A Passport Home

Below is a photo of my passport. Originally issued in 2009, it expired two months ago, in April, having reached its 10-year maturity date. Inside are two stamps, one from Nice, France and the other, from Amsterdam. My first and only visit to Europe was when I was a 21-year-old college student, apprehensive and distracted and unconvinced the trip was a good idea.

Easily swayed at the time, a new friend convinced me the trip would be an experience of a lifetime and an easy way to earn college credit. Seeing her perspective, I started to agree, believing this could be the experience I always hoped I’d have in college.

Given my personal struggles throughout my college career thus far, I started to see this trip as a chance to turn it all around, though as the date of the trip approached, fear started to mount.

Suddenly nothing was right; my luggage, clothing and mindset. Worries and fears started to swirl within my mind and all I wanted was to cancel my plans. Though reluctantly, to Europe I went, carrying with me the deep-seeded apprehensions and fears. Stuck in the Heathrow Airport in London for 12 hours, we finally made it to France. Beyond that, those few days I spent in Europe are a blur.

Last night, as I read before bed, my memory of this very trip was sparked at mention of France between the pages. For the first time in years, I realized I’d been so far removed from being emotionally present at the trip that I hadn’t a clue the name of the hotel where I stayed or really anywhere I ventured during that brief time.

Days after arriving, I purchased a plane ticket home much to the shock of others who couldn’t seem to understand my impulsive choice. The truth was and still is, it wasn’t FOR THEM to understand; it was my choice and for me, only. We all have a small voice inside of us that I truly believe will never steer us wrong if we listen to it. At the time, I was not taking care of me and by remaining in Europe at that time, it only would have exacerbated my lack of self-care further.

So I flew, across the country on my own, first flying from France to Amsterdam, then to New York City’s JFK airport where my mom and sister, Hope drove the two hours to pick me up. The only thing I could think of in that moment was being home. When I arrived home and several days later drove by myself down familiar roads, I was never so grateful to see the familiar signs and landscapes. For the first time, I started to appreciate all I had and realized I could be and was brave.

The moral of this European trip? It taught me my strength, my ability to adjust my sails in the wake of personal turmoil and to listen to the voice that stays with me every day: my own. Your journey is yours and yours alone; don’t let anyone try to walk it for you. Pave your own way and know, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Passport photo

 

 

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Bruised, Not Broken

It was supposed to be a lighthearted, “check-in,” call, one where we’d fill each other in on what we’d been up to, given we hadn’t spoken in just over a month. Though, from the moment I heard his voice, despite being seated on my bed, I felt miles and ultimately years away, traveling back into my early 20’s.

For the most part, I think it is a general consensus that we want our families to be able to protect, advocate and support us, physically and emotionally. Not everybody has this, or is able to give/receive this, which I can surely understand. It took me years to realize and reason with myself, that it wasn’t ME, per se, though on Monday afternoon, this perspective was put to the test.

Going into the call, I felt I was anesthetized from the pain he could potentially evoke in me, but as we talked further, I realized, the pain is still there, still waiting in the wings, able to be easily activated. Fighting back tears with a lump building in my throat, his words circulated through my mind and heart – The only thing you’ve ever accomplished is graduating college.”

Hearing this, I tried to play devil’s advocate with myself, in my own mind, not wanting his words to contaminate my thoughts a moment longer. We are not the schools we graduate from, the certificates or diplomas we receive. We are not the relationships we enter or don’t enter; we are not the things we buy or don’t buy, we are not the houses or towns we live in; we are not the jewelry we wear; we are not our bodies; we are PEOPLE. We are people with thoughts, feelings, and ideas; we are people who are worthy and deserving of love and respect simply because we are a person. Our worth is not determined, analyzed or measured based upon what we have or haven’t done, or any of our misgivings.

When I was roughly 20, I heard him utter similar words to me, though back then it was, “Nothing you’ve ever tried to do has ever worked out.” As an adult, I can look back and see how wrong his assessment was back then and strengthened in the subsequent years. I’m bravery. I’m courage and perseverance. I’m a woman who has felt the fear and pain and still pushed forward. I’m a woman who still falls down sometimes and struggles, but I am aware of it. I’m a woman who still somewhere deep inside herself, longs for her father’s acceptance and still somewhere deep inside values his opinions and hurts from it. Though, unlike the preceding years, I can now see that his words can only cut through me if I allow it. I’m proud of the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her (one of my favorite quotes because of how truthful it is in many respects, not only in regards to myself) and another quote of truth and promise – “She believed she could, so she did.”)

If anyone tries to question your worth or bases your worth on what you have/don’t have or what you’ve accomplished/or have not yet accomplished, realize and know their opinions are simply that, opinions. Your opinion of yourself, above all else, is paramount because in the end, we all live within ourselves, each day and believe what WE, ourselves tell it. So today and each day forward, tell it: “I am brave, capable and courageous, filled with strengths and weaknesses, but I am still deserving of love and respect, not just from others, but from myself.

Brave and Capable quote

Turning Pages of the Past

Happy Father’s Day! Like many similar holidays, today may be a difficult one for some, a painful reminder of someone or something they lost or maybe something they’ve never had, or something that causes pain. If this is the case, my heart and mind is with you today, sending you strength and acknowledgment that you are not alone.

Maybe for others, today is a cause for celebration, an acknowledgment of the incredible feats, talents and strengths of a father. There is a quote that reads, anyone can be a father, but it takes a special someone to be a dad. There are lots of men out there who are hard working, dedicated and constantly trying their best to support their families. There are some dads out there who provide an undeniable sense of love, support, advocacy and understanding for their families and others. If this is the case for you, I celebrate and recognize you today.

With that being said, relationships, both family and non-related can be challenging at times. Though today, I am choosing to focus on the goodness of a relationship, even if it is something that occurred many years ago, in my teen years.

At roughly 15 or 16-years-old, as a voracious reader, I learned that one of my favorite young adult authors, Megan McCafferty was going to be signing her latest novel in her Jessica Darling book series at a Barnes and Noble at least one hour away from my home. Upon learning of this, I began begging my dad to take me, stating all the reasons why I needed to meet her (she’s a WRITER – I needed to hear her inspiring words and insight and her motivations!) and how it could benefit him, too (we’d get to spend time together!).

Much to my delight, my dad agreed and into the car we went, driving up to New Brunswick, NJ, to meet Ms. McCaffrey; my first time ever meeting a published author in person. Excitement mounted and I sang along to the radio as we drove along. Finally, we arrived at Barnes & Noble and as we stood in line waiting to purchase her latest novel so that she could autograph it for me, the crowds began piling in.

My dad and I took our seats in the small set-up located at the back of the young adult section and waited for the moment of truth to arrive. With a smile on her face donning a sundress, Ms. McCaffrey arrived with her publicist and other crew, ready to chat with her readers. It was captivating, hearing her speak and learning of her inspirations, as I pondered if I could someday write like her. My dad sat quietly beside me and occasionally, we would turn to smile at each other, as I eagerly listened to her talk about her writing process.

Afterwards, we went to a diner we found across from the bookstore and we chatted about all we heard. My dad is a quiet man generally speaking, but on that occasion, I was so grateful for his willingness to accompany me to the book signing. To this day, as a 31-year-old woman, it is still my favorite memory of him and I.

Today, even if you may be struggling with relationships, choose to remember those that make you smile and conjure memories bringing warmth. When you take a moment to look back, you may realize the beautiful moments you’ve forgotten.

Goodness Quote

A Time Traveling Memory

As a voracious reader since childhood and fan of a memoir published years ago, entitled, “Eat Pray Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert, upon learning of her latest novel, “City Of Girls,” I knew it was a book I had to read. To me, Elizabeth Gilbert has a way of weaving her words into a story that is captivating, as it is wise. Her words seem to flood like a river with no end. With each page turned, her words dance across the page and before I know it, I’m halfway through the book.

On Sunday evening, I watched a recorded interview of the author with Oprah Winfrey. Never quite understanding the complete allure of Oprah, I watched at first because I sought to hear the author’s perspective, though as I took in Oprah’s questions and true interest in what she had to say, I could suddenly see the inviting nature of her tone and language.

The book, City of Girls is a fictional memoir written by a woman now in her 90’s named Vivian. She is detailing the period in her life, as a young woman where she moves to New York City, seeing it for the very first time. Never exposed to the fast, NYC culture, she is taken aback, but becomes enthralled with the urban appeal of it. Reading this, it brought me back to my own experience with New York City, in particular, my first visit there, as a 10-year-old.

City of Girls

It was the later part of summer, August, to be exact. The air was soupy, filled with humidity and warmth, with a hazy skies and traffic for miles. Braving the summer traffic, my family and I made to NYC in a few short hours, our last vacation of the summer. For years (despite being as young as I was), I’d heard about NYC, wanting so desperately to visit, determined to see it the way I’d read about in books and heard about in movies. During our vacation, we planned to see at least two Broadway shows, as my entire family loved musicals.

Wearing my navy, floral print cap-sleeved dress (purchased specifically for this very trip and day, in fact!), we pulled up at the curb of the hotel, in the midst of midtown Manhattan, filled to the brim with passerbys. It was overwhelming, taking in the honking, the people seeming to pour from each street corner, running past me and failing to notice much else than where they were headed. As a 10-year-old, I started to focus solely on the crowds surrounding me, the odors circulating through the air, the taxis honking, the humidity. Disappointment started to mount within me and I became silent. After checking into the hotel, we sat in a cafe, waiting to pass the time until dinner and my dad asked me what was wrong. Sadly, I started to cry, professing my disappointment in the city, complaining that there was nothing special about it and that it was merely Philadelphia all over again.

There wasn’t much Dad could really say to change my mind at that point, but hours later, my perspective began to shift. At the strike of 8pm, The Sound of Music on Broadway began. The music filled the theatre, igniting an excitement within me. It was as though the entire city had come to life inside that very theatre. That show became the first of many Broadway shows I was fortunate to see throughout the rest of my childhood and adolescence. As I grow older, I came to appreciate what New York was and all it offered. I’d become exposed to more of NYC in those younger years than I ever dreamed possible, soon becoming enthralled with it; so much so that I made it my goal to live there. A writer, it was my adolescent goal to become a magazine editor in the city, leading a cosmopolitan life, traveling from place to place, pen and laptop in hand.

Life didn’t (or hasn’t, yet, maybe?) worked out quite that way and my goals and aspirations have shifted and that’s okay. We’re not meant to stay the same, but we are meant to experience what we feel we’d like to. For me, travel has always been a chance to gain not only exposure to other locales and culture, but a way for me to appreciate what I already have and see it in another light.

The summer season always brings about nostalgia for all the places I’ve been and the ones I have yet to see. Even though I’m not currently traveling at the current moment, reading always gives me a place to go, when I physically stay where I am.

Traveling quote

Ending to Begin

So often, we hold onto something, someone or maybe some idea/thought in our head that no longer serves or is appropriate for us. Maybe it not longer brings us joy or happiness, but rather depletes us of the energy we need for a positive and fulfilling life. Though, instead of letting go, instead of allowing ourselves to close a door and open a new one, perhaps taking a risk, or trying something we’ve never done before, we settle for comfort (or so we think or convince ourselves it is)

Much of the time though, this is not comfort at all, but rather a familiarity and an acceptance for remaining the same or settling, rather than taking a chance. Maybe we choose to stay with someone, or carry out the same routines out of fear or obligation – I, myself, can attest to this. The fact of the matter is, when we forgive ourselves for misgivings, past choices/decisions and bid farewell to whom/what no longer serves us, in favor of pursuing a greater happiness and fulfillment, we let what/who is right for us, the chance to FIND US.

Take a chance, walk down a new path or maybe try something you never have but always wanted to; it could pave the way to an extraordinary life. You’re never obligated to stay the same; you, as much as anyone else, deserve a life that feels as good on the inside, as it does on the outside.

Move on quote

A Past Forgiveness

Past choices, decisions, and actions – all which have the ability to weigh us down, pressing on our every thought and emotion, wreaking havoc on ourselves and others. For me, it can be (and is) so easy to allow my past to haunt me, eat away at me and prompt me to postpone moving forward. Memories of my past can distract me from realizing all I am capable of and the opportunities placed in front of me. If you’re still here, it’s not too late; the moment hasn’t passed, because there is another one ahead and currently taking place.

Maybe there is a dream or goal you haven’t reached, maybe others have told you it’s too “aspirational,” or “far-fetched,” and the possibility of it actually happening is low or minimal. This may be true, but if we never try, then we never know. The same goes for asking for asking questions; if we don’t ask, the answer will always be no, and will never give the opportunity for another to say yes.

Everyday, I seem to stumble upon someone, something, or some type of reminder of my past. Sometimes, I allow it to affect me, prompt tears and rumination, destroying the present moment. Though, when I read this quote posted below, I realized that our past can never be changed, but we can notice it, remember it happened, but realize we don’t need to give it power. The past can only overpower us if we allow it to. Today, I’m walking away from giving the past the driver’s seat and claiming the seat as my own; the past has kept it warm for far too long.

Today is the future and its all our own for the taking.

Accept the Past

A Journey to Happiness

So many of us, each and every day are searching for happiness, wondering what it is, if we will achieve it, or if we believe we had it at one time, if we’ll ever experience it again. For many years and even still at times today, I tricked myself into believing happiness was conditional and would happen when I reached certain milestones or completed certain tasks. When in college, I believed graduating would bring me happiness, then after I graduated, I believed landing my first job would bring me happiness. Then after I landed that job, I believed all my worries and fears would somehow fade away because I was able to support myself.

Truth the of the matter is, happiness can be found in small places each day. For me, a measurable moment of happiness transpired two days ago, in the midst of a pristine Monday afternoon. As we usually do, my mom and I set out on our typical walk with Daisy. Happily, we made our way down the street, greeting a neighbor and her dog, Lulu, whom we’d seen before, but never had the chance to meet. Happily, Daisy and Lulu acquainted themselves and we then continued our walk. On this occasion, I started to see life through Daisy’s eyes – a walk was an adventure, never knowing who she might meet or see, feeling the wind blowing against her and the sun abundantly shining upon us. She paced herself as she walked, calmly taking in her surroundings. A moment was not rushed, she was patient and I realized as I watched her, what happiness was.

Happiness for me, is feeling safe and connected to those around me. It is staying in a moment and not wishing it away. It is not about focusing on the goals I haven’t met, or the mounds of responsibilities waiting for me at home. It’s about enjoying the cool breeze on my skin and the clear skies ahead with Daisy, a dog who was rescued from a shelter, spending hours in a van from Alabama to enter my life and family.

Though we may not always have everything we hope for, all of us have something. Today and everyday moving forward, let that something be enough.

What Happiness Is