to travel is to be alive.

I have realized in the last few months that I’m becoming the very woman I’d hoped I would. That’s not to say I don’t struggle or have room to grow. In fact, it is the opposite thought that makes me believe this all the more.

I am well aware of my shortcomings. I see my strengths and weaknesses, but I believe them to be equally deserving of praise and adoration. Though I will forever be imperfect, I revel in my quirkiness. As I’ve grown older, I’ve finally found the joy in pushing the right buttons. Testing the best waters. Venturing outside the greatest boxes. Though cautious and anxious, I am not afraid.

This couldn’t have been proven more true with my most recent jaunt across the country.

Take off to Las Vegas.

Take off to Las Vegas.

In April, I visited friends in Las Vegas and took on a solo adventure in Denver. This made my third visit to LV, but it was my first time in Denver…my first time in Colorado! I had no idea what to expect, but the excitement of seeing friends and the anticipation of greeting a new – and very desirable – place absolutely filled my heart with joy. Fewer things light up my soul more than traveling.

The sweet, wonderful celebration of friends (old AND new!) + the possibility and thrill of the unknown

= one happy girl. 

The friends I visited were celebrating their engagement with a very boisterous and rambunctious bachelor/bachelorette party – Vegas style. Their friends and family came from all across the U.S. – California, Texas, West Virginia, Hawaii, Florida, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon. These are the kind of people they are, people you travel across the country (and oceans) for. One friend came from Slovakia! The beautiful thing is that Lo and JJ live there, so I get to experience both the local and tourist culture every time I stay. It’s perfect. And my friends are perfect.

This trip was even more special than my previous 2, as we spent our entire time celebrating these two phenomenal people. The time there was full of surprises, laughs, reunions, tears, and absolute ridiculousness (of which I am a HUGE fan!). I saw a family friend, Charlie, I hadn’t seen in years. I got to learn more about a friend from Slovakia – Tomas had been a foreign exchange student when I was a freshman in high school. He was a senior, and though I knew who he was, our friend circles were pretty separated. This was the first time he’d been back to the states since high school! Who knew I’d learn so much, or that we’d have such similar humor?! I watched the sweetest woman alive blissfully celebrate her engagement. And the most absurd guy I know (I say this lovingly) celebrate being engaged to the sweetest woman alive.

I am certainly biased, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s true. These people are magical. The passion they have for life, the humor they embody, the beauty they radiate to the world – each makes them the greatest of people. I confidently say this about every friend, old and new.

My time in Las Vegas is always transformative because of the people and the surroundings there. Maybe this comes as a surprise; it’s easy to see the superficiality of the place. It’s easy to find the facade in every building, the lacking sense of confidence running amok the Strip. But it’s lovely and spectacular in it’s own right.

Still, glance above and see the mountains. View the sun in the bluest sky, adjacent to the most awe-inspiring clouds. There is the true beauty. For some reason, everything feels clearer when I’m visiting out there. I suppose soulful people and a different kind of air will do that you.

I can never fully describe the loveliness of that trip. It was beautiful. And as sad as I was to leave Vegas, I was beyond excited and anxious to get to Denver. I had no clue what to expect. I had no clue what to feel either. Nervous to find my way to my Air BnB hosts after dark; hopeful that I’d make the most of my time there; proud for pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone. I’ll never forget getting off of the plane and waiting at the bus terminal for nearly 45 minutes, surrounded by complete strangers who seemed to know exactly what to do. All the while, I was lost just standing still. I didn’t want to look like a young female traveling solo, but that’s the very vibe I had. My jittery eyes kept watching for the RTD bus that would take me to “Union Station”. The cinematic part of my mind thought it’d never come.

But it did, and with exhaustion and relief, I climbed on the bus. About a 30 minute bus ride, a 15 minute wander, and a 10 minute cab ride later, I was at my host’s apartment. They lived in LoHi – the Lower Highland area of the city. A perfect 15 minute walk away from downtown Denver, and a 5 minute walk away from the cutest shops, cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants.

After chatting with my host for about 45 minutes that night, I realized we had so much in common. She studies marketing and currently works as a paid blogger. A wealth of knowledge, she’s an avid coffee lover, a down to earth spirit, and incredibly kind. I felt it very appropriate that I ended up choosing her apartment on AirBnB, and went to bed that night with the proudest of smiles on my face.

DAY 1: Walks through the park, through LoHi and into downtown. Breakfast at ModMarket (2 eggs covered in green chile, potatoes, gluten-free toast, amazing coffee). Denver Center for the Arts Complex. The Capitol building. The Denver Art Museum. Lunch at Freshcraft (remarkable Chopped Steak Salad and SKA Mexican Lager, brewed in Durango, CO). Coffee with my host at Starbucks. Nap time (I didn’t want to, but HAD to!). Dinner at Linger (Masala Dosa: a crispy rice and lentil crepe with potatoes and peas, served with tamarind date sauce and coconut mint chutney!). Dessert at Littleman’s Ice Cream (Mocha Chip). Bed.

One of my favorite parts of Day 1 was dinner at Linger. The restaurant used to be a mortuary; it was turned into a restaurant when the neighborhood was being overhauled. What used to be “Olinger’s Mortuary” is now called “Linger’s Eatuary”, though they kept the original sign atop the building, and the interior theme of the place is still pretty morbid. The booths are lined with casket leather, water is served from formaldehyde bottles, and the checks are given to patrons on a casket-shaped clipboard. The first level of the restaurant is full of tables and booths, while the second level is a bar and lounge, complete with wall-to-wall windows. The restaurant was packed, so I ventured upstairs; I’m still convinced this was the better experience. The view from up there is chic and breathtaking, and the service was top-notch. I asked the bartender for a recommendation for dinner, and he did not disappoint. The Masala Dosa was one of the most remarkable dishes I’ve ever had. He and I chatted about his travels and excursions across different mountains and areas out West, while the woman sitting next to me and I bonded over the fact that we each were exploring Denver alone. She was from California, and in between jokes and stories, she made it very apparent she was interested in me. In the moment, I was unnerved – I was not expecting a friendly conversation to take that turn. However, looking back, I can say I’m totally flattered!

Day 2: Breakfast at Mona’s (the largest pancake I’ve ever seen and amazing coffee, yet again). An adorable stationery store. Shopping for a momento or two. Larimer Square. Union Station. Airport.

Day 2 was so full of emotion and excitement that I can’t really pinpoint a favorite part in the traditional sense. I soaked up everything; took tons of photos; walked with purpose. I had so much to do before going back to my housing at 2pm to check out and get to the airport. There wasn’t enough time. Full of gratitude for all I’d experienced, for all that I’d pushed myself to do, and for the overwhelming reward I’d already grasped, I embraced every second of that place, hoping that I’d somehow absorb enough of it to take back to share with my family, friends, and boyfriend. I SO wish they each could have experienced what I had. So, more than anything else, I spent my second and final day in Denver feeling appreciative and reflective. Above everything, I reveled in the fact that Denver taught me – showed me – what it meant to be alive.

Traveling alone was challenging. And breathtaking. And overwhelming. And life-altering. It showed me parts of my character I’d never explored, and it forced me to adapt when I had no other choice. It freed my mind to wander. It opened me up to new perspectives. It taught me how to be brave and to keep going.

“Be brave and keep going.”

This is the remark on the bracelet I bought from a shop in Denver. I was looking for something very specific to remember the trip by. It was one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of things.

A momento.

A momento.

The sentiment couldn’t have suited my travels more perfectly. And honestly, it sums up everything I hoped to convey about this adventure. The descriptions and thoughts – my reflections and feelings surrounding it – have rolled around my mind as frequently as the mental images I captured during that time. I went on one of the biggest adventure my little self has ever gone on, and though I’ve sat at my keyboard for the last few months, pounding at the letters with a fire that won’t be put out, I couldn’t really tell about it. I still can’t. It’s not that I don’t have the words. It’s that few words, if any, will ever do it justice. Instead of words, sometimes, you just need people and places to speak for you. Sometimes you just need people and places to speak to you. And Las Vegas and Denver spoke volumes.

the meaning of “grace”.

Do you ever catch yourself using a certain phrase or specific word over and over? Maybe you pick it up from a coworker or friend, or maybe a specific time of your life leads to discussions where a word becomes particularly appropriate. In either case, it’s not something you’ve noticed yourself saying before; but in recent moments, it seems to circulate the air around you, to enter your lungs, and to accompany itself with each breath.

A few days ago, I realized that I’ve been using one specific word in my discussions more than usual.

GRACE.

It’s a term that I’m used to. It’s an idea that I have been around a majority of my life. Grace is a beautiful gift that I am granted daily, but despite that, it rarely finds its way into my conversations. The last week, though, I’ve been talking about the many facets of this idea – grace – a lot.

It’s not intentional whatsoever – it just happens. The perfect opening presents itself, and before I know it, a work-related conversation has me talking about grace like it’s a pen on my desk. It’s just there. I can sense it. I can use it, if I’d like. I can accept it.

What is grace though? What is it’s purpose? It’s one of those churchy words that seems to have little or no place in everyday life. Grace is an intangible idea that probably feels senseless to use, hopeless to rely upon, or restless at which to grasp. But I would like to fiercely argue the opposite.

to love a person.

 

The definitions of grace, according to dictionary.com include the following:

1) elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action
2) favor or goodwill
3) mercy; clemency; pardon

 

 

In short, I think grace is unconditional love. How often does this world act against us? How often does someone hurt us? How often do good intentions get turned around? How many times do we lie, betray, fall short of the people we’re meant to be? Such is life! Perfection does not exist, and therefore we are imperfect people. That does not mean that we cannot actively forgive the ugliness in the world, or grant this life the kind of love that we hope for in return.

I have had the beautiful experience of witnessing immeasurable amounts of grace among my life for the last few years. As I sit here writing this post, I’m honestly overwhelmed. I’ve felt it personally, I’ve seen others receive it (knowingly and unknowingly), and I have tried whole-heartedly to grant it to other people. Grace is every where we turn, waiting for us, and if we pay close enough attention, we can see how it shapes our lives.

While grace may seem like a concept that only belongs in a church, I think it’s far more accessible than even I’ve realized. Grace is not an idea too lofty for your or me.

Grace. Unconditional love.

Even more so, it is active and proactive unconditional love. It is preventative. It is protective. Unconditional love provides safety before we’re ever in danger, comfort before we’re ever uncomfortable, and consistency before we ever fear disruption.

A visiting pastor at my church talked about this very thing, saying something that I say and write countless times! (I was ecstatic to hear him agree with me.) He said that that we  are “meant to be with people.” We are not meant to live this life alone. The concept of “with,” he said simply, is the ultimate act of love. Above all other things, we are meant to show up. To support. To encourage. To hold accountable. To go with. To be with. To show grace. To love people where they are, unconditionally.

I have endured a lot of difficulty. I’ve watched the people I love do the same…desperately fight for various forms of freedom – freedom from depression, anxiety, alcoholism, bad relationships, work troubles, poor self esteem, sickness, fear. I have been on the giving and receiving end of trouble. Similarly, I have been on the giving and receiving end of grace. Knowing that I am granted grace, despite my unworthiness, has been the motivation of my life. I want to be with people. I want to love, unconditionally. I want to be a reminder that grace is available; it’s there for the taking. It’s the one perfect idea in this imperfect world.

Unconditional love and grace come in many forms. A second chance. An apology. A recovery. Therapy. A new day. Healed wounds. Dried tears. Encouragement. A good piece of advice. Conversation. Safety. Belief. Unconditional love and grace – these are things that I am granted every day by my God, my family, my friends, my loved ones. It surrounds me, and I hope you feel it surround you as well.

Long story short, I suppose I’ve been talking about grace because I see grace more beautifully than I ever have. I am humbled to realize that the greatest gift I can give others is something I also need daily. So whether I keep talking about it or not (because we all know I love to talk), I will always continue to show it. Have you ever recognized moments of grace in your life? How has unconditional love been shown to you?

 

 

 

for the love of snow.

Ever since I was little, I remember having a fascination with snow. Water too. I’ve never been able to figure out where it came from, so I credit it to a combination of things: camping, fishing, boating, skiing. Playing in the water every summer for my July birthday, listening to my brother’s fascination with the snow – hopeful beyond belief for the much coveted snow day, 6-year-old me running with our Collie dog up and down the snowy yard, building igloos, walking through the snowy woods on my grandparents’ farm, sledding with friends every year…

 

I’ve always been a “water bug” as my mom says. I grew up camping, swimming in lakes and fishing for minnows and crawl dads in the nearby streams. Summers were spent at the pool – always – where I’d be the last to get out of the water. I don’t know exactly what fascinates me most, but nonetheless, I’ve always loved the water.

 

 

And with just as much devotion, I love the snow. Aside from the remarkable science behind each unique snowflake (HOW COOL IS THAT?), my heart skips a beat and my eyes light up whenever I see snowflakes fall. I can’t help it. It’s beautiful. It’s magic to me. And even though I could list off a thousands reasons to resent wintertime, the promise or sight of snow makes me unapologetically giddy. It’s seemingly small, yet always makes my day better. Today’s snow did just that!

With the umpteen winter storms that have passed through West Virginia this winter, I thought it only appropriate to pay a small tribute to this beautifully-formed crystal precipitation. And make a case for it! I think it’s safe to say that you either love snow or you hate snow – there’s no in between. I woke up this morning to a lot of snow – more of a snowfall than we’ve been getting lately. Winter Storm Pandora has arrived, and a Winter Storm Warning is in full effect. Temperatures the last few days have dipped below zero, pipes are freezing, heating systems aren’t working. And while all of this can be (and often is) pretty inconvenient, it still hasn’t bothered me too much.

 

 

Maybe there’s little reason to get so excited about the snow. But to me, it’s one of those little things that makes life special. Not everyone gets to experience it. Some have never seen it in person. That’s kind of spectacular to me! I woke up this morning, watched it fall brightly out the window, and just enjoyed that simple moment. I like to think that a good snowstorm brings people together. It creates the necessity for warmth, for community, for fun times with friends, for coffee, for phone calls and check-ins, for excitement and adventure.

For me, the snow is a reminder to find the good in the moment. Winter comes, the snow falls, stays for a bit, and melts. Spring arrives, and winter steps aside for a few months of sun – a time that has it’s own awe-inspiring characteristics too! But the presence of snow – the beauty of it, the way it lights up my heart – is my reminder to appreciate even the smallest things of today. To be content in today. And despite the negative, to find appreciation for all that is lovely – right. now.

So, to everyone enduring these freezing temperatures and digging themselves out of several feet of snow, I hope you stay warm! I hope you find a little sense of community, cuddle up with someone you love, and embrace (even just a little bit) the beautiful energy that the snow provides. If that still doesn’t work…take another look at my ridiculous photos!

 

 

life is messy.

 

Just when life presents you with enough messes to leave you in a heap on the floor…
Just when you open your eyes to one more set back that you simply cannot tolerate…
Just when all the pieces of the life you’ve fiercely created crash to the ground…

…hope reveals itself, if you let it. 

 

How often do we experience this? How frequently do we find ourselves under a pile of bad days, negative moments, difficult circumstances, ugliness, anxiety, negativity. We cry, we worry, we complain, we lose sleep. We worry that things will never get better, and that everyone else’s life is far better than our own.

What if I told you that I have fallen into these thoughts so often lately, that I almost started to believe them? I try so very hard to be a positive person, to bring light to the lives around me. I try to live life as an outward expression of my inner belief in “people”. We exist to build wonderful, expressive, comforting, invested, forgiving, uplifting relationships with other people. What’s the purpose in life if we don’t do this – at least a little? I realized that when I started to believe these debilitating thoughts, I was limiting the power I had to serve the wonderful souls all around me. I was valuing the nature of my circumstances more than the lessons they embodied. They say a calm sea does not make a skilled sailer; true, yes?

do it.

While we may endure days that push us to the limit, making us mentally and physically immobile…
While we will have moments that wreck us, that make every positive thought painfully out of reach…
While we are bound to experience any number of the vast difficulties in this life…

…there is always hope.

“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…”    Romans 5:3-5

Please believe me, I realize that at times these thoughts of positivity can feel trite and intangible. But a remarkable lesson I’ve also learned is that my circumstances will yield 1 of 2 results. I can give in, or I can push back. I can be broken, or I can be empowered. I’ve also learned that faith and empowerment is a constant pursuit. There will never be a time when strength is my sole reaction. I’ve been seeing a counselor for a few months to help me deal with some anxiety; the struggle of the ups and downs and uncertainties that my life has brought lately. And she has taught me how important this pursuit is. That there is never a time we reach consistent strength and empowerment. This is attained as we weave in and out of our circumstances, as we veer off track and choose to get back on track once again. Hope isn’t achieved at the end of struggle, only after it’s passed and we’ve dealt with it. Instead, hope can be yielded as a happy side effect of struggle. When we choose to stay positive, uplifted, and empowered despite our circumstances.

My counselor also speaks a lot to meditation and prayer, both of which have shown me the truth behind this thought. These are the ways through which I’ve achieved a greater sense of peace in anxious times. While I’ll never be able to control the difficulty and the negative things that happen in life, I can definitely choose to react in a way that keeps hope alive. It’s not easy, but the power is in the practice, and my reward for it has been absolutely beautiful.

daring adventure.

Long story short, this life can be beautiful if you believe in it. It can overflow with hope and strength. It can provide circumstances that will grow you more than you could imagine. It will challenge you to change, to evolve, to evaluate, to reflect, to forgive, and to rely on yourself. Life will provide you with opportunities to be a better version of yourself, and opportunities to find and cling to the grace that will carry you through.

 

“If you are facing a new challenge or being asked to do something that you have never done before, don’t be afraid to step out. You have more capability than you think you do but you will never see it unless you place a demand on yourself for more.”  Joyce Meyer

Demand this kind of hope for yourself; seek the love that you deserve. My mom always tells me that “life is messy,” and I liken this thought to my apartment. Is it ever clean – for good? No. It’s clean, just to get messy again. Such is life! Despite the mess, despite the circumstances, never doubt your ability to practice the pursuit for hope, faith, growth, and beautiful change.

those resolutions.

How many of you can remember your 2014 New Year’s resolution(s)? Did you stick to them? Did you make an honest effort? Are you upholding those resolutions today? Maybe it seems senseless to think about these things, considering that we made these promises and hopes to ourselves nearly a year ago now. Time is ticking…

I try to think back to the end of last December. What did my life look like then? What were my goals? I was preparing to start my final semester of graduate school. I was anticipating a new year with beautiful people all around me, making me ever-appreciative of all that had brought me to that time of year – my favorite time of year. It wasn’t really that long ago, so why am I so shocked at how drastically different my life is now? Why am I stunned at all of the vibrant moments that are now simple memories? Just goes to show you how precious time really is.

At the start of a new year, the “time” to accomplish these set goals seems rather excessive. A whole year?!

We think we have so much time…

We think we have time to get a better gym routine or make more effort to talk to our parents. We think we have time to write more, learn more, travel. Time to do more good, take up the hobby in which we’ve been interested. Or time to work through our fears and love better. This dangerous thought makes it easy to push resolutions of every kind off to tomorrow. Essentially, the very things and ideas and pursuits that make life the glorious experience it is, can easily get put on hold. Or not be pursued as valiantly as they should. Because we have so much time. “All the time in the world,” we tell ourselves… But thinking back on 2014, I realize how little time I had to achieve all of these. A year is so short. And now, I feel the pressure and stress; did I do any of these as mightily as I’d hoped?

no more time.

While I did achieve some of what I wanted in the last year, I know I could have been spent some of that time better.  I read an article recently that offers up some resolution inspiration.  We prepare to close out 2014 (a fact which is absolutely astounding to me – how is it nearly over when I still vividly remember its first few seconds?). And as we do so, I challenge you to have several kinds of conversations. Ones with others, family members, loved ones, and ones with yourself.

conversations that matter.

All of the guidelines in this article are ones I completely support. Doing more for others and sharing more meals with the people you care about. Listening to new music and being intentionally present in conversations. To me, these matter. And these are some overarching goals that I hope to carry into the unbelievably and rapidly approaching new year.

Complain less.

Spend less time worrying.

Spend less time on your phone.

Pray more.

Cut yourself some slack.

Challenge yourself more. 

How can anyone argue with these? Though I’ve yet to determine all I hope for in 2015, I think these are offering a great start for me. I will do more traveling. I will spend more time with God. I will write more. I will be kinder to myself. I will be positive everyday.

The life lessons in 2014 were plentiful, and though the dynamic of my life has been radically changing with each day, I am so grateful for all that this year offered. For the pain, struggle, victories, and accomplishments. I am definitely not perfect at recognizing where I need to improve, and fall just as short at achieving the goals I choose to set. But, I make an incredibly intentional effort to consider what my soul needs most. My heart is completley in it. Ultimately, that’s what I want to say of my life in general – that my heart is completely in it. In every relationship, in every minute, and in all that I do – my heart is completely in it.

My hope is that you’ll take a look at this article and form some new ideas for yourself. Challenge yourself. Decide how to spend the precious time you have in 2015. My hope is that you’ll feel how truly precious our time is. You’ll forgive yourself for your shortcomings, and use those to inspire a new vision for all that you are and all that you will be in the year to come.

 

a quiet season.

I tend to be very long-winded. Ask any of my close friends or family, and they’ll tell you horror stories of the novels I send via text message. “It’s a 2 message minimum.” This is my disclaimer; you’ve been warned. Try as I might to consolidate and paraphrase – for anything in life – I truly can’t help it. I’m a talker.

Rather, I’m a communicator. This is a characteristic I’ve grown into with age. My experiences, my interests, my friends, my mother…all of these have factored in to what makes me the verbose, drawn out, interminable expressionist that I am. I live through my tendency to dream and my preference to tell great stories. No matter the precaution, these characteristics permeate my life, my job, and my relationships. A blessing and a curse, I have a great connection to my emotions. I’m a girl who utilizes her very strong intuition, writes out cards and sends emails just to stay connected. A girl who, despite her high interest and capacity for social media communication, prefers face-to-face contact. Even the most personal and authentic digital connection loses out to the transparent and real connection between 2 people physically in the same conversation.

I think there is a remarkable freedom to be found in connection. Building relationships with people – open, genuine, raw, trusting…this is my life goal. What’s the purpose in living this life with others if not to truly invest in others? To connect and feel and invest…and most importantly, not regret?

Therein lies the double-edged sword. Sometimes I feel so much that I don’t have words to say. Or perhaps too many words at once. The ups and downs of life are evocative enough, creating painful silence – not for lack of feeling but for an abundance of it. Like the grains of sand to the opening of an hourglass, I often experience a rush of feeling and expression so strong that it’s too much to convey at once. One of those times is now. This past week. Today.

Times like these are guaranteed. The overwhelming, the speechless times. And for someone like me, these prove incredibly difficult. Even as I’m writing this blog, I feel like my effort is fruitless, and my thoughts won’t translate. Honestly, it’s one of the shortest ones I’ve written. I suppose I need to grant myself a little bit of grace for that. But with this frustration comes appreciation; I feel so fortunate to have made the connections and relationships I have. My gratitude is never-ending. I’m living with absolutely no regret. And the inability to express how strongly I feel may prove to be exactly what I need.

This particular season in life is teaching me incredible lessons, and though some are difficult to embrace, I can’t deny the fact that I’m growing. I’m learning how to live better, serve better, show my gratitude better, and love better. These lessons are many:

  • Genuinely personal connections are fewer than ever; and the need for them has never been greater.
  • Life is meant to be lived with/for/serving/supporting/encouraging other people.
  • There is joy to be found in putting others before yourself.
  • It’s okay to feel everything. It’s okay to feel a lot. And it’s okay to let it silence you.
  • The opportunity to tell people what they mean to you may not always exist; do not take it for granted.

Do you experience times where you feel overwhelmed by life? Do you think we need to pursue more intentional and invested communication with people? 

a revelation – from 12,000 feet in the air.

As I’ve grown into the 24-year old woman that I am, I’ve also grown into the risk-taking, life-living, adventure-seeking female that I have always wanted to be. I’ve found my delight in accomplishing goals that would be easy to brush off. I’ve set standards for my life that would be more convenient to ignore, because they require extra effort. I’ve stepped out of the I wish… mindset and into the I will… mindset. And life has been all the more remarkable because of it.

For some reason, I grew up with the notion that my dreams and ambitions were unattainable. Ever since I remember, I’ve had a fascination with New York City. Even before I remember having a specific reason to want to visit (prior to my musical theatre days), this place seemed foreign, unreachable, and far too exotic for me to ever see. It was a pipe dream. And as much as it broke my heart to think I’d never get to visit such a romantic and alluring city, I’d come to terms with it. One day, though, after one of my closest friends moved from our tiny hometown in West Virginia to attend school in Las Vegas, he emailed me. We’d kept in touch as much as possible, but back then, texting hadn’t become the most-utilized form of communication. AIM was still a thing, and email was on the rise. In our messages back and forth, he told me he was planning a trip there with friends. I was so jealous, and my heart hurt. I wanted that chance so badly. And he told me to “make it happen.” He told me that he knew I’d eventually get there. And while I didn’t realize the magnitude of this statement at the time, I look back on those simple words with unending gratitude. From that moment on, I was exposed to the thought that I could, indeed, achieve my dreams and ambitions. I didn’t have to settle. I didn’t have to EVER settle. My own mind had ended my adventure before it ever had a chance to begin – and I will not live this way. Not now. Not ever.

Ty and I went skydiving last weekend, something neither of us had done before. Completely inexperienced, uninformed, and elated, we drove the 2 hours to the field where our adventure would begin. And after being prepped, suited up, harnessed, tightened, boarded, and attached – grinning from ear to ear – he and I looked at each other just as we ascended to the desired altitude of 12,000 feet. It was go time.  We scooted down the tiny benches to the open door full of thin yet liberating air, and thoughts such as these began rolling through my mind. Had I ever thought this would happen? The moment where my toes were hanging out the door of an airplane, ready to catapult me into the skies and lead the way to the ground below — how did this come to be?

Ty and I just after the jump!

Ty and I just after the jump!

Aside from my friend Brittany buying the pass for me as a birthday gift, I’d say that the wise words from from Las Vegas friend got me to that point. “Make it happen…” he’s told me several times over the years. But ever since that first time, I’ve looked at life differently. I see the opportunity for quintessential achievement, for the chance to push myself towards a goal and to make that goal happen.

Just a few years after he and I exchanged that email, I did, indeed, go to New York City. I remember emailing him with such pride, telling him that I was really doing it. I was doing something that I never thought I’d do. As I look back on that time in my life, I think about how silly I was. Why did I limit myself? Before I ever gave myself a chance to succeed or experience the most beautiful things in life, I sold myself short. Now, though, I know that when I set out to do something – whether it be taking a trip to NYC, training for a half marathon (which I’ve just started), singing for a crowd, painting a collection of watercolors, or going skydiving – I have the potential to make it happen. I will make all of these things, and so many more, a reality.

Skydive PA

The sky and landing field at Skydive, PA.

Skydiving certainly changed my perspective on life. We are so small. The world is so vast, and we sell ourselves short 9.9 times out of 10. We don’t see nearly half of the wondrous things we should see, and we make the possible seem too impossible to try. We recoil in fear, and rarely take a risk. But this weekend, I spent 55 seconds of my day in absolute free fall from an airplane 12,000 feet in the air. And not only is this one of the coolest facts about my life to date, it exemplifies the exact reason I think I’m alive. To live. To set a goal and go after it, no matter how ridiculous, absurd, difficult, terrifying, or out of reach it may be. Because why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I go after the very things that make me feel most alive, that wake me up to the life I’ve been given?

I can never adequately describe what it feels like to skydive, which is why I think any able-bodied person should do it. I can’t wait for the day I get to do it again. Like watching a movie for the second or the third time, I know that new thoughts, moments, and realizations await me with my next jump. But in the meantime, I absolutely relish in the thoughts and affirmations I gained while ascending, falling, floating, and landing. Those moments told me that I can make life happen for myself. And I will do that, every day I’m alive.