When you’re fearless in what you want

Once again, I’ve been reminded about the importance of being brave in every aspect of life.

And, once again, a young child brought it to my attention.

“I want a hug.”

My precious niece Olivia had a cold last week, so I worked from my brother’s house for a couple of days to help take care of her. She’s a little older than 2 1/2 now, and she’s gotten really good at saying what she wants. More than once, she came up to me and said “I want a hug” and then climbed up into my lap.

My heart soared, and I melted.

Olivia knew what she wanted to comfort her when she wasn’t feeling well, and she made it known. She wasn’t afraid to be open and honest, and she does that with everything that she wants. Like when I was eating Wheat Thins and some granola and a banana, I heard that little angelic voice say “I want some.”

I started thinking about it later and wondering why it’s so simple for little kids to be so sure and assertive with the things they want and need, yet we struggle to be as open about it when we get older. Sure, there are certainly things that kids declare they want that aren’t theirs to have (no, Olivia, this is not your phone), but I still commend them for being so bold.

They are actual angels.

When you’re that young, you hear the word “no” a lot more than you ever want, but you don’t really think much of it. It’s just another “no” that you eventually forget about (even if there is an ensuing hissy fit that follows for a little bit) before the next time that you pursue your interests. You don’t overanalyze why you were rejected or let it make you feel like you’re not good enough—you simply move on and continue with your life. There might be tears, and you might need to take a moment for some uncontrollable wallowing, but you don’t let such a minor setback get you down for too long.

Why is it so much more difficult for us to go boldly after the desires of our hearts when we get older? Why do we let fears hold us back from saying what we want? Sure, just like kids, we can’t have everything we think we need, but there are certainly times when we simply need to suck it up and chase the things that set our hearts on fire.

I can think of far too many times in my life when I should have been more like Olivia—when I should have said what was in my heart instead of shying away from declaring words that never actually made it into the air for anyone to hear. But that was years ago, and I’m way past done being the girl who’s too afraid.

As my girl Jess said in New Girl, “What’s wrong with a girl that’s fearless?”

Minus her choice of pronoun, I’m completely with Jess. There’s nothing wrong with a girl who chooses to be brave.

I wanted a pic with Dirk, so I asked to borrow a stranger’s cutout.

Brave enough to chase her dreams.
Brave enough to speak what’s on her heart.
Brave enough to love without reservation.
Brave enough to walk with her head held high.
Brave enough to say “yes” when she means it.
Brave enough to say “no” when she means it.
Brave enough to look fear in the face and say “not today.”

I hope that Olivia grows up to be an even braver woman than she is now and never lets fear keep her from taking chances that she knows she needs to take. And I hope that you don’t, either. No, you can’t always get what you want, but it’s often better to take the risk than to sit back and be far too content with what’s merely comfortable. Do you want the job? Apply for it. Do you want the raise? Ask for it. Do you want to get to know the guy at the gym you always see and think is cute? Ask him out. Do you finally want to say “I love you” out loud? Let the words leave your mouth. Do you want to dance your heart out? Get out on that dance floor, and let loose. You do you, sister, and don’t worry about what other people think or say about you.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a girl who’s fearless.

Because change and failure are inevitable

You often hear people say that change is hard—and it certainly is at times—but I think there are moments when you feel its impacts more powerfully than you thought possible.

Like when you’re at a roller skating rink.

It’s been raining an absurd amount in Orange County lately, and I’m not a fan at all. I require much more sunshine and far less humidity and wetness than we’ve experienced in the past month or so in order to function properly. I usually like to do things outside on the weekends (like hang out at the beach, go hiking in the canyons, ride the ferry and walk around Balboa Island, etc.), but those outdoor activities have been rather limited recently.

Sk8er girlz

My friend Monique and I had originally planned to go on a walk on the boardwalk Saturday, but constant downpours prevented that from happening. We were trying to decide what to do, and I suggested that we hit up a local roller skating rink. I mean, what else would two single girls do on such a dreary Saturday than put on some roller skates and relive the glory days of youth? I’ve actually gone to quite a few in my adult years, but it had definitely been a while, and I figured that it would be a fun thing to do on a rainy weekend day.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The place was PACKED. I don’t recall ever seeing a line out the door at any roller rink—at least not in any year after 1994 or so—so Monique and I were a little perplexed when we had to park in the parking lot next door because of the zero spots available in the rink’s lot and then wait much longer than 28 seconds to be at the front of the line.

Once we actually got inside, we immediately felt crammed. It was almost tough to breathe because there was practically no space anywhere. We laced up our rented skates in a clustered area with humid air that had the stench of a high school football locker room. When we finally got out on the rink, the process of skating was complicated by the multiple people (both adults and children) using PVC roller skating trainers to keep them from falling. To be honest, though, I really think those things made it more dangerous for everyone else.

I just landed a triple axel.

As I skated a few laps outside of the lines that the rink “referees” very strictly enforced as off-limits territory, I looked around and realized how much has changed since I was a kid. For starters, the PVC skating frame things were killing me. How are we supposed to learn if we never let ourselves fall? I understand that people don’t want to get hurt and break bones and whatnot, but can you really get that injured from falling on a surface similar to that of a gym floor. I don’t want to criticize anyone, but I also think that people are becoming too soft and overly cautious. Falling is part of life, and if you never let yourself get rid of training wheels and skating frames and bowling bumpers, you’re never going to allow yourself to grow and take chances that lead to greater things than you ever could have imagined.

Then there were the arcade games. None of them even accepts quarters. Instead, you have to have a card that you scan in order to activate the games. Maybe it’s because not many people carry cash or change around with them anymore, but it was so strange to see that putting coins in the machines wasn’t even an option. I didn’t get to play the claw game that grabs stuffed animals (I used to be really good at that one back in the day) because I wasn’t willing to go find out where and how to get one of the digital cards. I did happen to have two quarters in my pocket, though, because the lockers only take quarters to lock and get the keys out—but, unfortunately, those Washingtons are apparently useless in the arcade section.

I’m sad to admit that we didn’t last very long at the rink.

Later that day, I began thinking about how much has changed over the years—in society, in our entire world, in childhood experiences, and in my own life. Some changes are really great and easy to embrace. Others cause us emotions that aren’t so joyous and leave us anxious or upset in more ways than one. However we end up feeling as a result of those changes, though, doesn’t prevent them from happening and engraining themselves into our lives.

Trying to break into a cabinet—just a typical Friday.

And I also couldn’t stop thinking about failing and why we’re so afraid of it. I certainly don’t like failing. Just ask my coworker Barry, whose desk cabinet I tried to pick lock last Friday. He had locked his computer and coffee in there and left the key at his house, and I told him that I could get it open. I know how to pick lock a door, and I’ve opened cabinets before, as well, but this one was giving me more of a challenge than I expected. I spent nearly an hour working on that thing (I swear I’m actually a productive employee) and wasn’t able to get it open.

I felt like a complete failure—I had let both Barry and myself down.

My coworker Jim made me feel a little better later when he took a look at my unlocked cabinet and assured me that the lock was actually more complex and had some special bar, so you would essentially have to break the whole thing to get it open without the key. When I had originally suggested the breaking thing prior to speaking to Jim, Barry didn’t like the idea of me vandalizing company property. (Thankfully, his son brought him the key later in the day, so it all ended up being OK.)

I didn’t succeed at picking the lock, and I lost a bobby pin and paperclip in the process. It can also be argued that I lost an hour of work productivity, but I justified it because I think it’s important to help our friends when they need it. I’m pretty sure my boss would agree (and that’s what we’re going to continue to believe). I’m glad that I at least tried, though, even though I wasn’t completely positive of what the outcome would be going into it.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of worries and fears hold me back in the past from going after changes and things that might result in rejection or failure. I don’t want to live like that anymore, though. I want to be willing to step outside of my comfort zones and adapt to changes and learn from failures. I’ve actually had many changes in my life over the last few years, and there are certainly more on the way. I think they’ve been good for me, and I want to continue to be able to adapt to them and know that, no matter what happens, God has a plan that’s better than anything I could conjure up in my head.

And I want to know that I’m living as bravely as I can and learning from the times when I fall. Just because you fall down doesn’t mean that you’re down forever—it simply means that you’ve been given the opportunity to rise back up, dust yourself off, and give it another go.

Change is tough. Failure is probably even tougher. But they’re both inevitable. You’ll face change at some point in your life, and you’ll also fail at some point. Maybe change and failure both happen at the same time, which really isn’t a fun situation. They’re both huge aspects of life, though, and you simply have to learn how to deal with them. Sometimes you have to throw the PVC skating trainers to the side and go at it without so much hesitation. It’s how little kids learn to crawl and then walk—they fall, and then they get right back up and try again later.

I hope that you’re letting yourself learn to be comfortable with the changes you face and the failures that are possibilities in your life. The chance of failure means that there’s also the chance of success. You won’t always make it around the rink without a stumble or two, and that’s OK. The next lap could be the best one you’ve ever taken. But you won’t know unless you’re willing to get out there again and take a chance or two with the risk of failure still hanging in the air. Take on those opportunities and changes without fear—you’re braver than you think and worth believing that you’re capable of great things.

And you might find that you’re able to roll with the changes and setbacks much more boldly.

Because you’re worth living fully and taking chances

Time seems to go by really quickly, even when some of the days feel far too long.

Especially when you’re old(ish).

There’s some 10-year challenge that’s been trending on social media, so I’ve seen a lot of posts lately of split-screen pictures showing what people looked like back in 2009. While I didn’t jump on board that ship, it did get me thinking about how quickly 10 years go by. It doesn’t feel like I graduated college almost 12 years ago, but I did. It doesn’t even feel like I’ve been living in California for a year and a half, but I have.

I’m 34, and my favorite drink is Capri Sun.

I don’t remember thinking time was flying by when I was younger, but I was also too busy focusing on trying to grow up too fast. Some moments stick with us forever, and others become distant memories that we don’t recall as well as we might prefer. Some things we want to remember; others we wish we could forget. But each one of those moments has helped us to get to where we are right now and to become the people we are today.

I’m 34, and I often joke about the fact that I’m officially old. It’s like my body decided to start reminding me of my age when I hit 30—if you don’t stretch before breathing, everything’s going to hurt. The truth is, though, I’m really only older than I used to be, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m old. Maybe that whole “age is just a number” saying is true. Or there’s that one about only being as old as you feel. I’m not sure about that one sometimes, though, because that would make me 77 some days.

I often like to live like I’m still a kid. No, I can’t go completely rogue and ignore all of my responsibilities that are part of adulting, but I love the carefree attitudes of kids and the inherent ability they all seem to have to be able to find joy in almost any situation. I mean, my sweet niece Olivia was having crazy fun “dropping” (her word for throwing, apparently) toys behind her bed while we were FaceTiming over the weekend. When did stuff like that stop being so enjoyable for some of us?

These gems help keep me hip.

Another thing that I think we often lose as we get older is that special boldness to do and say what we want. Sure, there are some shy little kids who sometimes try to hide behind their parents’ legs, but even they usually start to come out of their shells after a few minutes of becoming familiar with their surroundings and the people there with them.

The other day, I was sitting on the shore, and there were a few little kids near me. One of those big ugly sea birds landed on the sand, and I didn’t really pay attention to it. I don’t like birds much. The kids, however, suddenly took off running straight toward the bird, laughing uncontrollably as they did. It was quite entertaining to watch—that bird wanted nothing to do with them, but they didn’t care at all. They were caught up in the moment and were enjoying every single second of it.

I realize that everything is much simpler when you’re that young and don’t fully understand much of the world around you. Yes, there are times in life that are full of struggle and pain and heartache and tears and so many feelings and stuff that feels like more than you can handle—and none of that should be ignored. It’s important to acknowledge reality and what you’re going through and the emotions that start to build up inside of you, but I think that it’s also good to live like a kid every once in a while and not focus on all of the “what ifs” and potential outcomes and, instead, just run straight toward what your heart desires.

What would that look like in your life? Would that mean chasing a dream that you’ve been afraid to pursue? Telling someone how you feel? Opening your heart to love? Taking a trip or journey that you’ve wanted to take but simply haven’t yet?

Me to a stranger: Will you take a picture of me flexing?

Why do we often overthink things without just doing them? It sometimes makes a lot more sense to run after the ugly sea bird without giving it a second thought. I know that I don’t want to look back at moments in my life and wonder what might have happened if I had simply been just a little bit braver—“If Only” isn’t the Hanson song that I want to describe my life. The years truly do go by so quickly, and I want to live them fully and without hesitation. I want to know that the wrinkles I’m eventually going to have are worth every single smile and every single laugh because I was able to enjoy the precious moments I’ve been able to experience.

I hope that the next time you compare pictures of yourself from years apart you see someone who has grown in tremendous ways yet still has that youthful belief that truly anything is possible. Because it is. I hope that you see someone who is bold and is confident in who you are. I hope that you see someone who knows that you’re enough and lives with the truth that you’re worth people’s time and love.

And I hope that you see someone who takes chances and doesn’t let moments pass by when they’re right there in front of you.

Because dating should be as easy as friendship

Being an adult certainly isn’t the easiest assignment in the world.

If you have a friend like Amanda, keep her. End of story.

Especially when the word “dating” is thrown out there.

I live the life of a single girl—a very single girl—so I’ve grown accustomed to going to places alone and having solo adventures. At the same time, though, I’ve also made some wonderful friends since I moved to Cali, and I get excited when I have others along for the journey with me.

My sweet friend Amanda and I recently went on a beach boardwalk walk (one of my new favorite pastimes) together and were talking about all things life. One thing we discussed was how making friends as an adult is kind of like dating. It’s a lot easier to make friends when you’re in school—you’re placed in this huge atmosphere that really isn’t that huge, you’re around the same people all of the time, and you’re thrown into a lot of the same activities together, so the friendships happen pretty naturally.

When you’re a grownup, though, it’s different. You have to make conscience efforts, and you actually have to ask people for their numbers and find time in your busy schedules to make the hanging out part of the friendships actually happen. After you spend time together once, one of you has to make the suggestion that you should get together again soon, or maybe that relationship doesn’t actually become anything more than a mere acquaintance thing.

For me, adult friendships aren’t difficult, because I’m pretty shameless (cue Garth Brooks). I ask people to coffee all of the time, and I hate coffee. I’ve even straight up used the phrase “we should be friends” on more than one occasion. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed about that, but I’m not because I’ve actually made friends that way. I love people, and I love spending time with them. I love knowing them and being known.

Why, then, is it so hard for me to do this when it comes to actual dating?

For some reason, I’m more hesitant about being honest with a guy I’d like to spend time with than I am with a stranger whom I don’t want to be a stranger anymore. Sure, I’ve gotten a little better, but there’s still the fear and anxiety of being rejected and feeling like I’m not enough.

Friend, whether it’s dating or friendship, you are enough.

Maybe this should be my new tactic to get guys to ask me out.

I certainly have to remind myself of this often. I’ve mentioned before (probably more times than you’d ever want to hear) that it can be tough to live your life solo while almost everyone around you is either dating, engaged, or married while you’re sitting on the sidelines wondering if anyone will ever actually want to take you on a real date. One thing I’ve always valued about true friendship is that it’s genuine, and you know that the other person wants to spend time with you, too—you’re both pursuing each other, in a sense. With dating, though, it seems like it’s much more of a guessing game than any friendship ever is.

Sure, there are some friendships that become one-sided, and you eventually move on and realize that perhaps those individuals were only in your life for different seasons. So I guess that’s one way dating relationships are pretty similar, because all of those certainly don’t last forever. Though I don’t really like saying this, many of the friendships that I’ve lost along the way haven’t caused me a ton of emotional pain. While I might have been sad for a bit, I knew that growing apart is sometimes just a part of life.

So why does it hurt so much more when it’s a guy who is walking out of your life than a friend with whom you might have been even closer? Honestly, I think it comes down to the importance we place on those relationships because of the way they make us feel. It’s nice to feel wanted by someone (and I’m really hoping that I will know how that feels one day) so much that he chooses you over everyone else. Maybe that’s the real difference—your friends probably have many other friends, but your person picks you and only you.

Since moving to California, I’ve been trying not to think about my lack of a dating life (even though I know it’s the main topic of most of my blogs—but it says “flying solo and writing about it,” so you really shouldn’t be shocked about that), especially now that it’s been so long since one homeboy broke my heart so many moons ago back in Texas. Instead, I want to focus on investing my time in others to help them know how valued and loved they are and how much they matter. I want them to know just how much God cares for them and that they are enough in Him.

I’m just sitting here thinking about froyo.

And it’s also something I’m reminding myself of often.

We were meant to have friendships and relationships with others. We were meant to live boldly. We were meant to love people well. And that’s how I want to live my life—even so boldly that I am comfortable enough walking up to a guy I fancy and saying, “Hey. We should go grab froyo or walk the boardwalk together soon.” I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

When you think about it, life really is a lot shorter than we realize. And the older you get, the more quickly it seems to fly by. I hope that you live every day as completely as you can and that you never miss out on an opportunity because you were afraid. I hope that your friendships are many and that your love is bold.

And I hope that you always know that you are enough as you are.

When you don’t let your appearance define your beauty

Like love, I think that beauty is often best displayed when it’s in action.

Especially out on the dance floor.

There’s a really pretty view of a lake behind us, but we’re completely blocking it, so you’ll just have to trust me that it’s gorgeous.

The weekend was full of travel for me. I flew from Orange County to Dallas late Friday night, got a couple of hours with my family Saturday morning, drove down to Austin with my friend for our friend’s wedding, took a long Lyft ride to the Austin airport and flew to LA early Sunday morning, and then rode back to Orange County with a coworker friend who was nice enough to offer to pick me up all the way up in LA.

I’m currently exhausted.

It was worth it, though. I loved being able to spend time with my family and snuggle my precious niece, and it was so nice to reunite with some of my friends and celebrate the love of Nina and her sweet hubs. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE the dancing that happens at wedding receptions.

Saturday night was no exception—that dance floor became my BFF. There were a few young girls out there (I’m guessing between the ages of 9–12ish), and two of them were standing in an area toward the back and not dancing. I kept trying to get them to dance, but they seemed a bit afraid and remained in their safe zone. It makes me sad when people don’t dance. Sure, there are probably some people who really just don’t enjoy it, but I think that there are a lot of people who probably do or would actually love it but are scared of looking ridiculous.

When it comes to dancing, sometimes the more ridiculous, the better.

Bear legitimately hates dancing, but we’re still friends.

Later in the night, those two girls finally started busting out their dance moves, and they looked like they were having the time of the lives. I was so happy, and I was filled with even more joy when they twirled across the floor with me during the slow songs—single people don’t always have to avoid the dance floor during the love ballads.

At one point, the DJ played Alessia Cara’s “Scar to Your Beautiful,” and my new homegirls and I were belting the lyrics together as we danced. In that moment, my heart made a silent wish that those girls would believe those lyrics with all of their hearts and that they would always know that they’re enough—that they don’t have to change who they are to try to fit the molds of who they think the world wants them to be. I hope that they always know how beautiful they are and that they should always dance every chance they get without worrying about what the people around them think.

When I boarded the plane (which Chrissy Metz from This Is Us was on, by the way) Sunday morning, there was a very attractive fella sitting in the row diagonally behind me. I immediately became more concerned than I would like to admit about my appearance (which was what someone who rolled out of bed at 4:34 a.m., threw on some clothes, and brushed her teeth might look like), but then I thought of my sweet little dancing friends, and I stopped. It didn’t matter what I looked like right then—what mattered was that my heart was full, and I’m confident in who I am. I even spoke to Mr. Attractive a little later, but I don’t think that we’ll be having our own wedding anytime soon.

In moments of fear, I hope I have the courage of the girls who were brave enough to dance. And I hope you do, too. We weren’t meant to stand in corners and watch as the world passes us by. We were meant to live—and live boldly—as the people we were always meant to be.

Because even with our scars and wounds and broken hearts and tears and fears and mistakes and flaws and memories and messes, we are beautiful.

Because you can’t go back to high school

There are moments from our pasts that we’d all likely prefer to have go differently.

Especially during high school.

I went back to my hometown for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it was nice to be able to see my family and some of my best friends. I kept pretty busy for the few days I was there, but it was all with fun little adventures of spending time with my people.

One of those adventures was with Maddie, my forever friend I’ve known since we were 3 years old. The weather was really nice out, so we went for a walk at a local park. We dance walked (it’s a thing) a bit, and as we were passing by a road that has our former high school on the other side, Maddie asked me if I had been there anytime recently. I definitely hadn’t, and she thought it might be a wise idea to venture over there and check it out—after all, there is now a supposedly impressive arena near the old gym.

I typically don’t pass up an opportunity to explore, so we crossed the bridge and walked on the short path through the wannabe woods area and then cut through the parking lot. We started trying to open every side door, only to discover they were all locked. We headed to another set of doors, and then we found one that appeared to have been accidentally left slightly cracked, and we took it as an open invitation.

The gate was clearly left a little open just for us.

It was really weird being back in there. We snuck under a gate that was partially open and ignored what sounded like an alarm going off in the background. We wandered the halls and reminisced a little about those days of way back when. The halls felt a lot smaller than they did when we were teenagers. The school didn’t look exactly the same as we had left it—I mean, there are comfy lounge chairs, sofas, and small tables lining the halls so that students can find rest and peace and probably do important stuff on their phones and iPads between classes—but it didn’t seem like too much had changed.

Except for us.

I began thinking about the person I was back then and who I am now. It’s been more than 14 years since I graduated (good grief, I am getting so old), and more has happened in my life than I ever would have imagined when I was in those dramatic years of adolescence. There are so many things I wish I could tell teenage Natalie, but maybe it’s for the best that I wasn’t able to know what I know now—maybe it’s better to learn those lessons as you go, as painful as they may be.

Sure, I wish I had been much braver in high school when it came to letting guys know how I felt, but I was a complete pansy who would rather dodge into a science classroom to hide from an approaching crush than to have to face him in an empty hallway. I think that was something I had to discover over the years, though—that I am actually capable of being brave enough to do the thing that I had always feared most in life (besides amphibian hoppers).

To look a man in the eyes and declare my feelings for him.

There are probably too many moments in my life I’d like to go back to and change what I did or what I said. But I can’t. I’ll never be able to, and it becomes a waste of time to think about everything I would have done differently. “If Only” is a great song by Hanson, but it’s not a mindset by which I want to live my life.

It’s very possible that I missed my true calling in life.

What I can do, though, is learn from those times I wish I could change by being brave in those scary situations I face later and making that high school girl proud of the woman she became. Rather than run and hide from my feelings and from the guys for whom I have them, I can follow my heart and say the words it wants to say. Rather than letting the possibility of rejection give me anxiety, I can let love lead the way (I didn’t mean to rhyme there). Rather than be fearful, I can be bold.

And you can be bold, too. We all can.

I’m really grateful I’m not in high school anymore, and I’m glad I’m not exactly the same as I was back then. Life is full of changes, and many of those changes occur within our hearts—and that’s a good thing. My love for love has definitely grown since those days, and I’ve had my fair share of heartache and pain that resulted from following my motto of “be brave.” As much as I hate broken hearts, I don’t regret sharing my heart only to have it shattered into thousands of tiny pieces.

Because love is worth every single scary moment you will ever have to face.

When you follow your own heart

I’ve always hated Jelly Beans, but a few months ago, I let some people at work convince me to try some special Jelly Bean that supposedly tasted really good—and I had to spit it out because it was so horrible.

We usually know ourselves better than other people do.

People are constantly telling us what to do in life. Many times, we have to listen and do what we’re told—you know, like in our jobs and regarding certain laws and stuff. (I know you might be thinking that we should abide by all laws, but you’re never going to convince me that waiting for a crosswalk signal is the best idea. If I have enough time to cross the street without an impending death, I’m going, especially when I’m running.)

But there are plenty of times when you aren’t required to do what other people tell you to do, and it’s actually probably a better idea to do what you want or what you know you need to do. We’re all full of thoughts and insights, and that’s truly wonderful, but other people’s opinions don’t have to become yours—and they certainly don’t have to influence your actions.

One thing I’ve always admired about my mom is that she does what she wants but never in a way that’s hurtful to other people. My parents got married right out of high school, which most people would not recommend, but they knew it was best for them. It’s 45 years later, and they’re still together and love each other more than they can explain.

When I was in middle school, my mom went back to school and earned her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s degree. She didn’t ask other people’s opinions on whether or not it was a good idea to attend college classes while working a full-time job and still raising three kids. She knew she needed and wanted to finish her education, and she went out there and did it.

I challenge you to talk to her and not smile. It won’t happen.

And the joy she had on her face and in her heart when she walked across that stage after finishing graduate school is indescribable.

I live by the belief that anything matches if you wear it with confidence, and I think I learned that from observing the way my mom lives for so many years. She’s a woman who wears fanny packs because she loves them, thinks you can never have too many pairs of cowgirl boots, drives antiquated Suburbans into the ground because she’s grown attached to them, and makes up her own moves during well-known line dances (I’m fairly certain I acquired my love of free-style dancing from her). She doesn’t let people tell her what to do, and she’s one of the strongest people I know.

And I think her being so comfortable being herself at all times helps her to love other people in big ways. I mean, she introduced me to Kennedy, an employee at Altar’d State, while we were on FaceTime the other day because she was so excited and because she doesn’t care about all of the things that many people think should be social “rules.”

I’ve been trying to remind myself to live like my mom in that regard lately. I think I sometimes expect people to support me in all of my ideas and hopes and beliefs and actions, and those are pretty lofty expectations. Not everyone is going to have the same mindset as I do, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean I need to do what they tell me to do. For instance, I don’t like dating apps, and I’m not going to use them. I understand that they are ways to meet people, but I don’t want to meet the people I’ve seen on the apps. Is it ridiculous for me to hope for a love that right now doesn’t seem likely? I don’t think it is.

All I can do is trust that God has a plan for me and that it’s a good one.

Your life is your own, and you only get to do it once. Wouldn’t it be better to reflect upon your life years from now and know that you lived each day the way you knew you were meant to live and not the way that other people thought you should have lived? I think Frank Sinatra would agree—he even sang about it.

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
And much, much more than this
I did it my way

Just sitting on my lifeguard tower that I’m probably not supposed to be on—but it’s my place of peace (insert shrugging girl emoji)

I know that sometimes people with big hopes and dreams seem a little idealistic at times, but there’s nothing wrong with believing that crazy things can come true. They’re called miracles, and they happen all of the time. I have a phone case that says “follow your heart” on the back, and I wear a bracelet that says “be brave”—and I hope I never stop doing these two things that my mom has shown me how to do so well.

Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t seem like you’re on the same page in life as everyone around you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Dream your big dreams, hope your big hopes, and let your heart lead you where it needs to be led.

And believe that you can be bold enough to make those hopes and dreams come true.

Let’s dance forever

I feel the need to address a serious problem in our society today: there’s not enough dancing.

And it needs to change–soon.

I love dancing. I never took dance, and I probably wouldn’t have been very successful, because I’m not very good at organized and structured dance. I prefer to make the moves up as I go. But dancing doesn’t have to look pretty to be beautiful–it simply needs to be natural.

I was on an elevator the other day with a mom and her young daughter (she looked maybe 4 or 5), and suddenly the girl burst into some spontaneous dancing when another woman’s phone began ringing. The mom looked at me and apologized before telling her little girl to stop busting those moves (though she didn’t use that wording). I told her there was no need to apologize and that the world needs more dancing. The little girl looked up at me and said, “Let’s dance forever!”

She’s got the right idea.

It was a really good song

I think a lot of people don’t dance much because of the fear of what people will think of them. But what does that matter? If everyone danced more, we wouldn’t have time to analyze everyone else’s dancing. Taylor Swift gets it, though. She frequently dances at awards shows to the live music, and people continue to ridicule her, and she continues not to care. You know why? Because it doesn’t matter.

I love the John Michael Montgomery song “Life’s a Dance,” because it’s such a great analogy.

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

Sometimes you lead; sometimes you follow

But don’t worry about what you don’t know

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

In life, you don’t always have structure, and you don’t always know what your next move is. Sometimes you really just have to move along to the beat–and you may look completely off-beat–without caring about what the world outside is thinking. You may look like a flailing monkey, but those might be the perfect moves that make you you. You may step on your partner’s toes when you’re trying to two-step, but nobody is perfect, and the people who care about you aren’t going to let your mistakes ruin a good song. Just dance.

Because dancing is BOLD.

Lee Ann Womack gets it, too, and she sang about it:

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance

Never settle for the path of least resistance

Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’

Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’

Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter

When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance


It’s easy to lean against the wall or stay in your chair and avoid the dance floor, but it takes courage to get out there and dance. And life needs more people choosing courage. Because you’re going to come across opportunities in life when you have to make choices that let you either do things that are BOLD or play it safe and choose not to risk anything. But some risks are simply worth taking.

Like dancing your heart out.

I hope the little girl from the elevator continues to dance when she hears cell phones ring and whenever else the opportunity presents itself. I hope her mom learns from her precious daughter and follows her lead. I hope more people take the chance and stop caring about their images and just dance, instead.

You just might find courage you never knew you had in so many areas of life if you’d just dance.

Let’s dance forever.

Not all tales are as old as time

I think Disney is often more profound than we give it credit for.

Because many childhood movies are chalked full of wisdom and life truths.

As I was watching Beauty and the Beast the other day, I realized something: sometimes we are all like a girl who wants “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and finds herself in a strange castle full of talking objects and a beast—and uncertain of anything that lies ahead.

Somewhere in the midst of my singing along to all of the songs, I couldn’t help but realize how much anxiety Belle was likely feeling once she realized the impact of her decision to step into eternal imprisonment in place of her father. And it struck me that these are the same feelings we have when we face situations that are completely unknown to us—because it’s kind of scary to throw yourself out there and simply hope for the best.

Venturing into the unknown

Belle took a huge risk in giving the Beast her word that she would live in his palace forever. She had no idea what it was like in there or what her fate would hold. But she did it. She boldly stepped forward, knowing that she was giving up a life of security and predictability. I mean, you are probably familiar with the opening number in the movie—nothing truly unexpected happens very often for Belle.

Until she makes a choice.

There are moments in life when you have to be like Belle and decide that you are going to enter something with no idea what the results will be or how drastically it could change your life. One minute you’re reading next to a fountain, and the next you’re having a conversation with an armoire. While this might not be the exact scenario for all of us, it’s quite comparable on some levels.

I remember the summer after my high school year when I decided to go to LA for a day. I really had no logical reasoning. I was watching Live with Regis and Kelly one morning, and the show always promoted CheapTickets.com. I had saved up some money from working and found myself on the website ready to buy a ticket. I figured it would be neat to go to New York or LA, but it was supposed to rain in New York the next few days, and I didn’t want my hair to have to endure that. I purchased a ticket for LA for the following day, had my brother drive me to the airport and flew to an unknown area with no plan.

When I arrived, I seriously had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I needed something different in my life—some type of new adventure. I ended up getting bored of the Hollywood area pretty quickly and walked to a place called Runyon Canyon Park. I went on a hike by myself and actually had a much more enjoyable time than I had expected once I landed from the plane. At first, everything was kind of intimidating—I mean, I had no transportation of my own, not a lot of money, no companions with me and a heart full of hope that didn’t want to be disappointed. But my time in the hills cleared my mind and gave me perspective as I sat at the top, looking down at a beautiful view and spending some time writing in my journal. It was just something I needed at the time.

The rest of the trip was pretty memorable: I had to short-change a cab driver, drank Gatorade from a can (which is still weird to me), slept in an airport and then had to see the face of my disappointed mom when I walked through the front door (oh, yeah, I hadn’t told my parents about my little day trip). It might have cost me a lot of money and only lasted for a short time, but I’m really glad I went on that escapade. I think it was a stepping stone in my life in learning to be more courageous and not always following such a predictable pattern.

I’m at a point in my life right now where I am really uncertain about a few things approaching in the days ahead. It’s kind of scary, but it’s also kind of exciting. I feel like I’m about to step from a place of comfort and familiarity into a land of the unknown. I feel kind of like Belle, minus the whole imprisonment and falling in love with a beast thing.

Life is full of chances to take, opportunities to seize, adventures to go on and people to love. But we have to be willing to take those leaps of faith every once in a while.

And you just might find something there that wasn’t there before.


You can actually learn from books

I think some of the most important things we learn in life are during childhood.

Thank you, Dr. Seuss.

One day last week, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I decided to go to Barnes & Noble. You see, when I was in college, I would often go pick up a book from the children’s section whenever I didn’t want to think about all of the tests I had or money I owed or whatever else was weighing on my shoulders. I would escape into the stories I heard a hundred times as a kid, because it would also help me escape to a time when I didn’t worry about things so much. Life was more carefree.

I think we could actually learn a lot from kids.

Last week when I returned to this tactic, I picked up Green Eggs and Ham, because I remember how my mom used to read it to my sister and me when we were little and how she would always remind me of this story when I didn’t want to eat certain foods (I’m kind of a picky eater). After I finished reading–it goes by so much faster when you’re not a little kid listening to your mom–I sat there and thought about it for a while. Do I give green eggs and ham a chance?

Now, no, you should not feel like you have to give into the peer pressure of the Sam-I-Am people in your life, but you shouldn’t always have the closed-off mindset of the stubborn guy who at first refuses to try the new dish. Every once in a while, it’s good to try something new.

Especially when it scares the crap out of you.

As I sat in the bookstore, two moments of my life popped into my head. The first was actually a collection of moments and occurred when I was in college at Texas A&M. For some reason, I refused to say the word “howdy.” Ever. If you aren’t familiar with the tradition, it’s just a thing almost every Aggie says, and I couldn’t do it. In fact, I called it the “H-word” and wouldn’t even say it when referring to others saying it. People would pass me, say “Howdy” to me, and I would simply reply with “Hi,” “Hello,” or “How’s it going?” Maybe if I had let myself say the word–even just once–I would have felt more immersed in the culture, stayed at that school, and actually enjoyed my college experience. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything. But I will never know, because I didn’t try something new. I insisted on being stubborn rather than bold.

Go for it

The second instance happened Saturday when I was reading by my pool. It’s technically “fall” (whatever that means), so the pool water temperature is actually really cold right now, but this particular day was warm enough to be poolside with a book. I was brave enough to put my feet in the pool (barely), but that was it. I vowed not to think about doing anything too crazy.

Until I thought about it.

It was getting really hot, and I actually hate sitting outside in the heat by a pool and not being in the water. But I don’t get in cold pools. I just don’t. I hate the cold–and I mean every letter of the word hate. But I thought back to Green Eggs and Ham, and I suddenly wanted to jump in the pool. So I did. (Well, sort of. I am shallow and didn’t want to get my hair wet, so I half-jumped, half-slid in there. Whatever. It counts.) I didn’t actually accomplish anything in this feat, except that I did–I did something I’ve always been afraid to do. And it felt pretty good, minus the numbness running through my body.

There are times when it’s fine to have your mind completely made up about something and not budge one bit. But then there are those moments when you have the chance to do something bold–something fearless–and give yourself an opportunity you may have never had if you had held back. Don’t let those pass you by. Jump in the cold water while saying, “And I will eat them in the rain!” (Or whatever your version of eating green eggs and ham looks like for you.)

Don’t be afraid to take advice from Dr. Seuss–he did pretty well for himself.