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For All My Moms

This morning my mommy posted a really cool list on Facebook titled “For My Daughter: 15 Life Lessons I Wish I Had Received Growing Up” and she shared it with her daughters and the daughters of her heart. So I decided it was high time to let all the moms of my heart know just how much they matter.

My mother is an inspiring woman. She’s stunningly beautiful, kind hearted, intelligent, well-spoken and undeniably brave. Her heart is warm and she’s quick to share her love—but you should never underestimate her…as anyone who REALLY knows her also understands that she can be a fierce mama bear as well. Even now, as I’ve come to accept my quasi-adulthood, I still need my mom. And, I’ve also come to realize, I need the mothers of my heart as well.

In the 3rd or 4th grade my parents went on a trip to Vermont and I stayed with our next door neighbors, the Graham family; this was my very first experience of being adopted by an extra mom. Most vacations in the Williams family were taken all together so this was one of the rare occurrences that my sister and I did not join our parents. I loved our neighbors; nonetheless, after a post-dinner phone call with my parents I confronted the fact that I was a homebody and I missed my family. So while my little-girl-self whimpered and boo-hoo’ed, Cheri Graham held me and said I just needed some “mama love”. You know what? I felt better. Turns out, that even if it doesn’t always come from MY mom, “mom love” is a healing force.

Ever since then, I’ve been adopted by mommies all over the place. And while having so many moms in the world definitely has its drawbacks (I have more people telling me to drive safely, commenting on my weight loss and slapping me in the chest when we make rapid stops in the car), I couldn’t be more thankful that so many incredible women have given me love over the years.

So, thank you all for the hugs, the tsk tsk’s when I’ve lost too much weight, the advice about which vitamins I should take, the coddling when I don’t feel well, the hawk eyes that always seem to catch me when I shouldn’t be doing something, the extra comfort when my heart hurts and, above all else, for sharing your mom love. I appreciate every single bit of it.

Putting Pen to Paper

It is hard to explain the feeling that washes through my veins when I lay words on a page; impossible to describe the process behind each selection, why I string this word along with that one or where they even come from in the dredges of my mind. This is something that flows…writing is a substance that seems a part of not just my brain or heart, but perhaps also it is included in each sequence of my genes.

Writers might call my style convoluted or juvenile; editors would probably guffaw at the improper use of ellipses. But here, behind the computer, with my fingers lain gingerly atop the keys, none of those opinions matter. The critiques of my syntax, the skepticism of my voice, those all slip away as if they never even existed….writing is an escape, it’s a place I go to free myself from MY thoughts. Writing it out means I have to analyze myself, explain my point of view and, really, come to terms with my opinions.

But while the process comes easily, the decision to let the words go is impossibly hard. For whatever reason, once those thoughts escape, they do just that—they escape and I can’t reclaim them. I have to commit myself to releasing a story that I won’t be able to tell again, I cannot take it back or retell it—once the story is gone, it isn’t mine anymore. Maybe they’re my thoughts or beliefs or what have you, but the words don’t belong to me. Not once they have left, anyway. Writing isn’t this static thing that I have created; it’s alive. So maybe that’s why this is hard; why it’s tough to release my words into the world—like a parent who watches their child grow, I spend embarrassing amounts of time clinging to the stories I want to tell.

This very post has lingered in my mind for ages. I’ve mulled over every facet of it, I’ve dissected its influences, and I have spent time acquainting myself with what this really means.

Writing is cathartic. When it comes to sad things, or intimate things, as often as I consider letting them flow away, I spend about twice that time convincing myself to keep it all—keep it close. I find myself in a wildly unpredictable argument about two mutually exclusive terms—to let things go or to hold on for dear life?

In the end, the drive to put pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keys) always wins.

Is Tact a Dying Breed?

In my job, I often meet a hundred people at college fairs; on preview events, I’ll probably meet a hundred more and when I visit high schools I have the opportunity to interact with half a dozen students or so. Though I’m not by any means *the best* when it comes remembering names, I insist on trying my darnedest to commit at least faces to memory. I love seeing students I have met at college fairs come to visit the school on preview events—they remember me and I always want to remember them. So here’s the thing, while I can’t always draw a name out of the dredges of memory, I want the opportunity to say “It’s so good to see you again!”; even if that has to be followed by “Remind me of your name,” remembering people, in my opinion, is a great way we can show others that they matter.

This past weekend, I encountered someone I’ve met a couple times before; she’s a friend of an incredible friend of mine and so I’ve always made it paramount that I remember her because of that fact. On this occasion, I happened to be speaking to someone else we both know and I remarked that it was funny how small the world is—that we should both know this person but not ever really discuss it. She looked at me, in a way that implied I was something of an irritant, and she said “Who are you?”—not “Good to see you again, remind me of your name,” not “Oh my, I didn’t even recognize you!” but rather she actually inquired about my identity, as though we hadn’t ever met before. In the moment, I stammered to explain myself. I told her my name, I reminded her how we know one another and I made excuses—“my hair WAS a different color then, so I really can’t blame you…” She never acknowledged that we’d spent an entire evening together less than a year and a half ago and, actually, she never acknowledged we’d even met before that very moment.

Looking back on it, I haven’t been able to rid myself of the fact that I am genuinely offended. Perhaps recognizing others and showing recognition of our encounters is something only I value but even if that were the case, I would think that she would at least navigate such a situation with tact—after all, if I clearly knew her then she should probably know me as well.

But that brings me to a question I often mull over: in the present day of sarcasm as a second language, bluntness as an admirable quality and celebrations thrown over candid speech, has tactfulness fallen to the wayside?

Fair Weather

I used to think arguing was worth my time. That somehow, I wasn’t utterly wasting my breath trying to change other peoples’ minds about me, about the world, about what they believed of me.

I learned something. Arguing is not the same as debating. Changing peoples’ minds is not the same as seeing the light. Questioning is not the same as hearing. So I changed my view. Instead of arguing with other people and fervently attempting to vouch for myself, I decided to become right with ME. Spending time considering what I believe and what I want and how I plan to get it became a goal. I shared those feelings with the people who care about me, the people I love. I learned something else….arguing, proving myself, and trying to get other people on my fence left me jaded, wanting and bitter.

Approaching the world from the perspective of Bernard Baruch in the fashion of “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind,” gave me peace and peace of mind. This wasn’t an overnight journey, I spent time exhaustively trying to convince people I was worthy of something, that I deserved their respect–instead of taking what I deserve, going after what I want and surrounding myself with people who don’t need to be convinced.

As people, we all make mistakes; we occasionally fail to live up to our potential. But we don’t owe success to those people who don’t support us when we fail. We don’t owe consideration to those who walk away when we aren’t our best. Life is exhausting. Being a person is a learning process, it’s full of ups and downs, three steps forward and two steps back. It’s trying enough to live without grudges or hatred, so I choose to let that go. If you don’t value me, that’s okay, I don’t hate you and I won’t blame you. Why? I have room in my heart for anyone and everyone who has room in their heart for me but I’m too busy loving my family and my friends, focusing my energy on those who have carried me through this life to worry about the people who choose to act selfishly, who choose to be fair weather and who choose to love conditionally.

Here’s to those people who love me at my lowest AND my best, who value me as a person when I fail AND when I succeed, who put in love every day even when I mess up. I promise to always do the same.

At lunch today my co-workers and I joined another office on campus for burritos at one of the local favorite spots. It’s always a nice change of pace to meet up with new (read: not new, but rarely seen) people so we can back and forth about what’s going on in the office. On this occasion though we got onto the subject of student tour guides and one of the other individuals adamantly expressed “I HATE when you walk backwards, it’s so wrong.” It would come out that “you’re not supposed to walk backwards because it makes people nervous.” I didn’t expect to be so vehemently opposed to this line of thinking…but, you know, I was. 

As the coordinator for tour guides and a former tour guide myself, I’d say I’m pretty well versed in the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t on the campus tour. And here’s the really important thing, something my fellow co-coordinator and I have always emphasized with your guides–DO what you’re comfortable with, DON’T do it if you’re not. I think it’s that simple. The best tour guides are students who engage their groups and are confident in what they’re doing. 

Personally, I probably spend less than a quarter of my time walking backwards on tours. That said, it serves a great purpose in how I execute my tours: 1) I have the opportunity to make eye contact (see: connect) with each of my group members. 2) I familiarize myself with their faces and they have the chance to do the same with me. 3) It engages my group in what I’m saying. I’m talking to them and with them, I’m not talking AT them and I’m not talking toward them. 

If the strongest argument against backwards walking tour guides is that it makes visitors “anxious”, then pfffffft, can’t we just get over it? There are a million things in this world that make people anxious. Pickles make my pledgesister uneasy. Little kids on scooters make me incredibly nervous. My coworker feels queasy at the mention of the word “moist”. Anxiety is a part of life, and in the event that I do trip over something while backwards walking…so what? We laugh it off, keep going and have a funny, quirky story for our visitors to tell when they leave. This isn’t the end of the world. 

That said, I don’t walk backwards all the time, I would trip and I would get tired of it. So I adapt my tours to my own pace, style and the desires of my group. My tour guides are encouraged to do the same. If they want to walk backwards they’re free to; if they want to walk forwards, go for it; and if they have their own mish mash of patterns then that is fine too. 

Pentagon tour guides receive extensive training on how to navigate the twisty, winding pathways of that building (which, for the record, includes 19 escalators and 131 stairways) seamlessly while walking backwards. So I say this, if the Pentagon can do it…so can we. 

:D

Yield

Many people know that I have a tattoo on my shoulder which reads “and so it goes that I shall bend to love and love to time…”. I’ve had this tattoo for close to three years now and I wear it as a constant reminder to embrace life’s experiences. I’ve decided to post the poem from which I drew my tattoo for the first time. I titled it “Yield”. 

As the winter frost must yield to the springtime light,

So must the moon fade for the rising sun;

Neither less glorious, less worthy for its finite stretch.

To absorb the beauty, to feel, is the ultimate feat.

And so it goes that I shall bend to love and love to time…

Never fail to endure when the end is nigh,

Never forego love for lack of time,

Never sacrifice life for lack of eternity. 

Unrequited

Speak.

Desperate words planned out,
Stumbling and tumbling through heart to head.
I choke on the words I’ve left unsaid.

Say something. Say something.

These desperate words, these pleading words,
Ravage my brain and course through my veins
Until feeling is all that remains.

Say something, say anything.

Nothing comes out, no words,
For fear that the passion I’ve ignited…
Is naught but unrequited.

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