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Stop Apologizing

[This post was originally written on December 26, 2015.]

I’ve been trying to stop saying those two self-deprecating words, the ones that leave people shuffling their feet and averting their eyes because they don’t know how to respond. The ones that say, “I must be making you uncomfortable even though I didn’t actually do anything wrong.” Two little words: I’m sorry.

With two words, I take responsibility for something that’s often out of my control. I cast myself in undeserved negative light. I make myself an object of unnecessary, uncomfortable pity. I’m apologizing for being human, for having emotions, and it’s time to stop the madness. There is certainly a time and place for apologizing, but I’m talking about that time when I cried too much or went rambling on about my life or when I got too excited about something dorky or when I stumbled over my words.

I think we all apologize too much for being ourselves. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to look a certain way. It’s okay to mess up. Because that’s just human nature, and it’s a shame when we force people into feeling guilty about existing.

Since I’ve stopped saying sorry for these things, I’ve become a happier person. I don’t worry as much about what people think because I know it doesn’t matter in the big picture. And if something I do really bothers someone, they weren’t meant to be in my life anyway.

When I do something that hurts you, I will absolutely apologize because I am in the wrong. I will never go out of my way to offend you just for the sake of my own amusement. I won’t cause you pain just because I’m hurting, too. But I’m not going to say “I’m sorry” anymore for things that make me human. Instead I want to thank you for listening, for being patient, and for letting me be me.

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Existential Crises and Other Joys of a College Senior

[This post was originally written on September 2, 2015.]

I spent this past summer considering my options for the next phase in my life. My college career is quickly coming to a close, and I have to think about where I’ll be living, with whom I’ll be living, how I’ll be saving money, whether or not I want to continue my schooling, what kind of job I want, etc. The list could go on forever, but I’m trying to keep my stress levels low, so I’ll end it there. It’s a real job in and of itself to just sit and think about these things. I’ve requested information from grad schools all across the country and even across the globe. I’ve been asking friends if they’ll need a roommate next year. I’ve been weighing my options, and I’ve come to the conclusion that life is exponentially more difficult and vastly more confusing than I thought it would be. I know everyone goes through it, but no one has managed to articulate just how stressful these kinds of decisions are. Who knew I could feel so helpless and so stressed out at the same time? It honestly feels a little like drowning. And after my first experience with a panic attack, I can confidently say that I want to avoid all unnecessary stressors.

I also spent a lot of time this summer rethinking my choice in major. And with graduation just around the corner, that’s kind of a terrifying thought to have. Do I go back and change my major now? Do I spend two or three more years in undergrad? Do I have the money or means for that? Do I graduate with this Anthropology degree and hope I can get into grad school with something entirely different in mind? How much more work will that be?

With all of these questions whirring around in my brain, it’s a wonder I’m still functioning as a semi-normal human being. (My only explanation is obscene amounts of coffee.)

But the one important question I keep coming back to is: What makes you happy?

I know, I know. Cheesy. But stick with me. This is important. What keeps you up at night out of sheer excitement? How do you like to spend your time? What do you find yourself talking about so often that your friends demand that you shut up already? Are you willing to sacrifice your happiness for a potentially more stable but potentially less satisfying career?

I think the crucial thing is to be aware of what your passions are and to not dismiss them because they’re not the traditional or easy paths to success. I’ve come to realize that the people who truly care about you, the ones who can clearly see what you love to do, never lie. They recognize your potential, and they tell you when what you’re doing is good and worthwhile.

So try not to get overwhelmed by that little voice in your head that whispers, “Hey, you’re going to fail big time. Don’t even bother.” Because you certainly have a say in the matter, and it’s often never as bad as you think. You’ve survived 100% of the tough days in your life so far.

And you will survive so many more.

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10 Things I Know to Be True

1. Second chances are good, until they’re not.
2. People are beautiful and multi-faceted and never what you think.
3. A kind word goes a long way.
4. Everyone else knows something you don’t.
5. There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable.
6. Being introverted is not a character flaw.
7. There is almost nothing a good book, a healthy meal, or a long nap won’t fix.
8. Going through the motions of being productive generally induces productivity.
9. A good outfit does wonders for your attitude and your confidence.
10. You have to love yourself before anyone else can.

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Tenuous

[This post was originally written on September 30, 2013.]

There’s something beautiful about humans. We’re so resilient and complex, but we can be so fragile, too. It’s amazing how there are countless, convoluted layers of ideas and memories and pain and contentment all wrapped up in this thin, tenuous skin.

Sometimes, we carry memories around with us for years because we think they bring us comfort when they only drag us down, but it’s all we know, and letting go is the most basic form of vulnerability. And that is terrifying.

Humans are also creatures of habit. We go to the same restaurant and order the same things. And we don’t like to change our morning routines. If our toothbrush is on the opposite side of the sink, it throws us completely off balance.

But we have this strange capacity for love. When the right, or even the wrong, person comes along, we allow (some more quickly than others) them into our hearts. We don’t even care how much it might hurt when they leave because we always expect that the leaving part will never happen. That’s just what we do. We expose the most tender part of ourselves hoping that another will do the same for us.

Humans are beautiful because we are hopeful.  What is more inspiring than that?

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Homesick

[This post was originally written September 22, 2013.]

Yesterday, my mom and I spent the morning and afternoon cooking meals to store in my grandfather’s freezer. He lives by himself in this old log cabin with a sagging, discolored roof surrounded by cedar trees and cow fields. And he’s just not very good at taking care of himself. Every now and then, he needs someone to come along and pick up after him and make sure he has something halfway decent to eat.

Cooking all day was exhausting, but also therapeutic in its own way. Dicing the vegetables, browning the meat, boiling the rice. It required all my attention and let me forget about these nagging worries for a little while.

My thoughts changed from ones of homesickness and anxiety to those of comfort and nostalgia. I held my grandmother’s ancient, grease-stained recipes between my fingers and thought back to childhood days of licking batter from the mixing bowl, sneaking bites from the cutting boards, and my grandma’s gentle, crooked fingers guiding mine as we stirred together.

For the majority of the time, my grandpa sat at the kitchen table telling me stories in his usual fashion: just true enough to be believable, but just ridiculous enough to be fantastical. The way he smiled and the way his eyes lit up for a few minutes reminded me that sometimes it’s the little things that can get rid of those festering misgivings brought on by long periods away from home. As I listened, I admired his calloused hands, rough from years of labor. I admired his curled grey beard, slightly discolored from lunch that afternoon. And I admired his eyes, blue-grey like the sea where he spent so many years of his life.

Yesterday was one of those days that felt ordinary in the moment, but, upon reflection, is one that will not easily be forgotten, pushed away to the cobwebbed sections of my mind. As I worked some oatmeal raisin cookie batter with a cracked wooden spoon and listened to my grandfather’s sandpaper voice, I realized how loved I am. How I am a part of something so much greater than me. I am from a family who knows nothing but love.

Homesick? No. Just loved.