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. ♥

 

Before you dream of me tonight


Before you dream of me tonight

       You must know

       That I remember nearly everything

From your first name

       To the exact shade of brown

       Your hair is when the

       Sun touches it

I love and I smile

But I am not always

       This way

You must know that

       When I am with you

       I feel like myself

              But that I don’t know

              What I am completely

And you must know

       That I can give you

       All of me

But that you must

       Return the favor

              Before you dream of me tonight.

Inspired by Tarfia Faizullah 
Featured photo credit.

On why my kids will always have a pet


This past week, my dog [and best friend] of fifteen years passed away. Since then, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how having pets have affected my life. Sometimes when I need a good smile (or cry) I’ll look up videos of service dogs helping their owners. It always amazed me how amazing animals could be.

When I was really upset the day I found out my dog passed, my friend reminded me of something I had heard before. “Every one is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.” It’s cheesy – but it’s true.

Dogs have been in my life for as long as I can remember. I always remember dogs running around and laying on the couch growing up. Savannah is definitely the most memorable of the many. It had been a little while since our two dogs had grown old and passed away, and our parents were finally ready to get another dog (because the house was just too quiet and lonely). So we went to the Humane Society in Charlotte with two rules: 1. Not a big dog 2. Not a dog that sheds. We came out with a black lab/Chow Chow mix – large and very furry.

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Sorry, Dad. It was fate. I remember perfectly my brother and I running from cage trying to narrow down the choices and the precise moment we saw her for the first time. A volunteer at the shelter had just given her a bath and let us pet her while she was in her arms. We fell in love instantly. She was immediately the best friend I could ask for.

Over the next 15 years, as I grew up through the bad middle school haircuts and the broken hearts and the various phases, she was right there by my side. I could not have made it through those terrible years of my depression eating at my emotions. I would not have been able to get up in the mornings without her nose in my face. I would not have been able to fall asleep not crying without her furry butt cuddled up next to me.

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Choosing to leave the state for college was hard enough to do already, but knowing she didn’t know where I’d be disappearing to made it so much worse. I remember squeezing her so tight before I got into the car for the slowest four months of my life. That first reunion was so, so joyful and I constantly teased my parents about how it was fine to see them, but I really came back for the pup.

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The great thing about dogs is that they never seem to remember if you did anything wrong. No matter what happened at school or work, I always knew I could come home to someone who loved me no matter what I did. I read this article earlier this morning (and obviously bawled like I was watching The Fox and the Hound), but it reminded me of the way she would look at me. The great thing about dogs is that they can teach you so much by not trying to teach you anything. The great thing about dogs is that they appreciate everything you do so much. The greatest thing about dogs is that they never leave your side.

And that is why my kids will have dogs. My kids will learn to love and be loved by someone who is not myself. I can’t promise that I will love perfectly. But a dog will love perfectly.

Savannah, I love you so, so much. You taught me that it’s okay to be upset, but that I always have people to love me. You taught me how strong I am and how much I have conquered and can conquer. It will continue to hurt me forever that I wasn’t there to kiss your face and scratch behind your ear (that little part that had the softest fur on your body) when you took your last breath. I will never stop loving you and I will always miss you. Rest easy, babe.

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On Friendship and Happiness


Sometimes I have those days where I scroll through my Facebook pictures for hours and sometimes it even gets worse and I start scrolling through my list of friends.  It is then that I am reminded of several things. First and foremost, that a lot of these names on my “Friends” List are people that I would never even refer to as a friend. Some of them are people I’ve met once. There are even a few that I have never met. I also see the ones who may have been friends at one time, but now lead their own lives with their own experiences completely separate from mine. An amazing YouTube vlogger once said (and by once I mean like a week ago), “Just because you know someone doesn’t mean they deserve you in their life.” Later in that same video Tyler Oakley said, “You are allowed to cut people off who are not productive, who do not make you a better person, and who do not make you happy.” (link to video at bottom)

This made me begin to think about who these people were in my life that did make me productive and did make me happier. It made me think about the ones that delay or stop that productivity and the ones that keep me from being happy. In the midst of all of this reflection, it conveniently happened to be my best friend’s birthday. As I finished making my PicStitch and started brainstorming what my ooey gooey post on her Facebook wall would say, it finally made me realize that people like her were what made me happy. I came across another quote that perfectly described how I feel about my best friends: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand” (Henri Nouwen).

I remembered how special those few people were in my life and how I wouldn’t have accomplished anything without their help and their support. This friend in particular had been with me through everything and I with her. She was the one I went to when I was stressed out or anxious. She was the one I went to when something really exciting happened. She was one of the first people I told about my decision to move halfway across the country. She was the first person I confided in when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She knows things about me that no one will ever know. There is something extraordinary and precious about having someone like that in your life, and those are the people you should be spending your emotions on. Like Tyler said, you have no obligation to give yourself, your emotions or your effort to someone simply because you know them. If they aren’t bettering you as a person, then you don’t need them and they don’t deserve you.

So thank you to all of my friends who make my life better every single day. Thank you for being that tender hand and forgiving heart. I could not ask for better people in my life to encourage me and support me and help me along. Thank you to people I look up to, like my parents and Tyler Oakley. For now, I may be stumbling and confused, but I would rather be confused with you guys.

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Here’s Tyler Oakley’s video that was mentioned above. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOdljzx-xSA&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL61488594D1D09C18

PS: Briley, if you’re reading this: I love you a lot.