Meteor Shower

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Can I be honest?

I’ve been having a tough time finding inspiration to write these past few weeks, which saddens me, because I love writing! I just haven’t known what to say.

Fast forward to now: I am currently in the land of grizzly bears, deer, moose, impressive mountains, and stars. Oh my goodness, the stars. They sparkle and dominate the dark skies since there is little light pollution all the way out here. Stars have always been my favorite everyday miracle, even though they’re a little more difficult to see back where I live. 

But last night, Dad said there was going to be a meteor shower. With no further questions, I stepped into my shoes and headed for the car with both parents. (Little Brother was overcoming jet lag.) We drove past any flickering lights, any streetlamp or lit up sign. We were determined to find solitude and absolute darkness. And we did! 

We huddled in blankets next to the car and craned our necks up to the velvet sky and tried not to blink, too afraid we might miss the moment. I kept circling myself, rotating to try to catch every and any angle of the sky. Mid-rotation, my dad exclaimed with true wonder, “WHOA!!!” 

I had missed it. Determined not to miss any other cosmic streak, I circled faster, but I missed the next one, too! How was that possible? 

Dad put his hands on my shoulders and directed me to stop and simply stare at the place he had seen both meteors. To be honest, it felt a little silly just expecting to wait to see this miracle, instead of circling the skies, begging to be in the right place at the right time. 

But there it was. A fiery, blazing diamond the size of a baseball danced across the sky. It was fast, it was fleeting. But I’ll never be able to forget this image- the meteor ablaze pulling its long tail behind it to paint the night sky. It was breathtaking. 

While I’ve been here, I’ve felt the need to challenge myself to be extra-present. At home, I feel like I’m always running, always chasing my goals, dreams, aspirations, and adventures, which I love! But, I’ve been feeling a little uninspired lately. I knew I needed to somehow convince myself to slow down and take in the beauty around me. But when the constant noise around you is competing for your attention,

it’s difficult to sift through what deserves your undivided focus, and what doesn’t. 

I’ve challenged myself to barely look at my phone. I try to do that in general, but I kicked it up a notch on this trip. I tried to always leave my phone in the car. When we go on long drives, I don’t allow myself to scroll through Instagram. I look out the window. When conversations are slow, I try to suggest activities or new topics. 

Just like the meteor, I didn’t want to miss it. “It” being truth, beauty, family, rest; and yes, inspiration. At home, I constantly revolve, trying not to miss anything, but to catch everything. And that’s impossible. That’s why I’ve been missing “it.”

This meteor shower taught me about inspiration. Sometimes you have to stand still. You have to remove yourself from the noise (the good and the bad!) and be still. And watch. 

 Because, inspiration- it's breathing. It's taking a moment to notice the miracle taking place in your chest each moment. It's letting creativity take root. When we pay attention, it's as easy as breathing.

It’s just what you want it to be. 

Sometimes, I’m guilty of waiting for cataclysmic events to shape my stories, to drive my fingers to the keyboard. But in reality, it’s the little things I love to write about. But I’ll never see them if I’m not truly present. 

I invite you, dear friend, to challenge yourself to a new level of presence today, however that looks for you: staying longer at church, turning off the TV earlier, calling someone, spending more time with your family.

Let your real life be your inspiration.  

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us

Yesterday, an adventurous friend and I went to Mount Baldy. As my athleticism is a topic for discussion, (AKA, I’m not very graceful, nor strong. But I can sure act! ;) It was our intention to hike around a bit, and take in the beauty at the bottom of the mountain; a basic hiker and nature-appreciator’s dream. However, since my friend is a crazy-intense mountaineer, perhaps I should have deduced that “hiking around” would not actually be on the agenda. 

After taking in the beautiful, fresh smell of pine and enjoying a few birds’ symphonies, we came upon a magnificent waterfall. Its rushing sound emboldened me to suggest that we climb a bit further. 

Soon, the road below disappeared, and lush greenery began to envelop us. We passed friendly hikers and stopped to share stories. It was so lovely, in fact, that we kept going. And when my muscles were informing me that they were about ready to turn around and head downhill, my friend mentioned that a ski lodge was just up the way. And because we were already so close, I figured, “Why turn back now?” 

To my excitement and relief, we made it to the ski lodge. Red flowers danced and blue jays sang. We joined a pack of real climbers, all discussing equipment and the perfect climbing conditions and crazy experiences they’ve had in the wild. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel accomplished and proud to be among these serious, dedicated athletes! 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #1: We are introduced to new worlds. 

I glanced up at the top of the mountain. I blinked, and realized how very close it seemed! (Key word: “seemed.”) Casually and with a definitively uncommitted tone, I asked my friend how far away we were from the summit. 

As this was his 15th journey up THIS mountain, he had no trouble describing the way we would take to reach it, and concluded, “We’re halfway there.” 

Halfway?! My mind screeched. With the newfound energy of my favorite Cliff Bar, the chatter of the serious climbers, the beauty of the day, the excellent company of my companion, and the notion that to throw away my hard work thus far was ludicrous, I nonchalantly suggested, “Let’s go a bit further.” My friend’s eyes lit up! And we were off, and back up the mountain. (I do mean an ACTUAL MOUNTAIN.) 

Our next section of the climb was lovely. We passed through luscious trees and unique plants and 100 year old logs. I’ll admit it. I was smug. I thought we’d already accomplished the most difficult portion of the climb. (Cue Miley Cyrus’s awesome song.) But then, we faced a gnarly incline that seemed vertical. Not only did it seem vertical, but it also seemed to be laughing in my face! (Those pesky mountains.) 

Finally, after I hauled myself up that steep section (he skipped), we reached a serene moment of rest. The ridge at the top seemed to be just ahead! “How much further to the top?” I asked again, feeling like a broken record, similar to “Are we there yet?!” He smiled and answered that the next bit would be flat, and then a final difficult, but short, push to the top. 

My muscles ached, complaining that I wasn’t built for this uphill madness. But I looked up. The very top was so, so close now! How could I turn back?

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #2: We exit our comfort zones. 

We pressed on. This next section, to my dismay, was not flat. Oh no. It was definitely another incline! And now, it was difficult to tune out the vicious roars and insults my muscles were hurling at me, but tune them out I must, as this portion was very steep, rocky, and the trails were no longer clearly traveled. I needed total focus. 

“I can’t do this,” became the theme song playing in my head. But I wanted to be able to. I wanted to prove myself wrong. I wanted to continue even though my entire body violently disagreed. This wasn’t my strength at all! I found myself wishing I could act, sing, or write my way to the top of the mountain. 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #3: We learn perseverance. 

And as I was now completely exhausted and discouraged, we reached what my friend called, “the final push.” I could see it now. The finish was in sight! And if it was in sight, there was no way I would turn back! Yet, every step felt like torture. Though in complete agony, my legs achieved a sort of numb acceptance. I was climbing until I reached the end. My muscles could complain all they wanted, but they would be overruled. 

And then: beauty! Rapture! Joy! I lugged myself over the last step of incline to the precious, delightful flat ground of the top of Mount Baldy! 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #4: We surprise ourselves.

And suddenly, I had a burst of energy! I couldn’t help jumping up and down! I had never even imagined I would attempt, let alone succeed, at a feat like this. It wasn’t in my plan. But, thanks to the encouragement of my friend, and an insatiable curiosity, and drive to achieve something new, there we stood. 

The view was breathtaking. Every other hike I’ve taken, I never reached the top. The immense beauty here was a 360 degree view of mountains and valleys and desert and cities. The blues and purples skated across the sky. And I knew there was no place else I’d rather be. 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #5: It increases the likelihood that we will try other new things.

The entire way down, I couldn’t help but chirp how proud I was of this unlikely accomplishment! And I couldn’t help imagining coming back and trying this climb again… or attempting others! 

I learned something immeasurably valuable yesterday: I can climb mountains; literally, as well as figuratively. When something difficult at work or my career arises, I will surely remember the beautiful, sometimes agonizing perseverance it took to overcome that mountain. And then, I will remember the sweet rush of victory

So, go on. Try something new this week! Be sure to take a guide who knows what he’s doing to encourage you and show you the ropes.

And then surprise yourself. Test your limits. Overcome. And grow. 

Kindness

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Friday morning, I woke up to another tidal wave of fresh devastation, with news of even more shootings, leaving my heart broken and heavy for our country.

How was I supposed to teach my nine students? Should I ignore the violence or address it? Could my middle schoolers handle such a serious conversation?

Each class session, I begin with an inspiring quote from a successful person. When I reached my classroom, I knew it was time to to find a more sober quote.

I chose, "Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see," by Mark Twain. And then I silently prayed for grace.

My students filed in as usual, chatty and giggly. Would my plan work? Should I abandon it?

I asked someone to read out the quote and explain what it meant to them. A few raised their hands.

"Everyone can understand kindness."

"You don't need eyes or ears to get or give kindness. You feel it."

My heart lightened a bit at the purity in their responses.

Next, I asked them if they had been following the news. Every single hand shot into the air. I asked a few of them to share what they'd seen.

I shuddered hearing the horrors from the mouths of children.

I asked, "What do you think about all of this violence?"

"It makes me sad," Chloe said simply.

I went on, "Do you think that you guys can help?"

Immediately, their heads shook, "no."

"Why not?" I pressed.

Tommy answered, "We're just kids. And that stuff is happening far away. Nobody would listen to us. Maybe if we were older."

I looked each of them in the eye. "Do you think one person can change the world?"

Slowly, a few of them shook their heads "no."

But one brave hand was raised. "I don't think one person can change the world by themselves. But I think one person can cause a reaction that can change the world."

"Yes!" I cheered. "Let's build on that.  How many people have you come into contact with today?" They each counted, most of them reaching about twenty people, including parents, nannies, friends, teachers, janitors, administration, etc. 

"You have had the power to cause a positive or negative reaction with twenty people today," I told them. "How did it go?"

Sarah raised her hand. "Well, my mom made me happy today because she was so happy. So, then I tried to make my friends happy when I got to school."

I asked others to share stories in which people had caused them to become happy or unhappy.

They each recounted tales of friends or teammates who had helped or hurt situations by being kind or unkind.

Looking at them, all I saw was hope. I saw their potential. I saw their ability to shape their own futures, as well as the future of our nation. I needed them to know.

"You don't have to wait to make a difference until you're an adult. You don't have to wait until you graduate college or get a great job. You make a difference every day, whether positive or negative."

Their eyes grew large. Some of them believed me. Some didn't.

I turned back to our quote on the board.

"Why are we talking about this today?" I asked them.

There was silence until a quiet voice squeaked, "Because if we're kind we can change the world." I couldn't help but smile.

I asked them to write down two ways they were going to be kind that day.

Many of their answers included being nice to their younger siblings and petting their dogs.  But then one boy raised his hand.

"I will listen to others, and I will respect other peoples' opinions when they are different from mine."

It was as though the sun burst through the clouds. In his innocence, he had managed to grasp what the adults of our country are desperately and dangerously missing. His answer told me everything my aching soul wanted to hear. His answer told me that things are going to be okay. That this is not the end. That there are those with bright minds and determined hope rising up. 

So, let's mourn. Let's lament. Let's sound the battle cry against injustice and hate. But let's not despair.

The story isn't over. Our story can rewrite itself, beginning with one simple word: kindness.

*The names of these students have been changed.

"Pretty" What?

Someone amazing called me pretty today.

My first thought was, “Awesome.” Isn’t that what every girl wants to hear? I stood a little taller and smiled a little wider.

But my second thought was, “I’m so much more than that.” Because I am. I am creative and quirky and colorful and determined and disciplined and joyful. And, yeah, I’m pretty too. When all of those other things are manifesting. 

And then I realized how often I tell other women that they are pretty. 

I settle for telling other women that they are “pretty,” instead of passionate and bold and fascinating and valuable and worthwhile.

Next to those other adjectives, “pretty” sounds pretty futile. 

I don’t need to enforce the idea that other girls are pretty. There are apps for that. I want to be the person that enforces the true identity of other people. I want to see them for who they are striving and dreaming to be. 

So, if I have called you “pretty” before I have called you adventurous or powerful or insightful, please forgive me. 

“Pretty” is not who you are. It’s a little pit stop on the way to fully understanding the magnificence of you. 

Next time you pass a mirror, don’t walk away after you’ve fixed your hair and picked your lunch out of your teeth. Give yourself permission to leave after you’ve searched your eyes for tenacity, and your smile for gratefulness and joy.  Begin to expect to see these things in yourself, so you can start expecting the ones you love to see them too. 

You are beautifully brave, exquisitely unique, and captivatingly courageous. 

Self Worth

Friend, I beg you to separate your worth from your failures and your accomplishments. No good can possibly come from pinning your self-worth on anything but who you are, who created you, and who you were created to be. 

You see, friend, letting your winnings and losings define you will create a false sense of self. And I guarantee that that false sense will be smaller than who you really are. 

If you carry your failures on your shoulders, they will become your burden to bear. They will tire you and slow you down. You will never be able to go as far as you were meant to carrying such a heavy load. You will not attempt the difficult, unbeaten path.  

If you carry your successes around your neck like a name tag, eventually, they will weigh you down. And you will tire of people recognizing the successes far more often than the person lugging them around. 

And I am sorry to say, but, nine times out of ten, your successes will become outdated. They will only evoke praise from a small circle of people. They will not last; they will not be your legacy. 

Your legacy will be who you are. So, friend, please, please do not diminish your legacy by attaching earthly things to it. You are so much more. You are your fascinating thoughts and your radiant smile and your helping hands and your compassionate heart and your grateful eyes. 

But you cannot focus on the things that create a powerful legacy if you are weighed down.

Your grateful eyes will be downcast. Your fascinating thoughts will be a broken record singing "failure." Your radiant smile will shrink until it disappears into a frown. Your compassionate heart will hurt too much to worry about the needs of others. And that would be a tragedy. 

Take a load off: either your successes around your neck, or your failures from your shoulders. Breathe deeply, unencumbered by the things that this world tells you should matter. Take a moment to bask in the miracle of this moment. Allow yourself to look outward. To love on those around you. To be the gift that you were created to be. And then, slowly, you can stand taller and taller in humility, in the beauty of who you truly are. 

Ladders

Sometimes, you've gotta wake up and remind yourself that you're worth the world. 

Because if you wait for the world to tell you what you're worth, I guarantee it will whisper lies and try to ensnare you into thinking that you are worth nothing. 

Listen, friend. People are people. And sometimes, we suck. We are selfish and we are afraid. And those two things are enough to demolish a friendship, a society, a country. 

So give us grace

But don't forget to choose to be gracious to yourself as well. And that means remembering who you are, and where you're going, and what you're meant to be. 

So sometimes, the people you want in your life more than anything have got to go

Because you've built them a ladder of grace straight up to your heart and they won't climb it. You've paved roads and crafted signs trying to direct them to your inner circle, to where your trust and hope live. 

But they ignore the signs and don't bother to follow the road or climb the ladder. 

So, friend, you've got to love them by distancing yourself. 

Continue to love them however it's healthy for you to do so. 

Be kind. Be encouraging

But for the love of everything that's holy, STOP BUILDING LADDERS. 

Because you're worth everything

You're worth being celebrated

You're worth being picked up for the date. 

You're worth listening to. 

You're worth waiting for. 

You are freaking worth it. 

Remind your soul what it's worth. 

Because, sweet friend, the world won’t do it for you.

The world is waiting to give you exactly what you tell it you deserve. 

So, stand tall. Speak boldly. Act courageously. Climb that ladder you built for someone else. 

And remind the world that your soul is worth much more than the world can give you. 

Change

Change has a funny way of taking place. 

Sometimes, it blows in like a tornado and wrecks everything you know without warning.

Sometimes, it creeps in slowly, so it takes years to notice that Change was at work. 

And sometimes, Change announces its presence to your bones. You suddenly feel wary, yet thrilled at the beautiful, bright possibility of what’s to come. Your stomach hosts butterflies, and you can’t help feeling that the earth is shaking beneath your feet. As much as you want to reach out and seize what’s coming, you have to fight the instinct to hold onto what you know, and what feels so safe in your hands. 

Change is singing to me now. I know its voice like I know my own. But it’s a little different now. It’s somehow bolder. 

I want to listen to its song. 

I want to discern the lyrics of what’s to come and dance along with the brand new beat of my next season’s theme song. 

But I can’t help keeping my feet planted on the ground

Because what if the magnificent song that Change is singing to me about its plans for my future never happens? What if it remains as illusive and ethereal as music itself? 

It’s almost too much to bear.

So, I don’t dance to the music of Change. I bend my knees and sink into the ground. 

Do you? 

Do you let Change sweep you away in its charming romance, or do you ask it to prove itself first? To deliver you with the outcomes instead of the empty promises and plans? 

If you throw caution to the wind and dive into the sweet music, can you teach me how?

Because I think that my stubbornness is acting as a repellent to Change. 

The most beautiful way to meet Change is to be receptive to it. To greet it with a warm smile and open hands. To say, “Welcome,” and “Come on in,” and “May I take your coat?” 

Because Change comes clanging its beat regardless of whether or not it’s welcome. 

And if we smile and let it do its job, we come away stronger. 

Have you seen “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?” When Harry, Ron, and Hermione must defeat the tasks in order to reach the stone, they must escape “Devil’s Snare:” a giant plant that looks rather like spaghetti. Once the three made contact with the plant, it immediately began to trap them in its tentacles and drag them down like quick sand. The Devil’s Snare sensed their fear, and began to attack. But Hermione remembered that in order to pass peacefully through, one need only relax, and the Devil’s Snare would set you free

I think Change and Devil’s Snare have much in common

The harder we resist Change, the more violent it becomes in its dealings with us. 

If we fight Change, it fights us right back and leaves us with a couple of bruises and a black eye. 

But if we stay calm and welcome it to do its job, it sets us free. 

It opens the doors to so many possibilities we never could have imagined

Where is Change trying to grow you? What doors is it knocking on in your life? 

Let’s listen to its music. Let’s invite it in with a smile. And let’s allow it to set us free. 

Do you hear it? It’s singing something beautiful for you. You need only listen, smile, and, as Hermione says, “Relax.” 

Glass Gardens

We were strolling down a colorful street in New Orleans: Mom, Annette, and I. The wind whipped our hair and the humidity clung to us like saran wrap sweaters. 

Each house had a story. Each was a vivid shade of purple or yellow or teal or green. The exteriors were weathered after countless storms in the last hundred years. 

One house we passed captured my attention. It had a five feet tall, bright orange wall in front of the house protecting it from the rest of the world. 

A glint caught my eye, so I paused to take a closer look. It took me a moment to realize that the sparkle was coming from the top of the orange wall. Poking out angrily from the wall were shards of glass.

I couldn’t help but do a double-take. 

The picture was so ironic to me because the glass shards protruding from the wall were beautiful. They were multicolored: They were iridescent violet and evergreen and blood-red, all arranged in a perfect garden. And yet, to get anywhere near that glass would be to risk a deep gash. 

 

No one would be hopping over that wall, let alone approaching it. 

I tugged on Annette’s hand to slow her from leaving the wall behind. She had lived here for almost a year, and, as an avid learner already knew so much about her new home city. 

“Annette, that wall, with the glass on it? What does it do?”

She smiled, but didn’t stop.

She shook her head. “The people of New Orleans have a way of making the ugly things pretty.” 

What amazed me was how casual these words were said. It was as though she expected everyone to notice the beauty she saw. 

Her words echoed in my head over and over.

I couldn’t stop staring at this orange wall with its deadly but delightful decorations. 

And I know it sounds absolutely absurd, but that wall reminded me of myself. 

Crazy, right? 

 

Except that I do that. I dress myself as brightly as possible, and pray that people will dare to come close. That people might risk getting to know me. That humans might risk intimacy with me.

But emotional, human, relational, friendship intimacy; is scary. It’s downright frightening. If intimacy was a movie, it would be a horror film that parents would forbid their kids from seeing. 

But as humans, we need it. Desperately. It’s what every story is about, what each great friendship is forged on, and what we try to build our lives on. The more intimacy we build, the richer our lives are. Intimacy allows us freedom to be ugly and honest. To fail. To trust. To grow. To know in the depths of our soul that we are not alone. 

We are all reflections of that orange wall, the bold one with the beautiful glass, simultaneously beckoning and protecting.

We are wearing our bright best, hoping others will notice our beauty and individuality enough to take a chance on scaling our walls to get to know us: the real us. The untouched, unfiltered reality of who we are at our most vulnerable and our most vivid. 

But here’s where it gets complicated.

If you’ve made it past the age of ten, most likely, someone has betrayed you. Someone has broadcast a secret they promised they would never share, or broken your heart, or left you behind

And because we’ve encountered betrayal, intimacy is terrifying. And much, much more difficult to reach, because each time we’re let down, we collect another shard of glass to embed on top of our orange walls. 

Can you blame us? We’re just trying to protect ourselves. But, still, we make sure that protective glass looks beautiful: like a garden, because, secretly, we are daring others to climb our orange fortresses and create lasting, deep, intimate friendships with us anyway.

 

Isn’t that what we want? Someone to prove that they want to be in a relationship (any kind!) with us, and that our orange walls are worth climbing?

 

So, here, I leave two challenges.

 

One: I invite you to take a look at your wall: your own orange (or, heck! Go crazy! Choose your own color!), bright, unique wall. Is it keeping out the bad with the good? 

Maybe together, we can examine our glass gardens, and weed out the glass that’s grown too deep, become too thorny, that’s become too expansive. After all, roses must be cut back to continue to grow. 

Intimacy is worth it, friends. We mustn’t be caught up admiring the beauty of our protective walls and forget that they are guarding the most precious thing we might ever give or receive. 

 

Two: Who is that friend you care deeply for, but can’t be fully honest with yet? Who is that incredible person in your life whose full story you don’t yet know? Who is the person longing to be seen, but too timid to ask for attention? See that person’s face?

Grab a grappling hook and go climb his or her orange wall. Right now. Call him. Text her. Make plans. Don’t settle for always having to communicate with a beautiful, but dangerous, glass garden between you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hogwarts House Transfer

This Monday, May 9, was a very important day in my life. I left the world of “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time,” aka, being twenty-two years old. 

To celebrate, I went to one of my new favorite places: Harry Potter World. Very little can match the utter delight as you enter Hogsmead.

On your right, the Hogwarts' Express whistles and steams as it "enters" the station. On your left, rows of magical shops vie for your attention and money, including Honeydukes candy shop, the Three Broomsticks, and Olivander’s Wand Shop. Straight ahead, it’s impossible to miss the fire engine red Butterbeer cart. And all the while, you travel through Hogsmead keeping pace to the mysteriously familiar theme songs you’ve heard a million times while watching the films in theaters and in your living room. For lack of a better word, it’s magical

One of the highlights of visiting Hogsmead is dressing up in whichever house you identify with: gold and red Gryffindor, known for their bravery; green and black Slytherin, famous for their ambition; yellow Hufflepuff, categorized by their loyalty; and finally, navy and silver Ravenclaw, home of the wise. 

As most of you likely know, the most popular house is Gryffindor, as it “housed” the stories of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. 

And because it was the most popular house, I needed to identify with a different one. Because I simply don't want to be like everyone else.

Fortunately, there is a character in Ravenclaw I’ve always been drawn to: Luna Lovegood. She is strange, to say the least. With silvery blonde locks, crazy pink glasses (Spectrespecs), and an airy voice likely to recite nonsensical mumbo jumbo; she is definitely an original. As the story progresses, she is often the one to speak beautiful truth. She has always been a loner, and has watched and observed her classmates from the sidelines until she joins Harry, Ron, and Hermione in their quest against evil. I always felt like I “got” her. 

Who hasn’t felt different? And who hasn’t felt like they don’t quite belong? 

But there are some perks to being on the sidelines: those who really watch are the ones who see what others miss. That’s why I think Luna and I “get” each other. 

So, when Harry Potter World opened, I began collecting my Ravenclaw apparel. I have a sweater, a T-shirt, and pieces of my Luna costume I wore for Halloween in high school. Now, my friends have caught onto my obsession, and have given me her awesome pink spectrespecs, and her father’s Deathly Hallows necklace. I am set, you guys. My costume rocks. 

I laid out said costume the night before my birthday, as I was going to celebrate the next day in Hogsmead. 

And hilariously, though one of the first points of conversation I often make with new acquaintances is “Which Hogwarts House are you?” (it’s a fascinating way to learn about people!) I have never taken the official Pottermore test devised by JK Rowling. I had taken the liberty of sorting myself. 

And so, on May 8, the night before my 23rd birthday, I logged onto Pottermore and took the official test, certain my results would confirm what I’d been telling everyone, including myself, for years now: I was a Ravenclaw. I was smart and clever and witty. 

However, that’s not what my test results said at all.  

Oh, no. 

I was a Gryffindor. 

Gryffindor, the house of the courageous, represented by a scarlet and gold lion. 

This certainly would not do.

I planned never to tell anyone. It was my secret. Well, mine, and the Sorting Hat’s.

Regardless of my Pottermore results, the next day, I suited up in the navy blue of Ravenclaw and entered Hogsmead to the gentle hum of John Williams’ masterpiece. 

My mom and I snagged a Butterbeer each (please, it was my birthday. There was no way I was sharing!), and then we nestled into a booth in the Three Broomsticks. And, per tradition, she asked me to reminisce about the highlights of my twenty-second year. 

I still can’t help smiling. What a year it’s been. It was challenging and heartbreaking. But also, blessed and wild and courageous

Courageous. 

My stories were often bookended with anecdotes of comments like, “And that was a big deal for me because…” and “I couldn’t believe I had the guts to do that….” and “Can you believe I said that?!” And I laughed and I swelled and I cried a little bit. (You can do that on birthdays.) 

And my beautiful mom sighed. She shook her head, and her eyes got a little misty as she leaned forward and whispered,

“I think you became brave this year.” 

My stomach dropped. Me? Brave? Hilarious

I didn’t even know what it felt like to be brave. Fear was my friend. He was my shadow, the other voice in my head dominating and weighing in on my decisions. Fear greeted me when I woke up in the morning, caught me for coffee midday, snagged dinner with me in the evening, and went to sleep next to me. I already had a companion by the name of “Cowardice.” There was no room for “Courage.” 

And when I scoffed and rolled my eyes in the Three Broomsticks, my mother leaned even farther forward until I looked her in the eyes and said, “Remember?” And then she repeated the stories I’d just spun moments before. She listed Europe, and the internship, and “Spring Awakening,” and New York, and the writing conference, and the movie and the hair chop, and the blogging, and the interview, and the business start up, and “Tenor” at the same time as “Spelling Bee,” and the brand new agent. And she sandwiched them inside stories of brave, and jumping outside of my comfort zone. 

And when she said it like that, I believed her for a moment. 

And then I thought of my Pottermore test, and of the scarlet and gold that flashed on my screen, instead of the navy and silver that I was expecting. 

Maybe I used to be Ravenclaw. Maybe outsmarting and outwitting and outdoing used to be my defining characteristics. 

But maybe that wasn’t my story anymore. Maybe I was a lionheart. Maybe this past year lead me on a hero’s journey that stretched and challenged me right into the heart of bravery. 

Maybe I didn’t need to hide behind books and knowledge to prove what I was worth

Maybe I didn’t need to adopt an identity just to be an original. 

Maybe I needed a House transfer. 

Was that even possible? 

Friends, I think I might be brave. 

Even though I was terrified to write that. 

Last night, I ran into my friend Leslie, who, to me, is the picture of bravery. We were at a callback together, and we were asked to choose a harmony to sing. Even though she traditionally sings mezzo or alto, she marched up and sang the first soprano line, and sang pitches that belong in the stratosphere. She was brilliant

And then, she walked back over to me and said, “You know why I did that?” I shook my head. “Because it scared me to death.” 

And that blew my mind. I had never made a decision to do something because it scared me. I did the things that scared me the least. But not Leslie. That’s the story I think of whenever I am lucky enough to see her. 

Before Leslie left, I whispered, “Whenever I see you, it reminds me to be brave.” 

She laughed at me, shook her head and said, “Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Being brave means the scared doesn’t keep you from doing what you want to do.” Mic drop. And she waved and walked away. 

According to Leslie, I can be scared and brave. Being scared does not disqualify me from being brave. What I do with my fear is what categorizes me into brave or not brave. 

My mother, JK Rowling, and Leslie think that I am brave. And I’m pretty sure they are some of the wisest beings in all of the land. 

So, I will be brave and say, yes

I am brave. 

I am a Gryffindor

Please raise your butterbeer glasses for a toast.

I will be transferring my navy and silver to red and gold.

But I’m keeping Luna’s pink spectrespecs. Because they’re awesome.

Mommy, I Will Always Need You (An Ode to Mothers of Adult Children)

 

Oh, Mommy. 

It’s nice to say “Mommy.” Even though I’ve graduated high school, even college, and I really shouldn’t be calling you that anymore. Because I am an adult, and therefore don’t need a “mommy” anymore. 

Cue hysterical laughter. 

Mommy, I will always need you. Even when I become a mommy myself, I will always need you. I’ll always need your wisdom, whether on big decisions, like which jobs to apply for, or which apartments to rent; or on little decisions, like wearing the green dress or the blue, or how long until ketchup expires. 

And when somebody at work is discouraging and condescending and rude, I’ll remember what you taught me: the way people treat you is a reflection of who they are; not who you are. 

And when I walk on cobblestones, I’ll be careful not to step on the cracks, but to jump from octagon to octagon. 

And when the world has knocked me down one two many times, I’ll call you to hear your voice to tell me to get back up again. 

I’ll remember to clean up while the meal is cooking. I’ll remember to label my Christmas storage boxes meticulously, so that it can be packed up quickly and efficiently. I’ll always remember to check Sigalert before a big drive. I’ll never leave the house without a jacket, water, and snacks. I’ll pull over to make a call or change the music. I’ll always look waiters and waitresses in the eye and leave them a nice tip. I’ll always listen to audiobooks

Mommy, you have been all things to me: doctor, cheerleader, teacher, nurse, nanny, coach, mentor, provider, confidante, encourager, truth-teller, carpool-buddy, and friend. 

But there is no one I’d rather have as my mom. There’s no one I’d rather walk alongside me for the tough conversations and the inside jokes and the road trips and the grocery store runs. 

I am your biggest fan, just as you have always been mine. 

So, don’t fret. Just because I no longer wear diapers, braces, or carry a learner’s permit, I will always need you. 

You have prepared me beautifully for the roughness and the surprises of this world. But not so well that I will not call you at 3 AM after a nightmare, or after a fender bender, or after a promotion, or a hilarious incident in the elevator. 

So, today, I’d like to celebrate you. Which sounds a little degrading. For all you have done, and for all you are to me, why is one day supposed to be satisfactory? I’m sorry about that, Mommy. But, please, feel celebrated. Know how you’ve made a difference. Know how you’ve formed me, shaped me, challenged me, encouraged me, and loved me. 

You will always be mine.

I will always be yours.

I will always need you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

xoxo

PS, Mom, can you please proof this post for me? :)

Growing Pains

My world fit me perfectly. It fit me snugly and loosely in all of the right places. The sleeves were never too short, and the shoes were never too small. 

But recently, I’ve been waking up in a bed that’s a little too tiny. I’ve been drinking out of coffee mugs that are too shallow. I’ve been driving down streets that are too familiar. My sweet comforts of home are becoming a little threadbare

I feel like Alice after drinking her growth potion. My world has taught me such beautiful things I will always carry with me around my neck, in my heart, and in my head, and even in my shoes. 

And because of what my little-big world has taught me, I know that it’s time for a new adventure. I know that it’s time to stretch these wings I’ve been patiently, contentedly stitching to see how they may soar. 

I don’t want to leave. I love my home. I love the memories and stories woven beautifully here. And I know that moving forward will be really hard. I know that charting new territory is confusing, and worst of all, scary.

Fear is the enemy of all great things. It tries to inhibit. It tries to bind. It tries to constrict. 

And new territory is where fear strikes loudest, hardest, deepest. 

Because you don’t yet know where to go for cover. You don’t know whose voices can scare it away, or what places will offer you sanctuary

And I think fear knows a thing or two. It only strikes when it senses that we are about to do something truly great. Or else, why would it bother slithering out of its cave? 

In brand new territory, it’s important to have a showdown with fear. To have a sensible conversation with handguns and twirling mustaches in front of the saloon, and to let it know that this new town isn’t big enough for the both of you. 

And then, you’ve got to come out swinging. You’ve got to defend yourself with all of the truth your old home and small shoes and short sweater have carved in you. 

And you’ve got to claim that town. You’ve got to claim it for all of the beautiful buildings and relationships you’re going to build from the ground up.

Or else, you’re going to build it out of fear. And the foundations will shake, and before long, your new town will crumble. 

Because fear only gives the semblance of building. It’s real job is to deconstruct. 

So when you’re packing your too-small suitcase, make sure to pack every truth, every grain of courage that your people have poured into you. 

Because you can’t bring your too-small things with you to this new place. They don’t fit. But never forget how they used to fit you like a glove; used to comfort and delight and amuse and challenge you. 

Take with you the truth. The stitches of your new wings to stretch across the sky and scare away the fear with a taste of its own medicine. 

 

Mosaic

For the sister who feels like her life is a mess. For the one who feels like a failure because she can’t keep juggling, can’t keep the ball rolling.

Your story is my story.

You are not alone. 

Sister, I am a mess

That’s always a true statement, but recently, it’s been blaring in earth-shaking bass, and screaming in blinding neon-yellow.

I admit it: I’m a mess. My life feels like complete chaos

I feel it at every corner: relationships, auditions, work, writing, and loudest: in my head. There, I’m drowning under the tidal wave of all of the poisonous should have’s and should not’s. My brain is running me ragged, shaming me for mistakes I’ve made, and things I wasn’t bold enough to step outside of myself and do. 

It is a cacophony inside my head. I cannot cope with the stories of my past: when the tsunami of fear won. When the hurricane of pride won. When the earthquake of comparison won. 

I can’t tame my present, either. Every phone call or email is an offense, asking me to reach my arms farther than their reach. I am constantly letting others down. And I am constantly letting myself down, realizing on repeat that I am failing to choose contentment as I place all of my hopes in the future.

But that doesn’t work either, because I am afraid of the future. I fear it will simultaneously ask too much of me, and yet, not be enough for me. That time will pass and my dreams will pass away with it. 

Each of these worries is a wave crashing over me, smashing me, cracking me, crushing me, and I imagine I hear little pieces of me clink and roll away.

And while I’m trying to pick up my scattered pieces, I can’t help but notice the pieces themselves. In my hand, I hold my fiery red mistakes, my brokenhearted blues, the sunshine-yellow of what made me laugh, the emerald green of the rare moments of peace and rest, and the rich royal purple of all of the time spent wishing I was someone better. 

They are all mashed up, crushed up, all in a chaotic jumble. 

And as I hold my mess in my hand, I can’t help but stare. Because there’s something about the brokenness that’s beautiful. There’s something breathtaking about the bold colors that make up the mess. 

The pieces in my hand are materials for a mosaic. 

Maybe my broken mosaic mural could tell a better story than the perfect mural I’m always chasing. 

Maybe the chaos of the storm needed to prove to me that I can’t handle it all, that I’ll never be able to. 

Because maybe there’s something far greater at work in me than what I can see. 

And maybe it’s not about getting it right every time. 

Maybe it’s about making something beautiful with the pieces. 

And as I begin to sift through the rainbow pieces, I uncover a new narrative. 

I break. I fail. I fall. But each time, I get a new piece to add to my mosaic. A new story. A new lesson. A new moment of growth

So, the storm does not get the final say. It’s a refining process. My mistakes and my overwhelm are giving me new perspective to make something real.

Because perfect is not real. Messy is real. And I’m beginning to believe my messy can be beautiful. 

So, sister, let’s be real together. Let’s pick up a few pieces today and start to build something beautiful with our brokenness.

The Great Perhaps

I want to live in the Great Perhaps.

To imagine that every opportunity might lead to greatness, whether in rich adventure, deep friendship, or boundless advancement of my dreams. 

To try. To show up. To dare.

Because life is fabricated from "perhaps." We walk the tightrope of uncertainty, unsure of which way we will fall: up, or down. 

But I want to be the person who steps onto the tightrope anyway.

It defies everything we know. We live in a culture that celebrates stability, routine, and a 401K. None of those things are wrong, let alone bad. But are they the ultimate goal? And does achieving those things restrict us from venturing out into the Great Unknown, which is the only destination that holds what we truly dream of. 

To live in the Great Perhaps is to risk. To be bold. To try. To fail. To get up again. 

It is the opposite of the Dark Perhaps. 

You see, there are two ways we can look at life, and everything it hands us: everything is either a hindrance, or an opportunity

To live in the Dark Perhaps is to worry. To see failure before we even make an attempt. To play it safe. To choose fear. 

To be honest, the Dark Perhaps knows me more deeply than its counterpart. Fear is easy for me. It’s my default setting. I have earned professional rank in hiding. In hiding behind. In not showing up. In mitigating risk. In Wallflower-ing. 

But that’s not who I want to be. I want to live big, even if that means failing big. I want to imagine the best out of every new situation. I want to alter my default settings to operate in the Great Perhaps.

Not only does this affect us. Choosing to be brave and positive gives those around us permission to do so as well. When we move forward from fear to faith, it is a catalytic change in our friend groups, families, and communities. 

“Faith is a condition of the heart that affects the head.” 

That is the Great Perhaps. To live believing the best outcome is at your fingertips if only you will reach out. It is believing so confidently with your heart that your head is at ease. 

And you are free to move forward. To dream. To fail. To try. To live. 

Will you choose to live in the Great Perhaps with me?

 

Why One Must Chop Off All of Her Hair

Hair is a security blanket of sorts, my friends. We hide underneath it. We flip it. Some of us whip it back and forth. And we and blame it when it doesn’t look as we’d like. 

But my hair shouldn’t be something I hide behind.

When we need a fresh perspective, when we need to look in the mirror and be reminded that we are ever-changing and ever-growing; it’s time to cut it off, and it’s time to try a new color. 

It can be an exercise in letting go of control; of trusting someone else completely with scissors that will decide your future for the next few months. 

It’s an exercise in confidence. In believing you can pull off something new. 

It’s a time to see yourself in a new way. 

As an actress, my hair is often an integral part of my characters. Therefore, I’ve walked through life as a blonde, brunette, and a redhead.

Society has treated me differently with each hair color, ridiculous as it may seem. 

When I was a blonde, people opened doors for me. They noticed when I walked into a room. But I had to fight to convince others to take my opinion seriously. Almost every time.

As a brunette, no one held doors open. I could sneak in and out of situations without being seen. But people listened when I spoke about what I believed in. I was definitely taken seriously.

As a redhead, it was a mixture of both reactions from others, with the addition of being stopped by strangers, complimented on my hair color, and often seen as “mysterious,” or “artistic.” 

I learned to adapt with each hair color. I spoke louder and more directly as a blonde to prove that I am more than a bubbly personality. As a brunette, I learned that it’s ok to want to be noticed, and so I began to carry myself with more confidence. And finally, I explored and discovered my personal style as an artistic redhead.

And so, when you need to see yourself differently, when you need to double-take when you pass a mirror, go ahead. I give you permission to change your hair. I invite you to toss away that security blanket you toss back and forth, and try something new. 

You may discover new facets of who you truly are.

And that’s the nice thing about hair—it’s just that: hair. It grows back. It’s essentially meaningless in terms of how one views her worth. 

If found myself in that place this week. My hair style was safe. It was easy. I felt like I could hide behind it. 

But that’s not what I need to be in this season. I need an extra dose of boldness. I need a little thrill and strength of an insignificant change. I want to start being okay with being noticed again. To express the quirkiness inside of me. To let my hair be the initial clue to my originality.  

So, here it is, friends: my new look. 

It’s not quite what I was expecting. But the color will change over time, and the length will return. 

It’s a journey! And I’ve decided to enjoy it. To explore every stage and every avenue. 

Take a moment to look in the mirror. Does your hair represent who you are right now, knowing that every season emphasizes different colors of who you are? 

If not, I dare you to change it. To try something new. To step out of your comfort zone. It’s a temporary change, so you have nothing to fear.  

Go for it. 

Let it be a small “Plot Twist” for you! 

And if you’re feeling even more bold, try stepping out in another area beyond your hair.

Whatever your next step is, whether your hair, starting a band, searching for a new job, or trying a new recipe, choose your next plot twist moment.

Be brave, be bold, be fierce! Be you.

Feeling Blue

Today, as I write this, I’m feeling blue. Somewhere between midnight blue and deep ocean blue. 

No one wants to be sad. 

Everyone runs away from blue, from ache, from melancholy

And that’s mostly a healthy choice! I’m so glad of it. 

But sometimes it’s important to slow dance with sadness, just for a bit. 

It reminds you that you can truly feel in new places you didn’t even know could have those bluesy feelings. 

When I’m grooving with joy, in confetti colors, I see life in vibrant fuchsia, tangerine-orange, and sunshine-yellow. I feel my heart way up against my chest, leading me forward. That’s where I normally live. That’s home base for me. And I’m oh so thankful for that. So thankful because I know it’s a gift. I understand that there are some people who rarely, if ever, feel and see life in those blazing, bright colors. 

But today, I don’t feel my heart butterflying sunshine-yellow against my sternum. 

I feel a deep sinking behind my belly button. 

Perhaps I should view this, too, as a gift. Because it’s nice to know where sadness lives in me. 

I need sadness to express myself not only as an artist, but as a human.

I usually only use the confetti, joy-filled colors. But it’s important for me, and for you, to use different, deeper, and sometimes melancholy colors as well. 

I can use different colors besides the happy yellows, pinks, oranges. 

I can write and speak and sing with blue. 

Blue is a real color, just as real as pink and orange and bumble-bee-yellow. 

If I am honest, I fear that I fear sadness, and therefore ignore it. But that’s not real.

Perhaps it’s time for each of us to allow ourselves to feel blue. Not to wallow, but to experience the feelings that are truly molding us. 

It’s okay to be blue, just as long as we're not blue forever. 

What is a world made up of one color? Monochromatic. Uniform. Dull. Inconsequential. 

I want to live in vivid strokes of all colors. To be real. To be whole. To feel. 

And today, feeling means I’m feeling midnight blue. 

I’ll get back to my highlighter brights tomorrow, or the next day. But for today, I’m letting blue be beautiful.

Ten Seconds of Bravery

"Better an OOPS than a WHAT IF." 

That so defines my life these days. I'm learning and growing and it hurts. For someone who struggles with ever present fear, living beyond my comfort zone is terrifying. Exhausting. And seemingly impossible. But I'm reaching out, and I'm tip-toeing past the gates I've built for myself. And it's messy. It's uncomfortable. And it certainly ain't pretty. 

Someone once said that to do brave things, you only need ten seconds of courage.

As I roll around the number in my head, ten seconds seems like something I’d be willing to sacrifice for a brave life. 

But I also know this:

I spent a semester studying in South Africa. It was by far the most daring decision I’ve ever made. So I decided to keep being brave. To do the things I normally wouldn’t dream of.

One of those things was climbing a 30 foot waterfall. In all honesty, I was trying to impress a boy. How cliché! But, nevertheless, I climbed that sucker. We started at the top and climbed our way down past vines and flowers and rocks and streaming water. It was glorious. And so we climbed back up, me following this boy. He made it, and I was one step behind him. I reached the top rock that symbolized safety and I pulled myself up. But, because it was a waterfall, my hand slipped

And I fell. 

My ankle hit rocks and spun my body out and away from the waterfall. I imagine I looked like I was flying, or being Superman. 

I couldn't have been falling for more than three seconds, four at the most. But it felt like an hour. I remember vivid, colorful, sharp details. I remember enough time to form complete, rushing trains of thoughts. I remember the chill of the wind and the warmth of the sun. I remember silence. I remember the inevitability of it all. It seemed like an entire lifetime in those three or four seconds of free fall. 

I walked away from that experience, so to speak, with only a sprained ankle. It was a miracle.

And so even though ten seconds out of the day sounds minute, insignificant, fleeting; I also know how the turmoil of fear twists, rushes, and simultaneously slows time. 

Those ten seconds will not be easy. 

But neither is a life lived in fear. 

In this season, I’ve been building a life on corners of ten second courage. 

I feel so proud. I feel like I'll be able to look back at this time and say, "You go girl. You didn't know it yet, but you were moving mountains." 

To all my cowardly lions out there, don't buy into what you were. Buy into what you are: brave as a lion. And it all starts with a choice in one moment, in 10 seconds of boldness. 

I don't want to reach the end of my time on this earth and think, "What if." So for now, I'm going to messy. I'm going to make lots of mistakes. Let "oops" and ten seconds be my anthem. Bring it on. 

Your Plot Twist

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I’ve said before that PLOT TWISTS are things you can’t control, but there are some kinds of plot twists that YOU create. 

They’re the kind of plot twists where you take control and pivot your life in a complete 180 degree new direction. 

This moment could be:

1. Breaking a bad habit. One of my bad habits is choosing fear. It’s my default mode in situations where I feel out of place and out of control.

But I’m sick of the narrative that choosing fear is giving me. I’m trying to yell, “PLOT TWIST!” on the daily, and choose faith and boldness over my fear. 

2. Changing our attitude. This is a hard one. I don’t need to be the one to tell you that life’s not all unicorns and sunshine and confetti (I find it difficult to embrace this last one.) When life is throwing us curveballs, why should we be positive or grateful?! Here’s why:

Letting situations steal our confetti is like tapping out in a fight.

Who is punished most when we choose to check out and not be fully present? That would be us. It shows incredible character to choose joy in difficult circumstances. Let’s be those people. 

3. Taking Initiative. Some of us are more naturally disciplined than others, but we could all use a tune-up in that department. I have to admit: sometimes I compare where I am in life to where I hope to be, and I blame others for the disparity. If only this director had chosen to cast me, or if this teacher had believed in me, or if I wasn’t born with this body type, or if those people included me… It’s a dangerous rabbit hole to fall into! I know that self-pity is something I really need to be aware of. At the end of the day, what does it do? It causes me to sink lower and lower into the “what if’s” of life instead of the “I will’s!” 

4. Doing that thing we always say we’re going to do. It’s time to take our words seriously. This week, here’s a challenge for us: If we say we’re going to do something, whether it’s taking out the trash, checking in on someone, or going to a new place, LET’S DO IT! Immediately take action, whether completing the task right then and there, or scheduling it!

There are a million different PLOT TWISTS that we can take charge of. Here are just a few:

-Choosing to eat healithier

-Forgiving someone

-Including someone

-Trying a new sport

-Taking a vacation

-Calling a friend we’ve lost touch with

-Getting a haircut

-Reading a book

-Joining a group

-Cleaning out our closets

-Serving at the local food bank

Taking action in this way battles living in a fog of routine. It challenges us to grow toward the people we’ve always wanted to be. It looks life in the face and says, “I’ll be calling the shots in this one.” 

Everybody yell, “PLOT TWIST!”

PLOT TWIST

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PLOT TWISTS. 

Every good story has them. They usually take place just after the story wraps you in its world. Their purpose is to rock the main character out of their daily routine into a greater, bigger, badder world. You know the moment I’m talking about:

When Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle are murdered, so he has no choice but to follow Obiwan. 

When Effie plucks Prim’s name from the reaping and Katniss volunteers in her place. 

When Harry receives his letter from Hogwarts. 

When Warner breaks up with Elle Woods.

When Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider. 

When Elizabeth Bennet goes to the party with her sisters and meets Mr. Darcy.

These are the irrevocable moments that change everything. Without them, there are no adventures.

The hero or heroine could continue in their little worlds going about their little business. But they were made for so much more. 

So although many plot twists initially seeming negative, they are still necessary for the main character to grow, and ultimately, to be victorious. 

Here is my question for you:

What are your plot twists?

What are the moments that forever rerouted your journey, for better or for worse? 

More often than not, we can’t change the plot twists life hurls in our direction. But we can control our reactions to them. We can allow these devastating moments to defeat us, or to redirect us. We can choose to wallow, or to win. 

Choosing defeat, or choosing to move forward is a fork in the road. One road leads us toward becoming the hero of our story. The other road leads us toward becoming a minor character.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The characters with only a few lines who watch the heroes take the journey instead of walking the road themselves. 

If you read this and thought, “How could I be more than a minor character?” STOP! This is completely untrue. You were woven for your story. Who you are, where you are, what you’ve been through, and what you will go through are no accident. But you and I have the choice in how to respond to each and every plot twist.

Every story needs a hero. I beg of you:

Be the hero of your own story.

Don’t let circumstance, significant others, insignificant others, or failure take the leading role. Hold your head high. Step into your hero shoes. Today. Tomorrow. And the day after.

And next time something unexpected derails your plans, cue the music and yell,

“PLOT TWIST!”

Fear Cage Fights.

To fear is to be human.

To be consumed by fear is to fail.

As much as I believe these two statements, I struggle to find the middle ground I long for, the safety zone, between these two hard places.

If fear is to be a companion for the rest of our life, is there a way to befriend it? A way to no longer waste precious time and energy denying it or running from it?

This morning, I envisioned an image: What if we could use our fears to our benefit? For example, what if we could pit them against each other like boxers and let them fight it out until the better fear wins?

Let me explain with an example from my world:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that actors hate to audition. It is an unnecessary evil about as far removed from the actual art itself as one can get. We are storytellers who long to immerse ourselves in the process, creation, and articulation of scripts. We love to grow and build "organically" (our buzz word! :) with a team of people over time. Singing 16 bars of a song, or performing a one-minute monologue out of context on the fly does not serve the larger story--sometimes accompanied by the click of a stopwatch to make sure we perform within the time restrictions. It simply feeds our fears and nourishes our nerves.

And yet, with no audition, there will be no story to bring to life.

A catch 22.

A few years ago, the news of an audition would momentarily paralyze me. My stomach would drop ten feet below my body and my palms would create an ocean. I would flinch every time the phone rang—what if it was my agent announcing an audition?! And then I would proceed to dread the audition, losing sleep, and MY MIND, until after the whole affair was over.

I would find excuses not to go.

I would avoid the very thing that would open doors to my heart’s desire.

And then one day, it hit me: my fear of never performing again was greater than my fear of failing at auditions.

And so, I go. I scour Backstage and Equity Auditions daily. Not because I love tearing my heart open for people who don’t know me and won’t cast me because of my height or my hair color.

 I go because I fear living a life void of what sets me on fire.

This principle must  be true for you, too, right?

Let us commit together to our greater fear beating our lesser ones.

So it key to be consumed by the right fears.

Because one day, our fear of failure will be overcome by our fear of remaining where we are.

And we've just pulled a jedi mind trick on those pesky fears. And Yoda would be proud. Very proud.

Somebody yell,

“PLOT TWIST.”

Others First. Fear Last.

I hate going to new things:

A new dance class, a first rehearsal, a party; anything with a group of people who haven’t met. My stomach feels my nerves before my consciousness does- it announces a step out of my comfort zone (a seemingly colossal step!) with twisting and churning. Next, my palms break out in a cold sweat, which is perfect for shaking strangers’ hands!

And as if cued by my palms, the broken recording of well-rehearsed insecurities screeches relentlessly:

“You won’t have anything to say.”

“You’ll be the odd one out.”

“Everyone else will already know each other.”

“You’re going to be the least accomplished one there.”

And my mental broken record’s favorite:

“They’ll discover you're not worthy enough to be there.”

That tune takes every fiber of strength to ignore. It sandpapers and scars my confidence until I’m a tummy-aching, palm-sweating mess.

Until I discovered a secret:

Everyone just wants to be loved. Everyone. Kids, adults, teachers, actors (ESPECIALLY ACTORS), baristas, officers, authors, servers... everyone. Just like I do. 

And that's one thing we have in common.

So now, when insecurity raises its ugly voice, I try to make that my focus: to make each new person I meet feel like a million bucks. Sincerely. To make them smile, to make them feel like they can be themselves with me. To let them know I’m not waving my resume above my head, or name dropping (as f I had any names to drop…), or trying to use them for their connections or abilities, but that I want to be on their team.

At a leadership retreat I attended in college, the students were asked to pair up with a stranger, and stare them in the face for one minute. If it sounds simple, I dare you to try it! The entire room fidgeted, giggled, blinked, and squirmed. The minute felt more like an hour. It was torture.

Then, we were instructed to repeat the exercise with one change: To memorize our partner’s face.

This time, the minute flew by and disguised itself as if it were seconds.

What was the difference? The first time through, I was focused on myself. Was I embarrassing myself? Did my breath smell like my lunch? Were any boogers making unwelcome entrances from my nose?

The second time, I was consumed with the task of discovering my partner’s features. I still remember he had this fascinating trio of freckles just beneath his eye, and his hair defied all attempts at grooming, causing him to resemble Ash from “Pokemon.”

The magic of the exercise can save us ALL in uncomfortable, new situations!

The key is to focus on others. To encourage, to learn, to empower, to see someone as they are, and as they hope to be.

The beauty is, I feel most myself when I’m looking to uplift others.

This way, fear loses. The people I meet win. I win. And fear is the odd one out.

MIC DROP.