Monthly Archives: July 2015

Lesson #365: The final lesson.

7/20/15.

The day I started this blog, I was on my closet floor crying because it felt like my life had become a continuous bad day.

Now I’m sitting here on a mocha-colored couch outside of a coffee shop all the way across the country in California, typing my last lesson, and still crying.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

When I woke up today, all I could think was:

“Mia. It’s been 365 days.”

I couldn’t grasp the number. Trying to process it was like standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the vastness, and becoming overwhelmed with fear.

Except I had already done it.

Four seasons, twelve months, 365 days.

I can’t begin to explain the amount of joy, the depth of gratitude, the undeniable sadness, and the expanse of excitement I am feeling right now.

It’s been 365 days, and my life has changed in ways I never thought it would, or could. I have experienced so many things and seen so much in just a single year, and I’ve gotten to express every part of it.

A few months ago, someone told me something. I never wrote it into a lesson because something seemingly more prominent stole the day, but I remember scrambling to write it down, and hoping and praying that the right time would come along again to share it with you all. And I think today is that day.

It literally felt like everything I knew was falling apart in that moment and in the moments that followed—and I’m sure you’ve all experienced the feeling. I walked to work sobbing, and although I cleared my eyes in time before checking in with my boss, she knew something was wrong. After confiding in her, she told me something I’ll never forget.

“The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever—I promise.”

And after this year, and this blog, nothing in my life has ever rang more true.

It just so happens that I started this blog during a dark time in my life, and now it’s ending during the best.

In the nowhere-near-linear process of this turn around, I’ve learned so, so much. Perfection isn’t real. Money can’t buy you happiness. It takes time and guts to heal. Run with full abandon towards what you love, and cut loose what you don’t. Culture and beauty is everywhere. You are seen. People are shitty. People are fantastic. Life is great—or at least it can be if you make it.

From New York to Maryland to North Carolina to Florida. From my beloved hometown of Virginia Beach, VA, to my second life at school in the mountains of Harrisonburg, VA, to landing my dream internship in Los Angeles, California.

It’s been 365 days since I pressed the little blue button to create this account, and hit “publish” on a lesson for the very first time. If I’m being honest—I cannot begin to tell you how utterly happy and relieved I am that I don’t have to come home exhausted at the end of every night and write a lesson. But I also can’t begin tell you how truly sad I am to let this piece of my life go. It’s not every day you get to say you documented each day of your life for an entire year, until you do. And now that it’s over, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do without my little escape, my outlet, and my canvas for words.

There are truly no words for how bittersweet this is. And if there is a step beyond having no words, then I really have none for how extremely grateful I am.

First, I am always completely and entirely thankful for my God. I know that none of the events in my life go without reason, and that my main man has been by my side through it all. Many times throughout this year my head was more focused on my feet than the sky. I loathed how distracted, busy, and cloudy minded I could be—but He never once left me. I am grateful for the good. I am grateful for the bad. And I am continually and eternally grateful for the grace of God. Even though this (literal) chapter of my life is ending, I am excited to see where He will guide me next.

To my wonderful parents, my special friends, and some really great family members—thank you. Not just for giving me great moments to learn from, but for always pushing me and encouraging me. Nights got HARD. Some days I had so much to do that I wouldn’t be able to start my lesson until 1am. My three options were usually to 1) suck it up and write, 2) cry and write, or 3) go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and then cry and write because now I was behind on a post when I “promised” I never would be. But your constant love and support has been something that’s carried me through, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. All it took was one little comment on the blog or on Facebook or walking across campus to make me look forward to writing the next one. It’s the simple things. You each had a hand in inspiring all these people as well. And I thank you. You know who you are.

To the not so great people—I want to thank you too. After this year, I have a better idea of the kind of people I do and don’t want in my life. I’ve learned that people can teach who you don’t want to be and what you don’t want to be like, and those lessons are just as important. You all have been blessings in my life as well.

To the guest lessonists—thank you for being apart of something so special. Thank you for telling your story.

And of course—the readers. You are all so special to me. Thank you for lending a listening ear. I hope you have all learned and grown in some way. If you remember just one thing from these 365 days—then I’ve done my job.

I thank this blog for allowing me the space to not be perfect. I thank this blog for teaching me about self control and dedication—but for also teaching me about the fact that shit happens. Living comes before anything else, and you have to momentarily leave all guilt and thoughts if you’re going to do it fully. I thank this blog for teaching me how to be scared, but doing it (or writing it) anyway. I thank this blog for teaching me to live with thicker skin, but to be open, honest, and vulnerable.

Most of all, I want to thank this blog for challenging me to look for the best in each and every single day—especially when there was no “best” in the day—for confronting it, expressing it, and turning it into something meaningful.

I will miss this so much.

I no longer have an excuse to find the best in each day—but I hope this year has taught me how.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

But it’s good to know some things do.

This blog has added so much color to my life. It been more than a blog for me; it has been a journey. And I can’t believe I did it.

It feels weird coming to the end. It feels like I’m not finished; like there’s so much more to say.

And that’s because there is.

The lessons we learn are perennial. They will continue to arise in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

It all branches on one big tree. They stem from the root of life, and they turn out to all be a part of the same foundation. I’ve found that all lessons all come back to the same core concepts, and this is what I’ve come to know.

Do what makes you happy,

be passionate, compassionate, and kind,

and always, always, always keep learning.

The world will keep telling us this time and time again.

And so will I.

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Day 365.

“How to be a gardener.” A guest lesson by Monise Brabham.

So they say gardening is therapeutic, right? You’d really have to ask my husband, since he’s the gardener/landscaper in the family. He works really hard to keep our flowerbeds looking beautiful. There was one time I felt compelled to help him get all those pesky little weeds out. Sadly, I didn’t realize what I had signed up for until after I had sat down and really looked at the ridiculous amount of weeds that had pretty much overtaken our used-to-be-beautiful flowerbeds. At that point I was thinking, “Uh………therapeutic???” Nope, labor intensive!

For the next several hours, I sat and pulled all of the weeds out. Honestly, what kept me going was the image of beauty restored in our flowerbeds. I began to think about the other benefit of pulling the weeds: weeds not only look bad, but they can choke out life in the flowers because they compete with the flowers for water and nutrients. Ultimately and most importantly, overcrowding would be inevitable if we never pulled out weeds.

Makes sense and seems simple, right? Well now I’m forced to cross reference these simple benefits with my life. Imagine going through your life never cleaning out your closet and getting rid of old clothes, never getting rid of old papers or old technology, never leaving behind old thought processes—and of course—relationships. I begin to think about the amount of space in my life being used on things I don’t use or benefit from.

Going through the daily motions of life, we become unconscious collectors of relationships, issues, emotions, decisions, and things. There is so much power in taking inventory of our lives. Once we do this, we begin to realize just how overgrown our very own “flowerbeds” are. This means we have little to no room for growth. We’re blocking opportunities, self improvement, knowledge, beneficial relationships—and most importantly—becoming a better you.

You have two options. You can choose to ignore all the extra, unnecessary luggage you’re carrying around, and slow yourself down. Or, you can choose to invest your time in de-cluttering.

1. Inspect your relationships closely. While it’s true that not every person has to bring added value to your journey, they should definitely be a positive influence in your life. If that’s not the case, begin the process of shedding the naysayers, pessimists, leeches, and joy stealers, and fill that new space with people who are for you and want you to win.

2. Evaluate your negative emotion meter. Are you holding onto regret, animosity, anger, or fear? Remember: if you think it you become it. Let go and in comes a new perspective. This is the best way to stop blocking your blessings.

3. Purge those closets, drawers, and even under the bed. If you haven’t worn it in the past two seasons, chances are you won’t ever wear it again. Donate everything in that pile and reward yourself with two new outfits to go with the new you that is bound to occur if you truly take the time to pull the weeds in your life.

When you do all of these things, you will have more mental clarity, positive energy, and space for all the good things coming your way.

-Lesson by Monise Brabham-

“It isn’t easy.” A guest lesson by Michael Galfetti.

I’m tired of people thinking things will be easy.

I feel like people think “once I get my dream job” or “once I meet the right person” or “once I find God” that life will be easy.

But that isn’t true.

Being in love with your soulmate will not be easy.

Discovering who you are will not be easy.

Being caring and open will not be easy.

But the thing is—you will not be satisfied with an easy life.

The challenge is what makes life all the better.

Here’s the thing: life is hard.

But don’t ever let it stop you from doing what you want.

In fact,

life being difficult probably means you are doing something right.

-Lesson by Michael Galfetti-

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Michael Galfetti is a junior at George Mason University studying Government and International Politics. The picture was taken on his study abroad in El Salvador (that is also where he gained the perspective that allowed him to write this blog post). Where he learned about women’s fight for their rights in the country. He has an interest in working internationally and recognizes the role the West plays in international development. You can find him on twitter at @spaghetigalfeti.

 

“Timing…” A guest lesson by MaRae Fleming.

Often times, we get caught up in planning our lives out.  There is nothing wrong with planning and figuring out what we want to do with out lives, but when it begins to consume us, that is when it creates a serious problem.

For a longtime I just felt stuck. No matter what I tried to do, it just seemed like I wasn’t making any progress. I was planning my life out like crazy but nothing was happening. I was at a complete standstill and it was the most frustrating thing ever. One day I had just started writing in a new journal and for me it symbolized a fresh start. I wrote an open letter to God fully surrendering everything to him. From that moment my situation changed.

You can’t expect God to fix your situation when you’re still trying to control it. Sometimes God puts you in certain places to get you where He wants you to be. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be right now. Stop trying to rush your process! Everything happens when it is supposed to.

Timing is everything.

-Lesson by MaRae Fleming-

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MaRae Fleming is a sassy and fabulous young woman making her own path on the world while pursuing her dreams!  She is a college student, blogger, and lover of all things fabulous. You can catch her sharing about fashion, natural hair, and her journey through life on her blog The Always Fabulous.

“What is rest? A question from the girl with mono.” A guest lesson by Nikki Gregg.

I am one to work hard all the time, without stopping. A lot of us do. During the semester, my days were no shorter than thirteen hours. This summer my hours are just as long.

I work hard. I work hard all the time. I push myself to the limit and then crash when the semester ends or the midterms are over, but something happened this week that threw me a curveball. I was diagnosed with mono yesterday, which is forcing me to take time to slow down and truly rest.

I found out my sore throat, aching body, extreme exhaustion, and little appetite for the last week was more than the common cold, but a serious virus that will take me weeks or months to get over. While I was working at my internship and serving tables at a restaurant in the city, it wasn’t until a week after feeling terrible before making time to see a doctor.…who told me exactly how sick I am.

She told me I needed to rest, but seriously…what is rest? I have been so caught up in hard work so that I can be successful. I have to get this grade on this test. I need to get this job, this internship. If I don’t do this or this I won’t get into graduate school. The list goes on and on, and as time goes on… the days of rest, nights of relaxation, and my time to do things that give me joy have all become restricted from the limitation of time.

Well, now I have all the time in the world to figure out what rest looks like, feels like again. In our culture most of us don’t know what it means to fully rest. We go on little hours of sleep, and push ourselves so hard that we run ourselves down, and ignore what our bodies are telling us. We ignore needs like food, to make meetings and study for tests. I know someone who didn’t make enough time to shower during midterms of her freshman year. I remember one midterm week that I was so hysterical from sleep deprivation I was walking in circles around campus.

This is not normal. We need sleep. Food. Good Hygiene.

So while you may not have mono but if you feel run-down, exhausted, overwhelmed…join me in taking some time to rest for yourself. Your mind. Your body. Your overall health.

To be better, to be there for other people… we must take care of ourselves first.

-Lesson by Nikki Gregg-

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“Listen to the guy that was friends with a volleyball… I’m not kidding.” A guest lesson by Lauren Makely. 

I remember waking up in my bed the morning after I found out my mom had passed away from her long and tough battle with cancer and thinking:

“Do I get up?”

“Do I stay here?”

“Can my body even lift itself off the bed?”

“How am I even still breathing?”

It took me a great deal of time to understand how I could’ve possibly woken up that morning when the reason I existed no longer did.

Yet there I was, staring at the ceiling of my bedroom eight hours after my worst fear had come true. I wasn’t crying or angry. I just lay there watching the sun peak out of the bottom of my shade.

Weirdly enough, this little ray of light reminded me of a line from the movie Cast Away (Yes the one with Tom Hanks), a movie my brother and I had watched an embarrassing amount of times growing up,

“So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.”

As cheesy as it sounds, this is the moment I think I decided how I would live the rest of my life. This moment I decided I was going to make it out of my bed. I decided I wasn’t going to break.

This is the moment I decided I was going to keep moving.

However, this didn’t mean I was just going to go through life like a zombie. I was going to keep reaching for my dreams and working hard to do everything I set my mind to, just like my mom had taught me to do for the last 20 years. I decided I was going to grab ahold of my passion and never let it slip from my grasp because in the end, no matter how often we forget, we never really know what the tide will bring or wash away.

The lesson here is to get up, brush yourself off when the world knocks you down, and keep going. No matter how scared or uncertain you are about what lies ahead, let it inspire you.

Let it inspire you to live more freely,

Live more positively,

Succeed in what makes you happy,

Take chances,

And love harder.

Since that moment, I’ve continued to make strides in school, discover incredible friendships, meet influential people, land my dream internship, discover more about the person I want to be in the future, and yes…. fight more battles, but all the while keeping in mind, “you’re going to make it because you’ve made it this far.”

All things mama would be proud of and I know she’s has had a part in thus far.

So next time you’re asking yourself whether to get out of bed or not, just remember that you have to live through the toughest of days and struggle through the toughest of moments to get to the best of your life.

Lesson by Lauren Makely.

GetAttachment.aspxLauren Makely is a coffee powered human being with a slight obsession with morning talk shows. She is a human rights activist entering her senior year at James Madison University, finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology. When she grows up she wants to influence policy and fight for the rights of women and girls facing gender-based violence, because every empowered girl leads to a better world.

Lesson #364: How to Amusement Park.

7/20/15.

It’s a verb now.

Four of us woke up at 6:30am to head to Disneyland in Anaheim for the day, and we returned to Burbank at 11:00pm.

Not once throughout the entire day was I bored or sluggish or tired,

because it was absolutely one of the best days of my life.

Here’s what I learned from a wonderful day spent with good ol’ Walt, and a few hilarious people.

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1. Don’t wear your hat on rides because that just makes a lot of sense. AKA on the swing ride, we watched someone’s brand new Disney hat fly off her head and into the body of water below us. AKA it was sad. AKA it’s not worth it. AKA just don’t do it.

2. For the love of God, don’t wear make-up. Sorry, but no one actually gives a shit how you look because everyone there looks like shit by 10am. At some point, you will probably question whether you are a human, or a breathing waterfall. You will sweat in places you didn’t know you could. By 8pm, no one will even be able to see your face because it’s dark. If they can, it will be covered in crusty, half rubbed off make-up. Why look pretty for people (even the hot ones) that you will never see again, when you can rub your eyes and not have to worry about looking like Elle in the break-up scene of Legally Blonde instead? Going all nat-u-ral was the best decision I made since the Egg McMuffin I had for breakfast this morning. So I’m sharing the wealth. You’re welcome.

3. Bring a change of clothes and a plastic bag, always. It doesn’t matter if the forecast says it’s going to be 80 and clear—something disastrous is bound to happen. You’re going to get mustard on your pants. You’re going to sit on chocolate, or chewed gum. Today’s the day a bird is probably going to shit on you. I don’t know. But it never really fails. Even if you’re able to make it through the whole day in one piece, better safe than sorry. Shout out to Ale for teaching us how to pack for a theme park the right way, because of of course it ended up pouring. Speaking of pouring…

4. Dance in the rain. Play in it. Do flips in it. Splash through puddles. Whatever you do, just don’t run under a shelter or into a shop or to your car to head home (especially if you paid a load of money to be there). Take a picture under a lamp post, do a quick set of time steps, make it a musical number, and call it a day. Just kidding. Don’t call it a day. But call it a moment of fun, and keep moving. Don’t let anything rain on your parade—literally.

5. Don’t spend $10 on a poncho that you’ll never use again. Spend it on a shot glass from the Tower of Terror. Because that’s cooler.

6. Be a kid again. Sing in line, dance in the streets, meet the characters, buy a hat (even if it’s $30 dollars), and eat five ice cream cones. When’s the next time you’re going to get to do this again? In your office tomorrow morning? Yep. That’s what I thought.

7. Get there early. Wait in lines. Ride EVERYTHING. It’s what will make your experience, and it’s so worth it. Just do it.

8. Make a game plan before you start your day. Having a game plan made today happen the way it did, which was awesome. We got through everything in the park. A plan makes everything a whole lot easier—and a lot more motivated too. When you go into the day like “I’m down for whatever,” that’s a great attitude to have. You rock. But that also just really means you’re down to do… well… whatever. And when you’re down to do whatever whenever—you begin slipping into a state of laziness. Everything sounds good. And when everything sounds, you don’t care what you do. And when you don’t care what you do, you start not wanting to do anything at all. And when you don’t want to do anything at all—well—you get the picture.

9. But be ready for the game plan to change. It always does.

10. Take your phone off your food tray before you throw it in the trash can. Because I’m dumb.

11. The single rider line saves lives. And time.

12. Post as many pictures as you want because YOU’RE AT DISNEY/INSERT AMUSEMENT PARK NAME HERE. As Ale would say: “I paid 99 dollars for this. I’m going to post as many f*cking pictures in as many places as I want.”

13. Just accept that you will always get more wet on water rides than you thought you would. Let’s face it—you can’t escape the wrath. No matter how many layers you wear (or don’t wear), or how many waterfalls you dodge.

14. Make it work, even if you have to force yourself through it. I wrote this lesson while in line for rides. I knew I would not be able to do it when I got home—so I made myself do it—even though I wanted to do anything and everything but. You have to make it work sometimes; you’ll be grateful you did in the end.

15. Kill them with kindness. But actually. On Friday after my internship, I came across a sign in a stroll through the city. It said Hate never wins. I was completely excited and moved when I saw the powerful message on the fence Mid-Wilshire a few blocks before the LACMA museum, constructed with a variety of random materials. It’s so incredibly true. Today, in the least (or maybe most?) expected place, I was forced to put it to the test. When you are kind to someone despite their rudeness, entitlement, or previous terrible encounters with them—you win. Always. You may mot win the battle of low blows, and you may not out-scream them, but I promise—you win. It’s not that you’re the bigger man. It’s the fact that you have nothing to prove because you are at peace with yourself. Honestly, the person will feel bad about how they were acting regardless, whether they admit it or not. People back down and retreat by nature when they realize they are not getting a rise out of you and when they see that you will not waiver in your kindness. When someone hurts you or attacks you, that’s only a reflection of them. What will your reflection be?

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When we first stepped out of the car and into the parking garage at 9:00am, a guy on the trip named Eric asked me how excited I was on a scale of 1-10.

I told him I was about a solid 6.

Growing up, my family and I did the whole Disney World deal back on the east coast once or twice when we were younger—but apparently five-year-old me hated it. (Was I even real?) My mom tells me that my brothers and I that would always get bored with it quickly. So we became a Universal/Islands of Adventures family.

I don’t know what I did differently this time, but 20-year-old it me loved it.

But now that I think of it—

I know exactly what I did differently.

The moral of this story is,

what kind of story do you want to tell?

When you look back on moments twenty years from now, what do you want to say you did?

I wanted to be able to say I danced in the rain. I wanted to be able to say I rode all of the rides. I wanted to be able to say I had ice-cream while in my Minnie Mouse hat, and that I finally rode the Tower of Terror, and that I took a picture with Buzz Lightyear, and that I saw the fountain light show at the end of the night.

Ugh, Walt would be so proud.

People tend to roll their eyes at the idea of doing things “just to say you did them.” But I personally believe that if the decision isn’t dangerous, harmful, or against your values—

do it.

Isn’t that the whole point of creating a story?

You’re the creator of this story. You’re the author, the artist, the orchestrator, and the leader.

You get the final say.

So what will your story be?

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Day 364.