If you love me, do the obvious. Let me go.

Has it always been like this?

Or maybe we recently have come to a day and age where we love people so much that we let them go, we risk losing them forever, just because we have this wild infatuation with the world. There is not much time to watch movies (I plan to catch up over my winter break) but of the great love movies that I do see, there is normally a scene where the two tangled protagonists part ways. On purpose. Is this the romantic way to do things?

I can picture myself by an airplane terminal and then “he” (whoever “he” is) comes running up, pushing through the throngs of people, yelling that he simply cannot live without me. And then there is the choice, to stay or to go.

I think I may have started off the year wanting something similar to this. Wanting to find someone who made leaving so hard. But do I really want the pain and the heartache that comes paired with it? Do I really want to have to tell a person that I come to grow and love that I have to go off and see the world for myself? By my self. Singular. 

It is tough, like all things in life. I don’t understand it. Maybe when I fall in love with the right one I will not have to roll this question around in my head. I will just know that he is worth sticking around for. My mother and I often get into this kind of debate. I say that someone should love you enough to let you go, she says that sometimes you love someone enough to decide to stay. Perhaps it is a delicate combination of both. 

If we go- well then we might miss out on the greatest love and be doomed to the typical movie plot. The person writes us letters and then our evil parents hide them from us, normally in the trunk of the car or wrapped up in nice ribbon, all 365 of those letters. Our lover is so heart-broken over the distance that they unexpectedly fall in love with someone else who can console them with their grief. And we can’t ever hate the person they fall in love with, because they are always so damn nice. It just gets messy when we come back from where we have been and figure out that our feelings are still raging and wild. Or perhaps if we go, they wait, and then there comes the chance of being together. 

I think our hearts are too restless to stay put. Most of us have this itching and passion to see the world and if we are held back from it then we never fully develop. We find some kind of regret to cling to. We always wonder “what if?” 

To stay or to go. 

I could very well be headed off to Haiti or South Africa in 2010, so does that mean I ward off any kind of love? I know that I will eventually depart, standing by terminal 17, sick to my stomach. 

I think its more glamorous in movies, harder in real life. It hurts more off-screen. But it may be worth it. It may be worth it to know that someone loves you enough to wait for you. Or that someone loves you enough to ask you one question, to never leave them, to wake up every morning in their arms. The real question we must ask our selves, when we encounter this kind of love, is not whether they will let us leave but rather if we will choose to stay.  

A list of 30 reasons…

So I must be on a happiness kick. I really must be. Or I must just be really happy, that works just as well.

Even though I am in an extremely good mood (done with finals, getting ready for some Christmas celebrations, getting to spend some much needed time with friends) I am also too aware of how when things are down we forget to look up. During a week full of this doom and gloom I came across these 30 reasons.

We all have those weeks when NOTHING is going right. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. We feel sorry for ourselves, we pity ourselves. We think that everything is wrong and cannot seem to find the good anywhere.

I had one of those weeks at the beginning of the semester. I burst into tears at the drop of a hat. There was too much to do, I was fed up, I wanted to quit moving forward and just throw a huge temper tantrum. Then one day my best friend left a note in my mail box. The folded up piece of paper had an explanation on the front. During her freshman year, her roommate would make these lists for her “30 reasons to be happy,” whenever she was upset.  Now she makes them for her self whenever she gets bogged down to remind her self of all there is to be happy about.

Try it. I swear it works. You will get so caught up in your list that once you finish you will feel a lot better from when you started. Also, you probably will not stop at 30. I made one the other day and came up with 98 reasons.

OR… If you know someone who is going through a particularly rough time, pass the gift along to them. I know when I felt like the world was crashing down and my best friend passed this along to me I felt a) happy b) loved and c) more assured that I could make it through.

So I will leave you with a list of 30 reasons that I have to be happy at this particular moment.

1) Coffee dates with the girlfriends.

2) Having the gift and ability to write.

3) Going home in a few short days to enjoy the Christmas season.

4) Having people in my life that make it so hard to leave them for a month.

5) Forming a friendship this semester that means more to me than words can ever describe nor sum up.

6) Having drive, motivation and passion.

7) Being done with service applications!!!

8 ) Trips to Trader Joes

9) Being able to surround myself with good books this upcoming break. (Will post my winter reading list at a later time)

10) Hearing sweet stories of others’ lives.

11) The blessing of having warmth and heat and a nice bed to sleep in.

12) Knowing God is in my life.

13) Getting cards and letters from home.

14) The apartment lit up with Christmas lights.

15) Did I mention I was done with finals?!

16) Being healthy.

17) Memories to look back at during the Holiday season.

18) Friends who really care.

19) Being passionate.

20) Hot chocolate, enough said.

21) Hands, eyes, ears, mouth– mobility.

22) Who I was and who I am now.

23) The ability to read.

24) The feeling of change in my pocket and money in my bank account.

25) Support from my parents to follow my dreams.

26) The chance to take a step back and breathe.

27) Knowing that I tried my best this semester.

28) The gift of good conversation.

29) All that I need right at my fingertips.

30) A wonderful, magical, brilliant life.

What are your 30 reasons?

“Think about numero uno”

A year ago today I was sitting in the middle of a dimly lit hallway, bundled up in a blanket, attempting to finish a final paper. My battery power dwindled low as the computer made its way into power saver mode. I sat next to a blender and a powerstrip, down the hall I could see a group of guys cooking hot dogs in a toaster oven.

Not your typical, run of the mill finals week. One year ago an ice storm devastated the city of Worcester and left us without power for four full days, and half our finals weekend. Today I am lucky enough to be sitting snug in a library (done with finals might I mention). But I look back and think “Wow, a lot has really changed since then.”

If you want to be happy, be. ~Leo Tolstoy

The biggest difference between then and now? Simple. I am happy now.

How did I learn to be happy in the last 365 days? Did it just spring up one day out of nowhere, did a Monday roll around and tote happiness along with it? To be honest, I think I adjusted the way I was thinking and came to one huge realization. This is my life.

We treat happiness like it is a luxury, like we would only be so lucky to have it. We treat happiness like it is an event, “once I finish this THEN I will be happy,” “Once I turn 21, THEN I will be happy.” We treat happiness like a stranger, questioning why it is that a smile is coming across our face or why we feel contented with the moment. We analyze, scrutinize and dissect happiness when really it is not meant to be thought about, just felt.

Last year I was not doing anything to make myself happy. I was hindering myself thinking that I had to get through the hard stuff to eventually get to the good stuff. That mentality does not get us anywhere. That mentality pushes us to believe that we have all these days stacked up and available to waste when really tomorrow is not even a guarantee.

If one is not happy then they should be stopping to ask why. They should not stay fixated on this idea of pushing forward, keeping moving, when they are no finding no purpose in it. Sure we can all tap dance through life, but does it really mean anything if there is no rhythm in our step and no purpose to our shoeing? We deserve to have happiness in everything that we do. Of course life is hard and some days we just will not be feeling it, but that does not mean that we are at a loss for happiness, there is just a cloud hovering over our otherwise sunny day.

Somewhere amidst the 365 days that separate my unhappy days from my now happy days, I took control of my life. I decided that I was number one and that if I found out what I wanted to do first then the rest would just follow.

Someone very close to me approached me one day at the beginning of the semester. I was sitting at a table working on applications for service but also questioning whether I should pursue graduate schooling. I don’t think I am called to do graduate school at this point in time but I was feeling the pressures of others, the mounting expectations and the little voices in my ears to do what was practical and in line with “the plan.”

Find the moments in which you were really and truly happy. Never let them go.

He sat with me for a few moments, took the notebook that I had been working from and the pencil that I was writing with and scrawled a few words across the top of the paper. “Think about numero uno,” the best possible way for him to tell me to think about myself. Obviously not in an egotistical manner, but to put myself at the forefront instead of in the backdrop.

I am pretty important. You are pretty important as well. We all are. And when start to realize this and take it into account every single day then happiness becomes easier, more attainable. This mindset allows us to see that we deserve happiness. We deserve to smile and mean it. We deserve to see ourselves as important and our purpose in life as radiate. The next step is fulfilling that purpose and scooping up the happiness that piles in the process.

The shoes that fit our feet

Girls in particular will get this next one.

Did we not learn anything from Cinderella’s ugly step sisters? Of course I am not calling any of us ugly, but really, why were they so adamant to make that darn glass slipper fit? My friend and I had a conversation about this this past summer, why, even if the shoe does not fit, do we insist on jamming our foot into it? No, I am not talking about those killer heels that I found at DSW the other night, I am simply talking about guys. Cliche, yes, but guys are like shoes. There are those shoes that don’t fit but we kill ourselves to  try and make them, the shoes that fit but they hurt the whole time we are wearing them, and then there are those shoes that we simply grow out of… we loved them while they lasted but now they only exist in old photographs.

Shoes that don’t fit

My roommates, best friends and I subject ourselves this kind of torture on a regular basis. We meet guys, nice guys, guys you might want to bring home to meet the parentals and yet you just don’t click. Why?! Why can’t we fall in love with the guy who has it all together, the guy who has the killer resume and looks extremely good on and off paper? Its especially disheartening when we meet a “keeper” but then try as we might, we have no interest in keeping them. I haven’t figured this one out yet, why we are so determined to try to wedge our little feet into these kinds of shoes, we will deal with being unhappy or faking it because they look good on us, they send a message to people, they show off that we are capable of having the whole ensemble. But are we ever fully happy with these shoes? Do we ever fully get to love them? Sometimes I think, as hard as it is to except that we don’t always adore the guy who comes off as prince charming and will treat us like a princess, maybe it is best that when we try these kinds of shoes on and we know they don’t fit that we leave them on the shelf. That we don’t even buy them because we know eventually we will have to use the receipt.

Shoes that just plain hurt

Girls are idiots a lot of the time. Being one, I can attest. We have all met those guys who give us attention and they make us feel special but they hurt us in so many ways. They are the pair of heels that are too high for comfort, the ones that leave us blistered at the end of the night. We cry over these ones, our friends yell at us to come to our senses, but we never listen and we just shove themselves into these small and crowded menaces.

In the original story book of Cinderella, the ugly stepsisters actually cut off their toes in order to fit into the tiny shoe. Talk about painful. But we are just as guilty when it comes to those guys that will say mean things and put us through hell. We get rid of parts of ourselves, we change for them, we convince ourselves that if we grow our hair longer or if we wear better clothes then they will finally want us. They will finally love us. Sad story, too often the story line of many people in our lives, including our selves. Sometimes we just need to accept that we should not have to change in order to make a shoe fit, and we should not allow a shoe to hurt us. At the end of the night, it really isn’t all that fun trying to make the trek back to the apartment but being barely unable to move.

The shoes we grow out of

When we love something its simple. We love it. In terms of a person, we want to spend all of our time with them, we want them to know we care, we want them to know that our heart is reserved for them. There is nothing wrong with this. This is the heels that are actually comfortable, the great boots that we love to slip into after work, those flats that go with just about everything.

But shoes get tattered. They get torn. The soles wear out. Our feet grow.

I don’t think this is something that we really ever want to admit to ourselves, that we have moved on, especially when that pair of shoes have been so reliable in the past. We fall in love with people, we think that they are our everything. We are content and it feels amazing. But in a lot of cases we reach a point where we know that we need to move on, that there is more out there in the world and heart is just not ready to settle down.

Accepting this, well its never easy. We can meet someone that will show us the person that we want to be, will push us out of our comfort zone to do great and amazing things, but after a while we need to let go. We need to realize that some people are not meant to stay in our lives forever, they are meant to serve us for a small amount of time, fill the crevices and cracks in our hearts, and then move forward. It would be amazing if we could stay with them for a lifetime, but life is crazy like that. We end up wanting new shoes, ones that fit the person we have grown to be, ones that fit the person we want to become.

But this is not meant to discourage any one. Cinderella did fit into that glass slipper and she did live happily ever after. We all have a pair of soles of out there that are simply perfect for us. I think we just need to learn to never settle for the shoes that don’t fit, the shoes that hurt us too bad to even walk in them, and the shoes that we know need to be put back in the closet because they no longer fit. We all have that real fit out there. And I am sure if someone told the stories of the step sisters, what happened after Cinderella rode off into the sunset, I think we would find that they eventually found love too. They eventually found the shoes that fit their feet.

I love college?

College. I used to have a T-shirt that simply had the word branded across the chest in big navy blue letters. College. Its not really a place anymore, its an atmosphere, its a fantasy world. A bubble.

My best friend and I talked about this on our morning coffee route. We were perplexed and trying to figure out where the true meaning of college disappeared to. What happened to working before playing? When did college become the chance to make your dorm room look like a Target advertisement? When did beer pong and frat parties start becoming the “essence” of college life?

When the song “I Love College” came out in mid 2009 I knew we were going somewhere. Downhill. You see, I sometimes feel like an alien in this college environment. I put my work first. I don’t like chugging pitchers of beers. “Hooking up” is not on my to-do list.

I sometimes feel like I don’t fit in like the typical college student. I don’t go out on Tuesday nights. I don’t sleep through Saturday and Sunday. I wake up at the crack of dawn, any day, get a workout in and hit the books. When I complain to my mother about the massive amounts of work on my plate, she replies back “That is what you are there for.” So why is everyone around me seemingly having more fun? Why is no one else spreading a thick layer of guilt upon their brains when they skip a class or they get a B on a paper?

Being a chairperson for the Orientation program at Assumption I see a pretty uneven split. Sure there are the kids that want their class schedules, they want to be involved, they want to excel in college. Then there is the majority of students that want two questions answered for them: Where are the good parties on campus? Is the work hard?

Students shy away from the challenges in the classroom, and find ways to make it to weekend, week after week. We pick classes and I can hear my friends chatter away, wanting to fill their time slots with professors who are “easy graders” and “don’t give homework.” Really? Do you even care about learning anything?!? I want to scream in their face, “GO FIND A CHALLENGE!!” Challenges are going to bombard in the real world, if we don’t start welcoming them now then how can we ever plan to excel or hold a poise and grace when the tough stuff comes along.

I slaved away in my senior seminar course for Mass Communications this past semester. I was bitter, I thought the teacher was giving far too much work. I was crying nearly everyday over what was expected of me. I got the end of this class just this past Tuesday and it finally hit me. I had done it. I had challenged myself and made it through. I was proud. This kind of feeling does not come from that class that is supposed to be an easy A, or the class that we take as a filler for an elective. I realized that this is what college is supposed to be about. Learning what we are capable of. Learning to take a challenge and run with it.

So what if I don’t like binge drinking or hooking up with random guys at the bar. That is not my college scene. I came to college to work hard and occasionally play hard. But at the end of my four years I know I will be walking away, not with a gap in my memory of what happened in the last 40 weekends, but an education, a transformation and a new self that is ready to shake hands with the real world. And hey, I still love college… just like everyone else.

Learning to simplify

Next year holds the potential of being completely different than this year .. Of course it is expected, seeing as I will no longer be a college student, care free and young. I will be a real person, more than that, I may very well be in a developing country doing service.

The applications are in, one for a program in South Africa and another for a program in Haiti, two programs that could potentially turn my life upside down.. No more technology, no more calls home when I miss my mom, no more home cooked meals or shopping at the mall. Life will certainly be simplified to say the least. So I guess I need to find ways to start preparing for this.

My mom and I talked about it on the phone tonight. I don’t want anything expensive for Christmas, not an Ipod or a digital camera, not really anything technological. Little by little, I am beginning to inch myself towards a more simplistic lifestyle, one that incorporates more prayer, more trust in God and more gratitude for the little things in life, the things that money cannot by.

It is probably the hardest this time of year, we say its all about friends and family and memories, but I often see my friends pulling their hair out over buying for people on their lists or my family trying to get out of my what I want.. What do I really want? The simple things in life– smiles, hugs, letters, love, conversation, encouragement, understanding — let these simple things settle in my heart instead of under my tree.

The Gift of h2o

Remember those middle school days when we felt obligated to get all of our friends Christmas presents? I would buy nearly a dozen body soaps from Bath and Body Works and 2 dozen candles, and would come home after a day of passing out gifts in school owning a dozen body soaps and 2 dozen candles.

Let’s face it, it is hard to shop for friends during the Holiday season, especially those Secret Santa gifts. Woof. Well I solved the problem for good last year and I have decided to carry it into this holiday season as well.

Today my girlfriends will receive their gifts in their campus mail boxes. What they really will recieve is a cardstock tear drop with a simple statistic on the front “Every 22 seconds a child dies from lack of clean water.” The cardstock is wrapped up with a glittered blue ribbon and a letter attached to the back of it. The letter reads….

“To a friend,

To reveal to you the purpose of this Christmas letter I unfortunately have to bring up the subject of crying. Tears are a natural part of life, they come when our heart is hurting, when we let go of someone we love, when we laugh so hard that we cry. We look at tears and we think they are normal, we never really marvel at their presence in the corners of our eyelids or rolling over the arches of our cheeks. For a moment imagine what it would be like to be moved to tears at this very moment but amidst the sniffles and sobs, nothing comes out. No tear drops.

It seems almost silly, something we never really give much thought to, but for 1.9 million children in the developing world it is a sad reality. Because of the lack of clean water and the inefficient forms of technology to filter this water, children in these countries are often so dehydrated that their body cannot produce tear drops. They cry dry tears. Without wells to supply the clean water, a child dies every 22 seconds due to this lack of clean water. That is three children every minute, 180 children every single hour.

Here is where you come in. You have been a constant presence and blessing in my life and I am eternally grateful for this. I am reminded of your simple acts of kindness towards me especially during this holiday season. I don’t think it would ever be good enough to hand you a gift card or a present that I purchase in an attempt to show you how much your friendship has meant to me. For this very reason, I would like to extend a thank you in another way.

This Christmas a donation has been made in your name to the World Vision Clean Water Fund.   Because of you, children in developing countries will be saved from disease that could potentially kill them. Because of you children will be able to attend school, no longer having to stay home sick because of water borne disease. These wells are the first step in making developing countries more stable and you have just played a part in working towards that tremendous goal.

This Christmas season please remember the donation that you inspired just by being a friend. Never doubt that you have not made an impact in someone’s life, you impacted my life so much that I am passing it along to children who need the difference so desperately. Because of you children are going to have clean water and a chance to grow up healthy in this world. Because of you, children are going to live, a chance they may not have had if you had not been the person I am so proud to know today.

I hope this season allows you to rest, relax and the see the difference you can make in this world. Thank you for making me the person that I am, giving me incentive to wake up every morning and showing me that grace of friendship. This is just a small gift of thanks in comparison to what you have given me in my knowing you.”

Why not give a gift that helps someone else this holiday season? There are millions of people out there who need help and support a lot more than we need meaningless gift cards and more “stuff.” I challenge you to find ways to give this season and to think about the value of the gifts that give back.