Happy Birthday: Gone But Never Forgotten

Today marks the first birthday of a very important person in my life since her passing. It’s a special day, as February 29th only comes around once every four years. In a way, the day of her birth seems to me to be a symbol of her. This day is rare, as she was. Today is an extra blessing of the year, as she was in my life.

It is outside my literary capacity to explain how extraordinary this woman was. She was graceful, kind, full of laughter, understanding, and one of the best role models I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Her love for her family and children was insurmountable, and I can only hope to be half the mother and wife she was.

While my relationship with my own mother struggled, I always had her to talk to. We didn’t have a mother-daughter relationship, but we had one that was unique to just us and that made me feel safe. I trusted her. This is a big deal for me as I am unable to truly open up to many people. She always asked me how I was doing, and followed up on things she knew I had been struggling with. She actually listened, which I am finding to be a rare trait in people. When she passed, I felt like I lost one of my best friends.

The trait that struck me the most about this woman was her never-ending patience. While my time spent with her was limited, I never saw her show anger or annoyance toward anybody. As someone who struggles with this, I think of her often. Even in her absence, she helps shape me into a better woman.

Angie was seen as the glue that held her family together. I see her more as a foundation on which her family was built, as she helped make them stronger. They learned how to care for each other by watching her, and although she is no longer physically present, it is obvious she is with each member of her family every day. She facilitated strong bonds between the members of her family that continue to be just as strong as they were before her passing. I hope they all know that they do a wonderful job of letting her shine through them. It’s hard to see when you’re part of the family, but as an outsider I can see parts of her in each of them.

I think the hardest part about any death is the feeling that you didn’t get enough time with your loved one. That’s how I feel about her; I just didn’t have enough time to learn from her. I wanted to learn how to garden, how to cook, how to be gracious to children, how to be a strong woman, how to love the Lord above all else, and so much more. I wanted my children to have an amazing grandma like I do. I wanted to know more about her, but there just wasn’t enough time.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

 

I had a really hard time writing this entry. It was hard for me to find the right words to get my message across and I am still not completely satisfied with the outcome. I hope I have done her some justice up in heaven. Love you, Angie.

Social media: An unfortunate impact on society

I have been noticing a trend in many (not all of) the people I’ve met in the recent years of my life. It’s an inability to hear, or genuinely listen to/care about what people are saying, because they are only concerned with what they’re going to respond with or how they can turn the conversation back to something about them. Everyone knows someone like this. It’s the person who will ask you how your day is going and respond to what you said with, “Oh I TOTALLY know what you mean, my day…” and then they go off about how fabulous/horrible/busy their day has been without even acknowledging you said anything about yours.

Sometimes, I wonder if this is just a trend of the era we live in. With social media being such a big deal now, everyone feels the need to post about their lives and show how amazing it is. Everything has somehow been made into a way to make a statement or show yourself in a positive light. The way you tell if people like you or if they like what you’re doing is by how many “likes” you can get on a status update or photo. What’s worse is how not having likes makes us question what we posted. “Was that sarcastic joke lame? Do people think I look ugly in that picture? Are people going to think I’m annoying if I post this?”

It’s pathetic really, how much social media rules our lives now. I heard on the radio (reliable source, I know) a few days ago that the average teenager spends roughly nine hours per day on social media sites. NINE HOURS. That’s 1/3 of the day spent comparing their lives to someone else’s or reading some post that really isn’t at all relevant to becoming a better human being or a useful member of society.

As cliche as this sounds, I’m #blessed social media wasn’t part of my childhood. I would have gone crazy, especially when I was in middle school and deeply concerned with the opinion others held of me. I instead spent my time reading books that helped me learn how to correctly punctuate this blog, unlike many people who have started blogs to share their “fabulous” lives by writing about their fashion and daily lives, as if anyone really wants to read that. Honestly, I cringe when I read half of them.

The biggest problem I see with the social media trends is people becoming self-absorbed, which brings us back to my first point. The internet has become a platform for people to share their opinions on anything and everything, which has potential to be a very positive quality. Only we aren’t really getting it. We are sharing our superficial opinions because we think everything we have to say is important and we think other people will agree with us. If we didn’t think people would agree, we wouldn’t post it because of our need for constant affirmation from others. We write about things that don’t matter, for people who don’t matter, to prove to ourselves that we matter. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s translating to our lives outside the internet. Self-love is important, but humility is too. We need to find a balance.

“Don’t use social media to impress people; use it to impact people.” -Dave Willis

 

Wanderlust: Not all those who wander are lost

It’s hard to explain to people why you sometimes feel like you need to just get away. Whether you’re running from something or simply need a break from reality, sometimes you just need to go. Whether it’s to a big city to get lost in the crowd or just your bedroom where you can find solitude, you need to be anywhere but where you feel stuck right now.

When I was 18 and believed I had my life together, I shook my head at people like the current me. How could they not know who they’re going to marry, where they are going to live, or what their career is going to be? How are they still in school? Why are they taking so many vacations when they should be saving money?

I have come to realize that life rarely goes according to plan, and I am very slowly accepting this fact. Before 2014, my life went pretty much exactly as I had planned it, with some minor road blocks here and there. In just two years, I was humbled and hit with a giant reality check, as my life had been one unexpected event after another.

In this time, I took any opportunity I had to grow as a person or experience life in a way I hadn’t before. I wandered, often not sure where I was going. I took trips I never would have before because, “I needed to save money.” I went out for two different college sports that I “didn’t have time for” when I was in school for my bachelor’s degree. I went downtown with people I wasn’t very close with and allowed myself to cultivate relationships that I was too self-conscious to explore before due to a fear of being disliked. When I took on these experiences, I had no idea what I was doing for myself. I was simply running, throwing myself at every opportunity I had because I didn’t know what else to do.

The most important lesson I have taken from this crazy chapter of my life is that although life hasn’t gone according to plan, I am not a failure. It took me a really long time to realize this, and it’s something I still struggle with. I might not be getting my doctorate degree, married with children, or in the exact job I want by the time I’m 30, but I can assure you that I am in no way unhappy with my life.

Wandering has allowed me to find parts of myself that have been missing. In the time I was “lost”, I asked myself many important questions that often went overlooked and was eventually able to be honest with myself and answer them. I think wandering may begin for someone because they feel lost, but it will ultimately lead to self-discovery, a feeling of peace, and a new sense of purpose. I’m still wandering through life, but I don’t feel lost anymore.

“The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find.”

 

Friend: A simple word for one of the greatest necessities of life

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about all of the different friends I’ve had throughout the years, specifically my “best friends”, and how they have changed as my life has changed. Some have stayed through several stages of my life, I’ve lost some to unfortunate fall outs, and some friendships have just simply faded over time due to distance or differing lifestyles. Whatever the case, I fully believe that these people were placed in my life for me at that time because I needed them to help me grow, teach me a lesson, or provide support to me when I needed it.

Like everyone else, I had my first best friends. These are the people you meet in kindergarten that you’re friends with because your moms know each other and you’re allowed to go play at their house. They were people that I considered friends up until I graduated from high school, and even now I would consider them friends although we no longer keep in touch. Our lives just simply drifted apart. These friends were important because they helped me learn how to socialize so I didn’t become a weirdo and gave me someone to discuss my first crushes with so I could make sure they were cute enough to “like”.

My second best friends were those I made when I began playing sports. These girls shared my humor and my hobbies so it makes sense they were my besties all through high school. They stuck with me through that awkward stage in middle school where everyone is pimply, has boyfriends they never speak to (I lived in the pre-cell phone middle school era), and has serious FOMO. A few of these girls remained my best friends even into college (my current stage in life). These friends taught me how to be comfortable being my weird, often awkward self, were my constant therapists when I was acting emotionally unstable (don’t act like you’ve never been there), and helped me become a better friend and person. It’s impossible to even begin describing how important these girls were in my life.

Also throughout high school, I had several different “best” friends, my “ride or die”, if you will. What I am describing here is the person I spent almost all of my time with. We needed to talk every single day, likely throughout the entire day; we knew everything about each other. There was never a weekend I didn’t see them or a social event I went to without them. These friends changed somewhat often for me depending on sports, class associations in school, if our boyfriends hung out often, etc. This was the person I would attend Friday night football games with, call Saturday afternoon to see what we were doing that night, and spend Sundays laying in bed watching marathons of TV shows/napping with because we were both too hungover to do anything else. No matter what the case for our best-friendship, these girls provided me with a confidant, allowed me to be one for them, and provided me with a house to hang out at to avoid my own family when they were annoying.

When I got to college, the criteria for friendship changed some. It was harder to find people with similar interests, so those in close proximity became my go-to friends. After settling into my new home, getting a job, and becoming involved in my actual major, I was eventually able to find friends that suited me better. I have found that as I grow and mature, my friendships are formed with people who, while having similar personalities to mine, are also completely different. That is a hard concept to explain, but we balance each other out and ultimately share the same core values. I am drawn to people who can tell me like it is and truly understand where I’m coming from. And while I knew that some of my best friends in high school would not remain my best friends forever, I know these girls will.

I have seen many things on social media lately (memes mostly) about people becoming territorial when someone refers to their best friend as theirs too. I also know of people who get upset if their best friend has another best friend. To me, this is ridiculous. The friendships I have with all of the women I refer to as my “best friend” are very different, and each friendship provides me with a quality that benefits my individual growth (and mental health if I’m being completely honest). I think it’s okay to have as many best friends as you want, for as long or short of a time period as you want, because you need different people for different things.

I would like to say thank you to all of my best friends throughout the years: Hannah, Kelsey, Jaime, Crystal, Amanda, Carly, Mallory, Mackenzie, Sarah, Sam, Courtney, Annalisa, Chelsea, Bree, Lori, Tess, and Elle. I wouldn’t be the same without any of you.