What’s in Your Hand?

Been a while since I’ve dabbled into TED Talks, but I’m back at it. At least for today.

This particular talk came from Rick Warren, a well-known pastor but still seems very down-to-earth and mellow which makes him very approachable, especially to someone who steers clear of any preachers who full-out preach in all of its yelling, loud glory.

Anyways, back to the talk. Don’t get caught off guard by having the message come from a pastor because it can truly be applied to everyone, regardless of your, if any, religion.

It’s so easy to get into that mindlessly numbing routine. Every day looks the same. You wake up, brush your teeth, go to work or class, come home, and go to sleep. A little more in the middle, of course, but in a basic premise, this isn’t much in day-to-day life that goes beyond simply existing.

That’s what it so often feels like. We’re just getting by, surviving. We find some successes and accomplishments along the way, but for the most part, we all deep-down would like to know that everything we’re doing right now is worth it. We want to know why we’re here on this earth. We want to somehow make this daily, insignificant task list into something more.

It’s always a good reminder, but you matter. I matter. Everyone matters. We’re not just wandering around for no reason. We each have a significant contribution to make. The problem is figuring out what that is. That’s when we start trying to make patterns and connections, sometimes out of nothing (think of how often people see the face of Jesus in every object out there).

We assume that God or the universe or whatever else will wave some magic wand and give an obvious signal of where to go in life, what to do. Sometimes we do hear those urges and whispers, but chances are, they come from within. We shouldn’t expect society to spoon-feed us the answers to existential questions. We have to rely upon introspection and prayer for that.

Or we’re thrust into situations we didn’t plan on, that go against what we see as our designated purpose and throw everything for a tail spin. Rick mentions writing a book that becomes a worldwide bestseller, provoking attention he never wanted. We go through struggles and challenges that seem to only bring about pain and suffering, unnecessary stress.

I see this a lot in myself. Knowing that I am not good at decision-making and can be scatter-brained in my ideas and interests, I’ve felt like I needed to force myself down the paths of purpose that seemed right for me. If they were right for so many others and look good on paper, why wouldn’t it fit my own situation? Well, until you actually start learning more and experiencing more of that path, then you realize it’s not for you. You feel like you just wasted precious time and resources for nothing, for failure. But there was a purpose for that, too. Not an immediate one, perhaps, or one you understand right off the bat, but it is.

The bottom line is, it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about our individual selves envisioning our own separate ideas of our own success and happiness and our own accomplishments that top everyone else’s. Our egos and sense of competition get in the way of actually feeling fulfilled. We aren’t meant to be absolute rulers of our own kingdoms.

Life finds purpose from everyone else. Our interactions, our relationships, our place in society are what bring clarity. We are not leaders, but stewards simply guiding others and sometimes letting others have more control. Our lives and everything in it are temporary; we don’t have sole ownership. Establishing a worldview within ourselves that sees our position as humanity to be more than “just another species,” then we can take on appropriate responsibilities and actions that benefit yourself and everyone and everything around you.

Life is not about looking good, feeling good, and getting the goods, as consumerism and materialism tell us. Possessions do not determine your self-worth and happiness. Being good and doing good are what really matter. Giving your life to something beyond your own ego. The purpose of having influence, is to a voice speaking for those who fall quiet, that we might overlook, issues we might toss aside.

So here’s the most important question: What’s in your hand? What have you been given, and what are you going to do with that? For a lot of us, we might say things that determine our identity, occupation, and income. Talents, education, freedom, opportunities, ideas and more. And if you have influence from those things, that is a great power with an even greater responsibility.

We’re all made and are are in our own circumstances to fulfill our purposes. We have innate gifts and gifts we receive and our worldview will decide how to use those. I hope that with what is in your hand, you serve others. You use your experiences as tools for others to learn from. You expand your horizons beyond the single day of mindless activities and look deeper into what these little things, added up, can amount to for others.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Stuck in the Middle

Do you ever feel like you’re going about your day, being productive in your work, but feeling like you’re…off? That the work you’re doing isn’t engaging you like you think it should? That if you weren’t required to do a certain task, you’d be off doing something completely different?

Because that’s where I’m at right now. And it’s a place that I have to be in, unfortunately, and I know I’m not alone in that. I think anybody in their educational career have at least one (or probably many) time(s) where you’re asking, “What is the point? I’m not interested in this. This doesn’t feel relevant to me.”

Whether it’s taking a required math class you despise, applying for a job you know you wouldn’t like, or scheduling a yearly doctor’s appointment when your health is a-okay, there are those moments where we look at the grand scheme of our lives and wonder why all of these seemingly minute details, ones that seem to not serve you, really matter. Shouldn’t we be using our precious time and energy always trying to better ourselves, fuel our passions, and make the most of what we have and are? That’s certainly the message drilled into our heads: no moment is guaranteed. Life is precious. You only live once.

Here’s my current example. I am in the midst of my second to last semester of my undergraduate career. The only classes I have left to graduate are those that are required for my Mass Communication major. As my mind has changed to recenter my focus on what I truly love and feel passionate about, I have felt very drained from taking classes about social research, writing for digital and broadcast media, and media law and ethics. Especially when I have a religion class that resonates with me so much more, going from that to all of my other classes is no comparison. I sit in the classroom just thinking, “This is so minuscule. How truly productive is this? I could be doing -insert other things here- instead.”

When you struggle to find that purpose in the seemingly dull, tiresome tasks, they just become even more strenuous. Our perspectives turn those tasks into mountains to climb every day, continually becoming steeper. If we can’t find a purpose, then it’s virtually impossible to find a motivation.

It’s easy to say, just find the reason you’re doing it in the first place and then you’ll be set, but if only life were that easy. Rarely can we just snap ourselves into a new head space and suddenly see the world with fresh eyes. Especially in the mundane tasks, classes and responsibilities, the reason you might see in going or doing what you need to do, doesn’t necessarily change your attitude toward it. Sure, you’re paying to be in class and you need to take these classes to graduate, but in the present moment? Fifty minutes is dragging on for what feels like hours.

So instead of taking a robotic approach to switching motivation on and off, be gentle and gradual with yourself. Practice mindfulness in becoming aware of your body, position and circumstances, putting more thought into what you’re doing instead of daydreaming about other “more exciting” things. Even just a single reason to go, even if that is to see a friend or silently criticize the relevance of a topic (which, in my case, has been my go-to reason), can ease you into a different perspective.

Cliche, I know, but we are truly so blessed, so when in doubt, find gratitude in whatever you’re dreading because chances are, there are people vying for such an opportunity. Like the ability to receive an education. Or have access to certain resources. Or just any little luxuries that we don’t think about when we’re finding every little detail to complain about.

Because maybe yes, right now, this less enjoyable task isn’t of end-all importance. But in the grand scheme, if it fits into your goals, then it’s a necessary step to take. I have the goal of graduating from college with solid grades in three years, and by taking the classes I am now, I will be able to achieve that. Even if I look back and cannot remember a single detail of what was discussed in those classes, I can be proud knowing that I did it, despite my reservations about it at the time. Same goes for graduating high school, or taking care of mental health, or going through eating disorder recovery.

Everything is intentional. Sometimes it isn’t very obvious. Heck, it can be downright frustrating and defeating thinking you might be wasting your time on something. Accept your current emotions, but know that you’re in the right place at the right time. There’s a purpose, obvious or not, for everything. The lesson you learn from it might not be listed on the syllabus. And at the end of the day, be proud of how far you’ve come, where you are right now, and where you’re going.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

You Do You

I cannot tell you how often I use this phrase. Multiple times a day, I’m sure. Just one of those random things you pick up and end up using by habit. But especially this week when starting classes again for my senior year of undergraduate studies, it’s something I need to tell myself.

Whether I fully realize it or not, I’ve been stressed. Obviously with starting classes, moving into my first apartment, and having a puppy to take care of, the items on my list are already seeming to grow as activities pick up after the summer hiatus.

If I could pinpoint certain areas of stress for me, specifically in the school-related category, it would be the sheer anxiety of returning to my major. A major that I have innately taken a different direction with than I had previously. And in that anxiety, I fear tension from other students and faculty who might question my previous actions and my current intentions. I fear that they think I am throwing away what could have been a viable career option for me and venturing into the unknown.

Except in realizing that this is my concern, I am forgetting how far I have come in finding out who I am and what I am truly passionate about. In the matter of a few months, I have grown to learn that journalism isn’t for me. My department on campus really stresses the importance of having every duck in a row for the professional setting, of having as much experience and material as possible from interning in high-quality workplaces. They want students to be involved in department-led activities and really fit into that mold of being a journalist, whether that be print, radio or broadcast. Or if you’re into advertising and public relations, the same goes for that field, too.

And I started in that path. I worked on the newspaper, I had experience in work settings, I went through those motions. I started them all with excitement in knowing that I was moving ahead in that career path and doing what I was supposed to do, but how much did it truly fulfill my passions? Why was I writing a blog talking about humanitarian work, sustainability, mental health, and making a difference in the world when I was forcing myself to hand out resumes at media internship fairs and signing on to work in an office every weekday writing about topics I didn’t care about in a professional style that I wasn’t that great at.

Whether it was a conscious decision or not immediately, I left that path behind. I couldn’t go back. Whatever reputation was there vanished. And instead of making a huge fuss over it and feeling like my dreams were crushed, I felt…relieved. I was okay. Sure, getting rejected and “failing” and falling flat on my face felt terrible. But it didn’t shake me to my ultimate core. It actually opened up space for new opportunities, to new things that I had wanted to do but had never had the time for.

I have truly begun to feel like my work aligns with where my interests lie. Journalism is great for some, but it’s too political and cut-throat for me. I love helping people through non-profit organizations that do amazing work in this world. I love writing about those things and other topics that will hopefully inspire and help others. I love invigorating my spiritual side and immersing myself in my faith.

The people who are unconsciously stressing me out know the identity I created to work hard and accomplish huge career goals that would make them approve of me more. They know I love to write, but all they care about is the reporting I did and the news outlets I worked at. They see less value in these posts that have me writing out ideas moving too quickly in my head for me to keep up because I’m so fired up about them. Other assignments, work or school, are a struggle to write. It takes me so long to try and line up the words correctly so that it respects a certain style. I can tell it feels forced. I’ve always known it felt forced, but my “failure” helped me actually see that.

I use “failure” as the typical means of describing my past of making mistakes, large and small. Instead of failure, I see so much growth. So much clarity in what direction I want to take and where my true purpose lies. If those people stressing me out focus upon the negative connotation of the word, let them. Let them judge me and critique me.

I will do me. I will live my life exactly how I feel is right for me. Nobody else is walking in my exact shoes. What authority do they have to tell me I am wrong for going in a different direction and thriving in it? In what way does that affect their own lives and ambitions? None at all.

So if you’re ever in a similar boat as I am, wondering what people will think based on the choices your make for yourself and the path you take your life, you do you. Live how you desire, listening to those passions and aspirations that actually make you excited. Don’t feel forced into a mold of what you’re “supposed” to be. In reality, you’re supposed to be exactly as you come to see fit.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie