Category Archives: Thoughts

#teacherproblems

After almost five years of teaching, I’ve caught my stride. I work at a great school with phenomenal students and colleagues. However, some days make me question if I woke up back in that first year of teaching with its awful-no good days.

Today was one of those days. I felt like a really terrible teacher. Like more than the 10 percent terrible that I feel on a day-to-day basis. That’s not self-deprecating; there’s at least one thing every teacher sucks at. Mine is attendance. Any administrator of mine reading this – Hi – I’m sorry – don’t hate me.

The truth is, I’m not a bad teacher. I just wasn’t “Freedom Writers” amazing today. And the second truth is that “Freedom Writers” is a bunch of crap.

There. I said it.

If you’re not a teacher and you’ve seen “Freedom Writers,” you’ve bawled your eyes out over that sweet teacher who saved all those at-risk teens. If you’re a teacher and you’ve seen that movie, you’ve bawled your eyes out when her marriage ended because it hit way too close to home.

Others: THIS MOVIE IS SO INSPIRATIONAL – I’M GOING TO BE A TEACHER AND SAVE THE WORLD

Teachers: WHAT THE HELL – NO. OMG. NO. HE’S LEAVING. OMG. NO. DRINK ALL THE WINE, HONEY. DRINK. IT. ALL.

But really part of you gets it. You truly understand why he leaves. Teaching leaves little of you for others. Because when we pull back, we are neglecting students. When we push forward, we’re workaholics. There’s no winning.

There’s never enough. Never enough time, money, materials, etc. Hell, do you know how many single teachers there are? Try explaining your work schedule to someone and see if that sets fire to their rain.

Teacher: “I mean, technically, I get off work around 3, but I have club meetings and parent conferences and the kid who sits at the back of my class and never talks is on the basketball team so I need to go watch him because maybe he’ll start talking and you know I am so behind on grading so I should really take care of that and the teacher across the hall is sick so I said I would watch the comic book club do comic book things that I don’t understand and then I really need to get my oil changed. I’ll be home around 9.”

Wouldn’t that make your womb just flutter? No. It would make you run. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. There should honestly be a dating site just for teachers. Can’t you picture it?

Scene:

Teacher drinking wine out of her “2 teach is 2 touch lives 4ever” mug and searching “male, 30s, AP US History teacher.”

YOU HAVE A MATCH!

“OMG. OK. HERE GOES. Ok, well that school district is kinda sketch, but OMG HIS TEST SCORES ARE AWESOME. Ok, messaging now…”

“Hi! Meet me at Starbucks Saturday at 8. Bring your lesson plan book.”

And love is born over a chai latte and the Second World War.

I’m really not joking about this. Send me a man who knows how to make a pot of coffee and fix my broken computer monitors, and I’ll put a ring on him. Even if your date is lame, you could totally leave with some rad new lesson plans. EVERYONE WINS.

I digress. In all seriousness, that movie just depresses me. For one thing, I’m angry with her husband for not understanding her innate need to care for those children when obviously no one else was. Rather than resent her, why didn’t he help her? And I’m angry with her for not taking care of herself. Then I’m pissed at Hollywood for setting this cultural standard that the only good teachers are teachers who sacrifice everything and never take an inch for themselves. And I’m pissed at people for being so naive to hold teachers to that standard.

I know people are sick of hearing about teacher problems. Trust me, we see the passive aggressive Facebook statuses.

I wish I got a summer vacation. Must be nice to get off at 3. OMG You’re so lucky you get a long Christmas break – you’ll be so well rested now. 

That door swings two ways, cupcake. You want to know how I envy you?

I envy that when you’re sick, you can just go to the doctor. You don’t have to burn a day of your meager sick bank for a doctor’s appointment you’ve rescheduled four times because “DAMMIT NO I CAN’T JUST LEAVE – THERE’S  A PROCESS AND I MUST RETRIEVE THE MOST SILVER HAIR OF THE GOBLIN KING FIRST.” Oh, and sub plans – just gag me.

I envy that you could take Mondays or Fridays off because you aren’t concerned about a sub shortage. Yeah, a sub shortage is a thing, and it’s a drought that falls second to only that of water because water is an essential part to coffee.

I envy that parents aren’t calling you “incompetent” through emails or even sometimes in person. It’s my mistake the kid hasn’t turned in anything in three weeks. – my bad. Here’s my left kidney to pay for my mistake.

I envy that you aren’t giving your lunch away to children every day because they are ALWAYS hungry. Turn off the Sarah McLachlan cassette. I’m not making a statement about underfed children. Most of the time I don’t give away my lunch; they just kind of take it. Besides, I get 30 minutes for lunch. Well, after the kids leave it’s about 20. But then I set up for my next class and that takes another 10…

And most of all, I envy that you can go pee WHENEVER YOU WANT. Don’t you ever take this for granted. The next time you pee, you think of me suffering in my classroom. You might find that creepy, but you need to know that for every bathroom break you take there is a teacher doing “the potty dance” until their lunch break. But there’s a 10 minute line, so there goes my last bit of time.

So, I wasn’t “Freedom Writers” awesome today. I didn’t wear a leather jacket and give kids candy bars in exchange for class participation because Michelle Obama would find me, and her arms are way more ripped than mine. I didn’t chain any entrances closed to keep out the bad guys, but I worked my third 11-hour day this week and tenth this semester and I cried about it in front of a kid because, guess what, I had all the emotions at once and there was no going back.

This isn’t a pity party. It’s a shameless plea for Starbucks gift cards. SEND THE SBUX. SEND IT NOW.

CLASS DISMISSED

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13, 26, and all the years between: A letter from me to you

I’ve never been much of a “birthday” person. Very few stand out to me, but 13 did. Year 13 had an impact as the age I woke up and thought “it’s all different here on out and I’m lost.”

Well, I turned 26 a few weeks ago, and I realized that I essentially just turned 13 twice. Babies born on my 13th birthday just reached the same milestone.

I hope in the 13 years since I turned 13 that I’ve become a little wiser and that, maybe, I have my crap together.

So, to all the 13-year-olds from the lady double your age:

Welcome to 13! I’m sorry there was no parade. You really deserved a parade, but I hope at least one person made your day as special as you are. If no one did, then let me tell you how wonderful you are.

You’re on the edge of something truly phenomenal. You’re shedding your baby years and embarking on a new adventure. Thirteen may feel like the “bottom of the barrel” in terms of teenage hierarchy, but you’re starting fresh. You have seven solid years of adventure ahead of you and nothing behind you to muck it up.

Maybe I’m behind on the times, but I think one’s heart never truly breaks until you hit 13. All those failed crushes before this are child’s play compared to what you’re in for, kid. And it’s ok. Because while you’re knee-deep in heartbreak, you’ll find whose arms are loyal and steadfast, and you’ll learn a thing or two about people who drop you in a “trust fall.”

Take time for yourself. Take time to be sad and to sulk, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for a pity party. You throw that pity party and smother your emotions in cake and ice cream because if you won’t have compassion for that dear little heart of yours, who will? But for every sad day, have three happy ones.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know you hate your body with your mind, but love it with your soul until your mind catches up. Maybe you’re too thin or not thin enough or your acne shows up when it should just kick rocks, but, baby, you’re beautiful. Every bump and roll and cowlick makes you perfect and lovely and worthy of hearing how you beautiful you are every single day.

You’re going to love that boy or girl who everyone tells you not to. It’s just a fact – you’re going to do it. But let me beg you, please listen to the people who love you. They understand and know more than you think. And even when you ignore that piece of advice and turn your back on everyone for this person who makes your heart race like too much coffee on Christmas morning and then tears through your soul, those people, the good ones, will still catch you. They’ll join you on the floor of Rock Bottom and hold you while you cry. Don’t give those people up.

People are going to harass you to make life decisions when you’re far too young to worry about adult things, but stick to one solid decision: be happy. If it doesn’t make you happy – don’t do it. Life was meant to be celebrated, little one. And please be little and small and child-like as long as possible. The world will wait to be saved, and in a really special way, you’re saving the world just by being in it. That’s how important you are.

Gosh, I love you. And I guess it’s creepy that some 26-year-old lady who you’ve never known loves you, but you’ll do lots of creepy things between now and when you’re 26, so call me creepy then, ok?

And when you’re 26, share what life has taught you with the new 13-year-olds. I know you’ll be incredibly wise and spunky.

Be courageous. Be rad. Be you.

rad

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God healed my electronic device.

I prayed over an electronic device today, and I’m writing this while standing in the forever-long Chipotle line.

It’s probably the most Generation Z I have ever felt and probably will ever feel when there is always a teenager two steps away to point out a gray hair or remind me that I better get married before cats eat my face. I don’t have a cat, but they are genuinely concerned.

Back to the electronic device. It’s true. All day I worried why our supposed-to-never-fail external backup would not connect. The campus expert assured my worry-wart self that it was indestructible. That’s what they said about the Titanic, bee-tee-dubs. Anyway, I began to panic. So I walked to the storage closet housing our little Buffalo (I don’t know who named it) and laid hands. It felt silly. It felt contrite. It felt insulting to put such a trivial thing on God’s to-do list, but after thirty seconds I pulled my hands away and the sickly blinking blue late burned a constant neon blue of health.

God healed my external hardware.

Even typing that feels silly. But I can’t sit here and deny that God fixed it. I stood there in awe and heard a whisper so sweet in my spirit reminding me that He is in the “little things.” If how I needed to see His sovereignty was in the healing of an electronic, then that’s How he would move.

I am thankful that He doesn’t have a triage system because His mercy and grace can and will cover it all. That’s hard for me. I triage. In everything, I make a to-do list of least to most important. My brain is forever befuddled that He only has one category: most important.

Pretty rad.

A tiny note on the not-so-good-day.

It feels good to return to this place. It feels good to bring my heart to this page – even if this page is electronic. Call me crazy, but while the act of handwriting notes is lovely, I am a sucker for fonts. I love to see my words come alive in a land of serifs and sans serifs, bold and italics.

Especially after today when the Enemy (who can best be described with Comic Sans) crept into my business.

In between sobbing in front of my boss (classy, huh), consoling a vomiting teenager, and answering 8,000 panicked phone calls and emails, I became his prey. He sunk his teeth in deep and proceeded to thrash me around.

It’s my fault – I left the door to my heart open.

It’s not like he came in like a thief in the night. In all reality, I welcomed him in – like a friend our mother’s told us to avoid but we didn’t because we were too strong for any kind of peer pressure or social coercion. Or so we thought.

Little by little, I let my guard down. Stopped talking to God. Traded church for no-alarm-clock mornings. Nodded and said the right “Christian” things to my friend even when I knew the words were stripped bare of beauty and meaning like trees in winter.

I stopped growing, and when you stop growing and blooming, the enemy starts destroying. Today, and really the last few weeks, provided the tangible proof that I needed help.

I needed rescue from this barren place where I found myself. And in a big, “let’s walk on water” kind of way.

I found myself in the Word tonight. Not knee-deep in crashing waves, but treading the shoreline with a warm cup of Chai. It all begins somewhere right? Coming back to the Word after an absence is a strange mixture of emotions and feelings. The letters and syllables kiss your soul a million times over and welcome you home, but the truth bombs dropping all around your physical, emotional and spiritual being are a bit terrifying and harsh.

I guess that’s what makes Him sovereign and so wonderful – His perfect balance that makes us whole in Him.

Today was not good – there is really very little positive to take away. And, sometimes, we have to admit that a day was just bad. But I’m thankful He keeps His promises. I’m thankful for soul sisters who rush with loving words and intercession. I’m thankful for surprising wisdom and love that erupts from teenagers in moments of crisis. I’m thankful for colleagues and bosses who step into my panic and help carry my burdens. So that’s the positive – that people are inherently good. That writing about my day will make me feel better. That a moment creating with fonts will make my soul sing a tiny song which the enemy can’t silence.

Even in bad days – it’s good to be alive.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Sometimes it’s so difficult to write. Why is that? Why does my heart race at the notion and expectation of recording my thoughts, rants, celebrations, and tender heart-thoughts right here in this tiny part of the Internet I have staked claim over, and then the very second I sit to do the one thing my heart and mind both agree is good to do, an overwhelming sense of the “I don’t wannas” washes over me?

Yeah, I have no clue either. I’ve felt rather clueless lately which is infuriating for someone like me. And I have this sincere desire to not care about any thing important. Does that make me a terrible person? Like, I’m really sick of talking about healthcare. There, I said it. I’m really sick of talking in circles about things I can’t control. Does this make me more of an adult or less? I don’t really care. BRING IN THE DANCING LOBSTERS.

Three things Sam is really tired of talking about:

1) The government.

My mother told me once to never give something or someone more attention than it deserves. Personally, I don’t think Congress has earned the right to raise my blood pressure. Our words are not going to change their minds. Stop yelling at them and start talking to each other. And guess what – we hire these people. My mother also used to tell me she brought me into this world, and she could take me out of it. It seems like the same principle applies here too… kind of. STOP HIRING THESE JERKS.

2) Modesty

If you’ve ever said a female deserved some kind of sexual assault because of her wardrobe choices, you might be an asshole. STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM. A tube top is not a sex invite, ok? I am sick to death of blog posts shaming women based on the width of the straps on their shirt or bathing suit choice. It’s pious and ugly, and every time a girl reads one, you have fed the patriarchal monster who says “hey girl, your heart, mind, and character don’t matter when you wear a miniskirt.” It’s not a complex concept – WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF.

3) Miley Cyrus

I was equally scandalized by her VMA performance, but can we stop talking about her already? Miley taking racy photos or sticking her tongue out is not news. Miley is doing her thing – get over it. And once again, WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF.

One thing I’m not tired of? BuzzFeed lists. MORE LISTS ABOUT PANDAS PLEASE.

Stfu

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The one where I get a little bit “ranty”

If I could petition the nerds who run the dictionary business, I would request the word “beautiful” be stricken from its pages.

Why? Because I don’t appreciate anyone or anything trying to trap “beautiful” within any kind of boundaries. How can we so easily define a word that encompasses more than outward appearance but also a mindset and lifestyle?

Perhaps I’m deflecting my anger. The dictionary people aren’t the problem – society as a whole is. And while a definition for “beautiful” has been crammed alphabetically, in an impossibly tiny serif font for longer than I have been alive, the concept or standard for beauty has been trapped and crammed within every piece of pop culture for even longer.

And it’s all disgustingly surface level.

Romantic comedies portray beauty in the form of a thin, athletic woman with no split ends.

Rap music portrays beauty as curvy, buxom women with no inhibitions.

Books portray beauty in whatever is the object of the heartthrob’s affection. (Because that’s all that makes her worthy, of course!)

I could sit here for hours and list every piece of crap we have subconsciously consumed and let define our own personal definition for beauty, but that would just make me mad – mad at media and at myself.

It’s not that I don’t think Gwyneth is beautiful – I do. And I hate to disparage her or her beauty, but she’s a little nuts. (If you’ve never perused her site, GOOP, then you’ve been spared the torture that is rich elitism.)

But her extravagant “Spring must-have” list is not what bothers me, it’s her extreme diet I have an issue with. Truthfully, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have a pint of ice cream stashed at the back of their freezer for emergencies, but I especially don’t trust anyone whose sole treat is one cigarette a week simply because it has no calories.

Gwyneth’s slender physique is not a crime. Being skinny is not a crime any more or less than being fat is. It’s the method we should all be concerned with because it’s setting a standard that THIS is what the world should find universally beautiful and THIS is what it takes to achieve it.

Ok, I’m just going to say it. Gwyneth is annoying. She is probably the most narcissistic celebrity around, and I would never have lunch with her. I don’t agree with Gwyneth, but I don’t hate her. In fact, I feel sorry for her. I’m saddened by the overwhelming sense of worthlessness a person must be struggling with to survive off kale juice and hummus almost solely. But because she is outwardly beautiful – she gets to set the standard.

She is a rich woman who has made her eating disorder and extreme dysmorphia into a lifestyle brand and is marketing it worldwide. That is a serious problem.  And it is a serious problem for media to support it.

I’m not unaware of my own hypocrisy. I am a hypocrite for belittling Gwyneth’s accomplishment because she doesn’t fit MY definition for beauty. And I am a hypocrite because I’m against “The Most Beautiful Woman Alive” but I’m all for “The Most Beautiful Man Alive.”

But men and women are not the same. Things are not equal despite our best efforts. If a man suffers an eating disorder, it is serious news. Eating disorders for women are called “dieting.” There is a gross standard in this country for women. It only matters what you look like on the outside, and whatever lengths you must go through to achieve that appearance are justified by compliments about your hair or makeup rather than about your soul.

My heart aches for the women in this country, myself included, who will look at Gwyneth on that cover and wonder why we can’t be that. My heart aches for the women who will drag themselves through a grueling workout tonight for the sake of a number on a scale rather than for health. My heart aches for the little girls who are watching us every single day and believing the lies we think they can’t hear or see.

We can do better than this. We can care more than this. We can love better than this.

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Surviving the Terrible Two’s: Dolla Dolla Bill, ya’ll.

Today is the last post in our 20something series. I have been so honored to do this with Micaela. Her spirit and appetite for life inspires me to embrace adventure. I love that Kiwi and am quite sad to see this series come to an end.

Our last post tackles the topic of FINANCES. Money falls into that same category as politics and religion of “things you shouldn’t talk about in public.” Well, consider us rebels because we are talking about it.

Her post, which you can find HERE, is so relevant and perfectly honest. Make sure you check it out and subscribe to her blog. You won’t want to miss any of her future posts. She’s a world-changer, that one.

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I live in the land of many smells. Most of them are quite unpleasant. There’s the stench of oil wells, oil refineries, and, when the wind blows just right, the smell of dairies or feedlots.

The older generations say “that’s the smell of money!” I’m sorry, but I would rather my money smell like the leather of a new Kate Spade bag (preferably this one) or Steve Madden boots (these). And it always struck me as funny that anyone would associate such a ratchet smell with money. It seems that wouldn’t do much for money’s reputation.

Not that money has a very good reputation as it is.

When preparing to write this blog, I spent a lot of time reflecting on money in my life and money in the lives of others. I found plenty of differences; obviously, some people drive Lexus, BMW, and other luxury brands and I don’t. But I found one constant – at some point we have all become frenemies with money. Whether our argument with money is because we have too much or too little, there is a point in our lives where we become dissatisfied with its existence and the strings attached to it.

And it seems to me that our fall-out with money happens at some point in our 20s.

I have had my fair share of money issues. I did not grow up in an affluent home. We had everything we needed and most of what we wanted but never in excess. I was perfectly content with life in the middle class until it came time to face college expenses. After being laughed at by those FAFSA jerks, I became displeased with “enough.” I didn’t want just “enough,” I wanted more than enough so that I could pay for college. There was even a point when I wanted less than enough just to receive grants. I was bitter toward money and I still am. When I consider grad school and the ridiculous cost of higher education, I begin to despise money all over again. I pay my loan installments on time every single month but always with a grimace and an expletive.

That doesn’t stop me from loving what money can give me though. How paradoxical.

I can’t answer financial questions. I don’t keep a specific budget. I pay my bills as soon as I get paid and hope for the best for the rest of the month honestly. So, I often turn to men and women I admire for advice on the topic.

What my Dad taught me:

  • Have a savings account. Always. Even if you only have $100 in there – it’s helpful.
  • Be generous. Always tip and tip well – regardless of service.

What my Mom and sisters taught me:

  • Buy pretty things you can afford – ask Dad for what you can’t afford. (That’s my favorite advice.)

What Lore taught me:

  • Tithing is not just writing a check. It’s a calling from God, and it doesn’t have just one face. I encourage you to read her powerful words on the topic of tithing here and here.

What America taught me:

  • Don’t live beyond your means. Credit isn’t the devil, but he often hangs out there.

What I can do better:

  • Start focusing more on what I NEED rather than what I THINK I need.
  • Give more of myself but also of my resources.
  • Stop worrying. I’m not going to wake up one morning and all of my money is gone.
  • Most of all, trust in God. He is concerned in all aspects of my life – my bank account included. I often think “Oh, He doesn’t care that I overspent this month.” But He does. I think “He is too busy to be bothered with my financial woes.” He’s never too busy. I don’t know when I will finally get that through my thick skull, but hopefully one day. My greatest wish is that I will believe in His power and sovereignty in my own life with as much faith as I have in Him in the lives of others.

I don’t think money and I will ever be good enough friends to gab over a pint of ice cream or have a “Friends” marathon, but I’d like to at least coexist in peace. Every single day is a new lesson in finance, and I hope I can apply every lesson toward creating a better tomorrow for myself and maybe a future family. Until then, I am avoiding Dave Ramsey like the plague because I’m pretty sure he won’t like what he’d see in my bank account, and he kind of scares me.

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SWL!!!

Rather than making resolutions this year, I opened myself up and asked God to challenge me. And one of those challenges was to put more effort into my writing and step back and watch how He would work through it. What blows my mind is that when God gives us a challenge, He’s already holding a trophy because that’s how great His love and confidence for us is.

God is never wrong, and to prove it, I’m pleased to announce that I am a guest writer for So Worth Loving today! I have admired the wonderful people behind SWL for a while now, and I’m so honored that they have welcomed me into their family. They have given me the courage I needed to quit hiding behind humor and silliness and finally bare my soul.

Check out my post on their FABULOUS site. And buy a shirt too! Here’s the linky-link. 🙂

 

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Surviving the Terrible Twos: I’m single and it’s complicated.

Here we are for week two! This week, Micaela and I are talking about DATING. And, no, I don’t have a Taylor Swift lyric for this post because, despite my love for her, T. Swizzle has a terrible dating ethic and one I do not support. TAKE SOME ME-TIME, TAY.

Check out Micaela’s post HERE. Xoxo.

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If this were the age of typewriters, the floor of my bedroom would be littered with crumpled sheets of paper full of rejected drafts. Lucky for rainforests and myself, my struggle with this piece is not harmful to any ecosystem. So I’m good there. But it doesn’t change that this piece has a deadline, nor does it help me write it any faster.

I’m stuck because I’m making this too damn complicated. That’s right, I’m making a simple blog post about dating culture in your 20s too complicated. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on me either.

So let’s uncomplicate (pretty sure that’s not a word) things, shall we?

My students often come to me with their life problems. Not because I am full of wise, meaningful advice, but because I am in this stage of life that makes me approachable. I am not really an “adult” in their eyes but I’m not a “peer” either. I’m not ruined by the harsh cruelties of the grown-up world, but I’ve moved beyond petty, high school drama. Honestly, they’re pretty idealistic about life in your 20s, but I’m not going to burst their bubble. Yet.

Dating advice is what they most often seek. Which, given my lack of a dating history, they are really barking up the wrong tree of information. I rarely have answers to their questions. But like I would admit that! So I ask them “what about this situation do you know to be true?” 1) It sounds super smart and counselor-ish and 2) it doesn’t show that I have no idea what to tell them.

I’m going to use the same tactic here. I don’t have all the answers about dating, nor do I even have a tried-and-true method of scoring yourself a hottie. I mean, I still haven’t managed to get Ryan Gosling to break up with Eva Mendes. That says it all. But these are things I know to be true.

Self-help books about dating are, in fact, not helpful.

This is dating propaganda, and it’s not helping. Christian books can fall into this category as well. That just offended somebody, but it’s true. These books create an idea that there is one way to date, and that if you follow the “rules,” you’ll have your mate in no time. Let me blow your mind – THERE ARE NO RULES. People are different, and thank God for that. You are not going to find your mate the same way that your best friend did. It will be unique to you. All of these old adages of “don’t text him first” or “wait for him to ask you out” are archaic and useless. Make your own rules. And for the love of Prada, stop listening to Cosmo magazine. Absolutely clueless.

Lists are for grocery shopping – not dating.

Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. “The List.” The list you’ve been curating since you were 6 years old and fell in love with a Disney prince. It’s been through every stage of your life and once you hit your 20s, that list is truly something to behold. You’ve put more time and effort into that thing than our Founding Fathers did when drafting the Declaration of Independence. You’re proud of it. It fully encompasses what you’re looking for in a man. The man who meets this list will be your soulmate. BURN IT. Seriously, torch that damn thing. That list is a monster. We compare every single man to that list, and it’s not fair to ask them to compete with a fictitious being. I’m not saying “lower your expectations.” Please, NEVER lower those or your standards. But it is time that we stop assuming that we know what or who is best for us. If you were to ask those blissfully happy married friends of yours if their significant other would fulfill every single “requirement” they were looking for in a mate, chances are they would say “no.” On a Biblical note, I’m pretty sure Gomer was nothing like Hosea’s list, but he loved her despite. (That was a bit of a Jesus juke.)

Singleness isn’t the end of my life. It’s actually the beginning.

If complaining about singleness was an Olympic sport, I would be Michael Phelps. Mmmm… Michael Phelps. Sorry, back to the issue. I’ve often thought this part of my life was a curse or punishment for something I did terribly wrong. It’s not. And being single doesn’t mean something is wrong with me either. I’m not defective or broken. I’m just single. In the past year, I’ve learned to embrace this as a gift and the freedom and independence that comes with it. Most of all, I’m learning how to be happy alone because if I can’t be happy with my own company, how can I ask someone to enjoy my company? And I’m learning the importance of being more concerned about meaningful and lasting relationships with people rather than a fleeting courtship with one person. My whole life can’t be wrapped around a potential mate, and, much in the same way, I can’t center my growth as a person and woman of God around becoming a wife. That would be cutting my potential substantially. Being a wife sounds wonderful, but it won’t be the completion of my life or journey with the Lord. I often hear women say “I really feel the Lord is preparing me for marriage.” Truthfully, His work in our lives goes far beyond someone putting a ring on our fingers. I don’t want to miss God moving in my life because I’m overly concerned with taking a step toward the wrong altar.

Of all the parts of life in your 20s, dating is definitely the roughest road. The heartbreak is harder. People are harder to understand. And, honestly, it’s just plain complicated no matter how hard we try to uncomplicate (again, made up word) things. I guess the one thing I know to be truest about dating is that single doesn’t mean “alone.” True, no one sent me flowers on Valentine’s Day, but I was showered with love from my friends and family. We do life together as a community. And instead of being jealous of all the married people, let’s be jealous of ourselves and this awesome, independent adventure we’re on together. However, I will totally abandon this ship and all of you when Ryan Gosling finally discovers that I am his one true love.

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That one time Walmart proved me wrong

One of my favorite things about life is when something you expect is terrible actually turns out quite wonderful. Like when I thought I hated guacamole, but then tried it on a dare and realized that my tastebuds are all about the guac. Same with black beans.

Well, yesterday, Walmart proved me wrong. I was under the impression that Walmart is ALWAYS the lobby to Hell, but I found that there is a time in the day when Walmart is actually quite magical.

RIGHT?!

Seriously, I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, and I understand and respect your reservations. But Walmart at 10 am on a Thursday was a completely wonderful experience. 1) I got a parking spot in the same zip code. 2) I got a brand-new, non-busted cart, and I’m not even sure when the last time that happened (if ever) was. 3) All the employees were smiling and cheerful. 4) There wasn’t anything spilled on the floor. 5) I didn’t have to witness any children getting spanked. 6) More than one register was open (!!!!!). And, finally, 7) IT WAS QUIET.

It got me to thinking. If Walmart could prove my perceptions wrong, what else could? What else have I closed myself off to because I had made up my mind that it was and was always going to be awful?

It was a scary thought. One plagued with visions of missed opportunities, unlearned lessons, and rejected blessings. In the middle of my wonderful, magical, like-seeing-a-unicorn Walmart moment, I faced a demon that I didn’t even know I struggled with. (I’ve seen a lot of demons at Walmart, by the way.)

I have let perception hold me back from living a full life.

Someone once told me that “perception is reality.” Which was excellent advice when applied to how I consider how others perceive me, but not so excellent in the reverse. All of these perceptions and expectations stored in my mind are creating a false reality. One where I can hide behind an opinion because it’s safe and easy. One where I can shut someone out because my perception of them is less than generous.

It’s also pretty terrible advice in terms of how I approach opportunities. I’ve said it all more than once. “Ew. I’ll live anywhere but there.” “I couldn’t do that job.” “That place just seems terrible.” All perceptions based on here say or expectations, and none based on experience. Sure, so-and-so could have really hated that job, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to. Or my really good friend’s boyfriend’s sister’s mother-in-law could have hated a certain town, but that doesn’t mean I will.

When I deny myself an experience, I’m living a life full of someone else’s stories because I’ve allowed their adventures and misadventures to become sufficient enough for my reality.

I’ve had one wish for 2013 – that it will be a year full of change, growth, and new experiences. And, as we approach the fourth month of the year, I’m troubled that I’ve possibly shut the door on a few opportunities already. I want my reality and perceptions based on experiences – be they incredible or incredibly terrible. I want more moments when I find that my perception was wrong, I want to fall in love with things that I thought I hated. I want things, places, and people to change my mind. Because, truthfully, my mind could use some changing.

Truth time: I still hate Walmart. It’s still terrible, just significantly less-so at 10 a.m. on weekday mornings.

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