I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror this morning and it caught me by surprise.  I hadn’t seen my face in a while.  Since I don’t wear makeup and my hair doesn’t listen to me anyways, my morning routine doesn’t have me looking in the mirror very often.

My strategy for staying body-positive in our social media world has been to ignore how I look.I work out because I want to be strong and my capsule closet is an insurance plan to cover clashing so there’s no reason for me to spend much time examining my features.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Looking at my face isn’t as scary as I thought
  • My eyes really are more green than brown
  • My hair really is out of control

I’ve found myself with more time for reflection (both literal and figurative) during this time in Russia.  I don’t plan on becoming a millennial selfie queen but I am very grateful to be forced to take life a little more slowly.

In high school, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my college applications.

In college, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my resume.

In California, I studied and worked to fulfill my duties as an employee and make a living.

Here, I’m finally free to take a deep look in the mirror and learn more about what I actually enjoy doing.  There are no more applications to live for, no more resumes that cry out to be updated.

For the last 10 years I’ve been running away from not being enough, not doing enough to get where I thought I needed to go.  And now I’m finally able to look forward and whisper “Onward and upward!” and mean it.  I walk slowly and cautiously as I explore what the future could look like.

The Day the Sun Cried

A quick glance out the window assured me that the day was bright so the cold kerplunk of a rain drop on my nose caught me by surprise when I stepped outside.  A sunny rain shower is a rare phenomenon, even here in Southern California.

I’m an either/or personality.  You can have things either this way or that way.  Buy this or that. My favorite saying in college was, “You can’t have it both ways” which led me to cancel one of campus’ most popular events when no one volunteered to help put it on.  It’s also why most progressive political policies ultimately fail (but that’s another blog post entirely).

But here comes the sunny rains and every little teardrop falling from the clouds holds the promise of a radiant rainbow as the sun doggedly perserves in shining through the showers.

How many beautiful rainbows in my life have I missed because I don’t see the both/and moments?  Joy mixed with streaks of sorrow.  Bad days with sparks of hope.  The adrennaline rush of accomplishment tempered with a lazy afternoon. Having fun and investing in the future.

Both/and makes for messy spreadsheets and uncategorizable moments. I’m too quick to classify my days, weeks, and years with one predominent emotion instead of recognizing that it’s the mixture of many feelings that gives life its beauty.

It might not fit into my color-coded, tabulated life, but the next time life gives me the chance; I’ll take a little rain with my sunshine.


365 Days Later

If I’m reading my Facebook news feed correctly, everyone graduated this weekend. Congrats! I personally had the pleasure of jetting up to San Francisco and watching my talent sister receive a well-deserved Bachelors of Fine Arts. Pretty sure she exerted more energy in a week of dance classes than I did in my entire 4 years of scurrying across my square mile campus.

It’s cliche, but true, that it’s hard to believe an entire year has passed since I too sweated in a black hospital gown and tried to keep my cap from escaping off my head (my hair has a mind of its own and didn’t like the competition).

Other than telling you how awesome my sister is, I don’t have a great thesis for this blog post but I’ve been in a reflect-y mood lately and figured other recent alums might be in the same boat.

Side Note: I’ve noticed lately that I over-hyphenate. See last 2 sentences for examples. Not sure when this started, but every time I read something I write I find at least 5 unnecessarily hyphenated words. I’m considering removing the worn-out punctuation mark from my keyboard. Just did it again. Unbelievable.

Post-college life has been far better & far worse than I imagined. Off the top of my head, below are my top unexpected life lessons from the last 12 months.

1. Keeping yourself alive (without spending a fortune) isn’t as easy as it seems

Most recent college grads don’t have $500 to blow on food each month. Limited grocery budgets means a lot of planning, home-cooked meals, and leftovers. Some weeks, getting food on the table EVERY SINGLE DAY takes more strategy than a pro chess game.

2. Evenings are the BEST

In college, there is no clocking out. Study, sleep, shower and repeat dominate your schedule. Once other people start paying you to do work instead of you paying to volunteer your free labor, you can actually stop working. In fact, it’s recommended if you want a working lifespan of longer than 3 month stints.

3. Everything changes but then it doesn’t.

The first few months out of college were a Wizard of Oz level tornado. Getting married, moving across the country, new job, car insurance, realizing you grossly overpaid for car insurance 3 months later, the list of “real world” acclimating to-dos felt endless. Until it ended. And then you feel sadly nostalgic and wonder why your life doesn’t change dramatically every semester anymore.

Three?! That’s all I could come up with after moving cross-country, new jobs, weddings, innumerable finger cuts from bulk slicing onions, and dozens of conversations with post-grad friends?!

I need your help, guys. What have you learned in this past year (or years) of finding our own little corners of the world?

T of Death (1/3)

I started off my undergraduate career wide-eyed and ready to learn. I was easily indoctrinated, and when an esteemed professor told us to “be a T”, I took it to heart. He extolled us to become incredibly diverse in our skill sets, but go in-depth in one area. It was well-intentioned advice, but taken too far, you end up like the hapless college graduate that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, describes in his book “Zero to One”

“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready–for nothing in particular.”

I am the proud owner of that diverse but relatively useless resume Thiel references. To be more accurate, I have curated a MASTER RESUME. A mammoth document recording everything I’ve ever done that may be of some interest to someone, some day, somewhere. When it comes time to use said novelette, I simply cherry pick the pieces that are most relevant, turning myself into a healthcare entrepreneur, selfless volunteer, social media guru, or involved and diligent student with a simple Ctrl + X.

Am I happy with the T I’ve turned out to be? I’m starting to doubt the practicality and healthiness of living a life of resume curating.


Gold Stars & Grey Dots

For every sincere congratulations on my upcoming marriage, there’s at least one criticizing remark about the rashness of marrying young or foolishness of not continuing my education.  I don’t think the polar-opposite responses are limited to me, my fiance, or our plans.  The temptation to compare and judge runs rampant at this time of year, especially for graduating seniors.

We compare ourselves to those that are getting married, going to grad school, getting a job at XYZ company, teaching overseas, becoming missionaries, moving back home, taking an extra year to graduate, are in 5 weddings, didn’t get invited to any weddings, are getting a job at IDL company making more money than the person at XYZ company, have 3 interviews lined up, are working at a summer camp, winning this award, volunteering with that non-profit, and the person that has no idea what May 17th will hold.
To justify our own decisions, we line up all of these options, place our plan at the top of the mental measuring stick, and then demonize the rest to assure ourselves that we are wise, weare valued, our four years at college did mean something.
I’ve done it.  I’ve watched my friends do it to themselves, to others, and to me.  As I watch this phenomenon unfold, a children’s book I read when I was 7 or 8 comes to mind.
In Max Lucado’s You Are Special, there is a village of wooden people, each expertly crafted by the Creator.  Each wooden person has a box of gold star and grey dot stickers.  When someone does something impressive, looks attractive, or says something witty, everyone rushes over and showers them in gold stars.  But if you aren’t so good-looking, have a tendency to blunder, or trip over yourself, it’s grey dots for you.
It isn’t until the protagonist, a grey-dot-covered fellow, talks to the Creator and learns that he isn’t a mistake but was carefully crafted by the One that loves him despite earthly successes and failures, is he able to start shedding the stickers.  The more he trusts in the love of his Creator, the less stickers will stick to him.  This confuses the other wooden people.  They rush to cover him with gold stars for not having grey dots, but they fall off.  So they try to cover him with grey dots due to his lack of gold stars, but those don’t stick either because his identity rests not in the comparison of relative achievement or lack of failure, but in his identity as a creation of the Creator.
The story is beautifully illustrated in this 8-minute video below:
The stickers only stick if you let them.  The stickers only stick if they matter to you.
While the moral of the story is obviously to rest in your identity as a child of God, I particularly love the point it makes about the foolishness of comparing oneself to others.  People will love you for your lack of grey dots.  They will judge you for your lack of gold stars.  Which means if your worth is wrapped up in grey dots and gold stars, you’ll always be better and worse than someone else and you’ll always be miserable trying to change that.
As peers all transitioning from our undergraduate experiences to something, anything, whatever it may be, I think it’s time to throw away our stickers.


This is my senior year, last semester.  A multi-layer image of friendships made and lost or faded or stayed. Fun times and hard times, all dictated by the never-forgiving academic calendar and endless stream of lectures, events, chapels, dances, and the occasional game of bowling.  Everything I experience is held to the light of past experiences in the same place and time, just years later.


My sixth meeting of the day found me in a professor’s office as he went over the specifics of a group project.  As my professor droned, I was quickly attempting to create a mental spreadsheet and time chart to accomplish the goal at hand.  Until he interrupted my flying thoughts with a simple statement:

“The way we are going to do this will be a lot more fun, but its a lot less structured.”

I couldn’t wrap my mind around it at first.  Less structure means more chaos and variables, not more fun.  Fun comes only when there is organization to channel it and make sure it meets all the specifications for enjoyment.  As soon as I thought that, I knew I had lost sight of something very important in life.

There is not pattern to follow.  Life is not defined by chores being accomplished.  It can’t be quantified, thus comparison to others is pointless.  The parts of life that I enjoy most aren’t the things that I completely understand, but rather, the ones that I have to work to figure out.

Heavy Backpacks

My backpack got progressively heavier and heavier throughout the school year.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with my tendency to accumulate unseemly amounts of flashcards.  Every night/early morning when I’d get back to my dorm I had the opportunity to experience one of the best feelings of relief: taking off the 40 pound weight that I had trudged along with me up and down the stairs to my classes, meals, and dorm.  No matter how many ribbons I put on it, that backpack was the bane of my college existence.

Yet I couldn’t go anywhere without it.  Without my backpack, I lost my immediate access to study materials and homework.  Without this access, I could potentially be in a situation where I was not being productive.  Without productivity, I felt purposeless.  Tasks and to-do lists gave me the feeling of meaning that, while ultimately hollow, kept me motivated to keep moving and learning and making more to-do lists.

The problem of the heavy backpack lies in me grasping tightly onto an identity that was built on empty definitions of accomplishment.  I don’t carry around a backpack during the summer, yet I still have multiple cross-referencing task lists to perpetuate this unfounded identity.

The paradox of the heavy backpack is that the thing that I couldn’t let go of  was the very thing that was dragging me down.  A never-satisfied need to be productive is what could make and destroy me simultaneously.

Sometimes other people’s backpacks aren’t as easily seen as mine.  Maybe they aren’t tangible at all.  I think it would be safe to suppose that almost everyone carries their own burdens that they both need and despise.

Let’s try lightening the load a bit.

Uneven Sidewalks

I bruise easily.  Yet I never realized this before I went to college where I would wake up every morning to find three new bruises with no recollection of how I got them.  I was exclaiming about this to my friend who pointed out that, at home, I knew where everything was.  At college, the probability of me running into things and hurting myself was so much greater because everything was so much more unfamiliar.

That’s one of the things I love most about being home.  Familiarity creates comfort which instills security.  Life doesn’t pause or stop while I’m home but being surrounded by things that are known, constant, and unchanging certainly helps.

I like that when I’m running, I don’t have to look down to avoid tripping on the uneven sidewalk.  My feet already know where to land instinctively.  I like that the sidewalk is one that I’ve traveled down hundreds of times.  It’s led me to the park, to parades, to farmer’s markets, to the grocery store for last minute ingredients, to the bakery with friends, to art shows and fishing trips and the library and friend’s houses.

I like that I can make scones on a whim or do nothing at all for the afternoon and not feel like I’ve disturbed the delicate balance of a life that has no room for relaxation.

Breaks are only satisfying if they actually break you away from something vastly different.  Which is why I also love my fast-paced, always-changing, bruise-inducing, absurdly productive life at college.

What Happens Next

As the year comes to a close, radio stations and TV talk shows only have one thing on their minds: reflection, resolutions, and rehashing.  The top 10 songs, the top 3 box office hits, and the best of the political dramas and comedies that seem to be the mainstay of the news nowadays.

I, however, am tired of reflecting.  Even so, I was browsing back through old blog drafts that never fully came to be.  I came across one that was titled “Fare Thee Well” and I was very curious as to what my internal musings on goodbyes were considering how many I’ve made in the last year.  Turns out, the post was blank.  Which is just as well.  Saying goodbye and hello means there are ends and beginnings.
That wasn’t the case for me.  Life was more of an ongoing transition from mountain-biking to nannying to scholarships to summer to college.  Not that these events are of equal significance but just that I can’t say goodbye because even if they aren’t in the present, my past accounts for a good portion of me.

The hellos are rather hard to pinpoint as well.  Obviously, I said a lot of them as I started college and got acquainted with the 600 freshmen + upperclassmen.   Yet I can never remember the exact moment when we went from a familiar face to a friendly one to a best friend one.  Some people make me feel like we have been friends forever while others continue to surprise me with hidden pieces of themselves.

I really don’t have much else to say.  If you want to know what my year was like, look back through some old posts.  You might not get the details of what went on, but you’ll see the reflection  of them in the ideas, thoughts, and emotions.  Life was beautiful and disastrous.  I had a stereotypically cliche senior year while internally fighting against man-made concepts of success.  Needlesstosay, 2011 was interesting.  Probably the best thing that happened though, is that I realized this year wasn’t all that special.  Every year will have its excitements, dissapointments, and lessons learned.  Which is one of the reasons life is worth living.  You just never know what is going to happen next.

And I got my heart
Set on
What happens next
I got my eyes wide
It’s not over yet
“This is Home” by Switchfoot