what I learned about home after leaving home.

Having grown up in a town that is one-third the size of the student population of my university, I made it my aim to reject the small-town stereotype attached to my lifestyle as soon  as I moved to college in Columbus. Freshman year is filled with instances and activities in which one question always emerges: “Where are you from?” I used to debate bending the truth just a little when it came to that question just so I wouldn’t have to mutter the once-deemed longest town name of “Washington Court House” just so it could be instantly followed up by “Where is that?” It would simplify things immensely if I were from Dayton or even Cincinnati, places people know by name. But I never did. So in a sea of young adults all more interesting than I, uttering places such as Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston, Long Island, and Los Angeles, I prepared myself for the response of “It’s a really small town halfway between Columbus and Cincinnati on I-71.” This response opens the door for either further questions such as “How many people were in your graduating class?” or just the simple visual assumption of cornfields and county fairs. Okay, that assumption isn’t wrong. And as much as I enjoy the lights of the city and my access to endless entertainment at my fingertips, I can’t deny that part of me that looked forward to our county fair for months. I can’t forget that little girl who spent her summers outside in the barn telling her 9 year old problems to the cows. That little girl still lives inside of me.

I recently returned home from a 3 week trip to India. In case you’re wondering that’s 8,600 miles from my hometown.  When this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself to me, I, of course, said yes. However,  I had no idea what I was really getting myself into. In fact, my knowledge of Indian geography was at the level of me falsely identifying Dubai as part of the country of India, at the dinner table with my Indian host family, no less. Dubai is actually part of a country known as United Arab Emirates, just in case you may have made the same assumption as me. Anyway, my very limited expectations were shattered and identifying my experiences as “culture shock” would be an understatement. It was when I was in this beautiful, new country that I started thinking about my little home, 8,600 miles away. No, it wasn’t a case of homesickness. It was simply a case of my eyes being opened in a whole new way.

In case you haven’t experienced this feeling, I’ll describe it for you briefly. When you are surrounded by the unknown, and by unknown, I mean the culture couldn’t be more opposite, you acquire a sense of childlike observational abilities. I was able to leave my adult eyes at home, the eyes that see what I expect and grow accustomed to routine and familiarity. I was surprised and even challenged by the most ordinary of tasks and sights. I had to relearn how to take a shower, this time using only a bucket, pitcher, and stream of cold water. As locals hurried past the cows and dogs on the streets, I stopped to take photos, I simply couldn’t believe that cows just wandered around through the crazy traffic. The first time I was in a car in India, I thought it was a near-death experience, only to discover that it was just a day with surprisingly light traffic. Everything was new. Everything was different. And my eyes saw it all. I was hyper-aware of my surroundings. I would often envision in my mind the Earth as a whole and I would mentally zoom in and out, trying to wrap my brain around the distance I had traveled. It’s quite unfortunate that it takes a trip around the world to really see things. This is one of the many reasons that traveling is a priceless endeavor. I acknowledge that is an immense privilege to be able to do it and I consider it one of my biggest blessings.

My trip was quite unlike a typical tourist experience. I was traveling alongside my best friend, who calls Bangalore, India home. I was able to meet many of her family members in several different parts of the country, all of whom provided us with a traditional Indian meal. Each dish was a flashback to my best friend’s childhood. What was new to me, was a familiar home comfort for her. The customs, culture, and food were all part of her version of home, something which I never considered the past three years I have known her; I have only experienced her life in Ohio. This trip reaffirmed my recognition of her courage. I can’t imagine the courage it took to move to another country by yourself in which you know no one.

I began defining the aspects of my home. I came to the realization that home may be a geographical location, but it is mostly defined by a feeling. Home is a place to be comfortable. Home is the beginning of your story. No matter what page of your story you are on now, you must recognize that the first page started wherever it is you call home. And without the people at home, your family, you wouldn’t be where you are today or in the future. So as much as you disagree politically with your family or as much as you’ve grown since leaving home, I think that there is value in acknowledging its significance. It is a very important part of what makes you, you.

I thrive on new experiences and one of my greatest joys in life is discovering new places. I fear stagnancy. I love flying in airplanes. That feeling in your stomach when the plane hits the ground after being in the air for thousands of miles crossing over oceans and continents, gives me an adrenaline rush. I love adventures. But I also love home, and there is nothing wrong with that.

 

Stay curious, fellow blog readers 🙂

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all one’s lifetime. -Mark Twain

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what is content? 

Our society has instilled in us a certain value on productivity. It has reached a point where we feel shame when we aren’t stressed to the point of breaking down. If we’re not struggling, we’re not doing enough. It’s the reason I feel guilty for sleeping in. It is the reason that some majors are shamed for not being marketable or not leading to a job with a six figure salary. It is the reason that the majority of our population is sleep deprived. It is the reason that so many people start the year with a resolution to be better. This idea thrives in our world because comparison is so readily available. Mediums for comparison are at our finger tips. They are flashed in our face through marketing campaigns and advertisements. You can’t open your phone without comparing your life to those you follow on Instagram and Facebook. 

I was thinking the other day about what it means to be content. And I came to the conclusion that; we aren’t. We’re never content. It is such a rarity that it escapes many of our daily lives. In this world of “never enough”, we’ve lost sight of content. Maybe it’s because content seems so far away from most of us. We think that if we just get a better car or a nicer house or a promotion, that then we will be content. But in my self-reflection of defining content, I discovered that content can’t happen in the future. The very nature of content is present tense. Content is saying “There is no place I’d rather be than right here in this moment.” Content involves accepting exactly where you are and realizing that you are happy. When I really thought about content, I discovered that my version of content actually has nothing to do with money or material items, sometimes content can’t even be represented with tangible things. Content, to me, is taking in a view of a place I’ve never seen before. Content is walking down the streets of downtown Columbus. Content is spending time with quality friends, without having having to rush off anywhere. Content is a conversation in which nothing is held back, an expression of real, raw emotion. Content is fresh air or a walk outside. Content is perfection within the imperfection. Content is listening to your latest favorite song. Content is a really good hug. Content is, actually, not that far away. I think we can be content everyday. But maybe we have to try a little bit. I challenge you to find what it is that makes you content. What is it that you have right now that makes you content? Find it. It’s there. But our world can be overwhelmingly scary and dark. So instead of falling into its trap of hopelessness, find your content. 

when you’re 21.

When you’re 21 you can feel lost. You can feel like you don’t really know who you are or what you want to do. You can feel like you’ve come so far but are nowhere near where you want to be. You can feel so small. You can feel intimidated just by walking down the street. You can feel like you still have to prove your worth to the world. You can feel completely alone. 

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent contemplating these thoughts. And I always conclude with confusion. I never really come up with any answers. This is just a phase of my life, I guess. There will be a point in my life when I don’t feel these things. When I don’t get nervous sick going into a job interview. When I don’t live in an old, un-air conditioned house with four roommates and no front door. When I don’t get scared by adults. When I don’t feel like I have to justify all of my personal decisions.  When I don’t have to mentally debate every purchase I ever make. At least I think that time will come. But even if it does, I’m sure every age has its difficulties and I’m doing my best to enjoy the positives that 21 brings. 

And as overwhelming as these thoughts can be, I think I have more answers than I originally thought. Yes, defining myself is hard. It’s also unnecessary. But even if I don’t know exactly who I am, I know what I’m not. Have you ever noticed that that there are some, many even, types of people that we know we could never be? I’m not that confused. I know I am not going to a lawyer, law school would chew me up and spit me out. I know I would never survive in the corporate business world. I know I would never tolerate half of the relationships my friends are in, in which they claim to be ‘in love’. I know I could never reside in a place where there aren’t lots of people and lots of things happening all of the time. I know I don’t want to have the same job or live in the same place for my whole life. I know that I will never be able to perfectly parallel park. I know that I will never stop loving ice cream or cereal, even though I know they have lots of carbs. I know that I will never stop wanting to see as much of the world as I possibly can. I know that I don’t ever want to stop writing, even if I never publish the book I dream of writing. I know that I will never stop relating to my dog more than I relate to most people. I know that I will never stop requiring adequate amounts of alone time. I know that I’ll never have myself completely figured out. 

I do think I’ve gotten better though. I remember when I was a freshman in college and the pressure to define yourself in a way that other people liked and understood was at an all-time high. I was in a new place. People didn’t know my high school reputation or really anything about me. It was a clean slate. How did I want to be perceived? I remember struggling a lot with this. I pretended to be having fun when I really wasn’t. I had a lot of surface-level friends that didn’t stay in my life for long. I started imitating what I was surrounded by instead of figuring out myself. I had a turn-around the summer after I completed one year at Ohio State. After many conversations with my parents in which I explained that I was simply unhappy, I decided to change my major after contemplating options as drastic as taking a year off from college. My sophomore year, things changed. And sometimes it wasn’t easy, because when college is so expensive there is a lot of pressure to know exactly what you want to do. But for one semester, I had no fucking idea. And it was so great. I enjoyed learning again. I eventually figured it out and I am so thankful for this transitional period. 

And maybe 21 is just a transitional period. And I know that one day I will look back and, even if things are completely different, I will be thankful for this time. 

“Do your thing. Do it unapologetically. Don’t be discouraged by criticism. You probably already know what they are going to say. Pay no mind to the fear of failure. It’s far more valuable than success. Take ownership, take chances, and have fun. And no matter what, don’t ever stop doing your thing.” – Asher Roth

carrot sticks and cold brew coffee. 

“This has to be an interesting post with a name like that,” is what I know you’re thinking. Well, really, I just happen to be eating carrot sticks and drinking cold brew coffee at the time of writing this post, so I guess you could say they were the inspiration behind this forthcoming collection of thoughts. Please keep reading anyway. 

You know that period of time before you are about to do something you’ve never done? You start imagining what this new adventure is going to be like. You think of how it’s going to make you feel, what it’s going to look like, the setting, the atmosphere, and the vibes of this new place. You think about what you’ll wear and what you’ll do. We spend all of this time imagining but we’re always wrong. Maybe not about everything, but there is going to be something that happens on this new adventure that you weren’t expecting. And there’s no way to prepare. There is no possible way to imagine or predict correctly this human experience. Should you stop trying to imagine? I could tell you that but I know I couldn’t. My imagination never really slowed down from the time I was 5 to now. Maybe that’s just an Allison-ism but my mind could keep imagining endlessly. I try to imagine situations and places that are no where close to anything I could possibly predict. And I’m always surprised because reality shatters my dreams. This sounds so negative but I don’t mean it in that way. I mean that the more you imagine, the more you are surprised. This is why I love imagining and also adventuring. I love having my expectations shattered and I love seeing and feeling things that I could’ve never imagined.

Maybe I should clarify my definition of adventure. Adventure, to me, is something, anything, that is new to you. It could be as simple as taking a different route to class or walking through a city you’ve never been to. It can be starting a new job or ordering something new at a restaurant. And although some adventures aren’t life-changing, they’re essential to making your life interesting.  

My dad used to always tell me I lived in my own little world. And maybe that was because I spent more time in tee ball games picking flowers in the outfield or looking at the clouds. Or maybe it’s because during my ballet lessons as a child, my mom would sit outside and hear the instructor say “Allison! Pay attention!” countless times in every lesson. But he says this still, even after my attention span has improved beyond the limits of a five year old. Even now, as I sit in class as a college student, I’d be lying if I said that I sat in class for three hours and listened attentively and took notes the whole time. That’s not how I work. I almost have to be imagining the concepts I’m learning and their place in my life and the lives of others. I learn best when I can apply a concept to something specific and easy to remember, like a story, rather that a list of vocabulary or theories. This is helpful in most classes but in others I sometimes have to force my distracted imagination to stop for awhile, which is so hard to do. This is why I can’t tell you how to calculate enthalpy change using Hess’ Law or the valence electron configuration of any of the transitional elements. I somewhat understood these topics at some point during chemistry my freshman year, but they have long left my brain. I can’t even blame my imagination on this one, I’m just really bad at chemistry.

But going back to imagination, I think it’s place in my life makes me who I am. And maybe I spend too much time with it. But I definitely spend time in the real world too. I understand that there is hurting and suffering happening all around me. I understand, or at least am beginning to understand, the current state of our world and the need for change. And there is so much that I don’t understand still, and I recognize this. But even in my “daydreamer” life, I am far from a naive millennial that I’m often assumed to be. Using imagination can be a strength too. The real world is known for kicking your ass. And if you spend too much time there, you will get burnt out. Imagination is place to escape without actually leaving your house. So, keep dreaming, people. I mean it. Even if you think I’m crazy. 

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” – Lewis Carroll 

vulnerability: my love and simultaneous hate

Vulnerability is a word that scares most people. Being vulnerable is equivalent to putting yourself out there, sharing a part of yourself that others can’t see by just looking at you, or expressing your own pain, fears, and passions. Vulnerability undeniably opens the door to a part of you that others could judge or reject.

Yet, I still believe that vulnerability is an opening for greatness. I believe that vulnerability is real and raw and a part of every human. I believe that without becoming vulnerable we can’t truly create, express, or build relationships. Vulnerability allows us to release our humanness and gives others the opportunity to either grab it and hold on tight or run away. It’s the possibility of running away that scares us. What if you’re trying desperately for that person to stay? Becoming vulnerable doesn’t seem like the way to do it. But I say that if you can’t become vulnerable around someone without them running away, let them run. Your vulnerabilities make you, you. What you’re passionate about, what you’re scared of, what your opinions are, what in your past has changed you, what you struggle with, what you’re thinking about at 3 am, what makes you sad, what makes you truly happy, what makes you feel weird…those things make you the exact person that you are. 1 in 7 billion.

I’m not sure why we deny vulnerability so much because everyone has something that makes them feel vulnerable. But we do. I can think of countless times where I feel vulnerability every day. We don’t want to appear weak or unworthy of belonging. I fear that my vulnerabilities could potentially connect me to a series of adjectives that I don’t want to be associated with.

If we could push past our vulnerabilities, imagine what would result. Just saying “I’m me and you’re you and we’re both struggling with something now and we’ll continue to have struggles in the future but that’s okay. Let’s just go get some ice cream.” That’s a world I want to live in, a world with more truth and openness about what makes us vulnerable and a world with more ice cream.

 

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of  courage. -Brené Brown

it’s been awhile.

I have thirty-five drafts currently saved on my blog that are yet to be posted. Why aren’t they posted? To be honest, there isn’t a real excuse. Part of it is that when I’m writing a blog post, my mind sometimes gets overwhelmed with thoughts I’ve had recently and sorting through them, trying to figure out if each one fits into the overall idea that I’m trying to convey is quite exhausting. Another reason is that I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to these posts, which is strange in the fact that one of my main reasons for beginning my blog was to provide a platform for myself to expressively write without having to conform to academic rules. However, I have to say, that removing the deadlines that accompany academic writing, you also remove the urgency and sometimes the drive to complete and actually finish work. I’m not surprised but I do have to admit that without deadlines, sometimes work, even if the work is important to us, slips lower and lower on our priority lists as most of our time is taken up by, dare I say it, our day jobs.

I think the last post I published was in May or early June and I am quite upset with myself. Not for any reason other than the fact that I feel as if the only thing stopping me was the lack of mental willpower to commit, at least a portion of my time, to writing. As disappointed as you may be, this post is not going to be about my lack of mental willpower. I could write for pages on that but for one, many people would find that exceedingly boring and for two, I don’t find a purpose in deeply analyzing any negative trait of mine.

My summer has kind of been a whirlwind of activity. I’m currently enjoying a well-needed break, at least until Monday when I move back to campus and the chaos begins again. Without going into too many personal details that would bore you guys to death, I’ll just say that I was challenged by my own mental priority list. My problem was that with different aspects of my life pulling me in different directions, I tried to keep each section separate and happy. This is impossible though if you don’t want to have a breakdown after two weeks. Unfortunately, you don’t gain any more hours of the day based on how much you have to do. Everyone only gets twenty four. We all have to spend a majority of our lives working. We also have our own personal lives that we must push along by doing activities such as laundry and grocery shopping and paying bills. Then there are our social lives, whether it be friends or family, that usually get pushed to the bottom of our priority list when we’re busy. Then there are things you must do to stay alive like eating and sleeping. Believe it or not, those things are important, you need to make them a priority if you want to continue working your ass off. The problem with priority lists is that each section is completely individual. It would be nice if your work called and said. “I noticed you haven’t spent very much time with your family lately, why don’t you take the day off?” But they don’t. Each priority list item just takes what it wants without any regards towards other items on your list. Priorities can run you into the ground if you let them, I learned. Each priority has value, and we forget that. You have to respect and make time for each one, even when it feels like it’s impossible. Don’t sacrifice sleep for work,  because your body can’t handle it and in the end your work will suffer. The more time you allow one item to take, the more the other items will suffer. The more items on your priority list you have, the less time you can commit to each one, so you have to carefully decide which ones make the list at all. What I’ve learned is sometimes you have to say no, which is hard if you’re like me and just making everyone around happy, makes you happy.

Maybe you have to sit down and think about what is important enough to go on your list or maybe you already know and just need to consciously remind yourself. What you have to remember is that choosing to commit time to one things is also choosing to take time away from something else. Don’t take time away from something that is important to you, because it might start to remove itself from your priority list, and it might be something you really liked.

“No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams.”  – Maya Mendoza

 

 

humans with faces.

One of my jobs this summer is an internship with SON Ministries in Hilliard, Ohio where we hold a summer camp for children from low income families that provides a free lunch among other things. This is the 10th summer for this camp and thousands of meals have been served through the years. As part of our training, the executive director for the organization provided an overview of the camp’s past success so that we would understand the expectations for this year. The point of me explaining this is because she said something that made me think. Instead of just saying “We have served 72,866 meals since 2007.”, she said “We have served 72,866 meals to humans with faces since 2007.” It sounded strange to me. Obviously humans have faces. However the reason she said this was because we hear statistics every day of our lives. They start to lose their shock value and their impact on our thoughts after awhile. If we think about 72,866 meals, we think that’s a lot of food. But if we think about who that food is feeding, it’s different. Each child that receives that meal is a human being with unique characteristics, an individual personality, personal interests, talents, strengths, and feelings. They are living and breathing and they are more than a statistic. The amount of children we feed is impressive, but more so is the amount of young humans we have the privilege of building relationships with through serving them food.

This is so important. Because we forget. We forget that each person we come into contact with is a human being with a perspective of the world as unique as our own. The world is filled with 7 billion people, it’s easy to forget.  I see people forgetting all of the time. This a problem because when a person is continuously treated as if they are unworthy of being treated as a human being, then they begin to believe it.

So that person that messed up your order, they’re a human. The person who pulled out in front of you without a turn signal, they’re a human. A human with a face. A living, breathing life as valuable as any other. So treat them as such.