You were never made to be an oyster. You serve the world much better as a pearl.

I found her sleeping, wedged peacefully between two filing cabinets. Her face told a different story though, of a little girl who wanted a bed to sleep in, with pillows surrounding her on every side.

I’m used to hearing her voice on a daily basis. I’m used to smiling inward when she speaks.

The absence of her voice is what prompted me to go looking for her.

And Find Her. Slumped. Two File Cabinets. Abandoned. Worn Out.

I approach the corner of the room, kicking debris from under my feet. Moving a few chairs out of the way. Pushing things to the side. Just to sit down next to her.

Her eyes open as I kneel to the floor.

I say nothing. I am just so happy to see her.

She is wearing a traditional bright yellow Mexican fiesta dress and a pair of cowboy boots. She clutches a tape recorder in her two tiny hands.

You left me here,” she says, opening her eyes as if she had never been sleeping but rather, waiting for me to rescue her. “I am not even supposed to be here but you stranded me. You left me, Hannah.”

The Moment. The Moment when guilt kidnaps coherent sentences. The Moment when another person’s accusations are more right than anything you swear you’ve ever told yourself.

How long did it take for you to realize I was missing?”

“Not long. I stopped hearing from you. I am used to our long and winding conversations. I miss them.”

I don’t know when is the last we have had one, Hannah. I think I have been sitting her much longer than you know. Not that you have had much time to look around and see.

“But how did you get here? I didn’t put you here,” I ask, looking around. The room is cluttered. Inspirational photographs and old tattered newspaper articles line the walls, overshadowed and dulled by the mess of stuff that makes my brain look more like a garage sale than an actual place to do my thinking.

I belong in your heart, Hannah. That is where I have always lived.” She begins to pick herself up off the floor, dusting off the party dress and stepping over me.

“Yes, I know. That is why I asked, how did you get in here?”

You put me in here. Little by little you packed me up and sent me to live in your head, surrounded by all these things & people & goals that you don’t even care about.

“I did that?”

Yes, you did that. It wasn’t long ago that you were listening to me, that you and I were talking nearly every day. I would wake up energized, ready to whisper new ideas into your being. I was always so happy to see you run with my ideas and make them a reality. For you to live out your dreams.

“We are a good team.”

Were. We were a good team.” She is not letting me forget the split so easily. “Do I look like I even belong here? Do I look happy to be here?” Her tone is rightfully accusatory, advanced for a second grader.

She looks like a little child lost on “Bring your Daughter to Work Day.” An eight-year-old girl holding a tape recorder who stumbled off the path towards her birthday party and ended up in an old, cramped office space.

“I didn’t mean to put you in here. Honestly, I don’t even know how that works.”

It happens everyday. Other inner children told me it would just be a matter of time before you stopped listening to me, like everyone else. I thought you were different but I could see it coming from miles away. I may only be eight, but I am pretty smart, Hannah.

It starts one day when you get a real look at the world. How hard it is. How miserable some people can be inside of it. And you start to forget things. You start to forget our conversations and you swap them out for Grown-Up Stuff. Logistics. Loans. Taxes. All the things that you think you should be talking about, instead of talking to me.
Before long, you are no longer filling your heart with inspirational conversations and words of wisdom, the kind of stuff you used to feed me on.

And this is what happens: Your mind begins to be cluttered, instead of your heart. More and More Into Your Mind. Less and Less Into Your Heart. And you run out of room. Your mind, and all its Worries and Fears, need a place to stay. And so, often without realizing it, you clear out your heart. You make space in your heart for more worries and more fears. And all the things that once mattered in your heart, they get squashed. They lose their footing. Just last week I had to sit cramped in between your Loan Worries and your Spiritual Angst. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that was?

That stuff isn’t in my heart though. You are in my heart. My dreams are in my heart.” I want to prove this eight-year-old version of myself wrong. She may be small, but I know she is smarter when it comes to wisdom of the wise.

The second you stop relying on your dreams, on the people you care about, and you start listening to this Foolish World instead, then your heart & your mind begin Swapping. Trading. The other day your Heart passed me off to your Mind. Do you have any idea how that felt? To go from being your guide to being some cast away? To go from sleeping under a canopy bed, cushioned by our dreams, to a cold floor next to a filing cabinet full of Insecurities.

“I’m sorry.” The two weakest words in the world. I know that they are.

I am just hurt, Hannah.” Looking into her eyes, I realize that even with the fourteen year distance between us, our eyes have stayed the same. Brown. Green. Yellow. A mess of Golden Sunshine around the pupil. Always confusing people, making them too afraid to say the word Hazel.I always thought that you would prove people wrong. That you would hold tight to your dreams of being a writer, of being an editor, of creating and inspiring and making people feel alive and validated. I was excited to see that happen. To see that come to be.

But it won’t happen if you start living in this world so much, if you become bogged down by all that you have always refused to believe in. The tea parties that I attended in your heart were always so good. I sat next to your mother, and your grandma, Celia & Carleigh & Corey. And I chatted with your Ambition and your Love for Others. And I have never been happier. There are no tea parties in your head, Hannah. Just sad little coffee breaks with Mr. Should, Mr. Cannot and Mr. Mustn’t. Old, Cranky, Obese & Negative.

“I let you down, I know that. I get that. But its not so easy to avoid getting swept up in this world and the money to be made and the fortune to have.”

It is not that you won’t have money or fortune, Hannah. It’s just that it was never your job to go worrying about it. To abandon me, and my voice, to listen to a drawn out, impersonal voice recording of the Worry of this World.

“It is so hard not to listen though.”

Then close your ears and just listen to me. I swear I won’t let you down. Have I ever? You are thinking too much about oysters these days, Hannah. Oysters and their Way of Life. You were never made to be an oyster. You serve the world much better as a pearl. And you have to believe in that, because it is your calling in life. Beyond Money. Fame. Recognition. Some people are blessed to come in this world for the sole purpose of taking the oysters and helping them to realize their potential as pearls. Don’t take that blessing for granted.

Tears fill my eyes as her small freckled hand reaches out to touch my wrist. Her fingers dance along the pearls that line up neatly in a row. My own pearls of wisdom.

“Can I come home now? It’s cold in your mind, cold & cluttered and I don’t have my yellow sweater to wear to keep me warm. I want to come home. Back to your heart. We can start over again, there is still time.”

I want nothing more than to bring her home again. To listen to her voice inside of my heart, an eight-year-old who knew all the beauty in dreaming and living with a heart wide open. In her cowboy boots. In her party dress. She was always the belle of the ball when it came to my heart. My Passion adored her. My Ambition blushed when she would show up. My Dreams ran in a frenzy to hug her first upon walking through the door. The Shirley Temple of My Heart. The Hostess of My Dreams.

“Yes, we can go home.”

Her hand falls into mine and I wrap my fingers tightly, so as to make sure that I never let her go again.

Together we step around the clutter and the littered documents of Mr. Should, Mr. Cannot and Mr. Mustn’t. Back to her tea party with the people that love her, believe in her and want to see her take a big sip from a Cup Full of Aspiration, the World as her Sweetener, her Potential as her Creamer.

 

Stay a Lover of Little Things: Pearls for the Suitcase and the Train to the City.

The train ticket is booked. Suitcases that claim they are big enough to fit my life in their tummies have come tumbling down from the attic. I am moving to New York City in 25 days. A little less than a month.

The original Pearls of Wisdom came right before my college graduation, three months ago: a compilation of wisdom that I found strewn throughout my four years at Assumption. This second strand of pearls is in dedication to the woman who made me both a seamstress of stories and a searcher of the soul. Every single day I gather these pearls and more from an individual whose heart, in comparing sizes, makes New York City just a speck on the map.

 love you mom

Stay a lover of little things.

No matter what big cities you go off to and big opportunities you are graced with, always take time to acknowledge the little things.

Never give up on the things that make you smile because smiling is one of the most important things we can do in this world.

Find time to just wander. With No Direction. No Plan. No Time Restrictions.

Look for beauty every where that you go. In the ladybugs on the window sill. The sunflowers in the backyard. The sky scrapers in a new city. The faces of strangers and family alike.

Form family in every place. Form family by reaching out a hand to people who need to hold one, calling someone to brighten their day, giving up your time for others with no exasperation of ever needing to have those minutes repaid.

Leap. Leap High. Leap Far. Leap when you see the landing point. Leap when you see nothing but darkness.

Find God in the nooks of this world. Find God Everywhere Around You. Help Others Find Him Too. Because others are looking, and some don’t even know it.

It’s worth repetition: Stay a lover of little things. Spider Webs. Children Laughing. Band Aids. Light Weight Sneakers. Coins. Cheetos.

Refuse to keep your feelings bottled up: cry, scream, yell, stomp your feet, spit. Do whatever it takes to feel outside of your own mind.

Go to concerts. Dance on stage. Be the best damn tambourine player you  can be. Have a crush on the lead singer.

Be unafraid of your heart: Whatever & Whoever makes it beat. You could keep it sheltered forever if you please but hearts become more versatile the more we use them. Better that we risk them breaking through good use rather than breaking them from never using them at all.

Wake up every day with the intention of painting something beautiful. Some days you won’t feel like you have all the right colors. These days, borrow colors from others.

Carry a kazoo wherever you go. You will continually stumble across people who are having a birthday and are in need of a good song.

Aspire to be something wonderful. Something Remarkable. Every single day.

Don’t pay too much attention to all the hubbub about ultra violet rays. The sun is far too glorious to not let it kiss your face and plant freckles on your shoulders sometimes.

Drop everything. Absolutely everything. For a good friend in need.

Nothing in this world stops you from being an artist, a dancer, the best writer this world has ever seen. If anyone stops you… it is only yourself.

Counting Blessings. Don’t count calories too crazily. Count Kisses (especially the forehead ones). Never ever worry about counting friends. Don’t count money before you have it.

Ask outlandish questions.

You can tell a lot about a person by asking the question, “If you had one night to be any performer on stage, who would it be?”

Be good to people but don’t give them everything or every part of you. Especially if there is evidence that they may tamper with your heart.

Take long walks on the beach.

Walk sometimes instead of drive.

One last thing on walking, take time every day to walk outside of yourself. You will quickly find that the world does not revolve around you and sorry to say, it never did.

And remember: Stay a lover of little things no matter how big your dreams may be. Stamps. Sonnets. Hot Chocolate. Desert. Songs that read your soul. Tears of Joy. Tears, in general.

Home is not so much a noun as it is a cross-breed between an adjective and a verb. Be home to someone. Hold close to those who feel like home.

Add something sequined,silver or red to any outfit you wear out for a night. A silver bangle never fails and patent red pumps are unstoppable at any age.

Write poems. Without Rhyming or Worry about Iambic Pentameter. Without judging them. Just write poems because they are groovy and we are all poets.

Make pet names with every letter of the alphabet. Leave no B, G, or E unused.

Start the morning quietly. When you step outside or get stuck in your dose of morning traffic you will have wished you had that solitude.

Make your efforts big but remain little. No one likes a big head.

When you feel a pulling in your heart or a weight on your chest don’t push off the feeling. Let it flood you, push you around, challenge you. Under pressure diamonds are made. Welcome Darkness and Welcome Change.

Never stop asking yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Not everyone in life is going to care about you, your favorite breakfast foods or your pet peeves. Don’t even try to make them. Just appreciate those who come into your life and do care.

Have coffee or tea in the morning. Or just something warm. Feel the warmth on your hands. Let it spread to your soul.

Be mindful of bikinis that are too small and tops that are too low cut. No one buys cows when they get the milk for free. And its better to be classy.  Always better to be classy.

Don’t expect the world to understand all that you attempt to do. Your dreams will only fly if you first give them wings. And another thing, let the world think you are crazy. Crazy is Good.

And never forget: Stay a lover of little things, above all else. Prayers. Pearls. Compliments. Movie Nights. Letters from Home…. Home.

And those who believed in you first.

Our dreams were always meant to belong to the world but have we forgotten that we must raise them first?

I feel bad.

I left her sitting on the subway without any dreams in her head. I abandoned a drug addict without granting him a resolution. I left some boy in a random hospital bed but I forgot to geographically pinpoint the hospital so I will probably never find him again. And still there is someone else who has no name. I never got around to giving her a name.

It is not that I want to abandon the characters of the stories that come to be when the lead of my pencil meets my notebook paper and they decide to fall in love.  But lately I cannot do anything but that. Abandon My Characters. Translation: Abandon My Dreams.

They say it takes a dreamer to be a writer. I say it takes being unafraid of dreaming to get anywhere in life. Anywhere you want to go that is.

When we are young it is almost as if we are expected to be dreamers. Adults coo in a synchronized manner at our hopes of becoming firefighters or the next great prima ballerinas. Inside of us sits this invincible belief that we can do anything we set our minds to. And sure, that notion tends to last for a little while.

But as life becomes less about skinned knees and water balloon fights, things start to get in the way. Tangible and Intangible. Loans & Taxes & Insurance. Tragedy & Stability & Practicality. Reality Breaks Us In. We stop believing in silliness; in sugarplum fairies and the naughty and nice list. In Yellow Brick Roads and Horses of a Different Color.

We do a great disservice to our dreams when we forget the times they allowed us to live in them. We could hide in those dreams, seek comfort in them, look toward them when no interest prevailed to be ordinary in this world. We could retreat to them and we could fill diaries about them. We Grew Them. Fed Them With Our Thoughts and Beliefs. But did we all remember to let them out into the world? To open up our arms and set our dreams free? Did we forget to let them burst at the seams and make this world more brilliant than ever before? Or did we simply belittle them… degrade them… abandon them…

We need to treat our dreams like human beings, that is, if we really want them to mean something. We must first acknowledge those dreams, believe in them until we are convinced we can never stop. We need to baby those dreams like infants, understand their weak beginnings but covet the progress. No Matter the Size. We need to smile at the baby steps.

We must bring our dreams out into the world, not hoard them or hide them away. But most importantly we need to push our dreams out of their comfort zones as we would little children trying to find themselves in this world. We must pass them on and push them and tell them to be more. It is not enough to simply “want” our dreams to come true. We must learn to let them go, to set them free. To turn them into realities beyond the etchings of our journals and the margins of our math homework.

I am convinced that although our dreams start as our own, they are meant for the world. That even though we may love our dreams and depend on them to identify us, they ultimately exist to make the world a better place. And in order for that to happen, we must learn to grow them and let them go.

Our dreams were always meant to belong to the world but have we forgotten that we must raise them first?

People often ask me what I want to do with this lifetime. I tend to lean towards practicality. I deliver a scripted monologue about global affairs and poverty and humanity, microfinance and other key words. I say this stuff because it sounds good and stable. Then people won’t have to worry about me or walk away saying, “that one is a silly little dreamer.”

But in reality, and this is the first time that I am openly admitting it on this blog, I want to write books. Books that Help. Books that Heal. Books that Turn the World Upside Down. Or Right Side Up. Unearth the Pain. Untie the Complexities of Humanity. Or, better yet, Tie Up The Simplicity That Continually Convinces Me That We Are All the Same.

I want to be a writer. A peace maker who uses words as her remedy. A radical who uses stories as her ammo. A writer who tells all the stories; the pretty ones, the not-so pretty ones. The Silent Ones. The Loud Ones. The ones that others convinced themselves were too much for the world to read.

And you may say that I am a dreamer for believing that one day I will do just this, but John Lennon has already convinced that this is ok, for you see, I am not the only one.

Operation Fall in Love in a Coffee Shop

My friends are sending me to New York City to fall in love in a coffee shop.

Of all the jokes that have run through the bloodstreams of our friendships, this is the one that withstands all time and circumstances.

I began talking about my dreams of falling love in a coffee shop, over a skim latte and a book recklessly abandoned for the sake of conversation, quite a few years ago.

It’s always an early Saturday morning. It’s always an autumn day where possibility seems to rise up off the ground like steam on gravel after a fresh fallen rain. It’s always in New York City.  Perhaps the unintentional ambiance that the city conjures up or maybe the fact that a coffee shop awaits at every single corner so Love is bound to sit inside of one.

Post a sign that reads “Hopeless Romantic” across my back, but I have often wondered what it would be like to live a life skipping from Saturday to Saturday. To be so content to just sit in the presence of someone else as they sip their cappuccino and read their New York Times, someone that literally does not even know you exist. What It Might Be Like To Never Exchange A Word. However, these wordless encounters somehow come packed with enough passion and mystery to crawl you through the next seven days. All the days, Sunday through Friday, are spent thinking of that person who sits in the coffee shop. Wondering about their thoughts, dreams and how they fill their days.

I wonder what it would be like to be one of the millions who have not the courage to reach out a hand to the one they love and introduce themselves.

I guess I am a horrendous story teller because that is where my plot ends. Quite the lack of thickening, if you consult with me. I have never thought of what would come after the first handshake- of “our” thoughts together and “our” dreams and how “we” would fill our days.

I only have the coffee shop and the moments planned out pre-handshake. And that is like sending a pretty girl out into a big wide city but giving her no map to get anywhere.

We spend a lot of time building up dreams in our heads. We convince ourselves that happiness exists in a certain place with certain people. That our dream job does not exist outside of our dream city. That we were destined for a coffee shop, a freshly brewed Chai and a warm smile. And we stop there.

But don’t we pigeon hole ourselves when we plan so furiously? We should be so careful not to dream too specifically that we wipe away all other options. That we don’t grow to be so arrogant as we hold the soft hand of our dreams that we deem the others- outside of the coffee shop, jobs outside of our dream city and opportunities apart from our thought process- to be less than worthy. Perhaps, perhaps our dreams are good… but our futures are even better.

What if I could make all of our dreams come true in a matter of 172 days. That might be nice, right? We would stroll around in less than a year (24 weeks and five days) with spouses we have dreamed of, jobs we have wanted for a long time, white picket fences and all that good stuff. But what might we do for the 172 days? Sit and wait?

A lot of life can pass us by when we are waiting on one option. When We Forcefully Close Other Doors Because We Are Convinced That a Specific One Will Open.

This silly little “reach for the tissues” cinematic dream of mine is teaching me very much as of late. Oh How To Make Things Not So Silly. Not So Little. Not Just Dreams. I would love to claim to be the best director of my life but I have learned through experience that the best in this lifetime comes when we least expect it. When we are hoping for one smile and we gain another. When we are waiting for one opportunity and we stumble across something even brighter and more brilliant. We need to be careful not waste time sitting in our heads and precariously planning out dreams that lack a certain “plan of execution.”

If we want great things, well, we must work. If we want happiness, well, we must be open-minded.

Open-Minded: o·pen-mind·ed. adj. To not designate the corners where our happiness must wait for us, nor the coffee shops that our true loves sit in. To entertain curiosity, new faces and life when it throws us for a loop.

Ten Thousand Thank-You Notes

“You know what gets me? The fact that a lot of people don’t take the time to say thank you anymore, like really thank someone without a scripted reason behind it,” I said to my best friend, four months ago, as our phones bridged a distance between my location in Connecticut and hers in Virginia.

“What has happened to the handwritten thank-you note? People can just text a thank you or send an email, but there is nothing better than receiving a handwritten note, there is nothing better than a “thank you for being in my life.”

This very dialogue is the very reason why I woke up today ready to thank 100 people.

Since a conversation between my best friend and I about how the handwritten thank-you note is seriously underrated, I have traded in my free time for a pen and piece of paper. I have been writing dozens and dozens of thank-you notes, choosing to feel every sweep of the pen and every dotting of the “i”s. I write them anywhere and everywhere: in a booth at the on-campus restaurant, outside of Starbucks, while waiting to go places or before meetings. I am beginning to delight in the puzzled faces of my peers when they see me sitting at a table scribbling away furiously.

“What are you doing Hannah?”

“Writing thank-you notes.”

Not your typical lunchtime activity but when I stop to think about it, I cannot think of a better activity to pursue. So I just smile and continue to write.

The handwritten thank-you note has become a best friend to me in the last few months and the centerpiece to a project that I am beginning. Ten Thousand Thank-You Notes is my effort to thank those who have played an intricate part in my last four years as a college undergraduate. 100 people will be thanked today in the form of a handwritten thank-you note, each one unique and different in its own way. This is simply because each person I have encountered has impacted me in a remarkable manner that no one could ever replace. A lot of these people are not expecting to hear from me today, plenty of them have not heard from me in a very long while. But I have scolded the awkwardness that comes from thanking someone “just because” because I finally realize I have every reason to thank these people. Right Here. Right Now.Not when I finally walk across the stage and receive my diploma but at this very moment where their impact is gold to me.

The premise of the project is simple: Receive a thank-you note, pass a thank-you note. My hope is that those who receive a note will pass one or several on to others, and the project will continue….

But it is not just me, I am not the only one in this world who is allowed to write thank-you notes. We all have people that we should thank, people who we forget about in the busyness of everyday life. People who deserve a thank-you note every single day. They are the ones who have shaped us, challenged us and saw potential in us. They are the ones who are there any day that we need them. They are the ones who we celebrate life with; happy and sad moments. So why do we forget to express our gratitude? Or why do we designate it to a time and place: after a party or after receiving a gift. We need to tell the world to be quiet when it tries to tell us we are way to busy to stop and thank people because these are the people who give our world color and give our days meaning.

And of course I know the truth, we could very well continue on and not thank these people. We could thank them in our hearts and that may very well be enough. But I will dare to say that silent gratitude gets us no where in this world that needs more thank yous.

This is a call to all of you reading to get involved as well. Pick up the project yourself: Write out thank-you notes to those who deserve to hear it more than just at Christmas or Birthdays, send those thank-you notes out and urge them to pass along the project as well.

Oh there are days when I think I am too busy, too tied up to acknowledge anyone. But then I stop. I look around at my life, at the radiance of this person who I have come and I see it very clearly: I am no one without the noble individuals who have brought me to this point. And to me, that is a better reason than any to thank them today.

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.”

Please get involved in Ten Thousand Thank-You Notes! I would love to hear from you about sending thank-you notes, receiving them or just chatting in general. Shoot me an email over at HannahKaty@live.com.

A Letter to the Big City: I am finally ready to change your name to “home.”

To the Big City:

I always imagined that the first time I gave my heart up without an expectation to get it back it would be to a boy. I pictured love letters, firsts of every kind and ultimately no need for a promise that I might get it back in one piece. Never to you though, I never thought that you would be the one to start my heart beating to a different rhythm. A Different Song.

I remember when we first met, how it happened nearly a thousand times. Every time I stepped off the train onto the platform of Grand Central Station there was tinge of hope that you would allow me to stay, that my off peak ride home would be nonexistent. I prayed you might let me dance along your sidewalks, let my heart drift away with the aromas of the city. I Prayed You Would Sweep Me Up With The Crowds And Somehow Make Yourself Home To Me.

The funny thing is how I fought with you for a while. It was a matrimony that I longed for, between you, the Great Manhattan, and me, the Little Dreamer. Like a big brother, too cool for a younger sibling, you never let me hang around for long, you always forced me back to a town and a place too small for the dreams in my head.

“I can fit them in your city,” I would beg and plead. You shook your head and gave me no resolution or reason. You left me to pluck my own stars out the sky, to give up on the light that I always swore would be the end of my tunnel.

And I was dreamless for a while. Dreamless to a point where I said beneath my breath, “Perhaps, perhaps, I should have never dreamt this dream at all.” I was very silly to plant you in my mind before I passed into a slumber every single night. Forget the skyline, forget the concrete mixed with the crafts of a million other passerbys. Forget the beautiful people. Forget that you ever thought you had a place in this Big City.

I cannot say what happened when I walked away, when I left you with my heart and you never whispered back that you would take good care of it.

But you did.

I am still learning Big City… I am still learning about reasons and truth, about times and places. I am learning to pick back up the pieces, to put back on the cloak of a dreamer.

Like a love lost, a love that knows my name, my heart, how I fill my spaces and what spaces still need to be filled, you found me again. You dared to ask me to pick up where we left off; you said you still kept my heart, you were letting it run wherever it pleased but that I might want to run with it.

Thank you for the invitation, here is my RSVP. I needed to learn on my own that if I don’t follow my heart than I will never reach a point of contentment, a point where my full capacity is met, a point where I allow my dreams to breath and live. Maybe I needed to do my growing up in another city, in another place with different people, before you beckoned me to come shimmer in the skyline.

But you called my name, and I will be there… You Called. I’m Coming.

Quite possibly your biggest dreamer,

Hannah Katy

At the end of August I will be relocating to The Bronx, New York and will be serving for a year as the liaison to the Augustinians at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan. This is the beginning to a new chapter…