Category Archives: Spirituality

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.

“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.

“Be your own best friend.” A guest lesson by Lexie Thrash.

“The only person you have to live with for the rest of your life is you.”

Spoken in passing by a short-lived friend, these words have stuck with me since the moment they were uttered.

Growing up as a dancer has developed me into somewhat of a verbalized-approval kind of girl. In order to know that I am doing something well, I need that teacher to tell me “Good, Lexie,” or “That’s it!” Satisfaction and ease comes with knowing that someone else recognizes my hard work. Years and years of being trained to hear these words in the classroom have groomed me to expect the same in my personal life. Freshman year of college is notoriously difficult, and my year was no exception. During that period of major trial, reaffirming words from my professors seemed few and far between. My happiness depended solely on the words of others. Why wasn’t I feeling better when I did well in dance class? Why didn’t complimentary words from professors and peers help me feel any better about myself?

It wasn’t until that summer that I began to understand what I was missing. Now I know. I was missing out on the wonderful parts of myself.

At that point, 18 years into my life, I never understood how important it was to spend time with me. How could I possibly live a “happy” life off of the approval of others when I didn’t even know if I approved of myself? How could I expect people to want to be around me when I didn’t even want to be around me?

Three months between freshman and sophomore year of college changed my perspective. I was able to pinpoint the source of my insecurity, and begin to harness it as an essential and beautiful part of my being. Ashamed as I was to admit it, anxiety is a part of who I am. Though I have learned to manage it, I deal with anxiety on a deep level. I am adventurous, particular, a leader, a perfectionist. I am full of faith and believe in the Lord God as my savior. Lexie Thrash is a creative individual with many flaws but also a plethora of talents. I am confident in all facets of me.

Today, when I hear “Good, Lexie” in a dance class, I am still reassured. Now with my ability to appreciate who I am on my own terms, those comments are not the basis of my happiness. My happiness comes from inside of who I am. It radiates from my being. I still get scared. I still deal with anxiety. But I choose to see those parts as essential puzzle pieces to my ever-growing and developing picture. It sounds odd to put it writing, but I now know that my best friend need always be myself (and my God).

I guess my lesson is this: After taking time to learn who you are and accepting all parts of yourself, you will be on your way to a more wholesome, fulfilling life. The only person you need to live with is YOU.

Today, I will leave you with this. Do you like the person you are today? Are you proud of every facet of yourself? It’s ok if your answer is “maybe” or “not really.” It’s not an easy feat, nor is it a journey that happens quickly. I am still learning each day to accept who I am. What I do know is that I am a beautiful, wonderful child of God. I am HUMAN. I am flawed, but I am my own best friend. That is the greatest lesson I have ever learned.

-Lesson by Lexie Thrash-

11657571_10152930458862826_2034753152_n-1Lexie Thrash is a senior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, working towards dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Dance and the Integrated Advertising nd Corporate Communication (IACC) concentration of Media Arts and Design. She is an aspiring performing and visual artist. When she isn’t dancing and designing, Lexie loves to spend her spare time collecting Snapple caps, learning to play the guitar, and visiting the beach. She has studied abroad in London, England through the JMU Dance Department, and is currently in Los Angeles with the School of Media Arts and Design for the Summer 2015 semester. With dreams of experiencing many different cultures throughout her lifetime, Lexie plans to spend a year traveling the world upon graduation
from college, and potentially relocate to New York City, NY. You can read more about her adventures in her blog, www.dancerdesigner.wordpress.com.

Lesson #345: And they worked happily ever after.

6/30/15.

Can you forgive me for a momentary lack of loyalty?

For a second today, I abandoned my number one rule:

Never stop learning.

As you know, Tuesdays mean we have a guest speaker in class.

But I’m only human, and I made a mistake.

I momentarily caught myself thinking that I had nothing new to learn—mostly because I was missing being an extra in a movie to be in class—but nonetheless, I’m still embarrassed the thought even crossed my mind. How could I basically betray the whole purpose of my blog?

I’d like to think it wasn’t with pretentious way; thoughts like this aren’t a regular occurrence for me. But after three or four guest speakers combined with my circumstance, I started thinking: What does it even matter? Won’t their advice all be the same? To make connections? Work hard? To do our best?

Today, Amy Baer came to my rescue, and seriously proved me wrong. She completely flipped the table, and gave some of the most incredible advice I’ve ever received in my life. It was an absolute honor.

Amy Baer is a former studio executive (AKA the previous CEO of CBS Films and Executive Vice President of Sony Pictures…wowza) turned independent producer and founder of her own content company, Gidden Media. Baer and her Gidden colleagues, Chris Ceccoti (JMU Alumni…whoop whoop) and Jes Bikert, were kind enough to share a little bit of their stories and give us some insight into the professional world.

Amy started with my favorite thing to hear from people:

her story.

When Baer started her career, she was working at a desk. She began thinking rather quickly: ”How do I break out of this mold?” She was terrified that she would get comfortable; that she would become a career secretary. Working at a popular company, she realized that nothing about it was appealing other than the outside perspective; that the company was “cool” and “big.”

She said one day it hit her: “I’m not exactly sure what I want, but I know it’s not this.”

I think this is all something we can relate to—or will at some point in our lives—whether it’s a job, internship, relationship, or something of the sort. Here’s some freaking great advice from Amy Baer on how she handled it, and what she’s learned over the course of her career.

Before your happily ever after

One of the very first things Amy told us, is to tune in internally and really get clear on what we want to be doing.

“You have to be clear internally, because this is a noisy business.”

We know in our gut what kind of things we enjoy doing naturally; it’s instinctive. It’s pretty simple: you know what you like and what you don’t—whether you know exactly what you want to do with your life, or not. Don’t focus on the job title you want, or the position you crave. Focus on what you love to do.

Sounds easy, right?

But with your first few jobs, that might get put to the test.

You might have to try a few places or positions to figure out where your heart lies.

So onto the next chapter of life.

During your happily ever after

So you finally get your ‘happily ever after’ job.

Or at least—you think you do.

But the story isn’t over here.

The truth is, what we usually think is our end destination, is only the beginning.

The show goes on—and there might be a few plot twists along the way.

Here’s five things you may want to know.

1. Part of remaining happy in what you do involves holding near and dear what’s valuable to you. It’s unavoidable: at some point in your career, you will have to choose between what you value, and your job. At one point in her life, Amy got offered a great job opportunity with DreamWorks, but she had to watch another person get it because she didn’t want to move her kids in school. You will have to choose. And because of this, you won’t get every job. But you will ultimately get to keep and have what you love and value. As for Amy, she didn’t get that specific job. But in the end, she got the job. (I mean…she’s running her own company!)

2. Discover and create a safe space with a great group of people where ideas can be kicked around without judgment. The people in this environment should be encouraging, but everyone should constantly be pushing and challenging one another also. Jes loved a script they received about rice. It was a strange concept, but he went for it anyways. He told Amy to read it, and she ended up loving it too—all because she was open to it.

3. If you’re afraid, this business is not for you. Amy told us that we’re constantly going to be told our idea “won’t work.” She has received feedback on pitches multiple times: ”No one is going to buy this.” She told us, “Well that’s their opinion. Next phone call.” And even we you do get it—everybody falls flat on their face at some point. “Everybody. Everybody. Everybody,” she said. “And it’s not ‘if’. It’s ‘when.'” One or two or five projects are bound to be a bust. But there are one or two or five that won’t be.

4. If you’re looking for security, this business is also not for you. Things are changing, constantly. Nothing is promised. But the good news? There’s endless possibility. Especially in this day and age.

5. Beware of boredom. And most importantly, when you do get bored with what you’re doing, leave. Fear boredom like the plague. Don’t listen to the paycheck, or the voices that say, “This is what I should be doing next.” Hating or becoming disinterested in what you do everyday—and staying—is death on earth. You should love what you do, because it’s what you’re spending your life doing.

When you do come to that fork in the road, feeling unhappy or unsure about what you’re doing, really sit down and ask yourself this:

“Why am I doing this?”

Baer had to ask herself this when she found herself unhappy at one of her jobs. She remembered thinking, again,

“This is not what I want to be doing.”

She recalled her earliest memories of being happy. “When I was younger, I fell in love with the way I felt when I watched movies. I thought, ‘What does this job have to do with creative content?’ It didn’t. So I quit.”

When it came time for questions, I asked: “How do you know it’s definitely time to leave, or if you should stay a little bit longer to get the most of the experience?” Chris answered: “Ask yourself: ‘Am I still learning things? Am I growing?’ If not, it’s probably time to go.”

As we were about to move onto to the next question, Amy came back to me and told me something I’ll never forget—or at least something I never want to.

She told us to always ask ourselves:

Am I serving where my passion is?”

And I think that pretty much sums up the entirety of the talk.

Go where you are able to serve your passion by doing what you love.

Go work happily ever after.

But like any old tale, we have to question it’s authenticity.

Is ‘happily ever after’ a real thing?

Maybe we’ll work happily ever after, and that will be the end of it.

But maybe we’ll spend our whole lives searching for what we love to do, finally finding it, and then searching and finding it all over again.

Like Brenna expressed in her guest post a few days ago, many fear being average.

But what I fear?

Finding something above average that I love doing, but never being satisfied with it somehow; always wanting more.

That idea is actually terrifying to me. But in a way—it’s inspiring. It’s fantastic. It’s whimsical. It’s magical.

A world of opportunity is a scary thing.

But it only means more opportunity for us to keep falling in love with different aspects and subsets and branches of what we love to do. It means we have the opportunity to constantly create different things, think in new ways, and continually change and impact our corner of the world. We just can’t fear the change.

So how does it end?

Well.

It looks like we’ll work happily ever after—

—until our next fairytale carries us away.

Day 345.

Lesson #342: The city is the cure.

6/27/15.

After taking on a day’s worth of beautiful places—I’m pretty sure I found the cure-all to bouncing back from a stress-filled week and refreshing a cloudy mind.

The city.

Today we hopped on the metro bright and early (half of us weren’t awake) and headed towards Hollywood. We started out with the usual tourist attractions—the Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood stars and handprints—and made our way across town. We passed incredible street art, walked through the Walt Disney Concert Hall, took a coffee break and an impromptu tour of the Biltmore Hotel where a 1940s Oscars ceremony was held, dropped by Perishing Square, visited Union Station, went to a few famous film locations (500 Days of Summer, anyone?), and had incredible and authentic tacos, beans, and rice at Grand Central Market. The ice-cream we treated ourselves to for desert was the cherry on top of the day thus far.

Our last stop was a quaint but lively area called El Pueblo, a hispanic corner in the city. Live upbeat music filled the streets and colorful flags were strung from lamp to lamp. Little shops and stands with food, clothing, and trinkets lined a crowded alleyway. I had a lovely time finding teeny presents for my loved ones back home, and learning about the culture behind the items from the stand owners. I even found a cute little wishing well, and #blessed my tiny coin as it made its way to the blue bottom of the fountain.

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Taken by the wonderful LA roomie, Alejandra Buitrago.

People were everywhere.

Of course, as soon as we got there, I immediately made my way towards the dancing and music. I pulled my friends Lexie and Christine into the commotion, and we began to salsa—horribly. A small, adorable older man in a red shirt approached us and started dancing with me. We shimmied together and shook our hips and danced and laughed as the crowd surrounding us got larger and larger and pulled out their cameras.

Today was literally the happiest I’ve been all week.

It’s funny and strange to think that I almost didn’t come, because I have so many things to do.

This week, I’ve felt a little out of my element.

Obviously I’m in a completely different city across the country.

But in addition to being in new surroundings and new situations, I’ve felt more than stressed out trying to find a balance between getting things done (this blog, my youtube documentary series, homework, and a freelance project) and having the time of my life in LA.

I couldn’t quite pinpoint why I’ve felt so strange, but I now realize that it’s because I let the weight of my tasks weigh me down.

While I still didn’t end up getting much done at all, I learned a lesson that was well worth it.

It’s the moments that we lose ourselves in the things we don’t know, and re-lose ourselves in the things we already know, that we find little pieces of ourselves again.

We find happiness.

The city isn’t the only option. Maybe a trip to the woods, or to the top of the mountains, or a day sprawled out across a field, or on a beach.

But every once in a while, we do need to get outside of ourselves and be around people who are walking the same earth as us.

We need to live.

Today reminded me of one of my favorite lessons I’ve ever written, and I was happy to revisit it in a new light, and in a new place.

Get lost in what’s around you.

Sometimes a day on the town is exactly what we need.

Day 342.

Lesson #336: The only way to it, is through it.

6/21/15.

Of course,

today’s lesson is the exact opposite of yesterday’s lesson.

That would happen.

At 5:00am, seven of us woke up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise at a little park in the Hollywood hills called Griffith Observatory. We sped to catch the sun, got re-routed about three times (the freeway exit was closed), and finally arrived at the park.

Surprise.

We ended up doing a three hour hike for 7.2 miles through the mountains, all to make it to the Hollywood sign.

This was not planned.

We had no water. We hadn’t eaten. Some of us had one or two hours of sleep. We sure as hell weren’t in proper hiking shoes.

But when saw the incredible view, acknowledged the fact that we were already there, and realized that we had the whole day ahead of us—we decided,

“Why not?”

As soon as I saw the “Beware of rattlesnakes” sign, I knew shit was about to go down.

It started out as a dirt road.

Then it became a winding dirt road.

Then it became an upward winding road.

We had no idea where we were going, and we didn’t start out at the traditional entrance that headed to the sign. Basically, we were on one of the mountains nearby, we saw it, and we decided to head for it.

We asked people along the way which direction to go, and got different answers each time. So  we just kept heading towards the electric tower near the sign, determined to find a way to get there—whether it was up, around, down, or through.

Seriously.

We started scaling the mountain.

The path was carved out, but the trail was pretty thin. We were ridiculously high in the sky, so much that we could look down at the city through clouds of fog.

People were passing us in full-on hiking gear, meanwhile we’re grabbing rocks with our hands and sliding down drops on our butts.

But the view was absolutely beautiful.

Houses, lights, meandering roads, clouds, hills, greenery—it seemed like the world was endless.

After an hour of panting, stopping, and sweating, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain hike, and raced onto the normal path.

But we weren’t done yet.

We had another thirty minutes of walking uphill, tackling the last mountain.

Finally, we reached a gate.

The Hollywood sign was right in front of us, facing outwards towards the city. The letters were huge and white, even bigger than I had imagined.

We made it.

There were times that we actually doubted we would—but we did.

And it was honestly one of the most rewarding moments of my entire life.

It’s sounds so incredibly cheesy, but really, we did it all together. And that’s what made the experience so cool. We helped one another and kept each other going and it was great.

We got to the top and took pictures and hung out for a second, taking it all in. It wasn’t the view we initially imagined—but we soon realized that it was even closer.

The hike back down was even harder than coming up. We decided to head home towards our apartment, since it was closer than where we started. When we saw the new mountain we had to go down… I couldn’t even begin to tell you some of the looks on our faces. It was HUGE. And steep. Even steeper than the first. Since I was in a pair of converse and we were going downhill, I was sliding everywhere. I slipped and got a huge cut on my ankle and elbow, and scratches on my leg.

I guess I could call them wounds.

But I think I’ll call them battle scars instead.

See what I did there?

When the morning began, we thought it would be a nice, clear day—but there was a ton of fog. We thought we would reach the front of the sign—but we were behind it. We thought we were simply going to watch the sunrise—then we went on the most unexpected, challenging, hilarious, and incredible hikes of our lives.

So today’s lesson?

It’s all about perspective and perseverance.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s lesson, planning is important.

But when it comes to planning, things go wrong.

And when things go wrong, you have to be flexible.

And when you have to be flexible, being positive about it helps.

And when you’re positive about it, your perspective changes.

And when your perspective changes,

you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Believe me—this trip was not perfect. Aside from the physical hardships and barriers, I’m not going to pretend like it was all roses and daisies. There were definitely some emotions happening; some resentment and hesitation on everyone’s part.

But in the end,

we had each others back,

we changed our perspective,

we persevered,

we had fun,

we made memories,

and we made it.

And that’s what matters.

The next time you’re forced to face a mountain in your life (literally or figuratively…ha)—remember:

The only way the get to it, is to get through it.

Day 336.

Lesson #330: Live long and prosper.

6/15/15.

At my internship, a lot of my time is spent at a desk logging interviews, and watching and finding clips for segments.

I don’t mind, because every day I learn something new.

Today I watched an interview with Nichelle Nichols, one of the original Star Trek TV series cast members, and one of the first Black women on television to ever be portrayed positively in a role other than a servant. She’s a legendary trailblazer.

She recently had a stroke, and one of my tasks today was to watch an interview she did on a talk show, post recovery.

When asked how she was doing, she replied, “Better than ever.” She had the biggest smile on her face as she mentioned something about feeling wilder than ever.

My spirit animal.

Then she said this:

“The things you have no control over—deny them.”

It may seem kind of crazy, but she has completely denied her stroke. She doesn’t remember it, so she’s not freaking out about it, because she doesn’t even want to go there.

Although I’ve heard variations of this mantra before, and some things in life aren’t better swept under the rug—some things are. And something about this struck me today.

It’s hard to do, but you have the power to shut things out. You totally have the power to say, “Nope. Not going to let this get to me. Not going to let it affect me. Not going to let it overcome me.”

And then you have to keep moving forward.

“Whatever happens, I take care of it, and then I give it to God,” she said.

Live long and prosper.

Day 330.