Day 143 – Cloudburst

What happens when you decide to ignore the ominous skies and walk to a local bakery with your colleagues to grab a few treats for the office?

You spend the rest of the afternoon working on a damp sweater and slacks because the sky opened up when you were still two-and-a-half blocks from the office.

Rabbit Hole Bakery…your coffee cake was totally worth it.

Day 139 – The meaning in the chaos

I suppose you could view being human as both a blessing and curse. We’re here on this earth experiencing all the challenges and wonder and uncertainties alongside all the other living creatures, yet we’re different. We were given this extraordinary ability to ask “Why?” We search for meaning in the chaos. It’s an ability that has the potential to both inspire and destroy us. It’s a heavy load to lift–to question one’s existence and search for greater meaning. And it’s an immense responsibility to do something about it, to follow a path of purpose once we recognize it stretching out in front of us.

I think we spend a lot of time not trusting ourselves, second-guessing our choices, worrying over the what-if’s instead of appreciating the journey. There’s a lot to learn from our bad decisions, from the detours we’re forced to take in pursuit of our goals. And there are times when what we thought was the “right” path doesn’t even scratch the surface of our potential.

I think a lot of people get tripped up thinking there is only value in setting and achieving lofty, long-term goals. We end up measuring our value as humans and the quality of our lives by our ability to compete with others–to do bigger, better things than someone else. The side effect of this is that we miss out on the wonderful experiences and the small victories right in front of us. We start living for the future, focusing our time and energy on things that may never happen, while the very real and fleeting present moment passes us by. We start measuring ourselves and our self-worth by someone else’s standards.

It’s hard to live in the now because, frankly, the now isn’t always a great place to be. Maybe you’re stuck in an abusive relationship. Maybe you’re struggling to pay your bills. Maybe you’re battling an illness. Maybe you just lost someone you love. Maybe you’re stuck in a job you hate with a tyrant of a boss who takes credit when things go right, shifts blame when things go wrong, and thinks repeatedly telling rape jokes is funny.

Yeah, the present can fucking suck sometimes.

But it’s all we’ve really got, isn’t it? Life gives no guarantees. Life doesn’t even promise the next moment, so how do we keep deluding ourselves that it’s going to promise us next week, next year, or even the next item on our endless To-Do lists?

Maybe some people feel like that’s a pretty grim worldview. I don’t. I think it’s the most powerful move a person can make–to learn how to live in the present moment, to learn how to navigate and appreciate moments as they come instead of ignoring them to obsess over a future that doesn’t even really exist (and may never come).

So, it’s our burden and our blessing to be here now and to make the very best of it. And yes, it can be hard, but it can be beautiful too. And what I’ve discovered is that the good moments, the really magical moments, far outnumber the bad ones. We live in a world and on a planet built for growth. The default design is for us to continuously evolve, to move and grow along a positive trajectory in such a way that even the challenges and setbacks we face serve to propel us forward.

All we have to do is hold on and learn to appreciate the ride.

Day 129 – Shit Creek Survivor

I mean, really, aren’t we all?

No matter what sort of privilege or positive circumstance we’re born into, life has a way of being a great equalizer. It trips us up, humbles us, jumps up and punches us right in the teeth. We make mistakes. We make bad choices. We experience dark moments that we’re certain will kill us.

But we endure and we push through and we keep on going.

And you know what? We’re better for it, stronger. And we reach out when we see others struggling, because we know how hard it is to feel like we’re trying to face life’s challenges on our own.

So to all my fellow Shit Creek Survivors–I see you. Hang in there and know that the hard stuff won’t last forever, and you never have to go it alone.

Day 121 – Beautiful wreckage

Another semester is ending, so yeah, I’m probably feeling extra sentimental. Students have been dropping in to check in as the year wraps up. Some are sharing exciting news–they’re graduating this weekend, going onto grad school, starting new jobs, taking a break from the studying to go on much-needed vacations. Others are facing uncertainty–grades aren’t where they need to be, financial aid is in jeopardy, family issues are making things complicated. I love that they feel comfortable coming in to my office, sharing their news, asking for advice, just wanting to touch base one more time before they scatter for the summer.

You know, when I look back on the whole of my own college days, it was the best time of my life.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. My life is pretty great now. I’ve got an awesome husband, two fantastic kiddos, a sweet hound dog, a loving family, an incredible group of friends, and a job that I absolutely love going to every day. But not one bit of this would be possible without the time I spent in college, without the connections I made, the lessons I learned, and the foundation I built there.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I soared higher than I ever thought possible. And I crashed, burned, tried to get up, stumbled, fell back down, and had pick up the pieces and build something brand new there too.

And you know what? It was all worth it. Every. Beautiful. Painful. Moment.

And the best part of it is that it led me here, to this place, where I get to spend my days working with college students, helping them navigate this crazy transition, helping them begin to understand that our mistakes don’t define us–they give us perspective. I get to help them learn that failure is not a dirty word as long as you own it and learn from it and use it to make better choices tomorrow. I get to be the person I needed (the person I found) when I was young and scared and confused and looking for someone to walk with me on my journey.

So don’t be afraid of the wreckage. It’s an important part of the story too.

Day 113 – Stevie and his cats

Whoever decided to prank my husband by attaching this lovely decal to the back of his car absolutely won the day.

He admitted that he must have looked like a fool, walking out into the parking lot and having to stop and stare at his own car for a few minutes wondering why someone else with that ridiculous cat family sticker was in the spot where he swore he remembered parking that morning. And then it dawned on him that it was HIS car and someone at work decided to play a little joke.

The part that cracked me up was that his co-workers were probably watching him out the office windows and cracking up at his confusion.

So next time you see Stevie out driving around, make sure you compliment him on his adorable cats. 🙂

Day 87 – The balancing act

I was standing in my kitchen tonight–I’d put the kids to bed and finally had a chance to sit down and eat some dinner. With my right hand, I was putting my dirty bowl in the sink and turning on the water to rinse it. With my left hand, I grabbed a cup from the cabinet and reached over to begin filling it from the water dispenser in the fridge. I stood for a few moments, water running on either side of me, looking back and forth between these two tasks to make sure nothing spilled or ran over.

And in that brief moment I thought, “This is a perfect sample-size snapshot of my daily life–splitting my time between a myriad of tasks, often juggling two, three, twelve things simultaneously and trying like hell not to keep my wits about me and not let anything drop.

It’s challenging and some days it’s downright exhausting, but it’s exhilarating too. And all I can do is my best, and then try to do better the next day.