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

adventure awaits.

Unfortunately for us, the most common question a stranger will inquire about us is “What do you do for a living?/What are you studying?” (if you’re a student). Why is this unfortunate? Because it indirectly means they’re judging you. Even with the most kind and naive intentions, this question is forming the basis of other’s opinion about you. Other than your name, it is what people associate you by. However, I could care less about what someone does for a living, I want to know their passions, which might be what they do for a living, but it might not be. I’m curious about what makes their heart beat fast and what they could talk for hours about without taking a breath. Anyway, what’s more important to me is where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. Your adventures. Your experiences are far more valuable than money. So, if you want to have adventures, let me explain some basic rules.

  1. Having adventures does not mean you have to travel somewhere far away.                         …Or actually travel at all. Although at some point in your life you should travel far, not all your adventures have to be somewhere on the other side of the world. To me, adventures can be discovering something that has be right in front of your eyes, just looking at it in a new way.
  2.  Don’t go to see something specific, go and discover and look beyond what you’re expecting.                                                                                                                                                   Don’t go to see, go AND see. Often when we have plans to travel, we also have expectations. Expectations and planning can give us a basis for what our adventure will entail, but don’t make an itinerary. Adventuring involves exploring, trying new things, and looking beyond what you’re expecting to see to find the extraordinary.
  3.  Don’t limit yourself.                                                                                                                       The point of adventuring is going beyond what you would experience in a normal day. So don’t apply any limitations. Try things that scare you. Try things that put you out of your comfort zone. More often than not, you’ll probably surprise yourself with your ability to learn a new skill or do something you’ve never done before.
  4. Don’t go with predetermined expectations.                                                                        There is no possible way to expect or predict what you will see and discover, the magnitude is unfathomable until you experience it in real life. So don’t even bother coming with prepared itineraries or images of where you’re going. The fact is that your plans will change. It is inevitable. They an change for a multitude of reasons, most of which are out of your control. So instead of setting your minute-to-minute plans up for failure, don’t make any, especially if your one of those people that gets upset when things don’t go according to plan.
  5. You can’t plan fun.                                                                                                                               It is true. Enter each new opportunity with an open mind, even if it seems like something you normally wouldn’t do, it might be really fun. It might also suck but you will never know unless you embrace every opportunity that comes your way. Some of the most fun you’ll have might be not really doing anything at all but simply having a mini adventure with awesome people that make you laugh.
  6. Do something you’ve never done before.                                                                                 The key to a fulfilled life, at least in my opinion, is having a balance between change and routine. When you’re adventuring, embrace change. Throw your routine out the window for  at least a few hours. Try living like someone else. Or try a new flavor of ice cream (because, let’s be honest, there’s not a bad one). Learn a new language, or at least a few words. Try painting. And if you’re already a painter, try a new medium. Listen to a band you’ve never heard before, preferably one that isn’t widely known. Adventure can be anything, but once it becomes a new norm for you, find something else new to try.
  7. See old things in a new way.                                                                                                             So maybe you’re in desperate need of an adventure but don’t have the opportunity to even leave your house. Fear not! One of the most important aspects of adventuring is clearing your mind of the preconceived and opening doors to new ways of thought. If you’re stuck at home, look out your window. I bet there are things you’ve looked at a million times but have never seen. Take some time to notice what is around you. The sad part about life is that beautiful things happen all around us, natural phenomena so perfect and extraordinary that it takes your breath away. These things will continue to happen whether your  notice them or not. They are always happening at a constant pace and they don’t stop if you’re too busy to notice them. Maybe wake up a little earlier to watch the sun rise. Or take a moment and just watch as it’s raining. Listen to the birds chirp (you’ll miss them when they’re gone for the winter).

The recipe for adventure can be as simple or as complex as you can make it. And I urge you to have adventures, both big and small. Never let a busy and monotonous schedule keep you trapped inside a cage from which you feel you cannot escape. The hope is that we have the power to choose our own adventures. So, go!

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time your spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

circumstantial happiness.

As hard as it can be sometimes, you have to find happiness in this moment right now. Too often, we depend on circumstances, or more potential circumstances to make us happy. It is important to set goals, even little goals, but there is a difference between having goals and creating an internal list that results in perpetual dissatisfaction.

Even if you want to get better or you are ashamed of where you’re at, you have to realize that there is something, most of the time many things, that are going right. The truth is  when you make a list of things that will make you happy, you’re essentially also deciding that you’re not happy right now.

“Realize you can be happy this moment for no reason. Otherwise, you eternally depend on conditions for happiness. Unconscious of this moment, you remain a victim of circumstances.”

Even when you wake up to your alarm, not even close to being fully rested, when yesterdays problems rush back into your mind only this time they are accompanied by the problems of today too, the only thing pulling your body out of bed is the fact that you have to be somewhere soon, and when you feel far away from happiness. Those are your circumstances now. And you will likely have different circumstances in the future. But your happiness doesn’t have to depend on your circumstances. This is a choice though. And many people chose future happiness over present happiness. Happiness actually doesn’t depend on circumstances, it is  state of mind. Being happy now can actually give you more motivation to continue striving towards making improvements in the future.

what to do when you’re not saving the world.

I believe in moments. I’m a person who fears monotony and I believe that it is in those little, unexpected moments that we can avoid monotony. I believe in constantly discovering and trying new things. I’m undeniably scared of falling into a routine that remains the same every day. I am afraid of being in one place for too long. Here’s the thing though, the nature of life allows for only a select few of those redefining moments. Maybe your breath will be taken away today, but maybe it wont.  Then what?

I’m having trouble dealing with the reality which is that everyday can’t be life-changing. I understand this idea, but it is hard when it seems like you haven’t had a moment in a long time. So when you’re not climbing a mountain or making a difference or changing the world, what do you do?

Choose optimism. I know this sounds anything but original but there is power in making something great about everyday. There will be days when your faith will be restored in humanity and I hope you have a lot of those days but there will also be days when you will be reminded that this world sucks. But I hope that chose to see the parts that don’t suck. I hope you forgive the people who do you wrong, whether they cut you off, didn’t use their turn signal or stole from you, I hope you don’t lose your hope in humanity. Complaining, especially about other people or really anything at all removes moments in time where you could be thanking God for surrounding us with an amazing world. Complaining sells the world short. Find the ways that make it great and believe in those ways despite the others.

Have little adventures. And I mean little. Your adventure might be reading a book for a few minutes or it might be talking a longer walk to class while listening to some good music. Some adventures are really BIG! And you might have your expectations set high but that doesn’t mean that normal days don’t have something special to offer.

Accept it. Even though your Instagram profile shows nothing but you taking hikes or helping feed the hungry or dressing up for fancy parties there might be days where you’re sitting in sweat pants surrounded by piles of homework, and its okay if that’s all you do that day. Just don’t make that everyday.

I hope you have an adventure today. Thanks for supporting my blog today and always.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels…These things are your becoming. -Cheryl Strayed

 

Idealism vs. Practicality

This is a war I face everyday. It’s a tight war, it isn’t a battle where one side clearly has the upper hand. And I’m really stuck. Do I do what love? Or do I do what is practical? If only I was involved, the choice would be easy. But I am not the only one involved. There is money to worry about and time and the job market and a lot of other shit that makes my decision seem like either way I chose, it will be wrong.

One of the things I do when I don’t know something is I listen to other people, I see what they have experienced. I’ve listened to people say to follow the idealism route, the route that won’t make you rich but will make you happy. They tell you to live in the moment and love what you do. Then I hear the people that say, “You’re never going to love what you do, at least not all of the time.”

I know that I in no way have enough life experience to give anyone advice on this matter but I think the decision isn’t as two sided as I like to think it is. Practicality? Who is to tell me whether or not I’m living a practical life. To me, practicality is subjective. Maybe some people think it’s practical to go to college and earn a four-year degree and then immediately get married and have kids, all while having a stable and financially secure job. Although this seems pretty practical to me, it might not be everyone’s definition of practicality. Some people thrive on financial security and need that in their life while others accept the fact that they’re going to have to live on less while they pay for things like traveling and higher education. Idealism on the other hand, although subjective, can also be practical. I still think that’s possible! I’m not trying to be naive, I know everyday can’t be amazing because that would actually take away from your really good days but I do think that there is a way to made your version of ideal, practical. It might take some thinking, it’s not going to be a direct route or the same one that everyone takes.

I’m inspired by the people living a idealistic life and when I hear about them I begin to think it would be possible for me. When I hear about people who took on the world head on and found a purpose doing what they love , I realize it is possible. Find those people and listen to them. Find a role model let them help you.

Right now, I don’t have a plan anymore. I can’t tell you where I’ll be in ten years but that’s exciting. I’m learning so much and actually enjoying it. I actually have time to explore and learn and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. Before I reached this conclusion though, I was scared. The unknown used to scare me but now I realize it is more scary to stay on a path I knew wasn’t for me.

So I think our new goal shouldn’t be deciding which one we should choose. We should have a goal to find a way to make our version of ideal practical and to do so we might even need to adjust our definition of practicality.

The Power of Prayer

While I was in Harlem one of the things we did was go on a prayer walk throughout the community, we made some stops and prayed for the places we stopped at, that they would be accepting of everyone, that they would only be used for good, that somehow people could connect with God when they visited each place, and that the city would continue to grow and thrive in positive ways. The stops included a church, a park, and 125th St, which was the main area of Harlem with stores and businesses. Prayer is not a new idea to me. I’ve prayed countless times in my life. What I didn’t realize is that I was often distracted from my faith. Not even in bad ways, I was distracted by things like school, work, and family. All of these aspects of my life are necessary but as I look back, even just a year ago, I found my prayers were often cries for help, a last resort when my earthly attempts to solve my problems had failed. The prayer walk allowed me to realize the power of prayer. The problems in Harlem were big. A lot of challenges that our team encountered were the feelings of not being able to do enough. Although we did our best, the community was still struggling with large populations of homelessness and poverty. We never expected to be able to go for a week and miraculously solve every problem but a feeling of sadness came over us as we realized the people we helped feed each day were still going to be hungry when we left and returned to Ohio. I learned that praying should happen when times are really good, as well as when we are in need of the most help. This seems obvious but I think it is more difficult to find the time/need to pray when we feel very happy/blessed. God deserves thanks! He is the creator of every good thing. Every good thing. I can’t even begin to think of every good thing God has placed in my life but I know it is much more than I could ever thank Him for. My goal is to try harder though.

Not only did I realize the power in giving God thanks but also in asking for help. As humans, we are hesitant to ask for help, from anyone. Society and maybe even people in our own lives lead us to believe that we are weak if we can’t do something on our own. For me, it wasn’t so much that I thought I didn’t need help, but that I didn’t ask for it enough. Praying should be the first thing I do in attempting to solve a problem/struggle, not the last. I am trying harder to pray before things I know will be challenging. Overall, I am trying harder to pray MORE. The truth is that the world has really big problems and although we can make a difference, we can’t solve them by ourselves.

The scope of things we can pray for is infinite. God wants to hear our voice, He knows we live in a fallen creation and He knows that we can’t do it alone. That was another thing Harlem taught me, I never thought to pray over building for the future that lies ahead. I never though to pray in a park that it would not be known as a dangerous place but that people would see God in the beautiful nature. Sometimes we need reminded of that, that we can pray about everything, there is no aspect of life that God doesn’t want to be a part of.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4 : 6-7

A Little Unrealistic

Have you ever watched your favorite movie or TV show and after it left you awestruck, you came to the realization that it’s not real. We don’t want to believe that the characters are only actors because we get emotionally attached. As pathetic as that sounds, and I’m really not that much of TV watcher, it sometimes makes me sad to remember that the surgeons on Grey’s Anatomy aren’t actually saving lives and they aren’t even real doctors. The lives they play are so much more interesting than the truth, which is that series of theatrical illusions create the atmosphere of a surgery and talented actors perform convincing roles of actual medical practices. The believable young child inside of me holds on to the idea that the medical miracles and the relationships are reality. This is just one example.

This is not the only aspect of life in which we want to believe fantasy. Even if it’s not as evident as television. The reality of life is that is isn’t going to be interesting, at least not all of the time. When we have a goal, we often think of only the end result, because that is the best part! We never think about the sometimes millions of steps that it takes to get there. We only look at the top of the mountain, even if we are still at the base of the mountain, 12,000 feet below the peak. Even if we have no idea when or how we will get there I think everyone has a “dream house” or a “dream job”. I am nineteen and a college student, I don’t have any money and any money I do have is going to pay for education, yet I know what kind of counter tops and cabinets I want in my “dream kitchen” (Thanks to my sister for marathon watching HGTV ). I have no idea how I will ever get to the position where I will be able to create my dream kitchen, it might be never, but again, I am only thinking of the end result.

I am a firm believer in dreaming without limits and I think we all need to have fantasies in our head, even if we know they will never become reality because it instills imagination in the adult thought process which is so often ripped from our minds. The science behind things, the realities of how life works takes our imaginations and rips them to shreds. Sometimes I wish I still had the child-like ideas that scientific processes are magic and just happen, because that is so much more interesting and fun than learning the theories and formulas behind everyday phenomenon.

Because the thing that we might often forget is that the bigger we dream, the harder is to get there. And there will be those nights or days or even brief moments where we will feel lost or forget why or what it is we’re working for. So, continue to dream, even at all the wrong times, just do it. I find it instills inspiration in me and also takes your mind away from reality for a moment, because sometimes it’s really hard and reality can be brutal and unfair.

I guess what I’m saying is that in a brutally realistic world, it is okay, rewarding even, to be a little unrealistic once in awhile. Even if it’s just for a few moments.

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies and I think it fits with this post, at least a little.

So dare to dream. Dream your wildest dreams. You can climb the highest mountain. You can drown in a teacup, if you find a big enough teacup. And if someone tells you that you can’t do something, you say, ‘Yes I can. ‘Cause I’m doing it right now!’ -Barry, Dinner for Schmucks