“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

“i beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. do not search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. and the point is, to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

 –Rainer Maria Rilke

 

This is the hardest part of the year for me. For the past 17 years (there was an added semester in there), my life changed at this time of year. And anyone who knows me, knows I hate the process of change. However, once all the chaos is over, I like the results. And I apologize in advance, this will probably be a fairly quote heavy post – but to remind me of the benefits of change, I have this quote on my desk.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”

– Deepak Chopra

It helped me get through some tough months in my life, and I constantly have to remind myself that without change, we can’t grow.

So that gets me back to the present – and there is no change. Or no surface change. I’m not going back to school. I’m not switching jobs. I’m not moving to a different country. I’m not moving, period. So I feel stuck.

But who doesn’t feel stuck to a certain degree? Not saying not happy, but possibly inflexible.

Suddenly, the weight of limited vacation days is hitting me as I realize I don’t have the freedom I used to. As my parents gear up to go to Singapore to visit my brother, I feel a loss that I can’t go. And yes – I chose the word loss very closely because I have lost the freedom I once had.

Before I continue – I must say, I am incredibly blessed and happy with the life I have. Good friends, job, family, apartment, etc. But growing up always makes you nostalgic for the past.

I decided while writing this, I wasn’t going to dwell on my feeling of being stuck and possibly in a rut. Everyone has been there. We know that feeling. Are you where you should be? Are you with the right person? Is this the path you want your life to be on? However, the way we work through this is all different.

I have a natural tendency to clam up and go to a dark place. There is no other description for that – simply a dark place. I used to go there frequently years ago, but with help, it is a rarity. I get the heavy feeling of life being finite and the worry of not living the life I want.

To get over that, I have mastered the art of…..goal setting. I know that sounds super lame, and I wish I could give it a cooler title such as future planning, but really it’s just setting goals. Some days, it can be as simple as making a To Do list at work to bust out everything needed. However, on such days as my past birthday (yep, I’m the ripe old age of 23!), my family has a tradition of setting goals and dreams for the year ahead of us. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been able to list them so quickly. Things like, where I want to go (Africa and Singapore), to what I want to do (run a 5k, which may be the death of me). And something I didn’t write down, but that has been a goal of mine is to reach 100 loans on Kiva. I’m at 75, so 25 more in a little over 4 months (seriously people, check Kiva.org out!). Clearly, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.

Those seem so minor, but once again, let me remind you of the phrase my mom always tells me:

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

– Joy Norman

And maybe right now, there’s not a clear light. There isn’t change like going to Africa (oh, to go back in time!) or graduating college, so for me, I have to make it about the little or big things. So loaning $50 to an entrepreneur may seem small, but the small things add up.

So, my dear friends, my favorite little ones, I will leave you with another quote I have at my desk at work, that I often read when things don’t go right. I hope it will bring you peace and inspire you accept the things you can’t change. I treasure you all.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Quest for Happiness

The past few months I have been on a quest for the thing best known as “happiness.”

That may surprise many of you, and may not for just as many of you.

I’ve always found this concept of true happiness as fleeting in my life, just as I may find pain, fear or exhaustion.  I know it exists, I’ve experienced plenty of times, but I want to know what it feels like when it sticks around (cancel that about those other feelings…I’d like to pass on extended feelings of those types).

As I began my unofficial quest for happiness, I thought it would come naturally after I graduated.  I was miserable during my final semester of school.  I didn’t want to be in that world anymore, the drive was frustrating, and I would have rather been doing the work I was doing full-time.

But when I graduated, I didn’t get that wash-over-you sense that happiness can bring.  Relief was definitely a huge feeling, and maybe a twinge of happiness, but not what I had hoped for.

I also thought that happiness may come as soon as I got a job.  I threw myself into sending out applications and searching for new places to apply.  So when I got that call saying I had an offer, I thought I should be dancing around the room, but, stomach flu aside, once again, I just got that sense of relief.  And a feeling of accomplishment.  But not true happiness.

I kept doing that…banking that maybe this, or maybe that would make me happy.  Maybe starting my job, maybe going out tonight, maybe going on vacation would help me achieve it.

Fail, fail fail.

During this time, my life seemed on different levels to be falling apart.  Things weren’t going great in my personal life, my work life was stressful, and it was truly pouring.

I started making every wish at 11:11 and fallen eyelashes that I would be truly happy.  For obvious reasons, that didn’t work so well.

In a last ditch effort, I started reading the book “The Art of Happiness,” which discusses how to achieve happiness according to the Dali Lama.  I’m only about 30 pages in, but I can already tell it’s not my do-all be-all.

I reached a true low last week at Crossroads….a different time than my last post, but clearly that place has some sort of effect on me.  They’re doing a series on the big questions in life, and this sermon happened to be Doubt vs. Belief.  I don’t think the topic had as much to do with it as the fact it was the beginning of the series.  At the end of the message, the audience was asked to write down a question that they struggle with in their lives.  The first thing that popped into my head was “Do I deserve true happiness?”

That was monumental for me.  I had it in writing.  I was unhappy, and I didn’t like where I was.

After that, my unofficial quest became something much more official.  And I took a new theory on happiness.  I control my happiness.  Certain events in my life don’t.  Certain people in my life don’t.  My work doesn’t.  My relationships with others don’t.  I do.

Clearly, all the above things have huge factors in my control of happiness, but I play those chess pieces.

So…how did I move on from unofficial to official?

I started doing activities that I enjoy.  I’ve spent time outdoors when the weather has been nice.  Both with others, and just myself.  I’ve gone swimming, for the fun of it, not for a workout.  I’ve gone on a hike to be thankful that I am able to hike after so many back injuries.  I’ve accomplished everything on my to-do lists at work.  I’ve continued to read books that interest me.  I’ve gone shopping.  I’m planning a vacation to Alaska to visit one of my good friends.  I’ve gone to bed early and gotten up early.  I’ve put effort in relationships that I thought were worth saving.  I’ve left work early when it’s just been a little too nice outside to stay in (after finishing everything on my to-do list).  I’ve taken deep breaths, choosing to appreciate the exact moment I am in, not wishing it was another.  I’ve explored areas from my childhood that have memories associated with them.  I signed up to be a mentor through Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  I’ve pledged to do one thing a month that scares me…in a good way.  I’ve started praying again, allowing myself to feel the presence of God in my life, as well as asking for this happiness I’ve sought after for so long.  I’ve also allowed myself to be honest with him when I can’t be honest with anyone else.  I’ve continued to explore new relationships with people in my life, such as my co-worker Jennie who brightens my day every day.  I’ve done things in Cincinnati that I’ve never/rarely done before, such as seeing a play in Over-the-Rhine with a friend.

I know that’s a ridiculously long list, but who ever said achieving happiness was an easy task?

My epiphany from this work, and what I hope may help you, my dear readers, is that happiness is an accumulation of things.  It is not based on one thing.  New shoes, while amazing, will only make me temporarily happy (and may cause me to sprain my ankle…true story), but they will not give me this deep sense of happiness I’m starting to experience.

I’ve been told by someone very influential in my life that I experience feelings on a more extreme level than others.  Until she said that, I had never noticed.  But she’s right…I feel things on a different level than my peers.  Which is no difference than someone having more self-will, motivation, dedication or whatever than other people.  It is NOT my burden to bear, and instead is a gift.  So, when I reach this true state of happiness, I will settle into it at a nicer level than others.  Who wouldn’t want that?

I’d like to leave you all with a quote that has been influential in my quest.  I have it on computer screen, so I see it every day.  It’s continued to motivate me towards this goal I’ve had and am now starting to achieve.

So today, tonight, tomorrow, do one thing that makes you happy. And then another.  And keep doing that because only you control your happiness.

“Take responsibility of your joy and never again give anyone else the job of making you happy.”

Light

“…….the light at the end of the tunnel is what we call hope”

Life has a funny way of pouring when it starts raining.  It’s the domino effect for negative events.  Suddenly karma really really hates you.  And through the struggle, there’s a need to keep from drowning in it.

Having the name Hope doesn’t make it any easier.  Just an FYI.

But truly, at times like these, it makes me realize how blessed I am in so many ways.  Well okay, that realization didn’t come as easily as I just made it sound.  Having some Graeters may have helped speed the process up a little bit.  And a glass of wine.  Okay, and a small dose of retail therapy.  Plus, this idea that you have to fake it til you make it, in the sense of positivity helps me make it through tough times.

Alright, I’ll stop beating around the bush.  I’ve had a tough past few weeks for a numerous variety of reasons.  I’m not gonna give the laundry list of events, but it all accumulated with finding out that someone I had been in a previous relationship was not faithful, and in fact started dating someone else while we were together.  Pretty rough stuff…but in my usual sense, I decided to try and be strong and direct the emotions I had about the event towards anger because it seemed normal.   And anger makes you tough.  And tough people don’t hurt.  But today, I went to Crossroad, and while there was some time of meditation, this overwhelming feeling came over me….it’s okay to hurt.  And suddenly, I just let myself feel hurt.  And wow…was it relieving.

After I let myself feel all those emotions, I suddenly felt the anger and tension leave my body.  Not towards the person, but towards myself.  And that’s when I was able to see how blessed I am.

I am fortunate enough to have a wide group of friends who love me, with all my flaws.  Who will answer my phone calls when I need to talk, and who will give me honest opinions.  I also have a family who would, I have no doubt, do anything for me…and in fact, have many times over, done that.  I have an amazing job…hell, I have a job!  I work with an amazing group of people who are patient with me while I still learn everything.  And I get to see the work I do become a reality…delayed gratification.  I have a cause that not only am I passionate about, but I have the ability to support.  Finally, I am blessed because I’ve learned that it’s okay to be down…I don’t have to be optimistic all the time…but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel sure helps.

When I was younger, in an attempt for me to like my name, my mom had me meet Hope Taft, the wife of former Governor Bob Taft.  There may have been an element of fraud to the introduction, but let’s not split hairs….Anyway, Hope Taft sent me a book entitled “Hope Was Here” by Joan Bauer that is chalk full of great quotes, but this one has always stood out to me:

“You’ve got to love yourself with all your short comings, and you’ve got to love the world no matter how bad it gets.”

On a more informative part of this blog, I wanted to update everyone on my current life.  Ready…go!

  • I graduated!  Woohoo!!!  It’s about time.  175 hours and two degrees later, I marched in the December graduation at Miami.
  • I have a previously mentioned job.  I work at Barefoot Proximity, a digital ad agency.  I work on the Febreze/Dawn/Cascade accounts.  So…what does that mean?  Barefoot manages the websites for those brands, as well as any of those ads you see as you surf the internet for those products.  They have other accounts that you know, but I work on those three.  So, it’s a good thing Jill and I already used Dawn and Cascade.
  • Speaking of Jill…I have an apartment in Oakley with my best friend from high school.  It’s a two family house, and we have the 2nd and 3rd floor.  It’s a fabulous place with a lot of character, we just wish our electricity bill was a little lower.
  • I went on a fabulous vacation after graduation with both my parents, and my friend Karen to Nicaragua.  What an amazing country and equally as amazing people.  While I am still bitter about the fact a certain monkey wouldn’t hang out with me, the trip was exactly what I needed to celebrate my graduation.  And the weather was so amazing which was a fabulous break from Cincinnati winters.
  • Along those lines, I still have a strong dislike for snow as I got into an accident because of it.  The day after we got back from Nicaragua, I was getting on the highway during a snowstorm and as I was merging, my car spun out, I did a 180 and hit the median.  Amazingly, I didn’t hit anyone, and I wasn’t hurt.  I was able to drive away, albeit shaking like a leaf, but my car is pretty banged up.  We’re trying to figure out the next steps of what to do…
  • I have started to attempt swimming again.  I’m a little rusty, but muscle memory is pretty insane.  Like riding a bike…even though I don’t do that.  And I forgot how much I love goggle marks around my eyes.

I believe you’re all pretty much caught up on my life.  Fabulous at times and just trucking through at others.  But the great thing about life is that it just keeps moving on.  And you have to move with it.  I’ll also leave you all with this…a picture of Karen and me in Nicaragua in front of a volcanic lake.  Just to brighten winter a little…and to show you all that there is a light at the end of all our tunnels.

Paint the Street

I’ve been working on a semester long project focused on organizations and events in Over-the-Rhine.  Typically required to write articles, I took some creative liberties and made a photo story for this event…I think you’ll know why when you see it.  Click the link below to view the story.

Paint the Street

Miss a day, miss a lot

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”
–Calvin & Hobbes

I have spent much of the past school year in survival mode.  And between all the mundane activities, the overwhelming stress, and long days, it has become the things I choose myself that helps me get through the semesters.

For example, I have become a vegetarian.  I’ve mentioned it briefly before, but I thought I’d explain since everyone always ask “why?”  It all started out as a plan to do things that challenged myself.  I had a list of things of things to give up ranging from a week to a day such as  meat, chocolate, ice cream, facebook, my phone, etc.  I decided to start out with meat because I thought that would be the hardest since I love my hamburgers, steak and chicken, but a funny thing happened.  I started to feel better after about the third day of no meat.  My head felt clearer and suddenly I had more energy.  So I decided to make one week two, and it just built up from there.  I have not had a bite of meat since November, minus the time my dad forgot to tell me a Chicago style pizza had pepperoni on it.

I also went on spring break with Abby and Elana to Sayulita, Mexico.  It was about as opposite of the stereotypical college spring break as possible.  I read four books, ate a lot of really good food, and drank very little.  Between both the Fall and Spring semesters, I have taken 44 hours, so I needed some breathing space.  We stayed with Abby’s aunt and uncle who were such a delight and have the most amazing restaurant (if you ever go, you HAVE to go to Rollie’s).  I don’t think I’ve ever had so many amazing breakfasts in a row, although breakfast for me these days is lucky if it’s more than a few handfuls of cereal.

I also managed to get a summer internship that PAYS!  I’m working for Seek Research (look them up!), and I couldn’t be more excited.  Well, I could be because I just signed a lease for an apartment with my best friend Jill.  We’re living in a two family home in Oakley and we get the second and third floor.    It was the second place we looked at, and we just knew.  Or at least I did…but that may have been the pain from my broken foot speaking.

Oh yeah, I broke my foot.  Well it’s a little up in the air, but most likely it’s broken.  I made it all winter with record snow fall and all the ice, and I never fell.  But of course, it was the freak snow at the end of March that got me.  I just straight wiped out on black ice.  So now I have this really cute shoe that has started to fall apart.  It does make going through airport security a lot of fun because I have to get the full pat down, AND I get to be drug swabbed.

But I guess the most recent, exciting news I have is that I just got back from LA and Las Vegas.  I decided to visit my friend Cathy out there after a breakup.  Oh yeah, I was dating someone.  For roughly 8-9 months.  Wow, I really keep you guys out of the loop.  So anyway, it was a “I need a break” trip, and I don’t think I could have asked for anything better.  Cathy is a doll, and we had such an amazing time.  I met such great people both in LA and Vegas.  I don’t realize how truly undiverse Miami is, and how important diversity is to me.  I was also able to see one of my good friends Rebecca who I hadn’t seen in awhile.

So after my experience, I really think I want to move to LA in the near future.  I don’t graduate until December, and my lease goes until the end of May, and I also applied to the Peace Corps (like any of you are really that surprised), so maybe after all of that?  I really want/need to get my MBA in order to do the type of work I want, and I really like Pepperdine’s International Business degree, so maybe I’ll head out there.

Who really knows.  I have come to realize that while I can try to imagine and plan my future for myself, I have to be open to the flexibility that anything could happen.  And really, that’s okay with me.

Beginning of the End?

For many of my friends, this is the last semester of their undergraduate college career.  Unfortunately for me (or fortunately depending on who you ask), I still have another semester left.  So I’m fighting an odd form of vicarious seniorities.

This semester I’m currently taking 17 hours, but I’m going to try to pick up at least one online class so once again I’ll be around 20-21 with my part-time job.  It’s a lot of work, but I’m hoping that I can bust it out one more time.

Yesterday I had to get permanent retainers reput in and my teeth are paying the price.  I used to have one on the bottom, but it went across my entire mouth which was a hassle.  So I got my teeth bonded and now I have mini retainers.  Yesterday my teeth were just sore, but for some reason now they’re sensitive.  And I thought I was over all the teeth hassle.  I was definitely the oldest person in the orthodontist office though.

Christmas break was good, a nice needed break.  For those of you who didn’t know (and I don’t know who that would be), my fam went to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.  The loooooong drive was broken up on the way there with lots of stops in Nashville, Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery.  New Orleans was pretty cool though Bourbon Street was super sketchy.  And as most of you know, the game was….well it left a lot to be desired.  Except for my Florida fan brother.  He loved it.

The drive back sans Luke was a straight shot and I don’t know if my butt has ever been so sore.  We did have a lovely stop at a Waffle House on the way back…and I’m having a great time at the Waffle House!

I’m working on getting an internship this summer and soon I’ll be able to start looking for apartments with my friend Jill.  I have also become a vegetarian and have started running.  So lots of random things going on with me.  I’m also doing more website work for my job and I now have the ability to easily edit anything on the main website which is exciting.

Unfortunately I must run now (though not literally).  My Tuesday/Thursdays go from 8-5:50 pretty much straight through so it’s off to management for me!

Movin On Up…

I have decided to move on from blogger.  It served me incredibly well while I had it, but I felt like WordPress could serve me better in the long run.  But as I’m sure you have noticed, I was able to import all my old blogs.  So…if you ever feel the need to catch on anything from my past, it’s all right there.  Lucky people you.

I have officially reached hump day which is also one of my busiest days of the week.  Well actually, Tuesday-Thursday are all busy, but obviously Wednesday means I’m half-way there.  Woo!  Thankfully this week I don’t have a lot of homework, and no tests, but I do have 3 projects due this week, so it’s been a little crazy.

Thanksgiving was good, although it was a tad crazy because the floors in our house had been refinished and the smell as a little overwhelming.  So I slept on people’s couches two of the four nights I was home.  But it all worked out.  Thanksgiving day was a lot of fun as usual.  This year I had the honor of frying the rolls with Papa.  I only managed to get the hot oil on me twice, and I didn’t really get badly burned, so I chalked that up as a success.  The rolls had 6 tablespoons of salt instead of 6 teaspoons, so they were definitely on the salty side, but that probably was a good thing because I ate less of them than normal.  I definitely think those rolls would fall under an “Not This” category for “Eat This, Not That,” but it is just a once a year kind of thing.

I don’t really have much else to say…I guess my blog is in the same kind of rut that my life feels like its in.  I just need to make it 2 weeks from now and I’ll be done.  And maybe I’ll be more inspired to inspire all of you.  One can only hope.

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