Thursday, November 24, 2016

INTENTIONAL GRATITUDE

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Jekyll Island, Georgia


“That was the day she made herself the promise to live more from intention and less from habit”

Near the beginning of this year that quote jumped out at me while I was mindlessly spending time on Pinterest one evening. At the time I took it to mean we have to create the life we want, live outside of our comfort zones, explore more and settle less. I still believe that, but at this season where giving thanks and gratitude discussions seem to be everywhere, this quote (it’s not attributed to anyone) again came to mind.



“Gratitude is about attitude” and “perfect circumstances don’t lead to happiness” are themes we hear over and over again. Yet, at least in my case, it’s something that can be hard to put into practice because it’s the problems, the things that seem to be going wrong, that remind us of their presence every morning and night. So I’m trying to be more intentional not just with my actions, but with my mindset as well. This involves shifting from what isn’t there to all that is there, because I have so very much to be thankful for. I’m trying to learn to appreciate imperfect gifts. It may not all be how I planned, but this life is still a gift.



“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.” –Mandy Hale


When this posts I’ll be in Chicago doing one of the things I love most, traveling. I’m so thankful for that wandering spirit and that I was born a woman in a country where that is possible. Since I’m away from home for Thanksgiving my family did a meal early for me. They’re my biggest supporters and the single biggest blessing in my life. I’m traveling with one of my best friends. I’ve made so many new friends in the past six months, and I’ve been reassured that my old friends will always be there. Thinking of that will always put a smile on my face.

Last Thanksgiving

Atlanta
Gettysburg, PA

My career brings me joy every day in one way or another. Deciding to go into education was probably the best decision I ever made. At the end of the day I come home to my new apartment in an area of the city I love. Life is exciting. I’ve been to so many new places, seen so many sunsets, had deep conversations, heard a lot of live music, connected with people, and just lived…with intention.


Topsail Island, NC

Perhaps I’m most grateful for this intention.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Gaining Perspective on Top of the Prudential Tower

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I almost didn't go. Already slightly apprehensive about doing something that I deemed as uber touristy, half of the observation deck being closed for a "private event" was pretty much the confirmation I needed to revert to plan b. But as I sat down to a super late lunch and tried to quiet my annoyance/hangriness with a cobb salad I quickly realized there was no plan b. The entire day had been organized around watching the darn sunset, per usual as anyone who's ever traveled with me can attest to, and I'd wanted to see the sunset from that tower.

Rather than come up with an alternative I went back up to the customer service agent selling the tickets to the top, I'm positive he began to smirk when he saw me coming back.

"Can you see the sunset from the side that remains open?" I asked.

"The best view is from the side that's closed, but you'll still be able to see it from the corner" he replied as he pointed to the diagram.

At that point I figured that was better than nothing, besides there was a discount for the inconvenience. As I purchased the ticket he reminded me it was good for readmission.

"After the sunset be sure to come back later. It's beautiful at night."

Up I went. My ears popped the higher the elevator rose. Once on the skywalk my first glance of the city was as it was bathed in the warm light of golden hour. What a show off. The buildings glistening in the sun seemed to go on continuously, whether along the rivers or into the distant mountains. The first task was to find all the places I'd already been. Some were easier than others, everything was so tiny after all, so tiny it was awe-inspiring. The streets I'd walked down, the cathedrals I'd stood beside and strained to take it all in, could easily be overlooked.








That's kind of how problems are, right? At face value they can be so intimidating, it's hard to take it all in. Looking at them from a different angle though, shifting the perspective, sometimes that's all it takes to realize perhaps we were just looking at it all wrong or allowing our current perspective to overwhelm us.


Then there's the quantity of things in this world. Sitting there looking out the glass it hit me how tiny I was, and how beautiful that truth is. So many people were making their way through the city, each with their own joy and their own struggle. What a miracle it is that all of us are unique, every last one of us trying to get through life, each with a different perspective to offer the world.



So the sun started to set and I claimed my space in the corner to capture it. At this point it was getting crowded, I'm not the only one who chases sunsets. There was the couple on their first date (major props to that guy), the blogger with the enviable camera, and the family with the toddler who enjoyed banging on the glass.  Different perspectives, different stories.




Once the sun was completely gone I went back out on the street in search of a bar. It was all big again, the same as before, but not overwhelming. The same streets and the same bustle, but in a different light.



A couple hours later I was back in that elevator while my ears popped, back to the top to get another glimpse. Everything was lit up.




Same city, but in a completely new light.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I THINK I'LL GO TO BOSTON (WHY IT'S OKAY TO BE ALONE)

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Yes, that’s an Augustana song. Yes, that was intentional. 

Earlier in the year I had a conversation with someone about songs that define who you are, or particular phases in your life. The answer I gave was “Boston” by Augustana. This person wasn’t familiar with the song so I eagerly pulled it up on my phone. I almost immediately regretted it once the opening lines began coming out of the speakers. The song is quite sad after all. Yikes, oversharing.

That isn’t necessarily the only message though. The song is about the desire for rebirth, which is beautiful and transformative. 

So I went to Boston, alone. 

“Who do you know in Boston?”

“I can’t believe you’re going alone.”

“That’s awesome, but I couldn’t do that.”


Honestly, I knew deep down I felt the same way. I’m a traveler, but not the kind that grabs their backpack and departs on a solo trip through Asia, making friends in hostels along the way. I’m independent, but I’m not that independent. Being alone is a big deal for me. The aloneness doesn’t sit well with me, it never has. 

“What you have yet to learn, life will always find a way to teach you.” – Kiran Rai 

When the majority of your life decisions have been dictated by this fear of being alone however, maybe it’s time to stare this fear right in the eye and face it, or maybe even punch it in the nose, whatever gets the job done.  Life has a way of teaching us exactly what it is we need to know, even when we don’t want to learn the lesson. Years are spent avoiding these lessons. Issues we haven’t wanted to deal with, or confront, are forced upon us no matter how hard we resist. Finally, the point of giving in is reached and you realize that what you’ve been fighting against for so long might also be the exact thing that you need.


You throw in the towel. 

This is how it is, stop resisting. 


You do what you want to do even if no one is there beside you, because otherwise you wouldn’t do it.
You go where you want to go regardless of whether someone can take the journey with you, because on some days you would hardly get beyond the door of your apartment waiting on a companion. 

So, I navigated a new city. The girl who always dreamed of seeing the world, but who also depended on others to fulfill those dreams with her or for her, went out and explored.

 This is how it is.

 
I walked around Beacon Hill. Looking in the shop windows and snapping pictures of the doorways or ivy growing up the brown bricks. After venti lattes and cheese danishes I found the water and followed it to Charles Bridge walking towards Cambridge. Heading that way you must turn around to get a view of the city. The trees were turning colors and the sun made the water sparkle. Bikers flew past as runners made their way across. The buildings, the water, the trees, the people, it couldn’t have looked more spectacular.


Later I walked back through Beacon Hill to the edge of Boston Common and the Public Gardens. Ponds and trees framed the city. The squirrels came right up to me. I wandered from bench to bench, surrounded by couples, friends, and a few others like myself. I noticed the red and yellow trees, the leaves contrasting against the blue sky and green grass.

It all seemed perfect, because wow, fall in New England is magical after all. “Even the air feels different” as a friend of mine remarked after I returned home while reminiscing about autumn in New England. 

It really does.


Before I knew it the sun was reaching golden hour and it struck me how content I was. There I was completely alone on a bench in a city where I knew no one, and yet I didn’t want to change a thing. Nothing about that day needed to be different, and because of that nothing about the past year or the past 10 years needed to be different. It all led to that, being there alone, and to being so utterly okay with that fact.  

This is how it is. 


“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” –Wayne Dyer 

It’s funny how it takes being on your own to not only show you what you’re capable of, but also to point out that you’re not that isolated after all. In this aloneness you’re somehow closer to everyone and everything. Maybe you just pay more attention. The texts you get from loved ones cheering you on and asking about your adventure bring to mind the faces of all those who truly care for you.
Being alone has you sitting at the bar during dinner, but that means you meet people inquisitive about your travels who want nothing more than to talk about the best neighborhoods, or the Red Sox, or the year they spent in Belgium with their job. Two hours pass and you realize you spent more time talking than being silent, and you have five new places on the list to explore tomorrow. 

This is how it is, and that’s okay.