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.

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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!)

12 Things I’ve Learned About Life From Living Alone in the City

So I’m halfway through my second week at my internship, and I’m telling you right now… it is flying by. Just so everyone knows: I’m absolutely loving it. The people I work with are truly amazing, and I’m learning so much. But I do miss all my friends and family back home. This blog post was inspired by multiple conversations I had today with friends about “how it’s going.” And well, I just want to be really honest here.

1. I love the freedom of walking anywhere I please. Eating anywhere I please. I love doing things solely because I want to and because I can. Being alone but not lonely is a strange feeling, and I really like it. I’m not only exploring a city, but I’m learning about myself. What I do and do not like – free from any bias, persuasion or persecution. And that, I’ve got to say, feels so good. There’s a joy that comes from allowing yourself to eat a bowl of gelato before dinner or buying fresh flowers for yourself. How beautiful are a bunch of hydrangeas on my desk! Small bits of joy can really change your whole perspective.

2. I am not responsible for the joy of others. This is one I’ve always, always, always struggled with, and I did not realize the impact until I moved here. Do you ever stop to wonder how much joy we lose because we spend it worrying about things out of our control? Like trying to constantly please picky eaters when there is a delicious smelling Thai place around the corner. Or when you have your friends from two friend groups going out on the same night so you bring them all together…and you’re constantly going back and forth to be sure both friend groups are pleased. Some people have a mission to not be pleased or show joy in life… and it’s not my job to fight that.

3. These shoes are not made for walking. If you are visiting me this summer or planning a trip to the big city, take this one tip from me. Purchase a pair of Chacos (preferably a pair with single straps as the double or triple straps tend to wear blisters) and get them fitted properly to your foot. Then wear them your entire trip. If you absolutely must bring that pair of Michael Kors heels (as I did), put them in your bag and wear your Chacos until you arrive at work, the play, dinner or wherever. Your feet will thank me.

4. There is a infinite amount of wonder lost in the word no. And I get to make the choice to discover that wonder or lose it. I’ll write more on this one later.

5. No amount of phone calls, texts or facetime calls can make up for my family and friends. I miss hugs so much. You do not realize how many hugs you get on a daily basis in the south until you haven’t had a hug in 2 weeks…

6. The 3 years I’ve spent in college prepared me for what to expect at work. My internship has taught me that you cannot expect anything because there truly is not something I do on a daily basis – with the exception of media lists. That’s everyday.

7. Half of the people in my life want me to live in Alabama. The other half don’t care enough to care. But everyone wants to know my decision. And I haven’t made that decision yet. I love Alabama. I love New York. I love above 10 cities across the U.S., and I don’t know where I will be this time next year. And that’s the only answer I can give you. But when I do make that decision, I will make it based on what I feel is best for me based on what I need at that point in my life (aka job and life).

8. Photos are meant to capture moments you’re afraid of losing. Photos are not meant to capture every moment of every day. Selfie sticks are everywhere here. There’s probably one selfie stick to every three people, and that’s not an exaggeration. Coming from a photographer, please listen to this one lesson if you don’t listen to anything else. You miss so much when you sit behind the lens (or try to be in front of it – selfie) For instance, think of the last concert you went to… how many people spent the entire concert recording the concert (not exactly legal, btw)? Now imagine how many people missed little cues from the artists (for instance, John Mayer changed the lyrics to one of his songs to include the city where he was playing “It’s been a long night in New York City, It’s been a long night in Nashville too” —the lyric is actually “Baton Rouge, too”). Imagine how much you actually miss when you’re too focused on focusing the camera. But also imagine how much you actually experience when you stop focusing on trying to remember that moment forever and you just focus on remembering that moment right then and there? Keep calm and put the selfie stick away. Enjoy the moment.

9. There are very few things in this world that I can control. This one will never be easy for me. I am high-strung. I can’t change it. People are going to either love or hate my high strung nature. I can’t change that either. People are either going to love or hate my choices. I can’t change that. People are either going to love or hate my hair, the way I dress, the way I talk, the way I live my life, what job I have, who I choose to date or marry, where I choose to live, what house (or apartment!) I choose to live in, what car I drive (or subway I take to work). I have to pick my battles, and I’m choosing to love the choices that I can make and the things I can (and even cannot!) control.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past two weeks it’s that I’ve let a whole lot keep me from enjoying life to its fullest extent. Expectations, worry, doubt, fear, stereotypes, whatever it may be. And that’s not fair to me because even though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my college years, I haven’t really felt the weight of it all until now because it’s been lifted. There’s an energy here that’s different than any feeling I’ve had before. It’s like the high you get from achievement except different because it’s not a high. It’s an energy. It’s like the first time you realized your parents expect you to make mistakes, and somehow all of a sudden, everything seems a lot less scary.

Whether I chose to return to the city or choose somewhere else in the continental U.S. or abroad or wherever, I will be forever grateful of the time I spent learning about myself. There’s something about losing the comfort of being surrounded by people you know that makes you learn a lot about yourself. And that is quite invigorating.

We’re 21 and 22, and We Still Don’t Know What We’re Doing

Last week, I talked to my brother on the phone for an hour. Most of you won’t find this particular fact interesting at all… unless you know me and my brother. We’ve always had this odd relationship. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it’s not the typically brother and sister relationship. We’re 22 months apart, meaning all of his prospective girlfriends where my best friends, and all of my prospective boyfriends were his. Kind of created a bit of a jumbled mess in high school… but we’re past that now.

I’m Type A, he’s not. But we’re both extremely competitive, which is sort of a problem when you’re so close in age. My competition was him, and his—me. We have completely different plans for our lives. Other than parents, competition and our love of talking about absolutely nothing, we don’t have a ton in common. We’ve never really been the type to just hang together all the time. We hang out whenever we are buying the ‘rent’s birthday/Christmas presents and whenever we’re stuck at holiday parties together. I was thrilled when he decided to go to Alabama (except for the fact that he did, in fact, copy my decision), but when he came home that first weekend I bawled like a baby—and everyone at the football game that night can tell you that. He and his friends would rather do weird guy stuff while me and my friends watch Friends. He cheats at card games, while I’d rather play fair (you know you do).

He’s weirdly identical to dad, except I am too. But we’re not identical to each other. I look like mom and he acts like mom. I do too, but not as much as him. He can talk forever about stocks and all that fun stuff, while I’d much rather tell you about my newest plans. He knows that when I get stressed out, I’m likely to stop eating, stop sleeping, work like a maniac, call mom in tears and still manage to online shop. He on the other hand will find every way in the world to procrastinate and then somehow finish on time. He likes Alabama, and he loves Ardmore. I, on the other hand, am seeking to start my career elsewhere, particularly a large city on the opposite side of the country, but I digress… He wants a house and a car, but I’d rather have a cute apartment garden and call it a day. I don’t care for yard work but he jams on the lawnmower.

Now, we’re both single, beginning our careers/just finishing school, and we have no freaking clue who we are. I know that I am Kaitlin, and he is Kyler and that we are co-existing on this earth at the same time for some reason. So the other night, I called home to talk to my mom, and she wasn’t there. Normally, I’d settle for dad (if you knew my dad, you would understand why talking on the phone with him is settling. He doesn’t quite understand how to, you know, hold a conversation). But dad was with mom on one of their “dates.”

So, I talked to Kyler. (Which isn’t settling but he’s normally busy and probably isn’t interested in my complaints of the day) Kyler and I don’t talk about normal brother-sistery things. We never have, and I don’t think we ever will. But when I called the other day and he was the one of the other line, we talked about life. Particularly, my life because I was the one who called and if I call, I usually have something on my mind. So I spilled my guts, and he listened. Then we hung up and he went to the gym. Two days later, he calls me and he spills his guts. I listened and then I went to bed.

But his exchange was a little different than mine because he thanked me for being an example for him. Yeah, that threw me for a curve ball too. He’s my older brother. So, my response was number one to thank him for thanking me because let’s be honest, it’s nice when you hear something like that. Then my other response was, “I don’t have it all together.” Then, we had an hour conversation (if not longer) about how all our lives, we’ve thought we were expected to have it all together by 22. To have the job, not relying on mom and dad for money, have a long-term relationship (if not engaged or married already) and etc.

No, our parents did not lay the ground work for this. I’m pretty positive mom and dad have told us you will not have it all together, so stop freaking out when you realize you’re wrong (or in the words equivalent to that). With the evolution of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we see the best of everyone. I don’t put a picture on Instagram without first thinking, I really love today’s outfit or look how artsy my cup of coffee looks. When I post on Facebook, it’s to share the next big thing that’s happening in my life. When I post on Twitter, it’s the day’s thoughts (the good or funny ones of course). But we don’t publicize the struggles. I don’t post on Instagram when my hair is looking especially bad or I’m feeling a sweatpants day because those skinny jeans are just too difficult to deal with. I don’t post on Facebook when my paper ended up getting a grade lower than I wanted or when mom is right again when I really, really don’t want her to be. Twitter is about as honest as it gets on social media, but even there you’ll only see “I’m having a really bad day” or “#KaitlinProbs.”

So basically, my brother and I came to the conclusion that at 21/22, we thought we’d have a lot of this stuff figured out. And we don’t. And that’s kind of disappointing. We thought we’d already be through all this “struggling to survive” and we’d be hitting the good part where you know stuff and aren’t just guessing. But really, we’re just at the beginning of the trial and error stage and that’s an exhausting thought. I’m 21 and he’s 22, and we don’t have it all together.

We still don’t know how to budget, and I don’t know how to file my own taxes. My keys still fall behind the counter. The gym is still too far away from my bed, and I still don’t know how to drive (honestly). And if I had any clue how to fill out medical forms properly, I wouldn’t be the girl in the doctor’s office calling my mom. I don’t understand why somedays my body can work on just 4 hours of sleep, but when I get a full-night’s rest I’m groggy all day. I don’t know how to cook bacon without getting popped by hot grease, and I don’t understand apartment leases or why some don’t come with washers and dryers. I have hundreds of photos I keep meaning to get printed that are 5 years old. Why do my fruit smoothies contain 400 calories and a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin only has 250? I don’t know where Mr. Right is, but I hope he stays away long enough for me to put pictures of my friends and family in these frames instead of the creepy photos that come in them and long enough for me to learn how to get important work done without my carpet being combed in the same direction (weird, I know. Don’t judge me).

Why do I have emails about life insurance and 401k plans when I can barely afford to feed myself and put gas in my car? Why is the healthy stuff so expensive and the unhealthy stuff so tasty? Why can’t my dog live with me in my apartment and why can’t he be a normal dog that doesn’t eat doors and household furnishings? And oh my gosh, does the list go on!

Some days I really think my 10 year old cousin knows more about life than I do. But the good news is, we both know a lot now that we didn’t know 5 years ago or even just a month ago. We’re learning, and the really good news is: we’re learning at a rapid pace! I think that’s where we all get confused. We see these people that have everything together, but really they’re just putting pieces to the puzzle together and we can only see that one piece. If I had a clue why we had to wonder around this world trying to figure out life instead of having an owner’s manual, I’d be a millionaire and could pay someone to cook my bacon. But what fun would that be? To know it all? Let me tell you some of the fondest memories I have with friends are when things went wrong.

So the point of this blog is to A.) say thank you to my brother for helping me realize life isn’t about having it all together. B.) point out that he is, in fact, the best oldest brother and all of you should be jealous—hehe. And finally, C.) note that one day I will in fact know how to do the previous things listed (except maybe for the chocolate chocolate chip muffin thing…I’d rather keep thinking it’s healthier). So have fun not having your life together (and maybe post about it) because isn’t life really fun when you aren’t perfect?

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

Not gonna lie…2014 was not my year. I had a great year, don’t get me wrong. But I felt like I was constantly fighting an uphill battle…

About midway through 2014, I realized I didn’t really like the person I saw in the mirror. I really struggled to find exactly who I was and who I wanted to be. I struggled with expectations and stereotypes. I struggled with anxiety and control. I had to re-dream my dreams. I struggled with my past and struggled with planning my future.

It’s kind of ironic, you know. When things turn in your direction and your dreams start coming true…all of a sudden there is a fear that will nearly paralyze you. I’m not really sure how to explain it, but as soon as I realized some of my dreams were within my grasp, I started questioning my judgement. Do I really want this? What if this really happens?

I dream of a life outside of my comfort zone. I dream of a big city big enough to handle my personality where I can see so many different faces and cultures on a daily basis. I dream of a career that is ever changing.

When the groundwork for this dream started being laid and everything started moving really fast, I thought about backing out. There are a lot of reasons that I started thinking maybe I would be happy staying here, living in Alabama, working here. That has never been my dream. I’ve never dreamt of living in a big house with the white-picket fence and two kids and a lot of money in the bank. That’s a great dream, it’s the American dream. But it’s not my dream.

It sounds crazy, I know, that I would dream of living in an apartment with no car. It sounds crazy, I know, that I don’t want kids until after I accomplish most of my career goals. It sounds crazy, I know, but that’s my dream.

While its OK and even great to want those things, it’s just not what I want. It’s difficult to want different things because honestly a lot of people don’t understand. Most of the time, I don’t know if my parents understand. I know it hurts people to think that I want to leave. Trust me, my dad has told me the crime rates, how expensive it is, how much I really wouldn’t like it. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. I am daddy’s little girl, after all.

But those are the thoughts I started having when I realized my dreams were coming true. I started thinking maybe I do want the ring, the husband, the white-picket fence with 2 kids right out of college. Maybe I do want those things.

But that’s when I really started becoming unhappy and when I really started getting anxious about everything. When I started changing my dreams to accompany those things. Well instead of New York, I can go to Nashville. I can have the house, the car, the southern culture, and the city. I started playing these mind games with myself. In my mind, I was going to have my cake and eat it too. But in reality, I was settling. I was settling for an easier path. A path without uncertainty. A path that I would have complete control over and would be very comfortable.

2014 taught me a lot of things. It taught me people are not always who they say they are. It taught me that it is, in fact, possible to go 3 weeks on less than 5 hours of sleep each night. It taught me how important sleep truly is to our health. It taught me that going to the doctor when you first get sick is better than waiting it out. It taught me that being alone is ok and that it is possible to be happy and alone. It is actually possible to be happier when you are alone. It taught me that a pair of shoes can in fact change your life. It taught me that saving money is important, but what’s the point in having money if you don’t enjoy a little bit of it. It taught me that losing someone is difficult and that death is really, really hard. It taught me that liquid and electronics do not mix. (It actually taught me that in 2012 too). It taught me that if you’re brave enough to ask, you’ll find a lot more opportunities presented to you. It taught me that it’s ok to brag on yourself sometimes. It taught me that I am my harshest critic. It taught me flowers can in fact turn your day around. It taught me that no matter how many people you have pushing against you, you always have at least double that pulling for you. It taught me vacations are nice but there’s no bed as comfortable as the one in my apartment. It taught me I spend an unreasonable amount of money on coffee, and that’s ok. It taught me how much I truly miss running. It taught me that sometimes you have to take a blind leap of faith to get the rewards. It taught me that there is a time to say goodbye. It taught me some of the best friends are made over cheap margaritas and Mexican food. It taught me that if you ask the Lord for it, he will grant your request according to His will. It taught me that Christmas trees are in fact meant to stay up year round. It taught me that my health is one of the greatest blessings in life. It taught me that losing your voice for football before a presentation is in fact worth it. It taught me that it is ok to be selfish, especially when it comes to your dreams.

But most of all, 2014 taught me that if I’m brave enough to dream it, brave enough to ask for it, brave enough to pursue it and brave enough to fight for it, my dreams will come true.

I am grateful for the struggle that was 2014. Because now I can start 2015 with a clean slate, and I can look in the mirror and be happy with what I see.

I am very, very blessed and this year, most of all, has reminded me of that over and over. So for 2015, I’m not making any big new year’s resolutions. I want to get back to running and to keep my life a bit more organized (and my room). I want to travel, a lot. I want to be spontaneous. I want to say yes to more opportunities. I want to spend more time building relationships with people who dream as big as I do. I want to spend less time worrying about minimal issues. And most of all, I want to spend more time learning who I am, what I want, and what I’m capable of.

Happy New Year!

A Very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It’s 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Usually, I would be in Tuscaloosa, napping on my grandparents’ couch after baking all morning. We’d be preparing for the entire Brewer/Hood family to pile in the home that my mom grew up in. The count would normally be from 25-30 people, 6 or more dogs, and one cat that wouldn’t show up until after everyone left. Normally, I would have already opened all of my gifts from Santa because he always came to our house a week early so that we could be with our grandparents on Christmas Day.

But this Christmas is different. It’s different because we’re all grown up. My dad and brother both had to work this morning and will go in Friday as well. I just returned from a work trip to south Florida, and I’ll be working from home Friday as well. The gifts are all wrapped under the tree still, and my grandmother has significantly fewer mouths to feed on Christmas Day.

It’s bittersweet. I am so thankful to be home for the holidays this year in my own bed. But I will miss the family meal and white elephant games in Tuscaloosa. I logged on to Facebook last night to find out my best friend from grade school got engaged, several of my friends are accepting full-time jobs and internships, and I’m talking with agencies hundreds of miles away from home. In all honesty, it’s been really hard to get in the Christmas spirit this year. I’ve had all my gifts purchased for a few weeks now. I’ve watched all the movies, drank hot chocolate, been to Christmas parties, and even hosted one myself. My tree has been decorated in my apartment since before Thanksgiving, but Christmas just isn’t the same this year.

I welcomed Christmas break with open arms this year after a trying semester and a schedule full for next. But work never stopped, school never stopped, and here I am, still working, on Christmas Eve. My family has done everything the same. I have done everything the same. But Christmas is just different this year.

I asked for a few things, most of which I picked out with mom in the store, but there’s really not anything I really need or even really want. All of the things I am getting are all “nice to have” gifts that I’m still thankful for, but I’m very aware that they are things this year.

The Brewer/Hood family isn’t the only Christmas celebration with empty chairs this year. The closer Christmas has come, the more aware I’ve been of a hole in my heart. My grandmother is still on my mind, especially with a family holiday being tomorrow.

Someone sent my grandfather an anonymous gift the week before last in the mail. It was an ornament with a poem. It reads:

I still hear the songs, I still see the lights, I still feel your love on cold wintery nights. I still share your hopes and all of your cares, I’ll still remind you to please say your prayers. I just want to tell you you still make me proud. You stand head and shoulders above all the crowd. Keep trying each moment to stay in His grace, I came here before you to help set your place. You don’t have to be perfect all of the time,’ He forgives you the slip if you continue the climb. To my family and friends, please be thankful today. I’m still close beside you In a new special way. I love you all dearly, now don’t shed a tear, Cause I’m spending my Christmas with Jesus this year. 

I’m thankful to that person who sent this gift. My grandfather has it sitting on the mantle and shows everyone that walks through the door. He actually got the tree out after he received it because he knows “she would have wanted it this way.” I’m thankful, too, because it reminds me that she’s not missing anything. Rather, she has a better view and is celebrating with the One who made this holiday.

This Christmas isn’t really different, every material thing is the same. I’m just very, very aware of hurting hearts this year. Perhaps because mine is still healing.

The Lord has been good to me this year. He extended my grandmother’s life 4 months more than the doctors expected, allowing me, my brother, my cousin, and my dad and his brother to spend more time with the little woman who brought us all together. He blessed me with an incredible internship that not only provided professional experience, but that provided the finances that will be used so I can experience an internship across the country this summer. He blessed me with love, but also with a reminder that He has a better plan. He blessed me with supportive friends that have made this year extra special, and new friends that I can’t imagine my life without now. He blessed me with an education at a top tier school for public relations and the opportunity to obtain two degrees in my four years. He afforded me the opportunity to write a thesis and conduct an independent study. He blessed me with a loving brother, an overprotective dad, and a mom who is my best friend. He has ended relationships, formed new ones, and made old ones bloom brighter and better. He has gifted me with professors, advisors and connections that I never knew were  possible and opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. He has connected me with my dream agency and continues to have perfect timing everyday. Through the trying times, He held my hand, dried my tears and is continuing to heal my heart. The Lord has been good to me this year.

My thoughts are with those celebrating the holidays with fewer people this year than last. I’m praying for healed hearts because it hard when your hurting during the holidays. I can only imagine the opportunities 2015 will bring. I’m thankful for the opportunities, the love, the heart ache, and even the pain of 2014 because I know I am a better person for it. I hope 2014 treated you well, and that 2015 treats you better.

So Merry Christmas from me and my family. We appreciate the prayers, love and support you have all shown this year. We hope you have a very, merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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Adventure May Hurt, But Monotony Will Kill You.

So, I’ve been MIA from just about all social media for about a month now, with the exception of Twitter, for a number of reasons. I’ve received numerous texts, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs, etc. from several people wondering why I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. I figure it is easier to write a blog, than try to explain in individual messages. But for the record, thank you so much for your messages and for checking in on me. I will of course send each of you messages just to catch up, but for the ultimate explanation… here you go:

September 15 started a spiral of events in my life. My Mimi passed away from a long fight with Parkinson’s Disease. I apologize for not letting anyone know really. It was probably inconsiderate of me not to let anyone know so they could support me at the funeral and etc. But everything happened very quickly because we had prepared for that day since her health started declining quickly in mid July. I didn’t even have time to inform my pastor in Tuscaloosa of the passing. I was surrounded by family, my best friend, and our closest family friends at her funeral. Thank you for your words of kindness and thoughts. Although her passing was expected, the loss is still difficult and weighs heavy, especially with so many significant events occurring that I know she would have LOVED hear about and experience.

After she passed, me and my boyfriend broke up, another loss that weighed heavy in such a trying time. After two such large events happening in the same week, I had a lot of loss to overcome and strength to regain. But as usual, life continued.

On my grandmother’s 73rd birthday, 8 days after her passing, God started working in my life. While I’m sure He was working on my heart in those 8 days, He really started moving on her birthday. I’ve started a new job in September working with a great lady literally living out one of my dreams. It’s been an amazing experience, and I cannot wait to see where else this opportunity is going to take me. Aside from working a job that I love, I also got a new calling at Capstone Agency, the student-run PR firm I intern for at UA. I was moved to account executive of a very large account. While taking over the account only two weeks before the pitch proved to be significantly difficult and time-consuming, I’m so excited to tell you that it went great. Thursday, I pitched to the director of integrated marketing communications for a multi-million dollar corporation. I have not had more than 6 hours of sleep in 3 weeks, I’ve drank at least 3 cups of coffee per day and I’ve been at the office more than I’ve been at my apartment. I’ve napped on the floors of Reese Phifer, I’ve survived my first ear-infection and hole in my ear drum, I’ve overcome obstacles, I’ve lead an amazing team of 9 people, and I’ve made some of the best memories of my life. It’s been spectacular. It’s been amazing. It’s been challenging. It’s been the best experience thus far in my life, and I’m only 20.

I’ve also become a certified Zumba instructor and made 4 great friends while dancing for 9 hours straight. I’ve met a number of international students, all of whom I introduced to the real southern accent (apparently my southern drawl is even more significantly southern than the rest of UA) and good coffee. I’m preparing for my first gala in Chicago on my 21st birthday. And I’ve got two huge clients I’m working for next semester, possibly three. The best is yet to come.

Life has thrown me a curve ball. It hit me in the gut and tried to knock me down. It hurt. It left a bruise that’s still healing. But I’m still standing.

God is within her. She will not fail. 

Sometimes you ignore God long enough because he is asking for change. He is begging and pleading for you to make that change. He gives you chance after chance, sign after sign that something is not right. But you don’t listen because you’re comfortable. Life is easy. While life may not be perfect, at least you know what to expect. Especially in college when life is so unpredictable, when you find something that is predictable and comfortable, it’s hard not to hold on.

So then God has to step in and make the change you refused to make yourself. Sometimes it takes people months to get over stuff like this, for them to see the positives, and to understand what the bigger picture is. But if we open our eyes and listen to some of the things happening around us, you get a glimpse of that overall picture.

For instance, relationships can alter dreams…big dreams. While I may still have been able to move to New York or Seattle while in a relationship, chances were slim to none that he could have followed. So at that point you have to pick between something comfortable and a dream that is out of your comfort zone in a city hundreds of miles away and alone. Too many dreams fall apart at this fork in the road.

Great things never happened in comfort zones.

Since that week, I have had so many opportunities presented to me that I have taken advantage of. Those opportunities will get me my dream job in my dream city someday. Not only that, but I’ve met people with those exact dreams in those exact cities. I’ve met people with my same personality, worked on the same project together and developed friendships that can only be made at 2 a.m. in the basement of a 80 year old building that was a bomb shelter in WWII. Friendships that can only be made running away from a drunk guy who was chasing you at 3 a.m. on your walk to the car.

Because I took those opportunities, I have met some of the people that I will see in NYC and Seattle. I will know people there, I will have friends, and it won’t be so uncomfortable chasing a dream.

You’ll turn out ordinary if you’re not careful. 

As far as my heart goes, it’s still healing. The little things remind me of my grandmother nearly all the time, and I really just want her to be here so I can see her smile when I tell her what’s happening in my life. She was my biggest cheerleader, especially when it came to my career. She wanted to hear all 850 comments from my letter to Cade Foster. “Another one, another one.” She would get so excited. I still haven’t watched an episode of Big Bang Theory. Sometimes it hits me all over again.  As far as a man, I’ve got my daddy, my brother and my poppy and papaw who are the only men I need because they support each and every one of my dreams. And right now I’m focused on guarding my dreams.

Success is not for the lazy. 

My warning is for all the college and high school girls out there with big dreams or those going through a breakup that just can’t understand why… Listen to God and let Him work in your life. Things will start to fall in place. It may take a month or six or maybe even a year, but He’s still there, He’s just working on something really big.

The Barbie Debate

Barbie gets a bad reputation because of her look. We’ve all seen the posts on Pinterest or blogs that show what Barbie would look like if she was a real girl. We get it. Barbie’s appearance sets an unrealistic expectation for the way women are supposed to look.

But do you remember what it was like to be a 4-5 year old with a Barbie? Barbie was all about dreams and make-believe.

“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”- Ruth Handler, creator of the Barbie doll.

When I used to play with the doll, it was about dressing her in the prom dresses I wanted to wear to prom one day. It was about Barbie being a business woman or a teacher or whatever profession I was fascinated with that day. It was about the wedding dress for her wedding. It was about her job. It was about her hobbies. It was so much more than how tall she was, how skinny or fit she was or the color of her hair.

Look at half of the toys we buy kids today. They’re witches and wizards and princesses. They’re a myriad of fantasy characters that we know the 3-9 year old imagination can run wild with.

Do we really have to blame a toy for eating disorders and body image issues? I’m a 20 year old girl. I am fit and in shape. I have curves. I am not a size 0 or 2 or even a size 4.

I played with Barbie dolls as much as any girl. I played with them, dressed them, cut their hair. I had the Barbie Dream House and the Barbie VW car. I used to carry them everywhere I went. I loved playing with Barbie dolls.

Never in my 20 years did I look at a Barbie doll and think that is what I am supposed to look like. I never held my Barbie up next to my mom and think my mom wasn’t normal because she didn’t look like Barbie. I never told my babysitter she didn’t look like Barbie. I didn’t even ask WHY women didn’t look like Barbie. The thought never crossed my mind.

Because Barbie was a doll.

Barbie was a business woman who dressed nice and I could be a business woman that dressed nice. I can wear the heels and dresses and still conquer the world. The size of my breasts, waist and butt can’t do that. What I look like can’t achieve my dreams and goals.

If body issues stem from anywhere, its from the magazines we read, the movies and shows we watch and the people we hang around. As a cheerleader, I sat and listened as my teammates criticized their bodies. Wanting the lose the pudge or the thunder thighs. And believe me, I know all too well the burden of buying pants a size too big for your waist so your thighs can fit it. I know the gap at the back of the jeans. I know the struggle of buying a swimsuit top in a small and the bottoms in a large. I’m not some itty-bitty girl.

And I struggled with my weight, still do some days. Wanting to be smaller. Wanting to be more fit. But that’s not from me playing with a Barbie doll when I was young. It’s from reading magazines that are constantly displaying headlines: “Miranda Lambert loses XX pounds,” “Jessica Simpson loses XX pounds on weight watchers” “Best and worst celebrity beach bodies.” They go on and on. How many weight loss shows are on television now? How many infomercials can we watch of drug x and y that does this better than that. This weightloss plan. New Year’s Resolutions.

Look at the people we see on television. Guiliana Rancic, Kendall Jenner… the people that model in the fashion shows we watch. America’s Next Top Model…girls were voted off for not being skinny enough.

And we want to blame Barbie for all this nonsense? Where are the rational thinkers? We set down the Barbie dolls before we’re teenagers. And we pick up the magazines, watching the television shows.

But overall, none of this is really this issue.

Yes, there should be a Barbie that looks like a size 6 girl. But there should also be supermodels that are size 6 that aren’t classified as overweight. The weightloss commercials need to be taken off certain programmings.

But for goodness sakes, let’s educate our girls. Let’s educate them with what’s normal. Explain B.M.I. Explain why our bodies need calories and fats to live. Explain why exercise is healthy but too much exercise is unhealthy.

If we’re going to explain why elasticity effects the economy, then we sure as heck need to educate children and teenagers on what it takes to nourish our bodies. More than the half a week the schools spend on talking about anorexia and bulimia.

Something as huge as our health deserves more than 3 hours of terrible videos. Knowledge is power.

Let’s let our girls continue to play with the dolls like little girls do. Let them rip all the clothes because the thumbs never fit through the holes in the sleeves, let them lose all the shoes, put men’s clothes on the women dolls. Let them get lost in their imaginations because they’re girls just wanting to play.

A Memorial Day Tribute

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When I walked down the narrow street that led to Ground Zero, we were pushed to the side by firefighters trying to get the truck back to the garage. Ten House is the fire station located in the heart of Ground Zero.  At least 5 fire fighters assisted on the street as the 4 firefighters on board attempted to get the fire truck down the narrow street and into the garage as thousands of people filled the streets. It took 3 tries to get the truck into the station.

Friday, May 22nd, 2014 was just another Friday. There was no chaos, no incident, no attack. Yet, getting the fire truck one block down the street to the Ten House station was a struggle.

Can you imagine September 11th? Can you imagine the chaos? Can you imagine the fire fighter that had to climb out of the truck to remove the body from the street so the truck could get closer to the Twin Towers? Can you imagine the fire fighter that had to tackle a man whose clothes were on fire to put them out? Can you imagine the chaos they had to pass in order to get to the heart of the attack? Can you imagine the last sights of those that gave their all that day?

The last thing they saw was not a room full of family. They didn’t get to say goodbye to their children. They didn’t get to say I love you to their spouses. They didn’t get any of that.

Their last sight was a terrorist attack. They smelled burning bodies. They went in knowing the chances of them coming out alive were slim to none. But they did it anyways

On Friday, thousands of people flocked to Ground Zero to see the memorial fountains, the bronze wall on the side of the Ten House, and the newly opened museum. They listened to stories of survivors who gave tours, pointing out where the planes came from, where they were standing and which tower fell first.

On Friday, as thousands visited to pay their respects to the thousands that passed that day, they encountered conspiracy theorists. They encountered people who stood on the ground where people died shouting lies.  The survivors who were giving tours would stop to curse these people. I do not blame them. The disrespect of those people to bring more pain to those who had already lost all, who had already experienced the smell and sight of death is beyond anything imaginable.

The memorial fountains were designed and constructed in such a way to express to visitors exactly what was lost that day. In the center of each acre-sized fountain, is a black, square hole where the water disappears. You cannot see the bottom. You cannot see the end. No matter where you stand around the bronze panels surrounding the fountain, you cannot see a visible end. There is a black hole.

People all around were stretching their neck to see over the bronze panels attempting to see the bottom. They never felt the satisfaction of finding the end. Because there is no satisfaction to be felt. Because there is no end to be seen.

Perhaps this blog is more relevant for 9/11. Perhaps I would have more hits if I published it on 9/11. But that’s not the point. The point is that today is Memorial Day and I’m not sure that any of us really understand what we need to remember, what we need to respect. We’re too busy cooking hotdogs and hamburgers by the pool with our family and friends. We’re too busy to remember the lives lost in any war, on any day. We’re too busy to remember those that gave their all so that we can enjoy the day off. It’s a little twisted don’t you think? There are soldiers, firefighters, police, nurses and other emergency workers working today while we enjoy the day off.

God Bless those soldiers who fought, who died, who are fighting, who will fight and who will die, protecting our freedom and protecting our rights.

God Bless those emergency workers we protected, who died, who are protecting and who will protect and who will die protecting and saving lives.

Thank you for your service.

You can read the stories of fire fighters from the Ten House here.

Worth the Wait

Life is like a waiting game. We are constantly waiting for each big event to come along. High school seniors across the U.S. know what I am talking about. They are on the home stretch. With less than 3 months to go, they can see the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

I gave the graduation speech when I graduated in 2012. It was an honor and a day that I will never forget. I can still remember my nerves waiting to walk out for graduation. That was the first time that I realized what I have to say actually matters. And if I can write down my thoughts in a precise manner that makes sense and is relatable, my words can be very powerful. I received a lot of compliments. I’ve been told it drew tears to some of the parents and grandparents’ eyes because I made the connection between the generations that needed to be voiced. I wanted to share that speech on my blog because I want a place where I know it will exist forever, after my computers crash and papers burn.

But I also thought that maybe it could draw a connection for those seniors anticipating graduation.

Friends, family, teachers, administrators and fellow students, I want to thank you for attending this graduation today. I also want to thank you for everything you have done for my fellow graduates and me up to this point in our lives. We greatly appreciate the advice and life lessons you have taught us over the past 18 years. We truly would not be sitting here today if it were not for you. So for that, we sincerely thank you.

Ardmore High School, Class of 2012, today is our graduation day. We have spent the last 4 years anticipating this very day. I hope it has or will live up to all of your expectations. So before you start anticipating the next major event in your life, treasure this day for all it is worth, for it will be over far too quickly. 

Through these past few years, we have all experience trials–especially with the deaths of our three dear classmates whose memory we will all forever cherish. And while these heartaches were difficult to overcome, these tribulations have only taught us that life is short and every day counts. 

Class of 2012, you are part of the net generation, or the generation of technology. The Internet (as we know it) was invented either the year you were born or the year before. Cell phones are not strangers to us, and information has always been at our fingertips. We have days worth of songs on our iPods, and we can send and receive messages in a matter of seconds. We text fast, we drive fast, we eat fast, and we learn fast. We put a whole new meaning to living life in the fast lane. 

We are not like our parents’ generation. When they get a new device, they read the manual while we start plugging in cords. And though we can take advice from our parents’ generation, we cannot always assume it is the same in this day and time. And like our parents, one day we will be giving knowledge that we have received to the generation after us. And the advice may or may not be compatible with that day and time. 

In our parent’s generation, there were very visible paths to take: college, military or work. And while those paths still exist, so many more are visible today. Kids in our generation have made millions of dollars because they invented a cool app or turned a strange news interview into a catchy song. Our ideas may be the next big thing and one of us sitting here today may be the next Steve Jobs. One of us may find the cure for cancer. Our options are limitless.

Now it seems that a huge gap exists between Generation X and the Net Generation, but that is not true. Because while we grew up with computer games instead of marbles, our parents–I can’t believe I am saying this–actually know what they are talking about. While their lessons in school and technology were different, their lessons in life, love and prosperity all amount to the same. Though I have yet to learn all of the lessons my mother and father learned, I can share with you the advice my parents have given me, that their parents probably gave them and so on and so forth:

Life is going to be difficult, and some days you are not going to want to get out of the bed, but that’s no excuse. There will always be someone somewhere that is fighting a harder battle than you. Always have faith, but remember having faith makes things possible, not probable. Sometimes the right path is not always the easiest. Count your many blessings, one by one. Be the best friend you can be because in order to have friends, you must also be one. Never forget those who have stood so long by your side. Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work. Those who gossip to you will gossip about you. Say what you need to say, but only say what you mean. Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength. Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. Everyday is a blessing, a gift from God. And finally, the way to happiness is not having the best of everything, but making the best of everything you have. 

Graduates, congratulations on completing your final day at Ardmore High School. I am pleased to say: we have made it! As we prepare to accept our diplomas, we are also preparing to head out into this place called the real world. And though it seems scary, these life lessons we have learned will help along the way. 

Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So take chances, follow your dreams, continue learning, travel the world, and enjoy your life. Don’t dream your life, live your dreams. Live with intention and be an individual. 

Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.” And while your life may take you over seas or hundreds of miles away, always remember your roots lie here in Ardmore, Alabama. The potential for this graduating class is greater than any of us can even imagine. And I know that somehow we will all make our mark on this world. 

In closing, I would like to share a poem whose author is unknown, but was used by Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant to motivate and inspire those around him:

This is the beginning of a new day.

God has given me this day to use as I will.

I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important,

Because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever

Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

I want it to be a gain not loss, good not evil, success not failure

in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.

Thank you and congratulations Ardmore High School, Class of 2012.

The second paragraph is my favorite because I remember wanting graduation to come so bad; my senior year was a waiting game. Waiting for senior nights and all those lasts to finally occur just so I could “get out.” I know that most seniors experience that senioritis. But there’s a difference between excitement for graduation and waiting for it to happen. We spend our entire lives waiting. Waiting to start school, waiting to get a license, waiting to be 18, waiting for graduation, waiting to be in college, waiting to be 21, waiting to get married, waiting to start a family, waiting, waiting, waiting…

Every time a big event comes in our life, we experience it for so little time before we start waiting for the next big event. We can’t enjoy graduation without waiting for college. We can’t enjoy college before waiting for that job offer. It’s a constant game we play. We forget to live in the moment and forget to experience the moment. Right after we threw our hats, everyone dispersed to take pictures and eat cake and celebrate. But in those few moments, when everyone was still on the field, I stood in my chair, looking for my best friend and family, but I caught a glimpse of the past and future crashing together like a wave hitting the sand. I was no longer a high schooler. I was officially a graduate. I had my diploma; my tassel had been turned; yet I was still on the football field surrounded by friends and family.

My hair had fallen. I was sweating and uncomfortable. But I remember thinking in that moment that that was the very moment that everything changed. And it was.

I think we get so involved in the moment and in the waiting that we don’t realize when major transitions actually occur. It wasn’t when I accepted the diploma, or when I turned the tassel even. It was when I stood watching my past high school days and friends disappear second by second, graduate by graduate.

Life has a funny way of showing you stuff when you least expect it. As a photographer, I wish that was the moment someone had gotten on camera. When the event was over, the crowd was dismissed, yet graduates’ lives were drastically changing before everyone’s eyes. And we never even realized it. We rushed off to the celebration parties and to pack for senior trip and leave the exact transition we had been anticipating all that time.

I rushed back to get to my party with my family and friends. I’m not sure I even shed a tear. And even before I took that first step away from my high school, I was answering questions about my future that had just begun.

So, senior class of 2014, you have less than 3 months left. You’ve probably chosen a college, decided which dorm to live in, found roommates, picked out a comforter for your next XL twin bed, and decided on a major. You’ve ordered invitations, and you are counting down the seconds to accepting that diploma. But what are you going to remember about that day? Are you going to remember the speech? Probably not. Are you going to remember the hours of pictures? Maybe. Are you going to remember everyone that came? No. Are you going to remember the flavor cake, the music that played, the first person to hug you after? No. You are probably not going to remember all those things because frankly, they are not that important.

But you should remember that moment where you watched your high school days dip below the horizon like the sun setting: beautiful and worth the wait because trust me, it is worth the wait.