what it means to miss you.

This is for everyone who has ever missed someone, will ever miss someone, or is currently missing someone. Share in this experience with me.

If you did not already know, I am currently on a three-week family vacation throughout Sicily and northern Italy. I’m not by myself, I’m not restricted from technology [completely], and I’m not unable to speak with the important people in my life back home… but I’m still missing.

Just like I’ve written about what it means to say thank you, I feel like we often throw around the phrase I miss you! without really taking the time to analyze what “missing someone” really is. To miss is a far more complex internal experience; it engages the full array of human emotion, not only in the mind but in the heart and the soul, and it challenges us to our core.

I will speak from my experience, because similar to participating in physical activity, the heart is always involved, but other muscles (meaning emotions) are worked and stressed in different ways.

First, the fear. I knew I would be leaving my country for three weeks (FYI- I’ve always been known to get homesick rather easily, depending on the circumstances). I knew I would have my family by my side, but I also knew I couldn’t bring everyone else with me physically. I was afraid of things back home changing while I was not present there. My anxiety kicked in, and I began missing people before I even left them. I broke down in tears, and I said many goodbyes as though I were moving out of the U.S. permanently. People had to remind me that I would be home in a few weeks (which says a lot about my attachment style). Before I left the states, I became filled with a deeper anxiety. How will I feel being away from people I love for three whole weeks? How will my mind handle this separation? There will be an ocean between me and my home… 

Perhaps your reason for missing someone was unexpected. Maybe you were separated without knowing this would happen, and did not have an opportunity to prepare for a goodbye. In that case, perhaps you are feeling fear of how to handle the rest of your emotions, how to process your situation, or how to move on.

**Side-note: I realize how silly a lot of this sounds, considering people spend much longer periods of time apart, sometimes without any way of communicating, and handle it without experiencing these emotions… but honestly, for me, it’s a huge challenge.

Then, the sadness. At this point, it hit me. I realized how far away I was. I realized how much I was missing my loved ones, but there was nothing I could do about it. I used technology to communicate, I listened to sentimental music, and I wrote about my thoughts, emotions, and memories, but nothing was quite the same as being with those I love. This sorrow is a huge component of missing someone (so don’t be fooled by the shorter length of this paragraph), and it plants the seed for a richer experience, as I will explain later on.

Anger layered itself on top of sadness. I became ridiculously frustrated that I was stuck on the other side of the ocean. I became infuriated that I wanted to see my someone but couldn’t. I became annoyed with technological restrictions and the expenses of long-distance phone calls. I felt a surge of negativity.

Somewhere during this process, I became exceedingly aware. I became aware of exactly how important these people are to me. I have been reflecting constantly on the profound influence of my “missed” ones in my lives, and I’ve learned invaluable lessons from the distance.

The sadness and fear and frustration lead to immense gratefulness. I am more thankful than I ever have been for the people in my life. I have realized more than ever how much I need their presence, and I have felt the impact of their goodness on me regardless of any sort of physical distance.

Now, I’m in the midst of feeling everything, and more. I’m experiencing a craving unlike any other to be reunited with my loved ones. I’m grateful for this entire experience because I have been strengthened emotionally through it. However, I am still counting the days to returning to my home.

I don’t know your situation. The person or other entity that you are missing may be waiting for you at the end of a chain of experiences through which you must first pass. If your time together on this earth is finished, you might be hopeful for a spiritual uniting beyond the confines of this life. Maybe your experience is something different, but you’re still missing someone… and that’s okay.

The experience of missing is fruitful. It is difficult, often painful, and the cause of countless heartaches and headaches, but it is a rich and meaningful experience that can strengthen you in unimaginable ways… if you let it.

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the sicilian adventure (pt. 2)

Hello, friends. I am currently writing you from a quaint hotel positioned in the midst of a Roman shopping district. Before I continue with my adventure throughout northern Italy, however, I must take a few moments to share with you a bit more about Sicily.

The past week was absolutely unforgettable. I really don’t know where to begin. For one thing, the feeling of being a foreigner subsided. For my sister’s birthday dinner, family members and friends gathered in perfect harmony to join in celebration. I experienced such an authentic family gathering, and it was incredible. I poured my heart out to my cousin who studies English, and she opened her heart to me. The people of Calascibetta form an exemplary community. It was inspiring to see so many people kiss each other on each cheek as a sign of greeting and goodbye. The affection there is so refreshing and genuine.

My ability to comprehend the Sicilian dialect of Calascibetta improved throughout the week. My ability to speak the language was not very strong, but I succeeded in forming simple phrases, and for that I was thankful. My ability to comprehend the Sicilian conversations, something that I will treasure as a future linguist and take with me throughout the rest of my time in Europe (unless the northerners judge me for speaking in a dialect, in which case I must accept the judgment).

I experienced the entire spectrum of emotion in Calascibetta: the frustration of a lack of communication, the curiosity of being immersed in a new environment, the stress of traveling, the sheer happiness of being aesthetically pleased, the sorrow of homesickness, the fear that comes with generally frightening experiences (possibly more on that later), the awe of swimming in clear aqua water with mountains stretching into the sky behind me, and so on and so forth.

By the end of the week, I had settled into my routine of Nutella croissants and biscuits with a cup of coffee. I adjusted to the few minutes of WiFi I had each day, and I made them worthwhile. A phone call became worth so much more to me (and unfortunately, that’s all too literal — the phone calls were expensive), and hearing a voice I’ve missed throughout my journey became all the sweeter. Calascibetta is a wake-up call to gratefulness. It is a place that lacks the modern vibe with which I am familiar, therefore stretching me in new ways. In Calascibetta, I felt far away. Sicily felt like an island in the middle of the ocean somewhere, whereas Rome to me feels much closer to home. Sicily really felt like it was on the other side of the world. Sicily had no facade.

It goes without saying that Sicily has incredible food. Among my favorites were the spaghetti sprinkled with ricotta that my godparents made for lunch, the cream coffee topped with whipped cream that I thoroughly enjoyed in Enna, and the sweet brioche bun full of stracciatella gelato that I devoured in Palermo.

Other than Calascibetta, which felt like a home away from home by the end of the week, I was enamored by the beauty of Taormina and the beaches of Palermo. In Palermo, I experienced one of the most unique things in which I’ve ever participated called an aqua-gym, which is an entire workout routine done standing in the shallow water at the beach. Squats in the ocean with at least fifty other people is interesting, to say the least, not to mention the waves that were formed by such movements. The aqua-gym was completed by a “maxi-selfie,” as the Sicilians called it. (The inclusion of English in the Italian culture is intriguing, and so are some of the translations.) I’ll never forget performing a Beatles song in Palermo, and I’ll miss dancing to songs like “Maria Salvador” and “El Mismo Sol” (there’s an interesting language blend on the radio in Sicily).

I had also never seen a wild porcupine casually cross the road in the moonlight until this week. The Sicilian days are beautiful, but the mornings and starlit nights are beyond breathtaking. I’ve never seen a such a pure sky with thousands of flickering lights. I’ve also never seen such a fantastic ball of fire burying itself behind the mountaintops. I’ve never walked through crusted lava and held the volcanic ashes in my own hands (at Mount Etna).

Spending time in Sicilia was an immense learning experience. I became more in touch with my emotions, more aware of the my experiences, more grateful for the people in my life, and more, period. I grew this past week… and that’s too much to write about right now.

We left Sicily this morning as I said earlier, and I can truly say I went out with a bang. I entered my cousins’ house to say goodbye, and I forgot how the Sicilian population is generally much shorter than I am (around five-ten). I was walking up the steps and hit my head rather hard on something that felt like concrete. Yes, I cried. Prayers for a healed skull and elimination of headaches would be much appreciated.

I’ll admit — I become homesick extremely quickly. I’m looking forward to returning to my country soon, but first, I have many more memories to make.

Tanto amore,

xoxo, Siena

sicilia in a hazelnut shell.

This is the first account of an American young woman with Sicilian roots who finds herself walking the cobblestone streets and drinking the water of the land from which her blood descends. My name is Siena, and I am in Calascibetta, Sicilia, as we speak.

My experience of Sicily is not that of a typical foreign tourist, but rather a family member. I am currently writing from my room in my godparents’ house, a simultaneously simple yet grand Sicilian flat, situated on one of seemingly hundreds of thin lane-less roads, winding and declining and ascending with little warning. Sicily is not exactly what I expected, and I’m not quite sure where to begin.

I will begin with my first moments here. My parents and I flew from the U.S. to Rome, and had barely any time to catch our flight into Catania, one of two airports in Sicily (I think, anyway). My family’s attempt to rent a car was proving difficult (not due to the language barrier, because they both speak Sicilian), and so I sat my jet-lagged self on a bench in the rental car building, and found myself speaking to an adorable elderly Sicilian woman who spoke a mixture of Italian and English. She showed me pictures of her family, gave me marriage advice, and eventually kissed me goodbye. I felt welcome.

The car rental was a success, and we headed to my godparents’ house… but I was asleep during the car ride, and had no energy to spare for even the most scenic route. I woke up as we were climbing the hill to Calascibetta, a town of utter simplicity and natural beauty that radiates with no sort of artificial assistance. Within minutes of my awaking we arrived, and we were greeted by my godfather, who I had never met before that moment, and my godmother a few moments after, who I had met only when she visited the U.S. years ago.

After settling in a bit, my sister (who had been in Sicily for almost a month before my family and I arrived) and I went to the Piazza, the town square… a.k.a. the place with the only Wi-Fi to which I have whenever-I-want access. My godparents don’t have a computer, and therefore have no need for Wi-Fi, which is a silly yet very comprehensible struggle for a person like me who is so acclimated to feeling “connected,” especially when some of the most important people in my life are an ocean away.

On the way to the Piazza, two men spoke to my sister and me, which is completely normal in a town like Calascibetta. Most people here know each other because there are only about four-thousand people in the town. Plenty of people are related, and never put it past Italian families to have crazy connections – cousins, cousins of friends, god-siblings, aunt of cousin of goddaughter of friend, who is actually your nephew’s mother, and so on and so forth. Anyway, two men greeted us, and I explained that I do not speak much Italian. Somehow I ended up having a brief conversation with one of the men in broken Sicilian, then Spanish, then French, and then we left. The other man ended up in the Piazza ten minutes later, and approached my sister to ask if he could buy her some sort of beverage – a cappuccino, a latte, a tequila. She denied all of the options, and so then he asked me, to which I explained with my bit of Italian knowledge that I have a love in America, and I would not accept a beverage. In Sicilian, he replied that he is not a jealous man, and eventually walked away.

I cried myself to sleep that first night as part of coping with a combination of my exhaustion-induced emotional struggle (#jetlag), and a feeling of pure frustration at my inability to communicate with my family and what-could-be friends. I have lived in an Italian-American household my entire life because my Italian-speaking grandmother has lived with our family until recently. However, the dialogue was mainly between my mother and grandmother and so learning their Sicilian dialect was never a necessity, although I regret not learning it sooner. Since I arrived, the frustration has only grown stronger. It is a budding linguist’s worst nightmare to be in a place where everyone can speak the language but yourself. It pains me to have thoughts and ideas and desires, and an even stronger desire to share those desires, to only find myself unable to do so (at least adequately) in an independent manner. What makes it even more frustrating is that I have a somewhat-decent ability to understand Sicilian, and I comprehend most phrases contextually… but then I usually can’t respond. Darn. Well, the future shall determine the rest of this scenario. This personal struggle of mine will either grow stronger and then I’ll be plucked from Sicily at the end of the week as my family and I continue to tour other regions of Italy, or I’ll learn more of this Sicilian dialect and move on.

After sleeping for over twelve hours, I was greeted in the morning by coffee and croissants filled with Nutella, which I consumed again this morning (yum). Yesterday, we visited Agrigento, another town in Sicily that lies outside of Calascibetta and contains beautiful Roman ruins (now that is a tourist attraction, but still not unreasonably flooded with people). There isn’t much to say about Agrigento because it really is a place everyone should experience for themselves. The ruins are breathtaking, and the aesthetics of the place feel unreal. Plus, there was an added bonus: I was surprised because I able to practice my French there, which always warms my heart.

Other than visiting Agrigento, we have yet to explore places in a touristy manner, but we hope to have a beach day tomorrow. I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half full days living the life of a Calascibetta native – consuming the fresh preservative-free meals, spending time in the Piazza, and gazing into the Sicilian skyline as I’m sure all who live here must do each day.

Sicily is an interesting place. Stray cats and dogs are a common sight, as are lizards on the sidewalk and walls outdoors. Coffee cups are significantly tinier. It has become normal to kiss those with whom I speak on the left and right cheek as a greeting and a goodbye. Technology is certainly not such an integral part of the culture, at least from my eyes. The entire culture feels different. Life is simpler; emotional satisfaction seems to have less conditions, and people are happy with their town and their families and their friendships and their nights walking back and forth in the Piazza until they run into a friendly face. I have never been in such a paradoxical place, one where I feel so much at home yet so incredibly foreign. Calascibetta is certainly no tourist spot, and so this really does not feel like a typical vacation. I have never felt so included in the immersion of the culture while also feeling so excluded by my inability to communicate properly, exacerbated by the effort exerted to reach my loved ones back in the states where I am not only literally but also mentally at home. It’s okay, though. While it may feel atypical, I am here in an unfathomably beautiful place, and that’s all there is to it.

I experience a feeling of absolute awe accompanied by a small twinge of anxiety knowing that I am currently typing away somewhere on a mountaintop of a small town of Sicily, surrounded by nothing except the brisk blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea beyond me. You are likely thousands of miles away from me… and I had to bring my laptop to the Piazza just to tell you all of this (that’s not a thing Sicilians do, by the way). Thank you for making my effort even more worthwhile. Thanks for being here with me in spirit.

On another note, I just ate some of the best cake I’ve ever had in my life. The Sicilians definitely know how to cook.

Stay beautiful.

xoxo,
your friend, Siena

a story about a stack of books (feat. Ivan Ilych)

I’d consider this past week challenging, perhaps because I’ve been slightly swaddled in an existential crisis. I believe it was perpetuated by a combination of things including reflecting upon the state of transition in which I find myself, feeling physical pain and discomfort, and having a ridiculous amount of time to think.

And thus the crisis began. I fell into a state of self-criticism, in which I focused on my weaknesses rather than my strengths. I was disappointed in myself. I overlooked my blessings and joys to search for the reasons to be angry, saddened, or simply negative. I did not enjoy being me.

So, I faced my feelings. I thought about them for hours, and did basically nothing else. It was after I poured out my feelings to another that I felt I was able to move on and reflect in a more positive manner. I was ready to dismiss the negativity, and develop my strength.

I needed to move. I needed to channel energy into physical action, a desire which motivated me to leave my house and run a couple of miles. As I turned the corner on my run home, I noticed my boyfriend’s car parked in front of my house… unexpectedly. Hm.

My cool-down walk immediately tripled into a home-bound sprint, and I found myself walking through my front door, covered in my own sweat, to see my boyfriend casually sitting on my family room couch, holding a goblet full of lemonade, wearing a handmade straw hat from Taiwan.

“I have a surprise for you,” he exclaimed a few moments after I caught my breath. I was fully immersed in the moment, no longer consumed by my own existence, but swallowed in present time.

He knew I was struggling with my emotions, and so he said, “Flowers are too cliché,” and handed me a stack of classic literature that he had hand-selected for me, varying in size and source. In that moment, I was touched by a feeling of immense grace. I was reminded of my intellectual pursuits, my ability to embrace an individual moment through embracing something so tangible and rich such as literature, and somehow, I was reminded of my purpose.

These books were not given without instructions, however. He specified the order in which I was to read the books, as well as the timelines I had to complete each one. He insisted I begin with The Death of Ivan Ilych, the story of a man who was drowning in his own existential crisis. The irony was inexplicable, and I didn’t even realize it was so until I was finished reading the story.

I was overwhelmed with the literature, as I was so fully experiencing Ivan’s struggle through my own emotional journey. Although Ivan’s difficulties were not identical to my own, the same essence of crisis was mutual. I felt a sense of comfort knowing that Leo Tolstoy, who wrote the work, must have experienced a similar sense of internal turmoil if he was able to comprehend his emotions enough to formulate them into writing.

One quote from the writing says, “…something terrible, new, and more important than anything before in his life was taking place within him of which he alone was aware. Those about him did not understand or would not understand it, but thought everything in the world was going on as usual.”

HELLOOOO!? That quote sums of probably a quarter of my existence. Okay, I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but it certainly feels that way at times. Given my struggles with my anxiety, my sorrow, my flood of emotions, my identity in the midst of transition, my questions regarding “purpose” and “existence,” followed by my attempt to figure it out and balance it all, I can’t express it all. It seems impossible to share all of my emotions and feelings, because sometimes, I can’t even figure them out on my own… and no one else can crawl inside my subconscious and figure them out for me…

This story opened my eyes to what feels like countless lessons. I was reminded how amazing it feels to think and to be, how exhilarating it feels to have an identity, to struggle, and to overcome. I was taught once more how inspiring it is to know that I am never alone, because in the end, there is someone who feels exactly the same type of “alone,” the same sort of loneliness. There is yet another victim of consumption by the abyss of uncertainty and existence and purpose and thought and everything-ness that is who we are and all we are not. I was reminded.

So here is to my love, hundreds of pages of journeys, and a Russian man who asked “who-what-why-when-where-how,” and expected me to do the same. Thank you.

(P.S. To whom it may concern: I love you, too).

why you should stop saying “retarded”

Today’s topic isn’t an original idea; it’s a reflection upon an issue in which we are all involved, with or without our conscious realization. There is an undercurrent of discrimination towards people that experience profound physical, mental, and emotional challenges, and it is an undercurrent that is strung throughout all of our lives.

If you have not said the word “retarded” in a disrespectful way, chances are you have heard others around you say it. But why should it matter? It’s not like just saying one little word completely perpetuates disrespect for an entire group of human beings…

Wrong. 

Let’s analyze a bit here. The verb “retard” means to “delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment” (p.s. thanks Google). In music, a ritardando means the gradual slowing down of music. So, before more phrases and descriptions were formulated to describe people with challenges and disabilities, “retarded” was the go-to word. And for some people, it still is. If it’s used respectfully, although I personally think there are better words and phrases that can be used, I don’t have a huge issue with it.

It’s when ignorance drives language usage; that’s what I’m never okay with. It’s when people say you’re acting so retarded or that’s so retarded as a sort of painful insult or negative remark.

Another issue with describing individuals as “retarded” is that it places a label on people who share the exact same humanity and reality in which everyone (ourselves included) participates. People with developmental disabilities. People with intellectual challenges. First, we acknowledge an individual’s humanity, and then address a quality that affects that person’s life. Instead of calling one “the diabetic” or “the cancer patient,” we can restructure language to create a different perception, one in which the person’s struggle or challenge does not define their existence (person with diabetes or cancer). It takes much more than a disability to define who a person is, and there is always much more than what meets the surface.

A few years ago, I began participating in service with people who had various physical and mental challenges. I’ll be honest — I was nervous, because I thought I was so different from all of the folks at the service center, but I could not have been more wrong. One look in one person’s eyes, and it’s impossible not to feel their pure humanity radiating with power and beauty. There’s nothing quite like learning to communicate with a non-verbal person. There is extreme awe in relating to another person with physical or mental barriers by transcending those barriers and connecting in a much deeper way.

Anyway, after a few weeks of participating, the service director told me to approach a middle-aged man that typically did not receive much attention, and so I did. His name was Glenn. I tried speaking with him, and it proved challenging. Communicating was not an easy task. His oxygen tank and difficulty breathing interfered, as well as the discomfort from sitting in his wheelchair for so long. I read Glenn books, talked to him about random things as I tend to do with people, and after more time, I even fed him his ice cream.

Throughout the weeks, communicating became easier, and we became a part of one another’s routine. I’ll never forget the moment Glenn grabbed my hand, pulled me in, and gave me a hug. It was indescribable. I promised I would be back.

I visited Glenn almost weekly for about a year as part of the service program, and he became a source of inspiration. It wasn’t until later in our friendship that I learned of Glenn’s past, as well as the source of his disabilities. Glenn was once an average teenage boy, a student at a local high school, a tuba player, and an avid athlete. One day, I believe after high school, he was bicycling when he was hit by a car and left on the road to suffer. It was an accident that changed his entire life.

I’ll also never forget the phone call of my service director, as I was headed to the beach on Labor Day weekend, saying that Glenn had passed away. I had lost one of my best friends, one of the most influential teachers I had ever had, but more importantly, I gained a guardian angel, and for that, I will always be grateful.

If you or someone you know uses the word “retarded” in a derogatory way, stop it. There are people, human beings with the same value as any other person on this Earth, who deal with very real challenges that were brought to them by circumstance, not by choice. Just as we desire respect for our own selves, we should demand respect for others. It is our turn to stop perpetuating discrimination.

Together, we can eliminate the inappropriate use of this word from some lives, in hope that the trend will continue, fostering respect, love, and awareness throughout our world.

the honest account of a feminist girlfriend

If you didn’t know this already, I am a feminist.

What does this mean exactly? No, I do not believe that “girls rule,” or that women are better than men. Throwing it back to the third grade when the trend was deciding whether a female considered herself a “tomboy” or a “girly-girl,” I do not believe that it is a better choice/lifestyle to identify with one category versus the other. I believe that all humans are equal, regardless of gender (and any other external characteristics), and that nothing makes another person more or less valuable than another.

A huge issue is found when women and girls of all ages confine themselves to a preconceived notion of femininity that is sometimes so skewed and inaccurate, due to the falsehoods and misogynistic discrimination of society, all of which have been perpetuated for much too long (wow, that was a mouthful). Many women feel the need to place themselves in boxes and categories to feel more comfortable with their lives instead of directly embracing the fact that they are women. When women are women with honest intentions, everything falls into place.

One aspect of feminism has particularly interested me throughout the past year, and that is the path on which feminism meets relationships, specifically romantic relationships between men and women.

I remember all of the “boy drama” that took place around me when I was younger, and I recall some of the rules that girls so obviously knew… and these are still things I see in popular movies and television shows… all the time, even with much older audiences and actresses.

“Wait for him to contact you.”

“Don’t make the first move.”

I also hear the occasional “we both know who wears the pants in the relationship.” 

Cough, cough. So, why can’t you both wear pants?

Sure — perhaps men and women have their own tendencies perpetuated by society, and many times, there isn’t any harm in that. But 21st-century relationship standards are often not in favor of gender equality.

Why is it that millions of women have convinced themselves that they must be the object of the so-called “chase”, but cannot actively pursue the one they desire? Why is it that a woman who asks a man out on a date might be considered too forward, when a man who asks a woman out is considered confident?

First of all, in my own opinion, there’s a large difference between chivalry and respect when it comes to relationships. There’s a large difference between a man respecting a woman simply because of her gender and what he feels he “should” do because of it, and a man respecting a woman because he respects her as a valuable human, something far greater than her external identity.

The man should always hold the door. The man should always pay for dinner. The man should always pick up his girlfriend. 

No! There’s nothing wrong with a man holding a door for a woman, paying for her dinner, or picking up his girlfriend [out of respect]. There’s also nothing wrong with a woman doing the same thing for a man. There’s nothing wrong with a woman putting her arm around her boyfriend’s shoulders in public. Gender equality is the key.

From personal experience, I can truly say that it is rewarding and refreshing to include this sense of balance in one’s relationship. It is wonderful to be able to give each other rides and treat each other to meals out of pure respect and love, without a subconscious sense of gender dominance driving the scenarios.

It’s time that we call to mind the social dynamics that influence our society, and in turn, our relationships. We must question our lifestyles, define our own standards, and then embrace them.

P.S.

Men — don’t be afraid to be feminists.

more, please.

I owe Jesus an apology. I’ll admit that recently I’ve been awfully ungrateful, and that needs to change. I’ve overlooked my own accomplishments and opportunities, I’ve taken my freedom and joy for granted, I’ve expected happiness instead of embracing it, and I’ve complained about some of my blessings.

I’ve discovered that there is a great irony in settling, or in other words, adjusting. This past year, I’ve craved the certainty and security of a consistent lifestyle, as I know many others desire, as well. I have found myself reaching for an ideal that I expected would bring me ultimate satisfaction, and then when I found myself standing in front of the entity I so wholly craved, I adjusted. I internalized the craving, and it no longer remained a craving, but instead became an expectation… and it’s all a matter of perspective.

I’ve always struggled with gratefulness. I’ve always wanted more chocolate milk, more time with my friends, and more success. Greed is such a painfully prevalent part of the human struggle. We are mammals who have convinced ourselves that more is positive, when often, our reality is not even quantifiable in these terms. Our lives are not placed upon a spectrum of least and most; our lives are defined by far more than the amount of calories we’ve ingested, our grade-point averages, and the number of people who like and dislike us.

A cliché statement with much relevancy and wisdom is that there is a large difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. There is a large difference between thanking someone (including God) with simple words and thanking someone with an intentional heart.

I invite you to reflect on your blessings and ask yourself how grateful you are, and how grateful you can be. We have infinite blessings, and we cannot forget to acknowledge them. How often are we grateful for the spoons in our cereal bowls, the dental floss sitting beside our sinks, and the gasoline that fuels our vehicle that enables us to travel and connect with humanity around us?

Gratefulness is a journey… more specifically a journey I would like to take with you.

Thank you. 

i recommend that you embrace.

Where do I begin? My life for the past two months has felt like a series of storms that have consistently alternated between turmoil and the beauty of a thousand rainbows. Now, I am finding myself after all of the storms have subsided. The rainbows have receded back into their pots of gold, and I find myself sitting in the calm of our beautiful world. The adrenaline I experienced from escaping the tornadoes and lightning bolts threatening my path is no longer rushing within me. Things appear as though they are in balance. What an interesting life this is.

Throughout the past few weeks alone, life has been throwing me absolutely absurd curve balls. I still haven’t decided whether I’m just extremely prone to ridiculous situations, or if everyone has these experiences and overlooks them, and I may never know the answer to my question. However, here are some of the things I’ve learned, as well as things I need to remind myself in the future.

1) Embrace the bizarre. I say this first because my life has been extraordinarily peculiar lately, as I said… and I’m really enjoying it. While I typically find comfort in my expectations (which are sometimes unreasonable) and the normal “routine,” that seems sort of impossible for me right now because I’m in a state of transition. What was normal last week is all of a sudden not. Instead of finding discomfort (which is sometimes unavoidable) in the weird moments that have been thrown at me, I’ve learned to absolutely love them. I now cry of laughter while telling people about my painfully creepy job interview, the banker who complimented me at the gas station, drinking out of another man’s Starbucks coffee at 7 am because I wasn’t paying attention, and yes, instead of crying when I was stuck in the bathroom with no toilet paper yesterday, I decided to laugh about it. Things that could be considered so normal now have new significance to me.

2) Embrace evolution. I’ve been afraid to let go of the past, both in short-term and long-term ways. For example, graduating from high school was a huge accomplishment with which I felt profound joy, but I simultaneously experienced fear and doubt, as many graduates do. Because I have clung to my school as a source of identity and growth for the past four years, moving on makes me a bit nervous. In the short-term, I don’t enjoy when pleasant activities come to an end. Last night, I went out to an amazing and delicious dinner, and I was actually sad afterwards with no good reason, but probably because the fun had ended. I am realizing more and more each day that through the formation of memories and our past, we are not “saying goodbye” to life as we knew it (long-term) or an enjoyable day or moment (short-term), but we are rather internalizing that experience and taking it with us. We are not letting it go — we are letting it in. Somehow, each experience leaves an impact on us, and for that, we must be grateful.

3) Embrace goodness. Let me be blunt: we’ve all got issues. If we seek them as long as we are alive, we will always be able to find something wrong. Even in the most perfect moment, one could say, “This moment isn’t going to last forever, and therefore I might as well be angry about it,” thus creating a problem for himself/herself. Our emotions are not always simple enough to be identified as happy or sad. In my own experience, I often feel a million different emotions, and I identify with that which feels most natural given my circumstances. The point of my rambling is that in the midst of a cluttered mind and a chaotic world, the goodness is always there. At times, it is overwhelmingly evident, and at other times, we must work actively to find it, but we need to be aware of our blessings and remind ourselves that life is ultimately good, even when we feel otherwise.

4) Embrace yourself. This is self-explanatory. I was trying to organize my feelings last night when I texted a friend who always gives me wise advice, and here is a piece of what he said: “No one is this world is ‘abnormal’ and neither are you. You’re perfect the way you are and you will always be perfect. Through college, through life, and through any and all endeavors you’ll go through, you’re going to be you.” It was an important reminder that even when millions of things around me are shifting and transforming, I will always be me, and you will always be you. Yes, I am flawed, but I am no less powerful, strong, or beautiful with my supposed “imperfections” (and the same goes for you). Yes, we can all seek to improve in our lives, but success should not be our sole purpose. We are all incredibly breathtaking individuals, and we cannot forget to embrace our own humanity.

5) Seek balance. In the recent past, I’ve forgotten to do this. A lot. And I still forget quite often, but I think I’m improving. I find it far too easy to place my priorities in a funky order, and then I find myself to be an emotional wreck when one thing goes wrong. Remember that life is a balancing act, and it always will be. It’s your responsibility to find the balance that brings you joy, peace, and sanity. The scale will always tip one way or another from time to time, but in the end, we should find ourselves on a fairly even plane, in the calm after the tornado has become a calm breeze and the rainbows have stretched into the fluffy clouds above.

Who I am today is a reflection of the inspiration that you may have personally given me. I thank you.

Peace & blessings.

make me feel beautiful.

In the midst of immense transition and reflection upon my own identity, I find my mind dwelling on the concept of self-image and self-esteem. As we have been born with minds that are heavily inclined to valuing extrinsic value and external qualities, it makes sense that we often base our sense of “self” on our own opinions that are directed toward ourselves… primarily referring to physical appearance.

Throughout the past few weeks, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of a positive self-image, not only for young women, but for all humans in general. Even in my own life, I have recognized my change in behavior depending on how I’m feeling about myself on a given day. When I feel more confident with my physical appearance, my overall performance feels stronger, and I feel happier, or more inclined to be patient and understanding. On the flip side, when I feel self-conscious about a particular trait, or if I am having a day of poor self-esteem overall for some reason (or perhaps no real reason at all), I fall into greater traps of negativity and anxiety, and I do not enjoy my day nearly as much.

I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. As a matter of fact, I know that I’m not. I’ve realized, though, that the solution to feeling better about myself is not to change myself in an attempt to attain some impossible or unlikely ideal that is not natural, not easy, and certainly not me. The solution to this lack of self-confidence based purely in my own physicality stems from the mind. The solution is not to change my body, but to change my mindset.

Why is it that people are often more concerned with the numbers on their scales than the numbers of blessings they have?

Why is it that people are more concerned with the sizes of their clothes rather than the sizes of their hearts?

(**Side note, in my opinion: all people are inherently beautiful and the human creature is inherently attractive. Beauty and aesthetics are ultimately subjective, with a universal beauty found at our core. All people are capable of love, and all people are born with a heart, brain, and soul. If that is not beauty, then what is?)

Idealistically, everyone would love themselves, including their “flaws.” However, the first step to achieving this is comprehending that, again, it is not our physical selves that need to change to accommodate our thoughts and expectations, but rather our mental processes that we must consciously alter in order to love ourselves to our full ability.

You are beautiful. I hope you realize it.

5 days of a beautiful struggle.

My mind has worked more than usual this week. I can practically feel each nerve impulse firing within my sensory planes, enabling me to experience emotions and thought processes at a speed with which I cannot keep up (or so it seems).

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve wanted to write, and I’ve tried, but I’ve been hesitant. The craving for my keyboard has been stronger than any dessert I’ve ever seen, but the hesitancy somehow took over me. Maybe it’s because I have had too much to write about. Perhaps I didn’t know who would care. But this week has engulfed my brain in innumerable lessons. I’ve learned quite a bit more about life, my own self, and others.

Here’s one thing I’ve discovered (or re-discovered):

It’s terribly disconcerting to be invalidated, to be told that what you are thinking is inferior or convoluted, or perhaps even worse–to be told that what you are feeling is wrong…

But on the flip side, it is a far more beautiful feeling to be encouraged, supported, and understood. This feeling has brought me to tears. I have realized once again that the human heart is the essence of goodness, for it is where we find the divine spark of a transcendent being that we meet within ourselves.

Keeping in mind my dear friend ambiguity, I will briefly tell you that the past five days have easily been some of the most difficult days I have ever experienced. In an analytic sense, the depth and richness of these challenging days were breathtaking. Knowing that I’m able to overcome difficulty while having an unbelievable support system is something for which I will always be grateful, and certainly something I will never forget. One of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met has told me countless times that sorrow lends to introspection, which forms the inner workings of a beautiful mind and heart. In a world of overwhelming duality, without such sorrow, how can happiness be adequately appreciated, or understood for that matter? Without sadness and tears, how can laughter have its exhilarating significance?

It is through admitting my own weakness during this past week that I have grown exponentially stronger. As I have stated countless times in my writing, it is often that we are so afraid to accept our own humanity, with whatever that may entail. With a mind that races such as mine, there have been moments in which I’ve been frightened by my own goals, possibilities, and frankly, my own imagination.

But why should I be afraid when I can instead be in awe?