If you’re not happy…

One of my favorite quotes is “If you’re not happy, it‘s not worth it.” I tell myself on a daily basis that if I’m not happy, it is not worth it. It can be anything from a job to a friendship/relationship to even a simple dinner.

Happiness is truly underrated. I think we should take more cues from our happiness. Our mental health, our physical health and our lives are truly at stake over the time we put off our own happiness.

That’s why I think so many people fail at dieting – they are simply not happy.  If you look at most diets, they take away the fun foods. Carbs: mashed potatoes, french fries, bread; Sugars: cake, pastries, jams; Red Meat: steak. Need I say more? You put me on one of those diets that takes away even one of these food groups, and I’m immediately desperate for that food group. I’m not happy and I’m hungry – not a good set up…

But let’s consider the other options… A) Failed Dieting. Is there anything worse than failed dieting? Yes, there is. But failed dieting has to be up there. Not only did you not lose weight – in fact, you may have actually gained weight – and you’re unhappy because you’ve been starved of the very food you’ve craved for the last X number of days or weeks or months. B) Exercise. But if you’re going to eat what you want, you’ve got to exercise daily. I’m a fan of the 5 on, 2 off rule. I need days off… so everyday exercise, not an option. C) Ignoring weight. This isn’t an option, honestly. Our health is too important to choose to ignore our weight.

But there’s another option. An option that is too often overlooked. How about choosing an individualized “diet” that works for you. For instance, I love dinnertime. My dinner is often a big meal: a plate full of meat, veggies, carbs, plus a salad, wine and sometimes dessert. I do not skimp on dinner. But breakfast and lunch? Give me a cup of coffee and then a smoothie, and I’m good to go. I have a desk job, which means I don’t burn a ton of calories during the first 9 hours of my day. I need enough energy to not fall asleep at my desk, but not too much energy otherwise I’m biting my fingernails and hating the fact that I’m not doing something physical.

But what works for me will not work for others. We read these books and listen to Dr. Oz but we never stop to think that we are all different people. We are quite literally made of different DNA, with different schedules and different needs. We need to take that into consideration for not only our diets, but our entire lives.

Everyone thinks that more money will make them happier. And while that may be true in some cases, it’s certainly not true in others. Accountants and engineers make a lot of money, but many times they work really long hours and under a lot of pressure. What’s all that money worth, if at the end of the day, they’re too tired to enjoy it (Note: this is not true for all engineers and accountants)?

My friends and I were talking over the holiday weekend about a myriad of things: from jobs to relationships to physical things. I re-quoted my favorite quote several times: If you’re not happy, it’s not worth it. 

Obviously this is not the perfect quote. There are times that marriages are not going to be perfect and there will be days and maybe weeks or months that are tough to handle, but that doesn’t mean you leave, give up or rush to divorce.

At the end of the day, if you are not overall happy with your life, then what is worth it? What is worth being unhappy constantly? There are too many things that we do not have control over. We cannot control if we get a debilitating disease early in life that takes away our freedom to walk and do human things by ourselves. We cannot control if we get hit by a drunk driver or a distracted driver and lose a limb, get paralyzed or some other truly horrifying circumstance. We cannot control if we get one of the hundreds of types of cancers or life-threatening diseases that can take away our health for months or life.

But we can control our happiness to some degree. We can find a better job. We can put ourselves in better situations for relationships – whether friendships or romantic. And we can make different decisions – from what we eat to what we do with spare time to how we treat our significant others.

I stick by my favorite quote: If you are not happy, it is not worth it.

I choose everyday to make my happiness – and my fiancé’s happiness – a priority. I had a sign posted over my bed throughout college that said “I choose to be happy because it is good for my health.” During my worst days, that poster reminded me that happiness is a choice. There were days that I would complain, and Joel would remind me of that sign. We choose to be happy. We choose to see the best of things. We choose to find a way to be happy – whether it be through food, through our jobs, through our relationships or through our actions.

And somedays that choice is too hard. Some days it is really hard to choose happiness. There are a lot of distractions that take away from happiness – anger, jealousy, frustrations and fears. Sometimes they can be all consuming. And sometimes, we truly have to seek professional help. But there are some times that we do have that control. And when we have that control, we have to choose to take control.

So those days that that choice is mine to choose… I’m going to choose happiness. So what makes you happy? And I mean truly happy?

I really enjoy a cup of coffee at the beginning of the day with some music playing and I’m sitting in a really comfy “coffee chair” – you know, the type of chair that you can pull your legs up in comfortably without being cramped with the perfect amount of support yet fluffiness. I know you’re picturing that chair…. That’s my happiness. I have puppies chirping at my feet. My soon-to-be husband is probably still snoring (or if I’m lucky bringing me a second cup of coffee). The sun is up but not so far up that I’ve lost the day.

It’s a simple kind of happiness that I have to choose. I have to choose to wake up early enough to enjoy that cup of coffee before starting my day. I have to choose to not rush. I have to choose.

And on days where that isn’t a choice, I find a different type of happiness. A happiness where my job means I get to make a difference. Or a happiness where my hours after work make up for the hours I sat at a desk all day long.

After work, I have to choose to workout so that my body is exhausted enough to sleep. I have to choose to play with my puppies (this isn’t that hard) so they are tired enough to sleep. I have to choose to eat foods that don’t upset my stomach. I have to choose to talk to my fiancé when our schedules align. I have to choose to open up to the people I trust. I have to choose happiness.

When we choose happiness, I think we’ll start to see other things in our lives take care of themselves. We’ll find it’s easier to not over eat or to eat better things, when we’re really enjoying our food. We’ll find it easier to love our significant other when we aren’t distracted by expectations or past mistakes. We’ll find it easier to enjoy our jobs when we focus on the positive, rather than the negative. We’ll find it easier to enjoy all these things when we take control.

I’m preaching to the choir. Too many times, I give other people control because I don’t think I’m capable of that control. I think that I’m too young and inexperienced to expect certain things, but that’s not true. We can expect a certain type of happiness from our friends, relationships and jobs. We just have to remember that we deserve happiness. We just have to remember that our happiness – for the most part – is our choice.

And we really should choose happiness.

Constant Support

Last Memorial Day Weekend, I was walking around NYC with my family, finding my way around my new 3-month “home.” Not much has changed in the past year as this Memorial Day Weekend, I spent it moving my things into my new home in Atlanta. My “Two Men and a Truck” were my dad and fiance in a U-Haul. My mom and I drove our cars separately, each packed to the brim with stuff and my 2 pups. It took 3 days to get everything up the flight of stairs, unpacked and put into their proper places, but now I finally have a semi-permanent home – something my OCD-self has been dreaming of since I started packing my room for college.

I think one thing thing that has been such a revelation in my life especially in the past two years is the constant unwavering support I have had by my side. We should truly be more appreciative of the people we have standing around us – whether it is the person that is there in 85+ degree heat moving a washer/dryer up a flight of stairs or the person that sends a text at just the right time… we should just be so much more appreciative.

The constant support around me has helped me endlessly in the past 2 years. That’s right… helped. I think sometimes our egos get in the way of us admitting that we need help. That sometimes we can’t do it all ourselves. Or that sometimes we don’t know it all. How has society changed us so much that help and support is somehow a bad thing – a sign of weakness? I think having constant support means that you constantly have someone there to remind you that you are loved and you are capable.

I love the random texts/calls I get from my support system that reminds me that I matter to them. There are so many people that are in-genuine in our everyday lives, that its not hard at all to see the line between the support system and the people that are there to eavesdrop for whatever reason.

I’m reading Diane Keaton’s book Then Again, and several chapters focus on the same thing: being more appreciative of the people who do little things in your everyday life. Constant support is such a blessing to all of us. And I think it takes going through a lot of events where you truly are all alone but don’t feel alone at all to realize the constant support surrounding you.

 

 

 

 

“I’m praying for you…”

I grew up in a Southern Baptist household, and we hold some pretty conservative values.I cannot count the number of times I heard someone tell someone else that they were praying for them. When I was younger that always seemed so sweet. Wow! Someone is thinking about someone else so much that they include them in their daily prayers! I hate the way we lose innocence as we grow up, and we see hate in things that should be so loving.

I’ve watched friends go through some really hard times and even myself… then someone uses that phrase, and I cringe.  Have you ever thought that that statement doesn’t sound as loving as it should?

With the recent legislature and Supreme Court decisions, Facebook has me cringing 98 percent of the time. Thank goodness for the dog videos and the lady with the Chewbacca mask.

I have never read a Bible verse that tells me I can’t be friends or love someone because of their differences from me. I understand not shopping at Target because you disagree with their stance. I understand that. What I don’t understand is showing hate to the people that continue to shop there or using hateful language to announce your decision not to shop there.

Somewhere along the way we have confused showing love and acceptance for human beings with somehow worshiping them.

I was confronted with a situation in likeness, and then I reflected on people going through times where they had made a decision outside the acceptable sins of the southern baptist religion*. I realized how hateful our actions and our words are following the realization that people are sinners!

Somewhere along the lines we decided that defiance and angry words were more powerful than showing God’s love. We decided that God meant for us to love the people we think we can accept – to love the people that live a life close enough to our own that if associated with them, we know that people won’t confuse our own stance.

If I had to guess, Jesus today would be talking with drug dealers, he’d be loving on single mothers, and yes, he’d even talk to transgender persons using a bathroom in Target. He’d meet with them wherever they are, wherever they felt comfortable. (Sidenote: do you ever wonder that people don’t want to go to church not because they don’t want to worship or don’t want to hear the message, but they don’t want to see the judgment in the churchgoer-s eyes? I know this is true because Bible studies at coffee shops have much more success than Sunday night attendance at churches.)

This has been on my heart for about a year now. I’ve decided that I don’t like the way I judge. I think that God hates the way I judge. I think God has put me in situations where I have been judged publicly because of the way I judge. He’s put me in situations where my sin is the one being talked about and argued about among the deacons and Sunday School teachers. I honestly think that my judgement is the biggest black scar on my record, and trust me, in southern baptist terms it’s not. We’ve all had choices that we know are against God’s will, but have you ever stopped to think how often the words that come out of your mouth are against God’s will? Or even just the thoughts that never make it to words! 

If God were to put me in jail for every judgmental or hateful thought that passes my lips, I’d be sentenced to life plus infinity. But what if we included the way we look at people after we’ve heard a rumor? What about the way I pray in the same room with them at church! What about all of the small ways we show our disagreement with their particular situation that is so hateful.

How about the way we walk up to them and say “I’m praying for you.” What if we changed it a bit… What if we took a statement that is supposed to be filled with love and actually fill it with love. What if we said we are praying for their future, for their personal life, for their relationship? What if we were particular about what we are praying about (and that we actually did pray for them!). What if, instead of “praying the gay away” or whatever you’re praying to go away, we pray for their heart, their peace of mind! What if we pray that they are right with God personally. Or what if we ask them what they want us to pray for them for?!?!?

What if we were as loving as Jesus. 

What if we loved even a little like Jesus.

Sometimes I wonder if the day we see judgement that God is going to use his sense of humor and judge us with the same judgement we use to judge people.

I think God is working on everyone in His way and in His time. I think our prayers should focus on our stances and our decisions and particularly our words. The Bible says that the tongue is sharper than a sword, and I don’t think we really understand that God is saying our words can be sharper than our actions. Which means that little muscle inside our mouth probably commits more sins than all our other muscles put together.

So my prayer is that God listens to the prayers of the hurting people around me and that he’d teach me to love like Jesus.

 

 

*I say acceptable sins of the southern baptist religion because we all know that we accept some sins and then we call the rest to be abominable – when in all actuality, sin is sin, and we are all painfully guilty.

The moment

I don’t have a specific answer for the exact moment I knew. Love stories rarely do. It’s more of a compilation of small moments that roll in your head like an old movie one day, and then you know. And oh, are they sweet memories. Since I’m all caught up in being thankful that God sent me such a loving man, I thought I’d share a few of these moments (but honestly,I’m keeping some of the best to myself). Joel and I are fairly private people, so these are stories that very few people have heard. But if one day my grandchildren are visiting me and want to know our story, I’d like to tell them myself. But if that isn’t possible, I guess my writings are the next best thing.

I’ve known for twelve years that there was one very special little girl that would have to approve of my future husband. My parents of course would have their say in the matter, but Mac would have a very influential part as well. It became very apparent to me several years ago that I was setting an example for her, and I better set a good one. Even though I’d known him my entire life, I didn’t introduce Joel to Mac until my sophomore year in college. He’d heard all my stories, seen pictures and watched me spend every dime that I could spoiling her. And when I finally introduced him to her, that’s when I knew. You expect your S.O. to pay attention to your family, get along, find mutual topics of interest to talk about. But it’s much different when the stakes are higher, and little eyes are watching. But Joel understood my investment in Mac, and he took that seriously. And he didn’t stop with his relationship with Mac. He took the stakes and planted my entire family within them. When Mac would cuddle up on the couch with me, he’d let Anna Lois curl up with him. He’d joke with Hannah about Disney movies, and be a boy with Cam. He’d teach Matt all the computer things and truly invested in the little eyes around me. He loved and still loves them. The girls have always ran and jumped to hug me when I arrive, but when they started running for him too, that’ll make the Grinch’s heart grow 20 sizes.

When I was staying visiting my grandmother on Wednesdays during my freshman and sophomore years, Joel would come with me, even if he was just sitting on the couch watching my grandfather catch a few minutes of sleep. Sometimes, he’d sit back there with me while we heehawed over Big Bang Theory or I Love Lucy re-runs or chatted about some memories. He would politely excuse himself when we needed to care for her, and one time, he left the room to go get Poppy for medicine or something, and she looked at me and asked if it was serious. I smiled and said yes. And she smiled back. Poppy came back a few minutes later, we took care of her and her medical needs. She looked as he was walking out and said, “I found a good one when I married him.” She joked and said he meant it when he said in sickness and in health (but he really did). We had a good laugh, but I’ve replayed those moments in my head a million times since her death. I think we rarely realize how much of an impact some moments are until after they happen.  I am grateful Joel got to meet her, and she him. My heart breaks when I remember that there will be an empty seat at my wedding, but wow am I grateful for that moment.

giphy (9).gifI’ve never been the type of girl to need a boyfriend. And even when I had one, it seemed more like a close friendship. It takes a while to break down the emotional walls that people like me put up. While Joel and I were separated, I made friends that have made more of an impact on my life in the year they’ve been around than some people have made in 22 years. When we got back together, my friends were skeptical. They’d seen the heartbreak and knew the story. After we’d been back together for a few months, I visited the girls, and we went out and about the city. We were laughing and having the best time of our life, and I didn’t wish Joel was there with us (he’d kill the girl vibe), but I wished he could’ve seen us and me in that moment. We were so happy and having so much fun just being us, and I loved it.

There are numerous other moments where I knew Joel would be the man I’d marry, but some of my favorites are the moments we share on a daily basis. He vacuums the carpet in the same direction on days that he knows I’m going to be anxious. He’ll make me coffee in my Kate Spade mug so that I have a cup for class or where ever I’m heading. He dances me around the living room when songs come of Spotify to see if that’s going to be our first dance (we haven’t found it yet, but honestly I hope we don’t find it until after the wedding. This is too much fun!)

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This whole story that’s probably making all the single ladies sick is: there is no one way to happiness. I can write a book about how to marry your childhood/high school/college sweetheart, but likely that’s only going to help me remember how our story rolled out. It’s not going to help the next 3 and 5-year-old that come along growing up side by side. Every single story is unique and made up of so many little moments that it’s hard to explain or even share in a small conversation. Someone may learn from one part of our story, but it’s not a road map. And even if it were, we’re only a few miles in and we don’t know how to read it anyways. #Millennials

What’s funny to me is every love story or fairy tale we heard as children stopped at the wedding. How messed up is that? I’m hoping that’s when the story gets good! I know our story has only had more adventure and fun (and honestly some scary big decisions) since the engagement, I can only imagine after we’re married.

giphy (7).gifSome of my girl friends have started a book club. We read some serious how-to- get your life together books and some celebrity humor books. One we’re reading right now is a relationship book. I jokingly sent Joel a clip of it last week where it said to remember that through all the bad dates, fights and break ups, whoever gets to lock you down is [expletive] incredibly lucky and all the crap you’ve been through to find each other will be worth it. “There is no one out there like you and you are amazing. So even if you have days/weeks/months where you’re feeling discouraged or lonely, make like Dory from that movie where she has Alzheimer’s and just keep swimming.” I sent it jokingly, and he replied “I’m pretty sure that road goes both ways.”

So that’s what I’m talking about people. That’s what this whole rant about love stories and moments is about. Your story won’t be the same as mine. And I hope you think that yours is better. I hope you love yours 100 times better than mine. And it’s OK to favor your own love story (hell, I think you should favor your own!). I’m watching so many of my friends get married or fall in love, and each story is filled with different love and different heart aches, but that doesn’t make one better than another. I’ve cried at so many wedding videos, but that doesn’t mean I want mine to be identical. I love my wedding dress a lot more than the ones all my friends have worn, but the dress they wore was unique and beautiful on them. It’s literally made to mold their body and its perfect. Mine will be perfect on me, just like my relationship and our story is perfect for me.

So, there was not single moment. But there were a whole lot of moments. And I hope there are so many more that I can’t even begin to remember them all.

Permission to Make a Decision for Yourself

I think those four years of college are some of the most exciting and most confusing years of a young person’s life. I think the major part that I struggled with was determining what decisions were mine to make and what decisions I should consult my parents, advisers or mentors for. I remember multiple times calling and asking my mom about something and her answer was legitimately, you’re an adult, you don’t  need my permission. Wow. To not need someone’s OK to do something… weird. It’s still weird for me.

I’ve been wanting a dog for myself since I moved to college. I desperately missed my pup Chipper and the comfort a dog provides when you’re at your very worst. I did all the research. I found multiple breeds that wouldn’t bother my allergies and that were fit to live in an apartment. I’m a research-based person – very much like my dad, for better or worse. Research is part of my job, and I love it. Finding and determining the perfect fit or finding the spot that needs to be fixed… it’s a rush. But there are some things research can’t determine.

So I asked my fiance. I asked him over and over to the point that he too wanted a dog. So then I asked my mom. And she again said she couldn’t make the decision for me, but if she were me, she would wait.

But there are some things that mentors, advisers and parents can not advise.

And that’s where our “gut” comes in: what feels inherently right to us?

And we have to trust that is the right thing. We have to believe that beyond research and beyond advise that we will truly know what is right for us.

And that’s where I was. I think that sometimes stubbornness gets the blame when our gut should get the credit.

I think that is why I struggle so much when someone tries to tell me what I will or won’t like. When someone takes away my ability to decide for myself, to allow my body to decide for itself. I think there is something about the rush of a moment, and I think too often we allow someone else to take that moment away from us because it’s not what they think we’ll want or like.

I am the only person that knows my brain and my body. My doctor knows the way I react to certain medications. My mom knows the way I react when I’m hungry. My dad knows the way I react to his constant badgering. My fiance knows the way I react when he pokes me in the side. But I am the only one that knows the way my brain reacts and the way my body feels when something is or is not right for me.

Sometimes, we have to trust that we know ourselves better than anyone else. And sometimes we have to ditch the research, go against the advice of everyone else, and do what feels right for us.

I was so adamant about getting to New York because everyone told me I would hate it. Those decisions are decisions only I can make. Others can assume, they can try to think for me and you, but those are decisions only I can make for myself. We get so used to people asking for advice that sometimes we project it on them without them asking. That’s when things get messy. We assume that they want and need our advice. We assume that they want all the research and knowledge they can get.

But too much research and too much knowledge can be a bad thing…

And sometimes we need to learn when it is time to just shut up. To learn the time when our opinions, our advice and our research is unwarranted. When it’s a personal matter, and we are not included. When we don’t fully know the situation. When we can’t fully know the situation. Despite how we think we can help, we need to learn when our friends are no longer children, and when it is time to say you don’t need my permission; you don’t need my advice. 

Sometimes, we just need to say whatever is right for you is the right thing to do… even if we don’t agree. Because puppies are right for some people. New York is right for others. And some people just need to make a decision for themselves free from the burden of our opinions.

New Relationship Status:

I’ve had a lot of friends ask since Joel proposed how did I know.  I’ve known Joel my entire life, so there are a lot of shared secrets and personal moments that have tied our lives together. Many of which include many of our mutual friends. But what these friends really mean in this question is how did you know, despite everything you’ve been through, that he was the one. Because the people asking aren’t the ones that have been active around our relationship for the past 6 years. Because the people really close that saw, they knew.

But this post isn’t going to tell you when I knew I’d marry Joel. This post is rather a giant disclaimer that everything you see on my Facebook is a lie. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but still partially true. We live in this digital world where everything looks perfect, and we don’t really know each other anymore. We see updates on Facebook and Instagram and maybe a blog post or two, but unless you spend extracurricular time with a couple, you don’t really see the inter-workings behind their relationship anymore.

So, I’m just being honest and upfront about this on my blog, because I don’t want you to read anything on my blog and think that I have this perfect life or relationship that is some fairy tale. I can’t live up to those expectations, our relationship can’t live up to those expectations. Our relationship is flawed in many ways, but we love each other. And through the many events – fortunate and unfortunate – that we have been through since our first date back in 2010, we still have decided to take on the daunting task of cohabitation for life.

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Note: This is not how I feel about living with a boy. This is how I feel about living with anyone.

I’d like to point out that our story did not come without bumps, curves or straight up do not enter caution tape. We all like to refer to relationships as “roller coasters” but we forget that roller coasters take months to design and build. Then they go through a series of tests to ensure it is built to proper safety codes and what not. Then, once riders are allowed on the roller coaster, it is not without its faults.

Sometimes it rides seamlessly and is full of fun and adventure.

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 Sometimes it stops right on its tracks then keeps moving.

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 Sometimes you have to stay on the ride even though your seat belt isn’t working because its going full speed.

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And, sometimes the riders even have to get off for it to be repaired.

Honestly, roller coasters aren’t the best metaphor for relationships, but I’m not that great at coming up with metaphors. So this is what I’ll tell you about what I know thus far:

Relationships come with disagreements. They come with laughter, fun, adventure, and occasionally knock-down, drag-out fights. And mine and Joel’s relationship is not an exception to any of those conditions. There are things about Joel that make me absolutely crazy, and if you stick around long enough at the wedding or reception, you’ll probably see me roll my eyes at him once or twice. But the thing is, if Joel was some perfect guy, he wouldn’t be perfect for me because I’m not perfect. But we’ve chosen to somehow find our way imperfectly through this world together and neither of us know how to read a map. We’re going to get things wrong, and you may or may not hear about it. But sometimes, we’ll get things right too.

My point is, we didn’t get here by having a perfect relationship all the time. He keeps fresh flowers on my desk now, but I can tell you that was not the case back in 2010. We’ve grown up a lot in the past 6 years. Thankfully, he’s matured slightly since these days:giphy (4).gif

I’m confident that we’ll make it past the 72 day marriage expectation that Kim K has set for our generation. So, at the 72 day mark, we will celebrate because we’ll be more successful than Kim Kardashian.

But whether our marriage rolls out on national television (#dream) or in the privacy of our new two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta that I get to decorate before he moves in (#winning), I can tell you one thing: it won’t be perfect, but we’re gonna love each other through it all.

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Changes are a-coming!

giphy (10).gifI’ve had a lot of changes in the past few months, which may begin to explain my absence on this blog. I’ve accepted a full-time job, I’m graduating with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I’m moving to a new city and I’m getting married! So with all of these new changes, I’d like to make a change to my blog. A lot of my posts have been lessons learned or hopefully a little advice from someone who has made those mistakes. But now that I’m taking on several new roles, I want my blog to have distinct purposes.

giphy (12).gifI want to be able to update my friends and family about all of the little details and lessons happening in my life as a soon-to-be YoPro, Fiance-status to wife-status (with wedding planning in between), and of course everything that comes to living in a new city. I’d also like to have a little fun with some hobbies too. I’m about to be living alone which means re-learning how to cook for one, learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working a desk job and learning how to take care of myself – laundry, bills, sickness and all! They won’t be how-tos but more of a Julie -and-Julia story of failures and hopefully successes. Lastly, I’d like to have a book-club section. I love reading, and now that I won’t be reading text books (and a few of my friends in college have decided a book club is the best way to keep in contact), I’m hoping to document my favorite books, quotes and even those that I hate and why.

So here’s to an honest blog that’s going to keep you up-to-date on a young 20-something lady that’s doing everything at once (and trying to blog about it at the same time!).

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Learning to Lead Selflessly

As a senior student in leadership positions in different organizations, characteristics of a true leader have been on my mind. Am I being the leader I need to be? Am I instilling in my “followers” what they need? Am I providing what education I can? Am I giving them good advice? Am I doing everything I can to be the best leader I can be?

Forbes will tell you that leadership requires honesty, delegation, communication, confidence, commitment, creativity, intuition, positive attitudes and the ability to inspire. The Huffington Post‘s list will repeat some of the same characteristics, with an added few: ability to listen, integrity, humility, empathy, inspiration and the ability to lead by example.

I’ve been both a leader and a follower. I’ve been led by both great and not-so-great leaders, and I’ve no-doubt been both a great and not-so-great leader. Leadership is absolutely a learned skill. Many times, leaders want to lead by example, but by leading by example, they do all the work. Other times, leaders want to delegate work then sit back and watch everyone else.

Leadership requires a keen balance: walking a thin line between leader, dictator and sole member. But I think all of these issues can be solved through one characteristic: selflessness.

Too many take the title of “leader” to build their resume or brown-nose their way to the top. Too many times their objective as a leader is not to help or serve their organization as a whole, but to help themselves as a part. I am absolutely at fault for this myself. I have taken a position thinking, “Wow, this is going to look great on my resume.” Leaders like to be easy to spot. These leaders are inauthentic. They often push out other members who are willing and wishing to get involved. They take glamorous positions: the ones that mean their name will be posted for all to see. They don’t work behind-the-scenes.

So how do we learn to be a selfless leader when we, as human beings, are inherently selfish? I think the Huffington Post hit the nail on the head. Humility.

Anyone who achieves success, big or small, should be celebrated. I am a believer in being proud of your accomplishments and letting others know, however being proud and being arrogant are two different things. Remember you, too, were once someone working your way from the ground up.

We all started at the bottom in one way or another. Other people taught us, mentored us and made us into the people we are today. We cannot by any circumstance say that we made it to a leadership position all by ourselves. We did not “pull ourselves up from our bootstraps” without any help. And that’s important to remember.

I’ve had three different opportunities in the past few months to go to events or be in leadership positions that I have turned down. One reason? I’ve been there before. Not that I couldn’t learn more by attending again, but I knew that if I went, I took a spot at a table that someone inexperienced would’ve valued more. I made contacts and loved the experience previously and was disappointed not to go again, but I didn’t want to take that opportunity from someone else.

I’ve also given up leadership positions. I already had a lot on my plate, so I didn’t want to commit to another position that wouldn’t have received an adequate amount of my time. I knew two other members that had less experience than me, but had expressed sincere excitement for the position. My resume is not full, but as a leader, we have to know when to step back and let someone else take on a new role. As some point in time, we have to know when to stop being the leader and just mentor (or perhaps become a follower again).

I’ve learned a lot from my leadership positions, but I know I learn a lot more from my followers than I do from myself. I also know that I learn a lot when I let someone else do the teaching every once in a while. It’s great to have a full resume, and it’s great to be in every organization and actively participating… but it’s also great when you give someone else the opportunities that you’ve been extended.

Some people are born with leadership abilities, but not every natural-born leader is instilled with humility and selflessness. In fact, I’d say those are learned skills that take a lifetime to perfect.

 

*Thank you Katie Gatti for the edits and support on this topic. Check out her blog “Blonde with a Blog“!

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Sweet Home… Alabama.

New York has given me a run for my money on my last full day here. Between the bottoms of my feet being literally bruised to my debit card no longer working, I’d say Alabama is surely calling my name.

It’s been such a blessing to live out a dream and to be able to explore completely alone. For the first time, I took off to a place that I didn’t know without a single person to fall back on. I knew of people in the city, but there was no family, no close friends, and no one I was truly comfortable calling at 1 a.m. when something was wrong. It was me and the streets of New York.

So me and my Kate Spade personality hit the streets and discovered a lot. But I think I discovered more about myself than I did about this city. I know the streets. I can get pretty much anywhere without a map (with the exception of below Houston street because those are a bit tricky). I can even navigate Brooklyn pretty easily, and the subway is just another car.

But I learned a lot about myself. I truly “dated myself” for an entire summer. When I wanted Italian, I had Italian. When I wanted to see a movie, I went to the movies. Pedicures, food, wine, dinner, more food, dessert, shows, walks, runs, and even just laying in the park. I did what I wanted to without worrying about anyone else. It wasn’t selfish… it was truly a learning experience!

I learned my way through my fellowship, finding out all the right and wrong ways to do everything. Delivering mailers still proved to be the most difficult task because 7 a.m. on a Thursday morning and a giant box is difficult to stomp around NYC.

As much as I missed my friends and family, I didn’t yearn to see them. I set out to spend 3 months mostly by myself, and that’s what I did. I didn’t worry about making friends, although I did come out with some great ones. I didn’t set out to meet anyone famous, although I did see Usher and Kathie Lee Gifford and Penn and Teller. I didn’t set out to do so many things, but along the way, I found them. I am grateful for those that visited, mostly because I really missed human contact… especially hugs. 

But on my last full day despite all the chaos that ensued, I visited the 9/11 memorial fountains again at sunset. I was reminded once again how blessed I am to be alive and to be free. How blessed I am to be able to spend a summer wherever I please. How blessed I am to live in a country where I get to choose a career I love. How blessed I am to live somewhere I get to change my dreams, find my dreams and live my dreams. How blessed I am to have people supporting my every step, no matter how sketchy, unclear or hazardous that road may be. And how blessed I am to have so many people waiting on my return.

It’s a bittersweet goodbye. It’s like dark chocolate with sea salt really. Just enough bitter bite to cancel out the sweetness, with a surprise a salt to top it all off. (I love dark chocolate with sea salt… hint, hint). Ultimately, this summer has been everything and then some. And I can’t wait to share all I’ve learned. But first, I need to find my way back home where I will hopefully let my feet rest a bit before hitting the books for one more year!

Thanks for reading and for following my journey in the city. Who knows where I’m heading off to next!

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11 Reasons Why Girls Weekends Are The Best Weekends


My friend Kelsey made the 2 hour plane ride from Atlanta to NYC to see me for, get this, approximately 42 hours. Yes, you read the correctly. Less than 2 full days. But man, did we make the most of it! After a perfect girls weekend, you’ll realize exactly how comforting being reunited with your person after 9 weeks apart, and quickly vow that you are never, ever going to do that again.

So to capitalize and reinforce on exactly how perfect this weekend was, I want to tell you 11 reasons why girls weekends are the best weekends.

1. She’ll get in at midnight, change into going-out clothes, and find the closest decent bar to talk over the latest and greatest from since the last time you saw each other. And, she’ll order the same drink as you because you’re basically the same person living in two different cities.

2. After a couple drinks, you’ll both realize that it’s 2:30 a.m. and you’ve worked 45 hour weeks and are exhausted. Then you’ll proceed to the closest open pizza shop, order two unreasonably large slices of pizza, walk home and indulge. You’ll finally fall asleep around 3:30 after laughing about the fact that at 3 a.m. you were both pigging out on bacon-covered pizza in bed. No. Regrets.

3. She’ll wake up the next morning feeling just as sleep-deprived and dehydrated as you, and while you’re sipping on Strawberry Lemonade Sparking Ice water, you’ll look over as she’ll is sipping on whatever she finds in your fridge… including a cranberita. No, it’s not 9 a.m. (yes, it was).

4. Once you feel refreshed and showered, you’ll realize not only do you have identical black Kate Spade bags, but you also have matching Zara dresses. Not to mention you each have multiples of the same dress in different colors. Twinsies isn’t even the word.

5. While putting on the makeup you’re going to sweat off in the summer heat, you’ll spend an hour trying to find the perfect brunch place. You’ll make a reservation only to have to push back said reservation because you needed an extra 15 minutes of beauty sleep after your hair is fixed… which means you had to fix it again.

6. You’ll finally head to brunch and you’ll pass the place 4 times before realizing they don’t have a sign. When you sit down and the waiter approaches the table, you’ll both realize at approximately the exact same time that it is now noon and neither of you have had a cup of coffee. Then you’ll be equally as annoyed when the waiter brings your scones and cocktail before the cup of coffee. You’ll laugh about it once you down the first cup and ask for more, but before then there was nothing to be laughed about.

7. After spending 2.5 hours at brunch, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and spend the next 2.5 hours doing exactly what you both know how to do best: retail therapy. You’ll also stop in the middle of retail therapy being equally as frustrated, thirsty and downright hot, and you’ll go to the closest McDonald”s (even if that is on the edge of Chinatown). While walking the streets, your dresses will be caught in the wind/from the subway vents in some not-glamorous Marilyn Monroe way and she’ll yell, “Well, I just showed the world my butt.” Only for it to happen again and she’ll yell “Oh there it is again!” Subsequently, you’ll almost drop your Sbarro pasta laughing so hard.

8. While eating your Sbarro pasta and getting ready, you’ll drink Sparkling Peach Moscoto out of Tervis Tumblrs while laughing about lyrics. Like why is he talking about cheating on his girlfriend? No, it’s okay because at the end of the night he’s gonna stay true. Ooo I’m gonna stay true…. You know we’re talking bodies, you gotta perfect one…Cause baby now we’ve got bad blood. I hate this song next. 

9. The night will take you to some random bar that you’ll enjoy the drinks, but the crowd won’t be your style. You’ll try another but decide it’s late and you’re both really looking forward to tomorrow’s brunch. So you resign and leave, only to get home and eat left over Sbarro and eggs-over-easy while discussing tomorrow’s brunch plans. One of you will fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, and then you’ll both be out like a light soon after.

10. The alarm will sound at 9:30. Snooze. 9:45. Snooze. 10:00. Snooze. 10:15. Snooze. 10:30. UGHH the brunch line is going to be sooooo long. You’ll throw on your dresses, pull your hair up and head out the door. Brunch will be everything and more. You’ll spend 2 hours talking about how great the past 24 hours have been and how much you desperately want to be in the same city like old times. A.k.a. 2 months ago.

11. After a day of relaxation, manicures and straight-up girl talk — including deciding that when one of you gets married, you’ll have to buy a house with spare bedrooms because the other is definitely moving in—you’ll return to your apartment where you’ll lay in bed sulking because she has to pack her bags. You’ll proceed to order delivery and only leave your apartment to call her a cab. You’ll hug goodbye and quickly remember, you’ve already made plans for the day after you return home (Oops, sorry mom and dad.)

In the end, you know that technically you can live without each other… But that life would include a substantial amount of money because you can’t afford a therapist as good as her. You’re willing to go through great lengths to see each other, if only for 2 days, and no matter how long, it will never be long enough for all the laughs to be had. There’s nothing quite like that semester you spent together becoming the closest friends in a small amount of time, but that’s what makes this friendship unique. This isn’t the high school best friend you promised nothing would ever change. This is a realistic friendship that you openly admit everything is changing. You just now know that it’s worth blowing a two-week’s paycheck in 42 hours just so you can see your person. The only thing that would have made this weekend better is if that third girlfriend could have made the trip. (Missed you Brittany!)