I’ve already decided that after Christmas this year (2020) I’m going to book a trip. I don’t know where yet, but I know I want to do something fun during the time between Christmas & continuing for the spring semester. I’m grateful that going to graduate school allows me to have bigger breaks and I want to take full advantage of them going forward.
Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the break that I’ve had and am having. I’ve been relaxing, reading books, making my vision bulletin board, cleaning my house, binging ‘younger’ on Hulu, prepping for the semester, going to the gym…. but I’ve also been BORED.
So what do I do when I’m bored? I scroll social media.
You might think that this is where I’d go on to rant about social media and comparison, but I won’t. I love social media and it’s allowed me to find connections that I am so grateful for… but today, I was burnt out from it. I decided to disconnect from my phone, blast some tunes from my speaker, and deep clean my house. When I did this, I found myself thinking:
Our lives cannot all be glamorous at the same time.
It’s not a profound concept, it’s just the truth. Right now, I’m not doing fun things or dressing up fancy or snuggling with someone I love or tanning by the water. I’m at home. In pajamas.
But just because I’m not doing anything ‘cool’ right now, doesn’t mean that the roles haven’t been reversed at some point. I’ve done cool things. I’ve backpacked Europe, I’ve toured DC seven times in one summer, I’ve stuck my toes in the water of two oceans within a matter of months, I’ve worn pretty dresses, I’ve gone on cool dates, I’ve had awesome experiences. So… yes, I have done cool things.
And while I was doing those things, someone else might have been working their tail off each day to put away money for later. Or maybe that’s when they were really struggling with their mental health and now they feel more fabulous again. Or maybe that was when they really needed to deep clean their house and spend three full days binging 6 seasons of a television show with Hilary Duff and Sutton Foster.
(okay, maybe not those exact details.)
And I have to remember, that even now when I’m at home and getting a certain type of joy from using my swiffer wet-jet and windex-ing my mirror… there are still people that probably think my life is ‘glamorous’ or have looked at MY life from the outside in and wished they could do THAT or be THERE or look THAT WAY.
I have pictures that make me look (and feel) glamorous. Of course that’s what I want to post! HIGHLIGHT REEL, BABY. Everyone is posting their own highlight reel, on their own timeline, and I’m no exception.
There is room for everyone to have a little bit of glamor in life… to travel, eat good food, dress up, do cool activities, be fabulous, look gorgeous, soak up sunshine, have adventures….
but maybe, now’s just not the right time for me to be glamorous.
So, I’ll wait.
And I’ll post some cute photos in the snow in the meantime.
One year ago, I sat down in my bed with computer in hand, and I typed up a “letter to my 2020 self.”
I didn’t open it again until yesterday evening. I wasn’t even half way through the second paragraph when the tears started flowing. I was overcome by the words that I had written for myself one year ago. I was overcome by love for myself and how far I’ve come. Self-love, written down, is so powerful. It’s been a long time since I’ve received a love letter.
I know her now. She’s different than she was one year ago… but the words that I wrote on that snowy, January evening could not be more perfect for the version of myself I am today. I am no longer scared to share these words because I’ve found my tiny corner of the internet where I feel okay sharing my heart and feel supported by other people who feel the same or can find some sort of message, inspiration, or meaning to take away from my vulnerability and my words. And, I just don’t care.
So here’s a few excerpts of my letter to my 2020 self… my letter to who I am today, written in early 2019.
I hope in one year you are beaming with pride at the person you are. I hope you see that rock bottom became the solid foundation on which you built your life. I cry as I write this because I so deeply hope that your heart has healed, my sweet girl. You deserve the world. You deserve love, and so so so much of it. But first, we have to learn to give it to ourselves so much so that we overflow into everyone else.
Alexandra, you are amazing. Even on days when you don’t feel it. Even now as you sob off your makeup in your bed and write a silly letter to yourself for one year down the road. 2018 was the year to see the world and the year to be broken. 2019 is the year to heal your brokenness and realize that your world starts with you.
Alexandra Grace, I hope you have the audacity to take your life by the reigns and make it your bitch… for lack of better, more poetic words. Now is the time to fight for your life, every minute of it. I hope you did this year. If not, every day is a new day to start again.
I hope you smile as your look back on 2019. I hope you see the doors that opened and closed for you. The people you met, the friends you made. I hope you see the prayers come true and the random dance parties you had. I hope you laugh at stupid memories and got drunk a few times. I hope you are proud of your progress. I hope you are mentally and physically healthier than ever. I hope you are independent but have a great circle of love when you need it.
I hope, more than anything, that you feel worthy and magnificent and lovely and self-made. Sweet girl, you are something to be proud of. You are beyond any unfinished to-do list or well-made plans gone awry. You are beyond goals unmet or pounds gained. You are beyond friends that leave and boys who suck. You are beyond the societal pressures. You are beyond your own wildest dreams.
I love you, Alexandra Grace of 2020, and I don’t even know you yet.
I know I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do last year… but when I cried last night, I know that those tears were happy tears.
And when I write my letter to myself in 2021, I think I’ll cry happy tears too.
So who’s with me? Let’s write our letters to ourselves. Proclaim your hopes and dreams for yourself… a written prayer and vision board and journal entry all at once.
Every year on this date, I have almost too many emotions to find the words for. I could say a million things, and seemingly none of them will ever be enough. It’s one of those days I find myself thinking, “no one could possibly understand how I feel,” but still feel compelled to share even just a little piece. I cannot change the past; I was given a future for a reason and I know my reason is not to stay silent about the ways in which I am blessed.
Four years ago today…my life hit rock bottom after a car accident shattered my world, my sense of adventure, and filled me with grief for a woman I had never met and regrets for an event that left me blaming myself and questioning the fabric of my life as I knew it.
A few months later, I packed up my new Subaru and left for college with white knuckles and a lump in my throat. I made my mom ride with me in my vehicle so I didn’t have to make the drive alone.
My brothers used to live in the town I attend university. When I first moved here, I remember my first solo drive from campus to that house. It’s about a 6 or 7 minute drive with very little traffic. I turned my GPS on, even though I thought I knew the way, and… cried the entire drive. This was a real-life occurrence for me… terrified of driving in any capacity after my accident. This wasn’t the only time something like this happened, but this instance sticks out to me, even four years later.
I now live in that same house. I commute every single day to and from campus, sometimes in the middle of a pitch black South Dakotan winter night.
In moments like these, I remember that progress is happening in my life every single day and in each little moment when I force myself to do the scary thing.
I’m still not okay with what happened or okay even driving in many scenarios, but I’m okay. I am grateful every day, specifically today’s date, to be alive and well. I am making progress, slowly but surely, and making myself proud of the smallest, seemingly insignificant things….
like driving home.
If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma, trauma-related anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, here’s some resources:
PTSD is not reserved for soldiers or military veterans, however; anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event, like a car or plane crash, torture, robbery, bombing or terrorist event, rape, murder, or any other violent situation, may be prone to developing PTSD.
If you haven’t listened to Ariana Grande’s latest album, titled “thank u, next”… stop right there. Direct yourself to Spotify or Apple Music and take a listen. For your convenience, I have included the lyrics/videos (not all videos have been released) to all the songs on this album just below.
Honestly, I am writing this blog solely because the album has been on repeat in my head since I listened to it on February 8th. I find it relatable, inspiring, and thought-provoking… not to mention it is full of total bops. I’m writing this so maybe I can stop bugging my friends and roommates about all the intricacies of this album and my personal feelings in regards to each song.
Like all of us, Ariana has been through some sh**. We can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to go through hard things while continuing to be in the spotlight day after day. She highlights this concept in her song, ‘fake smile.’ Ariana’s concert was the location of a terrorist attack, her former beau Mac Miller passed away, and her engagement failed. She channeled so many feelings into her words on this album, and it’s taken me several days and listening to each song probably twenty times to figure out my thoughts from these incredible works.
I’ve been through some sh** myself, and quite honestly I’m here for Ariana’s comeback. Of course, the highlighted song of the album (and arguably the most popular) is ‘thank u, next.’ As we approach Valentine’s Day, I’m constantly reminded of my relationship status. While I realize the necessity of my status and am secure in my current position, the influx of romantic reminders isn’t exactly a mood-booster, even for a hopeless romantic person like me who truly loves love. Ariana states her gratefulness for her past, offers thanks, and moves forward with open arms for whatever comes next. I think that in this season of singleness, I am empowered by her ability to take a hard season of life and turn it into a forward-thinking, grateful anthem that women can both resonate with and dance to in the club. (yes, I mean me.)
Since the release on February 8, my favorite is probably ‘NASA‘ because this song, while ridiculously catchy, is focused on me time, and the idea that even people in relationships need space. her words are, “It ain’t nothing wrong with saying I need me time.” Heck yeah, girlfriend. Self-care is so important, and taking time to just have some space is important. I honestly think I haven’t valued this concept enough in my life, and it’s a great reminder that you are a star, you are your own universe, and you deserve the space you want or need.
A song that strikes an emotional chord with me is ‘ghostin.’ This song discusses Ariana’s grief. I think that anyone going through a breakup or death of a loved one experiences grief and it’s important to let yourself grieve and not cover it up for other people, even those closest to you. Cry it out, sis. It’s a heartbreaking image to hear her describe crying herself to sleep while sleeping next to someone else. Takeaways: feel your feeling when you need to feel them, and heal for as long as it takes.
The song ‘in my head‘ also hit me like a ton of bricks. The intro of the song states, “Here’s the thing: you’re in love with a version of a person that you’ve created in your head, that you are trying to but cannot fix. Uh, the only person you can fix is yourself.” oof. This song is talking about the versions of other people we gather in our heads that is perhaps a figment of our imagination, and invention of our own and not true to another’s true self. This song serves as a good reminder to take off the rose colored glasses.
‘7 rings‘ focuses on a major positive in Ariana’s life… her gal pals. I always say that girl power is the strongest force in the world. Ariana, in the form of money and being able to purchase all of her favorite things, showcases her hard work. The reason for the title is that she decided to buy matching diamond rings for her best friends rather than disregard her own diamond. Atta girl, Ari. Girl power. Treat yourself, treat your gals, be proud of your accomplishments.
While I could write sentiments about each song, there are some songs with perhaps less positive vibes to pull from, even though they’re still phenomenal. I will, however, offer perhaps a little bit sassier reflection on her final song, ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.‘ This song is perhaps the song with the greatest backlash online, stating that this is a ‘toxic’ song encouraging bad behavior coming from a place of women against women instead of women empowering women. I agree and would never put myself in that position… However, I will definitely say that if all it takes for your man to be unfaithful is another woman saying “I’m bored,” then you need turn and run, sister. He isn’t worth your time.
So thank u… next album please. This album seemed to be released exactly when I needed it and inspired me to dance on my way to class, understand I’m not alone, and to get writing.
Maybe this blog post wasn’t as relatable as some others, or even as inspiring, but this blog post summarizes my recent thoughts and the constant stream of Ariana Grande from my phone! xoxo
Last night, I sat down to write “A Letter to My 2020 Self.” This was my final goal of January, and I officially completed every goal I set for myself for the month. I thought about sharing this letter in a blog, but it ended up affecting me so deeply and personally that I’d rather just stick it away in a folder of my computer for a snowy January day next year.
However, I will share the sentence I wrote to close the letter:
I love you, Alexandra Grace of 2020, and I don’t even know you yet.
And that’s when it hit me.
I didn’t even know this version of myself one year ago. Looking back, I think the ‘love’ I had for myself was nearly completely defined by how others perceived me, loved me, viewed me, enjoyed being around me, or other standards. For much of that time and the months that followed, I was happy but simply going through a lot of the motions of life. In the pit of my stomach, I still felt not good enough. I felt like nothing I did was amounting to anything, a restless stream of busyness and lack of accomplishment. I had severe burnout and experienced intense heartbreak. I was in an extremely dark place, and I fought tooth and nail and crawled out of that dark place inch by inch by inch. That army crawl toughened me up like a soldier heading into battle to fight for my life and the version of myself I wanted to be.
Today, I can honestly say I love who I am becoming. I still struggle as much as the next person. I procrastinate. I’m always late. I find it hard to socialize, yet I hate being alone. I feel my emotions perhaps too deeply. I overcommit and fail at tasks. I even did my fair share of crying as I wrote a letter to myself… prophesying and praying that when I look back on this year I’m overwhelmed with pride and joy. Despite my struggles and everyday downfalls, I have worked really hard to get where I am. I’m nowhere near the top of the mountain, but damn the view gets better the further I go. There is no quick fix, no diet, no podcast, no workout, no face mask, no self-help novel that will give you all the answers. My answers for how I’m striving for better will not match yours. That’s okay. We’re all different. Find what makes you feel more alive, like a breath of fresh air has been breathed into you. As for me, I’m living life for me by saying goodbye to things that no longer serve me, devoting time to develop healthy habits, and listening to a whole lot of worship music…. and I guess I’m writing letters to myself, too.
If how I’ve felt lately is a trajectory path for the upcoming year, I’m feeling pretty good about it. I don’t know my 2020 self, but so far my 2019 self is the best version of myself that I’ve been in a long time.
I encourage you to write a letter to yourself. Maybe it’s just for next week, maybe it’s for a certain month, maybe it’s a year or 5. Write to yourself. Proclaim your hopes and dreams for yourself. For me, it was a written prayer and vision board and journal entry all at once, and it was absolutely cathartic.
Sometimes, people like to tell me that they feel inspired by the quotes or sentiments I share. My usual response is that I need the inspiration as much as the next girl, and I like to share things like my personal ‘note to self’ quite frankly.
So here’s my latest note to myself…. don’t rush. Don’t rush yourself. Don’t let society rush you. Or friends rush you. Or comparison rush you. Or the devil rush you. Or any other force that’s making you feel like you’re falling behind in your own life. I have friends that are married. I have friends that have babies or babies on the way. I have friends that have found that forever kind of love. I have friends that are casually dating. I have friends that just signed a contract for their dream job. I have friends planning a big move after graduation. I have friends that are in a season of life that isn’t fun. I have friends that are taking one day at a time. I have friends jumping in head-first. All of these scenarios are okay. All of these scenarios are not my scenario.
Don’t. Rush. Me. – a note to self.
Let’s get one thing straight: I love being twenty-one. I am ONLY twenty-one… and that is fantastic. I am learning to soak in the sunshine in this season of my life. I have loved my collegiate experience, but I’m happy it’s coming to a close. I have five more years on my parents health insurance. I can order as many pink fruity cocktails as I want. I can book a flight to anywhere in the world and have an adventure. However, the things I stated above (love, babies, marriage, careers) often tempt me with negative thoughts; the idea that I’m somehow ‘behind’ in my own life perforate my mind more often than I would like to admit.
I’ve been turning this thought over and over in my head for weeks. WEEKS, y’all. And it seems like everywhere I turned I’m being subjected to quotes, media, and an unusual influx of awesome wisdom in this area of timing and placement and comparison and youth. (including those ten-year challenge photos… I did not participate but sure did enjoy seeing everyone in their pre-pubescent glory)
So here’s the gist of it… I’ve compiled some awesome thoughts from other people and Pinterest and books and other fun places as reminders to myself and others, paired with some personal reflection on each tidbit. Here we go:
“I can’t count the number of times in my life when I’ve beaten myself up because I thought my goals had expiration dates.”
Rachel Hollis (Girl, Wash Your Face)
Okay, wow. This hit me as I’m reading through and I had to stop and underline these words. My goals do not need expiration dates from me or from anyone else. I have time. I am only twenty-one and I am allowed to be young and strive for my dreams with grit and grace. Set goals, not time limits.
“Some days life is all about your dreams, hopes, and vision for the future. But there are some days when life is just about putting one foot in front of the other. And that’s okay.”
I like this. I like this a lot. I don’t need every single day of my life to be spent focusing on the future. Some days I need to spend time getting through today and living my life in the here and now.
“I am 21 years old. No I don’t own a home. No I don’t know what I’m doing after gradation. Yes my parents pay my phone bill & car note. I am allowed to be in my twenties, change my mind, have help, take my time, figure out my life, and have fun doing it. Stop rushing life.”
@ajoielle on Twitter
yessssss, sis. I’m so in this boat. I am so blessed to have supportive parents and blessed to live in a season of the unknown. There will be so much in life that is determined or pre-determined for me. Right now, I’m basking in the glory of God’s plan and God’s timing. I refuse to rush my own life into a season that’s not meant to be for me.
“We’re obsessed with this idea of being domesticated and having our shit together. It’s kind of sad actually because I don’t think we ever get a chance to enjoy our youth. We’re so concerned about doing things “the right way” that we lose any sense of pleasure in doing this the wrong way. Live now and make mistakes. Live in the present and grow up in the process.”
Grow up in the process. Let’s not have our shit together. Let’s be messy. Let’s drink tequila. Let’s split our pants on the 9 dance floor during finals week. (Okay.. I’d prefer to not do that one again.) Let’s make some freakin’ memories while we are 21 so we have some good stories to tell our grandbabies, y’all.
“I’m too young to feel like I’m running out of time.”
I have so much life to live (God-willing). I have survived so much thus far and am so proud of the progress I’ve made… but I hope I have only lived 1/4 or 1/5 of my life. THINK ABOUT THAT. I have lived not even a quarter of my life and I feel rushed? No way, José. I have such a big, beautiful, wide, wonderful life ahead of me that will be filled with more adventure and love and light that I can possibly imagine.
“Your twenties are not your years to make money. Your twenties are your years to find yourself and have fun in the process.”
my future boss (whoop whoop)
Heck yeah, boss man. I am here to make some memories, to have fun, to travel, to laugh, to dance. I am not here to adhere to other people’s guidelines or ideas for who I should be or how to live my life. I don’t need to make money. I need to find myself.
“Happiness is not a checklist. A dream job, a fast car, a good home, even love, mean nothing at all if you have not yet found a way to feel full and content in your own mind and heart.”
@aburt17 on Twitter
Goodness gracious it’s difficult to be 21, graduating college, and single in South Dakota. Comparison hits you like a truck full of heart-shaped cement bricks. If you would have asked me a year and a half ago, I would have said I thought I’d be getting married this summer. HA! I have to laugh because I’m still a kid in so many (wonderful) ways. I love to be an adult and am learning to thrive off of my own independence, but deep down we all have a biological and physiological need to feel loved. Acknowledge that. Lean into that need… but do not succumb to the need. Do not settle for less because your heart yearns for love. This leads right into my next quote….
“I owe it to the person I’m going to be with to keep going and fighting for love, because at the end of the day that’s the only thing that will get me closer to my person.”
Katy Bellotte (Thick & Thin Podcast, Ep. 8)
Whatever this looks like for you: self-care, taking personality test, figuring out your love language, wearing more cute outfits, going out more often, swiping on the dating app (not for me, but you do you boo)… find ways that can only enhance your journey to love. In the end, I’m a faithful person and my momma is the first one to remind me that God will place Mr. Right in my life with the time is right. I am just doing what I can with what I’ve got (me and my own personal choices) to advance those odds. Or recognize that right now in this season of my life I’m not meant to be preparing for loving Mr. Right by dating casually… I’m preparing for Mr. Right by learning how to love myself for exactly who I am.
“She is going to travel the world one day. But first she has to accept this journey that she is on. The path her life is on, is only for her eyes. The lessons she learns each day, are only for her mind. This adventure she lives, is only for her.”
T. A. Bhatti (@tbhatti7 on Instagram)
This is the final nugget of knowledge I’ll drop on you (and myself) tonight. I tend to re-read my blogs a lot. I write exactly how I speak, and I feel like re-reading my blogs is like giving my weak self a pep-talk from my stronger self. 🙂
I hope that you can relate to these feelings of rushed-ness. Let’s collectively take a big breath and thrive in the sunshine today. This season of life, this journey, this path, this lesson, this adventure is ONLY FOR YOU. Let’s live like it.
I saw a photo yesterday on Instagram. I had to hunt awhile today to find it again because I wanted to make sure to share the words correctly. The author, @mariandrew, captioned this photo “counterintuitive life hacks.” It’s basically action to take if you feel something negative in your life. I didn’t really think much of this graphic until later in my day I realized how relevant it could be in my life.
Of course, the last on the list hit me the hardest.
Now, let’s rewind to Friday evening. I was snuggled in my bed around 9:30 p.m. (attempting to get more sleep whenever possible!) and I was completing my nightly routine I’ve had in place since the new year. Brush my teeth, skincare routine, read my book, write 1 thing I am grateful for in my gratitude journal, and then do my new devotional, “100 Days to Brave” by Annie F. Downs followed by prayer. This devo is absolutely perfect for me as I selected ‘fearless’ as my word of the year for 2019. I’m laying down, reading the devotional allocated for Day 4 and the words really resonated with me.
This devo entry asked us to examine our own lives and the lives of people around us to examine the ways in which we exhibit bravery. It asked the question, “When we see brave out in the world, it inspires us, doesn’t it?” and stated, “I think when you hear other stories, they will sound like your story, and you will realize you are braver than you give yourself credit for.”
The action step: When you see brave, say so.
I found myself pondering this and thinking about my word… fearless. I sat there reminding myself to take action, to be an encourager, to say speak out when I see someone being brave. This is what I’m being called to do, despite fear or insecurity. Okay, God, I see you. I’ll try, I guess.
So the title of this blog is “See Brave, Be Brave” but there’s also a little step that falls between those… say brave.
Last night, I wasn’t in a good mental headspace. We’re all allowed to have those days. Days where even though life is good, we are sad or frustrated or upset or <insertemotionhere.> I was just feeling kind of internally yucky for no reason. I tried not to think much of it and put it behind me as I was getting ready to go out with a couple of friends…
While I was putting on my makeup, I saw a friend of mine had posted that she was out with a gal pal after she had gone through a breakup. Without thinking, I replied and offered some encouragement, “tell her she’s a queen and will bounce back better. she has girls everywhere who have been there and are still currently there who metaphorically have her back.” because, duh. she does. I remember exactly how she feels.
If you’ve ever been there, sister, you remember exactly how it feels to go out the first time after a breakup. You’re already emotionally drained but hoping extroversion with close friends will somehow fill your empty cup or make you forget about the shizzzzstorm of your life. You smile because you’re so thankful for your friends but inside you’re still hurting.It’s a hard night. You scan every bar for their face and familiar places remind you of memories you’d rather store away in the far-off portion of your brain. I get it. I just wanted this girl to know that she isn’t alone and that I understand that she is being so freaking brave.
This message I sent lead to a short, soul-filling conversation between myself and a group of gals in a different city. They fed love right back into me. They made me smile. They reminded me who I am. They reminded me just a small piece of my purpose. I ended the interaction with a smile on my face and a rejuvenated sense of self after an evening where my mental headspace was far from positive.
This is when I remembered the graphic above… “when you feel unloved, give love.” As I sit here now, tears well up in my eyes. By giving love in that moment, these girls filled the part of my heart that had been hurting. This interaction exemplified the words that had been spoken into my heart by my devotional.
That girl was being brave. I said so. They filled me with love. They reminded me that I, too, am brave.
So I hope that as you read this today you can think of one person in your life who has been brave lately; someone who may need some love poured into them; someone who has been chasing a dream; someone who has been battling a demon. See brave, say brave, be brave. Be inspired by the people around you, because I’m sure when you look close enough they are doing some truly fantastic things. I’m sure you are too.
My dance professor ended our final class period by saying… “In my twenty years of teaching many classes, I can say that this one has been my favorite and really mean it because of all of you. I have dubbed this group “The Breakfast Club.” Laughter and cheers exploded in the studio.
Our Breakfast Club: 9 college students of different ages, backgrounds, and dance experience who came together for a 2-credit dance technique class…. a class that I’m sure none of us will ever forget.
I’m honestly so sad to be writing this blog, because it means that the semester is over. I can’t even think of the right words to describe how this class has impacted me, but the sentiments that my professor left as feedback on my final reflection summarize my vibe pretty well:
Your positive attitude toward the class, my teaching, and the content played a large role in your learning. It was fun to watch your confidence and skill improve over the semester. It was also refreshing to watch you be empowered as you worked through relationship issues. You seem like a very different person today than the one who walked into the studio in August.
I cried reading those words.
As a senior, it’s easy to think back on collegiate experiences and feel pangs of regret. “I should’ve done this, I wish I had never done this, If I could do it again I’d do this…” all of these are common thoughts. My version? I wish I had become a dance minor. As I finish this semester, however, I no longer view this as a regret. I truly believe that I was meant to take this dance class in this season of my life. It has benefitted me so greatly both mentally and physically as my life has done a 180º turn in the past year. As life was changing and I was changing, this class was a beautiful reminder that dance will always be there for me. I smile as I reflect back on my time spent in the studio this semester.
Some of my favorite moments of the semester have been the beginning of the class period where Mel asked us how we’re doing. This question isn’t the surface level “How are you?” where everyone responds, “Oh, I’m good!” We all wore our hearts on our sleeves… even if it happened by stating what item of furniture we felt like that day. On more than one occasion, I felt like a doormat when I entered the classroom and left feeling like the comfy recliner. Tears were shed in our class… but none were because of what was happening inside the studio. The studio was a safe haven from the craziness of college and life. The studio was where our Tuesday and Thursday mornings began, quite often with a smile. This is what I will remember most.
As I look back on the goals that I set at the beginning of the semester, I am proud to say that I feel proud of what I have accomplished. My first goal was to increase love /appreciation for my own body. I have given myself so much love this semester. (yaaasss!) Beyond the studio, I’ve spent hours at the gym, I’ve practiced more positive self-talk, I have spent time in reflection. I have become active on social media in encouraging others, especially women, to love themselves, be encouraging to others, and live their truth. In the studio, I gave my all… my FitBit happily tracking my morning dance sessions as a workout. While I didn’t always succeed at keeping my emotions out of the studio (thanks for the hugs, Mel), dance helped me to channel many emotions.
My second goal was to improve my technical skills / embrace a new learning style. This was so much easier than I anticipated. I have learned new terminology, frameworks, and steps and put them into action. My mind has opened to new pedagogy both for dance and collegiate instruction. The word I would use to describe Mel (Dr. Hauschild-Mork) would be transformative. I hope to implement what I learned from her in my own classroom next year. I felt challenged by the content, but in the way that every person who enjoys learning wants to be stretched… just beyond the comfort zone. I feel like a much stronger dancer due to not only the refreshing of old techniques but the addition of new techniques, terminology, and dance history. It was equally as wonderful to see this growth in my classmates, especially those who had not danced in this kind of setting before. I felt so giddy watching them nail a move or step… perhaps even more so when they didn’t quite nail the step but gave it their all and had a smile on their face. That’s what it’s all about.
In this class, while we all formed a great friendship (so much so that we asked to be randomly assigned to groups for the final project), we also formed awesome relations with our randomly assigned ‘dance buddies’ from the first week. I was lucky enough to be paired with two lovely ladies because our class had an uneven number. During our final exam time, we shared a thank you note and small, homemade gift with each of our dance buddies. I will cherish the words of thanks that my dance buddies wrote me:
“Alex, you’re probably one of my favorite people to get feedback from. Your positivity tempers my tendency to hear feedback as huge negatives I take personally. I want to thank you for your supportive disposition and constant encouragement that is felt in all you say and do.”
– a dance buddy
Oh miss Alex, thank you for your words of encouragement throughout this dance course. It had been a long time since I had danced in this way and I came in feeling very nervous. You made me feel like I was doing a good job and that my body looked beautiful while doing the moves. You are a strong woman, Alex. You will dance on to do great things.”
– a dance buddy
…like, wow. I was blown away by their kind words and even more touched by the hint of sparkle in each of their eyes as I read these words out loud. What truly beautiful souls filled the dance studio this semester. I don’t always feel positive; I don’t always feel strong. I aim to be an encourager in what I say and do and I know that I sometimes fail… but these two amazing ladies made me feel like a million bucks by sharing their experiences with my encouragement. I feel like God is showing me my divine purpose more and more every day and he did so even within the dance studio this semester. I left a mark on these two ladies, and they left their mark on me. I am so grateful for the friendships made in this class… I could add many more examples.
One last thing that I am thankful for as I end this semester was the opportunity to see Haley each and every Tuesday and Thursday. We planned this accordingly so that we could take this class together during her first semester as a jackrabbit. After four years of friendship from afar, driving Haley to dance class, listening to worship music with her, and reflecting on our days has been such a highlight of my semester. Haley often reminds me of myself. I refer to her as my “little sister.” I have expressed to her that I am so happy that she can continue to learn from Mel and advance her dance career here at State. Through Haley, I will live my “what if.”
The fact that I have accomplished my goals, made friendships, danced my heart out, and learned so much more than the Cincinnati step just furthers the idea that I was meant to take this class during this season of my life. I will always look back on this class as one of the most impactful classes for me here at SDSU and as a constant reminder to never stop dancing (and to never forget the breakfast club.)
To my breakfast club pals: I love you all and you’re wonderful. Thank you so much for creating the environment we shared this semester. The class was amazing, Melissa’s pedagogy is transformative… but the class could never be the same without each and every one of you.
Winter fashion is everything. I like to wear layers. Big, baggy layers. Give me a cami, a sweater, a vest, and a jacket. Throw a scarf on there. Maybe a hat. I want to blend in and morph the appearance of my body for myself and for everyone else.
I’m a twenty-one year old female. Like every girl my age (and potentially every woman ever) it’s ridiculously easy to fall into the trap of societal pressures, need to fit in, urge to be wanted, and the overarching goal of being seen as beautiful in not only your own eyes, but the eyes of the world. That doesn’t sound so bad, right?
These forces allow (if not encourage) us to hate our bodies. Body image issues all around, folks. We spend time in the mirror critiquing and pinching certain areas. We agonize over photos of ourselves in our prime physique when we were three-sport athletes or hit the gym every day. We look at the number on the scale and cringe. The cute outfits we used to love no longer fit the way they used to.
I get it, sister. I’m no size 0. (Even if you are, you can still not feel beautiful. Size is a number.) I have some lumps&bumps&curves that aren’t my favorite. I look back on photos from this summer when I was ridiculously tan and thin from a diet of bread, water, and walking 20,000+ steps throughout Europe. Now, I hit the gym around three times a week (God bless b.well) and my physique has changed a lot because of it… not slimming down, but muscling up. It’s disheartening sometimes. I still can’t do pushups to save my life. I’m out of breath running a couple laps. All these moments I’m writing about are not just ‘you’ moments. We’re all there. I’m writing this so you know you’re not alone. I’m there too…. but yesterday, I had a moment that was really different.
I’ve written before about how absolutely transformative my collegiate dance class has been this semester. Our final projects include to choreograph a minute of tap and a minute of modern with the skills we’ve gained over the course of the semester. I began the morning with modern dance, practicing the moves in a lobby space. Later, my group and I moved into the studio space to run through our tap number. By this time, I was sweating in a baggy pullover sweater. I had thrown a tight tank underneath that day for the sole purpose of making sure my bra didn’t show through this white sweater. No big deal, I’ll shed the top layer in this safe space and just wear a tank top.
In front of me was a wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. When I took off that layer, I looked in the mirror with appreciation. I saw my body how other people see it instead of the way I typically pick it apart. I noticed the muscles in my legs, my strong shoulders, and the way my curves move as I dance. I smiled.
This moment, however wonderful, was fleeting. Later that evening, I had to switch into a business dress that I felt didn’t do my body any favors. Instead of focusing on the thousands of moments I feel inadequate/ugly/bloated/too curvy/chunky/rough, I’m going to try to focus on that fleeting, beautiful moment. I want to remember how it felt to like what I saw in the mirror; remember how it felt to really love myself despite the flaws.
Sometimes, it’s important to shed the layers of societal crap, unrealistic expectations, and unhealthy, negative self-talk. Sometimes, it’s important to just wear the damn tank top and see yourself as other people see you. Sometimes, it’s important to dance in the mirror and shake what ya momma/god/time at the gym/lack thereof gave ya.
Even if you don’t have this moment today, make a conscious decision to cherish the moment when it does come.
Always remember that you are absolutely gorgeous, and that’s the least interesting thing about you.
Today, my classmate came to class and expressed some back pain to my dance professor. The tone of her voice lent me to believe that it’s been a long week. Well.. I feel ya, sister. She said something along the line of “my back has been spasming, and I was just hoping you could, y’know… fix me?”
We all laughed, but I found myself pondering her words throughout the class. This statement is more understandable if you know our dance professor. Quite frankly, she’s amazing. Her pedagogy is transformative; her interactions with students are truly inspiring. Her background knowledge of body mechanics and dance therapy are astounding and wonderful in a stressful semester of college… well, any semester. I couldn’t be more grateful to be learning from her and growing as a human and a dancer this semester in her class (I could write a whole blog about that.)
As someone who is praying a lot about becoming an educator, I find myself thinking back on the great teachers of my life….
my (favorite) second grade teacher who I later student-taught for and learned so much from about caring for young learners
my high school science teacher who was the only one to ask me about my accident despite the fact that I wasn’t great at science and talked too much in her classes
my high school math teacher who pushed me and challenged me every step of the way and let me know that a ‘B’ would not ruin my life (this made me a better learner, even though I stink at math… and I’m still a perfectionist, but working on it.)
my first college professor who saw me struggling to find my fit just one month into college and told me she believed in me. She has continued to be by my side through it all… even allowing me to teach beside her for a semester.
a professor who took a chance on me to work with her on a project that became my nerdy research pet project…a professor who later asked to “please go through my Europe photos” and have a life update in her office after a summer apart.
my dance professor who has completely changed the way I view pedagogy and active learning, who continually shows me she cares with and without words.
All of these educators come to mind as I prepare to apply for graduate school. The lessons I have learned from those educators are what make me feel capable to teach freshmen next year.
I have found the common thread: a great educator is someone who not only cares about what I’m learning in the classroom, but someone who cares about who I am outside of the classroom.
So, today, as I round out week three of the #mytruthiestlife challenge by Lisa Hayim (@thewellnecessities) I am grateful for teachers who have opened my eyes, asked me questions, challenged me, seen potential in me when I didn’t see it in myself, allowed me to cry or laugh or smile, inspired me, and who have truly been there when the only words I could utter were “fix me.”