An Ode To My Home Team

I don’t nearly say ‘thank you’ enough – but please know that my gratitude is always great and my love for you is never-ending.

Everyone has one, no matter how big or how small; no matter how close or distant; everyone has one. It’s what keeps us trudging through our most difficult times and it’s what makes celebrating our sweet moments in life all the greater. I’ve even found that it makes all the ordinary feel that much more extraordinary. If you are reading this and thinking that you don’t have one, you do, even if it’s just one person. And if for some reason you don’t feel like you have that one person, I will gladly be that for you. This is about my home team, your home team, his home team, her home team, OUR home team. Because without them, life just wouldn’t be the same.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and mention every single person on my home team by name because, let’s face it, you already know who you are. You are the people who love me unconditionally down to my core, who accept me for who I am – flaws and all, who give me the toughest of the tough love because you all know that I need that from time to time (even if I hate it), who celebrate my victories in life sometimes more than I do, who make me laugh – like really laugh – like cheeks are sore for the rest of the day laugh, who I can always lean on for support and who know that they can lean just as hard back on me for support. And not that I have to point this out but if you are a part of my home team, you better be damn certain that I am on yours.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking for the last 6 months or so about how shitty of a year 2017 was; how rough and ugly and sad it was. And while I can agree with them and while it’s easy to let the worst parts of the year overshadow everything else, it’s the people like those that I have in my corner that help me to see the good in all the bad, even when they are having bad times themselves. Last year was bad. But it wasn’t ALL bad. Nothing is ever all bad. Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort along with some time for the beauty to be revealed.

I had great days at work, I had not so great days at work. I struggled with family issues. I decided to make the big decision to go back to school to pursue my master’s degree. I made new friends and I distanced myself from others. I battled with finances. I added two new jobs to my plate. I cried harder than ever but I laughed harder than ever too. Even though at times I felt so lonely and as if I was the only one in this entire world going through hard times, good times, or big life changes, my home team always made their presence known and cheered me on from start to finish.

We all need support, we all need help more than we probably ever want to admit and it’s taken me far too long to realize that needing help or asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean you are a failure and it definitely doesn’t mean you are incapable. What it does mean is that life gets HARD sometimes and none of us were meant to carry burdens by ourselves. It’s more than okay to share the heavy load with your support system. We are all doing this life thing TOGETHER, we are all in this TOGETHER. We don’t have to prove our “strength” or “worthiness” by trekking through life’s hardships and getting beat up on our own. And we better be soaking up life’s beauty in the company of those we love because is there really a better feeling??

In short, I am who I am in this very moment because of everyone that has ever crossed paths with me in this life, but especially because of everyone who has stayed and made themselves a staple in my life.

My home team – this ones for you!

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An Ode To My Home Team

Tough Times

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” –Brene Brown

I feel like it’s time to get real about some things. Not because I owe it to anybody or because I feel obligated to do so but because life gets ugly sometimes, like really ugly, and there is no sense in running from it. And also because if anybody else is this world is having a rough go at the moment like I am, I want them to know that they are truly not alone and I hope they find a little comfort in that.

It was about 7 years ago when I decided that I wanted more out of my work and the jobs that I do. I wanted to feel like I was actually making a difference in the world because I believe that is my mission and purpose in life. I wanted more than just a paycheck. I wanted to gain valuable and priceless knowledge and experience and that is when I set off on my journey to doing work that aligned more with my heart. It was also when I set off on my journey of living paycheck to paycheck and dealing with the enormous amount of stress that goes along with that. That was the decision I made. Every day we all make decisions both big and small and they all help to define the path that our life will take. By choosing to do work that I found fulfilling and nurturing to my soul, I also chose to live the not so glamorous broke life. Since I graduated college last May I have made a few more decisions that I deemed necessary for my well-being. I spent more years than I care to think about working multiple jobs, sometimes every day of the week and towards the beginning of last year my body began telling me it had enough of the long days I was putting it through. I spent the first 4 months of last year being sick, missing classes, and missing some days at work. I powered through my last semester of college but I knew I had to reevaluate some things come graduation. If any of you have read my previous post “Meraki”, you know that I made a career change and left my job of 5 years for a new one. With only working one job since August, life has slowly but surely started to spiral out of control.

Now, this is the part where some people will think the entitlement of my generation will start to shine through but I assure you that I don’t have a single ounce of entitlement in my body. I was raised to work hard for every single thing in my life. Being raised by a single mom, I never expected anything to be handed to me. I still don’t expect things to be handed to me and I never will. I just find it rather unfortunate that the main consequence of doing what I love is not making enough money. I’ve talked often lately about how it confuses me that Bachelor’s degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. I never dreamed that I would have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I also never dreamed that I would magically find the career of a lifetime the moment I graduate and earned my degree but I feel like there’s no middle ground and that’s what I can’t seem to wrap my mind around. I’ve recently been researching furthering my education and earning my Master’s degree because I’m afraid my Bachelor’s degree will never be enough. It’s scary for me to fork out thousands of more dollars for hopefully a job that will maybe make me decent money.

The long and short of it is that I never thought I would be 26, struggling to survive, and sometimes wondering where my next meal will come from. I thought that phase of my life would be far behind me by now and the fact that it is still very much my reality and a little disheartening and discouraging. I try not to let me financial situations ruin my mood or my days because “it’s just money” but when you don’t have any of it, it practically rules every thought. I can’t do anything without having money in the back of my mind and I have spent many nights tossing and turning because I can’t quiet my mind. I have spent a long time trying to avoid my financial situation and it has recently caught up to me and has been causing me extreme anxiety and stress like I never knew I could feel. I have never talked about any of this because I feel like a failure and the amount of shame I carry is unreal. The few friends that I have talked to about all of this have let me know that I am far from being alone. No one should have to struggle for this long in my opinion. I know that things in life are temporary and that this isn’t my forever but its my story at the moment and it’s been a hard one to accept. The only way I know how to start accepting it is to start getting real about it. Once I can get real about the fact that this is where I’m at in my life, I can start problem-solving and hopefully get the hell away from this place and move on to a place with less anxiety, less stress, and more success.

 

For anyone else out there that is struggling…hang in there.  I know it’s hard sometimes to keep your head up but promise me you’ll try.  I believe that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel even though it’s not in sight at the moment so let’s keep on keepin’ on together.

Tough Times

Vulnerability > Fear

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If you’ve never watched a TED Talk, I highly suggest you download the app on your phone and start making them a part of your life.  They are immensely eye-opening, informative, and sometimes just pure entertaining.  I’m no stranger to TED Talks and quite frankly, I am a self-proclaimed TED nerd. Although I would recommend a huge handful of TED Talks, the one I want to talk about is one by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability,”  This talk is powerful and did nothing short of begin to change the way I live my life.

Brené spent an incredible amount of time researching vulnerability and everything that it involves, including fear and shame. She touched on the fact that the vast majority of people live in a state of fear and shame, afraid of being judged, afraid of being hurt, afraid of hurting others, afraid of failing, all of which essentially keeps us from living a truly authentic life. My explanation of her video won’t come close to doing it justice so take me seriously when I say: GO WATCH IT (you should also read her book Daring Greatly while you’re at it)! She truly has a beautiful message that I’m sure we can all relate to on some level.

I can relate to it on a huge level.  I have spent the better part of my life running (okay, it was more like a sprint) from vulnerability.  I would do nearly anything to avoid situations that would make me feel even close to vulnerable.  For me, it was the most uncomfortable emotion I could imagine.  Being embarrassed? No thank you.  Failing? That’s a scary thought.  Getting hurt by people I care about? Count me out.  I tried so hard to avoid any situation that could possibly embarrass me, lead to failure, or result in me getting hurt.  But what I didn’t realize for a long time was that by avoiding these uncomfortable situations, I was avoiding everything REAL that life had to offer.  Being embarrassed, failing, and getting hurt are just a small price to pay for living a truly authentic life.  I still get embarrassed almost on a daily basis but it’s not as detrimental to me as it once was.  I have learned to be more lighthearted about it and to laugh at myself because it really does lighten the burden.  I fail constantly just as I always have but I have altered my way of thinking.  Yes, my failures are still hard on me, but I now see them as moments to learn from. If anyone can turn their failures into a launchpad to their successes, I think that’s pretty damn cool.  I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I can’t avoid getting hurt. It really is just a part of life.  And if I’m getting hurt then that means I am putting myself out there, knowing that not everyone is going to like me or accept me, but also knowing that I am being true to who I am and wanting to share that with others (and that a lot of people WILL like me and accept me).

I would be lying if I said I didn’t envy those people who don’t know how I feel; Those who don’t let fear and shame keep them from living their life to the fullest.  Brené gracefully explained the distinct difference between people like myself and those who don’t know this fear and this shame.  There are people that believe they are COMPLETELY WORTHY of love and belonging and there are people that believe they are not worthy.  That’s the simple difference that divides these two groups of people. Believing that you are worthy of love and belonging can change your entire life.  When you are like me and have grown up in circumstances that have challenged that belief, it’s easy to understand why vulnerability is such a deep fear.  When you have experienced pain, confusion, and heartache growing up, you can’t help but constantly question if you are worthy of love and belonging.  It’s quite a natural reaction to such hardships but it shouldn’t have to be that way.  There shouldn’t have to be people walking around every day questioning their worth, questioning if they deserve love, wondering if they belong.  No one should live in this constant state of fear or feel as though being vulnerable will make their world come crashing down.  I wish it were that simple…

I’ve talked myself out of a lot of things in my life and I mean A LOT.  I’ve always considered myself  to be a dreamer but I’ve always been terrible at the follow through.  I have this bad habit of getting myself excited about my dreams and my potential and then coming crashing down once I tell myself that it can’t ever become my reality.  I’ve lived this vicious cycle for my entire life. Since graduating college in May, it seems as though this cycle has increased in intensity for me.  Here I thought I would have had everything “figured out” at this point in my life and I have been kicking myself because if I weren’t so damn good at talking myself out of following my dreams, I would be closer to living the life I had imagined for myself. I know that I can’t possibly plan everything out for my life but I can’t help but think that if I just allowed myself to chase down my hopes and dreams, I would be in a happier, more fulfilled place.  If I could quiet the voice inside my head that tells me I’m not worthy, that tells me I’m not good enough, that constantly gives me lists the length of California of why x, y, and z will never work, I would have accomplished so much more by now.  I would have applied to and finished grad school.  I would be working full-time at a job that I’m not too afraid to apply for.  I would be looking to buy a house to make my own.  I would own a successful small business.  I would have published my very own book.  I could go on and on about all of the things that I dream about on a daily basis but that I have no courage to pursue.  Well, all of the dreams I didn’t have the courage to pursue until now.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting recently, I’d say in the last year or two, and I have been trying to find a way to battle this shame and fear.  Although I find vulnerability to be the most uncomfortable thing to ever exist, I want to feel it more than anything in the world right now.  I want to burn down all of the obstacles I put in my own way and I want to stop making excuses for why I shouldn’t do anything I’m passionate about. I want to stop fearing that I’m not worthy of love and belonging and I want to truly believe it for the first time in my life.  I want that to be the foundation for everything in my life moving forward.  

By no means have I perfected this whole vulnerability thing (pretty sure fear and shame are still in the driver’s seat at this point in time) but I am thousands of miles ahead of where I used to be.  I am grateful that I stumbled upon Brené’s TED talk and was able to start the process of stepping away from my fears, and closer to a more authentic life.  I learned from her that I need to have the courage to be imperfect.  I am constantly reminding myself that no one is perfect.  Even the people that seem to have it all together and figured out, have their own imperfections even if I can’t see them from the outside.  I’ve been embracing my imperfections because they make me the person I am. It takes a lot of work on a daily basis but I am finding so far that it is all worth it.  Taking risks and doing things without any guarantees is such a scary thing but in the words of Brené, “ I’m just so grateful because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”   

Vulnerability > Fear

Meraki

Meraki (v.) to do something with soul, creativity, or love; when you leave a piece of yourself in your work.

 
A lot has changed over the last five years. I seemed to have lost track at some point because I ran out of fingers and toes to count it all. But through the chaotic beauty of all the change, there was one thing that remained the same; the one constant in my life.

I started working at The Boys and Girls Club after working a few dead end retail jobs and after realizing that I was meant to do so much more with my life. After a couple of years spent working with elementary kids, I began working with our teen population and that’s when I truly realized my passion for working with youth.I remember being asked from time to time which group I like working with more and it always stumped me. To me, it was a difficult comparison to make…they are essentially the same yet so vastly different. There were pros and cons to working with both age groups but what I quickly came to realize is that I shined a lot more working with the teens. I grew more as an individual, and I felt more fulfilled with my work. With the littles, I knew the work I was doing was meaningful and I knew I was making a difference but with the teens, they could TELL me these things and that was the deciding factor. I have always been a passionate person (even too passionate at times), anxious to chase her dreams but it wasn’t until a few years ago when I truly realized my passion for working with youth.

Not all rainbows and butterflies, there were tough days at work – and I mean TOUGH days- that accompanied the good days but that’s what made my work that much sweeter. I worked with teens who didn’t necessarily need me all that much and I worked with teens who really needed my guidance. I worked with teens who were surrounded by support everywhere they turned and I worked with teens who only had us as their cheerleaders and support system. No matter who I was working with, one thing was always true: I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Working at the club was never just a job to me and that’s how I knew I was following my heart and being true to myself. Once I stopped working for money, I became so much happier. Living paycheck to paycheck is definitely exhausting and by no means an ideal situation but no amount of money means anything to me if my heart and soul aren’t happy. Working at the club made my heart and soul happy and that was that. I poured my heart into working with my teens and I feel so blessed to be able to say that I genuinely looked forward to going to work every day. That is the exact reason why it was such a bittersweet decision to leave.

Just as the club had been the one constant in my life over the course of the last five years, it seemed to be the last piece of my puzzle that needed to change and evolve. I reached a point where I knew I had completed my job with my teens. I knew I had done all I could for them and it was time to let someone else come into their lives and help them in their own unique way. It was time for me to move on to a new group of kids that needed my help. It’s been four weeks since I have started this new chapter in my life and I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss those teens like crazy. I would also be lying if I said that I wasn’t thrilled that I took this new job with this new group of kids. I am loving everything about it (challenges and bad days included) and I wouldn’t change where I am today for anything in the world. Plus, I know that on the days I really miss my teens, they are only one visit away.

I took a lot away with me from my work at the club and I know it will stay with my forever and will have a positive impact on my future work with youth. Those teens taught me more than I ever could have anticipated and I owe them a great deal of gratitude for that. They changed me. They made me a better me. They taught me that working with youth is my true passion. They taught me that their accomplishments are the best things to celebrate – even the small ones. They taught me I can do anything I set my mind to. They taught me resilience. They taught me that “Uno” is more than just a card game…it can be a simple avenue for genuine human connection. They taught me true happiness. They taught me that sometimes you just simply need someone to sit with you in your darkest moments. They taught me hope. They taught me that it’s truly special to be given the opportunity to watch them grow up over the span of five years. They taught me that I don’t always have the right answers and that it’s okay. They taught me that dancing it out is always the solution to a bad day. They taught me that life is so beautiful. They taught me authenticity. They taught me compassion. They taught me that being myself is a wonderful thing. They taught me to never give up and to keep fighting for what I want in life. They taught me my purpose.

My last conversation with one of my teens on my last day of work as I’m sitting in my car literally about to back out of my parking space…he came up to my car and knocked on my window. He proceeded to ask me why I had to leave and I told him that I had come to a place where I felt like I had given all I could to them and that it was time for me to move on to a new group of kids who needed help. I continued to tell him that I was trying to be a good role model for them at which point he looked me in the eyes and reassured me, “you’re doing a good thing.”

Those teens will always have a special place in my heart and I will always miss them dearly. My new set of kids will also have a special place in my heart and I know that one day I will have to say goodbye to them also. Until then, I will cherish every day with them and continue to pour my heart and soul into my work.

Meraki

Create.

A couple of months ago I was invited to participate in a writing group that a friend from high school had organized. I was excited to pickup a pen again and add more entries to my journal but I was also apprehensive because it has been a long time since I have really indulged in writing. Life has been busy, chaotic, and tiring, and I have been making more excuses than normal for why I can’t create. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the energy. My mind isn’t in the right space. I’ll get to it another day. That particular day, however, I was able to put my excuses aside, was able to pickup that pen, and was able to feel vulnerable again. The second prompt we were given brought an instant smile to my face. It spoke to my soul. It was obvious at that point that I was supposed to be at that writing group with that amazing group of people, doing what I love. The following is the prompt we were given and the 7-minute response I wrote.

 

“Where is someone with the spirit of the lion ready for the hunt?”

I suppose she had always had the heart of a lion. That’s just the way girls like her are…born with the strength and resilience to take life’s challenges head on. Never one to back down or shy away, she was a natural leader. Where is someone with the spirit of the lion ready to hunt, you ask? It lives within her, thrives within her, burns within her. Years went by before she was able to embrace this quality, this gift she had to offer the world. Too many of her days were spent stifling her strengths for fear of chasing others off. She soon realized that the people she sent running weren’t the people she wanted in her corner anyway. The ones who stayed, the ones who helped fuel and ignite the light inside of her…those were the people she held on to. That was the day she became unstoppable. That was the day she truly embodied the lion heart.

 

Since graduating college a few weeks ago I have been looking forward to picking up my pen more often and just sitting with my thoughts and my journal. I have made excuses for far too long of why I haven’t been writing and I have decided to put a stop to it. There is no room in my life anymore for pushing my passions to the side and having them take a backseat to the mundane motions of every day life. I hope to write more often. I hope to share my writing with as many people as possible. I hope to continue saying ‘yes’ to creating and I hope I can inspire others to do the same.

XO

Create.

Determination & Graduation

 

          Backpacks, highlighters, group projects, index cards, and GPA’s…Seahawk to Wolf to Dragon, to Bearcub to Seawolf…Twenty-one years of my life, almost all of my existence has revolved around school and education. I’m not sure how many hours of sitting in a desk that translates to but it’s a whole hell of a lot. I can also guarantee I’ve spent an absurd amount of money on school supplies (well, I guess my parents can take credit for a lot of that) and way too many days procrastinating – I know I’m far from being alone on that one. I may or may not have skipped some classes on occasion, disobeyed the dress code in high school, and hung-out with the wrong crowd a time or two but I also made amazing lifelong friends – some from kindergarten, and some from preschool (you guys know who you are), challenged myself, and learned more than just the lessons that were taught inside the classroom.

          I’m sitting here three weeks out from my college graduation. THREE WEEKS! A day that I honestly began to lose hope in and thought would never actually come is now only three weeks away and I can’t help but travel back in time to 8th grade. My 8th grade leadership class may seem like a random thought as I’m talking about college but it relates, I promise. The 7th grade portion of our leadership class was on a fieldtrip on this particular day and our teacher graciously took the opportunity to bond with us and set us up for success for our fast-approaching freshman year. There are a few things about that class that I won’t forget but one story has specifically stuck with me all these years. He shared with us that someone had warned him when he was a teen that his high school years were going to pass by in the blink of an eye. He didn’t believe it until he experienced it for himself. One minute he was walking to his classes on the first day of school and the next minute he was at his graduation ceremony. High school definitely went by quickly for me but college? College has been close to a blur. I never set out to spend seven years earning my bachelor’s degree (I still can’t believe I spent that insane amount of time in college) but I have to say that they have been the quickest – definitely not painless – but the quickest years of my life so far. I was literally just sitting down in my English 1A class at SRJC and now I’m prepping for finals my last semester of college.

          84% of my life has been a slave to school and all of the things that go along with it and I’m finally about to be set free. Freedom has to be one of the most exhilarating feelings but I have to be honest and say that I’m scared shitless. I have been living in this safe comfortable box for more years than not and the mere thought of making home in any other unfamiliar box scares me. I know that change is good and necessary and don’t get me wrong, I am beyond elated to start this new chapter in my life but it’s not coming without a fair share of anxiety. A life that was once dictated by college-ruled binder paper and midterm exams will be traded in for a life that will consist of full-time jobs and 401K’s.

          I am thankful for my education. I am thankful for my family’s continued support that started all the way back when I was little. I am thankful for my resilience, determination, and endurance because without it, I wouldn’t be walking across that stage on May 21st. Although I can’t say that I would go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t trade all of these years for anything in the world. They have served their time, though, and I have to move on to bigger things. I am so excited for what’s to come. I know it won’t come without it’s own set of challenges but I think I’m finally ready. My dream of graduating is finally becoming real, it’s finally coming true and as surreal as it still seems, I can’t imagine it coming at a better time. After being in school for so long, “adulting” has never sounded so good. Hello, real world, sayonara college!


#thedreamisreal

Determination & Graduation

Speak.

There are so many words that I just can’t say
Countless phrases I cannot allow to pass my lips
Thoughts you will never know exist within
Because fear
Because risk
Because vulnerability is something I am still trying to learn
You are the sweet disaster
Trampling into my life without warning
Sweeping me off my feet without knowing
Stealing my heart without effort

 

Dare I find it in me to finally speak these lyrics
To find it was all worth it in the end
To wonder why I had never done it sooner
Because courage
Because valor
Because bravery is something that brings the sweetest victories
I am the messy masterpiece
Stumbling on my words without grace
Stifling my thoughts without question
Falling for you without putting up a fight

 

These are the words that I just can’t say
Only a glimpse into the phrases that won’t ever pass my lips
A simple fraction of my feelings that you will forever be blind to
Because anxiety
Because shame
Because humiliation flows through my veins
We could be a beautiful duet
Dancing through life without worry
Loving deeply without regret
Falling for each other without fear

 

If only I could speak.
Speak.