Because you deserve to give yourself some grace

The great Taylor Swift said something to me (well, and the entire crowd at her concert in Pasadena) the other night that was a great reminder of something I needed to hear: Being vulnerable and real about who we are is a good thing.

For me, that means accepting my failures and not necessarily looking at all of them as failures.

If you know me or have read anything I’ve written on here, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I make a lot of mistakes. Sure, that’s true for many of us, but I feel like I mess up with a lot of silly things way more often than anyone should. Needless to say, I’m very flawed.

And apparently I’m not getting rid of that trend anytime soon.

I’ve had my RAV4 for almost nine years now, and I thought I knew what I was doing driving it. I mean, I used to have a bus license, and I’ve been driving by myself now for almost 18 years, so I was pretty sure I had it all down.

Sadly, I was mistaken.

It turns out that, for almost nine years, I wasn’t using the correct lights at night. I thought that if you clicked the lights two turns forward, you were using the brights. So I always just clicked the turner once forward. Sometimes my friends would make comments like “Are you sure your lights are on?” when they were with me in the car, but I assured them that they just looked dim but were actually on.

I was recently in a rental car and trying to figure out how to turn on the lights, so I pulled the manual out of the glove compartment, and it said something about turning the thing twice for normal lights and then pushing the lights lever forward to turn on the brights. When I turned on those lights, some lights that had been off in my brain for almost nine years finally turned on, and I had an epiphany: OMG, what if my car works the same way?

You probably already knew the answer to that one.

Sure enough, I tested it out the next time I was in my car, and then I checked my car’s own manual. Yep, I’d been driving at night without my actual lights FOR ALMOST NINE YEARS. To answer the question you might be wondering, I have no idea how I was never pulled over for this.

But I felt like such a fool.

I lost cornhole, but I got a nice sunset, so I guess you could say that’s a win for life.

Last Friday, I went to a bonfire with some friends, and four of us were in a pretty intense game of cornhole. If you don’t know this about me already, I should tell you that I’m rather competitive—and that might be an understatement. The game came down to a final toss that I had to throw. If I got the bag in the hole, we’d tie it up and move on to a tiebreaker. Anything less would result in a crushing defeat. There were already two bags on the board that were slightly blocking the hole, so that complicated my tactics. I got ready and focused mentally, and then I launched it into the air.

You know when the basketball leaves your hands, and you know it’s going in the hoop, and it’s such a beautiful feeling? Yeah, I had the opposite of that feeling. I botched it. We lost.

And I felt like such a failure.

I don’t know why I’m so hard on myself sometimes, but it’s something I’ve been trying to work on. I love people, and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better over the years about giving people grace and loving them in spite of their faults and mistakes, but it’s more of a struggle for me to show that same grace and love to myself. I don’t really care if other people think I’m flawed or weird or bad at something or whatever, but I have a lot of trouble when I feel like I’ve messed up big time and disappointed myself.

To be honest, I think that’s one of the big reasons why I’ve struggled so much in the past with feeling rejected by guys. I constantly wondered if there was something wrong with me that made me not appealing to them, and over time, that became more of a me thing than a them thing—if all of them weren’t interested, then that must mean there was something about me that was off or not enough (which is a lie I hope none of you let enter your head).

And that made me feel like a complete disappointment to myself.

What I’ve learned, though, is that my flaws are part of who I am. And your flaws are part of who you are. Sure, there are some real flaws that definitely need to be addressed and overcome, but many of the “flaws” we see in ourselves aren’t actually flaws to anyone but ourselves. I’m not a car expert. I’m not a cornhole champ. I’m not the girl who turns all of the heads and gets all of the guys.

But I’m me, and that’s good enough for me.

Are you hard on yourself, too? Or are you good at giving yourself grace?

When you do the scary things

We’re often capable of doing more than we think possible.

Especially when it involves the things that scare the ever-living daylight out of us.

For years, racing has been a huge part of my life. I love running, and there’s something about stepping on the starting line and then pushing myself past my limits for however many miles it is that thrills me and brings me joy. It had been more than a year since I toed that starting line, and the thought of doing so was actually pretty scary to me.

If you know some of my story, then you know that 2017 was a tough year for me. I had three kidney surgeries, and these were just toppings to all of the heartache and other stuff I had going on. Then there was that whole packing-up-my-entire-life-and-moving-across-the-country thing. I hadn’t raced since last Thanksgiving, and that race isn’t one I like to think about much because I was in such tremendous pain (thanks, kidneys).

My reaction after I realized I had just signed up for a race

But lately I’ve had the urge to race again, and even though I knew I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be in yet, I figured I’m going to have to start somewhere. Before I could talk myself out of it, I registered for a race and committed to at least trying to get a little ready for it.

Though I put in a few weeks of harder workouts than I’d done in what seemed like forever, I didn’t feel like I was completely ready to be out there in the racing scene just yet. I needed more time, especially after having strep recently. I started thinking of a number of excuses of why I wasn’t ready, including the surgeries, the strep, the concern of air quality (never an actual concern of mine), the fact that I wouldn’t have my family there to cheer for me and hold my stuff while I ran, I’m not familiar with the area and didn’t know the course well enough (even though I very rarely know a course unless I’ve run the race multiple times), I had a really busy Saturday and would be crunched for time (I logistically had plenty of time), my left contact was irritating me (really?), and so many other ridiculous reasons of why I should wait to try running against other people again.

But there was one that outweighed all of the others that I didn’t want to admit to myself: I was scared.

I was scared of failing. I was scared of not running fast. I was scared of not winning or even being one of the top contenders. I was scared of being a disappointment, even though I’d only really be disappointing myself.

The morning of the race, I almost talked myself out of it. Even after I drove to the race site and picked up my bib and T-shirt, I thought about just going home and running on my own—I wasn’t ready for this. But something within me whispered, “Be brave.” I told myself that I need to do the scary things sometimes because, in the end, they’ll make me stronger. I knew I’d regret walking away when an opportunity was right there in front of me.

I survived a bad race and still had a great adventure with my sweet friend Ashley.

I ran the race. I’m not going to lie—it was ugly. After .46 miles of running on an unexpected dirt trail, I wanted to stop, but I sang “the first mile’s the toughest,” a different rendition of Sheryl Crow’s lyrics “the first cut is the deepest,” and I kept going. It hurt. I am S-L-O-W. If I ever want to compete near the level where I used to be, I have a lot of work ahead of me.

You know what happened, though? I did it. I may not have done well, but I also didn’t regret anything. I got out there and gave it what I could, and then I went about my day without dwelling on it much more. I know that running isn’t everything, and the fact that I’m not currently at my fastest doesn’t mean I can’t find joy in other places on the very same day of a bad race.

We even found ways to take pics with the props without waiting in line.

I was able to have a great time a little bit later with my friend Ashley as we drove up to Redondo Beach to eat at the same diner featured in The O.C. and then visit a Taylor Swift pop-up shop near LA.

Life is filled with a lot of scary moments, and I think it’s important to do the scary things—those things that make us feel anxious and highly intimidated. Whether it’s racing or asking someone out or saying “I love you” or going on an adventure all by yourself or auditioning for a play or trying out for a team or performing in a talent show or learning to do something you’ve never done before or entering your work in an art show or going back to school or whatever it is, do the scary things.

Because, more times than not, they are absolutely worth it.

Because it’s OK to go on Ferris wheels by yourself

There are plenty of reminders in this world to remind a single gal that she doesn’t have a fella.

Like when you confirm that she only wants to buy one ticket for something.

Let’s be honest: I’m a hopeless romantic. It’s why I always wanted my first kiss to be in a gazebo (didn’t happen). It’s why “Love Story” has been my ringtone since 2008 and why my favorite song on TayTay’s new album is “New Year’s Day.” It’s why Christmas lights make me happy and why I’ve always wanted to go on one of those horse-drawn carriage rides through the streets of Highland Park in December when it’s cold enough weather to cuddle. It’s why I still want my dramatic “I love you” declaration in a parking lot in the pouring rain with a kiss to seal the deal. It’s why romcoms are my fave. It’s why fireworks make me smile.

And it’s why I love Ferris wheels.

I understand they can be fun rides for friends to enjoy together, but if you’re a fan of The O.C. (and probably other TV shows and movies), you get it. Whenever I see a Ferris wheel, I inevitably have to ride it—even when I’m flying solo. (I don’t think I’ve ever actually ridden a Ferris wheel with any guy ever, so keep your fingers crossed that it happens one day.)

There’s a Ferris wheel at the Irvine Spectrum Center, and my sister and I went on it together when we visited back in the summer. Over the weekend, I went to that area of town for the first time since I moved out here, and I couldn’t resist forking over $5 to hop in a little gondola and go in a few circles.

When I went to purchase my ticket, the following conversation ensued with the young buck behind the counter.

Me: Hi! Can I have a ticket for the Ferris wheel, please?
YB: Just one?
Me: (trying to ignore slightly snarky and sarcastic comments running through my head) Yes, only the one.

Ready for takeoff on my solo Ferris wheel ride

I know the kid didn’t mean anything mean by double-checking that I didn’t need more than one ticket, and maybe it’s protocol to verify there will not be more than one person in the gondola (I think each one seats five or six people), but it’s one more reminder that I do most things alone—even the ones that I really would prefer to do with the homeboy who falls in love with me (if that happens).

As I was on that Ferris wheel, when it stopped when I was at the top, I thought about how it’s important to do the things that matter to you and the things your heart knows you need to do, even if you end up doing them on your own. I may be single forever, but I don’t want that cause me to miss out on some really great adventures simply because I wasn’t willing to do them alone.

The day before my Ferris wheel ride, I had gone up to Los Angeles for a bit and then stopped at Venice Beach before I went home. I’ve always heard about that place but had never been, so I thought I’d see if all of the hype was legit. I’ll tell you one thing: It’s a great place for people watching. There were a lot of couples out there, and there were also a lot of people on their own who were doing their own things.

I went on a pretty long walk on the boardwalk and saw a variety of interesting happenings, including a couple of setups that appeared to be people shooting scenes for their future films (I didn’t recognize anyone, so maybe they are hopeful filmmakers). Did I get offered some marijuana by a guy with dreads sitting on the curb? Absolutely. Did some other guy standing near a tent encourage me to “come here for a second”? You bet. (Good news: I declined both offers.)

That little adventure out there was a good reminder of how different and unique we all are but also that we all need love. It was an adventure I needed.

When I was walking toward the Ferris wheel the following day, I saw a little boy wearing pants and no shirt who was running around and dancing in one of those splash fountain areas that many kids love. I was a little surprised because it was only in the 60s, and running through water seemed like a horrible idea to me, but he didn’t seem to mind. He looked like he was having the time of his life, and he was putting smiles on the faces of all of the people who walked by, including me.

That’s how I would like to live my life—so passionately enjoying those moments that make you forget about any of the bad things that might happen (like being super cold and wet) and simply dancing through the adventures.

Even if you’re dancing alone.

Because love is better

When I was a teacher, my school’s motto was one I really loved: “Work hard. Be nice.”

I wish people everywhere had that motto.

Since the very first time I heard the song “Tim McGraw” on the country radio station, I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan. Over the years, her honest lyrics have gotten me through crushes gone wrong, guys not noticing me, moments of humiliation, trusting my heart, surviving the worst broken heart I’ve ever experienced, and a number of other situations and emotions that really only her words in the form of songs could make me feel like someone else knows the exact same feelings I was going through at the time.

“Teardrops on My Guitar” was my mantra more than once and played over and over on those nights I was alone when everyone else was out on dates (so, basically every night). I belted “You Belong with Me” (which is also one of my favorite music videos of all time) in front of my mirror on multiple occasions and in my heart every single time I walked by the guy who had captured it. “Fearless” is the tune I sing with the hope of one day being able to experience it as a reality with my perfect person (I really do want to dance in a storm in my best dress in the middle of a parking lot). “Love Story” has been my ring tone since 2008 (no, I’m not kidding), and I’ve performed it so many places (including at multiple weddings and on a boat) that it’s borderline ridiculous. “Red” accurately describes so many emotions a person can feel about another person all at once, and I relate to it so well. “All Too Well” is a beautifully sad story that I feel every single girl can listen to and think about her first love and first broken heart and feel a true sense of comfort.

I could go on and on about every song she’s ever written and how those lyrics have mattered in big ways.

And then I heard her new single “Look What You Made Me Do,” and I saw the music video premier, and there was one emotion I felt that overshadowed any others I might have drawn from the lyrics: sadness.

The song in itself isn’t sorrowful—it’s more vindictive than anything. But what makes me so sad is the cause of it. I don’t know Taylor Swift. I’ve never met her and have no idea what she’s really like without the cameras on her. I like to believe that she’s just as kind and fun and goofy and human as she seems. I like to believe all of the stories I hear about how giving and caring she is to all of her fans. Yes, I’m a fan, so of course I’m going to defend her, but I’m also going to defend what’s right and the way that people should and should not be treated.

I’m about to make what’s probably one of the world’s worst analogies, but I’m going to go with it. When I was in the seventh grade, I went on a ski trip for a long weekend, and it had been gloomy weather back in the Dallas area while I was away. When I came back, though, my face was super red and looked sunburned because I had gotten a really bad case of windburn on the mountains. I was in the worst stage in life ever (i.e., middle school), and I already thought I was super unpretty, so having to go to school with a face the perfect shade of Christmas was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.

I really don’t care if someone calls me “tomato face” now, but it hurt in seventh grade.

Sure enough, my face didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, two of the more “popular” boys in my grade were in my science class, and they didn’t let me live it down. They kept asking me why my face was so red when there had been no sun in Dallas recently, and then they started calling me “tomato face.” Even after the windburn went away, the not-so-friendly nickname they gave me stuck, and that’s how they referred to me the rest of the year. I’ve mentioned before that I used to have really tough struggles with self-confidence when it came to guys—because I never thought I was pretty enough for them to like me—and being called “tomato face” all year by them sure didn’t help matters in that department much.

And this was merely commentary from two boys at one middle school, which is nothing compared to what celebrities experience, especially now with all of the access to social media. It’s so easy for people to insult others and make judgments, and I just don’t think it’s right, nor do I think it’s fair. I don’t care if that sounds whiny, but I’m so tired of people being so hateful. Haven’t we seen enough of that in life? I realize that people in the spotlight have to learn to deal with negative comments and the haters out there, but I don’t think that makes any form of hatred acceptable—especially when it makes a person feel like the woman she used to be is completely dead because of the reputation she’s been given.

I would hate for anyone to be called “tomato face” and feel hurt because of it, and I hate that so many worse things are said I about so many people all of the time. I saw it far too often when I taught high school, and it broke my heart every single time. I know we’re human and aren’t going to be nice every single second of our lives, and we’re certainly going to make mistakes, but I think it wouldn’t hurt if we all made more concerted efforts to care about other people and what our words and actions can do to them. And I know we’re all capable of it. I saw it every day when I taught high school—you can think whatever you want about teenagers, but some of them sure could teach a lot to adults out there. I saw them care for people. I saw them not let hate take over. I saw them love in big ways.

I don’t like that Taylor Swift feels the way she does, and I really don’t like that there are so many other individuals out there who often feel that way, too—whether they’re famous or not. I wish we could all feel like we’re not tomato faces. I wish that we could all know that it’s OK for us to be the people we are and not change because we feel judged. I wish we could all know something I told my students as often as I possibly could, because I fully believe it with all of my heart.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

Sometimes things work out

There are things in life we have to do and often dread having to do them.

Like moving.

I currently can’t think of many more frustrating tasks than moving. It’s just such a pain. You realize how much crap you have that you probably don’t even need, and there’s so much cleaning and manual labor involved, especially when you don’t hire other people to do all of the work for you.

Over the weekend, I moved back out to the city I missed too much during the past year, and the moving process isn’t any less annoying than it’s always been. I had been trying not to stress about it, but the closer it got, the more anxiety I felt. I was pretty worried we weren’t going to have enough people to help or that there wouldn’t be a good place for me to park the U-Haul or that I wouldn’t have my stuff packed in time—and a countless amount of other worries that I really shouldn’t have been stressing out about so much (especially since my move-in date was a week before my move-out date, so I still have some time).

Besides, life is going to work out as it should.

My mom picked me up Saturday to drive me to pick up the U-Haul, and driving that bad boy is a feat in itself. The whole no-rear-view-mirror idea is special. I had to park pretty far from my apartment and still felt slightly concerned about getting it in a convenient spot by the time my moving helpers showed up.

My dad had disassembled my bed frame while we were gone, and I realized I had enough time to make a trip out to my new place to get the keys and unload some clothes. It was an unexpected piece of goodness.

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Sitting in an empty apartment and thinking about how happy we are that we’re finished moving furniture.

My friend Maddie called me to let me know she had recruited her friend Chris to help us, which was great news because my brother was only able to help us load the truck and wouldn’t be loaning us his manpower at the new place, too. I had minor concerns about Maddie and me trying to move my sofa by ourselves—it’s kind of a beast. (I mean, we are, too, obviously, but still.) But we had Chris now, so everything worked out alright.

When I got back right before my crew arrived, I noticed two open parking spaces right in front of my building—I had no time to waste. I darted inside, grabbed the key to the U-Haul and took off sprinting toward the truck. I started it up and didn’t even give myself time to use a seat belt (sorry, laws) because I needed to lock down those spots. The truck fit perfectly, meaning yet one more thing worked out in my favor that day.

Then, the spot right in front of the truck (it’s parallel parking) became available, so I was able to move my car there. How was I getting so lucky?

We got everything loaded pretty quickly and headed for my new place. I parked illegally, and we began unloading. As I mentioned, my sofa is rather large, so some individuals voiced concern that it wouldn’t fit through the doors or on the elevator (God bless elevators when you’re moving), but I was confident (read: extremely hopeful) that it would fit—mainly because fitting was the only option. It’s the best napping sofa in the world, and I need it for survival. Ladies, you know when you’re trying to squeeze on a pair of jeans that have recently been washed and dried, and you barely get them on and zipped? That was this couch in the elevator. There was zero room left. It was a Nov. 26 day miracle.

Then there was the screwdriver I forgot. My dad was assembling my bed frame and asked me where the Phillips-head screwdriver was.

Sitting on the floor of my old apartment, of course.

He started going off about not being able to do anything without it, so I said I’d find one. Enter Lauren and Breece, two people who thought they were getting on the elevator to go downstairs and walk their dog. Instead, I asked them for a screwdriver, and they came to the rescue without even hesitating or caring that I hadn’t even properly introduced myself in all of the chaos. Lauren and Breece are clutch.

Moving is stressful. Life is stressful. But every once in a while, things actually work out even when you’re doubtful. No, they certainly don’t always turn out the way you want them to—hopes get dashed, hearts get broken, dreams get crushed, and tears get cried. But I have to believe those hurtful times aren’t wasted. There are reasons we must endure them, whatever those reasons may be. I don’t pretend to understand the way God works, but I do believe He’s good.

So pain can’t be without purpose.

Sometimes those moving moments when things work out when they could have gone terribly actually happen. Life isn’t always a Taylor Swift song of heartache—sometimes it’s “Shake It Off” or “Our Song.”

And it’s important to recognize those sweet moments because they remind you that you’re going to be alright.

This moment matters

Every once in a while, a reminder of something you need to hear will convict you in places you never expect.

Like at a Taylor Swift concert.

I’m 31, and I still attend Taylor Swift concerts. I have never missed a show when she’s been in town, and I won’t be starting now. As usual, her show on Saturday night was genius. The crowd sang along, danced along, and for two hours forgot about the world outside and simply lived in the moment alongside everyone else.

If you’ve ever been to a Taylor Swift concert, then you know she interacts with the crowd quite a bit. She gave a few motivational bits of advice, including “What’s even better than being cool is being happy.” I’ve never really been “cool,” so I appreciated that one. But it was something else she said that resonated with me even more. Right before she played an incredible medley of “Enchanted” and “Wildest Dreams,” she talked about remembering moments and finding happiness in moments when you’re in them and letting them be everything you imagined they would be.

And it hit me hard how much I don’t do that.

TSwizzle
I had a moment with Troy, and T-Swizzle sang “Love Story”

Life is busy—I know this; you know this; we all know this. But we should never be too busy to enjoy the moments we have. After all, we only get each moment once before it’s gone forever.

I can think of too many instances in which I’ve been present but not fully present. My mind starts thinking about all of the tasks I need to complete or something that’s causing me stress in some way, and I fail to truly enjoy what’s right in front of me. Just last week, I was hanging out with a friend and suddenly started thinking about how much laundry I needed to do. I wasn’t even anywhere near my washing machine, and it took away from me genuinely enjoying the precious time I was given. Friends don’t deserve laundry thoughts—they deserve fully shared moments.

I’ll never forget the moment of my first kiss. It was as if the world around me didn’t exist. I didn’t think of anything except for everything that was happening in that exact moment. That moment mattered, and I let myself enjoy every single thing about it. And now it’s a moment I will never forget.

Why can’t we let more moments be as special as a first kiss?

I know that not all moments are good. In fact, some moments we want to escape as quickly as possible. But many moments are meant to be appreciated. I realize it’s trite to say that “everything happens for a reason,” but there are quite a few overused expressions that are so common for a reason. I believe everything has a purpose for happening, and that includes both the good and the bad. While we may not necessarily enjoy the not-so-pleasant moments, we can’t simply run from them. We might not appreciate them until later, but we still need to be present in them when they happen.

They make the happy moments seem even that much more precious and enjoyable.

I have a sign in my room that says, “It’s the little moments that make life big.” As much as I believe that, I don’t think I always live it out. I want to be more diligent about enjoying the moments I’m given—after all, I will never get them back. It’s nice to forget about the things around you and simply lose yourself in the moment. Every moment matters.

Because you never know what moment could change your life forever.