but I just had too much going on.
Then panic set in. I couldn’t stop now; I’d told all my friends I was doing it. What would people think if I didn’t achieve my goal? The dreaded F word clouded my thoughts. I would be a FAILURE.
I stopped writing a week and half into NaNo and, shockingly, nothing happened. The world didn’t stop turning simply because I failed to complete a self-imposed challenge. No planes fell out of the sky, babies didn’t all of a sudden start crying when they saw me.
And, most surprising of all, I felt GOOD. I was bummed because I enjoyed getting to spew creative word vomit for hours at a time and because I genuinely love a good challenge, but I was relieved. I quit literally mid-sentence and was happy about it.
This happiness came by way of a realization: There’s no shame in failure!
It sucks, it’s a bummer, it’s lame, but it’s life. We can’t do everything and some days we can’t do anything. But on those blissful days when we CAN do something, we enjoy them even more, because we’ve felt the sting of failure.
It’s what drives us forward. It’s what makes us want to be better. Failure festers, and feeds ambition.
I failed.
But I failed with pride and with lessons learned.
And next year, I’ll try again.

On Learning to Love Puzzles

 

 

 

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Puzzles drive me crazy. I’ve never understood the draw of painstakingly matching pieces up in an effort to create some lame picture. I get frustrated, bored, and grumpy; my pieces never seem to mesh with anyone else’s. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, you work on a puzzle with the right group of people who are able to connect your rough edges perfectly with theirs.

It was one of my last nights working at summer camp. The moon reflected off the lake, the docked pontoon we’d commandeered rocked gently, the 2 am exhaustion of long, hard weeks lulled us into a sleepy fog, and I couldn’t believe just how well we fit together.

The past five weeks had been a rollercoaster. Growing up, I went to an amazing, well-organized summer camp every year, but somehow I’d found myself at 21, working not at the shiny, golden camp of my youth, but at its smaller, crumbling cousin where I knew only two other people. My coworkers had all grown up together and reminisced on shared memories of “their” camp while I stood awkwardly in the corner, an outsider looking in. I tried desperately to learn the nuances of this new group of people, anxious and fearful that my pieces wouldn’t fit into their established puzzle. But if there’s one thing that rings true about summer camp, it’s that you can’t stand in the corner alone for too long before someone takes you by the hand in a stirring rendition of Lean on Me and you find yourself completely swept up in the madness that is camp.

South Carolina in July is about as close to hell as I care to be, and while the heat was nearly unbearable, it served an important purpose. There is a certain kind of camaraderie that comes from mutually sweating buckets and my coined adage of “No one’s gross if we’re all gross” became the mantra for that summer. As a collective, disgusting mess, the staff bonded and I found myself in the middle of it all, embracing everything from made-up games like Candy Bar Kickball to ridiculous plays centered on “Danger Dan”, the most outrageous character guaranteed to illicit laughter from even the toughest teenager.

As the weeks went by, the campers stole my sleep and the camp stole my heart. On my last night off, two days before leaving camp, a ragtag crew of staff and I decided to make the best of it. We drove the hour to the nearest town to load up on Taco Bell and Sonic, then returned to camp after dark and roamed the grounds aimlessly, slipping into a warm, drowsy haze. The dozen or so of us eventually landed on the docked pontoon boat and sprawled out on the floor and seats, peeling shirts off in the sticky heat of the night. Lying there for hours under the glow of the moon, I traced the rough lines connecting our little group together. Sadie used to date Ken (who Lacey had been crushing on all summer) and Ralph, but Ralph still wasn’t over her. Turns out McKenzie knew my cousin, Ken and Jen were related somehow, and Fitz and Mike had gone to school together since kindergarten. Transcending all of those connections, though, was the unbreakable, magical bond of that moment. We would never be all together like that again and everyone seemed to sense just how precious that was.

Slowly and reluctantly, the group began to disband, sleep calling people back to their cabins. With just four of us left, a plan was hatched. When three a.m. hit, McKenzie, Lacey, Fitz and I would strip down to our underwear and jump off the dock into our faithful lake, a last goodbye to the beautiful, murky mess central to our lives for weeks. Giggling as I shimmied out of my shorts, I was far from the nervous, quiet girl I’d been when I first arrived at camp. That girl never would have been daring enough to break rules or comfortable enough to let her guard down. But good people are powerful and that tattered-on-the-edges, disorganized-most-days camp was full of good people.

We paddled around in the shallow waters of the lake for a few minutes while checking the shoreline for the elusive night watch man (who was definitely more concerned with snagging leftovers from the kitchen then with what four staff members were up to) before heaving ourselves back onto the dock and shaking the water off like a pack of wet dogs.

Dipping in the lake washed away the anxiety that I’d clung to for years, and as I walked back to my cabin by the light of the moon, I’d never felt more content with my uneven edges. Perfectly assembled, I was a part of a group of imperfect college kids with our jagged pieces fitting together to create a picture that only we could make. I learned to embrace puzzles that summer, smashed there in between strangers-turned-friends who had seen me at my sweatiest and decided to love me anyway.