Look for my newly single head on a singles dating site…

I am going through a break-up people. That’s right. Get me a box of tissues and a series of sappy love movies starring Leo DiCaprio and/or Jennifer Aniston. And chocolate too.

Although I would love to say there is someone in my life that could even potentially permit me to even refer to the word “break-up,” this whole split is taking place internally. My head and my heart, yea, they need a break from one another. They have been fighting like an old couple, disagreeing like a jealous couple and my head is being a total control freak. So I am forcing the break up upon these two, an intervention if you will.

Basically, my heart is too nice to dump my head and my head is not good enough for my heart right now.

Translation with a more thoughtful assortment of words: I am reaching a point where I am thinking too much and I need to take a few steps backward and just let my heart lead.

Wouldn’t it be great if our hearts and our heads could always be in harmony? We could come across someone or something and allow ourselves to enjoy their company or enjoy the fact that we have this thing in our life instead of constantly stressing or over thinking the matter. If over thinking were a crime, this would be my third court date and I would have already completed nearly 400 hours of community service.

Here is the rationale that I wish I could always follow:

  • If someone makes us smile, we allow them to stick around.
  • If someone catches our breath, we would allow ourselves to stop breathing because they make us feel like we no longer need air.
  • If we find a hobby or a passion that kicks our happiness into overdrive then we stop always having to think so practically or logistically and we simply enjoy this wild gift.
  • If we stop and realize that we are completely content in a moment then we don’t allow our heads to blow away the moment with “what if”s and “this is too good to be true”s.
  • If something is simple, feels simple, sounds simple, we allow it to be simple and a part of our life.

Seems pretty simple when I write it out, but it is so hard to heed this advice in life.

So here I am, completely happy. And my heart and I are doing a little Irish jig and we are loving up life but my head is trying so hard to invade and take away our carefree dance. It feels like a party that I am sure we all have been to, filled with our closest friends and the people we adore. And then slowly but surely more people start to arrive, strangers and people we know but cannot put names to their faces. Suddenly the room is crowded and we can no longer move. We want to leave the party.

Jeepers, this is not how I want to feel and I adamant to make sure that it does not come to this. Hence the break up. So long little head full of doubt and overly thought out thoughts. Ta ta insecurities. Adieu practicality and reasoning and big heavy words that imply I should dwell on irrational thoughts.

My head will be bitter over this sudden break up, it will complain that it never saw this coming. I am sure it will call my heart half a million times and beg to get back together. I am positive that it will swear it has changed and that it won’t make the same mistakes again, but you know what? At least until the end of the semester I am letting this break up stand. My heart and I have a little dance to do, and at least for now, three is a crowd.

How you deal when your heart and your head go up against each other?

Because I am not black and white. Because I am gray.

The fact that I am writing this right now is a rarity. The fact that I can verbalize just about anything is a gem. I am amongst the minority in this world that has a voice. As are you.

I listened to a man named Jimmie Briggs speak tonight about his worldwide campaign, Man Up, that he began to try to conquer violence against women and girls in this world. He seemed baffled when asked a simple question: Why do you do what you do?

“I do what I do because I have to.”

The answer was so basic and yet it pierced me. I sat in my seat feeling like someone had finally defined me. Someone had finally given me a starting point for all that I set out to do from day to day.

Lately a lot of people email me or approach me telling me that they admire my blog and they wish they were able to do the same thing. Well my first question to them is, why don’t you then? The number one blockade: I am afraid that no one will want to listen to what I have to say.

If that is what stands in your way, this fear that no one will want to read your words, then please please please squash the thought. Dwell for a moment on the fact that you are fortunate enough to have words. You have the ability to give your words to the world when so many people in this world have no means to tell a story, no skills to write a book, no rights to speak out. That is reason enough for us to use our voice, to let our minds run free, to share our stories with the world. We Can. And So We Should.

At the end of each day there is a lot of things that make us all the same. We are human. We like to listen to one another and we long to feel connected. We form kinship and bonds through story telling of broken hearts, broken journeys, broken worlds and we find the steps it takes to make brokenness beautiful.

But at the end of the day, there are more things that make us diverse. We need to share these experiences so that the world can finally change. We need to never doubt our own voices and our own stories because they will inevitably be what allows us to impact others.

I do what I do because I have to. Because I Have A Strong Voice. Because I Have A Full Heart. Because I Am Not Black And White. Because I Am Gray.

And if you still doubt that no one will want to hear your story, just come find me. I will listen.

You have words and you have a life that is unlike any other, so what stands in your way?

An unexpected love letter

Dear World,

Sometimes I think you are scary.  Sometimes I think you are too intimidating. Sometimes I think you are cruel.  Sometimes I don’t understand you.

When I look at you with big bright eyes I see a million and one places where I could fit. On the tip of your Africa. On the brim of your California. In the crook of your Haiti. But Where Will You Place Me? Where Will You Call Me To Be?

Before you slip destinations into my heart I pray you take care of the ones that I love, the ones that are searching you right now. A friend in Australia who is surfing in your waters. A love in Italy who is speaking new words. A girl in Prague who is spreading her wings. I pray you hold them all close, let no harm come to them. Open Your Arms And Then Close Tight With Them Inside.

As for me, well World, have your way. Take my eyes and show them new and beautiful sights. Take my feet and give them ground to stand upon that radiates with mystery. Take my ears and fill them with stories of people from all over, different tongues and different ways of life,  and let those stories forever change me. Take my heart, shatter and break it, because I long to understand the poorest of your poor and I beg to let them trace the outline to my heart. Give me a pencil for your poor World. Let Me Write The Words They Cannot Speak.

Sometimes I think you are scary but I think this is good. I step cautiously but I step nonetheless.

World, make me smile. World, take good care of me. World, bring me where I need to be. World, may I, please may I, have this dance?

Life’s little lessons: The woman without a tracking device

“loved your article & the best friend one especially the picture miss you love you & admire your dreams, ambitions & your heart your mom”

This was a comment left on my last blog post. I stared at it for a good 15 minutes trying to figure out if it was a joke. The comment was left under my account. Apparently I had left this last post on my own. What kind of joke as this? A virus? Who really uses the term “your mom” anymore? Then it hit me.

My mother had left me the comment. She had not signed out of my account and she does not often use punctuation on the computer. She just learned that a link does not always mean sausage links and now knows that if you send an email like this: hbrencheratgmaildotcom, it will be sent back.

In the spirit of life lessons, little morsels of knowledge that I tuck away like chocolate coins (almost in a greedy fashion), I have decided to share three of the most simple and valued that I learned from the most important woman in my life: my mother.

Not Lost But Not Found

My mother once asked me why I don’t list my neighbor as an emergency contact before her. Well that’s a silly question with a outstanding explanation: My mother is nowhere to be found half of the time. She has never owned a cell phone, she doesn’t “text”, Twitter is a foreign word to her.

Pick your jaw up off the floor, a life can be lived without a tracking device of some sort. Even though I don’t plan to drop my cell plan anytime soon I learned from her that sometimes it is important to be not lost but not found. Sometimes we should leave the cell phone home or at least leave it turned off. We should venture off on our own, sit with our own thoughts, detach from that constant connection we have with other people. I am convinced that there is greatness to this idea, anyone who meets my mother will see that she is more connected to the people and passions of her life than a blogger with 1,500 Facebook friends, an iPhone and a GPS.

Eye Contact Before Eyelash Glue

I grew up in the world of competitive dancing and yes I can fully recall mothers similar to those on “Toddlers and Tiaras.” My mother (sorry if you didn’t know this before mom) was never exactly a “dance mom”. The term carries a lot of weight. A dance mom knows the perfect amount of blush, the secret to applying eye lash glue. A dance mom is ready for the quickest of changes and can jam a bobby pin into a bun harder than anyone.

I wanted my mom to be like these other mothers at time. However, I learned on my own to apply eye lashes and secure a head piece, maybe only because my mother was teaching me something larger. My mother was busy teaching me independence but more than that: manners.

She was teaching me how to say “thank you” for a dance award, how to make eye contact with my peers, how to act graciously and poised even when I didn’t get the gold. These lessons stick out a lot more than the materialism of the dance world and where I have not been able to use my tap skills and amazing ability to braid my hair in 10 seconds, I have been able to use the manners she taught me in almost every interaction.

When a Hug is Out of Arms Reach, Reach Out with Words

I kid you not, every thing that my mother writes to me drives me to tears. I don’t know if it is the love behind them or the beauty of their placement, whatever the combination they mean the most to me.

People will be far away from us at times, either abroad or living apart, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot use the most precious thing we have: words. Write Letters. Compose Notes. Send Emails. Express Gratitude. Keep connections alive with people through heartfelt expression and say “I love you” always and often.

Dear Hannah,

Before May 31, 1988 I carried you inside my heart. We would walk, talk, pray and sing even then.

When I held you my heart would melt but then grow strong to teach, protect and guide you.

As a little girl you were always so independent, set apart–playing by yourself, creating elaborate projects with your dolls, crayons, scissors and paper. And us? We were walking, talking, laughing, shopping and singing.

Then came your writing: stories, newspapers, thoughts beyond your years.

Soon you were picking out your own “outfits,” choosing your own friends, acting, dancing, making books. You were always embracing new friends, new concepts and new confidence.

We could always talk, shop, laugh, walk and sing.

Along game high school years and fears. Your neighborhood news articles advanced to “dramatic poems” and family books. Joining clubs, yearbooks, Kids for Kids and Heart bracelets. Your heart developed into “reaching out” and touching others. Helping, encouraging, and saving starving children.

We were driving, singing, talking, shopping and laughing.

Now you are here- learning more ways to grow your heart, New York, excelling in your academics, still writing, creating, always giving. Bravo my daughter- how special you are.

I look at my little girl and my own heart is so proud and full of love. Just like 20 years ago. I will always encourage and support you in all ways.

And still we laugh, sing, shop, talk and pray.

Love,

Your mom

Growing Up: Where I learn to leave a legacy behind instead of myself.

Last year I imagined I would always be the girl wearing the “College” T-shirt and signing on for a 16th semester because I could not get enough of this place. I used to believe this single place could hold my heart forever. I thought I would never be ready to leave college because there would always be something new to learn.

College has taught me a great deal about friendships, loss, love and beauty. Growth. Dreams. Setting my mind to something and seeing it done. College has taught me about satisfaction and complacency, of soul searching and realizing what I am made of. As I eagerly awaited even more life lessons at the beginning of this semester only one in particular has seemed to come around, being as obnoxious and loud as a Jersey Shore cast member: I am ready to not be here anymore. Is that bad? Is that horrible? Am I getting sick with something worse than the Swine? I am here, at a school that has blessed me with this person I am so proud to be today, but I know I am letting it go. Slowly And Surely My Hands Are Loosening Their Grip And I Am Beginning To Look Towards A New Chapter.

116 days. That is all that remains. The internships are over. The seminars have passed. The leadership positions still exist but for some reason they don’t feel as pressing this semester. I don’t necessarily feel like I need to be here anymore but the point is that I am here. I have 116 days left and I intend to make them as beautiful as the three and a half years that have come and gone.

So what can I do to “carpe diem” if you will? Here is the start of a beautiful bucket list: Make time. Go to school sponsored events where my presence is not mandatory. Give the meaning back to the “weekend” and allow myself to lounge, relax and take a break. Be spontaneous, anywhere and everywhere. Realize that it really is not the end of the world if I don’t score an A on a paper. Give everyone a chance. Find moments to laugh for no particular reason. Talk to strangers on this campus. Realize that people trump obligations, always. Dance in random places. Go out even when I know I shouldn’t. Leave some kind of legacy behind.

The last one is important. No matter where we are– college, grad school, the work world– we should be seeking to leave some kind of legacy behind. How do we want to be remembered in this place? What would we like people to say about us when your name enters into a conversation? If we could be described with one word, what word would we want that to be?

So I will continue to sculpt a legacy in this final semester. If I could be granted one sentence about my character, one that I would want to be remembered by I think it would be this: She was a girl who had a big heart and she chose to use all of it.

That seems simple. I can work with that. I can turn that into my legacy here, of this I am certain.

If you could only be granted one sentence that would slip out of the mouths of others, one sentence to describe you as a person, what would you want it to be?

Best Friends: They live in our hearts but they always pay the rent.

It’s that map you can draw perfectly on the back of a napkin leading to exactly where they are.

It’s those seven digits that you know by heart and one of the few “home phone numbers” still stored in your memory.

It is the words that never take shape. You glance at one another and you realize, words are not necessary for this moment.

This is a best friend.Most of us have these people in our lives, the people we can call at a moment’s notice and they will be there without a second thought.To Sweep Up Our Broken Hearts. To Bottle Our Sobs. To Skip Through Life’s Wonders Alongside Us.

I believe in fate and if ever I begin to doubt it I only need to look to my best friends to reassure myself. Think for a moment of your best friends. Picture in your head where you first met them, that first encounter. Think about how that friendship grew and progressed to what it is now. My best friends came from all over, a retreat, my kindergarten class, freshman orientation. But what if I had chosen to skip the retreat that weekend or attend a different college? My life would be so drastically different and they would not be a part of it. It is this: I was somewhere. They were too. We both collided. The world looked different from that moment forward.

I woke up this morning with swollen eyes because I spent all last night sobbing. It was a final farewell to my best friend as she made her way to Prague for five months. I know it is not over, that we will see each other again, but I still felt my heart break as I watched her in the rear view mirror as our car pulled away. And She Stood There. And I Wanted To Turn Around.

We have talked a lot about how it doesn’t feel like it is time to say goodbye; we have been inseparable for the past few months that it feels like we should have longer. But We Shouldn’t. Why? Well, it is the simplest of life lessons. If we needed more time, we would be granted with it.

But this morning I awoke, puffy eyes and all, and I looked in the mirror and realized, “I am who I am because of her, because of all the people in my life who have come and gone. I would not be the same without them.” What a crazy, crazy thought: We undergo change and development because of the little fact that people are constantly coming and going in our lives. Makes me think twice about my every day interactions and potential that each person holds.

Take one minute of your Monday to think back on a single moment you have had with a best friend. Perhaps it was that time that you laughed until you had trouble breathing. Or maybe that time you ordered everything on a menu for the thrill of it but spent the rest of the day with belly aches together. And just let yourself go back to that moment and smile.

I will share the moment that is coming to my mind: A few nights ago, my best friend Celia and I were unpacking my room from winter break and I was so excited to use my new bed spread. I had bought this bed spread with my mother and it had been marked down from $160 at Urban Outfitters to $70, however, at the register it rang up as $21. SCORE! Well it was a very pretty patterned black and white bedspread and Celia helped me put it on the bed. We took a few steps back to look at it and realized that there was a giant deer on the bed spread. A big black and white deer, fawn, buck (whatever you want to call it), staring right back at me. I bought the bed spread without realizing that Bambi’s relative was on the front of it. Thankfully it was reversible but Celia and I sat on the floor laughing til we cried for a good 20 minutes over the hilarity of the purchase. And so I realize I am totally OK with the deer being there, I will let him stay for a while, because he brought about that moment.

What best friend moment comes to your mind?

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Unicef

I want to bring 100,000 souls back to life.

But I cannot. Not even 100. Not even one.

I have sat in front of the TV for the past three days, my eyes fixated on the screen that shows me image after image of the devastation that has overcome Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince.

I feel like I know these people. Perhaps because they are not much different than me.  They still laugh at the sun, cry when in pain, kiss the ground for fortune and seek to understand why we walk this earth. Just like me. What separates us? A few borders and a word called economics.

In the past few months I have applied to service programs for the upcoming year. One of the programs that I have interviewed for is  a Catholic grade school in Port-au-Prince, where I would be teaching for 10 months. The same city that sits battered and restless on every news station right now. So I cannot help but see the tragedy that has struck and beg the question: Why? Why these beautiful people? Why this country? Why any country for that matter?

I wonder why this had to happen to a nation that cannot stomach the after math.

These people live in 4th world living conditions. Scrounging for food and water is a daily exercise for them. They beg for people to take their children so that they will a chance at a better life. Can you imagine having a child and loving him or her so much that you give them up because you cannot give them anything? Imagine how your heart might break to see that you cannot given even basic necessities to your child. The lady who interviewed me for the program said almost nonchalantly, “a child is more likely to die of malnutrition in Haiti than to get an education.”

And here I am. Sipping a cup of coffee that costs four dollars. Enjoying the care free life a college student. Getting frustrated when my computer does not load quick enough for my Millenial standards. Crying over passports, too much to do, spilled milk and other “Grown Up Obligations”.

Now I won’t let this realization go to waste. I will learn from it.

The following is an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Dan Zadra’s and Kobi Yamada’s How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference :

YOU ARE ROYALTY.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of the world’s population.

If you have a little money in the bank or spare change in a dish someplace…you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you can drink from your kitchen faucet whenever you want…you are more fortunate by far than 1.5 billion people who have no access to clean water at all.

If you can attend a church or political rally without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death…you have the kind of freedom denied to more than three billion people in the world.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than two billion people who cannot read at all.

If your everyday problems are weighing you down, there are millions of people on Earth who would gladly trade places with you right now – problems and all – and feel they have been royally blessed.

Remember: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

We have it good, really good, better than we can even imagine. We wake up every day and we go to the cabinet to get some food and if we are out we simply head to the grocery store and fill up a cart. That is absolutely amazing people. We have the luxury of driving from place to place, of washing our clothes when they get dirty, of bathing ourselves in hot water and of knowing that more than likely we will see our loved ones in the morning. We are blessed and we should never forget it.

Count your blessings one by one.

A Place To Call Home. Loved Ones. Friends. Laughter. Good Food. Warmth. Money. Ambition. A Whole Family. Technology. Clean Water. Conversation. Luxuries. Education. Safety. Arms & Legs & A Beautiful Face. A Voice. A Heart That Is Not Broken.

Count your blessings one by one.

Keep counting until the day is done.

What will you do today to appreciate your blessings?

More to come…

Haiti needs our help. Please act/ pray/ donate/ give/ think/ accordingly. Thank you.