Closed off, opened up

I don’t like opening up.

OK, actually it’s just hard. I love opening up. I love sitting down with someone who cares about me and letting everything out. I’m a talker and I love to share what is on my mind and hear what is on the minds of the people I love. But it isn’t easy for me. After more let downs from people I have trusted than I can count, being vulnerable is terrifying. I don’t often put myself in vulnerable places and I usually keep things to myself, both good and bad.

It’s hard being good to people, open with people, only to be kicked to the side, forgotten or, worse, have what you’ve said and done thrown back at you. I’ve been on the defense for quite a while, but this past year intensified that closed off attitude even more. A lot happened, much of which I don’t care to revisit, that made me put even more of a guard up than I already had.

But, I think I am finally learning to let that guard down, to let people I love in and to understand that not everyone is bad and not all people have ill intentions. I’ve had my fair share of let downs, I’ve lost people I thought I would have forever, and I have put trust and effort into people who most definitely didn’t deserve it, but that doesn’t mean I need to close myself off forever.

Recently, I’ve begun to realize that there are good, genuine people. While I scaled back my efforts with people and swore off ever allowing myself to fully let people in or putting someone above myself, I see now that I don’t need to do that. Not everyone is deserving of my love and not everyone will see my worth and value, but the ones who do make me want to open up, make me want to share what I am feeling, and make me want to be myself without fears that they might eventually hurt me. Getting hurt is inevitable and people leave, yes, but the right ones will be there and the right ones will make all the difference when things haven’t been great.

I have so much love to give and I am so grateful to have people I can give that love to without fears I might be making a mistake.

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Another little adventure

Three months from now, I will be beginnning Army basic training.

That sentence still surprises me a bit, and I know it came as a major shock to many people in my life. I practically have my whole life set: I have a job at a major television news station in my city, I just graduated college, I’m working on some journalism and photography projects. Yet, basically out of nowhere, I up and joined the National Guard.

But, as sporadic as it seemed, it wasn’t really all that random. Since I was in high school, I have dreamed of joining the military, but I didn’t follow through. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t because the path I took brought me so many amazing people and experiences. That path taught me tons, allowed me to do things I had once only dreamed of, and led me to many wonderful places, including a career that I am happy to have (and a career that everyone told me would not work for me). And now, I get to add a new experience on top of all that without losing that; I get to live both of my dreams.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous or scared. I’m terrified. I don’t know what to expect. I know it’s going to be a challenge that is going to push me, both mentally and physically. I know it will be difficult and I know it will be pretty damn miserable. Yet I am so excited. I am the kind of person who is always chasing more, who always wants to do and accomplish more, and this seems like a pretty good step to take after graduating college. About a year and a half ago, I thought I had my life all planned out — it was a pretty good plan too — but life is weird, life is wild, and life worked itself out in a way that was even better than what I had intended on doing.

To an extent, it was sporadic, yes, but that’s only because I knew that if I didn’t jump right in, I would give up. I would talk myself out of it. I would let myself down. And as scared and uncertain I am, I didn’t want that to happen. And I am happy I did that. I feel good about where I am and I am looking forward to what the future holds.

Here’s to another adventure in this journey. Hopefully it’s a good one.

No coincidences, no meaningless moments

Everything in this life has a reason.

I sometimes allow myself to question life, to ask why, to wonder why things don’t feel right or become upset with the obstacles I am facing or the path I am challenged by. But, more and more each day I am learning that nothing is a coincidence or without purpose. Every person I meet, every hurdle I encounter, every day I experience has reason. Life is a big, tangled web of moments that connect together for a greater reason.

The older I get, the easier it is to see how everything, the little things, the small actions and decisions, the conversations and the people all tie together. Where I am now was no accident, but rather the result of a series of moments that all came together. Likewise, where I am going and where I will end up won’t be random. What choices I am making today, tomorrow, each time I get up, are all making the future. The words and actions today, no matter how tiny, could lead to something far more than I could ever imagine.

Such a notion isn’t easy to always accept right in the moment, but looking back has allowed me to see how it all works out, how life is going to be what it is supposed to be and how it sorts itself out, even when nothing makes sense. It might not make sense now or tomorrow or a year from now, but eventually it will all be completely clear.

I could run through the pieces of the puzzle that have led to where I am at this point in my life, but that would take far too long. In short, the littlest of things have been the most impacting and important of things to occur. What was confusing a year ago no longer leads me to question it. What happened when I was trying to figure it all out is so easy to understand now.

Still, I do not have it all figured out and probably never will, but I am now comfortable with trusting life and going with it, even with it seems really stressful and scary. Fear held me back from many things. I am ready to take leaps and not let fear guide my journey. There’s so much I need to see, do, and accomplish, and I am going to do it all. I would be lying to say I will be living completely without fear, because that is unrealistic, but I won’t be letting those fears about the unknown or the fear I may fail keep me from avoiding life.

Life is about enjoying each moment and letting those moments lead to better things, each day.

It’s all about the journey

I always thought I was headed somewhere and when I got there, I would be happy and everything would fall into place. I think that being in college added to that notion — I was under the impression that I would get through school, graduate, find a job and life would begin there. However, I was wrong, and I am really starting to realize it now.

Life is about each day. There is no destination, and today is what is important. Tomorrow doesn’t matter until tomorrow and to focus on anything but now is pointless. I’m at a point, a point I got to fairly recently, where I am seeing that I need to live my life in a way that makes me happy right now. For far too long, I put off life. I told myself, “maybe later,” I figured I had plenty of time to chase my goals, to adventure, to live, but I wasn’t going to be an active participant in my life until after. That was a stupid mindset to have, and now more than ever, I am set on embracing every single day, hour, minute for what it is and making it what it can be, rather than wasting time, dreaming and forgetting, thinking “what if?”

I do not want to look back on my life and regret what I didn’t do or wish I had spent my days doing something else. I refuse to be content and I refuse to let myself stay in a position that isn’t bettering me. Life is too short to be miserable and the future is too uncertain to not make the most of it right now. If life isn’t fulfilling me, I am setting out to do what I need to do to find that fulfillment.

I am learning to gain knowledge from my mistakes, to not only accept shortfalls and bumps in the road, but to find the positives in them.  I am understanding more and more that everything, every single thing that happens, has a reason, even if it’s not immediately obvious. Life has played out in a way that is too crazy for it to ever just be coincidence. I am getting better at putting faith into the unknown, forgetting the risk, and looking at the benefits. I have lived a pretty full life for being only 22, but I have also lived a life full of fear, doubt, and negative self-talk. I cannot and will not keep living life in that manner. This life, what I do, where I go, is my choice and mine alone.

There’s no guarantee that tomorrow will ever come, so why live in a way that doesn’t reflect that? Everything, every little bit of this life matters, and I am finally starting to live like that.

Life’s funny like that

A few weeks ago, an old friend I haven’t seen in about 14 years commented on one of my posts on social media. We made plans to meet up the next week, but they fell through. A week later, we sporadically decided to meet up one night after work. I was happy because from the conversations we’d had over the past week, it seemed like we had a lot in common. Still, I was nervous things might be at least some degree of awkward. I mean, we hadn’t talked to each other since we were maybe 8 years old.

But things weren’t awkward, not in the slightest. We hit it off almost immediately — there was such an instant connection between us. While we’re on different career paths, we both have the same drive and motivation when going after our passions. We both have the same love of adventure and nature, and in general, we just get along really well. You know when you meet someone and you just know that person is going to be a significant part of your life? That happened.

I can’t remember the last time I met someone who I could just talk to like that. It’s like speaking to an old friend (I mean, that is what it is). Today, we dove into a conversation about things I rarely speak about, not to family, hardly to close friends. Over the past year, I’ve really guarded myself and I don’t like letting people in, especially new people, but she’s one of those people you can just talk to. Unless you’re counting how long we’ve known each other since we were children, we are basically strangers, yet I feel like she gets me and where I’m coming from, what I’m struggling with, where I’m headed, what I’m after.

I am so thankful that our paths reconnected and we have so much in common. She couldn’t have walked back into my life at a more perfect time because right now, I’m in such a process of tweaking my life so that I can achieve my goals, while overcoming things that have been in my way for far too long.

I could probably write way more, and I probably will late, but anyhow…

The way this life works will never fail to amaze me, but I am certainly not going to complain. I’ve been extremely blessed in this life, and reuniting with her was one of those important blessings.

we all learned to laugh again

This has been a work in progress and I am incredibly grateful that I am finally at a point where I am in the mindset to sit and write it.

For about the past year, I’ve been struggling to feel fulfilled. Granted, there were plenty of great moments, including getting a job I really wanted, traveling abroad, and graduating, among other memories. I was happy plenty of times, but underneath it all, something was missing. The smile was often there, yes, but it didn’t mean much.

I pushed goals to the side, lost motivation, neglected my passions. I stopped writing unless I was writing for work and I have hardly touched my cameras in months. I spent a lot of time sleeping and I started blowing off people often to sit home alone.

I can’t exactly pinpoint what caused me to feel how I did, but I have a good idea of what contributed to how worthless and useless I felt. I was in a slump that I would come out of and immediately fall back into it.

This past fall, I started to realize that something needed to change, so I slowly began working toward something, though I wasn’t sure what. Now, I feel I’m out of that recurring slump and I refuse to let myself fall back in.

For the first time in a very long time, I feel so unapologetically happy and motivated.

I’ve written down goals, I’m getting back into writing, and I’m making sure I keep myself healthy. I have plans that I am actually working on, rather than thinking about them and taking a nap.

I feel so damn good.

I look forward to the little things, like waking up as the sun rises or feeling the change in the weather as I walk outside. I’m happy to be up moving or sitting in silence, whether it be alone or with people I care about. I sing at the top of my lungs when I’m in the car and I’m actually happy in the photos I smile for. I’m enthusiastic about whatever the future holds for me and I am genuinely excited to create and grow.

I’m ready to adventure, take risks, and break away from a comfort zone I’ve been confined to.

I’ve reminded myself that I have the right to have bad days, because there will be bad days, but they don’t need to define me or hold me down.

Everything is a process in life, everything has purpose, and everything happens for a reason. I have learned from where I’ve been and I understand that I had to feel that way. The important thing is that I did not let it stop me or define me. I got tripped up for a few months, but I now know, more than ever before, what I want and what I need to do to get that.

The past year was a whirlwind, yes — I watched people and things fall in and out of my life, I made mistakes, I did and said things I regret, and I allowed myself to get caught up, but through that all, I discovered so much.

I formed stronger relationships with the people already in my life, I made new friends, and I allowed myself to let the people around me inside, if only a little bit, without fear that they may have negative intentions. I’m still learning to open up and I’m still struggling with sharing a lot of what is on my mind, but I am realizing the importance of speaking, of sharing dreams, passions, goals, fears, worries, anxieties, and I’ve been reminded of how much I value meaningful connections. I’ve remembered how much I value and need writing and photography. I’m realizing what makes life meaningful and what makes me happy.

I’m not sure where I’m headed, but I’ll let ya know when I get there.

Here’s to chasing goals and never giving up on dreams. Here’s to more good days, adventures, memories with amazing people, and great conversations.

2018, I am ready for you.29243655_1825571537466646_4471948858020069376_n

Reflecting on Chester Bennington’s Impact

I didn’t think the death of someone I’ve never met before could have such a strong, painful impact on me, but the death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington has been difficult to accept.

I’ve been struggling since hearing the news to sit down and get out exactly what I want to say about Chester and what his music has meant to me over the years.

I don’t listen to Linkin Park as often now, but in high school, that band’s music was constantly on reply. I had numerous LP shirts, bracelets, posters, CDs.

I remember watching their music videos over and over again until my family would go outside and stay out because they were so sick of the songs. I remember begging my parents to let me go to their concert — I would eventually see them three times.  I remember making my dad drive me to the store as soon as they would release a new album so I could blast it on repeat in my friend’s basement. I remember spending hours with another friend, singing along to Hybrid Theory and Meteora while playing Resident Evil.

When I got my license, Linkin Park was always playing in the car. The glove box of my dad’s Focus was stuffed with their CDs. My iPod was filled with their music and I had whole playlists dedicated to them.

But beyond being a favorite band that I basically worshiped, there was a much deeper connection to their music.

In high school, especially early high school, Linkin Park’s music had a profound impact on me. There were many times I was struggling with myself, struggling to like myself, having difficulty fitting in, just generally not feeling well, that I worked through with Linkin Park songs blasting over and over.

Their music was playing when I was down, when I felt like I really didn’t belong anywhere. I would write to it. I would cry to it. It would help pull me out of some slumps that I often didn’t speak of. When I felt alone and had convinced myself that I had no one, that music was something I could cling to. I related to it. It made me realize I wasn’t so alone. There are so many specific memories I can think back to, days and times when I wasn’t happy or was beating myself up. Looking back, the problems were probably minuscule. At the time, however, the feelings were awful, and Linkin Park helped make it better.

At this moment, “Somewhere I Belong” is playing. It takes me right back to sitting on my bedroom floor, jotting down notes in an old notebook. It, like many Linkin Park songs, resonated heavy with the teenage version of myself. And they still do, with me today.

I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say Chester’s music saved me from myself.

It’s so hard to think that someone whose music was such an important part of my own personal growth is gone as a result of his own hands, and presumably his own mind. Chester’s lyrics shared struggles. They were personal and raw. And they were a reminder that other people were feeling the same way.

I used to read as much about the band as I could because I loved them so much, and I remember reading about Chester’s rise to stardom, how he came from difficulties, how he rose about a multitude of negative encounters in life, but was still able to overcome. As someone who at that point had not a single clue what they were going to do with their life and couldn’t see beyond right in front of them, his successes were an inspiration.

Chester was truly an amazing talent. From his strength beyond music to his vocals and lyrics, he has left a mark on his generation.

Whether you like Linkin Park or their evolution in sound that has been prominent in recent years, there’s no denying the influence the band has had on music. The world lost an icon this week.

I didn’t know it was possible for my heart to feel so shattered over the loss of a celebrity, but Chester Bennington’s death hits hard.

I know what it takes to move on
I know how it feels to lie
All I want to do
Is trade this life for something new.

If you or someone you know needs help, there are resources available. Visit clickondetroit.com/news/suicide-prevention-support-and-mental-health-resources-available-in-us for a list of hotlines and online resources.