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Day 13: Opportunities #GIG2017

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I would have never even pictured myself going to an island to teach English if I had denied myself opportunities that didn’t “seem right.” But trust yourself. You’re doing your best.

Regardless of what school-type environment you’re in, you’re automatically exposed to others doing great things, accomplishing so much for themselves, and it can feel overwhelming to then look at yourself and wonder…am I doing my best? Am I missing out on opportunities and somehow “falling behind”?

Time and time again, the comparison game likes to creep up on us, making us doubt anything and everything we’re doing, longing for something more, whatever that means. Any of us can pinpoint others living their lives and fulfilling their ambitions, and then think of how we stand up.

Before I get too ahead of myself, I wanted to share an exciting update about my future ventures. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree this spring, I will be traveling to American Samoa for a year to teach English with the organization WorldTeach.

I cannot count the number of times in the past few years and months I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. That I was forever a lost person barely eking by. What I first expected for myself in media kept falling flat. I felt so defeated. No matter how hard I tried to make something work out as my peers and advisers wanted for me, I just always felt off, leading me to make more mistakes and become even harder on myself. And once people associate my identity and reputation with a certain occupation or field of study, am I just stuck as mediocre, just putting up a facade to cover up my shame and disappointment in myself?

What we consider to be “success” and “doing our best” is so abstract, so subjective to whatever might arise in a given moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t still fall into that trap of wanting what we don’t need, physical items and opportunities and awards and recognition and talents…yeah, there’s a lot to think about.

And not for any truly good reason either, except that we create certain expectations in our heads of what will look best on our resumes, how to achieve this noteworthy goal, how to become esteemed in some way we think would be important, what will make us distinguished to others, make us feel worthy.

Maybe I’m just talking in complete hypotheticals here, but self-doubt seems to be a part of our culture, our psyche. We’re surrounded by influences where we show off our absolute best to others, we see advertising for every little thing we might use once but still definitely need to spend money on, we see examples of what accomplishment looks like, and somehow that is supposed to be reasonable for us to conveniently apply to our own lives.

Ultimately, what today’s gratitude is all about is the closed doors for any opportunities we came across but didn’t opt for, or goals that didn’t pan out as we planned them to. They didn’t look like how others in our same position completed them, and that somehow translates into falling short or failing on our part.

But that is not the case. What is laid in front of us isn’t an exact itinerary of what is best and worst for us. What might make for a killer Instagram photo or status update might not be the best for your life and circumstances.

And if you think we haven’t all had our fair share of pitfalls and mistakes, well, that’s denying the nature of life itself. We now have the pressure of 24/7 availability to every single good thing everyone has to share, so inevitably we are left questioning the only people we know of every little flaw and mistake: ourselves.

Let’s be grateful for the opportunity to have ways to communicate and share with others near and far, and let’s use that as a tool to congratulate others and celebrate our successes, big and small. We are all different people at different stages in our own lives. Regardless of where we’re at, there will always be people ahead and behind, and that’s okay. Everybody is on their paths, their own timelines of fulfilling their purposes.

Be grateful for all the opportunities that didn’t pan out because there’s a reason they didn’t go as planned. They weren’t for you. Or they were for you to learn and grow from in another way that was unexpected and maybe not as glamorous as others’ experiences. That doesn’t turn your situation into a complete failure. The only way you can fail is if you dwell upon it, use it as gateway to comparisons, and don’t see how to utilize that opportunity into what lay ahead next for you.

Be grateful for your unique gifts and circumstances. Those provide you the necessary groundwork to make and reach the goals you see for yourself, and even goals that you never made yourself. Those can sometimes be the best of all. Be grateful that life has a way of working the kinks out, of balancing the darker moments for brighter ones. Be grateful for this present stage and everything in this moment; it will be necessary for what you will eventually face, and we need to appreciate it more rather than always wishing for it to pass so we can move on to the next phase.

And be grateful for every closed door that ends up opening a window. When something doesn’t work out, you just gain more room to make another experience and ambition into reality. We don’t have to regret our pasts because there’s always more in store.

I’m grateful to finally realize that what is best for others, isn’t made for me. An opportunity that looks perfect for you on paper doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in that same way. And that’s okay. It’s okay to do things differently than you or others have planned. To go down a different path and seek another opportunity. True gratitude, after all, is realizing and appreciating what you are capable of, respecting those gifts, and believing what opportunities will come to you are meant to be.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

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Day 12: Sustainable Farming #GIG2017

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Being as environmentally conscious as possible can seem quite complicated, especially if we see how our current practices are working just fine. But we deserve more than “just fine.” We need to appreciate our own health and the health of the planet.

What a narrow subject for today’s time of gratitude. I myself am not overly knowledgeable about the inner workings of what makes agriculture sustainable.

I am, however, grateful for the growing number of options widely accessible to choose more consciously smart options when grocery shopping, and the greater awareness we have about our habits and how to make necessary tasks more sustainable.

We can look up the many documentaries and information out there about how corrupt mass production of foods and textiles can be, the immense damage it causes to our environment. From the waste left over to the health of nearby soils and water sources, there are plenty of ways to go wrong.

Again, I’m not a farmer, nor do I have any agricultural background to discuss these topics from. I’m grateful for some of my friends who do know more about this industry and are open and welcome to discuss them. We might have different views, but it’s beautiful when seemingly opposing opinions can still come together and have engaging conversation.

Anyways, the golden question here is, what is sustainable farming? The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Every person involved in the food system—growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers—can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system.

Since the second World War, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in what agriculture looks like. Rather than a plethora of family farms, many of which produce and take care of the individual family running it and/or the local community, agricultural activity has soared and has become the industrial-sized practice we see today. This is all thanks to new technology, mechanization, increased chemical use, and a push for capitalistic ideals in all areas of life.

Despite the increased production, the land and people have suffered from this swift transition. Prominent among these are topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, the decline of family farms, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, increasing costs of production, and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities.

The process to change our current ways and go back to a philosophy that values every single thing involved in agriculture doesn’t happen overnight. We can’t just flip a switch and expect a whole new mindset that everyone agrees with. In fact, we need a interdisciplinary approach that incorporates everyone, from farmers, researchers, consumers, and politicians to refocus our attention not on how much and how quickly we can streamline farming, but how to make farming beneficial for every single factor at play.

Common practices involved to tote yourself as sustainable agriculture include the following: rotating crops to promote biodiversity specific to your geography; planting “cover crops” during off-seasons to ensure the soil doesn’t stay bare and vulnerable to the elements; using integrated pest management that totes mechanical and biological controls to keep pests away without relying heavily upon pesticides; and utilizing more eco-friendly ways in the farming process that conserve water, avoid excess pollution, and use renewable energy sources.

We cannot see the land as something created strictly for our business mentalities. Economically, it makes sense why we should only grow the highest selling products, devoting large chunks of land to a single crop, and using the easiest and cheapest ways to grow and reap the most benefits as possible. But the environment is not here for our economic gains. We’re here to cherish the beauty and gifts surrounding us. We’re here to converse what we have so more people, plants and animals can all enjoy these gifts, too.

I’m grateful that we see growing abundance of organic options in supermarkets across the country, as well as greater promotion of local farmers and farmers markets. I’m grateful for the locally grown produce straight from family farmers who take great pride and care of their land. I’m grateful for the innovators out there who continue seeking out better, more sustainable ways we can be even more conscious of how we treat the land and what is healthiest for not only us, but every living thing.

I’m grateful for my hope in humanity, that we can do our best for nature, soak in the information we can about what is right and wrong when approaching agriculture. It’s necessary for the food in our kitchens and clothes on our backs, but if we support the large-scale companies exploiting the planet, what gratitude is that showing? What kind of people do we want to truly support?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 11: Good News #GIG2017

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Admittedly, it would feel off to see a headline that’s positive these days. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing happening in the background to celebrate, nothing uplifting.

Why does it seem so hard to come across anything uplifting these days?

Realize that I chose this topic for today’s gratitude long before so many actors have been accused as sexual abusers. Before a gunman fired his weapon in a small Texas church. Insert any recent story and it’s probably something that will make you think the world is ready to implode on itself and everything is becoming increasingly corrupt.

I get it. It’s hard to not be cynical when all you see is the same kind of message on repeat. By this point, it’s been drilled into our minds so often on a regular basis, we aren’t even shocked anymore. Like the Texas shooting. I mean, I was certainly outraged and heartbroken, but I sure wasn’t surprised. The actual event and its circumstances didn’t reach that emotional core that past events have. Even the heavy focus on the shooter’s mental health hasn’t fired me up like it usually does as we continue to misrepresent and overgeneralize the intentions of violent people.

Really, this is how it has always been. We just hear more of it because we have the technological capacity to. We can download news apps on our phones, even have notifications pop up when there’s breaking news, and when does something positive and heartfelt actually make that “breaking news” cycle? Rarely. You save those for the end of a TV broadcast to convince viewers, even just for a few minutes, that everything is just fine, that the endless tragedy and disaster mentioned in the past half hour doesn’t actually reflect what society is coming to.

And from my tone today, it’s hard to find that slither of gratitude that I usually pull into the mix. For situations like this, it really is hard to be grateful. I choose to not read much news anymore because it throws off any attempt to find hope and optimism. Despite knowing that each story is prioritized on my news feed strategically, that the headlines magnify what has happened to exploit whatever emotions it can muster, I don’t think it’s healthy to expose myself to those sources.

I truly am grateful for the opportunity to stay informed about my community, country and world. I am grateful to be able to engage in discussion and learn about what is happening around me and avoid ignorance of important current events. It’s my duty as a citizen of this country and world to do what I can. Except immersing myself completely in every update isn’t healthy.

In lies where I’m grateful for when there are gaps in the overwhelming noise to remind ourselves of our true nature, and that is to be and do good. I’m grateful to hear how others are making a positive difference in the world, big or small. For example, remember back to what feels like years ago when we all came together to support hurricane victims, the support and disaster relief efforts? How we stepped aside from our everyday lives to help those in need.

But I’m especially grateful for when we are supportive without having an extremely negative reason to begin doing so. Like supporting sexual assault victims long before the accusations of big-name celebrities began emerging. Or advocating for climate change before we damage the environment even more.

As silly as they may seem, I do really appreciate those random little videos on social media people share that talk about seemingly insignificant things, like some random new scientific discovery or a minute-long story about a baby animal, but seriously, what a refreshing relief from logging onto other news outlets. They might seem trivial if you’re looking for hard news, but there’s a balance we need to establish to stay both informed and emotionally sound.

I’m grateful for good news to provide that extra push we sometimes need to make a change. Too drastic of news can be debilitating, too large of a problem for one person to single-handedly address. But what about some inspiration from others doing good in the world? A single reason that not everything is going downhill? Little things add up to bigger things. And seeing how others, people just like us, are still trudging forward, even if it’s through thorny obstacles and muddy waters, can be that one reason a day becomes a good day.

I have always enjoyed the saying, “Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day.” We might continue to focus on every reason why we should be worried, terrified, heartbroken, angry, and pessimistic about the direction the world seems to be taking, but we’ll never be able to silence that sliver of hope and beauty that leads us back to the innumerable blessings in our lives. For every time something goes wrong, chances are there are many more things, now or to come, that ensure the sun still shines. That we will continue to rise each morning with something beautiful to live for.

Perhaps dramatic, but seriously. I’m so grateful for hearing good news. Something turning out well for those I care about and those I might never meet. A new reason to smile today. A recent discovery that might change our lives as we know them. Let us not diminish the value of these faint rays of light.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie