Table for one

It takes a good amount of confidence to go to a movie or restaurant by yourself. Many people feel awkward going out by themselves, but I rather enjoy it. Being in a long-distance relationship, I don’t always have someone nearby to do things with. And at times, an outing with me, myself, and I is just as fun as a date night.

One benefit of eating alone at a restaurant is the silence. You can really focus on your food and your thoughts. Lately I’ve been having trouble finding peace and solitude during my day. On my lunch hour, I often walk campus to find a quiet spot to sit and eat. It’s an increasingly difficult task. Students are everywhere, talking on their phones, blasting rap music, holding conversations full of foul language. And then there’s the train, motorcycles, and cars with deafening mufflers.

Some days I spend way too much time walking and exploring, simply trying to find a place where I can enjoy nature and be alone in my thoughts. It’s a struggle only fellow introverts would understand. In a busy world, it’s hard to find opportunities to reflect. At times I’ll find myself having a profound thought when suddenly it’s interrupted by the startlingly loud blare of a car horn.

So no, restaurant hostess, I’m not here to pick up a to-go order. I need a table for one. Let me enjoy the quiet, serene atmosphere of this cozy, uncrowded, hole-in-the-wall place for an hour or so. I have a boyfriend. I have friends. But sometimes I just like to eat by myself, and that’s perfectly okay.

The Hallmark movie paradox

We’ve all seen at least one Hallmark Channel original movie that raises the theme of choosing between true love and following your dreams. You know the ones, where the female protagonist is living an ordinary day in married life–frustrated with juggling a husband, kids, and not-so-great job–when she bumps her head and wakes up the next morning in a parallel universe.

In said universe, she learns that she never got married, but instead left her hometown to pursue her dreams. She discovers she’s now a wealthy, important career woman whose biggest ambitions have been realized.

After accepting this new reality, she soaks up the fun and excitement of her newfound freedom. She goes out with the girls, enjoys being single, and lives out her dreams. It doesn’t take long to realize, however, that this  life is lonely. She finds herself longing for her past life. She wishes upon a star (or bumps her head again) and wakes up back in the real world, with a new appreciation for her husband and the life she chose with him.

Reflecting on La La Land, I realized it’s the opposite scenario.

*Spoiler alert–don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet!*

La La Land is also about what you sacrifice in order to have your biggest dreams realized. But in this case, Mia gives up the perfect romance to pursue her dream job of being an actress. In the epilogue, she is wildly famous and successful, but has a vision of the life she could’ve had if she’d stayed with Seb, which to me was hauntingly sad.

What Hallmark and La La Land have in common is that they both pose the idea that somewhere in life there is a fork in the road where you choose between the perfect love and the perfect job. Which would you choose?

Food for thought: Do people change?

For the last month, I’ve been taking a nutrition class; starting tomorrow, I’m taking a stress management class. So I’ll be switching from thinking about food all the time to thinking about stress factors, self-esteem, personality, and stress management techniques. (Aw, who am I kidding, I’ll still be thinking about food all the time.)

Anyway, I was reading through some resources for class when I stumbled upon this NPR article about personality. The author argues that, despite the common belief that “people don’t change,” our personalities can change drastically throughout our lives.

There is research and anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that humans are capable of becoming a completely different person–given time, effort, and change in perspective.

This news is a little unnerving, considering it means a friendly person could potentially change into a sociopath. It also means that our relationships could suffer if one or both parties become a different person and no one’s willing to adapt or compromise. But on the flip side, some relationships could be repaired if the individuals are willing to change.

I was skeptical when reading this article; personally, I don’t think people can change their personality. An introvert will always be an introvert–it’s how their brain is programmed, right? I do think it’s possible for people to change their beliefs, attitudes, morals, outlook, and countless other aspects of their being, creating the effect of a whole new person.

What do you think, can people change?

Am I a good person?

Today I walked to the quad on campus with my lunchbox and picked a lovely sunny spot in the grass to spend my hour-long break. A southern baptist group was out there, with one man was standing on some milk crates preaching. This particular group, unlike another baptist group who frequents campus yelling brimstone and hellfire, is actually quite nice. They simply try to tell students what the Bible says–not convert people or harass them.

The preacher man offered $20 to anyone willing to do what he called the Good Person Challenge. He asked “Who among you considers yourself a good person?” A young man named Lucas stepped up. The preacher proceeded to ask Lucas if he’d ever lied, disrespected his parents, taken God’s name in vain… By the time he went through the whole list of sins, he determined that Lucas was indeed not a good person (but for the record, Lucas seemed like a very nice boy).

Poor Lucas didn’t disagree with him, but pointed out that God is merciful and might send him to purgatory for these sins. The preacher shot down this idea, claiming that purgatory is nonexistent. The two never reached an agreement. Lucas, a Catholic, was convinced that his soul is alright; the preacher was convinced that Lucas needed to be saved, saying that Catholic doctrine is unbiblical.

As a Catholic, I’m no stranger to the fact that there are fundamental differences between these two religions. However, I didn’t disagree with the man’s message today, and I actually enjoyed his sermon.

I did, however, have a problem with a girl who interrupted the Good Person Challenge to ask Lucas if the guy was bothering him, implying that he forced Lucas to be up there. Lucas was the one who volunteered–Lucas was making $20! The man asked her to not interrupt, since he was having a conversation with Lucas. The girl responded very rudely.

Many students are rude to these evangelists on campus. Some students are downright hateful, cursing the people out and starting debates. These students claim that evangelists are intolerant, but in all truthfulness, the intolerance goes both ways.

Coincidentally, the concept of a “good person” is a theme that’s been running through my head a lot this week. What makes someone a good person? Am I a good person? Is anyone actually a bad person, or is there mostly good in everyone? Do other people care about being a good person as much as I do?

I like to think of myself as a good person, but I can recall times when I’ve been cold, jealous, distant, stand-offish, defensive, or selfish. The man’s message today was comforting to me–no one is perfect, and no amount of good deeds can make us perfect. But because of Jesus, we’re forgiven for all that. It’s up to us what we do with it. We can start by treating others how we’d want to be treated, which includes religious tolerance and respecting others’ beliefs.

Dealing with criticism

It seems that there are two types of criticism: just criticism and unjust criticism. I’m not great at taking either, but I’ve had my fair share of both.

Just criticism is actually a good thing. We learn and grow through criticism. Each time a teacher takes off points for something, we make a little note to not do that again. Criticism at work helps us do our jobs better. It shouldn’t be mean, rude, or personal. It should add a tool to our life’s toolbox. Don’t sweat a little criticism–it’s part of any worthy endeavor.

To avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

-Aristotle

Unjust criticism is a whole different ballgame. It gets personal. Maybe you’re criticized for something that wasn’t your fault, or maybe for something you can’t change. Some people like finding petty things to criticize, nit-picking your every move. It’s mean, rude, and unnecessary.

Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.

-Dale Carnegie

In my adult life, I’ve received a lot of criticism for being too quiet. It’s come from professors, boyfriends, acquaintances–even total strangers. I’m learning to take it with a grain of salt because the criticism is unjust. It doesn’t alter my ability to get my job done. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

And since I can’t change my personality, how does this criticism benefit me? Unjust criticism hurts the person more than it helps them.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

-Ephesians 4:29

Oftentimes unjust criticism has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the other person. As Dale Carnegie put it:

Unjust criticism is usually a disguised compliment. It often means that you have aroused jealousy and envy. Remember that no one ever kicks a dead dog.

 

Unjust criticism gets me down. Like, really down. On the same token, praise and accolades have the opposite effect–it can cause me to think I’m somehow better than others. I’ve learned to avoid this by using the metaphor of an ice chest: be insulated against both criticism and praise. Take both into consideration, but don’t let it affect you personally.

Don’t let compliments go to your head and don’t let criticism get to your heart.

 

Prom dresses and self-esteem

I recently pulled out my old prom dresses to donate them. Just for kicks, I tried them on one last time. Fortunately, they still fit (albeit, it was a struggle to zip them up), and when I looked in the mirror, I felt like a princess.

My junior prom dress is especially elegant. It’s long, black, and strapless with white beading. I’m sure I looked gorgeous in it ten years ago (wow, that makes me feel old…). But the weird thing is, the guy friend I brought to that dance hardly even noticed me. I remember he ended up dancing more with our friend Julie than me, and by the end of the night he had his arm around her. Meanwhile, I hung out with Julie’s abandoned date; he’s a dear friend, but he never seemed to notice me either. Even still, my mom will ask me if he ever calls, and my answer is always “Nope, haven’t heard from him.”

Looking back through my high school pictures, I realize I was very pretty (at least, after I took Accutane and got my braces removed…). There was certainly nothing wrong with me. And yet, I always felt invisible.

Fast forward to senior year of college. I have a blog site entitled “Not-Quite-Princess,” on which I wrote a post where I stated “with mediocre grades, looks, and talent, there’s nothing about me that stands out above the average.” I can’t believe that’s how I viewed myself at age 21; in reality, I was very pretty, young, smart, ambitious, and an excellent swimmer and writer.

I’m not sure why I’ve always been ignored by guys, or why the ones who did pay attention to me turned out to be total jerks. I’m also not sure why I never thought I had much potential and that I was ugly. I still feel this way about myself to a degree, but when I’m 30 I will probably look back and wonder why.

Every girl should know that she’s beautiful. This is my hope for the two young women who receive my prom dresses, whoever they may be.

Greener pastures

Sometimes you think the grass is greener on the other side, so you venture on over there, but only to find that the grass was pretty darn green where you were. You find yourself wanting to return to that first pasture, but your pride gets in the way.

In life, change can be good or bad; that’s what makes it scary. You never know if the best decision is to stay where you are, or leave your comfort zone for something that could possibly be better. It’s always a risk.

My personality type is INFP–the idealist. For me, the grass is always greener on the other side. I’m always looking for the most ideal situation, for my happy ever after. The thing is, this makes it hard to be content with what I have at the moment.

“Ideal” may never happen, because life isn’t a fairy tale. The key is to recognize a good thing when you have it, and let it bring you happiness. If you leave it behind for something better, but then realize that you truly loved that pasture, then admit you were wrong before it’s too late. Happiness is more important than pride.

 

#Tbt: My high school playlist

Anyone else still love these songs?! Some nights I get in a weird mood and just have a throwback to the early 2000’s. I was in high school from ’04-’08, and I must confess, I was a little bit emo in my music tastes. My old playlists are pretty great. It’s fun to go back and listen to them.

When your brain is developing as a teenager, the neural connections you make between music and emotions is very strong. That’s why songs from our high school and college days often evoke powerful emotions and feelings of nostalgia. Here are some of mine:

  1. The Mixed Tape – by Jack’s Mannequin
  2. Lips Like Morphine – by Kill Hannah
  3. The Suffering – by Coheed and Cambria
  4. Niki FM – by Hawthorne Heights
  5. Lazy Eye – by The Silversun Pickups
  6. Almost Easy – by Avenged Sevenfold
  7. Smile in Your Sleep – by Silverstein
  8. MakeDamnSure – by Taking Back Sunday
  9. Swing Swing – by All-American Rejects
  10. The Kill – by 30 Seconds to Mars

You’re welcome 🙂

Happy 2015!

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Me & Livi at our country superfest

If the saying time flies when you’re having fun is true, it would certainly explain why 2014 went by so fast, and why I haven’t had a chance to catch up on my blog! My new year resolution for 2014 was to run a marathon. Which I did 🙂 But many other noteworthy events occurred this past year as well.

In January I started my job at the law office. In February I helped my parents move and said goodbye to the house I grew up in. In March I started talking to a friend of my friend’s boyfriend, who my friend decided would be a good match for me. In April we had our first date (we’ve been together for 8 months now!). In May my best friend and I got tickets for Bayou Country Superfest and spent three days hearing our favorite country stars.

Camping at Clear Springs

Camping at Clear Springs

In June I turned 24 (I can’t believe it!!!). In July I took a class at a medical college and observed hours of surgical procedures right there in the operating room. In August I applied for–and got accepted to–graduate school. In October I ran the Dirty South Marathon and tried backpacking for the first time. In November I drove to North Carolina and spent time with my brothers and sister-in-law. In December I went camping with my love in Mississippi. To finish off the year, I had a wonderful Christmas, spending time with family, decorating trees, and watching plenty of Christmas movies.

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Raleigh!

There were also a few runs, a couple triathlons, some hikes, several game nights, movie nights, date nights, road trips, and other special moments that made this year fun.

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Backpacking 101

I ended 2014 with my car breaking down on me the morning of New Year’s eve. This didn’t actually make for a bad way to end the year. Within seconds of my car stopping, multiple people pulled over to help me. The tow truck and the friend I called for a ride both showed up within 30 minutes’ time. The dealership hooked me up with a free rental car–a brand new Ford Explorer–and the staff at Enterprise joked and talked with me. I was able to make it to work by 11 and go on with my New Year’s plans. Thanks to the kind and friendly people who helped me that day, I ended the year on a good note after all.

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Me & my love 🙂

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Camping in Hot Springs

So far, 2015 has been busy. And it’s looking like it will stay that way. The first week of the year has been filled with spending time with my love, working, and interviewing for a GA position. Next weekend I’ll run the 5K at the Louisiana Marathon. Then my graduate school will begin, and hopefully a student job or a job close to school (fingers crossed!). My only New Year’s resolution is to succeed at these endeavors, maintain good health, and do my best every day.

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Me & my sister in North Carolina

Here are some pictures from 2014!

Be grateful

Last weekend my faith group and I visited a women’s prison and were blessed that several of the women opened up to us and shared the details of their daily lives. Between walking in a prison for the first time and learning about the realities of life there, I had a lot to take in on an early Saturday morning! When I went home that afternoon and thought about how I’d spend the rest of my day–getting lunch with my mom, taking my dogs to the park, going on a date–I realized how lucky I am to live in “the free world” (as they call it). The simple freedom to spend our time however we please is something we take for granted.

Only after you see how things could be worse can you appreciate how good you’ve got it. I also realized this past week how much I take my good health for granted. I was doing pull-ups at the gym Monday when I felt something pop. For the rest of the day, my neck hurt pretty bad. It scared me for sure. (No worries, though. After a few days my neck was fine.) But I realized how an injury can affect not only your physical health, but also your mental health. I was worried I’d have to see a doctor, that I wouldn’t be able to participate in an upcoming triathlon and other races, and that I wouldn’t able to run around and play with the girls I babysit. Health problems can affect your whole livelihood.

The good news for me is that I do live in the free world and I do enjoy perfect health. But many people aren’t so lucky. We must remember to be compassionate towards those imprisoned and those who feel imprisoned within their own bodies or circumstances. Use your strength, outer and inner, to support those who aren’t as strong right now.