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.

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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

 

Be kind to one another, y’all

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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.

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“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.

Beautiful, Amazing

OTH

I wrote this quite a few years ago when I was going through a pretty rough time in my life. It’s something that I look back on quite often to remind myself of my struggles that have ultimately turned into my strength. So, for those of you who may be feeling a little down about life right now, I hope you read this and find some encouragement to keep on keeping on because you’re every bit deserving of a beautiful and amazing life ❤

I’ve learned lately that things will never go as they seem, and unexpected things will happen with such bad timing. People will come and go throughout life & some may hurt you more than you ever thought they could. I’ve realized that the truth really does hurt, & there’s some pain and guilt that will never go away. Bad things happen so that good things may eventually fall into place, even though that may seem impossible at the moment. Behind every person’s smile is a soul full of deep hurt, emotion, fear, hope, guilt, disappointment, unhappiness, happiness, and love.

We become scared of our own fears; scared of losing those we love, scared of the hard things we have to face, scared of the future, and just scared of life itself. Who knows what it has in store for us? And how will it affect the person that you may become? Life can’t be lived out of fear and regrets, and everything has got to happen for a reason. Those reasons are unknown, and it seems so unfair, but maybe it’s better off that way. It’s better as a mystery.

When you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, & you’ve completely broken down, remember those who love you, those who care about you, those who would do anything to take away the pain you’re feeling because it hurts them to see you in so much pain. Remember those that you know you can depend on, those you know you can trust, those who won’t judge you and love you for exactly who you are, and those that deserve to be remembered & never forgotten. They are the ones that matter. They are the ones to be appreciated, & they are the ones that need you in their lives just as much as you need them in yours. Remind yourself that no matter how hard life may get, it will only build you as a stronger person with an even bigger heart, despite however many times it’s been broken or ripped apart. Be thankful for what you do have, and appreciate God for giving you a life to cherish every moment, every minute, and every second of everyday.

 

Blind to the Beauty

darkness

I’m really at a loss for words at the amount of unspeakable tragedies I’ve been hearing about lately. It seems that every day, I turn on the news, and I hear about another life being lost. Another daughter, sister, niece, mother, son, brother, nephew, or father had their life cut short due to careless and senseless violence. I can’t seem to wrap my mind around any of it.

What is the world coming to? There is more hatred that exists today than I ever imagined possible, and my greatest fear is that it is only going to get worse. If only we fought as hard to understand and accept each other, as we do to hate and argue with each other, then the world would be a much better place. Sadly, I don’t know if that will ever happen. We live in a world where people feel the need to have their opinions validated all the time, no matter what. People are so quick to judge others if their opinion or outlook on life is slightly different than their own. This judgment, these disagreements, all of this hatred…it can’t be solved with violence. It just can’t. All violence is going to do is add more fuel to the fire. It’s going to intensify that hatred even more, and cause further tragic events to keep happening.

Is that really the kind of world that you want our future generations to grow up in? To teach them that it’s okay to dislike or hate someone because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion, or whatever beliefs that they may hold? Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t fight as hard as he did to have racism still be as much of an issue as it is today. Women didn’t fight for equal rights as much as they did to have feminists still fighting for what they fought for so long ago. I could go on and on about how I feel that the world we live in today is literally a slap in the face to some of the most prominent and influential men and women in our nation’s history, but I won’t.

However, I will say this: something needs to be done to end all of this senseless violence. Everyone shouldn’t have to live in fear of being harmed in some type of way. That is just not okay. So, I encourage you all to change that anger and hatred into love and acceptance, even though it may be incredibly difficult. The next time you want to say something hurtful to someone, judge them for their beliefs or even consider acting upon your hatred with violence, stop and take a second to see what it would be like to be the person on the other end receiving those hurtful words and harsh judgments or maybe even that fatal shot. Think about their families, their friends…anyone who may be affected by such a loss. Think about how you may be affected by it. I can guarantee you that it won’t be a good feeling. If you can do that and recognize that the change to a better world can start with you, then maybe that will be the key to making all the difference.

Be kind more and hate less, for hatred is the very thing that makes us blind to the beauty in everyone.

A Leap of Faith

Change.

Good change. Bad change. Unexpected change.

It’s something that is bound to happen in our lives at some point in time, whether we’re ready for it or not. We may choose it or it may just happen on its own. Sometimes, it can be pretty scary…taking that big leap of faith, taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, and starting something fresh and new. Something that’s different, terrifying, and exciting all at the same time.

…yet, the fear is the most beautiful part of change for me. 

You see, I’ve gone through changes a time or two in my life, and every single time, I’ve figured out that it’s put me on a path to something far greater than I ever could’ve dreamed of for myself. If someone would’ve told me five years ago that I would be where I am today, I would’ve laughed at them and said that there was no way that would be possible. This would’ve occurred quite simply because of the fact that I had absolutely zero confidence in myself, and I was completely closed-minded and blind to any ounce of ambition that I possessed.

If you look at me now or currently know me on a personal level, you’re probably thinking that’s crazy, right?

Whenever I mention my past (and some present) insecurities to people, their initial reaction is always something along the lines of “why on Earth do you think that about yourself?” or “you’re way too hard on yourself.” And that always gets me asking myself the same questions. Why do I spend so much time stressing over minuscule things and worrying about things long before they happen? (if they even happen). Why do I sometimes talk myself down when I should be bringing myself up?

Is it because I’m such a Type A and a perfectionist that really hates making mistakes? Do I put too much pressure on myself because I want to be extremely successful in life? Do I do it all because, being a child of divorce, I constantly feel the need to be a people pleaser? When, in reality, the only person I should be worried about pleasing is myself.

The answer is….I honestly don’t know.

But, what I do know, is that somehow my crazy ways of overthinking and overanalyzing have gotten me to exactly where I am today: living in a new city while managing graduate school, as well as a brand new job, both full-time, all for the sake of a promising career. Things in my life have been changing pretty darn fast lately. I haven’t really had much time to wrap my brain around everything that’s been happening. And maybe, that’s for the best, because, for the first time, I’ve realized that change really can be a good thing. And sometimes, you have to fall apart in order to rebuild the pieces and figure out who you’re meant to be.

I know I certainly don’t have it all figured out yet, but one thing that I know for sure is that, right now, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in life.

…and that’s a pretty amazing feeling. 

So, don’t be afraid of change. Set your fears aside and embrace whatever life is bringing your way with open arms and open eyes.

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