Looking back on the year


And with that last Canvas submission I have completed my junior year of my undergraduate career. Recently I have been really, really scared. “The real world” is right around the corner, and I have very little confidence in the direction my life is headed. But on top of being scared, I have also been thinking a lot about how amazing this past year has been. A lot of things happened. Some were good, some bad – some amazing.

If you’ve ever read my blog posts or seen my Facebook or talked to me for more than like 20 seconds, I have most likely talked about Camp Kesem in some way or another. Have I tried to get you to donate? Probably. I am rounding out my second year as a Development Coordinator for Camp Kesem at UofM this summer, and it has been a wild and rewarding ride. As of last weekend, we have raised over $100,000 for camp this summer. That is almost all of our 210 campers, and it’s only April.

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I’ve met truly met my people through this organization. Like classic Grey’s Anatomy “my person” type of person, except there’s several of them and I cannot be more thankful that I have these incredible humans to travel the rest of my crazy life journey with by my side.

We’ve had our up’s and down’s this year. There were so many successes that came along with their fair share of failures. There were tears. There was laughter. There was love and loss – but I wouldn’t choose anyone else to go through all of this with. I know for sure that no matter where I end up after graduation next May, I will always look back on this incredible group of people as my people and the most inspiring and loving human beings. Thank you for teaching me what I am worth. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love.

I really began to find my passions this year. I served as a group leader for a course called Project Outreach in the Psychology department where I spent my second semester in a row going to Monroe County Youth Center every week to lead art workshops for the juveniles in detention there. From this course, I received an internship with the Washtenaw County Juvenile Court and spent this past semester helping to start a creative arts workshop for the juveniles on probation in this county as well as working alongside probation officers in the sexual offender treatment program at the court. I can really see myself doing this kind of work for the rest of my life, and that is the most confident I have ever felt in anything about my career probably ever.

In addition to all of this, I have traveled to some pretty amazing places this year. I spent a month traveling around Europe with two of my best friends. We visited 9 different countries in less than 29 days, and it was absolutely incredible. We had a bonfire in a valley town in the Swiss Alps. We swam in the Italian Riviera in the most picturesque coastline towns in Italy. We picnicked with wine and baguette sandwiches under the lights of the Eiffel Tower. We casually saw the Queen and the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. We learned how to make sangria and Paella in Barcelona. It was the most amazing month, and I still talk about it almost every day.

I spent a pretty awesome week on a cruise with my family and my grandparents in the Caribbean. We zip lined over a water park in Costa Maya. We swam with dolphins in Cozumel. My dad, sister and I spent a way too long day shopping in Belize City. I practiced my Spanish to perfection after snorkeling all day in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the largest Barrier Reef system in the world)!

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I took a cross-country road trip with my best friend and showed her everything from my home state. We ate so much food our stomachs were in so much pain. We drank hurricanes on Bourbon Street and Cajun danced our hearts away.

I could go on and on about the incredible things I’ve done this year, but most importantly, I have made new friends and traveled the world and learned to cope with loss and grow from it. I have learned so much about my abilities, my passions and myself as a person. I look forward to my summer – an internship at a really awesome Detroit-based organization and traveling the state with my friends. Cheers to another year of learning and loving and exploring!

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50 Reasons to Stay Alive


 

Sometimes it’s hard. Struggling with depression and anxiety for years now has definitely dealt me my fair share of days that this is really hard – thinking of a reason to stay alive. The other night, I had one of those times, and the next day I saw a blog post of a list of reasons to stay alive. I loved that idea. What is worth staying alive for? Well, here’s my list.

  1. Those times that you feel happy
  2. Good days
  3. Jumping in piles of fall leaves
  4. Sand in between your toes
  5. Watching waves roll over your feet at the beach
  6. When your team wins a game
  7. Big hugs
  8. Cheek kisses
  9. First kisses
  10. Fridays!
  11. Warm cups of tea
  12. COFFEE EXISTS
  13. Sundays that you spend the whole day in your PJs
  14. Slumber parties (even when you’re in your 20’s)
  15. Wine
  16. Falling in love
  17. Chocolate
  18. When you get to spend the evening hanging out with friends
  19. Setting goals
  20. Achieving goals
  21. Your favorite book
  22. Finishing a really good book
  23. BOOKS
  24. Weddings
  25. People have babies every day – that’s so cool! You can do that one day!
  26. Smiling
  27. Compliments
  28. Traveling!
  29. Bonfires on Winter nights
  30. Music – music is awesome
  31. Baby animals 
  32. Pay day
  33. PUPPIES
  34. All the world you haven’t been to yet!
  35. Pizza
  36. Beautiful views
  37. Doing something good for someone else
  38. Trying something new
  39. Crossing things off your bucket list!
  40. Doing what you love
  41. Finding peace in yourself – even if it’s just for a few minutes
  42. Really deep breaths
  43. Kicking an old habit
  44. Seeing a new place
  45. Fighting off those feelings
  46. Loving yourself
  47. The people you can be yourself around
  48. Overcoming a fear
  49. “I love you”
  50. Surviving – You can do it.

Feeling like there’s no point to living sucks and I hate it every time I feel that way or I think that people I know and love feel that way sometimes. You can overcome depression. Because I read a quote once that reads, “Depression is also…smaller than you. Always it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast…It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky.

You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”

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On Beautifying my Heart


•ŸWherever you go, may people always recognize you have a beautiful heartŸ•

The other night I was at my friend’s house spending some nice, quiet quality time away from the hustle and bustle of finals and planning meetings and the constant moving that our lives have become. We were discussing our plans. She is graduating in a few weeks. I am moving into my final year of my undergraduate degree. Those constant questions of “so what are you going to do?” are coming from every direction. As an actual perpetrator of the situation, I asked her that exact question. And her answer started a conversation that made me so comfortable with my own answer – “I don’t really know.” I don’t really know and that’s okay.

We spoke of the world of opportunities sitting in front of us. And how we are not required to take one or the other. Referencing the quote above, I realize that I want to have a beautiful heart no matter what I do. This friend probably has one of the most beautiful hearts I know, and that is what I want. Whether I am in grad school, traveling the world, moving across the country or across the world – I want people to see my heart.

Yeah, I’m proficient in Microsoft Word and I can list all the jobs and responsibilities I’ve had, but what I want my coworkers, my friends, my clients, my dentist, and, hopefully, my children to see is my heart – that I love so deeply and so passionately. I want them to see that I am focused on loving and on the betterment of myself while bettering the lives of others. That is why I chose Social Work, after all. I can sincerely be the change that I want to see in the world by treating every person I come in contact with with respect, love and support.

There’s no need to plan out every detail of my future. A “Five Year Plan” is great in theory, but it will lead to disappointment or stress (or both). Yeah, I may end up in grad school after I graduate. I may take a year off. I may take a year in grad school. I may take two or more. I will do what I feel is best for me at the time, but through all of it, I will continue beautifying my heart – free it of stress and pain. Free it of the anger and burdens of the past. Because as my favorite singer, Taylor Swift, said, “And I now believe that walking through a lot of rainstorms gets you clean.”

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Special shout-out to KitKat: I love you and our conversations, whether on your couch or under the stars in Fenton. You are forever beautiful and I am so blessed to call you a friend. ♥

 

On Love and Learning


There’s something interesting about the word ‘LOVE.’ It’s something that’s developed and changed over time. We learn more about it as we learn and grow in other ways. When I was younger, I always said “I love you” back to my parents, and I heard about love from storybooks and movies. That was always the sort of love that I knew I would find when I was older. That was always something I was certain would just happen once I hit a certain age. I was sure of it.

Well, obviously, I was wrong. I went through high school too occupied with myself and the future to be focused on love (and boy did that bite me in the butt mentally and emotionally). I got to college – in a new place and absolutely terrified – and was still too invested in other things to think too much about love. I zombie-walked through my freshman year hoping desperately that someone would spot me across the room and fall in love with me just like the movies. That’s how it happens, right?

No, it’s not. And I learned that very quickly and in a very not-fun way. Fast forward to sophomore year – I think it can be dubbed as the year I learned how to love, how to not love, but, more importantly, when to love and not love. Really vague and daunting, I know. Let me explain (or try to).

I was swept off my feet by a boy – absolutely stunned that someone finally actually liked me (like like-liked me, you know?). So blah, blah, blah lots of stuff happened and anything that went wrong or didn’t feel right, I just brushed it off. Eventually, this relationship that I had pretended was so perfect came to an end. I was crushed – not only because it was over, but because it taught me too much about myself. [Not that I don’t want to learn about myself, merely because it all sort of hit me at once].

For one: Love isn’t like it is in the movies. The boy doesn’t always fall for the girl – (sometimes a girl falls for a girl or a boy falls for a boy, but that’s a completely different story). Don’t expect to actually be swept off your feet. Don’t expect the picture perfect relationship from all the romance novels – it’s not going to happen that way and you’re just going to be disappointed.

Second: I love a lot – sometimes too much. I easily love and I very easily give love. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, I consider it one of my redeeming qualities. BUT this relationship made me realize that sometimes I give way too much of myself to other people and that can sometimes lead to me being stressed, overwhelmed and worn out. For too many months, I gave a lot of myself and always felt let down when it wasn’t reciprocated.

Finally: Love isn’t just something simple. It’s complex and tricky and you don’t just figure it out immediately. It has so many different facets and you feel/express it in so many different ways. It can be for your mom, for your dog, your best friend or a romantic partner. Love is complicated and you’re not going to figure it out on the first try.

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” 
― William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well

On Learning and Reflecting


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Learning what I find important in life has been a difficult journey, and it’s nowhere near over. I am constantly thinking about what I could be doing better, or what I am searching for, and it’s not easy to comprise a list of these things. What I will try to do is tell you what I have learned and what I am in the process of learning.

I have learned that even though I am living away from home, and that I’m probably one of the most independent people I know, I will always miss my family and my dog. Sometimes just the idea of being at home on the couch watching football with my family and a table full of Buffalo Wild Wings in front of me brings me to tears.

I have learned that I’m privileged and lucky. I have a family to miss and a second (and third and fourth) family to love me and care for me wherever I am in the world. I have never wanted for anything that I need to survive.

I have learned that I am a strong person, but I’m not strong enough to handle everything on my own. Sometimes I need help, and that’s okay.

I have learned that I give a lot, and that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes I need to take a step back and say no. A friend and I were talking recently about how we always say yes to things and we think that this will make us happy and productive, but in the end, it makes us stressed and unproductive. It’s okay to say no to things, even if those things might be stuff you don’t think you want to miss out on – there will be other opportunities to hang out with those friends.

I have not yet learned what it is I want to “do with my life.” Despite, constantly getting the question day in and day out, just because I am a junior in college, I do not have my future nailed down, and yes, you asking me that does make me feel a little nervous. I am contemplating a lot of things, and I know that I am the kind of person who will not really know what I want to do until I start doing it.

I have not yet learned quite how to love. Loving is sometimes so easy and sometimes it’s so much harder. I’ve not figured it all out yet, but I’m working on it.

I will always consider myself a learner long after I’m out of school. I will always continue learning new things and I don’t know if I’ll ever really “figure everything out,” but I like to think that I can keep working on it.

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On Heartbreak and Media Pressures


I told you I would be honest with you on this blog. I told you I would not only talk about my successes and joys, but also my failures and heartbreaks. More importantly, I promised to write about what I learned from these experiences. So here I go.

This past fall, I met a boy. We became really good friends and then more than that and blah, blah, blah, all of that middle school sleepover stuff and everything. I won’t go into any details about any of that. 

Anyway, as these months progressed, we both slowly started to realize that this wasn’t going to ever really work out between us. We both kept ignoring that and pushing it aside, continuing with whatever it was we were doing. We were so captivated by the idea of having each other there that we didn’t care if we were ignoring obvious signs of it not working.

Finally, after several months of this, it all had to come to an end somehow. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to an end in a way that I would have really preferred, but it happened, and I can’t change how it happened. We decided to agree that it was not going to work between us. This being a new concept to me – having a relationship – I didn’t really know where to go from there. How does one just know how to move on from something like that? I guess you don’t, because I surely didn’t.

So as I was spending nights not knowing whether to be happy or cry myself to sleep, I began to analyze advice and suggestions I was being given. I had all of my friends telling me to forget him, that I “didn’t need a guy in my life.” I appreciated this, even though forgetting someone is a lot easier said than done. 

Then I began to think about the contradicting advice/suggestions I was receiving from other outlets – mainly the media. I happened to glance over at a copy of Seventeen magazine that my grandma had just sent me (because I am clearly still 17 years old). The cover included phrases like “How to Make Your Crush Like You!” and “Perfect Valentines Dates for you and your Boyfriend!” Well, that helped.

A week or so ago, we had just hired some new employees at my job. I was working with a new employee on her first day. We started chatting and one of the first things she asked me was, “So what are you and your boyfriend doing for Valentine’s Day?” and I had to give the awkward “Uh, I don’t have one” response. Why was that so important? Why is that so important? In one ear, I had my friends telling me “You don’t need a man to feel okay” and in the other ear society shouting “Why aren’t you turning boys away left and right?! Something must be wrong with YOU.”

I can’t say that I’ve figured out what I am doing in this situation. I’m still lost and in a process of “moving on” and returning to a state of being okay with not having him in my life constantly. I can say that this entire thing has been such a great learning experience. It is difficult to use the word “great” to describe it, since it consisted of a lot of anger, frustration and heartache, but I hope that a few years from now, I can look back and say that I learned to take the advice from my friends and not from society.

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