I'm not a neat person. I've gotten better over the years (throwback to the days where I used to just shove anything and everything into my dresser drawers as a kid--sorry Dad) but if we're being honest, I'm still not the type to make my bed every day. Don't get me wrong, I've read all of those articles about how helpful it is to make your bed every morning, but it's just not gonna happen. When it comes to tidiness and organization, everything in my life is pretty much lined up to a T (seriously, just take a look at my planner for the past week). But my bedroom is like that part of my brain that doesn't stop running around and throwing things everywhere and making a mess. My friends think it's strange. I'm the roommate who will vacuum the house and clean the bathroom, but if you want to borrow a shirt, I might have to look around for it for a minute because it's probably not hanging up neatly in my closet.
I'm a strong believer that you need to have a little bit of a mess in your life. There's something about a mess that makes me feel more expressive, unique, and just more like myself. Aside from my messy bedroom, there's one place where I regularly make a mess and I relish in it: the pottery studio. Putting it simply, throwing pots is kind of just like playing with mud on a spinning wheel, splattering it everywhere and trying to create something new out of it. It's a process, and it's a really messy one. When I'm done throwing, dark clay covers my hands and forearms and stains my old jeans and t-shirts. But the end result is usually something pretty great.
You start off with a block of clay, and begin patting it into a ball-like shape to throw on the wheel. Your hands are already stained brown, and then you make it even messier by adding water to the clay and beginning to center it on the wheel. Slowly, this ball of dirt forms into a smooth, moldable, centered being on the wheel. I used to laugh when my pottery teacher at the Chapel Hill Community Clay Studio would say things like, "Let the clay become whatever vessel it wants to be," thinking...."Uh, what? Dude, I just want to make a coffee mug." But it's 100% true. The clay has a mind of its own, and sometimes the messier it gets on the wheel, the more unique and fun it becomes.
Messiness is a process--a beautiful one. How difficult is it to have every aspect of your life 100% together every single moment? I've tried, and I'm sure you have. It's exhausting. The messiness of my bedroom? I'm willing to admit that it might just be because I'm lazy and I'd much rather curl up with a good book than put my clothes away. But I think it's really important to let yourself go sometimes. Make a mess every now and then, and appreciate what comes out of it.
As many of you know, this week brought with it a huge rivalry game between UNC and Duke Men's basketball. I'm not here to talk about the rivalry, the tragic loss, or how much I love my team. I'm here to talk about the phenomenon that is the student ticket lottery. When I received that fateful email stating that I had gotten a UNC v. Duke ticket, I was thrilled. I was phase three (which means that I would most certainly be in the upper level, as I was in the third section of students to enter the Dean Dome), but I didn't care. I was going to be there. Shortly after this, FaceBook lit up with posts offering money, favors, and everything in between for a better ticket. At first, I thought, "This is dumb. Why can't these people just be happy that they're going to the game, even if they're going to be in the last group of students to enter?" But after a day or two, I got sucked in. I scoured the student-run FaceBook groups hoping to be the first to respond to someone posting that they were selling or trading a ticket better than mine. I started to lose appreciation for the fact that I was going to be at arguably one of the biggest college basketball games of the season all because I wanted a better seat.
This is just one example of a phenomenon that I've noticed lately that I'm going to call "can't-be-happy-with-what-we-have-itis." It's sweeping the nation, especially among my generation. We seem to have lost the ability to cherish what we have because we're too busy thinking about what we don't have, or what we want to have. This happens on all levels and to everyone--it's not just college kids. Are we spoiled? Yes, but we don't seem to recognize it. So what's the solution here? We could go off on a big tirade about the dangers of capitalism and greed and all of that, but I think there's something more simple that we can do on a daily basis to recognize the positive aspects of our lives that can so easily slip away. It's called mindfulness.
My first introduction to mindfulness came from a friend who I spoke with often about anxiety. I've always been an anxious person, and over thinker, and a snowballer (I'll start with one small scenario and then snowball all the way down the hill to turn it into something huge and terrible). She taught me that mindfulness is about recognizing those thoughts, accepting them as they are without judgment, and letting them pass through the mind without letting them take hold and do the damage that they so often can. I'm not an expert, but I've been working on mindfulness for about two years now, and it's made a really big difference in my life.
Mindfulness often comes with the idea of meditation, which usually instantly freaks people out and makes them bring out their "anti-hippie" pepper spray to fend off the weirdness. Let me just say, I was a doubter for a LONG time. My mom would suggest it, I would roll my eyes, and I'd go right back to my anxious thought patterns that did me no good. This all started to change when I read a book by Dan B. Harris called 10% Happier. One of my favorite parts of this book was when Harris discovers the utility of the phrase, "Is this useful?" It's such a simple thought, but it has so much power. Stopping to consider, "Is this useful?" certainly isn't easy, but when you can do it, you start to realize the nasty tricks that our minds can sometimes play on us.
To continue my journey with mindfulness, I downloaded Harris's app, 10% Happier, with the awesome subtitle, "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics." Through guided mediations and discussions, Harris and Joseph Goldstein (who I would define as a meditation pro, although I'm sure he would disagree) help you start on the journey to mindfulness, just five minutes and then ten minutes at a time. I've stuck with it for a couple of months now, and although on some days I forget, I've found that it's made a big difference in my day. Starting off the day with meditation makes me aware of the anxious thoughts in my mind, and allows me to notice them, accept them, and try to move past them.
The biggest benefit of mindfulness and meditation is that, at least in my experience, it makes you notice the small positive things that happen on a day to day basis. Obviously it's not perfect--this week, I still wanted better basketball tickets--but when I'm having a bad day, I find that I'm able to notice how happy I am thanks to the smaller things like the running into a friend unexpectedly in between classes or seeing a particularly beautiful autumn day when the leaves are changing to orange and red in the quad. If you've never given meditation a try, I strongly encourage it. It's going to feel weird, uncomfortable, and quite possibly useless at first, but it's not. Give it a go and hopefully, with some time and practice, you'll see it for all it's worth.
You know how there are those songs that you listen to and they put you in absolute trance and you can't do anything but listen? I call them my music coma songs. Here's one of them.
The summer before my junior year of high school, I spent three weeks living in the Alaskan wilderness. I backpacked over 120 miles through the Talkeetna Mountain Range, sea kayaked through Prince William Sound, and ate a lot of peanut butter and granola bars. Although tough and arguably kinda smelly (I also didn't shower for three weeks) I still think that I'll find it hard to top those three weeks of my life.
Sea-kayaking through ice, otters, and seals
What I loved the most about my time in Alaska was the feeling that I woke up each day with a distinct sense of purpose. My to-do list wasn't complicated, but it was there: get water to boil for breakfast, hike 10 miles, write in my journal, explore each new campsite...the list went on. I was confident in everything that I was doing. There were no distractions from cell phones ringing or buzzing with each latest call and text--it was me and 11 other teenagers my age and 2 adult leaders (who were less like adults and more like super cool older friends you always wanted to hang out with) and nature (which sometimes sounds like a scary moose waiting outside your tent to kill you but is usually just a flap on the tent hitting a tent pole in the wind). I spent only three weeks with those people, but I think I know them better than a lot of the people I've known for years.
But anyways, let me get to the real juice of the story: the time we got lost backpacking and ended up on the top of a mountain covered in snow and ice at around 2:00 in the morning in the Alaskan wilderness. The day started off absolutely great. For the first time in 10 days, we woke up to find that it wasn't raining and it was actually sunny. After 10 days of being soaking wet and getting into a wet tent with a wet sleeping bag in wet socks, we thought our luck was finally changing. We thought that the day would be an easy one, so we took our time eating breakfast and packing up. We hiked about 7 miles, enjoying the beautiful view of mountains all around us, lush green grasses, and wildflowers of all colors. We even saw a herd of caribou running through a valley--could it get any more picturesque?
Enjoying the view before things went south
Unfortunately, that lovely day quickly turned terrible when we realized we had walked about 5 miles in the wrong direction. It was starting to get late in the day, and we were supposed to arrive at a campsite next to an airstrip that night to pick up more supplies and meet up with some whitewater rafting guides. I'm not going to lie, I shed a couple of tears, because I was tired and we were almost out of summer sausage (I'm telling you, backpacking makes you want to eat weird things and my current vegetarian self cringes) but I sucked it up, put back on my giant backpack, and turned around. We finally got back to where we had made our wrong turn, and realized the only way to go was up. We climbed and climbed. The mountain beneath us was muddy, rocky, and sometimes it felt like you were walking through quick sand. We finally got to the top, and by this time, it was dark. Not completely dark, because it's Alaska in the summer, but dark enough to notice that the sun isn't warming your back anymore. We sighed with relief, took off our backpacks, and walked to look down at the other edge, only to notice that it was frozen solid with ice and snow. I think this moment was the true inspiration for this Disney hit. We weren't going to be able to get down the other side of that mountain. We realized this, sat down in a huddle, and oddly enough, we laughed. We laughed so hard that our stomachs hurt.
End result? We climbed back down the mountain we had spent two hours climbing up and we set up camp. You know what saved me that night? A Snickers bar that I had been carrying since the beginning of our trip to use in case times got rough. I swear to you this is not even an attempt at product placement because I sometimes think that I truly owe my life to that Snickers. We slept about 5 hours, woke up, and started walking again, this time up a different mountain and back down a much more inviting cliff. We finally made it, although I did tear a ligament in my ankle.
I think about this day often, especially when I'm in a tough situation. It's more than just a reminder of the incredible physical strength that our bodies can produce in our time of need, but also about mental strength. I was in a terrible situation, and I laughed. I climbed back down that mountain and then ran around and played in the quicksand-like mud. I relished the thought of the fresh pair of socks I had stuffed in the bottom of my sleeping bag that I could change into once we set up camp. It was and still is the most powerful moment of positive thinking I've ever experienced. Maybe it was all thanks to the Snickers, but I'm dedicating my life to making sure that I'll have many, many more of those moments.
Warning: the post you're about to read may seem incredibly sappy, personal, cheesy, etc. But bring on the eye-rolls, because I love my fam.
I love being the middle child. I have an older brother and a younger sister, and I'm so thankful that I'm stuck in between the two of them. Most people love to joke about the "poor, neglected" middle child, but I know for a fact that the word neglect isn't in my parents' vocabulary. Being in the middle has made me able to relate to both of my siblings at all ages. When my brother was 11 and actively and passionately building his Pokémon collection, I was 6 years old and more than happy to trade away all of my good cards for those lame energy cards (if you're not following, check out this tutorial from a Pokémon Professor, because apparently those exist). When I was about to turn 6 years old, my sister was 1, and I was more than happy to introduce her to my fabulous growing jewelry collection comprised mainly of those cheap rings you got at the dentist when you were a kid (still sorry about that one time she swallowed my ring on her 1st birthday though). At every age, I have wonderful memories of time spent with Harper, my sister, and Connor, my brother. To me, family isn't just important--it's everything.
When I made my siblings "strut" down the streets of Barcelona like they do in the Cheetah Girls 2.
I'll never forget how excited I was when Connor once invited me to a personal garage sale in his bedroom. For only $8, I went back to my room with several new prized possessions: beanie babies, old soccer trophies, etc. Since childhood, my brother has had a keen eye for money-making opportunities. Unfortunately for him, he got caught on the garage sale occasion and I got my $8 back but I got to keep all of the out-of-this-world swag I had purchased. I loved to watch him (and occasionally attempt) to play video games and I felt like the luckiest sister in the world when we would sit in front of the TV with our sketchbooks and a paused episode of Dragon Ball Z and sketch the characters in action. As we grew up, I started to appreciate his incredible soccer skills , and I still miss watching him play--especially the times when my mom and I would sit in front of the computer to watch a poor-quality feed of a college game broadcast on some version of ESPN.com. But more than all of that, he is kind, smart, and painfully funny. Making my brother laugh is one of the best feelings in the world, because he makes me laugh constantly and effortlessly. He is incredibly patient. He'll spend an hour on the phone with my grandpa helping him figure out a computer issue without complaint. We're different in a lot of ways--he's far more logical and will forever be the one I text when my computer is acting weird--but we're also similar. We're not afraid to show how much we care for others, we put our family and friends above everything, and, not to brag, but we both pick out really good Christmas presents. I couldn't have asked for a better role model. He's not perfect--hint: nobody is--but the way that he rises to meet every challenge and gets back up when he falls down is inspiring and motivating.
From the moment Harper was born, I was obsessed. I mean seriously. I watched her as a baby for hours on end, playing with her, holding her, and loving when she fell asleep on my stomach while I watched cartoons on the couch. It's hard for me to believe that she's 15 years old now. She's still my baby sister. We called her the butter baby because if you weren't careful, she would literally try to eat a stick of butter as a toddler. She'll probably cringe when she realizes I've shared this with the world, but trust me, there are far more embarrassing stories I could tell. She followed in my brother's footsteps, playing soccer and leaving me the perpetual non-athlete of the family (I tried just about every sport, but the passion was just never there), but she's also incredibly creative, witty, and artsy. Her room is decorated with canvases she painted herself, and she's always practicing some new kind of nail art or coming out of her room in an outfit that makes me wish I had half as much style as she does when I was in high school. I love how much her passions align with mine and how much she cares about creating good in the world. She's just one of those few people in the world who is so full of goodness and happiness and joy that she lights up every room and brings a smile to every face. I have no doubt she'll change the world someday. And, if all that isn't enough, she bakes the best Oreo cupcakes that you will ever eat in your entire life.
So, how could I not be the happiest sibling in the world growing up in between these two? They're my constant support system, my backbone and the reason I love waking up everyday into the life I lead. I'm forever grateful that I get to do life with these two goofballs.
First things first, I'm not a dancer. I love to dance, but my inner Beyoncé will never shine quite as bright as this guy's. However, last semester, boredom got the best of me and my friend Katie while we were studying for exams, and we found ourselves googling "Adult Hip Hop Classes Chapel Hill." The rest is history. We're currently taking a class called "Dance Video Divas" at the fabulous Ninth Street Dance in Durham, and I don't know if I've ever laughed at myself so much as I have in those hour-long classes. If you would have asked me to do this a few years ago, my cheeks would have been instantly bright red and I would have been absolutely mortified. But now, as I strut my stuff to "Telephone" by Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, I'm learning more and more about how to be comfortable in my own skin. So, here are three lessons you'll learn when you take an adult hip hop class. Get ready to channel your inner Beyoncé.
1. Just roll with it. I actually mean this first one quite literally, because in a hip hop class there are a LOT of body rolls involved in the choreography. But this one, obviously, applies to more than just the attempted body roll. There are things in dance class (and in life) that will make you feel incredibly uncomfortable. When it comes down to it, body rolling in front of a class full of actually good dancers who can body roll isn't that different from putting yourself out there in the world by volunteering to take on a task you've never done in a group project or presenting a new idea to your coworkers.
2. Nobody has time to judge you. This is a big one for me, because I'm someone who constantly wonders how I appear through someone else's eyes. But something I've learned recently is that more often than not, nobody is looking at you or judging you because frankly, they're too busy thinking about themselves. When I'm dancing my heart out at Dance Video Divas, I'm not looking at the other dancers thinking "oh wow she really messed that up" because I'm way too busy either desperately trying to look at the instructor or checking myself out in the mirror (don't lie, you'd do this too). Spending precious time going over and over an important interaction at work in your mind or second guessing everything you said in a job interview is pointless--nobody has time to criticize you like you do, so give yourself a damn break.
3. Live a little and reward yourself. The average work or school day can very quickly become mundane, and it's so nice to have something each week to look forward to. Reward yourself for the hard work that you do by splurging on something that will bring you joy each week. For me, that's Dance Video Divas. Sometimes, it's important to put off your responsibilities and do something for yourself. In fact, I find that my good mood after class helps me take on those things I was dreading before.
Laugh all you want, and trust me, I encourage laughter when it comes to my dancing, but taking this class makes me happy every single week. It's also helping me take myself less seriously, a lesson that in my opinion is worth a million bucks. For you, it might not be an adult hip hop class, but I do hope that you can find something like it. Trust me, it's worth it.