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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Day 357.

Lesson #351: Knowledge by repetition.

7/6/15.

Slightly different from the saying “practice makes perfect,”

is what I like to call knowledge by repetition.

It’s different than acquiring and perfecting a skill.

It’s remembering and retaining and realizing.

It’s the satisfaction of something finally coming with ease, rather than attaining a goal by exertion.

If you’re anything like me—

and I’m sure a ton of other people—

you find yourself frustrated when you can’t get something right the first time around, or when you can’t quite remember how to do it or what to do.

But before we can even attempt to hone a craft, perfect a talent, or deepen our knowledge,

we need to simply know how to do it first.

That foundation, the first and most important step, is the one that we seem to skip over and become impatient with—when it’s the one we need the most.

As I was driving home from work today, I realized I can finally get back to my apartment without a GPS. I remember being so frustrated the first few weeks. Everyday I would challenge myself to start heading home on my own through the streets of LA, get lost, and then have to type the address on my phone again. Why couldn’t I just remember already? It couldn’t be that hard.

After coming down Franklin today and merging onto Cahuenga, a huge smile spread across my face, and I couldn’t help it. I felt like a complete idiot. Who gets happy over the fact that they can finally get home on their own?

Me, I guess.

It’s just so special and fascinating, how we come to know things and pick up on things—people and places and faces and information—and even the most mundane and simple actions.

We have to do it, and do it, and do it.

And then one day,

we’ll just do it.

We’ll just know it.

Day 351.

Lesson #347: Make yourself (not) at home.

7/2/15.

Today I had the opportunity to make the easy decision, so I didn’t.

I had to ask someone something very important that involved spending part of the day alongside them,

so I figured I’d practice being brave.

Pick the person that makes me feel the most comfortable?

Or pick the person who’s kind of scary, not as welcoming, and hard to read?

I picked the latter.

And it actually turned out great.

We didn’t become “best pals” and not too much changed,

but it forced to me step it up, put on my confident guise even though I felt anything but, and learn how to be myself—even when I felt awkward and out of place.

Even if it hadn’t turned out the best—I’m pretty sure I would have been happy I made myself do it regardless.

That’s what happens you leap.

You’re just glad you did it.

So what I learned from that tiny deciding moment, and the moments of fear that followed?

Get uncozy.

While cuddling up in a ball on the couch seems pretty much appealing all of the time—

get out from under the covers every once in a while.

It’s good to be comfortable.

But remember, too much of anything is never good.

And cabin fever is no fun.

The best part is,

whatever you choose to conquer will be another lesson in itself.

You know what they say—

why don’t you get out of the house every once in a while?

The fresh air might be good for you.

And a little breeze always feels good.

Day 347.

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.