10 things I’ve learned from college

I have spent a little longer than usual earning my bachelor’s degree, but then again I am an unusual person — so it hasn’t really bothered me. At first, sure…when most of my high school friends were graduating and sharing their grad photos all over insta — I certainly felt it. But if I have learned anything…. it is that:

 

  1. Everyone does things at their own pace. Life is not a race. And if you live your life thinking it is — you’ll always be the last one to the finish line. Nothing will ever be good enough. But…if you can literally take time to smell the roses — you’re going to be surprised at the opportunities that come your way. And you will discover what you are made of.
  2. It’s okay if you stop talking to people. Life is about growth. And sometimes that growth consists of letting people go. Some people were only meant to make a cameo in your life — and others are meant to stay for the whole show — and they will certainly prove that to you in ways you never thought possible. So if you intentionally or unintentionally stop talking to someone…it’s okay.
  3. Even if you can — don’t write your ten page pager 2 days before it’s due. Seriously. I am guilty of this. And no matter how many times I tell myself that I do “better” work when I am under pressure — I know it’s not true. Plan out your paper. Put some effort into it. Research the hell out of your topic. You will feel a lot better about your grade knowing you did everything you could to earn it.
  4. Go to that party. There will be so many times when you would rather stay in and watch Netflix — but get dressed. Go out. Meet people. Those people will likely become your biggest support system in college. Take every opportunity to build that support, because you’re going to need it.
  5. Talk to your professors. Use their office hours! Buy them a coffee. Pick their brain. They appreciate it more than you know. Plus when your teachers get to know you — it often reflects on your grades — and they are more willing to work with you. This also goes for TA’s and other instructors!
  6. Use public transportation. Not just because it is good for the environment BUT because you pay for it. And there is no point in driving around for the perfect spot — because you will be late for class.
  7. Get a job. It doesn’t matter if it is part time, full time, unpaid, etc. Do something structured that preoccupies you from school. It teaches you time management. It teaches you professionalism. It teaches you people skills! And those are all skills you can lose if you don’t practice them, so do it. And if you’re lucky — you’ll have a few more bucks in your pocket to spend each month.
  8. Go to class. Now that you’re in college — you have more freedom than you sometimes know what to do with — but don’t get in the habit of skipping class. It’s not cool. And it only hurts you. Even if going to class doesn’t seem important, trust me — it makes a difference. And if anything it teaches you discipline.
  9. Take care of yourself first. Believe it or not your academics are NOT the MOST important thing in college. If you want to succeed — which I imagine you do — get quality sleep. Eat nutritious food. Call your family. Hang out with your friends. Take a shower. Clean your house. If your life is a mess — then school is going to mimic that.
  10. Use your campus resources! You are probably paying for more than you realize with your students fees. Students have access to so much including health care, counseling, disability assistance, software downloads, cheap/free food, activities, workshops, seminars, research projects, etc. I could go on forever. Go out of your way to learn about what your college specifically offers. Take advantage of the support they are so willing to give. You won’t regret it!
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We all live on this planet, damnit!

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One of my New Year resolutions is to simply write more. I frequently write in my personal journal — but I’d like to share my thoughts more publicly this year.

To start off — I’d like to say that I feel I have always tried to be inclusive. When I was a pre-teen, I lived in an apartment complex where I socialized with all my neighbor friends, despite their background. I was far more concerned about whether or not my friends would climb trees with me and play night games than what church they went to (or didn’t).

I sometimes look around me when I’m in a busy place and take a moment to soak in the people that surround me. I have this realization that these strangers have lives. They have families and friends. They experience joy and they’ve endured pain. They have jobs. They have burdens. They have memories. They have troubles. They have happiness. And it really hits me. It’s a really surreal moment of remembering that I’m such a small part of this world. And it truly humbles me.

This past year I’ve reflected on several things, but what always has me constantly investing my heart into is my humanity. I think about changing future strangers’ lives as a Social Worker. I think about helping someone less fortunate than myself when I can finally get to a place where I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. Even now, when I barely make ends meet each month — I still think about helping people. Because I know there is always someone less fortunate than me — even when I feel lonely, poor, or depressed.

Something that I’ve thought a lot about this past year –with the emphasis of Trump building a Wall on the US and Mexico boarder — usually has me cringing  –is the word “illegal” when referencing a human being. We use it to describe people who are undocumented in a country. As if they as a person — by living and breathing in a country where they are not citizens in — are illegal. They are wrong. They are criminal. They are not allowed. They must be shamed. They must be kicked out. They are a menace to society. They are rapists. They are deviants. They are harmful.

It destroys my heart  to hear such hateful descriptions of HUMAN BEINGS.  People are not illegal. Somewhere down the line someone decided the law of boundaries. And they decided to create regulations that was intended to control population — or some other lousy excuse. But really a politically correct way of banning people from parts of the world. A world that we ultimately share. And there is only ONE WORLD. We all live on this planet, damnit! And we should embrace our global citizenship and stop labeling people foreign, or alien — or illegal. It’s like a bully on the playground not allowing certain kids to play on the toys. It’s cruel. And unfair.

People who fear “illegals” have never looked outside their own peripheral vision to see the beautiful things that we can learn from strangers. From people who were born in different countries than our own. From people who have struggled. And from people who only want to be free.

Pharrell Williams recently said on Ellen that “We all have to get used to everyone’s differences. And understand that this is a big, gigantic, beautiful, colorful world. And it only works with inclusion and empathy. It only works that way.”

I truly admired his courage to say these things out loud, and use his platform to spread kindness and understanding. I feel the same way. I don’t always agree with people — but I value everyone’s opinions — because without them, this world wouldn’t struggle or hustle or work hard enough for what’s right — and what’s good.

WE are all human. WE should practice more this year extending our humanity to a world that needs a lot of healing.

Being yourself is not illegal.

I’ve been the person who has gone home for the holidays and unwillingly listened to my extremely nosy relatives nag me about if I have a boyfriend, when I’m getting married, or when I’m having kids?

The assumptions are all there. And there’s little to no room to refute these social norms.

First of all, whose business is it when I’m having children? I still don’t consider myself to have completely transitioned into adulthood. How am I supposed to raise a child with a $600 paycheck every two weeks? I’m not. So if you’d like me to be an irresponsible parent, then by all means, please…continue.

Anyway, If I attempt to change the subject to something else it now becomes a discussion about my studies and what I plan to do with my life. As if I’ve got it all figured out down to the outfit I plan to wear to my first big kid job or the kind of 401 K plan I want to adopt.

I know what I’d like to do. And I know the steps I need to take to get there. But of course, if I don’t have a solid response they’ll think I’m just wasting my time. That I’m not capable. That I should have a practical job. Or butt in about exactly what I should do. This all coming from the people who never stepped foot on a college campus.

Secretly I laugh. Because I know who I am. I know my goals. And I know I’ll achieve them. Maybe not in the way that “they” deem right. But I’ll do it.

So this brings me to my Minor in Sociology that I’m finishing up this Fall. I’ve been fascinated by the way society interacts for some time now, and every sociology class I attend makes me understand a little more about why our “families” pressure us so much.

Because I’m not doing life the way they think I should, I am labeled “deviant”. It’s funny. Because to me and most of the sociological world, being deviant isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be anything from dying your hair blue to walking in a gay pride parade. And what I believe to be perfectly okay, isn’t always the case for redneck conservative family members. And that’s completely okay. Because they don’t run my show. They don’t walk in my shoes. They sit comfortably in their worlds that they’ve created for their families. And that’s fine. More power to them. But just as I don’t try to control their lives, I guess I’d like a little of that in return.

I try to understand, as a sociology minor, why people related to us have the need to intervene in such a nosy way.

I took some time off of school for about a year. Because of that, I was treated differently by some of my relatives. Relatives that I don’t frequently talk to thought it was somehow their business to tell me where I should be living and what I should be doing. They stated their disappointment, as if that actually mattered to me. But I’m the kind of person who tries to keep the peace, for the most part. Especially about things that don’t really matter to me. And their opinions certainly do not. But of course, the second I returned to school…after feeling refreshed and motivated to finish my degree, they expressed their approval. And of course, I didn’t need it…but I found it strange.

When the lights go out, when the shit hits the fan, when you fall down a steep hill. The people that are still standing are the people you know you can count on. And I can tell you, the people who went out of their way to insert their social norms into my life, they weren’t left standing. So to me, their disapproval or approval is not validated. It doesn’t matter. It cannot matter. It’s just another opinion floating around.

I’m not deviant because I choose to do things my way. I’m certainly not a bad person for choosing to go to college over having a husband and children right now. I’m not going to hell for wanting to focus on myself. I’d rather buy a bottle of wine than a case of diapers. So I figured if my priorities are not about putting other people before myself right now. I have no business having a husband or children. My dog is enough responsibility for me right now.

Who knows, someday I might want to settle down and have children. If and when that day comes, I’m sure those nosy people will want to insert themselves back into my life. But just because we share a last name or blood. It doesn’t mean I want to share with them those milestones. You don’t have to invite everyone to your wedding. You don’t have to send announcements out that you had a kid. You don’t have to wish people Happy Birthday when you don’t mean it. You don’t have to surround yourself with people who only make you feel like crap. And you don’t have to live a lie just to keep the peace. Because lying to others does not actually provide your soul with peace. It hurts you more than it helps you.

I guess this post is directed to those of us who feel like we need to suppress or hide our beliefs just to make others comfortable. We don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do. Being our true authentic selves is not illegal. And I think so many of us forget that. We make it harder on ourselves by trying to please those around us. We nod our head in agreement just to not start any conflict. You don’t have to agree with others. You can be an adult and get your message across without being nasty. I think we forget that, too.

It’s okay to be yourself. And I think we forget that the most.

#beyourself.

 

 

47.

On most days I reminisce about my mother.

But on birthdays and holidays, her death sticks out a little louder. It’s inevitable.

Today would have been her 47th birthday. Wow, mom. You’re getting old. I would have said over a slice of pie or a tin of cheesecake. And I’m certain she would have wrinkles around her eyes where they lit up every time she smiled or laughed. They would have been doubled by now. Her eyes, a dreamy green. And her smile, everlasting.

I would have bought her a new pair of pajamas to replace the one’s from the year before. It would have been a tradition. Because more often than not, she would be at home snuggling up next to a heater with some kind of patterned pajamas to stay cozy. And we’d most likely sing her Happy Birthday outrageously loud and purposefully off tune. And she’d insist we go for a walk through the nature park and have a picnic near the water. I imagine it would have been a beautiful sunny day.

And of course. We would have spent most of the day finding a simple way to serve somebody. Even on her birthday she would have thought of anybody but herself.

Maybe we’d break out the karaoke machine and sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Wind Beneath my Wings.” And we’d laugh until we peed our pants. And at the end of the day she’d want a bath and I’d naturally wash her back for her as we’d philosophically talk about life.

It’s the simple things we cherish the most. And my mother taught me that by example. For that I am eternally grateful, because without that knowledge…I might just let life pass me by without genuinely enjoying all the little things that we easily can miss.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I sure miss you.

 

Domestic Violence: We accept the love we think we deserve

There’s something about being hurt that makes us a little harder. A little bitter. A little prouder. And a lot less willing to accept help when we need it the most.

Working in the hospitality field I’ve seen many people come in under circumstances dealing with domestic violence. I’m always a little more sensitive when someone informs me of a not-so-good situation going on at home. If ever I see a license with an address in the same town where I work, I often don’t ask the question of what brings them here. Because when I do, I usually get the blunt truth of someone dealing with domestic violence, silence, or an abundance of tears.

I’m not afraid to talk about domestic violence. I only avoid it to cause less stress or humiliation or obligation for someone who is faced with it. I’m a stranger to them. A nice stranger. But a stranger nonetheless. And who am I to intervene? Who am I to ask questions? Or be anything but someone who helps them escape, if only for a little while.

But today was different. A women came in with the biggest frown I’ve ever seen and I could tell right away whatever she was about to say was not good. I suspected she was unhappy and was quite possibly ready to complain about her stay or something along those lines. But instead, she asked for the cheapest room. I informed her of our prices and she was eager to get a room. At this time of the day it’s not quite 9 AM. We had an almost full house the night before. I inform her that check in time is around 3 PM and she can certainly make a reservation and come back once we can confirm a clean room for her.

She then gets irritated and informs me that she is dealing with a domestic violence issue and she can’t very well live in her car. I apologize automatically. It’s never fun to hear when someone is in between a rock and a hard place.

Our policy is to charge a full day charge on top of the nightly charge if ever someone wants to check in before 11 AM. We rarely have those kinds of people, but when we do, we have to stick to those rates. I informed her of our policy.

She said, “Are you kidding me? I’ll just go live in my car.” I said I could possibly talk to my manager, and she said “Oh yeah, how long will that take?” She started to storm off and I mentioned CAPSA. It’s a shelter in town for women in her position. She gasped and said, “I’m not pathetic”, and proceeded to slam her car door and race away.

I clearly offended her. But that encounter left me confused and shaken up. I was doing my best to abide by my policies and extend to her services that might work in her favor. If she had stuck around a little longer I could have called my manager about her situation and possibly worked something out; however, she left me little to no room to extend my hand.

I know it’s not my job to help people who don’t want to help themselves. I know she was looking for a way out, and I applaud her for that. I know she was dealing with stresses I have no idea about. I know she needed help. But I’m not sure she wanted it. Maybe I shouldn’t make assumptions. And I’m certain that psychology has a lot to say with how she reacted to the whole situation. I’m certain that it’s much deeper than I realize. But in that moment, I couldn’t help but feel sad and angry at the same time.

I wanted to help her, that I’m sure. But she broke my spirit slightly, because she rejected it. And I don’t know very many people in that situation who would easily walk away from the help they so desperately need. And maybe I’m in the wrong here to try and analyze such a heavy matter.

I don’t consider her rude. In any other situation her actions would appear that way. And I’m not going to lose sleep over this, but I can’t help but think she’ll go back to the way things were because she see’s domestic violence shelters for people who are “pathetic” when in reality I see them as places where the strongest people reside.

This post is not to demean anyone in a domestic violence situation. It is to bring awareness to those who are afraid to reach out to shelters, because they see them as “pathetic” or for the helpless, or weak. They are the complete opposite. They are there to lift people up after they have been broken down for so long. And it is to help them see a healthy perspective again. And they are there to protect and provide for people who are in desperate need. Or just seeking to find peace of mind.

I’m not sure I could have done anything different for this particular person, but I will always remain an advocate for those suffering with domestic abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, etc. And I will always extend a hand out to them. But ultimately it’s up to them to take my hand. And that’s the hardest part.

If you or someone you know is dealing with any kind of abuse, I encourage you to seek and accept help. It’s out there. I promise you, you’re not alone.

NATIONAL DOMESTIC ABUSE HOTLINE: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233

NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

 

 

Sorry: The Filler Word

Some people say “uh, um, you know? [and] yeah” as filler words.
And some people use “sorry” as a filler word.

I have some advice: [In the kindest possible way]…Please don’t. *insert sorry*

I’ve been working in this hospitality field since 2014 and the one thing that never ceases to exist is the undeniable and almost cringing apologies from guests/customers.

What I mean by this is the amount of times a person apologizes for absolutely no reason at all…or even before they begin to ask a question. (Unfortunately I see this mostly from women and children)

I know where the apology is most likely coming from. They don’t want to inconvenience someone by asking a question they may believe is irrelevant or dumb or unnecessary. But what I don’t understand is where they come to the conclusion that asking questions is an inconvenience for a person wearing a name tag that says “Guest Services”.

I am here to do anything an everything I can in my power to assist you. That’s my job. That’s what I get paid to do. I don’t get paid more by being friendly, but I do have a better work experience if I go out of my way to provide you with the best customer service possible.

I’m on my feet a lot. And that’s OK. I talk to people a lot. And that’s OK. I listen to complaints, concerns, life stories, travel stories, family stories, weather stories, medical issues, funeral updates, wedding memories, laughter, tears, etc. Basically anything to do with the human experience…I have seen it all, and then some. And that’s OK.

My hotel is not considered “fancy”. But we have been known to get exceptional reviews for our cleanliness and friendliness. And to me, that’s the best kind of review. My kind of customer service is answering questions for guests before they ask them. And jumping to my feet to get them what they need. I also think in advance what kinds of things they may or may not want based on their party. It gives me joy to spend my work hours helping others. I may not be entirely changing their lives, but for one night (or sometimes several) I’m giving them a home a way from home to feel comfortable and at ease.

I’m smiling. I’m listening. I’m observing. I’m engaged. I care.

So just a word of advice for guests. Please ask me all the questions you have. And if you must have a filler word, use UM. (haha) Thank you for being considerate and polite. But I promise you, you don’t have to insert “sorry” whenever you need help. It’s truly and genuinely not even the slightly bit problematic. It’s not that I have to help you. It’s that I WANT to help you.

(And if you ever experience someone who gives you a hard time for asking questions or for assistance. Then you’ve unfortunately run into an a**hole who should probably leave the industry, or maybe they are just having a bad day, because after all. We are ALL human!)

Have a nice day! 🙂

 

 

Eleven.

It’s been too long since I’ve written a poem, but since I struggle to find the right words to describe how I’m exactly feeling I’ll share one:

No One to Blame

The closer to my dreams,
the farther that you seem.
The moments of undeniable terror,
remind me we were quite the pair.

The sunset that takes my breath,
flashes memories of your death.
An ending to a beginning,
the hopeful start of living.

The happy memories trigger
that the little things are much bigger.
Than the dark clouds that linger,
spreading poison from a stinger.

Today will be good.
Tomorrow very well could.
There’s no one to blame.
Yesterday can’t be tamed.

Every year near the anniversary of my mother’s death my goal has been to write a blog about how I’m feeling or what I remember most about my mom and the lessons I learned in the time we shared. I always want to remember her for the good, bad and the ugly. I don’t want to miss a single thing. And sometimes memories come and go. It’s amazing when I can remember something or I am told a story I never knew about my mom.

I knew about platelet counts and red/white blood cells before I even knew about having a crush on a boy. My world perspective was different than what people predominantly hope for their children. I’m certain my mother would have rather not had to keep me in the loop about her leukemia. I’m certain she would have much rather enjoyed Dairy Queen ice cream cakes instead of pushing chemicals into her veins. I’m certain she would have rather laughed a little longer in the sunshine instead of trying to break a frown laying in a hospital bed only dreaming of fresh air.

And I’ve never tried to compare my grief to other’s, because every situation is not created equal. But for me. There’s not someone to blame. There’s not someone to hate for why my mother got cancer. It was genes. It was by chance. It was life. There isn’t really an answer I’ve ever gotten that has been satisfying. For someone who is grieving the loss of a parent who is murdered, there is that ability to hold someone responsible. And to get justice for it. To put them on trial. And to seek some sort of closure. But I can’t put cancer on trial. I can’t ask why it invaded her blood. Why she was the one to die so young when so many “bad apples” die so late. There’s so many possibilities I could test. So many philosophies to challenge. I could turn to a spiritual belief. I could turn to a scientific cause.

But it’s not good enough.

I spend time in my classes trying to understand the question “why” about so many other tragedies, but the one I really want to solve is my own. And all these years later I still find myself hitting a wall. And the older I get the more I think I’ll have these experiences that will give me some sort of epiphany and finally be free from my hunt for “why”.

And it’s only natural for me to want to know why. Secretly I do. But it’s easy to shove those unsolvable questions to the bottom and not think about them. But every once in a while it resurfaces and I’m stuck battling my brain. Because realistically I believe that I won’t ever reach a satisfying answer. And I believe that this experience has meant to test and humble me. But I can’t help but think why the death of my mother had to be my great challenge. And at other times I think I already know the answer and I’m content without her. But those feelings fluctuate and there is really no easy way around it.

And so on those days I turn to my sister. Who is the only other person in this world who understands at least a sliver of how I feel. And I thank my lucky stars that I’m not the only one in the dark.