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right in the feels

Emotions, or feelings, are not everyone’s favorite thing to talk about.

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But…The past few weeks in my honors interpersonal communications course, we’ve dedicated our time to learning about, expressing our own, and understanding others’ emotions.

I’ve always known that I’m an emotional person. I have always thought that I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were fairly easy for others to understand, to read. During this three-week exercise, however, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and others in my class and even beyond the classroom doors.

Each person in my class was assigned to find a short video that portrayed either how they react to/handle/express emotion, or a video that made them feel a certain emotion. However, we were told to simply find a video that we could explain how it fit the theme. It was a fairly wide topic, I thought nothing of the complexity of this task while sifting through youtube and then my own brain to find a video. In the breadth of this topic, I soon found, each of my classmates found a different perspective.

Several of my classmates found humor the best way to handle emotions and emotion situations. Many others evoked feelings with music; from “Fight Song” to “Cough Syrup” to “Over the Rainbow” to “Concrete Angel” to “Brave” to “If Today Was Your Last Day” —  all of these songs had powerful meaning, some of which I had never before thought about or experienced when hearing that song. The videos, too, held powerful messages packed full with emotion. Another classmate simply attached a satisfying video of a sponge reacting to water being poured on it. He explained that he, like the sponge, soaks up the emotions of those around him and then internalizes all of it. Another spoke about letting emotions out via physical activity and camaraderie on his football team. Another explained how when visiting Greece, she experienced feelings in a place and that place now holds deep emotional meaning for her. Another included a video, entitled “I Don’t Understand God” about how faith is unwavering even throughout confusion and hurt. He explained his desire to be a pastor, and how his faith allows him to feel and express emotion. Another disclosed his depression. Another, her ADD. Myself, my PTSD. Another, his battle with cancer throughout high school. Another, whose routine surgery gone wrong may have left her unable to have children.

Each of us feels, experiences, and discloses emotion differently. For some, it was difficult to stand up and admit to their feelings or their struggles. Others spoke openly.

I always thought that I wore my heart on  my sleeve with my emotions. Some of this, I’ll admit, is true. I cried during many of my classmates presentations. However, I also realized that, like so many of my classmates, my struggle with PTSD may seem well hidden. I’m a positive person, who feels many positive emotions each day. But I struggle, I fall down, I cry. I had no idea that my classmates, who’ve been in my class all semester, had dealt with the issues that they had the courage to speak about during these presentations. It made me realize that we are truly never alone.

What I also realized: emotions are sneaky. They sneak up behind you, they sneak into your mind. You can’t even control which ones end up ‘on your sleeves’.

I have gained so much respect for my classmates. I enjoyed getting to see their perspectives on life and struggle and happiness and all the things in between.

This exercise truly opened my eyes to the depth of what every single person feels. We all feel different things, care about different things, get hurt by different things, feel happiness from different things. If there’s one thing that college has done for me, it has sure opened my mind and my heart to other people’s differences.

My (amazing) professor ended the lesson with these words, “I guess that’s why I don’t like adults as much as my students. Adults get hard. They lose that capacity to understand and appreciate and challenge themselves with others who are different from them. Don’t lose that, folks. That’s a beautiful thing.” 

New Challenge: Accept that others feel as deeply as you do. Open your eyes and your heart. Don’t be afraid to feel.

A friend of mine has recently been struggling, and she has questioned everything she has been feeling. I caught myself saying to her, “You have every right to feel everything you feel.”

You really do.

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and here’s me and my cat snuggling.

…sometimes that’s all you need when you’re feeling emotional.

significance

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sig·nif·i·cance

/siɡˈnifikəns/
noun
1. the quality of being worthy of attention; importance.
2. the meaning to be found in words or events.

This word came to mind yesterday as I looked at the scene pictured above. It’s not a sky full of stars, but a sea of cell phone flashlights shining in the darkness at the concert I attended last night. Before I took this photo, I had my flashlight on as well, shining and singing and swaying to the music. Before that, however, I wondered if it was really worth it for me to pull out my phone. My one phone against this sea of people… does it really matter? I wanted to soak in the moment…. but I also wanted to ADD to the moment. I pulled my phone out, and I smiled and swayed and sang. I became a part of the moment.

 Significance. If each of those people across the way had decided that their light wasn’t worth shining, I wouldn’t have gotten to soak in the sight of hundreds of lights shining like stars in the night. I wouldn’t have gotten this photo, which I now adore. Those people may not have realized it… but in turning on the flashlight, they illuminated my smile.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. This day has different meanings and feelings evoked in nearly everyone. For some, it’s just another day. For others, it’s a day to love. For some, it’s a day to stay in. Others, a day to go out. Some, to cry or mourn or mend. Others, to laugh or sing or dance. In that way, it’s the same as every other day, but for some reason, this one day can make people feel incredibly strong emotions. “Significant other” comes to my mind as I write this… why is this a term? What is the origin?  If you can’t tell from the photo above, I believe that everyone has significance. Even if you don’t see it…. maybe you’re creating a gorgeous glimpse of a night full of stars for others across the way. Your significance isn’t created by someone else. It can be appreciated by someone else, of course, but not created.

 Never feel like you are insignificant.

 Yes, Valentine’s Day is a day of love. My challenge is to make every day a day of love. Make everyone feel significant… and remember that you are significant. You are the light in the sea of darkness, shining like a star and bringing a smile to the face of someone you may not even know.

…and maybe that girl has a blog. 😉

•••

“Your success and significance in life is tied to the unleashing of the greatness in you.”
― Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

Our true significance lies not in the endless comparing of ourselves to one another, trying to see who is the fittest, using scales of evaluation and meaning that differ in the heart and mind of every individual; no – it lies in our deeds alone with the time we have.”
A.J. Darkholme, Rise of the Morningstar

“You’re one in a million.”  -Hannah Montana 

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my post-graduation hair cut

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I wasn’t a person who loved high school, despite the fact that I immersed myself in fun activities, loved my job, and had enough good times to keep me upbeat for the most part.. I wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t satisfied with mediocre, or sometimes happy, or attempting to fit the status quo, or feeling lonely, or any of that. I was satisfied with one thing, however… my hair.

Today, I posted a selfie. (yeah, I know.) In the photo, I was surprised to see that my hair looked so long. I cut my hair, about 8 inches, just a couple of weeks after graduation, ridding myself of some weight I had been carrying around… both literally and figuratively. I loved it. I loved the freedom and maturity I felt with it lightly dancing on my collarbone. I loved my tiny little pigtails that I wore while hiking and I loved throwing on my hat and letting my hair do whatever it pleased underneath. Some people told me, “You were prettier with long hair.” or “I miss your long hair!” or “How could you get rid of all that beautiful hair?” But I had to. It was my “big jump” into adult life (or so I thought) and leaving behind my security blanket of hair was a simple part of the transition.

Recently, I’ve been growing my hair back out.. with hair that grows relatively quickly, it has slowly crept towards the length it was back in high school. I can now do the things I missed doing: messy buns, a simple braid, et cetera. But as I was looking at myself, with hair that feels and looks so long to me now… I flashed back to high school, where the end of my hair was much closer to my belly button than my collarbone. I remember a rumor that had been started about me once… that I had gotten extensions. I remember being so bothered by this, the fact that someone had the time of day to think of such ridiculousness… I remember being confused as to why anyone would care. I remember being asked, “Why did you get extensions?” I remember thinking that my hair had been this long for a long time but NOW people are noticing because of a rumor that this hair is fake? I remember being hurt. That’s a feeling I remember a lot from high school.

This rumor, along with so many others, plagued me during high school. But the purpose of this blog is not to hate on high school or complain about my experience. Instead, I have risen from the ashes… or the hair that scatters on the floor post-haircut. I have grown miraculously since graduation. The weight I carried around wasn’t just from my abundance of hair, but it was from all the negativity in my life. As I grow my hair longer and longer, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that I look more similar to the girl I was in high school. But that’s another thing you learn in college: appearances mean nothing. I am NOT the girl I was in high school. I am NOT the girl that is defined by others. I am NOT hurt, or lonely, or satisfied with mediocrity.

I am happy, healthy, changed, and love myself more than I have ever before. And today… I had a good hair day. {More than that, however, I had a good day. I’ve had a seriously fantastic string of good days lately.}

To the girls that are considering the post-graduation chop in a few months: hair is hair is hair, no matter what the length. YOU are the one who will continually surprise yourself with personal growth!

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Purpose

I work at tech support. It’s not exactly glamorous… but it’s an awesome learning experience. One of my favorite sights at work: the inside of a computer. The motherboard, the hub, the source of all knowledge… the motherboard is what gives the computer it’s purpose, and allows it to fulfill all the tasks. So that’s neat.

However, that’s not really why I love the inside of a computer. When I see the inside of a computer, like this mac in the featured image, it reminds me of flying over a city at night. Each little building, all the little lights, all the little dots on the motherboard… they have purpose. Each little light on in the city has a purpose. One light is a teen girl’s computer as she blogs her thoughts in words. One light is a family playing late night board games and laughing around the table. One light is a college student, studying all night for a chemistry final. One light is a flashlight under a blanket, a student staying awake and discovering a passion for reading. One light is a grandma knitting a blanket. One light is two newlyweds dancing around their apartment. Each light, each tiny dot, each moment, has purpose. Each of these lights, these dots, symbolize a part of a working whole. The little boxes or buildings on the motherboard landscape could be a school where learning happens or the factory that employs half the city. Each thing, each place, has purpose.

We are the motherboard. We are the ones who make the decisions that truly impact our system as a whole. In order for the system to work efficiently, each piece should fulfill its purpose.

I’ve been trying to do things lately that have a purpose, avoiding spending (too much) time watching Netflix or just sitting around on my phone. I know, however, that these things have their time and their purpose of relaxation and fulfillment.

I’m trying to prioritize according to things that matter rather than find purpose in mundane tasks. Last week, I sat down to watch some Netflix. Then I decided to call my mom instead. We had an awesome hour-long conversation that lifted me up for the whole day and eased some homesickness.

My mission for this (week/month/insert time frame here) is to seek purpose in my life, realize and utilize it, and to act on my purpose and find purpose in others.

I want to remember the motherboard, and how each tiny piece has it’s purpose to make the system run. I want to be a light in a city as someone flies overhead and thinks of the possibilities. I want to be the light in someone’s life. I want to be filled with purpose and belonging and aim to make my light in the dark city shine brightly and to make my system, my society, the best it can possibly be.

There is so many quotes about what the purpose of life is. I love all of them. There are so many purposes in life. Everyone has a different one. What is your purpose? How do you define it?

always,

Alex

•••

“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” – Steve Maraboli

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

the power of one.

“If I teach you nothing else, let me teach you this. When you find something absolutely intolerable – something that you hate. Like I’m-so-sick-of-this-bullshit in my world hatred. That’s life telling you to step up to the plate and change it. The day you were born in the Western world, you have 250 times the power of a child in Bangladesh. You have a voice people will listen to. You all have a choice. You can all make a difference.” – Kim McCullough

Today, my Human Geography teacher shared this with my class. The passion that fueled this conversation impacted me immensely. Hatred – the most negative emotion possible, in many opinions – can absolutely fuel something beautiful: Power. Voice. Choice. Difference.

I have no idea what I will do that could possibly change the world. Absolutely none. I’m not going to college to major in super hero-ism or to cure cancer or stop global warming. But I believe in the absolute power of the ripple effect: one movement can change everything. One smile, one connection, one word. One. 

I am one person. I can make one choice. I can make one difference, no matter how big or small. So that’s my goal each day. Because if I can make one choice, voice my opinion, or make a difference just once a day, who knows what those 365 days in a year can do. Or the people whom I touch – where will their ripples lead?

In Human Geography today, we spoke about how humans are constantly changing and shaping our world since the beginning of time. This forges the question: why not us? Why not me, right here and right now?

I was so absolutely moved by the words of my professor, and I chose to share her words today. There’s my one.

What are you doing to change the world today?

maybe you don’t even realize it, but you changed the world today. One kind greeting, one exchange of conversation, one thought that starts a ripple in your life, one question voiced in class, one cackle of laughter that forces someone else to smile… you make an impact.

Be you. Have a voice. Make choices. Make a difference.

We can change the world.