"once you choose hope, anything is possible"

Friday, May 30, 2014

it's a love/hate relationship

It's been a weird week as I am sure many could tell from my last post. The best way I can describe it is that I've been in a funk. Not sad, not happy, not really anything, just weird. So I wrote my last blog post and felt okay about it, but then I read it again and I hated it. I hated what I said, hated what I meant, hated that I had to even write it because I hated that I felt it. I hate that the past is still so much a part of me. I feel like I am constantly at battle between letting the past make me who I am, and letting it run my life today. I am always hearing conflicting things about not looking back, but at the same time never forgetting where you came from. Like, what? That's confusing and the world needs to stop being so confusing. Everyone has a different opinion on how to handle the past and this week, after writing, I was mad at myself for looking back so much. I was mad at letting myself be hurt by something that happened months ago and I was mad that it still had the power to make me sad and minimize all the progress I felt like I had made in fixing my broken heart.
And then Maya Angelou died.
I spent hours rereading some of her greatest quotes, her little pieces of wisdom that she shared with the world through her writing. Maybe it's because she was a dancer, or maybe it's because she wrote amazing works of art that I can only dream about writing, or maybe its because her poems and her speeches spoke to my soul, but Maya Angelou could bring me to tears any minute of any day and she could get me to stop, and really think, and even sometimes listen to what she was saying. So I paged through my notebooks that are lined with Maya Angelou quotes that I have read and been inspired by, and I sorted through thousands of social media postings about this literary hero that the world lost too soon, and I found the quote I was looking for. I found the little snippet of wisdom that helped me stop being so mad at myself for being affected by my past.

I hate looking back. I hate seeing the endlessly happy carefree girl I was one year ago today. I hate looking at the pictures and I hate reading my writing and I hate that I can't go back. But I love who I am today. I love my independence, and I love my friends. I love my job and my city and my family. I love the way my future looks and I love the feeling I get when I think about that future. I love the confidence I feel every morning and I love that for the first time in my life I am 100% happy with the person I am. I love all that knowing that I wouldn't be here today if the past didn't happen. I love it all in spite of the fact that I had to have my heart broken, I had to struggle, and I had to endure all the bad days to get here. I love it because of my past. I know the changes that I have been through firsthand. I know them all too well, and I know they have prepared me for this, for my happiness today. I wrote about a new kind of happiness in my last post and while I didn't write it because I couldn't actually bring myself to say it, I was thinking, "I miss my old happiness." And I do, don't get me wrong. But my new happiness, this happiness I feel today, is stronger, its genuine, its lasting. and that is something I definitely can't hate. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

a new kind of happiness

"but the struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wise. and happiness has its own way of takin' it's sweet time"
It's crazy to me how so many things can change in just one year. 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, and I can barely recognize the girl I was 1 year ago. As I finish my junior year of college, I am once again at a loss for words about how fast the time flies by. I cannot believe that I have finished another year in college and that I am going to be a senior. Part of me feels like it was only yesterday that I was moving into Schroeder and meeting my FFP roommate. This week though the bigger part of me is reflecting on how things were for me last May and is incredulous that it was only a year ago.
There is this horrible wonderful genious (the jury is still out) app that I have on my phone called Time Hop. Basically it links with all of your social media sites and shows you what you posted in the years previous on that same exact day. Usually it's pretty cool to see the things you were doing 4 years previous: the friends you were hanging out with, the songs you liked, the pictures you took.... but sometimes its a weird feeling to think about how things were and how much they have changed. Between Time Hop and old blog posts it has become really apparent to me that things are drastically different than they were a year ago.
Last year at this time I was returning home from ending my sophomore year of college and finally feeling like things were really good. I wrote a blog post about overcoming the homesickness and my lack of love for Marquette. I posted about finally falling in love with my college and not being able to wait until I got to move into my apartment and stay in Milwaukee for the summer. Last year at this time I was watching my little sister graduate and get ready to come to Marquette with me. I was helping my family move out of our Texas home and start a new adventure in Philadelphia. I was deeply and madly in love with my high school sweetheart and I was getting ready to say goodbye to him, knowing that I would see him in a couple weeks. Last year at this time I remember being so so happy, and obviously being really annoying about it on social media. I'm kind of kicking myself for that this week. I keep opening my Time Hop every morning and seeing how great things were and, because I can't help it, thinking about everything that has changed in the last 365 days.
Don't get me wrong, I love my life right now. I have amazing friends, two jobs I adore (most of the time), a family that I got to see last weekend, and I am getting ready to spend my summer in Milwaukee, Rome, and then I get to go home. So I am happy, really really happy. But it's not the kind of happy I expected to be, and I can't help but feel a little pang of sadness everytime I think about how I expected my life to turn out 1 year ago today. I planned on spending this summer in Texas with Kyle. I was supposed to have one more semester of school before starting to student teach. I wasn't supposed to be going abroad because I had so much back here that I wasn't able to leave.
So things are weird (understatement of the year). I am looking at pictures and reading the things I wrote a year ago and I recognize the girl that wrote them, but I don't know that anyone who has met me in the last month would. Same smile, same sarcastic tone in my writing, and still trying to figure out how to find my way in this crazy world, but definitely a much diffferent person. I guess I'm still trying to figure out whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, May 5, 2014

facing my fears

There's something to be said about facing your fears with the help of your friends and family. It's scary, and nerve racking, and tear inducing, but when it's over, when it's all said and done, it's the most rewarding thing in the world.

I've never really been a fan of public speaking. I've also never really been a fan of talking about myself, of sharing my story. So when I decided to speak at Marquette's Relay For Life this year, I instantly regretted my decision. The idea of standing in front of 500+ people and telling my story was enough to make me sick, and yet I knew deep down that it was something I had to do. Pretty much everyone who knows me also knows that Relay For Life is a huge part of my life. It is something that I swear by, one of my favorite nights of the year. It has been a huge source of hope and healing for me over the past three years, and I knew this year would be no different. Standing in front of 500 of my classmates and community members is something I will never be able to describe. Getting to share the story of some of the strongest people I have ever encountered is an honor I will never be able to verbalize. Looking out at the audience and seeing my sisters, my friends, my team, my sorority made me feel more loved and cherished than I ever had in my life. Saturday April 26th is a night I will never forget, it's something that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.

My day started hectic and busy, much like I expected it to be. But I got to spend the day with an amazing committee who had all been working their butts off to make this event go off without a hitch. It was so great to see everything come together. We had spent all year planning this one day, and with the guidance of our amazing leaders, Christine, Kristen, and Megan, everything came together so perfectly. My day was also spent with my stomach in knots. I had practiced my speech all week and yet I was still so freaking nervous. I so desperately wanted to be able to accurately share the story of the angels looking over me, and I knew that this was a huge responsibility. I also really didn't want to stand in front of a crowded gymansium and cry, something I was almost positive I wasn't going to be able to achieve.

Right before the event, I took off with another committee member to pick up some last minute donations and the dinner for our survivors that were attending the event. When we stopped at the second restaurant I went to pay the remaining total on the bill after discount and what do you know... it was $12.12. For those readers new to this blog who don't know the significance of this number, when Anna was diagnosed with cancer in high school her family friend started a modern day prayer chain, 1 Million Prayers, in an effort to try and get 1 million people to pray for Anna everyday. We were asked to pray at 12:12, in honor of her favorite bible verse Romans 12:12. After losing Anna, 12:12 has always been my little reminder that she is still with me, so when I saw the total of the bill, I was obviously brought to tears instantly in Buca Di Beppo. I had been so wrapped up in the stress of the event and nervousness of me speaking that I had lost sight in why I was doing this to begin with. Leave it to Anna to put it all back into perspective to me. It was exactly what I needed at that moment and it gave me strength to get through the rest of my night. I have an amazing guardian angel looking out for me, and I know she was with me in that moment and that she was giving me strength as I struggled through my speech.

At my next pick up location, my sister surprised me. Not only my older sister Kaitie who lives in the area and who I knew would be at the event, but my older sister Alyson who came from out of town just to be there with me. This time crying in Panera, I realized that not only do I have the support of the angels above me, but I have THE most incredible support system right here with me. I am so blessed to have family that will literally drop everything they are doing to be with me because they knew I was struggling with the day.

In the end, my speech didn't go as smoothly as I dreamed it would, but I got through it. I cried in front of a crowded gymnasium like I hoped I wouldn't, but through the tears I was able to see 500 new people who were touched by my, Anna's, Megan's, Jane's, our story. We raised over $40,000 for cancer research that night. I cheered as our survivors took the first lap of the night. I listened as our other speakers talked about their stories, and for the first time since getting involved with Relay For Life instead of feeling a pang of jealousy when people talked about their loved ones beating cancer, I was genuinely able to feel happy for them. The selfish side of me had always longed for their happy ending before, this year I realized I had found my own happy ending.

I still miss Anna, every day. My heart still hurts for Kyle who lost his mom, and my classmates who lost Anna and Arie. I still hate cancer with every fiber of my being. But this year, Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society helped me to see the bigger picture. This year I not only faced my fear of public speaking and talking about myself, but I also faced the fear I have of this disease. Anna, Arie, Jane, and so many others have been taken from this world too soon. But there are SO many of us still here, committed to fighting, and I got to spend all year seeing this on a daily basis. I stood in front of that gymnasium and I talked about how cancer had changed my life and I committed to fighting until it stops changing people's lives, until people don't have to hear the words "you have cancer" anymore. So I faced my fears in more ways than one, I was comforted and surrounded by the most amazing support system in the world, and the hope I felt last Saturday is enough to get me through another day because deep down I know that this all isn't for nothing. This loss, this pain, this struggle....its all leading up to something much greater, and that's finally enough for me.