Tag Archives: california

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.

1044337_10201509467042724_982591471_n

Day 365.

Advertisements

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.

Lesson #357: Get her to the Getty.

7/12/15.

As soon as the museum director said “There’s a great power in observing anything” in the orientation video, I knew it was going to be a good day.

Today we took a trip to the Getty Museum.

11027485_10204919620814437_6771853089776415716_n

When we looked up from the bottom of the highway, we spotted the large white museum sitting atop a tree-scattered mountain with a beautiful view. If ever a building could be majestic, it was this one. Upon riding the tram up the mountainside and stepping into each of the massive buildings, we found the interiors rich with paintings, busts, sculptures, photos, and decorative antiques lining every wall and corner of each room. Outside of the gorgeous stone and marble walls, we zig-zagged down a staircase into the garden. There were bright green trees, plants, flowers in full bloom, and a small stream running through the garden that dropped into a waterfall. Everything about the museum was pristine, well designed, and absolutely breathtaking.

11225401_10204919622334475_3277221720217098429_n

11742711_10204919622694484_3920476522981127380_n11694761_10204919623294499_3886030508633502235_n

Although we stuck together as a group at first, we quickly realized that the only way to really experience the art was to experience it ourselves. As certain pieces of work caught our eye and certain exhibits drew our attention, we began to split off and explore the mysteries of the museum on our own.

I stopped and viewed many of the paintings, sculptures, and antiques, listening to the stories behind the art on an app for the museum through headphones. The last exhibit I went to and the one that captured my heart, was the photography exhibit, “Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography.”

10393773_10204919624134520_1060393183184231548_n

I strolled through the wooden-floored rooms, taking in the pictures of birds with their wings spread and the moon floating through the night sky. I was pleased with the pictures; they were beautiful, but it was easy to just look at them, appreciate them, and quickly move on. Then a small corner room in the back of the exhibit really captured my attention. All of the photos in the room were by a photographer I had never heard of named Matthew Brandt.

I walked over to a series of photos by him titled Rainbow Lake. For these photos, Brandt soaked the prints of the shots he took of a lake in the actual water from the lake. I thought they were fascinating and interesting, but another piece of his was drawing me from across the room.

The first picture of the day that I was completely and utterly enthralled with and completely stopped by, was his photo titled Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971. At first glance, it’s only a photograph of a building falling over. But something about it was magnetizing to me. I immediately typed in the code under the painting and listened to the picture’s story on the Getty app; I now understood I felt that way for a good reason.

Brandt’s voice filled my headphones, telling me how he looks up old photos in the Los Angeles Public Library Archive. When he finds a photo he likes, he takes it. This specific photo happened to be of a department store being torn down in Pasadena, California.

He went to the site in the picture that exists now, and swept up the dust from the ground there. Brandt didn’t go in with his camera or any other tools. Just a small bin to put the dust in.

He brought back the dust to use as pigment over the picture.

00036082-3

00036082-3 “Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971”; Matthew Brandt, American, born 1982; Pasadena, California, United States, North America; 2013; Gum bichromate print; Image: 110.5 x 143.5 cm (43 1/2 x 56 1/2 in.); 2014.17

Brandt said he did this because he was fascinated with the “conflation of time.” I’ve always been fascinated by time and its mysteries and wonders as well. It was at this moment that I fell in love with the photo even more.

To be completely honest, when I got to the previous paragraph, I realized I still had no idea what I wanted to say in this lesson. I knew I wanted to talk about my trip to the Getty and my fascination with the Matthew Brandt photo, but I had no idea what the actual lesson was. The photograph was riveting and captivating and genius—but what did it teach me?

I originally thought: “Ooh, this could spark thought and discussion about time and the past and the present and how the two join together sometimes.” But it quickly dawned on me that from the very beginning, I knew what this lesson was truly about.

When we are captivated by something; when we are fascinated and floored and curious and in awe—we should chase after those feelings and capture them.

We should explore it, and think about it, and discuss it.

To me, that’s the definition of appreciation: loving something and caring enough to recognize it and acknowledge it.

We won’t always know or understand why we are so drawn to something.

And in a sense, it doesn’t really matter.

But what matters is that we give it the appreciation it deserves,

and then we share it with the world.

It’s like a smile for the soul.

I don’t know about you—but I think we could all use a little more of that.

11698781_10204919621414452_4584544639910454078_n-1

Day 357.

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.

11214281_10204830127817168_3182350893453188862_n

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 #319: The 5 whens.

6/4/15.

1. When you’re part of a team, the team comes before any personal want, gain, or goal. What I learned at my internship from sitting on set instead of at my desk during the busiest time of the day.

2. When you’re willing to walk the extra mile, you will be rewarded in the end. What I learned from walking thirty minutes down Sunset Boulevard, desperately and hilariously searching for a Mexican restaurant with my friend Carly, and finally finding the perfect one after almost turning around and giving up hope. It turned out to be the best food I’ve had in LA so far, and the wait staff was made up of the most kind, incredible people. (Go to Antonio’s on Sunset… you won’t be sorry)

3. When you just communicate and ask—I promise you—you save yourself 10x the trouble.  What I learned when Carly and I parked at Astroburger, spontaneously decided to walk all the way down Sunset, then realized that we were probably going to get towed. I called and begged for forgiveness and the safety of my car. It worked. Just be nice, and ask.

4. When you’re open and kind and apathetic towards others, you have the ability to positively shape someone’s day—even their life. What I learned as a broke college student during her first week in LA with a depleting bank account, waiting on her first paycheck, who had to pay for her meal with two different cards plus cash. After such great service, I told the waiter how embarrassed and horrible I felt for putting him through the trouble. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “It could be much worse. One time I forgot my wallet, had to leave my watch and my gold necklace at a restaurant, and ran back to my house to get my money.” I hugged him and thanked him for his kindness and understanding. “It happens,” he said warmly. I don’t know if he’ll ever know how much he made my day and shaped my thoughts. While I still felt bad, he made me feel better. I am a huge believer of always being kind to others and I try to do this every day of my life. But this made me think about how I treat others even more. What about when it’s not that easy? How will I react when I may be in a frustrating situation with someone else? Will I allow myself to get upset? Or will I be understanding? Ask yourself this too. So in closure: share your stories, be understanding, and be kind. Pass it forward.

5. When you don’t copy or save your blog posts before you submit them, the day will come when autosave won’t actually save you. What I learned when the day finally came. You’ll hate yourself, completely lose the desire to type it again for a few hours (…or days), and then have to type the entire thing over again.

But it’s okay.

It’s different, of course.

But somehow, it’s always a little bit better the second time around.

Day 319.