“Maybe God created the desert so that man could appreciate the date trees.”

This quote is from one of my favorite books of all time, The Alchemist, By Paulo Coehlo.

When I first read this quote, I thought I understood the deeper meaning. I thought, “we have to face struggles to appreciate beauty and nature and the mystery that is life.” And that is true, but it is more than that.

A date tree is a simple thing, something often taken for granted if one does not take the time to appreciate it, if one does not pause to find the beauty in the simplicity. The date tree is something ignored completely when you are caught up in a desert storm.

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day in itself, brings with it an eternity.” (Coehlo)

Each day is full of endless possibilities if only we are willing to look for them. But sometimes we get lost, and it is way to easy to not live in the present moment. In fact, it is much easier to live in the past or the future, to over analyze a mistake we wish we hadn’t made or to worry about all the things we have to do before tomorrow.

All too often, we forget that the present is where we are supposed to be. We don’t allow ourselves to live in the simplicity of a moment, in the pure joy that can come from the simplest things. Like going outside, climbing a tree, reading a book, and feeling the sun and the wind on your face.

It is oh so important to sit in these moments. It is important to sit with nature, to smell the roses, both metaphorically and literally. Because it is in those moments, in the simplicity that is the present, that we can often find the inspiration to let go of the past and the courage to face the future. The simple moments where we really bask in the present are gifts.

In times when you are overwhelmed, upset, or sad, take some time to just be. You may think the only way to solve your stress or upset is to deal with the problem head on, then and there. However, when we are worried beyond the point of reason, overwhelmed by what isn’t the here and now, we lose the capability to focus and accomplish anything productive.

That’s when it’s time to smell the roses.

That’s when it’s time to return to your child-like tendencies and do what you want, not what you need to do.

That’s when it’s time to sit in a tree.

Or under one. Or in a hammock, if you prefer. Whatever is your tree style of choice.

That’s when it’s time to appreciate the date trees, the simple things that we are blessed with everyday.

Because if when you can find beauty and blessing in the smallest of things in the present, the past and the future become far more manageable and a lot less intimidating.

In the words of the always extraordinary Coehlo, “It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.” But only if we take the time to find them. Only when we put the desert behind us will we appreciate the date trees.

“To Love Another Person Is to See the Face of God”

6:27 pm. July 7, 2017. I pulled into my parking spot. The parking spot I had parked in for 3 years in the parking lot full of 14 years worth of memories. I was almost late, barely pulling in, annoyed at the traffic, and tired from a long day at work. To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for rehearsal. Little did I know that just a few minutes later, I would have given anything to be there. Afterall, today was my last day in the building I grew up in. I walked in, changed my shoes, and took my seat, as I had done for as long as I could remember on a Thursday evening. But something was different. There was a stiffness in the air. The head of the company stood before the cast. He said he had an announcement to make. Looking back, I don’t even remember hearing the words come out of his mouth. I was too shocked.

We would not be performing our show. Our show that we had been working on for months, that we had given up 4 evenings a week of our summer for. For the first time in 14 years, the rights had fallen through. The reason? “A troll,” as we had chosen to call this individual, who was not a part of the production, had taken the liberty of reporting the company on something that they had already cleared with the executives, had already made arrangements for. However, with an official complaint on file, we were given two choices: recast the show or don’t perform it. Two weeks to opening, the first was not sincerely an option. Not to mention the fact that taking parts away from people who had worked so hard on them felt insensitive and wrong on every level. After exhausting every option, the second was settled upon. There would not be any performances of Les Miserables.

That day, I was legally no longer a child. The people who used that against us had made that very clear. But my childhood ended that day in more ways than one. I learned that I was naive to think that people wouldn’t willingly hurt others, especially those they once called friends. I was wrong to think that people wouldn’t willingly take children’s hopes away for their own selfish purposes. I never thought such immaturity could come from adults with children, who would have ached to see their own kids in the kind of pain that was now painted across the faces of those in this production. And perhaps they thought they were acting in justice, that they were fighting against what they believed was wrong. I will grant you that things are far from perfect and there are certainly injustices. But I can guarantee you that victorious justice, done out of the goodness of a heart, does not look like this. I can guarantee you that anyone who was in the room that night would agree that those who willingly inflicted the heartache I witnessed were not looking out for the well being of others.

The tears started to fall all around me as reality hit us. And once they started, they didn’t stop. For almost two hours, we all sat together, talking and hugging. It was especially real for those of us who were performing for the last time in this company before going off to college or wherever life was leading us. One of my best friends, playing one of her dream roles in this show, came up to me and said, “That’s it. It’s over.” We had been slowly preparing ourselves to leave but suddenly that time was ripped away from us. There would be no final bow. After 14 years of blood, sweat, and tears, I, along with many others, would get no final performance. My friends, who had worked their butts off, would not get to share their amazing talent with an audience. The adults and parents who had given so much sacrifice and energy to this show, would not get to see the fruits of their labor.

And that was the last day I would spend in the building that built me. I had my first kiss in that building. I had my first heartbreak in that building. I attended my first prom. I made lifelong friends. I faced rejection that made me stronger. I changed from a tiny, shy, blonde piggy-tailed 5 year old girl into the 19 year old woman I have become. I found love in the experiences and friends that made me who I am today. But thanks to the selfish nature of a few, we would all leave the building that day with a memory that I wish we never had to have. And the worst part of all, is that these people put an end to a show that teaches lessons of hope, love, and true justice.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

This quote is the central message of a breathtaking show that my friends and I will never get to share with an audience because some people’s pride took control of their hearts. And through this act, this reality has only become more and more devastating, as it has only become clearer that the world is in desperate need of this message. As Jean Valjean and the school boys taught us all in the last few months, true justice can only come from love and perseverance, not malice or hate. Vengeance gets you nowhere. It doesn’t fix problems or make you the better person.

So to those who wrote the letter that shut down a show about love: Did it solve your problems? Did it fix your hurting? Did you finally get enough? Is tarnishing the memories of 40 hardworking kids your version of justice and victory? Because it is most definitely not mine. As Les Miserable taught us all, victory is supporting and loving other people in this world, even those that make different choices than us, even those who hurt us. This is a lesson that the bishop taught us in the first ten minutes of the show, when he chose to love the man who stole from him.

We too have been stolen from, but we did not lose.

Because that’s what we will take with us: the love. That is what I took with me, as amongst the pain, we all stood strong together and took comfort in each other’s arms. That is what I took with me as I shut the lights off one by one, closed the doors, took the hands of my best friends, and walked out of the building I grew up in for a final time. I am heartbroken that we all have to carry such a painful memory. And thanks to hate, we did not get to take our final bow. But thanks to love, we have the memories. Thank you all for the love. This show will not be forgotten. We made so many new friends and memories and no one can take that from any of us. You were all beautiful…Correction. You ARE all beautiful. And what we created together was absolutely stunning. I am so proud to have been a part of it. And I will always hold fast to the lessons these characters literally died to share with the world. Stand up for what you believe in, but stand up with love. Let love fuel you and make you unstoppable. As for me, I will always hear the people sing. And don’t forget that, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

Ghosts

No. Not ghosts in the sense of the dead coming back to life to seek their revenge and haunt the living. But ghosts of the past, good or bad, regrets or loves. We all have them. The things that haunt us.

But recently, I am realizing that these ghosts aren’t always a bad thing. These ghosts teach us lessons and help us to grow. We learn from our past mistakes.

When people tell you to move on, listen carefully, because sometimes they are right. Don’t hold on to your ghosts so much that you forget about the future. Instead, take those mistakes and successes and learn from them.

In The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, a book I read in English, O’Brien uses war veterans to write about the fact that everyone carries ghosts. However, he does not view this as a bad thing, even in the hardest times. Instead, he shows it to be a very valuable thing. What would we be without our past experiences, without the people who have made a difference in our lives?  Whether they are still by our side or have moved on, in one way or another, they were important. O’Brien writes “by telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others.”

When you allow yourself to remember, you allow yourself to heal and understand. Do not make the mistake of dwelling, which we all so easily fall victim to. What’s past is past. But don’t forget when you forgive. Tell the stories over and over again until they don’t hurt so much. And don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for remembering. Don’t feel stupid for telling your story more than anything else and feeling the way it makes you feel. One day, the parts that used to make you cry, will be the ones that you’re most proud to tell. What seemed, at the time, to be your biggest struggles, will become your biggest triumphs.

Sometimes the stories that are the hardest to hear are the ones that most need to be told.

And learn to listen when others tell their stories. Don’t be too busy. Don’t be annoyed. Have patience, because that boy talking your ear off, that girl crying on your shoulder, one day they might surprise you and return the favor when you need it most.

Love your ghosts, and hold them close. Cry when you miss them, and don’t be ashamed. Thank those ghosts and don’t forget them. Those ghosts made you who you are, good or bad. You would be nothing without them.

Finding Happiness in Other People

Now you probably read that title and thought that I either messed up or I have some pretty flawed logic. Most people will tell you that you have to find happiness in yourself before you find it in others.

And that’s true. But other people are important too. Because the people in your life are a part of the reality that you create for yourself. The people you surround yourself with should make you happy.

Starting college, I have met a lot of new people that I love. Lots of new acquaintances and friends that have made me so happy. And I’m not talking about best friends. I’m talking about people who I say hi to in the hallway or talk to in class. And I found myself wondering why in the world new random people could make me so happy. So I began to think of the things that made my life different recently. Want to know what I came up with?

“Good luck! Let me know how it goes.”

“I’m proud of you”

“I miss you.”

“You look pretty today”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

These are phrases of I had underestimated. When your world is small and you see the same people every day for years of your life, you lose touch with these small important phrases. These words get lost in the everyday life “what time will you be home?” “do you need anything from the store?” and “did you do the dishes?” But these small statements that often get lost in the shuffle are important, because they show us that someone cares. They aren’t professions of love or intense passion, but rather just small pieces of evidence that someone other than you is invested in your situation. And these words were ones that I had begun to not hear, and also not say. I didn’t realize how much I missed them and how necessary they are to being happy.

And of course, there are some people that, no matter what you say to them, cannot step outside of themselves enough to make you feel this happiness. People too stuck in their own world will not understand the importance of the words they say and will very rarely utter statements like the ones above. But these are the people who most often need to hear the statements they don’t give to others.

So say them anyways, even if you never hear them back.

However, these are the people we must often let go of because they start to make us think differently. These are the people that can pull the happiness out of us, often without us even realizing it. I didn’t realize how many of these people I had in my life, how much I missed hearing these little important words, until I stepped out of my everyday life and met some new people. I didn’t realize how much I had retreated, how much I had pulled myself away from new experiences thinking I wasn’t worth it, fearing I was not good enough.

Because in our world, in our self-centered generation, small acts of kindness are so rare. Words of caring are too often signs of weakness, and we are encouraged not too rely on people because they are bound to let us down. In this way, we foster a culture of rejection. We are taught not to expect too much and therefore create low standards. We are taught not to find happiness in other people. We are taught to create our happiness, no matter the cost. I have always been told that I expect too much of people. When did an investment in other people’s lives and someone invested in mine become too high of an expectation?

So I want to say that we can and we do find happiness in other people. We find happiness in the joys and upsets of other people’s lives. We enjoy getting involved in other people’s experiences, even if it is just in the smallest ways. And meeting new people is the best way to appreciate this and put it into perspective. I’m not saying we have to neglect or throw out the people that have always been there for us. That would be a horribly mistaken viewpoint. I am saying that no matter how much we love our family and closest friends, the people that we are so comfortable with, it is important to have other experiences too. It is important to step outside our comfort zone. Because only when we do that can we truly appreciate the ones we have loved for so long. Our old relationships can greatly improve when we change and grow. The best relationships should never prevent you from changing and growing.

When you start to feel unappreciated, dejected, bored, depressed, complacent, or stuck, go out and find some new experiences. Find some new people and get involved in the lives of others. Show them you care and realize that you deserve to be cared about. Reevaluate the people in your life. Offer them the words you wish to hear. If you don’t hear them back, that’s ok. Don’t stop saying them. But make sure you find people that make you as happy as you strive to make others, that put as much effort into your relationship as you do. It’s ok to expect that from people. It’s ok to expect loyalty, love, and caring. It’s ok to expect to find happiness in other people. We’re human.

The Perfect Ending

“I would like to think that the reason life doesn’t have clear endings, the reason we don’t get a clean break, is because the messy, the unknown, the unpredictable, that’s what keeps us going. That’s what makes life exciting. That’s what gives us hope. “

We live in a world of classifications and labels. White. Black. Short. Tall. Even things beyond human characteristics, things that we take for granted, are labeled, like colors or numbers.

We are conditioned from a young age to find patterns and trends in the world around us. To classify people, places, and things. To recognize things like they are. Things like beginning and end.

Ever since we were little, people read us stories. Fairy tales began with “once upon a time” and ended with “happily ever after.”

It’s a beautiful idea really, that once a problem has been solved, that is the end. You know what happened and you figured it out and the contradictory troubles and joys of that particular plot line are finished. But the problem here is we come to expect this in reality. Of course we don’t really expect to live happily ever after, but without even realizing it, we start categorizing our lives like we do everything else. We recognize the highs and lows as a sort of plot line.  We remember certain moments as defining or life changing. Or we work towards certain goals, expecting those to be the beginning or end of a chapter of our novel. When times are especially tough, we look not only for that happy ending, but at the very least we wait for that moment that marks “the end” and tells us it’s time to move on.

How often did we take that “the end” for granted as a child.

Because life doesn’t work like that. There is no clean ending. We build up these expectations for people and situations and when we don’t get the confrontation or happily ever after we had hoped would come from it, we are disappointed. And at first I found that depressing. In so many situations I have spent time wishing someone would just reach out and turn the page, to have that big moment or conversation that I knew ended it all, good or bad, and then  finally be able to move on. I was ready for a blank page. 

But most of the time we don’t get that blank page. Things change. People leave. We don’t always have time to adjust or say goodbye. You find yourself saying “if I could only go back.”

But you can’t go back. And that’s why it’s so important to live every moment while you have the chance instead of waiting for the next blank page. Because no matter how hard you try to erase certain things,  you usually can’t. You can move on, you can refuse to allow people and places of the past to control your present, you can gain wisdom and strength. However, no matter how hard you try, your page is never going to be entirely blank again. These things in our past, they always leave a mark, like a story written darkly in pencil that someone tried desperately to erase: it looks like it’s gone, but when you shine a light on the page, you can see that it is in fact not blank and never truly will be clean again.

But, I have slowly come to realize, that’s OK.

I would like to think that the reason life doesn’t have clear endings, the reason we don’t get a clean break, is because the messy, the unknown, the unpredictable, that’s what keeps us going. That’s what makes life exciting. That’s what gives us hope. 

Because as long as things never have a certain ending, we don’t lose the hope that one day, they just might begin again, and maybe better than ever. 

Now, I’m not suggesting we dwell on that hope. In the wise words of Albus Dumbledore “it’s does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” But don’t let the ending ruin the rest of the plot. Dont think that just because something ended badly, it doesn’t deserve a place in your story. Don’t wait around for your “the end.” If you want something to end, then write that ending.

However, if you’re waiting for the new chapter, the new blank page and it’s not coming, that’s ok. You don’t have to force it. Maybe it’s not time. Maybe it never will be.

In the last year I kept saying “well it doesn’t feel over yet. I feel like there’s more.” And I was right. There was more. But that’s because sometimes there’s always going to be more. When people and things really affect us, we don’t just let them go. We will always remember the way they affected us and probably could still talk for hours about it years down the road.

But it’s ok not to have a clearly defined ending. Not everything in life is a story. Our lives’ novels aren’t nicely wrapped up for readers’ enjoyment. In real life, you can read multiple stories at once. Characters can play different roles in different chapters of our lives. And one chapter doesn’t have to end for another to begin. Life is your story and you get to write it.

So stop trying to define the people and events in life. You might not think you do it, but as soon as you take notice, I guarantee you will find that you do.

Stop trying to label people as the villain or the prince. Life isn’t that black and white and most people are a little bit of both.

Stop expecting certain things, because it usually just leads to disappointments. Life doesn’t follow a plot line.

And most importantly, stop waiting for plot points and character developments that may never happen. Stop thinking that stories have to be over. Stop searching for “the end.” Not all stories have to be finished. I guarantee you, yours is so far from over.

“And I keep trying to figure out who you are to me, but maybe all that we were meant to be, is beautifully unfinished.” -Ella Henderson

8 Things I Learned In High School About Becoming the Person You’re Supposed to Be

Life isn’t easy. Everyone knows that. There are ups and there are downs. But everyone is always saying not to worry because everything will turn out the way it is supposed to. Until recently I didn’t really understand what that meant.

For a while, to me, that meant just going with the flow. I thought that God, or whatever you want to believe in, would push me down the right path, that there would be a light obviously shining down on what I was supposed to do and who I was supposed to be. While I still believe we end up where we are supposed to be, I have realized that light isn’t as obvious as I originally thought. It’s bright when you find it, but you have to look for it

Becoming the person you’re supposed to be and doing the things you’re meant to do is so not easy. Sometimes it’s easier just to say that everything will turn out the way it is supposed to and wait for that to happen. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to go along with the crowd. But I guarantee you that finding your place in the world is going to take time and effort. Sorry to say, but it takes a bit of work to be happy.

So, in honor of school starting back up, here are some things that I learned near the end of high school, that I wished I had learned sooner, about being happy with who I am and finding who I am meant to be:

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth: As cheesy and cliche as this one might sound, the truth really will set you free. In order to be who you are meant to be, you have to learn that people can’t read your mind. If you feel something, tell someone. If you think something, tell someone. No one can help you feel better or accomplish something you want to do if they don’t even know what you’re feeling and thinking. And yes, while some of the people you’re closest to might be able to practically read your mind, there are still a lot of things worth saying, even if you don’t think they are. Don’t trick yourself into not saying something you’re afraid to say by convincing yourself it won’t make a difference. Don’t let guilt or shame or regret eat you up. Say what you want to say. It’s the only way to live with no regrets. Keeping secrets, big or small, will make you feel alone, because there is always something separating you from those you love.
  2. Don’t be afraid to get a little lost: There’s a quote that says “the best way to find yourself is to get a little lost.” Again, cliche, but true. Whether this means literally or figuratively, leaving your life, stepping out of your comfort zone, is the only way to learn about yourself. When I’m particularly confused or upset, I jump in my car and just drive. I’m not going to lie and say I come back healed with all the answers to my life’s questions. I wish. But I will say that when I allow myself to get lost, I at least come back clear headed and feeling a little bit happier. And if you’re lost figuratively, stumbling through your life with what feels like no direction, I promise that there is a purpose. I mean, where would we be if Christopher Columbus hadn’t been a little lost? He got lost and was disappointed to have not found India. The founder of the American Continent was worried he got lost, but ended up going down in history for what he thought was a mistake. So celebrate your stumbling, and don’t reach for the GPS right away. Sometimes when you land in what you think is the wrong place, you end up discovering a whole new world.
  3. Don’t be afraid to cry: When you do inevitably get lost, figuratively or literally, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to cry a lot. It’s okay to sit in your bedroom or car, turn up the sad music, and let it all out. I will admit to having done it many times. I will also admit to disagreeing for a long period of time. I thought I had to not cry because people were watching and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I thought holding my tears and feelings in made me strong. But the people who loved me most, I discovered, wanted to share my smiles as well as my tears, and were actually more disappointed not to know when I was upset because they wanted the chance to be there for me. They didn’t pity me, they loved me. And in turn I learned not to pity those who cry. In fact, we should pity those who don’t cry, because those who cry are lucky enough to have something worth crying about. Crying is a sign of strength, not weakness, because anyone who has the strength to show their feelings in this world that tries to harden our hearts, has more courage than those who are too big of cowards to show their weaknesses. And when you cry and allow people to comfort you, you will find love and support and feel much less alone.
  4. Don’t be afraid to do things you think you don’t want to do: When your friends invite you out, go. Even if you’re tired or think it won’t be any fun. Even if you would rather stay in your bedroom and binge watch your new favorite TV show. I have been there, and that can be fun, but that little bit of happiness only lasts so long. That is happiness by living in another world, but you need to find happiness in your own world. Even if you go out and don’t have the best time, at least you have a new experience, a new memory, and you have learned something about what you don’t like to do. Everything is a learning experience, and even if you don’t know what makes you happiest, I guarantee you won’t find it staring out the window at the world you never allowed yourself to explore.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail: This was a big one for me. I am quite the perfectionist. Often, when presented with new opportunities, I will make excuses and back out because of fear. One of my favorite musicians, Ben Rector, put this beautifully in his lyrics: “I’ve been scared to death of failing, scared that I’d look like a fool. And I’d rather quit than risk that I could lose. And I’m not proud of that position.” When I let fear of failure or looking like a fool run my life, I kept myself from so many wonderful people and experiences. There’s no way that you can find your place in this world if you don’t try new things. And in trying new things, you are going to mess up. But don’t be afraid of that! One day you will look back and be glad that you had the courage to make that first mistake.
  6. Don’t be afraid to stand alone: Being alone has such a negative connotation in this society, but it really isn’t a bad thing. In fact, in my opinion, taking time for yourself is one of the most important things you can do. And yes, I mean reading a book or drinking tea in your pajamas in the quiet of your home. But I also mean, don’t be afraid to stand alone against other people. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t like something, just because it seems like everyone else disagrees. I guarantee you that there are people who feel the same way you do, but you will never find them if you don’t speak up. Yes, you might lose people you called friends because of your opinions, but the kind of people you want around are the ones that can respect your opinion whether or not they agree, not those who pressure you into following them. The most rewarding paradox lies in this idea: by having the courage to stand alone for what you believe is right, you will soon find yourself less alone than ever, because a lot of people will admire and support you for your ability to confidently stand alone.
  7. Don’t be afraid of silence: I used to hate silence when I was alone because I got lost in my mine and I got easily overwhelmed in thinking so many things. I also used to hate silence with other people because I thought it meant that we had nothing to talk about and didn’t get along. But I learned, over time, the true value of silence. The best people are the ones that will share silence with you. And it is only through listening to the thoughts that come to us in silence that we can really get to know ourselves and face our fears. And I have learned that sometimes the most beautiful things require a little bit of silence. Tears, hugs, kisses, trust, love. So many discoveries are made in the silence of our hearts.
  8. Don’t be afraid: “Be not afraid.” This quote appears 365 times in the Bible– A daily reminder to not let the Earth’s fears swallow you up. I let too many things go in high school because I was afraid of what people would think. I didn’t say things because I couldn’t predict the outcome, so I thought it was better to keep it wrapped up. But, let me tell you, I was so wrong. Because it is far better to momentarily look like a fool than to live with life-long regrets. So do and say what you want to do. And don’t be afraid of looking like a fool. Normal is overrated and life’s best people are fools. What fun would life be if we were all “normal.” Those who want to judge you for it?  Let them. I guarantee you they have looked like a fool at least once in their lives. Don’t be afraid, because “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

The Reality of Being Real

“Regret is much more powerful than momentary shame or fear.”

I’m an expressive person. I mean, I write a blog about what I think. But part of the reason I write this blog is because events in my life inspire my thinking and make me want to say certain things to certain people. But the problem is that in this era, honesty isn’t common. People would rather keep things under the surface than address a problem out of fear of being judged. In the last year, I made it my goal to be more honest with myself and others and just say how I feel because I figured that most of the time, even if it doesn’t make things better, it won’t make them worse.

But it wasn’t easy. I was judged. I was judged a lot. But what I found out was I was judged less by the people I was honest with, and judged mostly by those around me that didn’t have the maturity to have an important conversation, that couldn’t understand how people that weren’t getting along could actually overcome an obstacle.

Why did this happen? Because the reality is that we don’t know how to be real anymore. We don’t know how to be honest with others or even with ourselves. We give up on people when things get rough or awkward or difficult. When someone doesn’t know how to handle a person or situation, they don’t ask, but instead just disappear on you or talk about you instead of talking to you.

In this last year, I was called a lot of things. I was called selfish. I was called dramatic and overly-attached. Naive. Childish. My words were twisted. And the worst part? I was called all of these things behind my back because the people who judged me, the people who laughed at me for my honesty, didn’t even have the courage to speak honestly to me.

But the thing that I came to realize is, I am sure I was called those things even before I decided to speak my mind. We will always have critics. But more often than not the critics are just jealous that they cannot do what you do or have what you have. So I have learned to let the judgements go. I decided I would rather have critics of my honesty than people who judge me for the things I don’t say. Because when you leave things unsaid, people too often take it upon themselves to fill in the blanks.

This year, I almost lost my best friend because of a culture that teaches us to give up. She had the courage to be honest with me and admit that she hurt me. We didn’t talk for a month. But that time was enough for us to calm down, to realize we needed each other, and to realize that as much as the secrets hurt, they would only hurt more if we had to heal by ourselves.

So we talked and it was hard, but it was important. We learned that friendship goes two ways. We shared the pain of our broken friendship, hated it equally, and that was enough for us to decide it was time to be happy again. We found a way to move on.

And we have been honest with each other ever since. When we do something that upsets the other, we tell each other, even if it is difficult. These conversations almost always begin with “I know you might not want to hear this but we are being honest, so I wanted you to know.” They sometimes lead to hurt feelings, but they always end in some kind of apology, a solution, and a chance to make our friendship stronger.

Sometimes people don’t know how much they hurt you, or how much they mean to you, if you don’t tell them.

Forgiveness only comes from honesty. Because of the forgiveness, and the openness, our relationship is the most important in our lives. We have learned that a relationship is so much more valuable when you fight for it, when you stay and work it out, when you tell the truth. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her. But imagine if I had listened to society and just given up? I would have learned nothing and lost one of the most important people in my life.

And that’s what made me most upset in all this: throughout this experience, throughout this last year, I was told over and over again to give up on my friendship. I was told to let it go. I was told that she wasn’t worth it. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that at first, I agreed. But while there does come a time to move on and leave people and places behind, she was definitely worth a conversation. You don’t just feel things strongly towards someone, whether it be anger or love or maybe both, and then just give up and let it go. That provides no closure. I have learned in this past year that it is impossible to just give up on someone or something, without closure, without knowing for sure.

But that’s the problem with our culture. We give up. We “let go” without truly letting go. We give up before things have even started because we make assumptions instead of having a conversation. We don’t have relationships with significant others, but instead we have “things” with people, because we are too afraid to have conversations that define those relationships. We don’t go on dates, we just hang out, because a date assumes a commitment that we are too afraid to talk about. And when we get annoyed with people, or when we decide we are done with someone, we don’t talk about it. Often times people don’t even let you know they are done with you or how you upset them, but instead just disappear or become distant and hope you will figure it out yourself, because it’s less awkward or difficult for them. But what does that do? That just leaves you feeling as if you meant so little to them that you weren’t even worth an explanation.

But let me tell you something: you deserve an explanation. You deserve a conversation. You deserve truth and honesty and you deserve it right from the mouth of the other person involved, not behind your back in someone else’s gossip.

But in order to receive honesty, you have to be honest.

So this year, when everyone told me to give up, I didn’t. I went back to my friend, and to this day some people still don’t understand why. Some people still try to tear us apart, asking me how I can be friends with someone who hurt me. But these people just don’t understand. These people don’t fight for things. These people see us say things to each other like “why did you say that? That was rude,” and they say “I can’t believe she called you rude. That was mean.” But these people don’t stick around long enough to hear the other one of us say, “I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful what I say next time.”

See, most people my age don’t know how to have, or even start, a valuable conversation. We are used to instant gratification. We are spoiled with lightning fast internet speeds, fast food, and even movies and books that preach consistent happy endings where people just realize their feelings or their faults and turn around and apologize. These things cause us to postpone our feelings, our discussions, our relationships. We say, “It wasn’t the right time.” I know because I was the queen of that. I was, and still am on occasion, the queen of excuses.

But life isn’t a movie and relationships don’t perfect themselves with the speed and precision of our computers. We hide behind our phones. We hide behind other people and reasons. We even hide behind a facade of being nice, of not telling the truth because it will hurt someone or skmetnjnf and it’s better if they find out later.

But we have to stop being so selfish. There is never a good time to keep secrets and if you really care about someone, tell them the truth, because the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be.

I want to know. If someone has a problem with me, I want to know. If I annoyed you, tell me. It’s the only way it gets fixed. And on the other hand, if I made you smile, tell me. If I did something you liked, let me know. That’s how you get along. That’s how you communicate and create lasting relationships and friendships. And that’s a lesson that our world greatly needs to learn.

So what is the reality of being real? It’s very, very hard. Being the person that doesn’t give up in a culture where giving up is the norm is very discouraging. And sometimes it feels easier to give up. But we shouldn’t, because honesty is the best way to live without regrets. I have often heard it said that the things we will most regret when we look back on our lives are the things we didn’t do, not the things we did. I couldn’t agree more. The people you are honest with will appreciated it, if not at first, then later down the line. You won’t always get what you want out of honesty. You won’t always get an apology, you won’t always get the boy or the girl, and you most definitely won’t change people. People only change when they want to change. But no matter what, you won’t spend your life wondering, “what if?”

Regret is much more powerful than momentary shame or fear.

So tell that boy that he hurt you and don’t let him tell you otherwise. You are worth a conversation.

Tell that girl how you feel. Chances are she feels the same way. If she does, make a commitment, and take her on a real date.

Tell the people you love that you love them while you have the chance, even if they can’t say it back, even if they judge you for it. Those who judge you for it are only judging you because you chose to live differently than they do, because you chose to live with a level of confidence and maturity that they don’t yet have.

And most importantly, respect those who have the courage to be real with you, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

Make being real a reality.

“If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don’t like, I’ll tell them…I’m not going to let that happen again with anyone else. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. But right now, I’m here with you. And I want to know where you are, what you need, and what you want to do.” – Peter Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

 

A Letter To the Boy Who Couldn’t Love Me…With Love, The Girl You Took For Granted

Someone can hardly know you and love you more than you’ve ever been loved. But the flip side? The person who knows you the best can not love you at all. That’s what hurts the most: when someone knows you better than anyone else and chooses not to care about you. When a person knows your biggest weaknesses and chooses to use them against you.

“We’ll be like best friends.”

You said that and I believed it. I believed it because it used to be true and I hoped that after we broke up we could get that back.

But I was wrong. Because friendship requires a kind of love. And you didn’t love me. You couldn’t because you don’t even know what that means.

Over and over again you invite me into your life. You share your favorite movies and music. You invite me to do things with you. You are one of the only people who will sit silently with me and just listen to music, look out over the town, and think. And so I continued to come back when you asked me to, again and again, as your friend, because I thought we were connected. Even though we didn’t always get along, we had shared history, and I think that is one of the most powerful forces between people.

But every time you invite me in, it is only to push me away again when something better comes along. You never stand up for me the way I stand up for you. You are so busy trying to find your place and purpose in life, so busy not knowing who you want to be, that you will throw me under the bus to find it.

And you think I would learn, but I didn’t. Because that’s who I am. I don’t give up on people. It’s one of my best traits. And also one of my biggest flaws. I am terrible at letting things go.

And you know that. You know my flaws and weaknesses. And that’s what hurts.

The problem we have in life is that we expect that the people who know us best are the ones who will care about us the most. But that’s the wrong assumption to make. Someone can hardly know you and love you more than you’ve ever been loved. But the flip side? Someone who knows you so well can not love you at all. That’s what hurts the most: when someone knows you better than anyone else and chooses not to care. When a person knows your biggest weaknesses and uses them against you.

You know I am loyal to a fault. You know I’m a perfectionist with a fear of being not good enough, of being replaced. Yet you continually replace me in your life, thinking that you can come back anytime you want to. You know I don’t give up on the people I care about and you take advantage of that and of me.

Over and over again, I would pick you up when you were down. When we were upset, we talked. Sometimes you showed up at my house with a movie. And sometimes we didn’t have much to say because we had already discussed important things and had lived through a lot of them together, as friends for years.

I thought that meant something to you. I thought you cared about me, too.

But I was wrong.

Every time, everything was just about you. It has always been about you.

You can’t love anyone else because you don’t love yourself. You can’t make other people happy because you can’t even make yourself happy. You are trapped in a mind that tells you no one cares, so you take affection wherever you find it. You find temporary happiness in the excitement of something or someone new. Until that new thing loses its excitement, until that person leaves you or changes. And only then do you come crawling back to me, when you are hurt or frustrated or bored.

But no more. I’m done.

Because all those times that I tried to be there for you and stand up for you, it broke me. And not in the way that you like to think. I wasn’t so devastated when you left, that I broke. You broke me because you broke my faith in you and in the people I care about to care about me as much as I care about them. You increased my fear of being replaced by consistently replacing me, trying to prove that you didn’t need me, and making me look like the needy, desperate one in the eyes of everyone else. And you don’t even know how much all of that hurt me because you don’t even give things or people a second thought.

But did you ever tell anyone you were the one that called me? Of course not. You have to look like the one that is needed, not the one that needs someone else. You have to convince your mind that you don’t want or need anyone else so that if people give up on you, it is that much easier to say you never cared.

I hoped that deep down you cared, that you were grateful, that you wanted me in your life like I thought I needed you. And I didn’t even want anything from you. I just wanted a friend who understood. Someone I didn’t have to explain myself to because they were already a part of a lot of the things that made me who I was. Someone I could just have fun with.

But if you can’t love someone, at least tell them the truth. You owe them that much.

And the truth is, you just needed to feel needed. You just needed a cushion to fall back on, someone you thought you could throw aside again and again because she was too nice and too desperate to give up on you.

Well she’s not.

I did it because I cared and it’s against my nature to let the people I care about suffer alone. When she hurt you, I wanted you to know that even when people leave you, it’s not the end of the world and that you can’t believe everything people say about you.

You taught me that.

You taught me a lot of things. And the craziest part is that you didn’t even mean to.

You taught me to stand up for myself. It’s best to say what I want to say and be honest with people, even when it’s scary or painful. Long term regret is worse than temporary shame.

You taught me patience, with myself and with others.

You taught me that I can’t control everything. The perfectionist in me had a very hard time with this one, but you made me just sit and breathe in the times when I was freaking out over the tiniest details. You told me to stop writing letters, because life isn’t letters (yet here I am still writing another one that I probably will never send, because some things never change).

You taught me the beauty of silence. It’s nice to have someone you can talk to all the time, but it’s sometimes even better to spend time with people you are so comfortable with that you don’t have to say anything.

You taught me I was beautiful and worth something, even when I felt like I wasn’t. When I had crazy hair and makeup down my face you told me not to worry about it. It didn’t matter.

You taught me that it’s okay to be alone, when we chose each other over the parties we didn’t really want to go to or people we didn’t really like spending time with. But then you left, and I also realized that it is okay to say no and take time for myself. Standing alone is what makes you stronger than anything.

You taught me that I am much stronger than I thought I was.

However, you also taught me that despite my own strength, I can’t change people. People only change if and when they are ready.

Most importantly, you taught me what love is. You taught me that love isn’t just being there for someone. Love is doing things. Love is standing up for that person when they aren’t there to do it themselves. Love is taking their hand and holding them when they are broken, at their lowest, and hardest to love, because that’s usually when they most need a reminder. Love is all the things I waited for you to do, as my boyfriend or my friend.

So I am giving up. Because now that I have learned these things, I refuse to be treated as anything less. I always thought there was strength in not giving up on people, but I realize now that there is a lot of strength in letting go, too. And it’s time that you taught yourself all the lessons you taught me. Because you can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself.

And you deserve to love and be loved. I still believe that.

And I don’t blame you for anything, really. I understand. And I don’t think you really meant to do half of what you did. Just because you couldn’t love me or her or the other one that broke your heart, doesn’t mean that you won’t one day learn what love really means to you. Sometimes you have to have your heart broken to find what makes it whole. I found what makes me whole and I didn’t find it in a relationship. I found it in the people and things around me that I took for granted when I was busy trying to find myself, when I was busy trying to find you.

I hope one day you find the strength to dismantle your pride, apologize, and then say thank you to those who have loved you, those that you took for granted. Because there are a lot more than you even realize. And I hope one day you learn to love them.

But most of all, I hope that you learn to love yourself, because I didn’t fall for a fool. There’s so much of goodness in you. There’s so many things you do right, too. You are amazing and I hope that one day you can see it, too.

But I know now that I can’t be the one to show you.

So now, I will care from afar and I will wish you the best. But I can no longer afford to answer every half-hearted, one-sided invitation into your life. I will no longer be led to the belief that you care only to be replaced or left behind. If you ever needed me, I would probably be the first one at your door, but that doesn’t mean I will let you control how I feel.

If I could go back, would I do it again? Yes. Because, the truth is, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. Because of you, I learned a lot of things about myself. But not everyone that comes into your life is meant to stay. So, as Stephen Chbosky wrote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.” Not anymore.

Love,

The Girl You Took For Granted

Why I don’t want to be the generation of acceptance…

I am a proud member of my generation. A generation named the Millennials, we are characterized by more confidence, education, and acceptance than those who came before us. Sounds perfect. Sounds as if we would be intelligent, open-mided, active citizens, working to make our world a better place. But not all that glitters is gold, and we know that is far from the truth. We millennials have some major downfalls which are creating massive problems in our world. Our so-called confidence and our belief that everyone should be accepted has lead us to possess an enlarged sense of entitlement and strong narcissistic attitudes that we never quite grew out of. It’s an unfortunate cycle, as we strive to accept everyone, but also feel entitled enough to think we are the only ones who know best, leaving us close minded to any idea that might differ from ours, and therefore not accepting anyone who disagrees with us. Meanwhile, we strive to avoid confrontation altogether out of fear of not being accepted ourselves in a generation where the group often supercedes the individual. These are dangerous traits, especially in this fast-paced, constantly-changing world that is in need of our leadership. So, I thought I might point out the hypocrisy our generation is so full of, since a majority of us are too full of ourselves or too accepting to see it and admit that we might be at fault.

If we look throughout history, the word acceptance doesn’t usually lead to positive change. The modern world has created a new positive connotation for the word acceptance. I mean, what if the women of America had simply accepted that they weren’t allowed to vote? Or if we had continued accept segregation? Or what if I walked into a store and was charged twice the price of an item and someone told me I had to just accept it because it’s the way things are? And I want to be liked by the group of people who are ok with the new prices, so I don’t say anything. Well, this sort of thing is happening on a daily basis. We are learning to accept things around us even if we disagree with them just because we want to avoid confrontation and look good in the eyes of a group.

And we are supposedly the educated generation. Well, we might have the highest college graduation rate, but does a degree really mark your intelligence? In my opinion, true intelligence lies beyond the pages of a book or how well you pass a test. These things are important, yes, but a truly intelligent person has the decency to admit they are wrong, can listen open-mindedly to someone who might have a different opinion than theirs, and, if they cannot be persuaded, can agree to disagree and respect that other person’s educated opinion. However, this is uncommon in us millennials who, due to our own confidence, believe that we are the only ones capable of proper judgement, and therefore don’t trust others enough to value their opinion. But let me make something clear: just because I disagree with you, does not mean I am ignorant. I might have an educated reason that I hold a belief different than most other people. Just because I won’t give up on what I believe in does not mean I am close-minded person (also, I don’t know when conservative became such an insult).

I suppose that my point is that this thing we call “acceptance” should go all ways. In my opinion, it’s somewhat synonymous with respect. For example, I’m Catholic, which causes many people to automatically assume I’m against gay rights and abortion and that I’m very conservative. These are not all true, but it is, in a way, it’s own from of discrimination. People are quick to make me an outlier because I am ” not accepting.”  But aren’t the people judging me for my “non acceptance,” which is, in fact, a stereotypical label of their own invention, just as guilty of the same crime they are accusing me of? A gay man who calls a catholic man homophobic is just as prejudiced and stereotypical as any catholic man who might have the nerve to call a gay man a sinner.  This double standard occurs today because “acceptance” has a specific definition to this generation’s culture, which means accepting only certain minorities. I do believe that it is extremely important to accept minorities; however, what about people with different opinions? In my mind, acceptance means realizing that people are different and everyone has different opinions, not grouping us all into a singular mold and accepting those who fit the mold and teaching those that disagree that they are somehow their own minority. We have to remember that our differences aren’t a bad thing to voice. In fact, by not voicing our differences in a respectful and peaceful manner, they can grow inside of us until we ultimately explode.

Which brings me to this sense of confidence that our generation supposedly has. To be honest, I don’t see confidence, I see entitlement. We are confident when it comes to standing up to our elders, or anyone we might see as below us or unworthy of opinion. (which is horrible, because who are we to decide whose opinions hold value and whose don’t?). But, when it comes to standing up to each other, we are not even close to confident. Peer pressure is more alive in this generation than ever before, perpetuated by our addiction to social media. I mean, our lack of confidence runs as deep as the oldest text book example. You want to party and drink? I have to accept that because this is the accepting generation. But are you going to accept me for my decision to stay home and read a book instead of going to that party? Nope. I will be called a prude or a nerd or worse, even though I am the one making an intelligent, safe decision. I see closed-mindedness everywhere in this so-called open minded generation. If we were really so confident, we would stand up and speak up, not sit on our butts, going along with what society tells us is right. We are all talk, tweeting and sharing our opinions online, only to back down or delete it when we are confronted about it or questioned.

It’s time to stop backing down, millennials. Not every mistake can be deleted as easily as your online profile.

Honestly, I think we are working towards the wrong thing. I don’t want to be a part of the “accepting” generation anymore, because we are accepting things that are not ok. Contrary to popular belief, acceptance has a limit. Acceptance can become synonymous with laziness. We have allowed acceptance to corrupt our sense of morality. How far are we supposed to let it go? Are we supposed to let everyone drink and smoke all day long because we have to “accept them for who they are”? Pretty soon, we will be accepting things that so aren’t okay just because we are afraid of being called ignorant or closed minded. Oh wait, we are already doing that. And, in fact, most of the population is closed minded to anyone with a different opinion than their own.

Accepting someone for who they are or what they believe, doesn’t mean that we agree with them and it doesn’t mean you have to compromise your own beliefs.

Speak up, millennials.

So do I want to be a part of the “accepting” generation? No. I don’t want to be accepting if that means I have to learn to accept things I’m not ok with and not speak up just so I am not labeled as an overly conservative person. I don’t want to be a part of the hypocritical generation that claims to have confidence, but doesn’t speak their mind. I don’t want to be a part of a culture of acceptance if this is what it means.

So, I will say it again: don’t back down, millennials.

If we want to become the truly the confident, accepting, educated, generation that we have the power to be, we have to learn to work together and put aside our selfishness. We have to turn our group narcissism into empathy. If we have to think selfishly, we should put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and if we wouldn’t want it to happen to us, we work to prevent it. We have to learn to “accept” that people are going to disagree. But if we want to make a difference, we have to learn to compromise, to find common ground, to listen to those around us, one issue at a time. It’s time that we start putting our educated, entitled qualities to good use, accepting love in all forms and stopping ignorance and pride from running our society.

It’s time to work together, millennials. Let’s work together towards a society where if you believe something, you can stand up for it, and your educated, open-minded peers will admire you and accept you for it, whether or not they agree.

So, for all of these reasons, I’m done working towards this modern day idea of “acceptance.” I don’t want to be a part of the generation of acceptance and double standards. I want to be a part of the generation of equality, education, confidence, and positive change. That will only come if we learn to accept our differences and peacefully, intelligently speak up for what we know is right. So listen when someone presents an opposite opinion, speak your own without fear, and love everyone around you. That’s how we gain the “acceptance” we are searching for. But it’s not acceptance, it’s equality.

A lesson about caring…

“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

There was a boy who said he cared. There were lots of boys who said they cared about lots of girls. There are lots of people who say they care about lots of other people. But what does that mean exactly? Because sometimes people who say they care the most don’t make you feel better when you need them to.

I have learned a lesson about caring lately. People think that asking if someone is ok when they’re upset is caring. And that’s a great way to show you care! But it’s not the most important, and sometimes that’s just not what we need. And a lot of the time we don’t even mean it when we are the ones asking.

Actions speak louder than words.

We have all hit rock bottom at some point in our lives. We can all remember a time when we just didn’t know how we would possibly go on. I remember in hard times thinking all I wanted was for someone to care, for someone to understand.

But when someone told me they cared and they understood, it didn’t make me feel better. I just would get frustrated because I thought no one could possibly understand exactly what I was feeling and thinking. And I already knew people cared about me, but that didn’t change how I thought and felt right then.

That is when I realized I didn’t need someone to wallow and whine with me, I didn’t need someone to agree with me. I needed someone to pull me up, someone who would take my hand and make me do the things I didn’t want to do, because sometimes the things you least want to do are the only things that can make it better.

That’s what real caring is. It’s not just being there for someone else, it’s living for someone else. There’s a big difference between living and being there.

Being there means showing up at their house with ice cream on a bad day. It means holding their hand or hugging them while they cry.

But the truest kind of love, real caring, is putting someone before yourself. Really caring means showing up with ice cream on that bad day without even having to know what made it so bad. Really caring means being the shoulder to cry on even when you don’t know why they are crying. Really caring means encouraging others to do what makes them happy, even if it doesn’t involve you.

I had a friend who cried at prom. The music was perfect, she had no boys to worry about, and she looked gorgeous, but something else was wrong. So I hugged her while she cried and then asked what was wrong. She said “I can’t talk about it tonight.” I said “are you sure?” At first I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t tell me. But then I realized it wasn’t about me, so I said “ok. Let’s dance.” She didn’t want to at all and insisted on staying in her chair and thinking. But after a little while I walked back over to her and said “get out of your head. Stop thinking. Live here in this moment. There is something good in every day. This is our good thing.” Soon enough I was able to pull her onto the dance floor.

Really caring is not giving up. And that doesn’t mean insisting that someone tell you why they are upset even when they say they don’t want to talk about it. It’s not forcing someone to share their darkest secrets. Not giving up means when they chose to sit it out, you make them dance.

So think before you say “I did it because I care.” There’s a difference between caring and personal satisfaction. Don’t do something “because you care” just to make yourself feel better.

I think a lot of the time we take pride in being other people’s confidants. When people relate to us and share a secret or a wish, we feel needed. And the same thing goes for problems. When someone tells you why they are upset, you feel special and proud that someone trusts you.

But we need to learn to listen with the intent to understand, not to respond.

Real caring is not about you. Real caring is selfless. Caring is a choice. And when a person does trust you with a problem, they trust you to help them make it better. And if you are lucky enough to have someone who cares about you like this, no questions asked, If you have someone that will pull you up of the floor and out of your funk, take them up on it.  Get up and get out of your head and find one good thing in every day. Because you’re the only one who can open yourself up to change.

Real caring isn’t just understanding someone’s problem but helping them to change it, whether it’s for yourself or someone else.

So the lesson I have learned about caring? When life knocks you on the floor, the real friends don’t just sit down with you and mope. The people who really care are the ones who not only pull you up and show you how to stand, but, better yet, the ones who remind you how to dance. Because even though it’s nice to have someone who understands, it’s even better to have someone that doesn’t have to.