Day 19: This Month

As you can see, I wasn’t really creative enough to think of anything beyond just looking back at this month and seeing what has all transpired. I really did not plan much of this theme of gratitude beyond just that. I knew the few topics I definitely wanted to cover, but besides that, it was a free-for-all.

But I am so grateful for the positive feedback I’ve gotten. I hope for those who have stuck around this long have potentially implemented more gratitude in your own lives because I certainly have. Especially on this last full week of classes for me, as I sit in the library between a class and a meeting, feeling the anxiety literally coming out of my pores, I am grateful for a moment of calm to reflect back on the thoughts I’ve expressed and so many more to come. It won’t necessarily be in this public domain, but looking ahead to the commercialized Christmas season, it’s still important to find gratitude. Heck, no matter the time of year, it’s a beautiful life. Each day is a patch in the quilt, a piece of the puzzle. Not always pretty, but eventually when everything comes together, it makes sense.

I am also grateful the continual support I receive for my blog. I am appalled when I hear of people I know who religiously follow my random musings, and that alone means the world to me. To know that even though I wouldn’t mind if people followed me or not, having readers who appreciate what I have to say is always a nice feeling. 

I am so grateful for whatever inkling was inside me to begin in the first place. I know I’ve said it before, but this has to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love having an outlet to organize my thoughts when the inspiration strikes. It’s empowering and comforting. 

Through my time on this blog and this themed month, I hope you too can find that thing that really fuels your passion and makes you especially grateful. Something in your life you can fall back on and express yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is, just something. I want everybody to feel as grateful as I do at this very moment for the hours I’ve spent this past few months typing away for no particular reason beside the fact it just makes me happy. 

As I said, I am an anxious mess this week. But I am grateful. I am grateful for everything I’ve already mentioned, and I’m grateful for right now. I am grateful for the words forming from my fingertips that in turn slows down my racing heartbeat and steadies my jittery nature this whole week. I should be preparing some more school work, but this is what I need right now. 

On a parting note, again, don’t let my again random blog topics deter you from forgetting to express gratitude. Write it down. Tell your loved ones. Tell yourself. The world and your reality is how you perceive it. Don’t start yourself on the wrong foot. You have the power to dust away the gray, heavier areas into a life that is fulfilling and bright. You deserve that, but only you can do it. Doesn’t matter how much I tell you. If you can’t see the beauty, make it yourself. It’s that simple. Yes, there are challenges and obstacles intermixed, too. Trust me, I know. But like the time I’ve spent to think past those little annoyances and see how great life is, those challenges are a little easier to manage.

I am grateful for you. I am grateful for this blog. And I am grateful for this life. Every single day.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 18: Faith

As I mentioned previously when I discussed this topic, I’m not about to shove beliefs down your throat. Trust me, I don’t like that either. But I cannot deny that having faith in my life gives me many things to be grateful for.

When I talk about this aspect of my life, I don’t consider myself as anything special. In fact, I’ve gone through different phases of life where I avoid spirituality altogether, where I either cannot see past my own clouded vision or I am just plain angry at my life and blame any source I can for it.

Just know, if I use the term “God” whenever in this, you can always insert your own beliefs (or even no beliefs, that’s fine, too) in its place. Even though I haven’t gone to church in quite a while, mostly due to both Sunday morning laziness and a disgust for the hierarchical structure hungry for money, that by no means judges my personal beliefs about religion. Although admittedly, I would probably lean more toward spirituality in general. To me, that term feels more like an individual connection rather not necessarily reliant on strict rules and the community that follows them.

There’s a reason why religion plays such an important role in human culture. Why it causes both war and peace. By nature, we are drawn to asking the questions of our own purposes in this world. We want to believe in something, whether that is a greater being or our own potential. It’s a way to guide ourselves and find meaning in our struggles and experiences. It’s too easy to feel lost and alone, but simply knowing you have something to rely on in times of joy and crisis is so comforting.

The problem that comes from religion is the way that people separate different sets of beliefs from one another when they all find similarities within each other. Beyond that, they all come from the intention of wanting hope and security in something outside of the earthly realm. Just because I consider myself a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t find myself drawn to philosophies like Buddhism. In some cases, beliefs can work hand-in-hand to personalize to your needs and desires, whatever resonates with you. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, but I think you should always believe in something. Life is too hard to go at it alone.

Every day, I am grateful to wake up knowing that I am here living this particular life for a reason. I am not mindlessly breathing oxygen just to take up space. Although the ways are mysterious and unknown to me, I believe I have a plan set out for me, which in turn makes planning little details out tricky. I am grateful for a way to find peace when everything seems chaotic, to rest my mind knowing that I was specifically designed in a godly image. At the same time, I can believe in myself knowing I have the ability to help others and make a positive contribution to the world. I can meditate on the fact that my time spent on earth is temporary, everything passes, and everything will work out, no matter how dreary things may seem. Every day feels like something new, it begins as a clean slate. If I made mistakes yesterday, today can be different, and tomorrow can be something else.

This year has not been an easy one. We as a society have faced a lot of turmoil. I constantly see people begging the universe to end this year as soon as possible, to not throw the curve balls and darkness that came with 2016. Through my faith, I know that beneath the darkness is light, an innate goodness that will never die. Karma isn’t a bad thing either. Just like a storm cloud, it will eventually float on by. We don’t have to stand under the thunder and lightning. So much good has happened this year, too, and even better times will be just around the corner.

I thank my faith for keeping me grounded, for inspiring me to make the most of every day I have because it is not guaranteed. I am thankful for the peace of knowing that even though I am a sinner and far from perfect, I am fine just the way I am, and I have the ability to let go of those shortcomings and continue to grow and learn. I am thankful for my individual practices of prayer and meditation that provide even just a moment of comfort. I am thankful that even if I stumble away from those practices, I can always come back. I am also thankful the ability to learn about other religions, but other practices and teachings that give people hope and uplift them. In a time of life where it’s okay to be a little selfish to figure out what you want, it’s still good to remember that even if I can’t figure everything out right now, even if I feel blind and out of control, I will be fine.

And the same goes for everybody, no matter what they personally think. We aren’t mindless little ants crawling around the earth. We are intelligent, caring, inspiring people capable of amazing things. While it’s great to take a time for spirituality, perhaps the most important thing we should believe and have faith in is ourselves.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 17: Time

Time is a flat circle. You can’t convince me otherwise.

Time is such a weird concept. I feel like if I try to go to deeply, it’ll turn into a philosophy class and I’ll end up confusing you and myself in the process. Recently I even sat down and just tried to rationalize how distant time feels. How time continually passes, how days turn into weeks into months, how special days come and go even if they didn’t seem that special.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m someone who is always looking forward to next thing. Planning things out in advance and looking forward to different achievements and goals I want to accomplish in my life and time frame I want to do it in. While I know how silly that is to try and plan things out, I still do it. And I still change my mind constantly. Thanks to anxiety, things in the far future feel like they’re tomorrow and I’m not prepared enough to know how to handle anything or what decisions to make. It’s overwhelming to say the least.

On the rare occasion I do look back on things, I am appalled. Even just a year or a few months ago, I was a different person. I feel myself constantly evolving into someone new, and no matter how much I plan, I cannot predict where I go. I find new interests and passions, I meet new people, and I let time take control. I let it pass by and hope for the best.

I’m not the only one trying to cheat time. We are bombarded with messages every day about going back to “glory days” and prevent aging and a hope of somehow inventing a pause, rewind and fast forward button to feel like you’re living life to the fullest. Except that isn’t really living at all. We can’t magically go back or do things different or predict what might happen. It’s a free-for-all.

No matter how out-of-control I feel, when I think of facing a tough week ahead knowing I will probably want to curl up into a ball, I know that it will pass. This won’t last forever. There are so many wonderful things after this week in the near future. I mean, hello, it’s officially the holiday season.

I find it beautiful how chaotic things feel, but when you really think about it, there’s this invisible system in place that gives order to everything. Every little action has a consequence. We are all connected in some way, our lives interwoven in others. And we really have no way of predicting how those threads cross. Even for me, who usually isn’t a huge fan of surprises or spontaneity, it makes me hopeful. Of course, realistically, I’ll come across some really painful and challenging moments along the way. I’ve already faced plenty fully expect some more. But despite that, I know I have time ahead of me where I get to spend time with the people I love and experience new places and just live. That makes me excited, knowing that the harder times always end and will eventually turn into something beautiful.

And we can never forget how precious time is. How fragile it is. We ache for the ability to control everything, but we just can’t. So we have to make the most of the present moment because nothing else is guaranteed. If you’re like me this month, you take every single day to express gratitude and appreciate the opportunity to spend time on this planet. Once you know the value of time, no moment is wasted.

We aren’t running out of time. It is never is too late. All we can do is make the best choices now, on a personal or global scale, and expect the unexpected. We take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and the environment. Time forces us to not dwell on our mistakes or regret certain things because hey, it’s done. That moment is never coming back. There’s only one direction to go from here.

I thank time for refocusing my mindset on the gift that is the present. I thank time for truly healing all wounds and providing me moments to become a stronger individual. I thank time for consistently moving forward, something so variable yet so constant. No matter what happens in our lives and on earth, we will always begin with a rising sun and end with a rising moon. I thank time for the chance to make memories and feel nostalgia. I also thank time for eventually welcoming future moments, giving me hope for everything to come.

For someone so strict on watching the clock and knowing what time it is, you would think that time bugs me to no end. I like having a schedule to fall back on and watch intently as the seconds pass, even when time feels so foreign to me. I worry about my significance in the passing minutes that tick by, am I doing enough? Am I doing the right thing? Could I spend my time better? Questions I probably won’t get answers to. I just have to trust that in time, I will continue to evolve, I’ll learn more, I’ll experience more, and everything will turn out fine. I’m not here to prevent aging, to fear wrinkles or graying hair. If that is what my future holds, I will accept it with open arms because I know it’s happening for a reason.

I guess it’s “time” for me to finish. Got to love the play on words. These moments of downtime where I get to just write and forget everything else are some of my favorites. Thank you for using your time to read my thoughts.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 16: Food

I mean, it is the month of Thanksgiving. Leaving this one out would be a crime.

Despite my strained relationship with food, it’s something I am still grateful for, some times more than others. None of us would be here, breathing and heart beating and heads thinking, without some of sustenance.

But as I’ve spent a semester in an honors class focused on food, I am reminded of how much more food can mean to us besides the nourishment. It’s the center of culture and community, it can transport us to certain places and memories, it’s affecting our impact on the environment, ourselves, and each other.

There are certain foods I can think of that remind of growing up and comfort and home. Every Sunday, we went to my grandparents’ house for supper with plenty of German food around. At home, we loved trying out every new mac and cheese recipe we could find. And I could never forget to mention the joy that is puppy chow.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food has not been easy, constantly cycling through feelings of contentment into distaste. Rather than the role that it should play, it has been a physical manifestation of my mental illness, an area of life I can pretend to establish control when I feel things are falling apart. In reality, I become obsessed with food and let it rule over basically every part of my life.

Since this mentality toward food is so innate, it has messed with any sense of normalcy. I can’t eat intuitively without wondering how much I’m eating, if it’s enough or too much. It can still be uncomfortable to eat in unfamiliar situations with different people. I have to force myself to eat when I’m physically hungry even if others aren’t eating. Honestly, sometimes I get so lost in my own head and have dealt with these anxieties and emotions for so long, I don’t realize how foreign my thoughts can seem to others.

Especially entering this honors class focused on food-related topics, I came in with a much different attitude toward food than all of my classmates. Food was never a form of self-harm for them. They automatically empathize with the uncomfortable feeling when anybody mentions eating disorders.

With all of this said, I am so grateful for the progress I’ve made. Many factors have gone into this point, but when thinking of food specifically, I am beyond grateful for my transition to veganism. This month marks eight months since first becoming vegan, and I have found a new relationship with food I never thought possible. Veganism helps me feel more comfortable with food knowing that what I eat serves a purpose beyond myself. Not that it isn’t healthy because it’s food that makes me feel great, but I know that the choices I make are the most ethical for other living beings and the environment, too. I love feeling like I can be some form of an advocate at every meal, all while eating awesome food.

It’s not that my hesitations and anxieties have disappeared; they’re certainly still always there. I’ve just gotten better at pushing it aside so I can actually enjoy life and appreciate food for what it is: food. Not some scary, foreign substance out to ruin me. Food is a part of living.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into this topic, but in Western culture, food turns into something far beyond health and sustenance. We are bombarded with messages of dieting and detox foods and everything in between. We yo-yo among different fads in hopes of reaching a certain goal. The real goal should be nutrition and maintaining balance long-term.

And I know I am extremely fortunate to say that I’ve always had food accessible to me. I have never wondered where and when my next meal would come. Something so simple that those without that stressor in life don’t even think about. Hunger certainly isn’t a problem going away any time soon, but the fact that we have people mindlessly wasting food or throwing it away makes me cringe. Probably the same level of disgust as seeing billboards along the interstate toting the “American way” of hunting and eating steak. No, thank you.

I’m getting distracted. I am grateful for food. I am grateful for how eating nutritious food feels and the energy I receive from it. I am grateful for the sense of comfort I receive from eating the not-so-nutritious foods, too. I am grateful for dessert. I am grateful for the warm feeling in my stomach from a great meal. I am grateful for the warmth from wrapping my hands around a cup of coffee in the morning. I am grateful for the traditions I can always rely on and the memories from them involving food, even if I can’t necessarily eat it anymore or have to modify. It’s less about the food itself and more about the people you get to share it with. Finding gratitude and remembering the positives helps me overlook the doubts.

Especially with Thanksgiving tomorrow, the food is the center of attention. More importantly, however, is the people behind it all, sitting around the table. But food certainly helps. And I hope others can also enjoy a day full of good food and people.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 15: Technology

Ah, the double-edged sword that is technology. Although it’s quite difficult to not be grateful for everything that technology provides for us. I’m lumping in basically everything that makes life convenient. Hello, microwave.

No matter how old I feel on the inside, I know it would be an interesting transition to not live without those devices we might forget about or take for granted. Only when I don’t have a Keurig by my side do I miss it so much. Or even thinking about not having an iPhone and spending years with a slide-out keyboard. Even mentioning these things feels almost silly to admit, but I can’t deny that I enjoy little things that make life so much easier.

But not always easier. Too often it can feel like technology overcomplicates things, especially when it comes to how we live our lives and communicate with others. While I’m so grateful to have text messaging and websites and apps that allow me to easily keep in touch with people, it can make me very lazy in actually trying to see people face-to-face. It’s practically a crutch, getting the satisfaction of talking with others but forgetting to appreciate how nice it is to spend time with others without technology.

The thing with technology is that once you have a new gadget in your life, you can’t imagine existing without it. We attach ourselves to these conveniences to the point where it can sometimes be unhealthy. Drawing the fine line of where that point is can be the trickiest part.

We’re in an age where technology is booming, everything advancing too fast to even keep up with. I’m in a class reading science fiction right now, and we can’t help but notice how soon those stories of futuristic technology may soon, or already have, come into fruition. And it’s certainly not slowing down any time. I can’t even imagine what a few years from now will look like.

Yes, technology is a double-edged sword, but I am grateful for the edge that does good. We’re now connected to each other and the world now more than ever. We have endless information at our disposal, always learning and finding new things. It doesn’t help to look backward, unless it’s to see how far we’ve come. I wouldn’t even be here writing this post if it wasn’t for having my own laptop or place to type or where to share it with the world effectively.

When I see technology advancing, I see it as the world getting smarter. That we’ve found a medium where our minds can continue to expand and create new products and make new discoveries. We have the potential to do so much; how we use it, however, is even more difficult to predict.

Living in the first-world country that we do, we are beyond lucky. I believe that if we have the technology that can do every little thing for us, it’s only fair that we also use technology to help others. Especially when it comes to the technology that is basic or can save lives. Maybe adding resources to schools or providing ways to purify water sources.

When everything moves so fast, sometimes we just need to slow down and really evaluate what we’re doing and who it is affecting. Who is making your technology? How are their lives? How are their working conditions? Chances are, they aren’t as fortunate as you. What products and materials are going into our technology? What consequences does making and using technology have on our world, the environment and the people in it?

Of course gratitude is time to give thanks, but it’s also a time to think of how others can also express gratitude. I want to be grateful for the fact that what I do in my life doesn’t harm others in the process. While some areas of technology step up to that plate, others certainly do not. I ultimately want to be grateful for things that I can truly stand behind and know I’m doing the best I can for myself and the world.

And if I do have the technology, I want to appreciate it for what it is and not overstep the reality. I thank technology for making tasks simpler. But I don’t want to lose my mindfulness in the process knowing certain things will always be done for me without much work on my end. Maybe to appreciate technology more, we go time without it. We see the other side of the equation. We understand the role technology plays in life.

Technically, I and many other people wouldn’t have much of a future career-wise without technology. We can never go back to how it once was. I mean, think of having to dial-up internet again. No, thanks. But we can still turn our eyes away from the screen, our fingers away from the button, and appreciate the things that technology cannot make easier. That people cannot design and build. When it comes to a consumer capitalist society always looking for more, maybe the only software update we need is a change in attitude.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 14: Home

I ended last week talking about how much I enjoy traveling to any destination beyond my own familiar surroundings. I talked about how much I loathe thinking of living in one exact spot for the rest of my days, not taking every moment I could to leave for somewhere new.

With all of that said, I do find value in calling somewhere or something my own. Having a place of peace and solitude to fall back on, where I can be completely myself unapologetically.

Tomorrow I will be going home for Thanksgiving. Usually I just call my hometown’s name by the name itself because it’s never been somewhere I really felt like staying. That’s not an uncommon thing during those younger years when all you know is a single place to just want to start somewhere completely different and never look back. That’s still an urge I get. To go where I know nobody and nobody knows me. I can just live.

See, I’ve always lived in the same town up until college. I had always hoped my family and I would move at some point, but we never did. It’s not the smallest town ever, but small enough that basically everyone knows each other and their business. If something happened out of the ordinary, be prepared to have everybody asking questions. Almost like this unpenetrable bubble surrounding the place.

I also just have lots of negative energy whenever I come back to visit. It feels like a switch goes off and my time spent growing up floods back to the forefront. Some of it was awful. I really didn’t like who I was when I lived there. Obviously I can’t blame one factor entirely, and I’m some special case, but I can’t help but admit that rather than a sense of belonging as I drive back on those city streets, I feel indifferent. Usually with a lot of road rage.

The only reason I ever go back to that town is because my family is there. I spent this entire past summer away from the place, confirming my thoughts about the place. But that first experience on my own helped me see things from a new perspective.

Despite my distaste for my hometown, it wasn’t a bad place to grow up. It was safe. There’s comfort in knowing that whatever you’re doing, you won’t be alone or won’t know anybody. It’s a town people raise their kids in, and I can respect that.

But I also realized that the least important part of my hometown is the town itself. The environment is not to my liking and most of the population loves their steak and guns. That doesn’t mean I’ve met some wonderful people growing up that I still like to stay updated on. Or that I didn’t make some wonderful memories. Or that I didn’t learn anything significant while living there. Or that I didn’t have the wonderful resource of my family always by my side. Home is so much more than a place. It’s even necessarily a place at all. It’s whatever brings you that warm fuzzy feeling, from the people you love and the things you love to do. The times where you don’t want to be anywhere else but in that very moment.

I can relate to those people who maybe doubt whether they have a home or not, whether they belong anywhere, if a home actually exists for them. It’s scary. Out of place and out of touch with yourself and the world. That’s why it’s so important to cherish everything you consider home in the present moment. Homes are evolving, plans change and people come and go. But it’s those things that remain stagnant, where you can always find support and relief, that deserve gratitude.

Besides my metaphors, I am grateful for a secure shelter to stay in whenever I need it and people to fall back on. Thinking of people on the streets without that security, my heart goes out to them. I have always had this luxury and wouldn’t know what I would do without it. Especially in this time of giving and good will, expressing gratitude is also a reminder of those in need. Everybody deserves a place, people, something to call home.

Thank you for the people in my home, real and theoretical. For giving me strength and providing shelter from the storm inside my head. The gifts you give might not always feed my stomach when I’m hungry, but they feed my soul when I need it most.

As I prepare for my several hours on the interstate tomorrow, I won’t be thinking about the setting of my destination. I won’t focus my energy on my distaste, no matter how strong I feel it. I’m driving all of that way to come home. Walk through that door knowing I’ll receive the best hugs in the world. And that brings me peace.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 13: Travel

The travel is a very real thing. Once you get a taste of what’s out there in the world, any thought of staying in one place for the rest of my life sounds dreadful. I would feel like I’m not taking advantage of the short life I have and the vast, diverse world surrounding me. Obviously money and all of the little details make that desire much more complicated, but nonetheless, it is a sense of freedom and adventure I never hope to lose.

I never traveled much in my younger years, a couple of road trips, but nothing too far. Where I live, there isn’t exactly much to see, except if you to drive by endless flat fields of grass. The nearest “big” city is at least two hours away.

I experienced my first flight on an airplane when going to Florida, to the panhandle area if you were expecting the typical Disney World trip (although I’m sure that might be a little more lively). I don’t remember much from that trip because it was mostly surrounded by a lot of relatives, but it was, to say the least, humid.

My sophomore year of high school, my band class packed into a bus and drove to Chicago, my first time experiencing a true city atmosphere. I fell in love with the energy and the sense of opportunity. Since the small-town Midwest is predominantly white, simply seeing people from all walks of life, all colors, all cultures, speaking in different languages, was something new. A good new. A chance to actually learn something new from people from different traditions and backgrounds. I wish I could have stayed longer. Next time I won’t need to visit Medieval Times though. I won’t have anything to eat and I’m still bitter that my red knight lost in the last joust.

My next time traveling was when the wanderlust really set in. I was blessed enough to play in a band and sing in a choir with the Midwest Ambassadors of Music. We spent several weeks in Europe, traveling and performing in seven different countries. My favorites were definitely London and a cute little village in Switzerland. I have never visited a place where I feel more alive, constantly in awe by the beauty surrounding me. If I had my say, I would have avoided the last flight home and extend my visit long term. Obviously my family wouldn’t be too happy about that, but I was tempted.

My travel since then, which was still several years ago, has been limited. My family took a short trip to Las Vegas a couple of years back that was really fun, combining my love for the populated atmosphere with people I love. Any sort of travel, of course living on a college budget, has been more or less road trips around the area, the farthest being the most western parts of my state, and another weekend seeing a friend at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

My next trip, however, will be my longest one yet. But not necessarily the farthest. I’ll be spending a semester abroad in Quebec, Canada, attending Bishop’s University. I’m itching to get out of my comfort zone again and get a change in scenery. This will be my first time traveling solo, which that itself is both scary and thrilling. Besides that, I’ll be gone for four months. And with the recent election results, my jokes about staying in Canada for an extended stay are pretty serious. The details organizing my study-abroad trip have been tedious and frustrating at times, but I have a very good feeling about it and am beyond stoked.

I still have so many places I want to visit and experience, within the United States and worldwide. I would love to take a trip Down Under. I would love to see the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, like Seattle and Vancouver. I have always wanted to backpack through Europe and really get a taste of the atmosphere across the pond. I’m not really picky about the place I go, I just want to pick my bags and go mobile. Again, it isn’t that easy when reality sets in, but a girl can dream. I spent the first 18 years of my life in one small town, and I’m still in my home state. I’ve always known I don’t quite fit in here though. When my moment comes, the world better be prepared for when I spread my wings and fly.

I am grateful for every experience I’ve had thus far exploring little segments the world has to offer. I am grateful for any future opportunity I can grasp to stamp another place in my passport or put some miles on a car or soar through the clouds. I am grateful for the multitude of diversity in humanity, our unique blend of beliefs and religions and lifestyles and everything in between. Despite our differences, I am grateful that we all can still find some form of peace and contentment, that even with all of the chaos and darkness in our world, humanity is innately good. I am grateful to travel for becoming a teacher to me, no classroom required, one that teaches me more about the potential others and I truly have. I am grateful for the emotions I feel immersing myself somewhere new, forcing myself outside of my bubble in my small world to put on a new pair of glasses to see the world, a new perspective I might not have considered before.

I wholeheartedly believe everyone deserves to travel. The memories we make and people we communicate with enrich our lives beyond ourselves. We can realize how simultaneously big and small the world is, how interwoven our lives are. It’s a masterpiece. And as the saying by St. Augustine goes, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.”

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 12: Inspirational People

For all of the vague topics I choose to thank this month, this topic is no exception. Am I referring to one person in particular? One instance of inspiration that has fueled me? Nope.

Over the course of my short existence, I have crossed the paths of many individuals who have impacted my life for the better. That have helped me look at the world from a new perspective. That have motivated me to challenge my own assumed limitations and consider a greater potential.

I have already talked about my family and friends, all of which have inspired me in countless ways. They have all molded me into the person I am today. But we all come across others who aren’t necessarily family and friends. Maybe they’re just teachers or random individuals you hear speak or famous figures, dead or alive, that touch us in an indescribable way.

I always consider my third grade teacher the best teacher I’ve ever had. The main reason for that is because her influence has stemmed much further than the standard curriculum. She radiates such a positive energy everywhere she goes and dispels wisdom that seems to speak directly to your very soul. She really focuses on each individual person she encounters and treats them each as an important, special, unique individual. I’m sounding very dramatic, but even now, I think about her and I want to lead a life that touches people in a similar way. I want to make a positive impact on others just like she did for me.

And there are others who have made similar impressions on me, summer camp counselors and teachers who connect with me and so many others beyond the surface. They are genuinely good people. It’s not like they’re dramatically different from any stranger I might pass on the street. And yet somehow they go above and beyond these expectations. They are greater than just a passing face and memory. If I face a certain difficult situation, I think about these people and wonder how they would respond, what they might say or do.

Heck, there are people I don’t even know that I just admire in general. We all have these people. Obviously I would avoid idolizing these people, but they’re the ones we learn about in history class that change the world. When we learn about these people, they become untouchable symbols of inspiration, so much that we can forget that they’re human, just like us. They are born into the same world and live their lives until they die. Obviously under different circumstances, but the actions of others that seem extraordinary and revolutionary came from people simply fulfilling their unique purposes in this world.

I think some of the most extraordinary moments are when these type of people become vulnerable. A random example off the top of my head is Kristen Bell talking about her battle with mental illness. Everyone has a unique story to tell, a share of battles to face. No matter how subtle and simple, I am blown away by the sheer ability to connect with somebody who seems so distant and relate to them, especially on a troubling issue like mental illness. When we begin to recognize our equality, that’s when the truest form of inspiration shines through.

I swear, all of these vague statements have some sort of direction. I’m here to thank these people who seem to defy odds or accomplish unimaginable feats that prove how much potential each of us possess. We don’t have to have an entry in a history textbook to reach that potential, either. I thank these people for reminding me in dark moments, which occurred very frequently this past year, that we have innate goodness. It isn’t unrealistic to remain hopeful and optimistic, even after tragedy and violence. Visionary leaders or everyday heroes, just our next-door neighbors who say or do something that touch us in indescribable ways. I am grateful for these moments that ground me, taking me away from the isolated world inside my own head and finding an outside source of inspiration. I can learn something new, consider an idea I’ve never thought of before.

I am grateful to have such great examples of  ordinary people making choices and acting in ways that are so admirable. They take the life they have been given and choose to make the most of it. They have their share of flaws and make mistakes and say the wrong things sometimes, but something about them leaves behind a lasting impression.

I’ve been very vague throughout this post because the people we think of that fill these qualities are different for all of us. People touch us in different ways. I think that’s the true beauty of it. We’re all looking at the world through a different pair of lenses that might pick up on certain details others overlook. We all have different talents and perspectives and gifts and purposes that no two stories are identical. While the people I mention are inspirational, they have their own stories to write. They can serve as a muse or groundwork for ourselves, but beyond that, I am grateful for the examples they set for me to help me figure out how I can utilize my purpose in life. That’s the most that we can all do. That in of itself is inspiring.

I am grateful that every single one of us have the capability to be inspirational ourselves. Even if that’s just being a nice person and using manners. The littlest actions can make the greatest impact. I know I’m not somebody others will write books about, but I hope that I can lead a life that is admirable, one that I can say that I lived to its fullest extent. Throughout the way of making mistakes or stumbling, I still look back on the entirety of my own story and see something worth reading.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 10: Nature

How could I ever leave out the beauty right outside the door? That would be quite silly of me.

I must say, I’m not the most outdoorsy person. I’m basically cold-blooded, but I also don’t sweat, so I would probably never know if I was having a heat stroke or not. That’s beside the point. Living such a touristy state staying afloat from people hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, boating and whatever else people do, I do none of those things. The one time I fished, I was too distraught by accidentally killing one to ever do it again. I love going on walks and blowing bubbles outside and swinging on a swing set, but it’s not necessarily my first instinct to want to go outside. If that makes me slightly a hermit, then so be it.

Out of all of my day-to-day activities, one of the things that almost automatically goes by me without even noticing it’s there are my natural surroundings. I’m usually so lost in my own head that I forget to really look at the environment I’m walking through.

Occasionally, certainly not as often as I would like to, I take mindful walks. I feel the weight shifting between each footstep I take. I smell any of the scents lingering in the air. I feel any sort of breeze on my face. I feel the steady earth beneath my feet. I actually devote my time to look around and really observe the strong trees, the delicate leaves growing from their branches. Any little animals and insects that I pass by, just going about their days. In the warmer months, there’s the vibrant flowers that bloom and the lush green carpets of grass. The clouds floating up in the atmosphere against a canvas splashed with various shades of blue or grey.

I’m not a science person. I took biology because I hate anything involving math. But my limited knowledge doesn’t hinder my ability to appreciate just how complex and beautiful nature is. Whatever you think designed nature or how it evolved, you can’t help but be in awe of all the little details. How every falling snowflake has a different intricate pattern. How amusing it is to watch how raindrops “race” each other along the windows of driving cars. How a stormy night can provide the most peaceful backdrop of lightning flashes and pounding thunder, a steady rain beating against the walls. And in those stormier times, how firm the oldest trees stand, long channels of roots ground into the soul, staying steady against the multiple personalities of Mother Nature.

So in light of appreciating all of these details and the big picture of every living organism interdependent on one another, I must also mention how much I appreciate those dedicated to alleviating the stress society puts on these precious gifts. How the wastes we dump and smog we produce all have an impact on the living things that cannot speak for themselves. And if the solutions every person can do is simply turning off the facet and light switch more often, or recycling more materials every day, there is no logical reason why we can’t do them. Sustainability efforts aren’t just about us. They are every single living organism, now and in the future. We cannot sit idly and forget how to appreciate the beautiful world we live in.

Call me the Lorax because I will always speak for the trees. And the waters and plants and animals and everything living thing in between. I believe every single person deserves to live in an environment that is alive, that every future generation can also live in an environment with tall, lush forests and clean air and roaming wildlife. We cannot have healthy people without a healthy environment. Just as people should be treated with respect, so should the air and trees and animals.

Thank you, nature, for giving me life through the oxygen I breathe and the plants I eat. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to change and evolve and stay firm in the sign of a dark storm cloud brewing. Thank you for days full of sunlight and mild temperatures. Thank you for days shrouded in grey and steady rain. Thank you for days with gentle snowfall. Thank you for your warm autumn foliage and budding regrowth in the spring.

Most importantly, thank you for enduring through the most severe storm of all: humanity. With all of the gratitude I give to the life surrounding me, I sincerely hope that others find gratitude, as well. That we can all work together to display that gratitude in every way possible. While I’m thankful for the delay in fall-like temperatures in my town this year, the warm temperatures slightly worry me as to how much our actions are affecting nature. With all of the gratitude we should have for nature, let’s start taking care of it as it deserves to be, like a precious gift we cannot afford to neglect. I’m thankful for every effort made to improving the current situation, and I will be thankful as more people take a stand.

At the center of sustainable action is first and foremost gratitude. When we can turn a thank you into a thought into a plan, that is true change.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 9: Music

Some interests are passing fads. They come and go like changing seasons, especially while growing up. But one thing that has stuck with me throughout life is music. My tastes have inevitably changed, luckily for the better (one of the things I’m most confident in is my taste in music). The role music has played in my life is one I will forever be grateful for.

My relationship with music has been nothing short of an evolution. It began as various children’s cassette tapes that I kept in a glittered plastic container and played beside my bed to help me fall asleep. When I upgraded to a bulky cassette/CD/radio combo, I had to yell to my parents to flip the cassette for me when it finished on one side. I remember getting a box of percussion instruments one birthday, a little drum and tambourine and triangle and more. Now I think about it, my parents were brave people for I’m sure dealing with some noise.

Admittedly, I did listen to country for a few years in there. To the point that I had CMT on all day when they actually had huge blocks of airtime solely dedicated to music videos. I would be lying if I said I didn’t still recognize and know the lyrics to way too many early 2000’s country songs. I still have a soft spot of Shania Twain to this day.

Besides that, my dad showed me a lot of his CDs, typically considered “dad music.” Classic rock like Queen and Boston and Supertramp and Eagles and Aerosmith and plenty more. I’m told that when I was 2 or 3, I danced around to heavy Metallica. I cannot verify this claim, but I’m not surprised. Classic rock still makes up a majority of my musical knowledge and listening to those tunes fill me nostalgia and a sense of being at home and young, probably telling my dad to stop singing because he doesn’t actually know the lyrics.

Eventually I started my CD collection. It began with just “borrowing” some of my parents CDs to listen to at night (to this day, I still have to listen to something, whether it’s music or a podcast, to help me fall asleep every night). Fun fact: my first CD? The Shrek 2 soundtrack. I don’t regret that decision, not one bit.

The game changed when I got my first iPod. One of those classic looking ones, except mine was a mint green-blue. One of the first songs I bought off of iTunes? American Pie. And that was when everything was still 99 cents. I looked forward to whenever I got my hands on an iTunes card to see what singles I wanted to pick out. I can’t remember how big my library was at the time, but it was fairly limited.

My tastes have changed drastically, from just random songs other kids were liking and anything catchy from the radio (when I actually listened to the radio). Since then I’ve learned from others how to scour the entire world of music and what the critics like, still while having some guilty pleasures in there, too. As I myself have changed and have discovered my personality, my music has followed suit. It might be one of my favorite ways to see what I still gravitate to and what I used to listen to on repeat that now I can’t stand. I see music has a deep reflection of who I am, the parts of me I can’t always describe in words.

Besides just my listening habits, I was involved in music during my education for many years, starting in piano lessons into percussion in band and singing in choir. While toward the end of that time, it turned very competitive and stressful, whenever I see a choir perform or I listen to the soundtrack from my choir when I traveled with the Midwest Ambassadors of Music, I really do miss it. From my busy schedule, they broke up my day into moments where I could just look away from the textbooks and piling assignments.

I thank music for allowing me to express myself in ways I never could on my own. I am grateful for the initial spark of passion it provoked. And the inspiration it provided me. Sometimes it made me learn how hard I have to work sometimes, especially when I’m not necessarily gifted with any musical talent. I thank music for giving me an escape from my hectic world and mind, for lyrics that speak to the very core of my being, the sounds that send chills up my spine and goosebumps on my arms, that transport me to different times and places, building a soundtrack of memories. Not to mention, it’s a great way in general to bond with others and learn so much about them, what music speaks to them, what artists they gravitate toward.

When it was especially difficult for me to express emotions or understand what I was feeling, I turned to music. Or just ignore emotions all together when I was particularly depressed and anxious. Just listening to the same songs and albums on repeat, sometimes for hours. I still do that. Nothing is as therapeutic as a long solo road trip blasting some great music and belting off-key karaoke.

I know music will always hold a special place in my heart. Usually when people ask what my hobbies are, I don’t have much to say beyond music and maybe watching too much TV. But for me, music is much more than just a hobby. While I can by no means consider it as a career, it’s a piece of me that is essential in understanding me. Because if you have yet to see me rant about either an artist I really love or really detest, you have not really seen me.

So, as one ABBA song goes, “Thank you for the music…thanks for all the joy you’re bringing. Who can live without it, I ask in honesty, what would life be? Without a song and a dance, what are we?”

Yes, a million times. Thank you, world, for providing the beautiful gift of music and for giving it to us all.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie