Unapologetically Me

I am not perfect nor do I try to be. But I do like the way I am. I’d do anything for my friends and family and I put my heart and soul into my friendships and relationships. A ‘fault’ of mine is that I care a lot about my friends’ well-being and would do anything for them. I’ll keep your secrets and listen to your problems. A silver lining can be found in nearly every situation; I’ll be your voice of reason and devil’s advocate. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader and I’ll encourage you to pursue your dreams.  I may not always remember names or specific details in stories, but I’ll listen and be present in the moment for you. I’ll be there to support you, and give a shoulder to cry on or a couch to sleep on. I’ll offer my advice and give hugs because well, I’m a hugger. I’ll try to make you happy. When I can’t fix something or make things better, I feel like I’ve failed you as a friend. When a close friend hurts, I hurt. I want to save the world, personally and professionally; I want to make the world a better place. I want to make a difference and impact lives. I want to make your world a better place. I’m an honest person and yes, my directness often gets me in trouble, but I think lies are cowardly. I treat everyone with respect, friend or foe. Life is short and precious and I do my best not to hold on to anger or grudges nor do I like going to bed angry; you never know what tomorrow will bring. I take people at their word which also means I’m gullible sometimes. I am cautious and selective about who I trust, but then I still trust too easily. I always see the best in people even after they prove me wrong and I give more chances than most deserve. I have a lot of self-control, determination, and a deep awareness of my true Self. I love unabashedly and unconditionally with everything in my being. I like nature and camping, sports and going on adventures, but I also like luxury hotels, being pampered, and getting dressed up all fancy. I love spontaneity, but I also like to plan. Hell, I still keep a paper planner. I make friends in elevators and in supermarket lines because I talk to everyone and strike up conversations with strangers, but I can still be shy in certain social situations. I can be gregarious and outgoing but can also be socially awkward. I’m not a good runner, but I run. I’m a firm believer in marriage equality and equal rights, yet am traditional with my relationships and believe in chivalry. I’m an open book and will talk about pretty much anything but still private about some things. I am a big dork about many things and when I’m comfortable, I’m super goofy and weird. I realize I also take things too seriously sometimes. I’ve shared many other random things about myself here and there. I believe in expressing gratitude daily and I always try to focus on the positive. I own the fact that being lactose intolerant, health-conscious, and mostly vegetarian makes me a picky eater and finding restaurants to eat at with me is often difficult. At the end of the day, I know I’ve grown a lot in the last couple years and I am proud of the woman I have become. Maybe some would consider it a fault to be so honest, bold, confident and independent; to care so much about my friends, to take things too seriously yet be goofy, but I’m okay with all of this because this is who I am. I am me. I’m unapologetically me.

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On Control and Learning to Let Go

“You can’t always choose what happens to you in this life but you sure as hell can choose how you respond and react to it.” –Brixston

Control is a funny thing.

Growing up I was a goodie-two-shoes. I didn’t want to get in trouble so I always did what I was told; I respected authority and the elderly. I was sure to always say my please and thank you’s. I’ve never been arrested or broken any (serious) laws. I never did drugs nor did I drink at all until I went abroad my second semester junior year. I’ve never had that random kiss in a bar or one-night stand; I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been sick from drinking too much. I make lists so I don’t forget things and will often take ownership of something to make sure it gets done. I always sat in the front of the class, turned my homework in on time and I never played hooky from class. My bills are always paid on time; I take daily vitamins, work out, I eat very healthy and watch everything I put in my mouth. I realize I unintentionally take some things too serious, like jokes and some aspects of relationships. I used to care a lot what people thought and tried to please everyone. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a planner. I try to get to the airport with time to spare and always have at least a quarter tank of gas. I’ve always been overcautious, meticulous and constantly trying to do the right thing. I could go on…

While a select few things have changed, most have not. And I would not change who I am.

But in the past 6 months, there have been multiple serious life-changing events, that were both good and bad, that despite all my efforts and precautions, still happened. And there is absolutely nothing I could have done differently. All of it was completely out of my control.

While I cannot control the outcomes, I can control how I react and respond to the situations.

It is frustrating and defeating at first, and it is okay to have those feelings. But rather than dwell and wallow, I’ve chosen to focus on the positive aspects that I can take away from it. What can I learn? How can this situation make me a better person? What is the positive in this particular situation? How can I use my situation to help someone else?

I’ve learned that the Universe often has its own plans. No matter how much you try to be in command of the situation, to do all right things, say the right things, be in the right place, and to protect yourself against the dangers of life, sometimes you just have to let go, take some risks, love freely and live a little because some things are just out of your control.

The Bittersweet One Year Anniversary {Parallel Universes}

Today would have been my one year wedding anniversary.

I’m struggling with this. It is a very surreal and strange thing to process. How has it already been a year? It is crazy to think how fast time has flown by and all that has happened in the past year. Had I gotten married, NOT ONE event of this past year would have happened. Not.a.single.one. Think about that for a minute. Crazy, eh? It is stop-in-your-tracks and mind-numbing to think what could have been. It is even more wild to think that all the memories I have now from this past year would not exist. That’s such a strange to think about. Where would I be today?

Today is also the day I celebrate my one year anniversary of starting my assent up Mount Kilimanjaro.  I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that feat; a feat that I am still in disbelief that I DID; a feat that I have to look at photos to believe sometimes. And that would not have happened had I been celebrating the wedding anniversary.

So instead of cutting into and eating the top-tier of my wedding cake and exchanging paper gifts, I am alone looking through photos from when I climbed Kilimanjaro. It was ironic, it was coincidental, no it was Kismet, that it fell on the same day. I couldn’t have planned that better if I tried.

It is this parallel universe of celebrating two anniversaries; like looking down a kaleidoscope and seeing an alternate life. It’s like Sliding Doors; seeing what your life might have been if one decision was different. I’m proud of all that I’ve done, accomplished and am experiencing; of how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned about myself. But I miss him and wonder what our life would be like.

I know where I live now, who I’ve met, and the things I’ve done – none of it would have happened. My outlook on life would be different. I know I am much more positive and grateful for the little things; I would not be who I am today, that’s for sure. So much would be different. I’d be a Mrs.

There are those things we look forward to all year; we set goals, we hit milestones, we meet new people, we plan vacations, we advance in or change jobs. We have experiences that we expected and others that we never could have predicted. We grow another year older, wiser.  Yet the one thing that is consistent in all of it, is that time doesn’t stop. With that, every decision we make leads us on down a new path, and we must learn from our experiences. I guess having both anniversaries on the same day, makes today easier to swallow; it puts life and the choices we make into perspective.

Today is, and always will be a bittersweet day. Two anniversaries in one; today I celebrate both what I accomplished and what could have been.

Last year today, in my travel journal, I wrote, “To new challenges, to new beginnings and going over the hill to leave the past behind.” And that is just what I am celebrating today.

Happy Bittersweet One Year Anniversary, to me.

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today…

I arrived in Tanzania, Africa for what was the greatest adventure of my life – a month of volunteering & teaching in the community, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on Safaris, and visiting Zanzibar. All of it completely changed my life. I’m in disbelief that it has been a year already. I miss Moshi and my experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t think a day goes by that I haven’t thought about it in some capacity.

I’m so grateful for that experience.

I can’t believe all that has happened, come and gone in the past year and all that I’ve learned and discovered both about myself and others along the way. Nzuri sana.  It’s funny, I always catch myself first, but my instinct is still to say “Asante Sana” instead of “Thank you.”

In that month, I learned so much about myself, what it means to be a community, how privileged americans are and how much we take for granted. I learned so much about gratitude and appreciating what we have; that being wealthy has everything to do with how grateful and happy you are and nothing to do with how much money you have.  I learned to follow my heart; to express love and gratitude and to live passionately. I learned there is so much more to life than just the items we own or the cars we drive or the life we live. I realized how important it is to experience other cultures and to leave your first world expectations at home when you travel to a third world country.

Time and how we perceive it is an odd thing. I reflect and think about all that has happened in the past year since I first arrived in my host city and I am silenced.

When put in perspective that I’ve already lived in DC for 7.5 months, one year ago feels simultaneously both light years away and just few months ago.  It’s a teeter-totter of emotions and memories. It seems like it never happened; it seems like 6 months; it seems like decades ago and it seems like a year.

So much has happened since I landed in Tanzania. I look back on the impact the children had on me, and vice versa; the fact that I no longer have to dream about someday fulfilling a lifelong dream of volunteering and going on African Safari’s is exhilarating and saddening.  It’s crazy that I actually held residence in Africa. Not at a hotel, but a place I called home for a month. It’s hard to fathom that I climbed the largest freestanding mountain in the world and lived to tell the tale. I think about that accomplishment and it still blows my mind that I DID THAT.  At this point it feels like it is a figment of my imagination, just a dream I conjured up in my head, and I have to look at photos for proof I didn’t make it up. I am still in awe and incredibly proud of myself that I actually did it let alone successfully made it to the summit no less. I accomplished 7 things on my life list.

In the past year since returning, I flew 22 hours alone, my sister got married, I was unemployed for a while, I moved across country on a gut feeling and then I got a new job soon thereafter; one that I love because I know I get to impact lives everyday. I made a new home in that new city and made new friends. I’ve accomplished  2 more things on my life list.  I ran my first 5K. I played league sports and started my own Ladies Only fantasy NFL leagues with friends. I have spent an ENTIRE year eating only meat that was GMO/anti-biotic free.

Man, a lot has happened – and that’s just the start of it all.

From the moment I boarded the plane wondering what this adventure was going to be like – until now – the adventures haven’t stopped. When I woke up a year ago today, I never would have predicted just where my life would be today – all because of that one decision to go to Africa.

I miss Moshi and my students every day. This adventure and experience has become a part of who I am and I am proud of the person I have become. I am strong and brave; I am bold and adventurous. I have learned to be true to myself, to follow my gut and to surround myself with people who make me a better person. I am more positive and grateful. I know that I can accomplish big things; I know I can push myself; I can climb mountains and continually challenge myself. I’ve learned to honor who I am and to do what makes me happy.  I’ve grown more into the person I want to be. Asante Sana.

You can’t predict what the future holds but you do have to have faith that you are going in the right direction. Time is a funny thing. It never stops. And as we get older, it only goes faster. It blurs together and weeks become months and months become years. I still can’t believe an entire year has gone by.

What started as the greatest adventure of my life has evolved into my life being a giant adventure now. I am grateful for my experience and thankful I had the courage to follow my dreams and make it happen. I look forward experiencing (what is now) the upcoming year and reflecting on all that I will have done. Maybe a year from now I’ll be in a different city? Engaged? Single? Maybe I’ll be an Aunt? At a new job? Whatever will be this time next year, I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead.

Hakuna Matata.

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Thanks to All The Amazing Women Out There

Thank you to all you amazing, courageous, beautiful, strong, and motivational women out there for being YOU. Not only do you encourage me daily, you inspire people all around.  Keep it up!

And a personal shout out to all the amazing women in my life. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better person, to honor and stay true to myself, and for helping me to be the strong, independent woman I am. I am so grateful and fortunate to have you in my life. Thank you.

Be sure to support and give a shout out to all the important women in your life, today.

Happy International Women’s Day. Yesterday was a tremendous victory for women everywhere when President Obama passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This historic change will help us take on the challenges of tomorrow and will provide protections for LGBT victims of violence, better prevention and education programs for sexual assault on university campuses, and expanded services for victims of sexual assault. We’re making wonderful advancements and I’m proud of our progress!