Love & Happiness

What does love mean?

A question I’ve asked myself for years

And one I can start to develop an answer to

It’s the trees with their leaves of gold and maroon.

And being attacked in hugs

After being away from people for too long.

It’s the little gifts of smiles

And laughter when you most need it.

It’s knowing that you would drop everything

For that one person

And knowing they would do the same for you.

It’s waking up in the morning

And not dreading a single thing

That you are going to do that day.

Or is that just happiness?

Is there a difference?



On Choosing Happiness

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde

This was the quote we presented to our 12-14 year old girls in the literacy workshop on Tuesday. We told them to read it and think about what it meant to them. We then asked them to spend 20 minutes drawing out their interpretation of the quote. I sat there drawing with colored pencils and then it was time to share. I shared my picture – a thought bubble above a half oval that was supposed to be my head with everything I could think of that defines me – camp, Michigan, my CASC minor, my work with prisons and young people, my family, my three tattoos, travel, etc. Each of the girls took turns sharing next. One girl’s explanation of her drawing astonished me. She’s a fairly quiet girl and she was never one to open up in front of the group. She had drawn herself on a basketball court. “Leana*, can you tell us what your drawing is and how it relates to the quote?” This 12-year-old girl goes into explaining how when she is on the court, it doesn’t matter if she was nervous before or if anything bad is happening in her life – the basketball court makes her feel powerful. “When I play basketball, I feel happy. And when I am happy, I am powerful and being happy makes me brave.”

I had to repeat that a few times to myself before I realized how utterly deep that is. “Being happy makes me brave.” My drive home that day was spent reflecting on this sentence that Leana said about her drawing. Why do I spend so much time being so afraid to try things – especially things that I know will bring me joy? I thought about the times I gave up time with my friends because I was afraid to see someone or scared that I would say something wrong. Since Tuesday, I have made more of an effort to focus on doing things that make me happy: taking more breaks from my applications to watch an episode on Netflix or have coffee with a friend, sacrificing that one-hour nap to see my friend who always knows just what to say when I’m stressed, etc.

So I am vowing to focus on my happiness – on shifting that focus I have on constantly pleasing others to what is pleasing to me. I will not let fear decide for me, because fear does not control me. I control myself. I will be happier because I choose to be.

choose-to-be-happy*Name changed to preserve identity of youth


Because I Said So…

This past week I started my placement for my service-learning course – Project Outreach. I am working with a group of adolescents at a youth residential detention and treatment center in a nearby county. We are working with an organization called Youth Arts Alliance! and during our first workshop, we did an activity we called “Because I said so.” 

We each had four slips of paper that we wrote down 4 goals/dreams/etc. with each sentence ending with “because I said so.” I wrote down four things nonchalantly, not really knowing how serious the kids would take the activity. After we all grabbed four random slips of paper out of the bucket to read aloud to the group, I was absolutely blown away by the things I was hearing. 

“I will get a bachelor’s degree and become a business owner…because I said so.” 

“I will be a better sister – because she deserves more than this…because I said so.” 

“I will get out of here and make a life for myself…because I said so.”

“I will be better – for myself, my family and my future…because I said so. 

So, forgetting the simple things I wrote – something about college, traveling and getting a dog – I thought I should re-evaluate what I would do because I said so…so here we go.

I will do what I love because I said so.

I won’t let people tell me what I cannot accomplish, because I said so

I will take care of myself, because I said so.

I will learn how to say “no” when I need to say “no,” because I said so.

I will be spontaneous, because I said so.

I will be happy, because I said so.

So, to this group of kids who stole my heart after only an hour together – I will do these things because I said so, and because you believed in me. And you can do the things you said – you will go back home and be so successful and happy, because I believe in you and you believe in yourself. I know you do.