When you unashamedly live your best life

When you’re little, you think most heroes need capes and have special superpowers that give them abilities to save the world and whatnot or are people who have left significant marks in history.

At some point, though, you realize that heroes are actually often everyday people who don’t necessarily achieve monumental feats.

I’ve worked at my new job for a little more than two months now, and I truly love it. The work is incredibly interesting and challenges me in a good way, and my coworkers have already become like family to me, whether they like it or not.

Here’s a rock in that “garden.” Also, meet my new pink jellies. Hello, 80s.

I also really love the building where we work, particularly this sculpture garden right outside. I’m not really interested in artsy stuff, and there aren’t really many sculptures (they’re just rocks and triangle things), and it’s not an actual garden (it’s mainly concrete with a little man-made stream thing and some cacti), but it’s a cool area. I think it’s kind of famous, too, because there are often professional photo shoots (I saw some models there last week) and music videos going on below us as we work, and it seems to be a popular tourist attraction. I sometimes use my lunch breaks to sit on the cozy chairs and read because it’s a busy but peaceful area.

And it’s apparently also a great place to work on your tan.

I first saw Reesa (or maybe it’s Risa) a few weeks ago, and I immediately respected her. She was wearing a tank top and some black denim shorts—not exactly the attire of everyone else who works in the surrounding buildings—and she looked like she knew exactly what she was doing as she strode toward the cozy chairs from our neighboring building with big headphones on and a don’t-mess-with-me attitude written on her face.

I watched in fascination as she pulled one of the chairs out from under one of the umbrella-shaded areas directly into the middle of the sunshine. She sat down and stretched out, kicked off her shoes, closed her eyes, and blocked out everything and everyone around her. She was tanning in the middle of the day at work, and she didn’t give a rat’s a$* about what anyone thought about her.

I loved her.

I continued to see her do the same thing on a daily basis, sometimes even tanning in her dress (hiking it up a bit, of course), moving her tank sleeves completely off her shoulders, or eating peanut butter straight from the jar. She was living her best life, and other people’s opinion’s of her (and, trust me, there are plenty—people in both buildings watch her, seem shocked, and talk about her later) mean absolutely nothing.

One day last week, I decided that I needed to talk to her. I wanted her to know how much I admire her. I consider myself someone who does what she wants and doesn’t place much value on what people think of her, but this was an entirely new level—and I’m inspired.

I walked downstairs with my coworker who was going to get a soda from the cafe next door, and I veered off to go talk to this woman who seemed like she wanted to talk to zero people. She had her eyes closed and headphones on, was in her standard tank/shorts ensemble, and was clearly in “do not disturb” mode.

So, naturally, I tapped her on the arm.

I introduced myself and essentially told her that she is my hero, and we had a really nice conversation. I learned a lot about my new friend, and she had been having a bad day and was glad to have someone say something positive to her. I also learned that she never used to take lunch breaks—like, ever—and so her husband told her that she should spend some time out in the sun every day that she could during the summer, and she was taking him up on that.

Pick any song of hers to listen to, and your ears and heart will thank you.

We really don’t know anything about one another until we actually make efforts to get to know each other. I left that conversation feeling uplifted. Reesa gets it. We don’t have to try to impress other people, and sometimes we simply need to do what’s best for us, even if that means being judged by others. Honestly, who really cares what they think?

Years ago, Colbie Caillat came out with “Try” a song that is raw and honest and reminds us that we don’t have to see ourselves how we think others see us. It’s not about other people liking us—it’s about us liking ourselves for who we are. I remember playing this for some of my high school girls when I was a teacher, and I wish every human in the world would listen to this song and let the lyrics resound in their hearts. (P.S. I was able to meet Colbie on Saturday night when I was out with some friends, and she is just as beautiful in person and even more so on the inside.)

I hope that Reesa continues to get her sunshine every day, and I hope that she continues to care zero amount about what people think of her. I also hope that more people will live life like she does—boldly and with complete confidence in who she is and what she’s doing.

We should really try less to impress others and try more to love them.

What if we didn’t judge people?

Life isn’t really one big stage on which we’re performing on a daily basis.

So we don’t actually need to worry about the crowd’s perception so much.

I’m not a gymnast. Even though I tried to be way back in the day, I didn’t get very far—I was horrible. So, honestly, it comes as no surprise to me that no one has ever asked me to judge international gymnastics competitions. I mean, what expertise do I possess to be qualified to judge others in this sport? Zero.

It’s interesting, though, how quickly we’re able to judge other people in so many other areas of life. I was talking to my friend Bonnie one day last week about a mean comment someone had said to me about my outfit. I usually don’t care what people think about what I’m wearing, but it was one of those days when I didn’t need any extra negativity, and this person made me feel like I didn’t even belong at work that day.

And then Bonnie said something so true: “The world would be a better place if people would stop judging.”

Amen, sister.

You know what this sign doesn’t say? “Judge people.”

For many of us, as we get older, we tend to care less and less about what people think of us in some areas of our lives—we’ll go to the grocery store in pajamas, and we’ll say things out loud in public that might have embarrassed us 10 years ago. But, even as adults, every once in a while, other people can still make us feel small.

When I was teaching high school, I remember so many instances when I had to remind my students that they should feel comfortable in their own skin and not worry about what other people thought or said about them. I would argue that most high schoolers are pretty concerned with judgments others make about them, but I would also argue that the concern doesn’t always vanish when you’re older.

For the most part, I couldn’t care less about people judging me. Life’s too short to worry about stuff like that. It’s been more of a struggle, though, when it comes to guys I’m interested in—because obviously their opinions matter. But I don’t think they should to the extent that I sometimes think they should. I can recall many situation in which I’ve been to shy or quiet when I really should have just been me.

Let’s flash back to college. I was really good friends with a guy I had a crush on, and we spent a significant amount of time together. I was pretty comfortable around him most of the time, but there were other times when I felt I couldn’t completely be myself and make my dumb jokes and comments or even sing out loud in the car. That’s not a good thing, and I later realized that.

Thankfully, down the road I became more comfortable with other guys I met, and I performed Taylor Swift on a boat and unexpectedly sang the same song at a wedding reception, both in front of fellas I liked. But I sometimes still have moments when I freeze up out of fear of what a guy will think of me. Every once in a while, it may take me about 14 minutes to hit send on one text because I’m having anxiety about what homeboy will think. Note to self: It’s just a text.

People are always going to judge us. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but it’s a reality. We don’t have to let their opinions impact the way we live, though. We are the people we are for reasons, and we don’t need to change simply because of what others might think about us. If you want to sing Whitney or Britney at karaoke, please belt it. If you want to veer away from tradition when planning your wedding, go for it. If you want to believe that leggings are pants, believe it, and wear them with pride. If you want to put ketchup instead of mustard on your hot dog, slather away. If you really like the shirt that your friend said she’d never wear in public, for the love, buy the freaking shirt. If you are sitting at the airport and realize you forgot to put on deodorant, but the bathroom is too far away, and the deodorant is right in your bag and would be easier to put on right where you are, you do what you need to do, regardless of the looks you receive.

Just be you.

Bonnie is right: The world would absolutely be a better place if people would stop judging. But it would also be better if we stopped caring so much about those judgments. I know I’m going to remind myself more to be me all of the time, even when it comes to some guy who strikes my fancy. After all, he should accept me for who I am—just like others should accept you for the person you are. And, to be honest, the people who truly care about you won’t make you feel like you’re not good enough as you are.

Because love is better than that.

Love wins on the battlefield

As individuals, it seems we really like to share our opinions on a variety of topics.

But there are many times we should just pretend we have muzzles.

If you look around at the world and all of the things that take place in it on a daily basis, you’ll realize that really bad things happen. Some of those things are extremely huge and impact a lot of people. Some of those things are much smaller and might only hurt a handful of individuals. Whether big or small, we all face battles, and we all struggle.

So why are we making it harder on one another?

I read an article the other day that criticized the way Americans have shown support for the tragedy that occurred in France, because we aren’t constantly showing support for the bad things that happen elsewhere. Yes, there are many nations and places that need more support for what’s going on in their situations, but I don’t think coming together to extend love to others in need is something that should be chided. I think sometimes we are so quick to share our opinions—thanks in large part to the collective massive platform we have courtesy of social media outlets—that we overlook the underlying needs others have.

Hurting people don’t need opinions. Hurting people need love.

Then there was that whole ordeal with the Starbucks red cups that don’t have Christmas stuff all over them. Let’s be real here: most Christmas decorations don’t scream the message of Jesus. A cup isn’t going to show customers His love. It takes real people to do that. I think a lot of people probably got a bad perception of Christians in that “story,” and I also think that a lot of Christians forgot that it’s the job of a human—not a pretty cup—to love others.

People don’t always need opinions. People always need love.

Give love

I’m not perfect. None of us can ever claim to be. I say hurtful things to people and have to apologize later. I can’t always tame my tongue, and I make decisions that I am not always proud of. Being more loving to people on a much more consistent basis is something I’m working on. The truth is, life is hard. I find myself often facing mountains that I’m not sure how to climb. I find myself with a heart that was once hopeful but then became broken when those hopes weren’t fulfilled. I find myself hurting because of the way other people treated me. It’s in those times that I realize even more that I don’t want to hear people’s thoughts on what I should do or shouldn’t have done. Maybe all I really want is a hug or a heart to listen and just be there—because sometimes that’s how love shows up.

Hurting people don’t need opinions. Hurting people need love.

This world is filled with so many wonderful things, but it’s also filled with pain. We can’t go through life completely unscathed and without a bit of suffering. There will be times we hurt. We will face tragedies—maybe not on the scale of terrorism or mass destruction, but they will be moments that impact our lives and leave us in need. People and events will leave us with broken hearts. Those aren’t the times to post mean things on social media or write spiteful comments on news articles. Those are the times to show that Martin Luther King Jr. was spot on when he said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Hurting people need love. We ALL need love.

We aren’t going to see sunshine and happiness every single day of our lives. Unfortunately, we won’t have Pollyanna’s optimistic outlook in every situation. And we can’t always see the pain people are feeling, especially when we often lead people to believe that everything is peachy keen because of what we post on Facebook and Instagram. We need to remember that our words often have more power than we realize. Sometimes we know the storms people are going through, and likely more often than not, we have no idea. Regardless, the best decision is always simple: love.

It’s something we all need—and something we are all capable of giving.