Power to Prom: “Promenade” without Limits

With the Spring season beckoning upon the horizon, it brings not only increasing warmth (hopefully!), sunshine (fingers crossed!), an abundance of blooming flowers (highly anticipated) and throughout much of the U.S., Prom season! Perhaps the memories conjured by mentioning prom are pleasant, neutral, or an affair to forget, though with that being said, where I hail from, prom is not only considered a pivotal high school event, but also a community event, involving/summoning an array of residents, if they so choose. The local school district where I reside within, Pennsbury, is highly-regarded as the “best prom in America”, which would honestly be a challenge to debate given the media uproar and coverage it summons each year.

Prom Night photo                     Prom Disco

Arrivals at the Pennsbury Prom span well-beyond the scope of traditional limos, vehicles or “party buses.” For Pennsbury students, prom preparations and the actual Prom event often involve hours of effort and preparations, ensuring the event transpires without a hitch. One-by-one, students arrive in unique, outlandish vehicles such as fire trucks, fancy cars, and even homemade parade floats. The high school gym is decorated so impressively that open walk-throughs are held the day of, so that other members of the community can check it out. Media coverage of the prom is often expansive, with local news stations staked out, hoping to capture the exhilarating arrivals and now with the expansion of social media, arrivals and the prom event are bound to be “live-streamed” on one medium or another. Once inside, students are often treated to performances from famous entertainers such as Ryan Cabrera, Questlove, and John Mayer. Given it’s uniqueness and rising popularity, back in 2004, senior Sports Illustrated writer, Michael Bamberger even wrote a book  (Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School) about it!

Prom Wonderland              Party-Dancing-Vector

Having one’s prom be made into this big of a spectacle may seem fun, but it also can place a vast amount of pressure on teens who feel that they need to live up to the hype or go beyond what has ever been done before. Planning for prom night can be stressful enough without having to worry about when you should start designing your “arrival float.”

Prom Choice

Reflecting back on both my junior and senior proms, personally, I did not attend either.  Having attended a rival high school to Pennsbury (I grew up in a town about 20 minutes away), my reasons for choosing to not attend prom were not completely centered around how I was going to arrive, or actual prom preparation, per se, though the pressures of how I would look and plan for the evening definitely contributed to my decisions. Now, there are plenty of ways to make planning the night easier, from booking rides to renting suits online. Back then, many of the preparations often felt too overwhelming. Coupled with issues with friendships and health issues sidelining me for much of my senior year, I opted out of each prom.

Dance on Your Own

Like many high school teens, at the time, I was often consumed by what others thought of me and placed significant undue pressures upon myself as far as appearance, academics and personal friendships/relationships. This lead to feelings of inadequacy in comparison to others who, on the surface, appeared to be gliding through life unphased by any and all hardships or at least, could handle and channel them better than I could. Of course, now as an adult, I realize that everyone faces their own struggles and that these people may have been dealing with theirs in different ways. Though for me, and perhaps others can relate to as well, when you’re in high school, it’s often hard to see things through any other lens.

Prom 1
If asked if I regret my decisions for choosing to not attend prom, I’d say in some ways I do, though I try my best to not have regrets about it. Back then, I felt it was the appropriate choice for me and I made the choice for a reason. Rather than look back and judge myself, I try to be kind to my high-school self and recognize it was my right to act upon what I felt would work best for me. There is no sense in berating myself for the choices I make, but rather I can offer my experiences to others and acknowledge how to perceive our situations differently.

Prom 2

With that being said, sometimes I feel that attending prom, my junior prom in particular, could have been a pivotal point for me; giving me the chance to stand my ground, own my individuality, and embrace what makes me uniquely me. At the same time, having skipped each prom, I respect I made the choice I felt was best appropriate for me at that time given the circumstances and can only move forward from here and offer my perspective to others.

So to anyone out there who is prepping for prom season, take a breath, think about what you want, emphasize what is most important when it comes to prom; having fun; being who you are, feeling comfortable inside and out, not wearing something because it is popular or expected, not arriving in a form of transportation because it “looks good.” Rather, do what feels right for you, not anybody else. This is your time, your event, your moment – you’ve earned it. No need to worry if your “prom-posal” didn’t go viral; you are worth more than the price of a fancy dress or tuxedo. Have fun, be safe, and know that there are better things to come.

Enjoy Life

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Unwritten Pages

Happy New Year! A new year is now upon us and has been for the past several hours. The next minutes, days and months ahead are all unwritten pages, waiting to be colored by our choices, chances, decisions, actions, thoughts and beliefs. It is filled with chance and possibility; anything can happen at any moment – this I believe is true, as it was proved me numerous times this past year. Reflecting back, much of 2017 was painful, losing Oliver, not simply a dog, but my family. He is still very much a missing piece to the puzzle that is me. I still sit here looking at the places where he used to lay, wondering if he’ll be back, I still keep the furniture in the same place, thinking he’ll try to crawl between the small spaces, as the inquisitive mind he was. He still lives within me though, encouraging me to continue on, to keep loving animals and dogs like him as much as I can, to go after my goals and my dreams and to simply keep going in spite of the pain of his absence. I know someday the spot where he lay will be filled again with another grateful dog to love, but until then, I’m keeping the spot warm for him/her.

New Year Quote 3

Another truth I learned this past year is we don’t meet people by accident. I’d heard this quote mentioned to me many times in the past, but I never believed it to be true until these past weeks. We meet others for a reason – sometimes I feel it is a lesson, maybe it teaches something about ourselves, perhaps it is a reminder of how far we’ve come or vice versa. Maybe it gives us a new perspective or lease on life, maybe it is a gentle reminder of how insightful we’ve become, or maybe it lets us know that we’re truly doing okay or will be okay. Regardless of the reason, we meet others at a time when we need to and whether we learn the reason why or not, our lives are still impacted, no matter how long it takes us to realize it.

I’d like to conclude this brief post with a quote and sentiment I recently stumbled upon while reading a magazine. It was in the editor’s note to readers and the words she stated were some of the most poignant I ever read, therefore, I couldn’t let it go unmentioned. Here is what she said:

“Years ago, I applied for an internship at the US Supreme Court. During my interview – when asked if prisoners ought to be taught technical and life skills while serving time – I repeated something my mom used to tell me: The ideal way to grow people is the same way you grow tomatoes. A tomato plant can nourish itself with water, air and sun, but without the right support system (like room to grow and a trellis), most tomato varieties won’t survive. In the same way, even though everyone has a personal responsibility, it’s our duty as citizens to set up an environment where people can acquire the skills they need to thrive in a community. When we do this, we all benefit; when we don’t, we all stand to lose.”

She finishes this thought with a statement from Jean Nidetch: “We all have the power within ourselves to create positive change in our lives; once we do, it is our duty to help others find power and strength so they can live the life they want to live.”

For me, when I hear/read these sentiments, they deeply resonate with me. We can’t always help others in the way we want to, but when we seek to guide, advocate and support others, the most important part in this is our intention – whether they choose to accept our words, help and guidance is ultimately their choice, but they can’t choose if we don’t give them the choice. So this year, it’s my goal to be open, to tell my truth and to help others tell or find theirs; lastly, don’t wait for others to be kind, show them.”

New Year Quote 2

Happy New Year!

A Tangled Path to Acceptance

Let me ask you this on this Friday morning: how often have you looked back on your life, no matter how positive or not so positive it has been and regretted a choice, thought, or decision you’ve made? To that end, how many times have you thought, if only? If only I had made a different decision or choice – if only I had taken a chance, or maybe, if only I hadn’t taken that chance? It is often easier and even, sadly, a widely-accepted social norm to berate or chastise oneself for the decisions one made or didn’t make.

Instead of focusing on the reasons WHY we made that particular decision or choice, we focus on where it has lead us to, what we have lost, or the ramifications of it. Instead of focusing on what actually drove these past choices, we may ruminate, analyze, or play out scenarios in our head of what our lives might have been like if we’d made different choices or taken different paths. Often times, this only leads us to sadness or regret and as a result, we spend much of our time dwelling in the past, envisioning a life we don’t have instead of relishing in what we DO have and the time we have been given to live it.

On the flip side, there can in fact be positives to reflecting on the past. It can keep us from making future poor decisions or provide us with insight into difficult choices, decisions and other situations within our lives. Self-acceptance has often been something I’ve struggled with in particular through the years and acknowledging where I am at the present time. Being kinder to myself is something I hope and wish to employ at I begin my 28th year on Tuesday, May 3rd.

Begin Again quote

As I said last year on my 27th birthday, for those of you who may recall, birthdays for me are often a chance to set a new goal, a new dream, or maybe the decision to choose to pursue a goal I neglected, but always harbored within me. With that being said, my goal for my 28th year, is to acknowledge I may not have or be living the life I believed I would, but then again, when I envisioned my life, I was a very young, impressionable adolescent or child, unaware of what life could bring or what I could encounter. I didn’t realize that the plans we make for ourselves can and will change as we grow and develop as a person and see more of what life has to offer. Some of these changes will be positive, some of them will be negative, but just because the path I thought I would take is vastly different, does not mean it is the one I will always lead. To get what we aspire to have out of life, we have to start somewhere. This year will be the year I decide to acknowledge what I’ve lost and the choices I made, but instead of ruminating and wallowing in self-pity, will choose to start again and adjust my sails.

After all, there truly is no time limit on when we can achieve our dreams or set new goals; why not start now?

Starting Over quote

Notable Reflections

Perhaps it is because it’s what I’ve been subconsciously searching for, or maybe it is simply a coincidence, but recently I’ve noticed numerous articles, quotes and pieces of advice centered around the concept of fear. Fear is something I’ve battled throughout my life on many occasions and it is only when I make a choice to act in spite of it, I feel a surge of confidence and comfort. Shying away because of the fear we harbor within us is one of the easiest ways to feel overwhelmed and ultimately, trapped. Acting and making choices in spite of fear is not an easy feat by any means, or at least to me it isn’t, but when I summon bravery and courage, most of the time, I end up feeling at piece with my decision.

Courage quote 2

Sometimes, the occasions when I’ve experienced fear were simpler and less significant than others. For instance, when I was about 17, my sister and I traveled to Disney World for a quick spring break vacation. I was excited and eager to ride an upside-down roller coaster for the first time. Though I’d been to countless amusement parks in the past with numerous opportunities to ride upside-down roller coasters with friends, I’d always opted out and chose to wait on the sidelines as my friends squealed with excitement over the largest, complex roller coasters around. In some instances, I was frustrated with myself and my fear of riding the roller coaster, or rather, by my decision to not experience it at least once. My fear and worry continued to get in the way, leaving me curious to what it might feel like to be upside down. On that particular trip to Disney World, I made the decision to ride the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, one of Disney World’s only upside-down roller coasters, in spite of the fear I still harbored within me. When the moment of truth arrived, I stood at the foot of the coaster, with the ride employees urging me, “You need to make a decision now.” My fear was piquing at that moment, but when a ride employee volunteered to ride along with me and talk me through the ride, I took a chance. Some of the ride is blurry to me now, since it has been 10 years since that moment, but what stands out to me, is my courage and ability to ride that coaster in spite of the fear still pulsating through me. Though it might sound so simple to some, for me, it was a feat proving I could still make choices and take action in spite of fear. Fear does not have to completely dissolve within us in order to make a choice or take action.

Courage 3

In hindsight, what I’m attempting to say is that I’ve missed out on many opportunities, chances, friendships and relationships because of fear. As I grow older and I reflect on these instances within my life that stand out to me, I realize how fear is something we can control. Sometimes, it feels as though fear may control us, but we are the ones creating that fear and are in the driver seat of that fear; we determine the direction the fear charges towards. Perhaps my perspective is flawed, but it is what I feel most resonates with me and my particular experiences.

Life Quote

That being said, here are some quotes I recently stumbled across that I hope will bring you some perspective and comfort this rainy Tuesday (if it is rainy where you are today; here in Pennsylvania, it is a rainy, chilly day!):

“I could conquer the world with just one hand… as long as you were holding the other.”

“Sometimes we don’t notice the things others do for us until they stop doing them.”

“If you live in fear of the future because of what happened in your past, you’ll end up losing what you have in the present.”

“Fear is not your enemy, it is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow.”

 

 

 

Fall Through the Lens

Good Morning! It’s not often I post photos I’ve personally taken, but I felt that today was as good a day as any to provide a quick glimpse into my iPhone camera album! Some of the photos I’ve taken are unique in my opinion and unlike anything I’ve taken before and though they may be simple, I thought I’d share them. Before I share these photos, I’d like to share a quote I stumbled across this morning, which was said by one of my favorite authors/poets, the late Maya Angelou:

“We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility.”

In reading this quote, I thought, what an appropriate sentiment for a day like today, a day in which people are constantly faced with judgment and criticism, a world where so many people each day ruminate in the past, wishing they’d made different choices. Why not make a different choice today? A choice to see the past differently and offer acceptance/forgiveness to ourselves, what we have been through and encountered.

Today, I’m making a choice to share the photos I’ve taken myself. They aren’t professional, they aren’t monumental by any means, but they are a snapshot into my life and in simple terms, the “Fall season through the lens.”

An apple tree from a local orchards from last month.

An apple tree from a local orchard from last month.

A closer image of the apple tree.

A closer image of the apple tree.

Another angle of the apple tree.

Another angle of the apple tree

A horse at a local farm store I recently visited.

A horse at a local farm store I recently visited.

Horse 2

Horse 3

Horse 4

My first Starbucks holiday cup of the season.

My first Starbucks holiday cup of the season.

Just say YES!

Yes. Whether you say it as oui, si, or in any other language of your choice, it is a word that often comes with an impact, whether monumental, or minuscule. Some of us, (myself, included) will often say yes to things I’d like to say no to. Sometimes, I say it out of guilt, fear, laziness, or worry. Other times, I say it because I feel if I do it, perhaps I’ll come to enjoy it. Then there are many other times, both past and present, where I wish I HAD said yes, but instead said no and shied away from opportunity, chances and experiences. It’s sometimes difficult to make the decision to say either yes or no and after making a final decision, having to deal with the repercussions of it, if they happen to be negative.

Yes photo

That being said, yesterday while perusing some of my favorite social media pages, I stumbled across an article posted by a coupon service I often frequent – RedPlum. It was an article written by Jennifer Frye and appeared on their October 7, 2015 blog post. If you’d like to view the actual post I’m referencing, here is the link to browse at your convenience: http://www.redplum.com/blog/151007/6-things-you-should-consider-saying-yes-to

Decisions Quote 2

In the post, the author highlighted 6 things we should consider saying yes to. The article left me reflecting and considering what I have in fact said yes to through the years. Here is what the author feels we should say yes to and my perspective on it:

  1. Making time for you. Your physical health and overall well-being are a priority. Do take the time to relax, exercise, read a book, take a bubble bath, or do anything that makes you happy.

My Take on it: I think this is of the utmost importance and completely agree with the author’s suggestion. Often times, when I find myself overly-stressed or worried, taking time to relax, through reading a book, listening to music and belting out my favorite tunes, or indulging in a favorite movie, like “Serendipity,” leaves me feeling rejuvenated and puts things into perspective for me.

      2. Go out on the town.  Visit a new museum or restaurant downtown. Catch a movie, grab drinks with your friends, have fun outside of the home.

My Take on it: This is a fun idea to indulge in and think about. Sometimes, it’s simply running to the nearest Starbucks, taking time to sit and savor a favorite beverage, taking in the scenery and relishing in the moment. Other times, it could be going apple picking (as I did this past week!) and spending time in nature, enjoying the weather, Fall foliage and landscapes

      3. Take a random trip somewhere. If the opportunity to travel presents itself, just go. Whether it is to Japan, South Africa, or Paris remember to see the world.

My Take on it: Oh, how I absolutely love this idea! I’m a traveler at heart, but I don’t get to travel nearly as often as I’d love to. The idea of one day visiting Paris and enjoying the Eiffel Tower, practicing my French language skills and indulging in the French cuisine are all travel plans I aspire to someday fulfill! Though, even the smaller trips, such as a couple years ago, when my sister and I visited Delaware for a brewery tour and some outlet shopping, can make the all the difference and is still an experience in itself.

      4. Make a new friend. You never know where introducing yourself to a co-worker, classmate, or a neighbor can lead, possibly to a new friendship. Take the time to meet new people.

My Take on it: This is definitely true and I have done this numerous times in the past. For instance, back in middle school (starting in 6th grade), I became acquainted with the girl who would become my best friend through senior year on the bus ride on the first day of school. Other times, I met another close friend in a summer class I took in college, prior to my senior year. We can often meet friends in the most unlikely places (in line at a store, in a doctor’s office, etc, the possibilities are endless) and in my mind, a new friend is always welcome and something I’ll say yes to.

       5. Spending time with family. It is important to nurture and spend time with the people that matter the most in your life. Call, Skype, or visit your parents, siblings, cousins, and grandparents as much as possible.

My Take on it: I’m a family girl at heart, so this is something I will surely always say yes to without having to put much thought into it. My mom and sister are my closest confidantes, so I always value and cherish the time I spend with them. Since becoming an Aunt in August 2014, spending time with my niece is always the highlight of my life, as well.

        6. Accomplish your goals. Never give up on your goals. Overcome your fears and take the first step to seeing your dreams come to pass.

My Take on it: How true is this? It’s difficult to really place into words, but many times over the years, I’ve proven this concept to be true. What immediately comes to mind is my high school years. I may have mentioned this on here before, but early on in my high school years, I applied to be a writer on the Reality section of my local newspaper, which is a teen section published once-per-week. It allows adolescent writers on the teen panel to write about anything and everything they are interested in. It was my goal to write for the section since childhood, having read the newspaper on a regular basis since assigned current events in elementary school. The first year I applied, I was rejected, with the editor telling me my writing simply wasn’t “up to par,” or the type of writing that would appeal to readers. Hearing this, part of me was crushed, discouraged and let down. Since I am often critical of myself in general, I decided to make it my goal to try again next year and throughout the year, hone my writing skills, working as hard as I could to improve them. Unsure if I was able to accomplish this, the subsequent Summer, once again, I submitted an application to join the Reality panel and much to my surprise, was graciously accepted and welcomed aboard! My excitement was palpable and I began to envision all the possibilities and the ideas I wanted to explore and document. That particular school year, I entered filled with promise and excitement. The day I found out I would be joining the panel, my friend took me to celebrate and I remember feeling euphoric as we indulged in a celebratory slice of cheesecake. That being said, never giving up on your dreams and goals is definitely, without question, something to say a profound, concrete YES to.

Chances

So there you have it. Now that you’ve read the author’s suggestions and my take on it, what will you say yes to, today?

A Forever “What if?”

I’m guilty of it and perhaps you are, too, whomever you might be, reading this post of mine. Lying in bed, you glance at the clock and realize it is minutes before you must get out of bed, attempt to make yourself presentable and progress through another day. Though prior to rising of your bed, you grab your cell phone lying on the nightstand adjacent to your bed, eager to peruse the latest happenings on Twitter, Facebook, or your other social media platform of choice. For me, this morning, as with most other mornings, my choice was Twitter. Scanning through many seemingly meaningless tweets, I arrived at one by one of my favorite fiction authors, Jane Green. In her tweet, she provided a link to a website, simply tweeting, “So thrilled to be hosting the Booksparks Summer Reading Challenge this year! And I cannot believe the amazing… (then she inserts a hyperlink to her Facebook page, where she details the aforementioned “challenge.”) Needless to say, I was intrigued and contemplative.

About an hour or so after reading Jane’s tweet, I logged onto my Facebook via my laptop and began to familiarize myself with the challenge she mentioned. If you’re curious about it like me, here is the link to the official post and explanation about it: http://gobooksparks.com/SRC2015/

The overall premise of the challenge is to read a new book each week. Bloggers can sign up to participate and review a book per week, as they complete them. Non-bloggers who are book lovers, can still join in the fun and read a book per week and tag the books and the challenge in their social media posts to win prizes throughout the summer. If you’re eager to participate, the sponsors of the challenge encourage readers to RSVP on the event’s Facebook page. Each book is a new “destination” (i.e. set in various locations, such as Los Angeles, Montana, etc).

Scanning through the list of selected novels, some, but not all are appealing to me after reading through the descriptions and also heading over to trusty Google to learn more about each book. For those I am interested in reading, rather than purchase each book, I logged into my account on my local library’s website and requested them. Some of the books are new and yet to arrive on book shelves, so it is necessary to wait for their arrival. One book in particular, truly captured my eye and mind, becoming the muse behind this very post.

The book I speak of is entitled, “Maybe in Another Life,” by Taylor Jenkins Reid. After reading the brief description on the challenge website, I felt as though I more or less was reading my life in a snapshot:

“At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?”

Rapidly approaching my 27th birthday, I can relate to Hannah’s sentiments, unsure about what to do with my life. Like her, I’ve had several different jobs since graduating from college nearly five years ago. I’m not at all where I thought or hoped I would be, way back when I was a teenager. I would think of my twenties and believe it would follow the pre-determined pattern I set for myself – graduate college at age 22, fall in love, have an excellent career, attend graduate school then graduate, get married, have children and carry out a domestic life while being a career woman. To me, there was no “in-between,” or room for life to happen. I operated under the immature assumption that life will transpire in the way I want it to, simply because I said it would.

Now as I am edging further into my late 20’s, I realize that the choices and decisions I made often haunt me, each and every day. I realize that we don’t always have control over the things and events that happen to us and in all honesty, it took me years to come to terms with this truth and realization. Sometimes, it’s still hard to accept it. Now more than ever though, I realize that while I may not have control over everything that happens to me, what I do have control over is how I respond to it. I can choose and control the way I respond to each hardship and obstacle thrown my way. I’ll never know what might have happened if I made a different choice years ago. I don’t know if had I made a different choice 10 years ago if I would be married, or a mother today. I don’t know if I would have had the fulfilling career I always dreamed if I had chosen a different path for myself.

It’s hard to believe that nearly ten years ago, I was about to turn 17-years-old. It was a poignant time in my life, because a lot of the choices or decisions I made way back then, as a teenager still impact and affect me today. Those choices and situations shaped the last decade of my life. When I look back, I wonder what might have happened if I had used my words instead of actions to communicate my internal sentiments. More so now than ever though, I try to practice more self-acceptance, realizing how important it is to accept the choices I made, realizing that it was what I felt was best at that moment. I was young then and yes, while I still am young, back then I operated in the mindset that the choices I was making then would have little or no influence on my future. If I had known what I know now, I can’t be confident in saying I would have made the same choices. Sometimes I wish I could go back and be a friend to my teenage self. The things I felt were of the utmost importance then seem so trivial now, but that is apart of life. It is apart of what it means to be young, taking risks and chances that might leave our future selves scratching our heads and contemplating about what we were thinking back then when we made those choices.

It’s important to note that the choices I made in the past are reminders to me of what not to do today, or at least provides me with a snapshot of what will happen if I make those choices again. The pain of yesterday’s decisions sometimes radiates through me today, especially when I see or encounter people of my past. I can still think about the events and situations of yesterday, but this I know now: I can choose to not be reduced or defeated by them; I can look towards the present today and tomorrow, realizing that while I might not have made the best choices in the past, I can still make better choices for tomorrow and beyond.

It’s funny how reading a brief description of a novel can trigger an entire outpouring of memories and sentiments and a question for a myself: What if I decided to let life happen as it does and adjust accordingly? That, my friends, I CAN choose – in fact, we all can.