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?

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love trumps hate


It took me 24 hours to sit here and actually start typing something. I have felt so many things in the last 24 hours that I have become numb. I felt a lot of hope going into this. Living in a town like Ann Arbor and going to a school like the University of Michigan can give you a lot of confidence in the way our society is making progress. I am a double major in Psychology and Spanish – learning a lot about the world around me, through people and culture. I have a minor in the School of Social Work and am planning to go to Social Work school after graduation, learning about progression (and standstills) in society and how this affects every single person – how society takes someone’s rights and their dignity from them based on their race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.

Last night as there were 15 people in my living room following the live coverage of the election results – switching networks and comparing fact sites – there was a moment at around 1 am when the electoral college numbers were getting close enough to call it for red that I will never forget. Van Jones was speaking on how he was not sure how to explain this to children – to families of marginalized populations. In this moment, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. 15 people were stunned into silence, nothing but tears rolling down many of our faces. That is when I began to mourn. Yes, mourn.

I mourn for the LGBTQ friends and peers that I am so honored to know and love. For their fear of never being able to marry the one they love. Fear of being forced into conversion therapy to try to change the way they were born.

I mourn for my Muslim American friends being called terrorists on their walk to class. For those women and girls afraid to wear their scarves outside out of fear of hate crimes.

I mourn for the Mexican American girls I worked with this summer who told me that they were terrified that if this man won, their parents would be deported.

I mourn for those struggling with disabilities of any kind – mental or physical. Because this man believes that these individuals (myself included as one that suffers from mental illness) do not deserve affordable access to the care we need. This man also mocks those with disabilities in order to spark more hate.tumblr_m0r6v1kGTm1rrr4b5o1_500.jpg

I mourn because I am dedicating my life to social work – to serving the disadvantaged, marginalized and ignored – and that this is the reality I face going into this field. I dedicate my life to being the change. I dedicate my endurance and my passion to making the world a better place for every one.

I mourn for the 9-year-old who told me today that she would rather die than have this man as president, because he hates her family. For the 6-year-old who told me she was sad, because she doesn’t believe she could ever be president now.  For you both, even though you will never read this, I want you to know that we are all here for you to support you and lift you up.

So here I am as an American citizen, sad that this is what the outcome of this election is, but proud of the steps the Clinton campaign took to making this world a little closer to equal, because we are the next generation. I have done my mourning. The weapon that we have – the dreaded millennials – is love, and with that weapon, I am ready to fight.

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The Adventure of a Lifetime


like brothers in blood, sisters who ride

and we swore on that night we’d be friends ‘til we die

but the changing of winds, and the way waters flow

life as short as the falling of snow

and now I’m gonna miss you I know

This weekend, I got on a plane at 5am and flew from Detroit to Dallas where my two best friends picked me up at the airport for weekend. I feel like Briley and Camille have become that – “best friends from home” – when I talk about them to my friends in Michigan. This weekend was surreal for many reasons, and it is taking a lot in me to reflect on everything I’m feeling to put those feelings into words.

Moving so far away from home after high school was tough, and weird. It was weird to not be able to mention people from my high school or the traffic on Pinhook. It was weird to have “friends from home” and “friends from school” that felt like they were from two different lives. Growing up through middle and high school with Briley and Camille defined my life in Louisiana, and they’re truly the kind of friends that I can pick up with like it hasn’t been months or years since I’d seen them.

So we arrived in Dallas and met up with our friend Kelly (who I hadn’t seen in 2+ years) and even Hank (who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation) and explored TCU’s campus and then left for Arlington to the Cowboys Stadium for what we came here for – the Coldplay concert.

Now, before you judge. Let me take a step back. Coldplay music basically defined our friendship. I have fond memories of them singing Yellow to me during our sleepovers. We listened to Fix You a lot when we were hurting. I pre-ordered their new album for Briley and I months before it came out as a Christmas present for both of us. She came to visit my family in North Carolina and we sat on the couch screaming while watching the NBC special of the Ghost Stories album being performed in L.A. When I left Louisiana for good, Briley gave me a CD with a recording of her singing Yellow to me. I can’t count the number of times I sat in my car in Ann Arbor listening to that and sobbing. So, long story short, we love Coldplay and their music was the soundtrack to our friendship, and basically the soundtrack to the past 7+ years of my life.

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So, fast forward to about 9:30pm CST last night – Chris Martin plays the first few chords of Yellow, and hundreds of yellow balloons fall from the sides of the crowd. And I am stunned almost into silence. I am overwhelmed with so many feelings. I think of how much I have changed in the past 4 years, but how these women standing on each side of me were there with me through it all – even if they were 1,163 miles away the whole time. We are all doing such incredible things but such different things, and it’s so great to be able to support these women follow their dreams while they support me in following me.

There’s a line from one of Coldplay’s songs that goes, “And if we could float away, fly up to the surface and start again. And lift off before trouble just erodes us in the rain. Through chaos as it swirls, it’s us against the world.” Through everything we’ve done together and everything we’ve done since we went our separate ways, I always knew that you were only a text or call or Facetime away for me to talk to. I am so proud of both of you and everything you’ve done. Thank you for being my friends, and I’ll see you soon.

-SGx

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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.

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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. ♥