To The One Who’s Tired of Waiting…

Don’t sell out. I know that sometimes waiting can be hard and the work and time you’ve been putting in can start to feel like nothing more than a few more grains of sand falling through the hourglass, but don’t sell out. Don’t sell your dream for a hand-me-down or a knock-off that may bare resemblance but will never fulfill your purpose. Don’t sell your love for something that will leave you feeling more used than the running shoes you have barely broken in. Don’t sell your goals for something that may put you three steps ahead today but will leave you miles behind tomorrow.

And I know what it’s like to be tired. When the strain you’ve put on your mind and your body just to get through another day can add up to a pile so high that the path you walk has turned into a trek through the mountains that even the most skilled hikers wouldn’t dare tread. I know what it’s like to want results. To have waited so long that you wonder if the clock still works because the endless ticking has been so deeply engraved into your mind that it’s no longer an outside sound; it’s a part of you.

I know. I know how heavy your heart can get. I know about the lonely nights and the discouraging mornings. I understand that life is a game of give and take and sometimes it feels like the world isn’t just taking, but it’s not even providing the opportunity to give.

But I also know that there is something to be said about all this waiting. That sometimes the impatient pursuit defeats the purpose of the lesson that is meant to be understood in the quieter moments. And sometimes the strain you’ve been holding is only giving you strength to tackle whatever’s around the corner.

But keep in mind that there’s a difference between moving forward while you follow your path and racing forward trying to create your own. There’s a reason life hasn’t brought you to where you want to be. And I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does. But sometimes the most important thing you can do is ask the right questions. So, my question to you is, what’s the lesson you’re missing?

Find it. Learn it. Embrace it. And until then, find peace in the waiting.

The Things I Cannot Change

My mom used to mutter this prayer a lot when I was growing up: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” There was something about peace and wisdom too, but I never took the time to remember those parts. I’ve been learning a lot about acceptance lately, so this prayer has been on my mind. I’ve been learning about how sometimes the sun doesn’t set in a way that leaves me in awe and sometimes it will only rise to reveal another cloudy day. I’ve been learning about how chasing a dream is a lonely journey because some dreams you can only dream alone. I’ve been learning about fear and love and how they’re two sides of the same coin.

I’ve learned about how all of this is okay. That even though the sunsets and the sunrises don’t look the way you want them to, they’re still signs that the world is moving forward and so are you. That even though you can only dream alone and not everybody will understand, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream at all. That even though fear and love are two sides of the same coin, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel both with a whole heart and let them drive you to make radical decisions. Life is about accepting everything that comes your way and trusting that every pain you feel, love you show, or decision you make is meant for nothing other than good.

Because you are meant for nothing other than good. You are meant to do what you know is right and trust me when I say you know what is right. You will feel it in more than just your heart. You will feel it in your mind and your soul, and it will flow down to your toes and pulse with each step you take forward. And when you feel the pushing and the fighting from your head, you will know that that fighting is nothing other than the world testing your endurance and your understanding of who you are and what you want.

So let it test you. Let it push to the cliff as Fear itself believes it is getting you one step closer to a fall. One step closer to a fail. It will laugh at your struggle and embrace your discomfort. But just as it starts to think that it has you figured out as you stare over the edge into the darkness and your toes curl as they lose ground beneath them, jump. Fear and Doubt did not push you over the edge because you were always meant to take that leap of faith – they simply gave you the courage to do it. And as you find yourself falling and learning to fly, accept that this moment right here is not something you can change (nor is it something you should want to change) because it is exactly what you are meant to be doing and trust that you will land exactly where you are meant to be.  

When Fear is Knocking…

“When fear knocks, hope goes to answer and faith is at the door.”

I work with adults trying to earn their GED/HSE (many of whom struggle with some sort of disability) or adults learning English as a second language. One student in particular has gone through a lifetime of trauma that has left her struggling to get back on her feet but has also left her with a lot of wisdom. While we were finishing up a poetry lesson, she began talking about her journey and sharing things she does to stay grounded and get through each day and this quote was one thing she brought up, after hearing it recently at a Bible study:

When Fear knocks, Hope goes to answer and Faith is at the door.”

Ever since then, it has completely consumed my mind.

When Fear knocks, Hope goes to answer and Faith is at the door.”

We all feel fear – that’s undeniable. But the level of fear we each go through is different and particular to every person and every situation. Sometimes fear is simply knocking on your door, giving you the opportunity to answer and send it away. But other times it’s whispering through the walls, making its presence known but refusing to be found. Or, maybe it’s stomping on the ceilings, causing the pounding in your head to match the pounding on the roof while always staying just out of reach. Regardless of where the fear is or what it’s doing, it’s there. So, what can you do?

Do you fight it?

Do you send your dog to the door to scare it away?

Do you drill nails in the wall to shut it up?

Do you hit the ceiling with a broom to knock it off?

How do you get rid of fear?

Easy – you use Hope.

There are a lot of things I’m afraid of. I’m afraid about relationships falling through. I’m afraid of jobs not working out. I’m even afraid of completely ridiculous things that have literally no explanation, like hyenas. Regardless of what I’m afraid of, the fear is there. And I’d be willing to bet that you have your own fears, too (some more rational than others). Sometimes the fear can be overwhelming – I know the fear is irrational but for some reason I can’t seem to shake it. But then I remember my trusty friend: Hope.

Hope doesn’t care about rationality because Hope itself isn’t always rational.

Twice a week I work with one student in teaching him English. When I first met him, he was incredibly shy and lacked confidence in his knowledge. Most of the time I asked him a question, he answered, “I don’t know,” and waited for me to give him the answer because he was afraid of being wrong. But lately, I will ask him a question and he’ll say, “I don’t know, but okay,” and tries because he hopes he is right. And ladies and gentlemen, that is the answer to defeating fear.

You don’t have to know. You don’t have to understand. You just have to fight one unknowing and irrational thing (fear) with another, better unknowing and irrational thing (hope).

Faith itself is scary, but don’t let it disguise itself as something that it’s not. Send Hope to the door and watch as what you thought was Fear transforms itself into something positive – something scary but for all the right reasons: Faith.

The Test of Fire

For some reason, I’ve been seeing a lot of side-by-side success stories from people who I have admired for their openness and vulnerability. People have been posting extreme highs and lows at a point in time on their journey – photos of them with swollen eyes and splotchy faces as they wrap up a mental breakdown caused by a mishap in their life, sitting next to a picture of them with a toothy grin and gleaming eyes as they have accomplished some great feat. I would always look at these photos with an understanding that no goal is reached with ease and even the people who seemed to have it all have felt the most humane feelings: loss and failure. So, when I sat in my bed last night after only two days’ worth of an exhausting week with an uncontrollable fit of tears, I couldn’t help but think whether or not this was only a part of my own success story.

For a second, though, before I go on, I’m going to explain something:

I am, in every aspect of the word, a dreamer. Sometimes I think it’s my greatest quality, other times I think it’s my most detrimental quality. Regardless, it’s the most prominent thing about me. My mind runs a mile per minute, but it’s not always wandering frantically, worrying about this or that. Often times, it’s off in its own world thinking about the exciting “what-ifs” in life. But when it comes to dreams that mean a lot to me, not only will I seriously dream about them, but I will seriously pursue them. Whether it’s the travel I’ve done, the school I’m attending, or the job I’m trying to get, I have dreamt hardcore about making these things happen and you can bet that I didn’t stop until I made them happen. But you can also bet that while the accomplishments of each of these things were great, sometimes that fallbacks felt greater.

I say this because as I was sitting in my room looking like the before photo of a before and after success story, I knew that this was a feeling I had recognized: it was the feeling of walking through fire. It was the heat of a flame instilling the fear of failure into my mind, a fear that I had no idea how to work through. But I also knew that if my dream was serious, if it’s meant to be, then it’s golden. And as the Chinese proverb goes, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.”

I think in so many parts of our lives we experience the test of fire. For me, I experience it most in regard to my goals and plans. For some, it may be experienced most in relationships or other personal circumstances. But I knew that no matter how I felt last night or any other time where I’ve felt lost or hopeless, I had no choice but to push deeper into the flame. I am confident that who I am and what I want at its very core is golden. While I may feel the heat every step of the way, and some parts of my life that were disguised as gold may melt away, I will ultimately walk out unscathed because the test of the fire is nothing compared to the grit in my heart.

The Moment My Life Changed

I remember specific moments where my life had changed. The minute I bought that plane ticket to go halfway across the world; the time I chased a dream despite the many obstacles in my way; the moment I kissed that boy knowing the only two possible outcomes were happiness or heartache. I knew. In every moment I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that life would never go according to plan, and no matter how much you try to bribe your way into a better outcome, the dice have already been rolled and there’s nothing you can do but play the cards you have. I knew that they were course-altering moments and if I were in a movie, they would be the scenes that can be identified by a change in music, forcing the audience to feel one way or another. I knew.

I knew that in all the emotions I could have felt in every moment that my life had changed, the only one that pounded its way across my head, knocking into my skull time and time again to make itself known, was fear. It wasn’t the type of fear that held me back – binded at the wrists and ready to succumb to the innevitable outcome that I had no choice but to follow. Nor was it the fear that boiled my blood and left adrenaline coursing through my veins like a drug that couldn’t be stopped. It was a different kind of fear. It was fear that caused my heart to pound just a beat too fast and my mind to quiet like the world around me as it focused only on the moment I was in. It was the feeling you get when you explore a new place on your own – afraid of what could happen but curious and thrilled at the possibilities ahead. It was the moment on the track just before the gun is shot; the intensity of the musician as the conductor lifts their arms; the readiness of the actor as the curtains open in front of them. In every moment there was fear, but it was the fear of the beginning that puts everything else into action. I knew.

I knew that this fear, while not blinding or adrenaline-inducing, was one I would come to know and love because it meant my life was moving forward. While I never knew if that direction was one that would end in a triumphant roar of the audience or a defeated fall on my knees, what I did know is that I would be better off because of it. The victory would inspire me to go even further while the defeat would teach me to hold my head a little higher.

I have learned not to be afraid of being afraid – an irony that took me more time to learn than I’d like to admit. My mind has been trained into understanding that the greatest type of fear is the one you feel just moments before a change; moments before you push past the comfort zone you once set for yourself and fly into a new territory that has been waiting to be explored by you. Because the only two reasons that you can be uncomfortable with where your life is at is because you’re either staying in your comfort zone where you don’t belong, or you’re pushing past it where you’re not used to. And I would rather feel the fear of moving forward than experience the loss of standing still, and this is something I know.