“Reel Life” vs. Real Life 

So, here’s the thing: you look at the world around you and wonder where you fit in. You ask yourself: Who am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do? Why am I here? Will I ever be successful in life and love?

…what’s my purpose? 

Any of those questions ring a bell to you? Maybe you’ve asked yourself these questions a time or two or ten thousand in your life. Maybe you’re asking yourself these questions right now, and you can’t come up with a solid answer for any of them. 
These questions started popping up into my mind recently based upon conversations I’ve had and things that I’ve observed lately. And do you know the main thing that brought up all these questions in my head? 

Yep, that’s right. SOCIAL MEDIA.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “oh this girl is going to talk about how bad social media can be, yet here she is writing on a social media platform.” Yes, I do, in fact, get the irony, but, for me, writing is more of a creative outlet. An escape from the chaos of everyday life. It has been since I was about 15. I write because it helps me ease my mind. I don’t really know how to explain it. In all honesty, these posts always start off as random arrays of notes on my phone when I’m trying to fall asleep at night (and clearly failing miserably at it), and if I feel its worth sharing with people, then I’ll post it. If someone happens to read it and it helps them, great! If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. At least I got it all off of my chest, out of my mind…however you want to say it. At least it’s given me some clarity. A chance to allow me to do some serious self reflecting and healing.

I lie awake some nights because my body just won’t rest until my mind does, and my mind has been telling me to become more in tune with myself. To start doing little things to improve my self happiness. You see, I’ve found myself consumed lately with scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, etc. and just comparing my life to the filtered “highlight reels” that I see of my peers and their lives. Or the lavishing lifestyles of the rich and famous. It all just seems so enchanting. 

“Wow, their life is so much cooler than mine.” 

Yeah, it all seems so incredibly amazing…until I stop and really think about how ridiculous my perception of it can be. How ridiculous it is to compare myself and my life to others, strictly based upon what they post online. Now I don’t know if all these thoughts are flooding though my mind because I’m adjusting to life in a new city, in a whole different state, well over 500 miles from home. It could honestly be because of my most recent Netflix binge on 13 Reasons Why. I don’t know. Could be anything putting these things in perspective for me, but I’m just gonna chalk it up to one of life’s never ending lessons. I think it’s also because of the fact that I just miss when life was simple. When I truly didn’t have a care in the world. Back when I was just a little girl with ambitious hopes and dreams for my future. 

Now, I think I’ve come a pretty long way since being that little girl with ambitious hopes and dreams for my future. Yet, I know that I still struggle now as an adult, especially in regards to loving myself. It can be really hard, at times, and it worries me for the young children of today. Those young children who learn how to use apps like SnapChat at the age of 3. By 12 or 13, they value their self worth strictly by the amounts of likes that they get on their Instagram pictures. It’s no coincidence that bullying rates and suicide rates have sky rocketed in recent years. Shout out to technology for making us all such disconnected individuals who can’t always put our phones down to actually get out and do things that bring our lives meaning and feed our hungry souls. 

Honestly, it’s a damn shame. The world we live in today. I often talk about my disdain for the amount of hatred and cruelty in this world. I’ve been told before that I can be a very old soul. There are times when I’m convinced that I was born in the wrong generation. Guess you can’t expect much more from a girl who put “world peace” on her Christmas List when she was 11, right? I’ve always tried to live my life somewhat optimistically because it’s never really made much sense to me to be a constant pessimist. And believe me, I’ve had my share of being a constant pessimist myself, and I didn’t like myself for it. Not at all.My disdain for hatred and cruelty goes hand in hand with my disdain for pessimism. Those miserable people in the world who can’t seem to find happiness within themselves, so they’re just downright mean and judgmental for no good reason. It’s quite sad, really. 

Now, I can only hope that I, along with others, can be positive examples for those young children in the world. Although I am not yet a parent myself, I often think of my younger cousins and all that they’ve experienced so far in life. I strive to lead by example and show them that they can be anything they want to be in a world where society tries to dictate who they should be. Show them that kindness and love can get them far in life. That loving themselves is one of the most important things that they can do for themselves. That no one can define who they are. To believe in themselves till no end. That being perfectly imperfect is amazing, and that they deserve great things in life, but they need to expect to work hard to achieve them. To understand that their acceptance and self-worth in this world will never be defined by an Instagram like, a boy, or a job.

The “reel lives” are bullshit. Our real lives are the ones that need to be lived to the fullest because our time here is only temporary, so we might as well make the best of it. So go on out and do things that give your life meaning. Feed your hungry soul, and do so with absolutely no regrets. 

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Chaos and the Calm

No surefire feeling.

No certainty.

No predictability. 

No stability.

 

…chaos.

 

Reflection of your younger self. 

When you thought you had it all figured out. 

The world at your fingertips.

Endless hopes. Ambitious dreams. 

 

And then one day, you realize: you’ve changed. 

…calm. 

 

Growth is necessary.

It is warranted to calm the chaos.

To ease the mind.

To set the soul free. 

To reach those endless hopes.

Those ambitious dreams.

 

To make yourself better than you were in your younger years.

Back when you thought you had it all figured out.

Only to one day understand your true self.

To bring you closer to the person that you’re meant to be.

 

Life is your greatest teacher. 

Yet it is relentless in its lessons.

 

Don’t focus on the end result.

Don’t stay stagnant in the past.

Live in the moment.

Cherish the time you have now.

Laugh until you cry.

Or cry until you have nothing left in you. 

 

Be fearless in the way you love.

In the way you live.

In the way you care. 

In the way you dream. 

 

Calm the chaos in your mind. 

In your heart. 

In your soul. 

 

Love unconditionally.

Your family.

Your friends.

Your life.

…yourself.

 

Life is balanced on a razor blade.

Like a double edged sword.

There is no calm without the chaos.

No certainty without uncertainty.

No predictability without unpredictability.

No stability without instability. 

 

Yet, we continue to live.

Despite the chaos.

Above the odds

To reach the calm.

The peace.

The serenity.

To see the beauty of it all.

…even when it seems impossible.

Never Ending Journey 

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It’s Sunday morning. I’m lying in bed, phone in hand, as I jot down an array of thoughts running through my mind. It’s always hard for me to get them all down on paper (or in this case, on “digital paper”), mainly because I over analyze my thoughts before I’m even fully done thinking about them. Makes sense? No? Great, it doesn’t to me either, yet, here I am.

I guess the main point of this is to share how I’ve been feeling lately. The only word that I’ve been able to come up with that I feel best describes it is: surreal. No, I don’t mean surreal as in bizarre. I mean it more in the sense of disbelief, but in a good way. In a “wow, I can’t believe this is really my life,” kind of way. Now, when you read that last sentence, don’t perceive it as a negative connotation by any means; read it with the sound of my voice being overly excited (kind of like how we all felt when our beloved Saints won the Super Bowl 🙂 – & if you’re a Colts fan, then I’m sorry for that reference)

Anyway…read it and hear it with a smile in my voice.

Now, those of you reading this, will fall into one of two categories: 1) you know me quite well and therefore, are well aware of me and my personal life or 2) you don’t really know me at all and are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about, and that’s okay. If you happen to be in the latter, let me enlighten you a little bit.

Over the last two years or so, I began a journey of some serious personal and professional growth. On the personal side, I went through some stuff that forced me to face my past, learn some tough life lessons, and move on. My personal struggles and strengths, in turn, led me to the somewhat unforeseen path that I’m currently on today. On the professional side, I channeled my emotional hardships into furthering my career and becoming more successful. I completed an accelerated graduate school program over the course of a year and a half, while working full-time, taking classes full-time, and maintaining a 4.0. Upon graduation, I faced some setbacks, as the job market odds were certainly not in my favor. Que the personal feelings of complete discouragement, depression, frustration, and failure. Once again, I felt stuck in my life, and I absolutely hated it. However, this time was different than the last. I had new goals to achieve, and I just kept reminding myself that my feeling stuck was only temporary. I was going to find my way eventually. I just had to give it some time.

Fast forward to an evening in January, when I finally got a phone call that instantly lifted my spirits. Two days later, I had a phone interview. A few weeks later, I had an in-person interview. Then, a little over a month later, I packed up everything that I could fit into my car and drove eight and a half hours up to Tennessee to start a new chapter of my life.

When I look back on all that I’ve accomplished throughout the last two years of my life, I realize that I couldn’t be prouder of the woman I am today. For me, that is a huge deal to admit that to myself. I am, quite often, my harshest critic. Maybe it stems from insecurities or a fear of being inadequate in many aspects of life. Maybe it’s because someone once made me question my own self-worth. I believe that a lot of it stems from me just wanting to be a better person, in general. I’m finally recognizing that every day of my life is a chance for new opportunities and new life lessons, even on the days when I’m feeling down.

If you’re still reading this and you’ve made it this far into my mini novel, then this is where I’m probably going to get a little more empowering and/or inspirational. My life experiences may be minuscule compared to yours. I don’t know what any of you are going through. Our experiences and perceptions of life will never be exactly the same. Some of you may be having the time of your lives right now. Some of you may be going through some really tough times, and you don’t know if it’s ever going to get better. All I can say to that is this: wear your accomplishments, your pain and your wounds as your armor. As a sign of your strengths. As a reminder of every fear, heartbreak, or struggle you’ve ever had to face and/or overcome. Wear them and wear them proud. Use them as your motivation to keep moving forward, even on the days when it really seems impossible. Just take it one day at a time.

Don’t be ashamed of your past or the person that you used to be. You may not have to wear your past with pride, but at least recognize that it’s played a huge part in getting you to where you are today. You’ve lived it. You’ve learned it. You’ve grown from it. Don’t let yourself be defined by it, and don’t define others based on their pasts.

Instead, embrace it all: every accomplishment, every heartbreak, every fear, every struggle, especially your past. Take it all in, and immense yourself into whatever feeling you need to feel on any given day. Just remember to keep on keeping on and look forward to what’s coming next. Life is a never ending journey. The path that you’re on right now may end up surprising you in a few years…

Yet, you’ll never truly know where it may take you until you give it a try, right?

The Absence of Fear

Have you ever taken a step back and deeply thought about all of the moments in life that scared you? Do you look back on those moments and realize that, in the big picture, your reasons for being scared were pretty insignificant?

If you said yes to either one of these questions, then know that you are not alone. I completely understand how you feel, and I’m sure most of our peers will agree. It’s a common occurrence to be scared every now and then. Let’s face it: we wouldn’t be human if we were completely immune to fear all the time.

I’ve been reflecting on my life quite a bit lately, and I’ve been thinking about certain moments in my life that I most definitely thought were going to make me or break me. I look back on those moments when I let my own fears and insecurities hold me back from living the life that I wanted for myself, and to be honest, it makes me a little sad for the girl that I used to be. The girl that lived her life constantly worrying about things and analyzing how every single action could lead to the next and so on and so forth. The girl who was way too concerned about what other people thought. I would ultimately talk myself out of doing something that I wanted because I had convinced myself that I couldn’t do it, simply because I was too scared. Or, oftentimes, because I listened to the opinions of others and failed to follow my own heart.

I went through this very recently when I was offered an amazing opportunity that I had been dreaming of for well over the past year. When the opportunity presented itself, my heart told me to take it and just go for it, no questions asked. Yet, there was a brief moment when I became way too consumed in my own fears, doubts, and insecurities, that I nearly almost talked myself out of it. It was one of those moments when I asked myself “who are you right now? This is what you want, so you shouldn’t even be questioning it. Get out of your own head!” It was a brief moment of weakness for me that felt so surreal because I hadn’t felt that way in quite some time. I was beating myself up, stressing myself out, and just feeling so disheartened. I was hating every single second of it because I knew that it wasn’t like me. Not anymore. Even my closest family members recognized that, called me out on it, and talked some sense into me. However, it forced me to, once again, re-evaluate just how far I’ve come at this particular point in my life. It was a pivotal moment for me to give myself a huge pat on the back for everything that I’ve accomplished so far, and, in turn, it allowed me to suppress any of those little doubts and fears far out of my heart and my mind. I was able to recognize a brief moment of weakness, seize it, and turn it into a moment of strength and pride. For me, it was further proof and re-assurance that I have always been stronger than I’ve given myself credit for. It was also a reminder to face my fears, follow my dreams, and maintain the strength to continue to pursue the goals that I have set for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments in which I feel subpar to others. I often tell myself that I just “need to get my life together because I’m sucking at it.” Then, I realize that I’m doing a whole lot better than I think I am, and comparing myself to others is an insecure thing for me to do that shouldn’t be worth my energy. The older I get, the more I crave new opportunities and challenges for myself. New adventures, new people, new perspectives, and new life lessons. The more I seek to overcome my fears, doubts, and insecurities. I’m not perfect, by any means. None of us are, but I do believe that if we choose to live our lives with an absence of fear, then we can truly achieve anything that we set our minds to. We constantly need to strive to become better versions of ourselves every single day.

I came across a quote in recent months that really resonated with me that stated: “The only person you should ever compare yourself to is the person you used to be in the past. Keep moving forward, baby. You’re killing them.”

So, with that being said, just remember to suppress your doubts and insecurities, face your fears, follow your dreams, and always strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

 

Turning Points 

So you just got that big promotion at your job. Maybe you just found out that you’re going to be a parent or a grandparent. You may have just answered a very important question in which the answer was simply “yes,” and now you realize that you will soon be planning the “big day” that you’ve always dreamed of. Maybe you just touched base with long lost family members, and your heart is overjoyed with the thought of finally meeting them after years of uncertainty. Maybe you just graduated and now realize that you accomplished something that you, at one point in your life, never could have imagined for yourself.

Good turning points.

So you just got the news…the news you’ve been hoping you wouldn’t hear. You heard the words and immediately, you want to rewind the last few minutes and tell yourself that the doctor is wrong. This can’t be. It just can’t. Maybe you just lost your job, and you can’t bear the thought of how you’re going to provide for yourself and your family. Maybe you just found out that the love of your life has been unfaithful and suddenly, you’re broken. You feel like you’ve failed. Or maybe, someone very near and dear to your heart is suddenly no longer with you on this Earth. You don’t know which way is up or which way is down. Your world, as you have known it thus far, is falling apart. It’s crashing down around you, and there’s a part of you that hopes it’ll just take you with it and spare you anymore misery.

Bad turning points.

Happiness. Joy. Laughter. Smiles. Heartbreak. Sadness. Tears. Frowns.

The complexity of human behavior and emotions. The unpredictability of this journey that we call life. None of the above are ever meant to be understood. Yet it sure is funny how we try so darn hard to make sense of it all, isn’t it?

It’s actually pretty exhausting. You see, the fact of the matter is this: there is no right or wrong way for us to live our lives. There’s no real play book to tell us how to handle certain situations that we’re faced with. All we can do is our best. Sometimes, we can really surprise ourselves in doing what we know to be our best. Sometimes, we may disappoint ourselves, too. That’s okay. If you’ve been going through a really rough patch lately and your tears have been outweighing your smiles, but you managed to just get out of bed today, know that you’re strong. If you’re working an insane amount of hours and sacrificing time with your family and friends, know that you’re inspiring. If you just received that dreaded news that you didn’t want to hear, know that you’re a fighter.

Whatever cross God has given to us to bear, we must embrace it. Good turning points. Bad turning points. Both will shape us into the people that we’re meant to be. Both will bring tears, be it happy or sad. Both will test us in so many trying ways, only to make us stronger than we were before.

There will be moments when you’re absolutely ecstatic about the good turning points in life, but there will also be the moments when you’re incredibly sad about the bad turning points in life. Just know that these turning points do not define you. Sure, some of the bad turning points will break you, but you will not remain broken forever. The good turning points may excite you, however they may also slightly scare you, but you will not remain scared forever.

You will grow. You will accept. You will embrace. You will inspire.

And quite honestly, that’s one of the most beautiful things to witness in life.

“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” – Max Lerner

A Little Reflection on Life

When I first sat down to write today, I honestly had no idea where to even begin. Up until now the only writing I’ve been able to do has been 20+ page research papers on anything ranging from the Affordable Care Act to Baldrige Award Winning Hospitals in the U.S. to the operational plan behind a local, non-profit organization specializing in providing breast cancer services to a small, rural area. Basically, I’ve pretty much been a prisoner to graduate school, as of late. The past few months have been some of the most mentally draining months of my life, and when I tell y’all that I nearly almost lost my sanity several times, I’m literally not exaggerating on that statement at all.

(Word to the wise: if you’re considering going to graduate school, just make sure it’s something that you really really really want to do. Also, be prepared to drink lots and lots of wine – or whiskey or tequila – whichever you prefer. I won’t judge.)

Now, I don’t regret this decision one bit. When I first decided to go back to school, it was after some crucial turning points in my life, and I honestly wasn’t 100% sure if it was the right decision. However, I trusted my gut and followed through with it because I knew that I owed it to myself to make my life better than what it had been in the past. It was something that I needed to do for me and me only. The last year and a half has been quite a journey for me, especially in regards to self-discovery, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

(Note: It’s much easier for me to admit my gratefulness now than it was last week when I literally just wanted to pull my hair out, run away to a peaceful island somewhere, and avoid all of my responsibilities forever.)

However, today is a new day, and in exactly one week, I can proudly say that I will officially be a Master’s graduate! Phew – finally!

…P.S. That still feels very surreal to say. I honestly don’t think it’s sunk in yet…

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before how important it is to never stop learning and to continuously seek new growth and opportunities in life. That is something that I will always believe strongly in, and I feel that it is something that everyone should strive to keep in mind throughout his or her lives. Remember: it’s never too late to be what you could have been, and you’re never too old to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t let yourself hold you back from living a life that you’re proud of. A dream will only stay a dream until you work hard to make it become a reality. There will be moments in life where defeat will sink in, discouragement may become overwhelming, and sadness will be undeniably heartbreaking, but just remember the power of your own inner strength. The power of your faith. The power of support from your loved ones. Remember the ultimate power of your belief in yourself, and you’ll be able to overcome anything.

I just wanted to remind you all of that last part. I also just wanted to say to anyone who may need to hear this right now: you are loved, you are beautiful, you are worthy, and most importantly, you are a whole lot stronger than you think you are.

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” – Thomas Paine

Louisiana Strong

It’s no secret that Baton Rouge and its surrounding areas have been dealing with one thing after another lately. Since the early days of July, it doesn’t really seem like there’s been any sense of normalcy around here. One minute, we’re all over every news station in the country because of two violent (and somewhat controversial) crimes. Fast forward to a few weeks later, when we’re literally drowning and need that national attention that was so incredibly unwanted before, and we’re being nothing short of ignored.

It’s cool, though, because down here in The Boot, we know a thing or two about resilience and survival. We can handle our own. It’s running thick through our veins. It’s spanned generations for years. When Mother Nature wreaks her relentless havoc, we persevere. We recover. We rebuild. I promise you, we always come back stronger than ever.

Why? Because we help people who desperately need it, even if we’ve lost everything ourselves. We do this because we know that strength comes in numbers. We do this because we know that Mother Nature doesn’t care about your skin color, your religion, your income level, or your gender. Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate. Ever. Floodwaters don’t choose who they want to destroy and who they want to spare. When you see your community in need, you don’t second-guess a thing. You help because suddenly your community becomes your family. Suddenly, we’re all in this together. Suddenly, we’re all united as one. And suddenly, we realize that every single thing that tried to tear us apart just a few short weeks before, proves even more how much we need to appreciate and respect each other. How much we really need each other. How much of a difference we can make when we choose to stand united and not divided. I believe that’s a huge reason why we didn’t gain national attention when it was so desperately needed.

The media doesn’t want to focus on the Good Samaritans of the world. They don’t want to show stories of survival, courage, and determination. They want to highlight the negatives and the violence in society to continue to add fuel to the hate infused fire that, quite honestly, just needs to be put out.

People who aren’t from here are quick to pass judgment and make remarks insinuating our ignorance for staying in a place that’s prone to flooding. I find that funny because you don’t see us telling people in the Midwest to move because of tornadoes. We don’t tell anyone on the West Coast to move because of droughts and wildfires. We don’t tell northerners to leave because of their high risk of icy roads and blizzards. We simply cannot fathom doing that because it’s like telling someone to just pick up and leave his or her heart behind. It’s so much easier said than done. It’s so easy to say judgmental things like that when you aren’t experiencing it yourself.

When the floodwaters started coming in, none of us had any idea what we were in for. I packed to go back home to New Orleans for one night, thinking I’d come back on Sunday and everything would be fine. My plan was to go visit family for the first time in quite a while and come back up to Baton Rouge to go to work on Monday, like normal. I knew it had been raining steadily for about a week or so before, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the amount of rain that had been accumulating throughout that time. I literally didn’t even think about the rivers reaching well above their flood stages because it had never really happened before (at least not in my lifetime). It wasn’t until I started watching the news more closely and kept talking with my aunt that I realized the seriousness of the situation. At first, I wasn’t concerned because my aunt and uncle weren’t concerned. They’ve lived in the Baton Rouge area for over forty years and have never flooded. The only reason they always kept an eye on the river stages was because they have a boat house a few cities over that is on one of the rivers. So, for them to be keeping an eye on the river stages just seemed normal to me. I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about anything until they did.

deep waters

It wasn’t until I woke up to an email from my aunt on Sunday morning that read: “Water is just starting to come in. No phone service, so advise the gang,” that I realized just how much devastation these floodwaters were going to bring. I couldn’t call or text her because by this point in time, service was nearly non-existent. Even though I responded to her email right away, it wasn’t until a few hours later that I received a reply. It felt entirely too much like déjà vu. 11 years prior, my family and I left our hometown near New Orleans to evacuate to my aunt and uncle’s house in Baton Rouge to escape the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. It was a complex mixture of emotions and uncertainty, but that was at least something that we all could prepare for, as best we could. Hurricanes are something that we’re all used to by now. Anyone in the Southeastern Louisiana area will talk about the similarities between what’s been deemed as “The Great Flood of 2016” to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some people who lost everything in Katrina have now lost everything that they’ve worked so hard to rebuild over the past 11 years. For me, I still experienced those same feelings of uncertainty and, especially, helplessness. This time around, I was back home in New Orleans and unable to return to Baton Rouge because there were so many road closures. This time around, I knew that I had multiple family members being affected and there was nothing that any of us could do to help them. With the rivers continuing to rise and the rain continuing to fall, no one had any idea of when the roads would be clear enough for anyone to travel on.

By the time Tuesday morning came around, some roads were open, and I was finally able to make my way back up to Baton Rouge. I remember seeing the water line marks on the trees alongside the Interstate. In some areas, there were still cars stranded on the side of the road. There was still water blocking exit ramps from the interstate because it hadn’t fully receded yet. I knew that my family members had gotten about 2-3 feet of water in their houses, so I was concerned about how they were coping. Driving through the affected neighborhoods was so surreal, and walking into their house for the first time was even more surreal. The smell of stagnant water hit me like a ton of bricks the second I walked in the door. Although it has been a little sad to see so many of their things being put out to the street, it’s also been very bittersweet. The thing that has struck me the most is the resilient amount of positivity they have shown throughout this difficult time.

That positivity is still being shown throughout the local communities today. It’s part of what makes Louisiana so strong. Neighbors are helping neighbors. Strangers are helping strangers. People are just overall being kinder to each other, and it’s just a beautiful thing to witness. Tragedies and pure devastation have a strange way of bringing people together. Like my dad said, maybe this is the Big Man Upstairs trying to teach us all a lesson to be nicer to each other. To be kinder to each other. To treat each other with respect, appreciation, and dignity. To set our differences aside and come together to rebuild and recover.

If the people of Louisiana can teach the rest of the world anything, it’s that resilience, respect, support, and a little determination can help us overcome anything. Also, we can teach y’all a thing or two about cultural appreciation through a love of good food, dancing, music, celebrations (even if there’s nothing to celebrate), and football. And although life may eventually take me across state borders someday, I will always be proud to call Louisiana home.

We’ll always be Louisiana Strong and unBRoken. And Mother Nature will never be able to tear us apart, no matter how hard she tries.