Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness

I’ve been a fan of Brené Brown for a while now, and after multiple people recommended her book, Braving the Wilderness, I decided I had to give it a read.

I’m a lover of hard-cover books that I can hold in my hands and read alone, but I decided to get the Audible version and listen during my walks. (Re-reading this sentence makes me alarmingly aware that I am 23 going on 74).

Not only did I love the book, the audio version is Brown reading it herself, so it feels even more genuine, even more important.

Let me start out by saying, I felt the beginning was slow to get into and the first two chapters took a bit of energy to get through. But it’s worth sticking out. The bulk of the book is a deep-hearted narrative that weaves scientific studies and statistical findings.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last sixteen years studying vulnerability and shame. Some of the statistics she shares throughout the book are insane. Like this one:

 “Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%. Living with obesity, 20%. Excessive drinking, 30%. And living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45%.”

How crazy is that? Feeling alone is deadlier than putting actual poison in your body. According to other research in the book, food, water, and connection are our three necessities. Which simply means: denying we are lonely is the same to our body and mind as denying that we are hungry. The long-term effects are just as dangerous and detrimental. (If you want to check out the full study from the meta-analytic review, you can download the PDF here).

While the book explores multiple themes, the central theme is the idea of true belonging. What it means to belong versus fit in. What it means to show up as we are, where we are. 

I could go on and on about the book, so I wrote a list of all I learned. 

It was one of those books I felt grateful to read. And some of the parts I’ll always carry with me are:

1. We belong to ourselves. 
It’s a big job, to know and understand that ultimately, how we feel, act, and choose our belonging is up to us. When we start carrying our lives as our own, we realize we belong anywhere that we show up honestly.

2. The kindest thing we can be is honest. 
I want to always, always be seen as the friendly, reliable person in a room. I want people to feel encouraged, acknowledged, and supported around me. But sometimes it zaps my energy entirely and I rarely know how to turn people away. Honesty is crucial. We can’t serve others and offer them joy if we are denying it for ourselves.

3. Hating the same people as someone else does not and will not ever foster genuine connection. 
Brené Brown calls this "common enemy intimacy". You can't create real roots in a relationship that's rooted in the idea of hate. The only thing you get out of gossiping about others is, maybe, fifteen minutes of a surface conversation.

But those talks we truly crave, the ones that leave us feeling lifted, inspired, and curious of the world? Those don't come from saying unkind things about someone.

4. We are all human, meaning if you believe in the goodness of people, and you recognize you are no more or less than others, you can't "hate" one side, one group, one collective society of people. 
Brown has this whole section where she talks about dehumanization- how we don't need government to segregate us and decide what people can and cannot be, we've already done this ourselves, by placing people in boxes and attacking them if they decide that box is not for them.

Brown goes on to say, you turn on the news and you are told what to fear and who to blame. And it is always other people, and it always leads to dehumanization: 

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 

5. Replace "I am angry" with "I am hurt." 
Our anger and the world's anger, doesn't come from a place of being truly angry, but instead feeling unseen and unable to belong anywhere. This also goes with the above. How many angry people are just not understood? How quickly do we jump to anger when it's pain that needs tending to? Our world needs a lot more compassion. 

6. Sometimes life asks that we stand alone. 
My goodness, this is not easy. Sometimes we put up a good fight to keep fitting in. Sometimes we are called to walk away. And we stand out: alone, cold, nervous, alarmingly aware of how large and small we can feel at the same time. It's all temporary. I look at all the leaders I admire and adore and notice one thing: they have all been called to stand alone, to stand rooted in what they truly believe, before people saw the sense in it. 

But how wonderful it is to come to find where you feel most sincere and free, how wonderful it is to then find people that don’t ask you to fit in, but instead remind you of how you belong anywhere you get to show up as yourself. True belonging requires zero negotiation.

I'm linking the book here.
And you can download Audible and get a free book here.

And for anyone going through anything, take heart. We truly are all in this together, all searching for our place of belonging. Let go of the versions of yourself that no longer, or maybe never did, hold truth. There's better ahead than anything we’re asked to leave behind. 

Wishing everyone a beautiful day. 


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Books for Restoring Your Faith ( In Yourself, In Others, In the Whole, Big, Messy World)

I thought of what to call this list a dozen times over. Books for Reminding You You Aren't Alone, Books to Remind You There Are Worse Things, Books I've Clutched to My Own Chest, and so on.

A few week back I had posted a couple quotes on my Instagram story from Cheryl Strayed's, Tiny Beautiful Things. 

I was nineteen-years-old in a crowded newsroom when my editor set this book on my desk and simply said, "I think you'll like this."

I've read the book four times, each time revealing something new, each time reminding me of a few crucial truths: a full life welcomes everyone, struggle is never a singular experience, and most importantly, we are never truly alone.

After posting the quotes on my Instagram story, I got messages thanking me for sharing,  asking me about the book, or simple recognition that the quote was needed.

So I decided to make this list- a list of books that restore your faith in the workings and ways of this messy world.

Honestly, 99% of books I read do this for me, but these do it something better. These are the book from writers who untangled themselves from their very core and had the courage to write about it.

All of these books have restored my faith in myself, in others, in the sentiment I pour over all I love: "it will all be okay."

Because it will. Because everything you thought you'd never survive, you're now here to tell about. And these are the books from people who are already doing their telling.

1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

This book is the letters written to Sugar of Dear Sugar, an advice column originally published by The Rumpus. The entries are vulnerable, hilarious, and really really real. I mean, these are people anonymously writing in about their biggest worries and problems. Strayed shares with this love and honesty that makes you feel like you are sitting on her sofa with your knees pulled into your chest, asking for guidance. And she gives it flawlessly.

“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.” 

“So release yourself from that. Don't be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word 'love' to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.” 

“You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.” 

2. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

I cry at everything, but I reaaally cried at this collection of essays. Marina Keegan passed away in a car crash just five days after graduating from Yale. Her work was collected and bound in a book. Her optimism and hope for the world is the stuff of life.

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”

“The best years of our lives are not behind us. They're part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn't live in New York.”

3. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Joan Didion is one of those women that you read her words and sigh with a, "how did she find the words for what I so often feel?" kinda breath. She wrote this collection of essays about her life in California during the 1960's. It's magic.

“See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do... on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there...” 

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

4. On Writing by Stephen King

You don't need to necessarily like writing or even want to write. I think if you enjoy reading about someone who had the odds against him and the people telling him "no, no, no" and then suddenly, his work gets picked up and he is a household name and all of us are equally scared of red balloons on street gutters, you'll like this one. This book remindsmme you do what you love, period. And you pursue it even when it doesn't seem possible.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

5. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 

I'm emotional even writing about this one. Jeanette Walls leaves it all in this memoir. As a kid, she was raised in less-than-ideal circumstances by parents who were dysfunctional: her father, an alcoholic always promising things just over the horizon, her mother, an unstable artist. Walls grow up trying to navigate the promises of parents and learning to fight and feel for herself. It's one of my favorites.

“I hate Erma," I told Mom...
"You have to show compassion for her..." She added that you should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. "Everyone has something good about them," she said. "You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that."
"Oh yeah?" I said. "How about Hitler? What was his redeeming quality?"
"Hitler loved dogs," Mom said without hesitation.” 

“Once you'd resolved to go, there was nothing to it at all.”

“I felt best when I was on the move, going someplace rather than being there.” 

6. Anything by Anne Lammott (Bird by Bird, Help Wow Thanks, Plan B, and more)

The woman is an unapologetic genius and I find so much comfort in the ways she shares. I haven't read a book of hers I haven't learned from.

“Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” 

7. Gift of The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

My mom gifted me this book and it's just everything and more. The writer goes off and spends time, by the sea, reconnecting to her life. Her words make you recognize how abundant and wonderful and forgiving life is. And the importance of trusting your own voice- stepping away from the booming noise of others. It's one of the books I always gift to friends in need of some extra self-love.

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.” 

“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”

I could go on and on. I hope you go and find any bit of lost faith in each of these books, and then I hope you share it with anyone who seems to be needing that same faith-restoring goodness, too.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

lessons from my dear mama

I've been pretty bad (really bad, but I'm trying to be gentle with myself) at keeping up on my blog.

Today I was reading various publications I love and adore and pour over on slow mornings. Things like New York Times Modern Love, everything from The Rumpus, and Tin House. Anyway, I realized I created my blog because no matter how much I love all of these publications, I wanted my words to have a home that felt particularly cozy and without judgement. That was/is Life is This. And I'll try and be better about bringing the words home more often.

I woke up today with my mama real heavy on my heart. I'm getting older and learning how much I love her as a person. How essential she was/is to my becoming. How safe I feel knowing she just gets me.

She has taught me so much over the years. Directly and indirectly. Just by shining her light and loving me. She believes in me like no other. If I told her I was going to learn Japanese by tomorrow, she would say, "Oh, honey, I totally believe you could," and then, "Maybe we could go to Japan together someday."

She knows the ins and outs of who I am. She knows the weight of my bones and still cradles them when I come to her crying or overjoyed. Gosh, I adore her.

I was realizing this week that I didn't really know my mother until my parents divorced. I knew she was a daughter and then a girlfriend and then a wife and then a mom, but I didn't know that at some point, I would get to know her when she only belonged to herself.

Watching her switch from being someone's to being her own was like watch someone try and fly a kite- when at first there is no wind and it's bouncing on the ground and the string is caught around the wrist, and then frustration and patience are suddenly met with a gust of wind and the kite just soars.   My mom went from flightless to being the highest, brightest thing in the sky. And honestly, I could watch her soar through her life, her very own life, forever.

Here is a list of ten things she has taught me. They are the things I've journaled about over the years and when I re-read them I can't help but think, "the lady was always right."

1. You are the only person who can truly care for you. Hug your body. Be gentle with your soul.
2. The thing that gets you out of bed every morning has to be your own.
3. Flossing is essential. Essential oils are also essential.
4. There's a beating under your ribs and wherever that beating calls you, go there and live.
5. Living outside your truth is more painful than the feeling of disappointing others.
6. Find things to be okay in every moment. Do things that serve your being.
7. Black lace underwear should never go in the dryer.
8. Life opens up to those who are already standing with their face towards the sun, speaking "thank you's" to the world.
9. Maya Angelou can be quoted in nearly any situation. People's energy can just be "off." Sticking up for yourself is not the same thing as being a "bitch."
10. Dancing, giggling, baking things with "a whole lot of love" are all crucial to staying sane.

And for bonus, something she says to me that never fails to soothe like honey and hope: it all unfolds exactly as it should.

she's also just the cutest

My mama's wisdom has always been a favorite writing topic of mine, more posts here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

15for25 // Stephanie

I met Stephanie while vacationing in Lake George with my family. Her daughters were playing with my littlest cousin, and as we started talking, about life, about dreams, about being a woman, I recognized (and deeply admired) a strength in her that seemed to be just so deep in her being. 
That was nearly two years ago. I still admire her, and after reading this list of hers, I realize meeting her wasn't a coincidence, but a happening that would lead me to answers I didn't even know I had questions about. 

Please, please take the time to read this. If you have ever felt sad, hurting, or helpless. If you are a woman or a man. Read this and hold it close. Thank you times a million for sharing, Stephanie. 

15 for 25, by Stephanie Cosentino 

I wasn't always depressed, but I have spent almost 20 years of my life barely living, but...alive; I WAS breathing after all, even though sometimes I needed help to do even that. The years passed and life continued to happen around me and to me, but I stayed stuck in a very dark place. I fell at the age of 23.  I went from five glorious and golden years to hell, where I was no longer who I thought I was and nothing was what it once seemed. When I write, there's little I can write about that doesn't in some way pertain to this depression. There are few, if any, memories that exist that don't, in some way, remind me of my depression, even if it's to say they happened "before I became depressed".
Without a doubt, I am currently no longer depressed. It took years of very hard work, focusing very introspectively, living in a my own world and finally, in this very year, the help of medication, to come out of my depression. But I did it. And here are the 15 things my suddenly depressed, despondent, and scared 25 year-old self desperately needed to hear.  

1- Enjoy the destruction. I'm surprised I didn't get this concept then. I used to do one massive weekly housecleaning and on cleaning day, I'd thoroughly enjoy being a little destructive and not caring about being in a mess. A messy house is one thing, but a messy life was scary. Going from a 4-semester-Dean's-List-student at university, to failing the entire 5th semester scared me. Going from 5-day-a-week gymrat to a 5-night-a-week cokefiend scared me. Going from happy and optimistic to crying and miserable scared me. For years, I held on to my Golden Years, looking backwards and stuck, unable to accept they were over. So, yea, enjoy the destruction, really get into not giving a f*ck. These miserable, introspective years will end up being the source of your future strength. Enjoy the moment, whatever moment you're in. Even if you hate it, be present, because...

2- It's a phase. It will end. The good and the bad. Nothing lasts. Let things go gracefully. Let people go gracefully. I learned this with age, but mostly, I learned this from motherhood. Babies' overall growth is fast and furious in their first 3 years. Phases are everything. Transition is hard, but understanding that nothing stays the same will make it easier to keep from getting stuck. Change is the only constant, so it would be wise to stay in the middle of the wheel without getting attached to the ups and downs of the life cycle.  

3- It's ok to be superficial. There is a time to have fun, let loose, be silly, be light. For too many years, I focused only on all the "bad" things going on. 9/11. The Bush Era. The Kardashian freak show. Poison in our food. Disease knocking people out of my life. The climate changing. Poverty versus extreme wealth. Wars. I carried a cross and never let myself remember there were also good things to celebrate. I cried constantly. I felt hopeless. And one day, I realized that my misery and gravity weren't making the world a better place, only taking me deeper into a downward spiral, killing my light, the only thing that was worth anything. Laughter makes the world better, so laugh. If you find a pretty lipstick shade, it's ok to enjoy it. Don't be so serious. 
4- You can only change the world by changing your world first. I can't feed the multitudes of starving humans or bring peace to the Middle East and focusing on that cut off any power I potentially had. I can visit my sick friend. I can forgive my sister-in-law for hurting me and ask to be forgiven for hurting her back. I can mediate my brothers' feud. I can try understanding my boyfriend's point of view instead of just my own. I can donate to the local food pantry. I can run for local office and make my community a better place. It all starts with Me exactly where I am today.

4- You are so f*cking strong. You may be broken, but you continue to wake up every day to be better, to right your wrongs, to face the mirror and acknowledge your flaws. Not everyone can handle deconstructing their illusions. You're stronger than you know.   

5- Go slow. Focus on the flow. I spent years struggling AGAINST depression. Until one day, I realized I could sometimes stop and just be where I am and be a witness to my life instead of an actor. When you stop, you learn how to breathe, you gather your bearings and realize you can actually touch the ground. Life can be a struggle, but it doesn't have to be. Life can be chaotic, but you can always always find peace IN the chaos. In fact, finding peace in the chaos is the point of life. Nothing can break you when you're in peace. Not wars. Not cranky children. Not asshole bosses. Not unprepared presidents. Not ungrateful friends. Life is a journey, so go slow and focus on the flow.

6- Feel the pain. When my daughter was 2, she cried incessantly. Like 6-8 hours a day. I couldn't handle it after a while and I took her to a Dr. While, of course, I wanted her to be the happy baby she once was, the Dr. told me it wasn't my job to make her happy. It was my job to keep her safe, fed, clothed and healthy. Happy came after, maybe. Happy came if she wanted it to. So I created a safe place for her to feel her pain, a neat little corner in her room with crayons and paper and play-dough and paint. Now, my still somewhat anxious 8 year-old looks to her art as a release as well as a pleasure. So, learn to feel the pain because there will always be pain. If you run, it will catch up to you. If you self-medicate, the pain will still be there, underneath, waiting to reappear when you're least expecting it. Cry in your car, yell at the winter ocean, beat a pillow, fall onto the floor and surrender to it. Meet it face to face. It just wants to be acknowledged and then it goes away. It may be replaced for a while with other emotions. It will return. Feel. Release. Repeat.

7- Never, ever chase someone who is walking away from you. The most important relationship is with yourself. When that is solid, everything else in your life falls into line. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Respect yourself. Your life matters. Don't be selfish but don't be selfless. It took me 20 years to truly understand that my life matters. I count. Not more than anyone else, but certainly not less than anyone else.

8- Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Then, breathe again. There are different ways to breathe for different reasons. Learn them. Use them. Stop and Breathe.

9- Look in the mirror. Say your name. Own your life. Take responsibility for your entire life. Did I fuck up? I did. Am I perfect? I am not. Can I do better? Yes, always. While it's easy to own our good deeds and characteristics, it's essential to own our dark side, because no matter how good you are, you have a bad side. You will hurt people, sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose. When you own it, you can fully apologize, you can fully forgive yourself, you can fully accept your consequences and you can fully move on. When you own your life, the control is in your hands. Your happiness is in your hands, as is your sadness. Your decisions are yours. Even if you decide to let someone else decide, that's your decision. When you let someone hurt you, that's your decision. Own your life. Say your name. Remember who you are. POWER. 

10- Don't procrastinate. Do it. Do it now. Do what scares you. Do what makes you smile. Do your obligations. Do what you say. Do what fuels you. Do it today.

11- Respect money, but don't worship it and don't hate it. I'll write it again. Do not hate money. Money is not evil, though it seems that way. Make money. Make lots of money even, but don't do work FOR the money. Being poor doesn't make you happy and neither does being rich. Spend more money on experiences than on things. Be smart with money. Educate yourself about money. Use money as an extension of yourself. Pay your bills on time. Don't abuse credit.

12- Pray. Pray hard. Pray often. Pray in the morning. Pray in the night. Pray for your enemies. Pray. And don't forget that when you stop praying, you must sit in silence, so you can hear your prayers being answered. 

13- Respect your femininity and exalt your womanhood. Growing up surrounded by 3 brothers and 3 very close boy cousins, all their friends and my old-fashioned patriarchal, misogynistic father I rarely considered females to be as strong or important. I thought I'd prefer to be a man in my next life, or even in this life. Then I became a mother. To 3 girls. Oh shit. The world needs women to be women. We have everything it takes to make this world a better place and it's our time to turn things right side up. My mother exuded a strength that didn't come from her protests, while I, even until I marched on Washington this past January, protested until I lost my voice. No need for that. We must simply accept our inalienable God-given rights with our God-given strengths. Watch out world. It's our turn now. Time for the Divine Feminine to take her place.

14- It's ok to go on medication. By 25, my depression had taken hold and I felt the shift in my brain. There were moments through the years when I actually felt my brain changing and I wished I could see what was happening. I wished I could map and see what parts of my brain were lighting up and sadly, which parts were shutting down because I knew something was happening. I knew a few of my friends were on medication, Happy Pills, they called them, but I didn't ask for anything. In order to deal with the changes in my behavior, I retreated and dealt with them mostly on my own. It wasn't until this year, at 40, that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my brain chemistry has been altered and no matter the amount of yoga or meditation or therapy or exercise or proper nutrition or sleep or awareness could make that final shift for me, to be ok enough to go back out into the world. So, Me at 25, it's ok to go on medication. Just don't forget to keep working through the issues with the same tenacity. Don't decide to skip the hard work because you feel better.

15- Depression is not the end. It really is the beginning and you're lucky it's happening in your twenties. You will come through it, stronger, better, more aware, more compassionate, more Lit from inside when it's over. You're young and arrogant. Beautiful and smart...on the outside. Your depression will humble you and you'll come out beautiful and wise from the inside. And one day it will be over. Look forward and move forward. First it will be inching, then it will be crawling, then one day you will stand up, wobbly, but you'll be standing. And then you'll walk and before you know it you'll be running. Depression is hard and it sounds bad, but it will be the best thing to ever have happened to you.    

This is an ongoing series on my blog, if you would like to read more, click here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Graduation, here's to the next beginning

I didn't know if I would have time to write something before I graduated, but right now, as I sit in my room and listen to the dryer tumble and my breath soften and the stillness of this present moment, I realize it would be a disservice not to write how big and beautiful this part of my life feels.

Tomorrow, I receive my Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Professional Writing.

I get asked all the time what I will do with an English degree. Despite how silly I feel the question is, I have never felt the need to defend getting a Liberal Arts degree. I have felt the need to warn people- a degree in the arts reveals truths and depths that are often hidden at life’s surface. The choice to dive in is one for those who are a little daring, a little curious. I’ve learned more about what it means to be kind, compassionate, and human in these last five years than I ever expected. Reading and writing does more than improve your spelling and comprehension, it reminds you that these lives of ours are complex and complicated and never a singular suffering. I’ve learned some of the most difficult things to say are the things we write and read about. I’ve learned that pages can be bound with hope and we can clench words to our chest, knowing that they are our guide to freedom. I’ve learned years and years can pass but we read the same things because we have the same questions. I've learned we never, ever have to stop listening to the voice in us that begs to create something. If anything, your calling turns into a screaming when you step into the place you are meant to be.

Studying English Literature revealed that six-year-old me wasn’t aimlessly writing from her top bunk when her family was asleep on lazy Sundays- she was writing her story. She wrote because she had to. Writing is what I’ve done when I’m my most happy and my most not-so-happy. Writing has got me into the habit of erasing and editing what doesn’t fit. Making big, breathy room for what does. Letting things go. Believing in a beginning. Beginning again.

That’s the beauty of this whole life of ours, isn’t it? That we get to begin again. Whenever feels fit. The beauty is that there is a place and a space for all of us and whether it takes five years or fifty years to discover and pursue what we love, we get there.

The “getting there” has been my favorite part of college. Getting to freshmen year and studying the wrong things when all I could do was write. Getting to sophomore year and discovering there was a whole department that felt the weight of words and loved them like I did. Taking a trip to Bali, Indonesia (alone, like any good melodramatic 19-year-old does) and feeling so proud that I was the soul I get to care for. Getting to junior year and beginning an internship at the Las Vegas Sun, and then taking a semester abroad, learning to love and forgive myself in Pau, France (while eating my weight in baguettes and patisseries). Getting to junior year 2.0 and having the most influential academic year of my career. I can’t even sum up the magic that each of my professors brought into each lecture. And now I’ve gotten here, year five, and I realize what maybe I’ve always known: everything has been as it should. The missteps, the wrong turns, the questioning, the longing, the hurting, all of it. Because how else would I be here? It took all these years and all the compassion, inspiration, hope, and a whole lot of beautiful books and people to read them with. Every day I thought was just a mundane happening was magic lighting my whole life, and I am endlessly grateful.

I am in this place now where I realize I never uncovered my path, I simply unraveled it. Like a spool undoing itself but this one from my very core- the path I am on today has always innately been apart of me. Without all my incredible professors, friends, family, and roughly three cups of coffee every day, I don’t think I would have had the courage to walk it.

Thank you to all those who have supported me. Thank you specifically to my mom for carrying what was too heavy for my own shoulders, and reminding me I’d never have to bear the weight alone. She has always told me, “education is the one thing no one can take away from you.”

And here I am, year five, with my own suitcase full of knowledge and the overwhelmingly wonderful feeling that I have everything I need to go anywhere I please.

Here’s to the next beginning.

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