my favorite year to date

One year ago today, Scott asked me to make our relationship official. We had spent more than six months getting to know each other—slowly at first, through text messages and Snapchats. The casual conversations soon turned to sporadic phone calls, and those soon turned much more routine. Eventually, we were talking every day. We would FaceTime, text, talk on the phone…whatever we could make work with a two-hour time difference and 2,300 miles between us. When the time finally came that Scott visited me in Nashville, it felt like we’d known each other forever!

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Though I didn’t know it at the time, all of those months building a friendship (following a serendipitous weekend spent hanging out in SF when we first met on my vacation) were laying a foundation for a love that I’d come to give thanks for every day.

Scott encourages me to be vulnerable. I share my biggest insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams with him, and he meets me with empathy and understanding.

Scott makes me more vibrant. I feel empowered to be my truest, most bubbly self in his company. He laughs at my jokes and makes me laugh even harder at his.

Scott makes the sun’s rays shine brighter. He lightens up my darkest days and makes my sunny days even sunnier. He reminds me to practice gratitude and never stop seeking out adventures.

Scott brings joy to my life. He is always willing to drive to that nearby town, kiss in that photo booth, or sing that karaoke song. I savor my weekends with him.

Scott makes me a better person—I want to love harder and give more generously. He continually serves me in a way I never imagined anyone would, and he inspires me to do the same.

The magic I’ve found in falling in love has made the last year the best one of my life.

I usually pride myself on being good with words, but when I try to convey to Scott just how meaningful he is to me and how much I love him, I always come up short. My words just don’t seem to carry the weight that my heart feels for this man. However, I’m hoping to spend a really long time trying to find the words that will do him justice.

My Scotty—happy anniversary. I love you past the moon!

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the last few months

Where has the time gone?  I feel like I blinked and 2015 is nearly over.

I’ve been at my job for five months now and I can hardly believe it!  It feels like just yesterday I was a new kid at the office, trying to overcome a massive learning curve.  Now, I feel pretty confident and comfortable in my day-to-day, and am even ready to kick things up with a new challenge or project!12122915_10154401458417715_2181525618230869685_nAlli and I have been going to a LOT of concerts.  I do mean a LOT.  We’ve seen Of Monsters and Men, Ben Rector, Judah & the Lion, The Neighbourhood, George Ezra, Kodaline, ZZ Ward and about two dozen indie/up-and-coming artists and bands.  We typically go to at least one show a week, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  (That’s what I envisioned, after all, when I saw myself living in Nashville.)10982317_10153996084897715_3639922355980186224_nThis weekend, my best friend Maddie is visiting and I know we’ll have an absolute blast.  I’m planning on taking her to a vineyard, to my favorite coffee shop and everywhere in between.  I may even drag her out hiking!  I am so looking forward to having some in-person time with my best friend to catch up.  After all, we’ve known each other ten years and lived together for three of those years…it’s been a long five months apart!

As you can see, life’s been busy!  With only 65 days until Christmas, I know that I’m going to wake up and it’s going to be 2016 before I know it.  (And I’ll be turning 24 before then!)  It’s starting to cool off in Nashville, and I’m excited for a winter of snow, hot drinks and cozy sweaters.

goodbye for now, florida

“Don’t shy away from your game-changing decisions.  Set your jaw, make up your mind and don’t ever look back.”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I heard Peyton Manning say these words at Chick-fil-A Leadercast the very day after I received a job offer.  The offer would take me to a new industry, in a new city…and with a pay cut.  But everything in me was saying to take the position, make the jump…MOVE.  As I sat listening to dynamic speaker after dynamic speaker, I grew more and more certain that I had to accept the offer.

I was scared, though.  They wanted me to start in exactly one month.  How was I supposed to get everything together in that amount of time?  What about the fact that I know, like, four people in that city?  Then, Seth Godin said on making a change, “It’s always too soon.  We can be prepared but we can never be ready.”  Boom.  Okay, Seth.

So I went home on Friday evening and I accepted the offer.  I took a bold leap of faith, and I have felt great about it ever since.  As I look for housing, try to pack up my life from five years spent in Gainesville and just wrap my mind around the fact that, for the first time in 23 years, I won’t be living in Florida, I have sense of excitement and eagerness.  I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

There are bittersweet parts, too.  Leaving beloved friends and coworkers behind in Gainesville.  Not having my favorite university on the planet in my backyard.  Being further away from my hometown.

998360_10152193951387715_1049502063_nBut I believe in the company I’m going to work for.  I believe that good things lie ahead.  I believe in and share their values.  I believe that their team is one on which I’ll thrive.  C.S. Lewis said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”  I believe this now more than ever.

I am so excited to start my new chapter of life with Warby Parker in Nashville, TN on June 8, 2015.  This Florida girl is headed to Tennessee!

happy friends for a happy life

I mentioned in my last post that over the last year, I discovered who I want in my corner – people who build me up, make me smile when I see their name pop up on my phone, encourage me and support me…that is, the people who make me happy.

These are people like a former boss, a mentor in West Virginia, a really amazing guy in Utah, my grandparents…the list goes on.  Well, it doesn’t go on too much.  That would defeat the point, which is this: working more than 40 hours a week while trying to focus on overall wellness (including prioritizing healthy sleep, eating and exercise habits) makes it hard to keep up with the hundreds of friends I made in college.

While I do thrive in having a large network and keeping in some sort of continued contact with about 100 folks (whether by snail mail, Facebook, text messages or phone calls), that’s not sustainable in everyday life.  The person I call to seek advice on a problem at work, the person I call when I’m walking from my car late at night…those are my people. The ones who make me happiest and the ones I should, therefore, invest the most in.

I’ve always had such a hard time letting friendships and relationships go.  I felt like a failure when in reality, two people just simply grew apart (usually for good reason).

I now know that having peace with letting people go is not admitting defeat or failure.  It’s not saying I don’t care about them or their happiness; it’s just realizing that our relationship might no longer be a part of their (or my) happiness equation.

One of my other goals for 2015 was to be debt-free, and that became a reality today.  Now, I think I’ll call one of my people – my happy friends for a happy life – to share the good news.

i don’t know about you, but i’m feelin…23

As I start a fresh new year as a 23-year-old, I can’t help but reflect on what age 22 brought to me.

At 22, I graduated from college and started a full-time job.

At 22, I chopped off eight inches of hair.

At 22, I discovered who I want in my corner – people who build me up, make me smile when I see their name pop up on my phone, encourage me and support me.

At 22, I began writing a novel and I read a lot of books.

At 22, I found out that there are people out there who will treat you better than you ever thought you could (or deserved to) be treated.  I learned how surprisingly nice it is to have a Valentine.  I also found out what it’s like to fall for someone and wind up getting hurt.

At 22, I made a bucket list.

At 22, I realized that it is impossible to sustain a one-sided relationship, and that some people have to leave our lives to make room for those who have yet to come.

At 22, I took vacations, moved to a new apartment, wrote letters, went to concerts, drove with the windows down and binged on television shows online.

At 22, I spent a lot of time assessing who I want to be, how I want to be known and what I want to accomplish.

I hope now that at 23, I can start making a true dent in those things.

in all kinds of weather

Do I think the Gators have had an impressive season?  No.  Do I think that his coaching has earned him the privilege to continue on in his career at Florida?  No.  Do I think he’s surprised by his firing?  No.

However, I also don’t think it’s fair for Coach Muschamp to have been booed by his own fans several weeks back on our own field.  I don’t think it’s right that the entirety of our team’s losses be attributed to his poor coaching.  I don’t think it’s acceptable that following a loss, every social media outlet on the internet is overflowing with posts calling for his firing or worse — threatening him.

Coach Muschamp (I will continue to call him that, as he is still our coach for two more games) is a man with a family.  He has two young sons who idolize him.  These two young sons have had to worry about their dad’s job, their future, where they might be moving, leaving their friends and beloved Gators behind.  Most of us surely didn’t have to worry about such big, scary things when we were kids.

Coach Muschamp has taken heat on the field, heat at the press conferences after the game, heat in the grocery store when fans question him about coaching decisions and, I’m sure, heat at home when pressed about what the future might hold.  Coach Muschamp is a human, and I’m sure at this point, he’s tired.

And with today’s headlines, he is both tired and fired.  I recognize that part of the territory that comes with a multimillion dollar salary at a multimillion dollar football program is public scrutiny.  However, in the wake of Jeremy Foley’s announcement, I think the public (specifically, the Gator Nation) could be a bit more gracious.

Already, I have seen tweets saying things like “Our prayers have been answered!”

Really?  This is what you were praying for?  A fan base that alienates its coach and then celebrates his termination?

Here’s what I’m praying for.  I’m praying that Coach Muschamp can have a successful last couple of games at Florida.  I’m praying that he can find a job where his family will thrive and his team will win.  (Let’s not forget what the Gators looked like in 2012 — he can coach a team like that again.)  I am praying that when all is said and done, and Coach Muschamp packs his bags and moves away from his hometown, he doesn’t have hard feelings toward the Gators, the team he grew up watching and spent four years of his life coaching.  I’m praying that the Gator Nation will be a bit kinder and more compassionate toward whoever our next coach is, in all kinds of weather.

I am writing this as someone with skin in the game.  I graduated from the University of Florida.  I went to four years of football games.  I have a drawer full of orange and blue, and I still live and work in Gainesville.  It’s not as though I’m apathetic to the Gators’ football record.  I want to see the program succeed because I want to see my school succeed.  I want a sold-out stadium so that the university has more funds to put back into its campus and faculty.  I want to see a strong Gator football team so alumni will continue to come back for games and put their dollars into Gainesville’s economy.  I want to see a winning football season because I love the Florida Gators.

But with all this being said, my heart aches today for Coach Muschamp.  I want to see the Gators get back to the winning, national championship-caliber team we once were, but I want to see us do it with positive attitudes, hard work ethic and unwavering support for our players and coaches.

Yesterday, I sat row 9 on the 50-yard-line and watched my favorite football team lose.  Win or lose, though, I was singing the alma mater at the end of the game and thinking how great it still is to be a Florida Gator.  Against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State, I will continue to stand by my team–and its current coaches.

I ask only that you, my fellow Gators, stand by me.

love advice from taylor swift

At home, my roommate Maddie and I have a “House Quotes of Note” board.  One of the quotes on there says, “I’m crying.  I just love T. Swift so much.  She gets me.”  This quote was from yours truly.

The pathetic part is that I really was crying.  As I listened to All Too Well and I Almost Do and Last Kiss and all the other heartbreaking songs on Red for the first time, the night that it came out, I couldn’t help but cry.  I am a female.  I was, at this point, 20 years old.  Hopelessly romantic.  Hopelessly single.  I can’t remember right now (and how awesome does that feel) but I probably had feelings for someone who didn’t return them.  I have had a lot of that in my lifetime.

As Taylor Swift grows up, it seems to me that many are waiting for her to fail — or at the very least, have a misstep.  But I continue to watch year after year as Taylor becomes an even sparklier, more admirable best friend-I-wish-I-had.  Not to replace my current best friends of course, just to join our clique, clique, clique.  (Is it bad that I just referenced Kanye in a T. Swift blog post?  I digress.)

Well, recently, Taylor Swift has been responding to fans’ posts on Instagram, supplying sweet comments, thoughtful advice and humorous captions.  I came across this comment recently, that Taylor wrote to a fan asking about unrequited love.  Taylor’s view on the topic struck a chord with me (music pun fully intended) and I thought I’d share it here.

“I think we grow up thinking the only love that counts as true love is the kind that lasts forever or is fully realized. When you have a broken heart, the first thing a stranger will ask is ‘how long were you two together?’ As if your pain can be determined by how long you were with someone. Or if you were with them at all. I don’t think that’s how it works. I think unrequited love is just as valid as any other kind. It’s just as crushing and just as thrilling.

No matter what happens in this situation, I want you to remember that what you are doing is selfless and beautiful and kind.  You are loving someone purely because you love them, not because you think you’ll ever have your affections reciprocated. You are admiring something for its beauty, without needing to own it. Feel good about being the kind of person who loves selflessly. I think someday you’ll find someone who loves you in that exact same way.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Taylor’s perspective, particularly the point she makes about how long you were with someone not necessarily having a correlation with the amount of pain that relationship’s end brings you.

I think that Taylor takes some of her cues from Cheryl Strayed, an author that my friend Nicole introduced me to.  Reading the words of both of these women, my mind races and my heart swells.  My romanticism may nag at me but I’m not interested in curing it.

Cheryl Strayed said: “Don’t be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word ‘love’ to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.”

She also said, “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.”

Between these two ideas, you’ve got how I’m living my life and what I’m trying to fully realize in my life.  I suppose I need to find the middle ground between the two.

For now, I’ve got to go, but if you need me, I’ll be the grown woman driving in the car, windows down, single tear streaming down my cheek because “T.Swift just gets me.”

listen and rethink

RethinkGNV_Logo_Primary2ColorToday I had the privilege of attending Rethink GNV.

You should know, I’m an auditory learner—I learn best and most not from doing or seeing but from listening.  So, when I got the chance to sit all day in a cool, comfortable auditorium listening to smart people say inspiring things…you could say that was my idea of a great day.

I had some takeaways from this awesome event that I want to share in the hopes that maybe just one will resonate with you the way that it did with me.  In fact, some of these concepts are burning in my mind so fiercely that I find myself sitting in a Starbucks less than a mile from the event venue writing this post.  It simply couldn’t wait!

1. Antonio Neves: There are two kinds of people in this world: thieves of ambition and allies of glory.  Allies of glory cheer for you.  They celebrate your successes and they tell you yes, you can.  Be an ally of glory and surround yourself with them.

2. Jessica Ekstrom: 30 seconds is the perfect amount of time for your passion to talk.  There is no time for pros/cons or budget spreadsheets.  When an “aha” moment comes, utilize that 30-second window to conclusively decide to act.

3. Greg Reid: You’re the same person you’ll be in five years, except for the people you meet and the books you read.

4. James Robilotta: Role models are tangible and transparent.  Heroes are fake and aloof.  We love role models for their strengths and their struggles.  Heroes are egocentric and while they spend a lot of time “working,” they don’t actually get much done.  Our workplaces need more role models and fewer heroes.

5. Nick Friedman: Does McDonald’s make the best hamburger in the country?  No, but they make the most consistently mediocre hamburger in the world!  No, customers don’t want mediocrity, but they do want consistency.  Deliver reliable results every time.

6. Charlie Hoehn: Life is a series of opportunities to have your own fun.  Don’t let a drive for productivity or “success” leave you an anxiety-ridden mess.  Decide to allow yourself to have guilt-free fun in everything you do.  Success—when it comes at the cost of debilitating stress and feelings of inadequacy—is not worth it.

What ultimately clicked into place today (that I’ve heard many times before but has gone in one ear and out the other) is that there will never be an easy or convenient time to go after what you want.

Jessica Ekstrom put it well when she said, “It’s not about what we dream; it’s about what happens when we wake up.”  So, today is the start of a new chapter: of going after what I want, and knowing that I want it more than I am afraid of it.  Stay tuned.  I’ve got a running regimen to keep up with and a novel to write.

i and love and you

I think that much of our society has come to fear the word “love.”  And I don’t like that.  I don’t like it one bit.

Why do we feel like we lose our power when we say “I love you?”  This is, in fact, where we gain it.  We free ourselves from uncertainty and cloudiness and ambiguity.  The other person’s reaction or response doesn’t matter; they are not an authority on the subject matter of our hearts. Obviously having love (and the expression of it) reciprocated is wonderful but it isn’t the point. If we all waited on the other person to say “I love you” first, the magical three-word combination would never get said.

I remember for years loving a friend but being afraid to tell him.  What was I afraid of?  It’s not as if I was in love with him, professing my desire to run away together and live like Noah and Allie until we wrinkle in our old age—no.  But I loved him, and I knew it.  The fact of the matter is that my love for him wasn’t conditional on him returning the phrase.  (Although in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit that he did.)  Once you’ve chosen to actively love someone, the hard part is done.  Saying it is simple.  Furthermore, the more love we give to others, the greater our capacity to love becomes.

Love is not to be stifled, softened, limited or withheld.  It is ours to throw out the window, letting it sweep like the wind over those we leave behind.  Love is ours to give freely (and I’m not talking about the “free love” of the 60’s and 70’s), whether to the grocery store cashier or a lab partner or an author whose books you love or even a guy you met randomly in a fast food restaurant one Thursday afternoon.

What I’m suggesting is simple: if you love someone, say it.  Say it in a letter, a text message, a postcard, a speech, a voicemail.  Say it in chalk, in ink, in watercolor, in charcoal, in permanent marker.  Say it often and say it with conviction.  Don’t be scared to say it and don’t be scared to hear it; we were made for this.

Note: In an ironic twist, this post has been sitting in the “notes” section of my phone for about a month now.  Perhaps I need to match my fearlessness for posting on my blog with my fearlessness for letting people know that I care about them.02f579cec2c01ebd5e4914f672057884

up in the air

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Once, I spoke on the phone with a friend of a friend who works in the public relations industry and was giving me career advice.  I was lamenting on my lack of specific direction when she asked me, “How would you spend your ideal day?”  I thought about this.  “For me,” she said, “I would be in a hammock reading Vogue on the beach all day if I could.”

“I would sit all day in a coffee shop, just chatting with whoever came and sat down next to me,” I told her.

I’ve written before about my love for strangers.  Talking to people as though I’ve known them my whole life is what I do best, and what I enjoy most.  So naturally, earlier this week when I traveled to Chicago for a job interview, I found myself doing lots of what I just mentioned: making new friends.

On the plane from Gainesville to Atlanta, I met a man who has been researching malaria for more than 30 years.  His work takes him away from his family frequently, but he knows it’s worth it for the value of the discoveries he’s taking part in.  From Atlanta to Chicago, I sat next to a guy who went to Virginia Tech and studied theatre.  He is now an experimental actor in Chicago who had just left the funeral of his 23-year-old brother’s girlfriend (who committed suicide in the apartment they shared).

At the airport waiting to fly from Chicago to Charlotte, I struck up a conversation with a man who lives and works in Wisconsin in economic development for the state of Victoria, Australia.  He grew up in Australia but moved to the United States 20 years ago after falling in love with an American girl studying abroad at his university.  “You must have really liked her to move across the world,” I said to him.  He explained to me that there wasn’t a place far enough away for him not to follow her.  “I knew she was it,” he said.  “And when you know that, you owe it to yourself to relentlessly pursue that person.”

In that same airport, I met the VP of Marketing for the largest independent bottler of Coca Cola in the country.  He was full of professional and interview advice.  One of the greatest things, though, was when he stopped talking about work and started absolutely glowing about his daughter.  It was clear that she is the sunshine of his life and it was so refreshing to hear a dad be so genuinely proud of his little girl.

On my airplane ride to Charlotte, I had every intention of taking a nap…specifically, a window seat-leaning, mouth possibly open, two-hour nap.  But after Rebecca started talking to me, I knew that wasn’t in the cards.

I heard about her husband, a former Army Special Forces officer who works in North Carolina now as she works in Wisconsin.  I heard about their commitment for making their marriage work after all these years in spite of deployments and distance constantly getting in the way.  I heard about her grandkids, and Disney plans, and then I heard about how she tragically lost one of her best friends in an accident last week.  Tears were in both of our eyes as we tried together to make sense of such a senseless tragedy.

I spent my final flight from Charlotte to Gainesville trying to nap but struggling to do so.  Just two days earlier, I’d been feeling crappy about relationship issues and personal problems (and to be honest, I still feel pretty crappy about those things).  In that short time though, I’d been exposed to countless people who’d given me perspective on life, work, family travel and love…all things I could use a lot more perspective on.

Even more intensely, I was met with the realization that the quote we hear so often (frequently attributed to Plato)  is unbelievably true.  “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I’ve encouraged this before and I will again: take a moment today, or tomorrow, or the next day to talk to–really talk to–a stranger.  You never know who might be in need of some kind words, and I can guarantee that you’ll learn something too.  I learned this week that love knows no distance, family is a gift and life is short.  I have heard all of these things before, but had I not spoken with these total strangers this week, I wouldn’t have actively seen just how true they are.