Don’t ask why—just love people

I think we go through much of our lives with too many questions and not enough answers to satisfy us—especially when the question why is involved.

And now that’s our reality more than ever.

When I was a freshman in high school, I broke my right hand while playing basketball with some guys at the local YMCA. Basketball season was just about to start, and I had been busting my tail for months trying to get ready for it, so that was a pretty big disappointment for my teenage heart. On top of that, I’m right-handed.

I’ve always wanted to be ambidextrous, so I figured it would be a good thing for me to get lots of practice using my left hand for everything (the cast turned my right hand into a claw or paw of sorts, so it was essentially useless to me). I never realized how much I used both hands in so many normally easy tasks until I couldn’t use both of them, and those tasks became much more challenging.

Have you ever tried putting a fitted sheet on your bed while using only your non-dominant hand? Don’t. I remember getting extremely frustrated while trying to make that thing stay in place in each corner and feeling my body temperature actually rise in irritation when I couldn’t do it. My mom came in my room and offered to help, but I wouldn’t let her. Eventually I got it on there, but it took longer than it should have and required way too much effort.

Trying to dry my hair was also a joke. So was geometry. We had a test that required us to draw 3D shapes—something I could barely do with my dominate hand. I’ll never forget what my teacher said to me when I went up to her desk in the middle of the test to tell her that I was struggling with drawing shapes that looked anything like they were supposed to: “Life’s tough sometimes, huh? You’re just going to have to deal with it.”

And she was right. I may not have appreciated her words (or her tone) in the moment, but I went back to my desk and decided that I was still going to ace that test and show her that I could, indeed, deal with the tough things. I still think about that moment sometimes when I face difficult situations in life, so regardless of whether or not her words of inspiration would cause her to receive phone calls from upset parents if she said them to students in this day and age, they’ve had a lasting impact on me.

I currently only have pictures with my dog. Thanks, COVID.

We’re likely all going through some challenges right now, and they don’t necessarily look the same for everyone. Some people are struggling with job losses or too much time with family or too much time in solitude or frustrations of having to work virtually or fears of having to show up to work each day or losing loved ones or battling racism and injustices or actually contracting the coronavirus or anxieties about the unknowns of the future or a number of so many other things that have absolutely zilch to do with the pandemic. I get it. It’s rough out there right now.

I don’t mean this to sound insensitive by any means, but my geometry teacher was right—we simply have to deal with the tough stuff that life throws our way. It’s definitely not easy. There are way too many uncertainties, and it feels like we receive new or contradicting information almost daily. As a teacher, I hated the way that the school year had to end in May, and I didn’t think that things would still be this bad when it was time for us to start up again in the fall. Yet here we are, just a few weeks away from what is supposed to be the first day of school, and it seems like we’re only hearing that conditions are getting worse by the moment.

It’s easy to sit back and ask why. Why is all of this happening? Why isn’t it going away? Why can’t life be normal again? For the love, WHY?

But we don’t have the answers right now—and we may never.

It’s almost like we’re all trying to put fitted sheets on our beds while using only one hand or draw 3D geometric figures with a hand that can barely hold a pencil correctly. It’s frustrating and sometimes leaves us feeling hopeless and defeated. I truly believe that we’ll get it done, though.

I don’t have all of the answers for the things going on in our world right now. Actually, I really don’t have many answers for many things at all. What I do have is hope. What I do have is trust. What I do have is belief. Most importantly, what I do have—and what we all have—is love.

The other day, I was thinking about how far I’ve come. I don’t say that statement to be boastful, but I used to be a pansy when I was younger, so I consider where I am today a pretty big achievement. By pansy, I mean that I could barely utter a coherent sentence to a guy if I had a crush on him. I wrote about many of these situations in my book, Anything Matches If You Wear It with Confidence, so if you’ve read it, you know that they were all pretty ridiculous. I mean, I hid in a science classroom to avoid saying hi to a guy in the hallway, I couldn’t make eye contact with my crush in detention, I basically ran away when a guy told me that we should talk about “the big elephant in the room” when he found out that I had feelings for him, and the list goes on for longer than I would like to admit.

What I’ve learned, though, is that it’s often much better to be do the things that you’re afraid to do. It’s OK to be afraid, but it’s also OK to be brave in the face of your fears. There are a number of things to be afraid of out there, but there are also a number of times to be brave in those moments when you face them.

We’re all going through our own things, whether there’s a pandemic going on or not. We all have different timelines and responses and reactions and emotions and processes and strengths and weaknesses and personalities and dynamics and so many other things about us that make us who we are. We don’t know everyone’s mind and heart, so it’s probably a good idea that we should have a little grace with each other. It’s the right thing; it’s the brave thing.

When in doubt about what to do or say, just love people—it’s the only answer that makes sense anymore.

When you go for it

I love when football teams go for two-point conversions.

Sure, you could get the easy extra point, but why not get two the hard way, instead?

I went to Chicago over the weekend, where it was much colder than what I define as freezing in Texas—and the locals tried to tell me that it was a good thing I came when it had warmed up. The high was 35, people. Where’s the warm in that?

Chicago is cool but so very cold. At least I got to see sweet Elle!

When I went running Saturday morning, it was 30 degrees with some wet streets from the melted snow. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to pay a lot more attention to each step I took, because there were random patches of ice all over the place. I had come prepared with my ski mittens and warm clothes, so the run actually ended up being pretty nice.

As I was making my way back to my hotel, I ran past two bundled-up men walking to a bus stop, and one of them offered me a bit of encouragement: “Go for it, girl!” I really appreciate when people cheer each other on, whether it’s in sports or simply life in general, so I’m very grateful for that man.

And he reminded me how I want to continue to live.

I probably wouldn’t make a great head football coach. There’s a lot of strategy in the game that I would likely want to throw out the window when it came to fourth-down situations. I would want to go for it as often as possible, putting complete trust in my players to get the job done. (Although, according to this article, it looks like some coaches are embracing my beliefs.)

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m fascinated by public transportation. Like, I freaking love it. I became a user of the “L” train (which I’ve wanted to ride ever since I saw this classic Oscar-worthy movie) while I was in Chicago, and I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I felt pretty darn cool riding that thing. I felt so city. I can’t wait to go to New York City one day and spend some time on the subway.

I had downloaded an app that tracks the “L” and tells you when one of the trains will arrive at whatever station you specify. I was on my way to the station near my hotel and getting closer, but Google Maps said that I was six minutes away, while the train app was telling me that the next train would arrive in four minutes. No bueno. I had somewhere I needed to be and didn’t want to be late, but I felt a little defeated. But then I thought of the man I saw on my run.

Go for it, girl.

I heart Lake Michigan.

I started running, which was challenging in all of my layers and the boots I was wearing at the time. As you know, boots are made for walking, not running. I darted to a ticket kiosk as soon as I got to the station and quickly punched all of 14 thousand necessary buttons to charge my card. I grabbed the ticket and dashed through the gates toward the escalator, which just happened to be broken—OF COURSE IT WAS. I hustled up the stagnate metal steps, and just as I made it to the top, the trains doors were closing (it had arrived a minute early).

It was time for my movie moment.

I yelled “NOOOOOO, WAIT!!!!” as I ran toward the train, and I guess the driver must have seen me and felt a little gracious, because the doors suddenly opened as I made somewhat of a dramatic entrance and found an open seat. It was a nice moment that made me smile.

There are plenty of risks in life and too many setbacks and obstacles to count to go along with them, but there are often greater reasons to go after what you know in your heart you’re meant to go after.

It might be 4th and inches or 4th and long—sometimes you simple need to go for it. Submit the application. Send the text. Register for the race. Go talk to that cutie across the room. Book the trip. Sign up for the class. Address the issue. Audition for the production. Go on the date. Sing out loud. Say what’s on your heart. Dance. Ask the question. Tell your fears “no,” and do the thing you know you’re meant to do.

Go for it.

Trying to be a good role model for these angels

I spent far too many years being hesitant and thinking that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or whatever enough to take big risks. I can say with complete certainty that life is much more enjoyable when you’re confident enough to know that, even if things don’t pan out the way you hoped they would, at least you were brave enough to try.

Don’t let fear hold you back from anything. Look it straight in the face, and say “not today, not any day.” Then go for it, my friend. You’ll likely be glad you did.

And you just might find that you’re much more capable of doing the hard things than you ever imagined.

Because I’d rather not hesitate

Sports have taught me many important lessons in life, including one I needed to be reminded of recently: Don’t hesitate.

And it came courtesy of a pickle.

I went to the Rangers game on Sunday afternoon, and one of our players (I won’t throw him under the bus completely) frustrated me quite a bit early on in the game. He was on second base, and when his teammate crushed one deep into the outfield, he rounded third and started to head home. But then he changed his mind and decided to go back to third. At that point, though, it was too late, and he was in an actual pickle. (If you don’t know what a pickle is, The Sandlot is here to help. This is a cool one, too.

Thanks to sweet Cristy for the great tickets.

When our guy realized that he might not make it back to third without getting tagged, he went toward home again, then back to third. The third baseman had the ball, and the catcher had run too far when he made the throw, so home plate was wide open. The runner would have made it home if he had simply run full speed at that point, but he made a huge mistake.

He hesitated.

The third baseman was then easily able to catch him and tag him out as I let out a loud “NOOOOOO! Why didn’t you go?!?! You had it!” And then, as you’re supposed to do at ballgames, I turned to my friend Piper to make sure that she had seen what had just happened so that we could both agree that his hesitation ruined everything.

How much are we all like that baseball player? Rather than running as hard and as fast as we can at the things that we truly desire, we hesitate. We start to think and overthink, which can often be to our detriment. I mean, I get that we have brains for a reason, and we need to use them much of the time, but sometimes we just don’t—especially if those brains of ours are going to be crowded with fears and doubts and anxieties and lies and insecurities and assumptions and discouragement and all of the other negative factors that talk us out of doing the things we want and need to do.

Eating froyo and wondering where Starbucks guy is

After all, I hesitated with Starbucks cutie, and look where that got me. I went back one day recently, and he wasn’t there. IF YOU ARE OUT THERE READING THIS, CUTE GUY FROM STARBUCKS, LET’S GO EAT SOME FROYO TOGETHER. I’ve also hesitated way too many other times and am not proud of those moments, either. Michael Scott once quoted the great Wayne Gretzky in saying that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” which is true, but those shots you don’t take could also cost you more than simply missing out. For our Rangers friend, he was tagged out and didn’t get another chance to score a run. (I won’t blame the entire game on him, because we lost 12-4, but still. Come on, bud.)

And, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not hesitate and, instead, run like Phoebe with my whole heart.

You might have heard me mention before that I’m not a huge fan of dating apps, but I am on them because it seems like there aren’t many people meeting each other many other ways these days. And some guys at my pool last weekend were living proof. A few of them were sitting on the layout chairs beside the pool, and I could tell that one of them was swiping left and right, and he wasn’t looking up from his phone at all. Then I looked at the pool full of half-naked girls without guys with them and then back to the fellas. It made no sense. There was an actual pool of girls in real life, and they weren’t even trying to talk to them.

I had overheard enough of their conversations to know that none of them seemed to be in a serious relationship (the term “one and done” was used at one point when one of them mentioned a girl he had gone out with recently), and maybe it was simply that they weren’t attracted to the girls in the pool, but it was a little odd to me that they weren’t talking to any of them. I know that I don’t live in the movies or TV shows, but there would definitely be some guys hitting on these girls in Hollywood productions. I have eyes that work—there were plenty of gorgeous girls there that day.

I never hesitate to get bright pink nail polish.

Although dating apps can be very beneficial and have sparked some lifelong relationships, they can also allow people to get so comfortable meeting people via apps that they hesitate in in-person situations. And I’m sure that many people feel like they’re in quite the pickles: Do they approach people they see and are interested in, or do they solely rely on meeting people online, because that’s where everyone seems to meet these days? To those of you who met in high school or college or through friends or on a plane or at Starbucks or in the produce section or at work or at a park or somewhere else that probably belongs in a romcom, bless you. I don’t mean to be whiny, but it’s rough out there.

I hope that you don’t hesitate and, instead, go full stride toward home plate when you get caught in a pickle of your own. Life shouldn’t always involve time for “logic” and thinking—sometimes we simply need to leave all fears and doubts behind and follow our hearts.

After all, we were always meant to be brave.

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.

Jumping straight into the flip

Great moments can happen when you least expect them.

Like when you’re in a harness and jumping on a trampoline.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world—some of it closer to home than we might prefer—and it makes you realize how real life is.

And how precious it is.

I also broke the rules and rode a miniature pony. It was not a happy camper.

Our company had a fun family event over the weekend, and there were a lot of activities available for kids and adults alike. One of those was a trampoline contraption thing that you were harnessed into and then could jump up and down as high as you could go, and you could also attempt flips and whatnot if you wanted. I decided to try this one out, and I really wanted to try the flip thing. After I started bouncing really high, though, I wasn’t so sure the flip sounded like a good idea. It seemed scary. The guy running the contraption assured me it was safe, but I didn’t know him and wasn’t sure how trustworthy he was.

He wasn’t even jumping.

After a little while, I sort of tried to flip backward, but it was more difficult than I expected—probably because it was only a halfhearted attempt. And then I realized something: I’m going to regret it if I walk away from this trampoline without doing the freaking flip. So that was it. My mind was made up, and I was going to flip. I flung myself backward, and that first attempt nearly ended in a disaster. I didn’t go quickly enough, and I almost landed on my head or face on the trampoline. The second attempt was much better (at least I think it was), and the flip was complete.

And I wasn’t scared anymore.

I know it was a pretty small feat, but it was also a reminder that sometimes you simply have to jump and go all in when you do. You can’t do the halfhearted thing if you want what you really want to be a reality. Otherwise, you’ll be jumping up and down where it feels completely safe forever.

But safe isn’t always good—there has to be risk every now and then.

If you’ve watched anything in the news lately, you’ve probably been reminded that way too many unexpected things happen in this world, and you only get one life. Why waste it not doing the things you know you need to do simply because a little fear gets in the way? I’m not always brave. I wish I were, but I definitely have moments when I’m a complete pansy. There are people out there who are brave every single day, and it shows in the way they treat people—like those who willingly put themselves in the face of danger to protect others. To me, that’s one way to live out love.

That’s jumping straight into the flip.

It would be great if Pollyanna’s vision of never-ending gratefulness and people genuinely loving one another all the time were reality, but it’s not. Life is rough sometimes, and that thankfulness isn’t always there. And that love isn’t always there. There’s pain and loneliness and fear and anxiety and heartache and tears and anger and sadness and guilt—and so many other things that keep us from having constant smiles on our faces.

But those things shouldn’t stop us from trying.

In the movie Center Stage, Jody has more than one moment when she fears she isn’t good enough for the dance academy and that she might not make it as a dancer. When she attends a class in the city away from the academy, one of the best bits of advice the instructor gave the class was simple: “Forget about the steps—just dance the s*** out of it!”

Because doing so is jumping straight into the flip.

Because you can only run for so long

That whole “fight or flight” instinct comes over us in many instances, and sometimes it’s more sensible to hightail it out of there.

But many more times, it’s better to stay and fight.

I love running. A lot. I know it’s an activity many people dislike, and it’s often used as a form of punishment in other sports, but somewhere along the way, it turned into one of my favorite things to do.

But I’ve learned that running can’t be the answer for everything in life.

shetland pony
I once ran away from a horse, but this is a Shetland pony. (By the way, you’re welcome, LL Cool J.)

I think running away is a tactic many of us use in situations we don’t want to face. My years in college were not always my favorite times in life, and I started running away from a lot—especially from fears of the unknown. When various things started to shake up my world, I simply left. When Texas A&M felt overwhelming and threw me multiple rejections from the student organizations I had applied for, I thought I had made a bad decision in allowing a coin flip to decide where I went to college, and I ran away. When I was back at A&M (yes, for the second time), and I found out my major was being discontinued (and my class would be the last graduating class) and that the structure of the program was going to be modified, I panicked and thought I was in the wrong place completely, and so I ran away—again. I ran away from SMU when I thought I was missing out on going to school with my sister at TCU. I ran away from TCU when I realized it wasn’t everything I thought it would be and experienced the worst semester of my entire life.

I spent four years never feeling like I fully belonged anywhere simply because I kept running away.

I used to run away from my fear of rejection, as well. A middle school dance left me scarred and certain that guys don’t like me, and so I always tried to hide my feelings and crushes after that point. When I was a freshman in high school, I was walking through the halls one day and saw a guy I had a crush on walking the opposite direction. We were the only two in the hallway, and rather than simply passing by him and saying hello, I dodged into the nearest classroom—which was a science class full of seniors—in order to avoid that situation. I ran away from what I thought would be a sure future rejection.

More recently, I ran away from the fear of anxiety. I’ve mentioned before that I had a gun pulled on me a little more than a year ago. For months after it happened, I was pretty afraid every morning when I went running and often had to resort to running on the treadmill because of intense anxiety that overcame me some mornings. I had literally run away from the gunman, but then I thought I had to run away from a city I love. While I definitely needed a safer place to live, I don’t think running away completely was the answer.

Because running away doesn’t always mean you’ve escaped what you’re running from in the first place.

In some areas of my life, I’ve gotten a lot better about facing what I need to face rather than running away. I’m not the girl who would hide in a science classroom anymore. I’ve put myself in situations that came with chances of rejection and gotten rejected—and I guess I survived. But I think there are certainly many areas that I still need to work on, especially when it comes to things that have the possibility of failure.

I think the only person who can communicate this more clearly is the beautiful Matthew McConaughey in the closing scene of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Andie is trying to peace out of town, but Ben won’t let her and accuses her of running away. Please watch this memorable scene with me. Perhaps sometimes when we are running away from things we really shouldn’t be running away from, we simply need to ask ourselves, “Where are you going?”

Or if you want to throw it back to the Hoobastank days, you could ask, “Why are you running away?”

Running will only take you so far. Are there things you should legitimately run from in life? Absolutely. But oftentimes we’re just running to try to get away from situations we ultimately need to face.

If only we all had our own Matthew McConaugheys to call our bluffs.

Swing for the fences

I think sometimes we need to resort back to acting like little kids on the T-ball field.

Because they sure know the basics of swinging a bat.

If you don’t practice, you don’t play.

I went to my friend Mandy’s son’s T-ball game Sunday afternoon, and it might have been one of the most precious things to watch. Like, ever. It’s definitely entertaining—that’s for sure. There’s a bunch of mass chaos involved and kids not really knowing where they’re going or what to do with the ball when it comes to them, but it’s also a game full of opportunity.

Because no matter what, everyone swings.

And I think that’s what we often forget about in life. We have all of these chances to swing at the opportunities we’re given, and we sometimes simply don’t take them. Sure, as you get older, the game is a little different, and you don’t always have a stand with a ball just sitting on it for you to hit, but you still have the pitches coming your way. As I was watching the game, I started thinking about so many different times in life when I just stood there with a bat in my hands and didn’t even muster up the slightest swing at all.

And most of those non-swings were because of fear.

We chatted a bit after the game, and I mentioned a test I’m studying for and how the material is nothing that comes easily to me. I compare it to trying to understand Sanskrit: You put that language in front of me, and I’m going to stare at it with a look like Joey from Friends after pretty much anything intelligent that’s said—with outright emotionally painful confusion. Part of me has thought about continuing to study for the next few months and then not take the test. I know it sounds silly, but I’m more confident that I will fail it than I am that I will pass it. That’s what I did in high school with AP economics. I took the class all year long and then didn’t even take the AP exam at the end of the year, mainly out of fear of failing it. I wasn’t willing to swing the bat at the risk of striking out.

I played softball when I was younger (and T-ball, but I honestly don’t remember much about it), and I played on a co-ed team with some of my coworkers during one of my first years of teaching. Getting up to bat is a nerve-racking feat. I mean, all eyes are on you, and your teammates are counting on you to do something good for the team. You don’t know what to expect from each pitch, and you have to make a quick decision on whether or not you’re going to swing and go for a hit or let the ball pass you by. If you swing, you could hit a line drive that brings in an RBI and puts you on base, or you could send it soaring over the heads of the outfielders and notch yourself a homer. Or, those same hits could end up getting you thrown out at first base or out because the outfielder actually caught it.

Or, even worse, you could swing and miss completely.

But isn’t it worth the risk, even if you do strike out? Wouldn’t it be better to go down swinging than to never have given it a shot? I think Fall Out Boy would say it is. So I guess I’ll take that test because, well, why not?

After all, as the Babe (and Hilary Duff) once said, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Another reason to dislike jury duty

I’m not always as tough as I’d like to be.

And I don’t like to admit that.

Last week I had jury duty (no, not on the same day as G-Dub), and it was a day I would like to forget. Sure, most people aren’t huge fans of getting summoned, but it turned into an experience I was not expecting.

After we watched some thrilling video explaining a little bit about our civic responsibility and the jury duty process, my number got called to go be part of the voir dire for a case. I went with the herd upstairs and waited until the bailiff came to assign us our specific numbers. I was 27, which gave me a corner seat in the back row. As much as I’d love to drop the “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” line, I kind of preferred it that day—and it later turned out to be a good thing I was there.

Waiting for civic fun

The case involved a car incident from a few years ago, and a couple was trying to get money from the defendant. The prosecuting attorney did his little spiel and asked us questions, making notes on his legal pad. He reminded me of someone I used to know (and not in a good way), so I was very happy when he was finished talking. I shouldn’t have been so excited, though.

The defense attorney stepped up for her turn, and not long into her talking, she said something I wasn’t ready for. She mentioned the intersection where the car incident occurred, and it was the exact same two cross streets where a rather traumatic experience happened to me. Of all of the places in the entire metroplex, WHY THERE?? I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a panic attack of the magnitude of the one that ensued. I stopped breathing temporarily, my heart was beating faster than I felt I could handle, and I had no idea where I was. My mind flashed back to that dark morning on that empty street, and all I could hear was the forceful voice of the man holding the gun. All I could see was darkness and him standing there with his weapon in his hand, ready to do whatever he wanted. All I could feel was the need to run as fast as humanly possible away from this unknown man who had followed me. And all I could do was pray.

After a few moments, I finally came back to reality. As I said, it’s good I was in that corner, as it allowed me not to cause a scene with my unexpected overwhelming fear. I didn’t hear a word the defense attorney for the rest of the time. Finally, everyone stood up because the judge had given us a break so they could decide who the 12 jurors would be. I stayed back to talk to the judge, and obviously I was not chosen for the case.

I feel kind of wimpy that this thing that happened to me six months ago is able to haunt me so much. Maybe some people think it’s ridiculous because nothing actually happened. Maybe they have the opinion that the cop did that it isn’t a big deal because the guy didn’t shoot at me. For me, that’s not the scary part. I think I’m more afraid of what could have actually happened. If I had stopped running, what would he have done? Would I be here right now? Would I be scarred for life? I know it’s not good to live in the mindset of “what if,” but what frightens me the most is that he is still out there, and there are still so many individuals out there looking to take advantage of others. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m terrified of rape.

And it’s a crime that is far too often overlooked.

Perhaps it is ridiculous that I still can’t even drive down that street or that I get anxiety when I unexpectedly hear the intersection where he stood and yelled at me. But there are things in life that affect us all in different ways, and this one is apparently taking me longer to get over than I would like.

I don’t think it’s wrong to be afraid—but I also don’t think it’s good to live life in fear. At some point, I will have to go on that street again. At some point, I will have to stop panicking when I hear the street names. At some point, I will have to be brave enough to sit through a full day of jury duty.

Every day is a new day to walk away from pain. Every day is a new day to become stronger. Every day is a new day to be brave.

And every day is a new day to celebrate the fact that you have a new day.

When your hat can’t protect you

Jurassic Park was on TV over the weekend, and this movie always makes me think one thing: my hot pink hat.

Well, that and Velociraptors.

I was about to go into third grade when this movie came to theaters. Needless to say, giant dinosaurs ruthlessly tearing people to shreds somewhat frightened me. Even though I knew the movie wasn’t actually real, I was convinced T-Rex was going to rip through my ceiling to eat me or that there would be a Velociraptor waiting for me around every corner. Every single time I saw a cup of water on a table, I waited for the moment to see the water move, announcing that the forceful steps on the T-Rex were nearing.

My mom’s best friend had taken my sister and me to see the movie. My sister had just finished kindergarten, so I don’t know if it was really a good idea to take her to this one, but times were different in the 90s. Maybe it toughened her up. My mom’s friend Julie frequently got my sister and me cute matching presents, and so we were both wearing some bedazzled hats she crafted especially for us. My sister’s was purple, and mine was a bright pink. I can’t accurately describe how cool they made us look, but just know that they were so great that we obviously had to wear them to the movie hat

We had no idea how valuable they would be that day.

Julie realized pretty quickly into the movie that there were some parts that probably weren’t so ideal for two little girls to see. She made use of those hats by using them to cover our eyes on the parts she thought would scare us most. I kept trying to sneak peeks just to try to be brave, but in all honesty I was pretty grateful she was shielding my eyes from some of it. After all, this movie was a lot more intense than The Land Before Time.

When Jurassic Park came on over the weekend, I was a bit nervous watching it without my pink hat. You definitely notice things when you watch movies or television shows as an adult that you somehow missed when you were a kid. Like a shirtless Jeff Goldblum lying in a model-like pose when they’re back at the base and discussing their next steps. Or just how close T-Rex came to killing the kids in the Jeep. Or how easily unimportant characters die.

There are moments in life when I wish I had a hat to cover my eyes and protect me from reality—the crimes, the hatred, the apathy people have toward other people’s lives and emotions. I often want to be shielded from even the smaller things—the heartbreak, the rejection, the missed opportunities. Let’s face it: life is challenging, and it can be pretty scary at times. But, unlike a little kid in a dark movie theater, we can’t always cover our eyes to make it all go away. It’s real, and it’s still there.

Somewhere down the road, I stopped living in fear of dinosaurs appearing out of nowhere to kill me. I realized that it makes no sense to live life in fear, because that means you’re not fully living. If a Velociraptor shows up in your life, you’re simply going to have to react in the moment, but you can’t fret about whether or not it’s actually going to happen. I can picture the young girl in Jurassic Park and the look of fear that lived in her eyes for most of the movie. I don’t want that.

One thing I didn’t know back in my dinosaur-fearing days is that I never round any corner alone—I always have Someone who is more powerful than T-Rex and a Velociraptor combined. And that’s pretty comforting.

It’s actually better than any hot pink hat I’ll ever have.

And that’s saying a lot.

Sometimes you can’t read ahead

As one might expect, I’ve changed a lot over the years.

But especially in the way I read books.

For the longest time, I used to read the last page of a book before even beginning it. I know that’s very frowned upon by many people, but I just couldn’t help it. I wanted to know how things would end before I invested so much time and emotional energy into what I was reading. I wanted to be assured that I would get a happy ending.

I’ve gotten a lot better in recent years, especially when I became hooked on Michael Connelly books starring my main man, Harry Bosch. For those who don’t know, Harry Bosch is a total BA who can solve any case, and he always manages to escape near-death situations and come out the victor. Even though I’m normally not a huge fan of surprises, something about these books made me want to find out each piece of information right alongside Bosch and not spoil the ending. It’s still difficult at times, though, because I really want to know how things are going to pan out.

And this makes life quite a challenge.

The unknown

I don’t exactly have the option of flipping to the last page of my book and finding out what’s going to happen. I mean, I can’t even turn to the next chapter, and that can be very frustrating at times. Like right now. I’ve been teaching high school for seven years now (I still can’t believe it’s been that long), but I’ve known since the end of last year that this would be my final year teaching. About a month ago, I turned in my resignation letter, which means this: Things just got real.

I’m not quite sure what I’m doing for my next step. I know what my ultimate goals are, but I also know that there is a transition period that has to occur before I get there. So I’m in this weird and awkward stage of life in which I feel constant chaos running through my mind. I keep wanting to flip the pages ahead, but I can’t. It’s a bit frightening, to be honest.

A lot of people have told me just to keep praying and trust that God will work it all out. I know these things–it’s just so much easier to say them than actually to live them out. But I have to take comfort in something that happened to me almost three months ago, when the Lord showed me just how BIG He truly is. I had a gun pulled on me, and I remember that moment far more often than I ever want to. I remember running away with all of the speed I could muster, the whole time wondering if I were about to know what it felt like to have a bullet in my back–a feeling I certainly didn’t want to experience. And I remember praying in that moment and hearing the Lord whisper, “Just keep running. I’ve got you covered.

Sometimes when I’m unnecessarily worrying about my future, that moment pops into my mind, and I hear that reassurance again: Just keep running. I’ve got you covered. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me that morning–if that guy was going to shoot me or catch up to me and rape me. All I knew was that God was with me. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in life–I quit my job, because I feel like I’m being called elsewhere, yet I am unsure of what the next step is. But I do know that God is with me. He’s still got me covered.

I still wake up some mornings and have to run on the treadmill because of the fear that overtakes me from what happened that morning. But I am not going to quit running because of that experience. I definitely have days when I start to panic about the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing after this school year ends. But I’m not going to give up just because of the uncertainties and not knowing what’s on later pages in my story. I might have to take some alternative paths than I thought I would and hop on a treadmill or two, but I know I’ll get to where I need to be.

It’s really a good thing we don’t know what’s going to happen to us in the future, because that might change the way we live our lives. There’s a certain beauty in the unknown. For me, that means living a life of trust in Someone other than me–Lord knows I would completely screw things up. But His plans are bigger, and He has the power to do so much more than I could ever imagine. That’s scary, but it’s scary in a good way. It’s like running as fast as you can on a wing and a prayer that the assurance that you’re covered really is true.

And, without turning a single page ahead, I believe it’s completely true.