Category Archives: Life

A year of lessons, a year later.

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7/20/16.

WHAT?

I can’t believe a year ago today I finished writing A Year Of Lessons. It was absolutely one of (if not the) most transformative experiences of my life to this day. It wasn’t just a year that I lived and documented, but it was one that I created and shaped because I intentionally chose to see something special (both the good AND bad) in every single day. I learned gratitude and dedication and vulnerability and perspective and persistance and all those nights sitting on my college apartment floor at 3am after a horribly long day but still writing and hating my life finally added up to something. Looking back today, A Year Of Lessons was such a wonderful gift I granted to my future self, and hopefully to some of you all who hopped on the ride and read along.

This is exactly why I’m so in love with storytelling and words and writing and art, and sharing it with others. Because it’s a message from the past for the future. When I was unpacking my very last box from college a few weeks ago, at the top of the box was the first month of lessons from my blog printed out on paper. I read some of them and was completely shocked at the effect it had on me: I cringed at some, laughed at others, and couldn’t stop the smile on my face from spreading at most. The words on these pages were still so powerful, and reminded me what I still need to learn but also how far I’ve come. Later that day, I was editing my new podcast (https://soundcloud.com/user-986375572) (eep so excited) and something a professor said in an interview over three months ago had beautiful meaning then, but in that very moment, in my circumstances at that point in time, it moved me to tears. Stories are like time capsules. It’s a gift; a whisper and a warm smile from God saying, “You need this.” Words can move us and transform us and they transcend time and space. They’re little messages. Little signs.

This blog was never just a blog to me. The writing was never just writing. The job you hold, the things you go through, the people you meet… they’re never just that. They are experiences, and they are lessons waiting to happen. At such a crucial time in my life where I’m at a crossroad beginning a new journey that i’m not 100% sure about it (I’m working in DC!!! This was not my original plan at all!!! But I’m excited!!! And scared!!! And also confused at how one metros!!!), this was the perfect reminder to be open, be excited, and to learn.

Thank you, AYOL.

And thank you to you all.

Both are forever engrained in my heart. <3

All my love,

<3

Mia (Your newest post graduate… I did it!)

To stay updated with me and my ~crazy~ life, and to hear about my future/current projects, follow me on my social media accounts!

Twitter: @yourstrulymia_

Instagram: @yourstrulymia

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PS… something that’s square and binded together and may have a little (or a lot) to do with A Year Of Lessons may be happening sometime in the near future… stay tuned ;)

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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.

“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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Lesson #363: You can’t make them understand.

7/19/15.

Wait.

I can explain.

I swear this is not as angsty as it sounds.

As you all may know, I’m in Los Angeles for the summer with 20 other students. I have an internship that I love in which I work from 9am to 6pm—give or take—four days a week. Tack on an hour before and after those times to factor my the traffic-heavy commute, and that’s an eleven hour day. The one weekday I don’t have my internship, I’m in two entertainment industry classes for a total of six hours of my day. We have a homework assignment and mini-project for the classes each week. Weekends are “free,” but they’re packed with adventure, considering we’re only here for two months.

Welcome to my life in California.

I like to have fun, and I want to make memories. But as you may have sensed in previous lessons,

I like to keep busy.

My to-do list is constantly growing and growing, I’m constantly up to a million things, and I’m always on the go.

The trip is quickly coming to an end, and there are so many “real life” things I need to complete before my time on the west coast is over.

Let me fill you in on how my list is looking.

I need to complete a final project that consists of putting together a verbal and visual television series pitch, start an original screenplay that’s due before the first day of my final video production class at the end of August, finish the editing of a wedding video that I shot over a month ago in June, film and edit two fun and informative videos for my internship that I planned on making before I leave E! (that are not required… I’m just an overachiever), organize additional research that I put together prior to the start of my internship into something presentable and feasible, edit together clips of my LA adventures for my YouTube series (which is currently just not happening), plan and edit a book trailer for a close friend and client, and stay on top of this blog just days before it’s over.

My head is actually spinning.

Sometimes I don’t know where to start. Like Andy advised, my plan has been to work deadline to deadline.

But what are you supposed to do when your deadlines are all at the same time—and there’s 4 or 5 of them to meet?

On top of the stress coming from myself and the looming projects I’ve created,

there’s the stress coming from others—whether they mean to induce it or not.

I am truly struggling with the balance to make this experience the best that it can be (though it already has been—no doubt in my mind), and being productive.

What makes this to-do list more stressful than any other I’ve had before, is that in one way or another, my future depends on the success of a lot of the items.

Most of my life questions in the past month have gone like this:

Stay in on this beautiful Friday night to write a blog post and work on whatever which project?

Or go out on the town and have the time of my life?

Like I said, I’ve been having an absolute ball why I’m out here. I never pass up the super big opportunities, but it’s the little ones here and there that add up to make me feel guilty and a little bit sad sometimes.

One thing that I pride myself on, is that give everything I do 100%. Ask anyone who knows me: I’ll stay up until 5am to get something exactly the way I want it. In one lesson a while back, Chiquita mentioned that whenever we put our name on something—we put our stamp of excellence on it. And I live by that. I move slower because of my attention to detail, and I am self conscious about that a lot of the times. People tell me that my work ethic is good, and other people tell me that my work ethic bad—but I don’t need anyone to tell me that I know it’s both.

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, walking through my life with my hands full at all times. My friends are usually supportive and encouraging, and many understand. But at the same time, I’m definitely not a stranger to shady looks and judgement from people (even those who are close) who don’t understand why I am the way am, and the amount of work it takes to constantly be creating.

You work too hard. You do too much. Why don’t you just go to bed? Why don’t you do it a different time? Why do you do it at all? Why don’t you just go out and have a good time for once? Why do you never go with us?

I know that I need sleep. I know that I should have fun. I know that I am only skin and bones, and that I’m human, and that I have limitations. I know that to a certain degree, these people are definitely right.

But I do know that how I feel and the passion for the things I take on are right, too.

On Tuesday, I met up with a new friend, Mojan.

She is a wonderful and beautiful person, making it on her own in LA. She did the same program two years ago as I’m doing now. After Mojan finished her internship at Fox that summer, she immediately knew she wanted to move to Los Angeles. Upon returning to her junior year of college, she took double the classes, talked her way into getting the right signatures, graduated a year early, and moved to California. She’s now an Executive Assistant at ABC, as well as an actor, model, and singer.

I saw so much of myself in her that it was scary. Every piece of advice she was giving me related directly to every thought and concern that I’m having in my life right about now.

One of the very first things she told me was this.

“People wont understand, and you don’t have to make them. It’s not your job, and you shouldn’t have to.”

Mojan told me that when she went back to school after that summer—and even when she returned home after moving to California—many people questioned her career choice, her career path, and how she was going about all of it. They didn’t get the long hours, and the instability of it all, and the fact that you have to work your way up without knowing what’s next in order to get to where you want to be.

I’ve always felt a little surge of frustration upon hearing things like this too—even on my small scale of staying in to finish a project and constantly having to hear about it.

Although I understood the exact feeling of frustration that she was talking about, it was one of those things where I didn’t really realize how much it bothered me until someone else pinpointed exactly how I was feeling.

You know you aren’t crazy, because someone else has felt it too.

I thought that one day—especially in LA—it would magically become clear to me.

I thought that all of a sudden, I would be able to discern between when it’s the right time to have fun, and when it’s the right time to be productive.

But it’s not that easy, because nothing ever is.

I don’t think it ever will be.

But from what I’ve learned, from what I’ve experienced, and by the Grace of God—

something has become a little bit clearer to me.

Here’s what I know.

Believe in yourself and in what you do, and never stop.

It’s not going to be easy.

And you yourself are going to want to quit at times.

But just know that in the end—

if this is what you want, and if this is ultimately what brings you joy—

the blood, sweat, and tears (I know about this one) are so, so worth it.

And you’re the only one who needs to understand that.

Day 363.

Lesson #362: The tale of a perfectionist’s nightmare.

7/17/15.

As a detail-oriented perfectionist, I bring this news to you with a heavy heart.

You don’t have to get it perfect the first time around.

At my internship, a good percentage of my time goes into transcribing interviews.

Word for word, we write down exactly what the interviewer and interviewee are saying in the video. It helps when a producer can quickly scan over a log to decide which pieces of the interview they want for a story, rather than having to watch and listen to minutes and minutes of footage.

Keep in mind that these interviews are usually ten or fifteen minutes; sometimes thirty minutes to an hour.

This whole time, my strategy was to listen to each sentence, write down exactly what they were saying, and then move on to the next one.

The two other interns I work with were finishing much quicker than I was. I was disheartened and confused as to why it was taking me longer. I quietly chugged along, my fingers quickly flying over the keyboard.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.

I wanted to know what I was doing differently, so I asked.

Another intern named Sarah told me the method to her madness:

Do now, fix later.

She would press play, write as much as she could, pause it, and then do that all over again until she reached a break in the questions and answers. She wouldn’t look back at the section until the end, then she would go back and add missing words and take out wrong ones and fix misspellings.

What.

Why hadn’t I been doing that all along?

I was so intent on getting it perfect the first time in order to dodge having to go back and fix a mess that I kind of made a mess anyway.

Or at least—I made a mess of myself.

The truth is, you waste your sweet time by walking on egg shells, correcting everything gone astray, and avoiding making a mess.

Because let’s be real.

You’re going to make a mistake, regardless.

Today I learned that sometimes you have to let things go wrong before they go right.

And while I bring you this news with a heavy heart,

I also bring it to you with a huge sigh of relief.

Make a mess.

You’re going to do it anyway.

Day 362.

Lesson #361: Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy.

7/16/15.

Today I rolled out of bed at 5:30am to start getting ready for my day, but no coffee was needed because I was headed to the Emmy Nomination Announcement Ceremony for my internship that morning—and that was enough to fuel me for the entire day.

I arrived at the Pacific Design Center and walked nervously through the beautiful halls complete with sleek modern design and old-fashioned gold detailing. I followed the Emmy Nomination signs to the theater destination. IMG_7368 I assumed I’d report directly to a set-up area labeled E! News like a few of the other shoots I had been on. I thought I would sit there until the crew and the producer arrived, and then I’d help set up.

Surprise.

When I arrived upstairs just shy of 7am, there was no area labeled E! News.  There was a medium-sized room full of breakfast foods and fruit, hot coffee, and a large number of very scary real life adults.

I love engaging with new people. But about 30 or 40 busy, experienced, and most likely stressed out professionals running around at 8 in the morning?

Not so much.

For close to an hour, I waited in a room with retro couches and standing tables packed with producers, camera operators, sound engineers, television hosts, reporters, anchors, and other high-up workers. The producer at E! that I was working under for the morning wasn’t there yet, so I had an hour to either sit by myself in the corner, or use this as an opportunity to chat it up as many industry heads as I could.

I sat in the corner by myself.

Luckily, I had an everything bagel and some strawberries and fruit to keep me company.

A few kind texts from my mom, too.

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I chose a seat in the corner next to a guy in his late 20s/early 30s—mostly because he didn’t seem as intimidating as the others and he was on his phone. This meant I wouldn’t have to awkwardly attempt to talk to him, awkwardly keep a conversation going, or scope out whether he was too busy to talk or if he didn’t want to talk at all.

I knew what an opportunity I was passing up, not out on the floor (or on the couch) interacting with others.

I mean—these are people IN the industry.

But I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I look 16, I’m obviously younger than the rest of them, and I had trouble thinking I would be taken seriously. What would someone do if I approached them to talk?

Who was I to them?

As soon as the guy next to me got off the phone, he turned to me, rolled his eyes with a kind humor, and a lightheartedly said: “Roommate drama.” I laughed and replied: “Yea, everyone knows about that.” We began talking.

Our conversation was interesting, and it lasted a good while. I told him why I was out here, how I got to where I am, and what I want (or think I want) to do. He seemed genuinely interested; it took me by surprise. Not that he seemed rude or mean from the beginning—or that any of these people did—it was just the fact that he was giving me a piece of his time. And that’s a precious, hot commidity out here.

After the first part of the conversation and a little bit of back and forth about our lives, I ask him what he does and how he likes it.

Turns out, he’s a producer at Time Warner.

We exchanged information, and now I have a new LA friend. Or at least, a connection.

A few minutes after 8am, we were finally allowed into the theater where the announcements would soon take place. Each network lined up in a row to begin preparing to record the live event. A few minutes later, the celebrity announcers, Uzo Aduba and Catt Dealy, gracefully pranced onto stage to greet the house and begin listing the lucky nominees. They were surprised at the end of the announcements when the president of the Television Academy came out on stage to read the last two categories. Both of them were nominated for their own show! They didn’t put that part in the rehearsal, so they had absolutely no idea it was coming. I had a huge smile on my face, watching the two amazing women humbly and adorably freak out on stage as they were selected for such an honor—especially Catt in her british accent.

Both seemed humble and sweet. Uzo was absolutely beautiful (she doesn’t have real life crazy eyes…hence the reason she deserves an Emmy) and flawless, and Catt light up the stage with the positive energy and presence she radiates. Before the interview, I told Catt I loved her romper (seriously it was so cute) and she smiled and laughed and thanked me. She went on to tell me how she loved them because they reminded her of Jimmy Kimmel’s pajamas. After the interview she thanked the crew and turned to thank me (for whatever reason). I wanted to shed a single tear of happiness, but I kept it together. What a kind lady.

On the way back to my car, I found myself walking next to an older lady on the way down the large ballroom stairs. She commented on how marvelous and grand the stairs were, and how she was waiting for her prince at the bottom. I laughed and made a joke about still waiting for my prince to come, and she said “I’ve been waiting for years.” We began talking—and again—I had a lovely conversation with yet another person.

Turns out, she’s a producer at the Television Academy for the Emmy’s and Tony’s.

I wanted to fall over and die.

I also wanted to tell her how funny and ironic it was that I applied to the Television Academy internship and didn’t get it—but somehow I still ended up here anyway.

I wasn’t sure if we were on that level yet, so I didn’t.

Even at my own internship, in one of the first weeks I ran into the executive producer in the bathroom without knowing it.

Sometimes we come across the best people in the most mundane of places.

Whether it’s a producer, a stranger with an interesting or inspiring past, your next best friend, or your future significant other—you never know who you are speaking with.

Be kind to all,

and most of all,

don’t be afraid to say hello.

Day 361.

Lesson #360: Bad day blues?

7/15/15.

Remember this day?

I lied.

It gets worse.

The night after I got less than two hours of sleep, I stayed an hour and a half late at my internship finishing up work. Exhausted and ready to go home, I was forced to confront one of my worst fears: being stuck on an elevator. First in complete disbelief and then in complete panic, I called my mom to  tell her my final goodbye and that I love her. Finally, security answered my emergency call.

Turns out I wasn’t stuck. Interns just aren’t allowed to be there that late and my badge stopped working.

It was the best.

I walked past the man at the front desk with my head hung in embarrassment. I was the real life Damien from Mean Girls. (“Don’t look at me.”) I got in my car only to be reminded by the bright orange light on my dashboard that I had no gas.

By the time I got to the gas station, I was sobbing on the phone to my parents like a five year old. I felt out of place at stoplights and intersections, in a business blazer much like the other people making their way home.

Except I was 20. And crying.

Thinking about it now, I realized even though it absolutely sucked and all I wanted to do was sleep when I got home, nothing about it was too too bad.

I wasn’t hurt, I didn’t lose anything, and no real damage was done.

I don’t really know what I learned today.

But I was thinking about how long I’ve been writing this blog, and how many bad days I’ve had, and how you’ve had to hear me talk about all them—because whatever it was was happening in my life at the time.

And that’s just it.

It is what was happening… at the time.

Bad days happen.

They happen, and they keep happening, and they will happen until the end of our time.

It’s what was happening at the time.

It’s strange—because there’s so much power in that statement.

What’s happening “at the time” can consume our lives.

It’s what we know in those moments and days, and sometimes it’s hard to think outside of that.

So let it.

Like my very first lesson, use bad days as an excuse. (I mean… this blog was a product of a bad day and it turned out pretty okay, right?)

It the perfect reason to ugly cry, scream a little, give up momentarly—

and then reset.

And that’s the best part of it all.

Sometimes we need to crash and burn to rise again.

Day 360.