Winter to Spring

Things I have learned this semester: It is not easy to keep up a blog, a full-time job, be a successful student, AND maintain some semblance of a social life.

(Sidenote: I did finish the year with 3 As and a B+ so I didn’t fair too horribly!)

I’m sorry for anyone who actually reads this blog as a primary source of knowing my life events! Might I suggest checking out my Instagram? It doesn’t give you the inner workings of my brain, but it certainly gives you the occasional snapshot into my life!

Goals for 30: Keep in touch better!

So where to begin? Well, this semester was far easier than the last for me emotionally. I attribute this primarily to my fantastic new (as of February) job as a children’s bookseller at one of the most magical bookstores I have ever encountered–Brookline Booksmith. Working gave my life a sense of purpose that was sorely lacking during my first few months in Boston. (It also introduced me to an incredible community of people that make coming to work an absolute joy). I’ve found myself beginning to love this city far more because of it. I’m finding my place here, and that matters. I still find myself feeling a bit like a stranger in a strange land, but I don’t mind it nearly as much as I did when my world felt rather dark and cold last semester. Amanda and I also moved out of that horrid apartment in Dorchester into the most charming apartment in the Jamaica Plains neighborhood of Boston. Within walking distance to our apartment was the Arnold Arboretum which has officially gained its place as one of my favorite places in the world. (That’s right, Boston now contains a place that’s made the list of favorites!)

But seriously, how gorgeous is this place? Kyle (the dapper gent pictured above) and I  have spent hours exploring it, and have barely made a dent in all that it has to offer!

I also had quite a few sessions with a wonderful therapist at Simmons over the semester. As a person who strives to continually learn more about herself, I think it is rather prudent for everyone to seek counseling at least once in their lives. What I’ve learned most of all is that I often have difficulty being authentically myself in new situations. I believe that people will view me as a novelty and disappear once the charm has worn off so I hold back. I also don’t always express my emotions…normally. My face smiles when my heart breaks, and I push down negative emotions for the sake of positive ones rather than allowing myself to embrace the full gamet of human complexities. Needless to say, there is a lot that I have been working to improve, and as ever I am excited about that journey! My life is far from perfect here, but it’s on a solid rise. I have nothing of note to complain about because no matter how dark things might get at times there is and has always been a solid light that permeates around me. I’m a lucky girl.

The most pressing of news, however, is that I by this time next week I will be starting a month long journey in London studying British Libraries with the University of Southern Mississippi! Expect me to update far more frequently during that month. Hopefully I’ll get better about blogging regularly because of it. During my previous London adventure I kept a journal (thanks Becky!), and this time I intend to do the same, but I also want to update my friends and family on my adventures and share the story of a few lifelong dreams coming true!

So if you’re interested in that sort of thing, stay tuned! Winter is officially over. Spring is here, and the sun on my shoulders–and London in my future–make me a far happier human than my previous posts would suggest!

Another Year in Review: 2015 Edition

A year ago today my life was rather different. I remember sitting on my bed curled up with Carter as we were watching the season 3 finale of Downton Abbey, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of a girl I considered to be one of my dearest friends. She arrived shortly before the shockingly disturbing finale–which made it easier because there are certain things one should never watch alone. Later that evening we met the guy I was dating at the time for dinner and drinks with his delightful siblings. The evening passed in a chaotic whirlwind of driving around Jacksonville searching for new adventures. We rang in the new year with fireworks and I remember thinking what a crazy way to start/end a year!

Today, neither the guy nor the friend and I are in touch any longer. Time changes much. I am celebrating the new year with a glass of wine and a great book–You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day–in the comfort of my Boston apartment.

And I solidly think that I am a happier person.

Perhaps not circumstantially. Spending the holidays alone in a city where you don’t really know anyone can weigh on one’s spirits and there’s no denying that the past few months have been some of the most tumultuous of my life. I have lost friends through both distance and death. I have moved away from everything that I knew to a place where I felt as though I was fighting to stay afloat. For the first time in my life I truly felt as though I was failing at everything and then something incredible happened…

I survived.

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First Snow

There is something so beautiful about the stillness that only snow can bring. I was sitting on my bed reading when I heard a sound outside. At first I thought it was rain, but it seemed muted, heavy. I looked outside and my heart leapt. It was snowing! And for the first time everything about my lonely winter holiday felt perfectly fine. I was witnessing the very first snow of winter. I slipped on my jacket and a pair of boots and ran outside. The streets were silent–as they tend to be at 2am–and with the snow lightly dusting the tops of the cars, the houses, the road…it felt like my own hidden wonderland. Everything was fresh and new. Wholly untouched by anyone at all. I stood on my porch for a few minutes just watching the snow softly blanketing the world.

My first Boston snow.

I raise my cup to him

A week ago I got the call you never want to receive. Every death is difficult, but suicides carry with them a singular pain that forever transforms you. Captain Jason Back  was the type of guy who immediately put a smile on your face. His cheerful, energetic personality made him a beacon of light in a place where the general demeanor was quite gloomy. I know that the world can get busy.We let the little things overwhelm our minds and our hearts, but never underestimate the power of meaningful conversations with the people that we love. Take time to listen–truly listen–to the things that people are saying to you. And pay attention to the things they aren’t saying. Not every smile means that all is well.  It’s hard to imagine that someone who seemed so happy on the outside could be hurting so much, but that is one of the most fascinating things about people. We all wear our masks well. It’s not easy to break through, but I think it’s always worth it when we are able.

On average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The war is never truly over for them. It lives always just beyond their eyes, and that is a pain I will never truly understand. They fight so valiantly, but that fight is not always won. The decision to end the fight could happen at any moment. And for those of us left behind there will always be a million questions. We will constantly wonder what more we could have done. Those are answers we will never have, but we can continue to live on with their memories and to honor them with our kindness to everyone we meet. We are all fighting our own battles, and we can often feel as though we are alone in the world. You are not. I promise you that you are not alone. Seek help when you are hurting?

A year ago I took this picture of Jason and Aaron at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. It reminds me of his fun-loving personality and that wonderful smile of his that could light up an entire room.IMG_8834.jpg

I raise my cup to you, dear friend. You truly lived a life worthy of commendation. Few of us will leave this world having left such an indelible mark of kindness. I am so thankful to have known you and to have called you my friend. You are greatly missed and greatly loved.

Facing the dragons

“…if you have brain cancer, and you decide that standing on your head and gargling for half an hour every day makes you feel better, it may make you feel better, but the likelihood is that you still have brain cancer, and you’re still going to die from it; but if you have depression and you say that standing on your head and gargling for half an hour makes you feel better, then you are actually cured, because depression is an illness of how you feel. And if you feel really great after then you’re not depressed anymore.”

–Andrew Solomon, Notes on an Exorcism (an excerpt from The Moth)

How easy it is to lose oneself.

The battle starts out small.

You lack the ability to commit to the things you once loved. Books pile up unfinished on your night stand. Your yoga mat gathers dust in the corner. Sunny days are spent curled up in your bed–“What’s the point in going out?” You ask yourself. “There’s nothing to do and no one to see.” You pile on the excuses. Your dog needs you. You’re tired. You’ve got homework to do, but as the hours tick by you find that you’ve accomplished nothing. The day has been wasted. Your excuses were purely excuses, but you ignore that realization. The show you binge watched was just too good! Anyone would have done the same thing, right?

In desperate attempts to feel a connection you make a few reckless decisions with men. At least in those moments you feel wanted, you say. You feel needed and that’s all that matters, right? It’s not. They leave you feeling a bit emptier inside. You tell yourself that you’re just exploring your sexuality, but deep down you know this isn’t you.  You convince yourself that this nice guy you’ve connected with is exactly what you are looking for–when in reality you would never make such a quick judgment. You project your loneliness onto him and amplify your connection. The resulting silence leaves you even emptier than before. And so the spiral continues.

At some point you’ll notice it. There will be a moment of clarity. The clouds will shift, and alight will shine on that pile of books, the unused yoga mat. You make an effort to fix things. You lose yourself in the New England forests, and you find all of the beautiful things that make you exactly who you are. You remember that you are deeply loved, and that there are people in your life who care about you. And that will truly help for awhile.

These dragons are real. They lurk in the insecure caverns of your mind and they are ready to attack at any moment. You can be stronger than them. You can fight them and win. You have done it before and you will do it again. If you feed them, however, they will grow. If you are not careful they may grow to be completely unmanageable. But take heart, dear one. You are not alone in this battle. You have never been alone, but no one can know that you need help in the fight if you do not speak up.

With many of the big things in life we do not always realize they are happening until we are in the midst. I was sitting on the T reading a book that a friend had loaned to me and the above passage stopped me in my tracks. My heart seemed to freeze for just a moment, and I stared blindly ahead. Thinking. How often we think that the moment we feel happy our dragons have been defeated. It’s really not that simple. It’s an ongoing battle with wonderful victories and potentially heartbreaking losses. There have been so many casualties, and the reality is that we cannot and should not fight this journey alone.

In his short story in The Moth, Andrew Solomon describes a ritual called ndeup, which is used to treat depression, that he experiences in a Senegal village. It is a beautiful story–I highly recommend that you read the book or listen to the podcast because there is something quite therapeutic about listening to the stories people tell. The ritual is long and seems quite intense, but afterwards Solomon admits that he “felt so up!” It was an exhilarating experience. Years later in a conversation with someone in Rwanda he learns that they use a relatively similar practice, but had encountered something quite different when the Westerners came to help.

He said, “You know, we had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide, and we had to ask some of them to leave.”

I said, “What was the problem?”

And he said, “Their practice did not involve being outside in the sun, like you’re describing, which is , after all, where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again when you’re depressed, and you’re low, and you need to have your blood flowing. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement that the depression is something invasive and external that could actually be cast out of you again.

“Instead, they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to get them to leave the country.”

–Andrew Solomon, Notes on an Exorcism (an excerpt from The Moth)

Depression can seem like a lonely road, but it really does not have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be. There is something absolutely beautiful in the bonding together of a community to help a single individual fight their personal dragons.

…you come too

Today was perfect.

I slipped away from the city–from everything that has left me drowning–and I found myself in the beauty of the woods. I spent the entire day with an old friend, exploring the woods around Robert Frost’s farm, chatting over burgers and beers, and hiking through the woods near his mother’s house. We stared up at the trees and a beautiful waterfall and lost ourselves in the fullness of nature.

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There are moments in life that simply cannot be described.

This was one of those days.

And in the beauty of the autumn leaves I found a few of the pieces within me that I’d lost. I’d only just begun to realize how deeply I was sinking, but this one little trip helped to revive me. I’m so thankful for that.

On the train ride back into Boston I paused and I wrote. I haven’t felt compelled to write something in months, but as I reflected on the day I was struck by a single moment. As we were exploring the Robert Frost farm, we came across two roads diverging within a yellow wood (!!!). We only took one path–though a part of me wanted to take both. Clearly one was marked for a tour, so we took the other. As Frost explains in his famous poem it really would not have mattered which path we took, but it mattered that we chose one. I chose to move to Boston to follow a dream. It hasn’t turned out quite as I would have liked so far, but I am still on that path. I can enjoy it, or I can hold on to the darker bits and wish I’d taken another. The light shone so beautifully on the path that we took today. It illuminated the leaves in a way that almost made them glow. I don’t want to say that I have the ability to make my time here “glow”. That’s far too cheesy, and I am well aware that Jerry the mouse and the myriad of other problems in my apartment will keep me angry for quite some time, but I can take the time to truly love the days that shine. Today was a beautiful one. I’m still reeling in the moment, but a part of me wants to say that right now all of the bad was worth it for a day like today.

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Nothing

I expect nothing of you.
I desire much.
I would love for you to stay
To share in this adventure
To trust
Simply trust
That it would be great
If we tried
Truly tried
But I expect nothing
And I desire so much

There and Back Again: A Wedding Story

Currently, I am sitting in the Charlotte airport–utterly drained of energy, but full of heart. This past week was a whirlwind of love and reunion. I still feel a bit like I’m spinning from the rush of it all. Where to begin?

Well, I suppose it would be best to start at the beginning of the adventure. About two weeks ago Allison and I spent a glorious day roaming around Boston. I spent a solid hour in Starbucks attempting to get a bit of homework done–Thank God for coffee shops which keep grad students from being hermits! We sat in Harvard Yard and read a bit for our separate classes and then walked over to Harvard Bookstore to apply for a job.

Side note: One of the most frustrating things about living in Boston thus far is that I have not yet found a job. I saved a good deal before moving, but those funds are quickly diminishing. It’s an added layer of stress that I feel should easy to alleviate, but finding a job is absurdly difficult in a city without connections!

Whilst perusing the shelves at the bookstore, we noticed that Elizabeth Gilbert was coming to speak about her new book that very Friday! If you are unaware of my love for Eat, Pray, Love that is not overly surprising. I don’t talk about it nearly as often as I talk about Harry Potter or any of my other favorite stories, but I read Eat, Pray, Love at a time in my life when its message of finding yourself in the darkest of times–truly seeking what helps you come alive–was in dire need. Don’t you love how a book tends to know when you need it most? We bought tickets to the event, and her new book and all seemed well in the world. That Friday we were totally unprepared for how motivating Gilbert was. My notebook is back in Boston so I do not have any actual quotes to say, but if you have a moment watch her Ted Talk here. Many of her points and the core inspiration for her new book came from this talk and I think it matters. During a time in my life where I generally feel like I’m struggling to keep afloat, her reminders that every moment in my life is an opportunity for creative growth and that it is so important to follow your curiosity mattered to me. (We also made a beautiful new friend that night. It felt as though the universe completely aligned to help both of our hearts feel better).

So I was on a bit of high when we boarded our plane Tuesday afternoon. Knowing that I was flying back to a place where I felt wholly loved and valued only heightened the feeling. One of my best friends was marrying a girl that I absolutely adored. I mean, what could dampen those emotions for me?

The entire week was a blast. From super chill bachelor parties, to long chats with old friends. It felt like the reunion that my heart had unknowingly been yearning for. I’ve been trying to find the best words to describe the entire affair all weekend and everything falls short. There was so much love in the room that I felt I could have burst with the sheer force of it all–and this is not an understatement. My friends are incredible people. Being around them for any amount of time simply never feels like enough. So I’ll give you a few of my favorite snapshots of the weekend and maybe you’ll get some idea of the emotions behind them?

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And now I’m sitting in the airport in Charlotte with a grumpy stomach (SO much pizza, alcohol and general bad foods that were totally worth it), a bit heartsick for all that is left behind me, but also a smidge hopeful for all that lies ahead. Timehop reminded me today that a year ago I’d posted this poem by R.M. Drake with the following caption,

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“But she did look back and I love her for that because it was so human. So she turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes. People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore.” Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five I am predisposed to look back–to let my past color my future. It is a struggle every day, but I am determined to focus on the present. Let tomorrow come and let yesterday stay. It is impossible to move forward if I am always looking back.”

One year on and I find that despite my “determination” not very much has changed. In my defense, I was not expecting to make such a huge move which would naturally make anyone overly nostalgic. However, as I sit here awaiting my flight I am surprised to say that I am a solid mixture of happy and sad to return to Boston. A friend suggested to me that I focus on all that is good around me rather than missing all that I left behind. Perhaps his advice mattered more to me than my own? Perhaps because I have a few solid friends waiting for me in the north I find it a far less barren place. Perhaps I simply miss Carter so very much? All could be true. I am just happy to say that a part of me seems to be calling Boston home.

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My computer died before I posted the above blog, and I’m actually rather glad about that because now that I am home I have a few additional thoughts. It actually feels like autumn in Boston now. That made coming home a million times better because who doesn’t love autumn? I navigated home successfully on my own which always makes me feel quite good about myself, and nothing really beats coming home to the sweetest dog in the world. I think I can safely say that my speculations were correct. Home is what you make it, and if I want to follow my dreams then I refuse to be miserable in the place that I live.

Finding a job, however, needs to happen ASAP.

My Adventures thus far

What a whirlwind the past month has been! Since my last update I have traveled through more states than I cared to count, made another successful trip around the sun, seen my favorite band in concert, visited a few of my closest friends, moved to a new city, and started grad school…again. So many things have happened that a large part of me dreaded writing this blog for a number of reasons, but here I am to update you on my adventures. Bear with me. This will be a long one.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I fell in love with the pacific northwest this summer. It was absolutely beautiful in ways that truly defied description for me. The two days I spent in Portland with Cory and John were filled with great food, kind people, and the pure natural beauty of Oregon.

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It was a perfectly, peaceful escape that prepared me for the next stage in my northwest adventures: Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Festival in Walla Walla, Washington! Nate, Julie, and I camped on a golf course for two days and an absolute blast listening to great music. I was completely unprepared for how chilly the evenings could be, but that gave me the perfect excuse to buy the blanket I’d been wanting since the last GOTR festival in St. Augustine two years prior. As I am prone to waking up rather early, I started my birthday reading outside of our tent while the rest of the camp slowly started waking up.

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I ended it singing, dancing, and crying along with the crowd as we lost ourselves in the music and lyrics of Marcus, Ben, Winston, and Ted*.

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There were so many other incredible bands. The Foo Fighters were hilarious. The Flaming Lips definitely put on the best show. Dawes reminded me of why I love them. Tuneyards and Blake Mills turned me into a new fan. Jenny Lewis made me a bit nostalgic. Two days of concertic bliss.

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Flying home was difficult. I was a bit jet lagged, and very tired. Red eye flights aren’t fun, BUT I didn’t have time to truly recover as I needed to head out quickly. I made a quick stop by Bold Bean for a few extra bags of coffee, Becky and I packed my rental and the very next day I was in Columbus. The trip to Boston was highly therapeutic. I loved every minute I got to spend with my friends. They each reminded me in their own ways just how beautiful my time in the south has been. I’ve made so many wonderful friends and though they are all scattered around the country now our bonds remain strong. It matters. Thank you friends for opening your homes and your hearts to Carter and I as we journeyed north! I think the constant social interaction drained my sweet pup. He slept every moment he could in the car 🙂

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And then Boston.

This might have been the hardest part to talk about for me. Upon arrival to Boston I was immediately disappointed. I disliked my apartment, the hour and a half commute to school, the rather sketchy walk to and from the T station. Prior to orientation, I was solidly second guessing my decision to move. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and while very little has changed for the better in regards to my apartment it is definitely growing on me. The commute isn’t horrid. It gives me time to read, and as I got better about navigating I cut the trip down to an hour instead. Slowly, but surely, New England is growing on me. School is fascinating. My teachers are incredibly knowledgable and the course work is challenging. My first proper assignment in one class took me nearly 10 hours to complete!

I’ve had a few opportunities to explore. Allison (and later Duncan!) have shown me around the heart of Boston as well as a few lovely hidden treasures like Shit-Faced Shakespeare which is every bit as magical as you imagine it would be! We explored Boston Common, the Public Gardens, the North End, and Harvard! We tried on funny hats at a wonderful vintage store, and not only did she helped me check the first coffee shop off of my list, but she also showed me two wonderful bookstores! Amanda and I found the remnants of tributes to Robin Williams–loving left on the bench he and Matt Damon shared in Good Will Hunting (a favorite of mine, and one that men love to use as a pick up line here), explored Newbury Street, and have almost made pizza, wine, and Harry Potter a constant tradition in our apartment! I found a coffee shop that is a strong contender for favorite based solely upon their signage called 1369 Coffeehouse. I traveled bits of the freedom trail with a few guys from MCSFBn and my new friend Rachel. My friend Shannon and her roommates explored the area around our school and the Boston Public Library which had a beautiful exhibit on maps that included maps of the world as well as maps of fictional worlds like Narnia, the Hundred Acre Wood, Middle Earth, Westeros, the Marauders Map of Hogwarts, and the Kingdom of Knowledge from the Phantom Tollbooth! (Just to name a few!) Last weekend I visited my dear friend Colby and his boyfriend Ian in Salem–which I believe fully exemplifies all that people find charming about New England. It was a charmingly quaint town.

So my adventures have been many and have covered the emotional spectrum for me. It’s not perfect, but I do not hate the challenge. I couldn’t be more thankful for the phone calls, texts, and letters that I’ve gotten from so many of my friends since I’ve been here. They helped me immensely through the more stressful times. Until then my current pursuits are simply to continue searching for a job–as my funds are quickly dwindling, and losing myself in mounds of schoolwork. I’m ready for autumn to shine its beautiful face on the city. Expect an overly excited update when that happens!

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1369 Coffeehouse

1369 Coffeehouse

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Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost: A Farewell to the South

So here we are again. Another farewell to another city. As excited as I am for my next chapter in life I could not leave without taking a moment to pause and reflect on how transformative the past few years have been. I moved here rather broken–a sad shell of the person I’d once been. My heart ached for the recent deaths of two dear friends, and having quit my first Masters program I felt a bit lost in the wilderness.

That might have been the best thing that could have happened to me. It’s funny how the moments that seem the darkest are actually the ones that illuminate the hidden places within us. Over the past three years I have been lucky enough to meet a few friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life–you’ll see the marks of their wisdom below. I’ve had my heart broken by both people and religion, and in the midst of those heartaches I began to forge my own faith and identity. I have spent most of the past few years working with a security force battalion filled with some of the most interesting and inspiring people I have ever met. It was a place I would never have pictured myself, and some how it became home.IMG_7634

So I leave you now with a few of the life lessons I have learned from my friends and the many challenges and adventures that befell me during my time on the southeastern tip of Georgia:

1.Don’t put someone on your A Team if you’re only on their B Team. Prioritize the people in your life that prioritize you. It sounds so simple. It’s not. Do it anyway.

2. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. If you are constantly deferring to other people and their needs you are neglecting to let them see how wonderful you are. You matter. They matter. Let your relationships be ones of mutual selflessness and selfishness. If it’s one-sided then something is wrong.

3. At some point people will show you who they truly are. Trust them.

4. Time is the most important gift we can give because we can never take it back. Taking the time for coffee or to just to give a hug and listen to some one in need–no matter how tired or busy you might find yourself–is always worth it. It makes a difference. Find a place that you love and disappear for a little while. Turn off your phone, grab a book, and just disappear. You’ll thank yourself later.

My happy place.

My happy place.

5. Whoever you are with is the most important person in the room. It matters that we do not lose those personal connections. The world is filled with infinite distractions. Try really hard to focus on the people you are with while you are with them. (Side note: If you are with someone who finds their phone or the people around you more interesting than you see lesson #1.)

There's nothing quite as therapeutic as laughing with friends!

There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as laughing with friends!

6. It is not only okay to question things, but imperative to do so. How will you ever truly know what you believe if you do not take the time to fully examine it. Do not fear the unknowns. Embrace them. As Rainier Rilke once said, “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

7. Write letters to your friends. Even if they never write you back. It feels wonderful to get something in the mail and it takes a special form of love and patience to sit down and pen your thoughts in a world where we are all constantly connected.

8. If you don’t want to do something, say no. You don’t have to explain yourself. No is an acceptable response.

9. Let yourself feel your emotions. Sadness, Joy, Anger. They are nothing to fear. Hiding your emotions is not a sign of strength. There is beauty in the things that you feel. Allow yourself some time with them.For some things there are no words.

10. Don’t neglect your old friends! You might not see them often, but reach out to them when you can! They were a part of your life for a reason, and perhaps they still should be. My friends–near and far–keep me grounded. (Note: Don’t forget lesson # 1. If they fall into that category let them go. We don’t need that nonsense in our lives.)

I mean seriously...look at how fun these people are!

I mean seriously…look at how fun these people are!

11. Friendship is always a two-way street. When it falls apart it is never just one person’s fault, but it is also not always a bad thing. People drift. That is natural. We are always growing and changing into new people every day. As Alice said in her journey through Wonderland, “it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Rather than focusing on the negatives we should realize the beauty of the time that we had with them and move on. It’s alright..

12. Do not try to change people. It will never work, and you should never want to do it. The people who easily change for others have not quite found themselves. You wouldn’t force a flower to bloom before its time. Don’t treat people any differently.

13. Look for hidden stories in the strangest of places. It will stretch your imagination, and keep you observant. Constant vigilance! (Mad-Eye Moody would approve.)

There is a story here. I just know it!

There is a story here. I just know it!

14. Do not fear your quirks. They make you unique!

15. Some days the best remedy for the world is a long chat on the beach with a great friend.IMG_757316. Other days are made a bit more magical by getting dressed up and finding that the thing you want to do most is watch a movie and drink wine. Embrace those moments when they happen.IMG_7590

17. Keep a box of mementos–letters from loved ones, concert tickets, pictures of happy times. There may be moments in your life when the weight of the world seems too much to bear. In those times that box will be a light to you and remind you that your world really is beautiful–even when it isn’t overly bright.

18. My favorite bits of dating advice: Don’t date a guy who doesn’t have a visual facial scar, who has never played team sports, and who has more dress shoes than work out shoes. And best of all: We don’t date assholes!

19. Do not let the world tell you how to find your joy. It is different for each of us. There is not set timeline. You’re single now? Enjoy it! Learn exactly who you are and love that person. You haven’t found your dream job? That’s okay. You are gaining plenty of life lessons now that will help you when that time comes. Do not let anyone make you feel less than you are in this moment. Life is a journey and each one is different. Do not gauge your success on the success of someone else. You do not know how long they have been on their road or what hardships they have overcome to get there.

20. Love is nothing to be afraid of. Far more frightening than being honest with one’s feelings is the unknowing of each missed opportunity. Be picky about who you share your heart with, and know that love is worth the risk.

My time here is done. I’ve learned a lot. Grown a lot. And now on to new adventures!

*Thanks to my fairy godparents Megan and Phil for lessons #1, #3, and, of course, #18 🙂