So like, heyyy to the fact I have not posted in FIVE months. Hellllooooo! Have you missed me? I have certainly missed writing as my own personal, unedited self. The end of junior year came and went like I blinked once, and suddenly, I was back home in Boston for summer. Summer, as in, living at home and interning full-time in Boston, with an added 2 and a half to 3 hours a day of commuting time. In an effort to provide myself with some sort of balance while adjusting to working full time at a professional job and commuting over an hour each way, I limited my screen time outside of the office - my personal blog was pushed to the back burner and neglected from April until now, mid-September.
A year ago, I think I would have beaten myself up for taking such a long hiatus from something I am so passionate about and dedicated to. After this summer, though, I am the opposite of disappointed in myself for letting a few things drift to the backburner. An essential part of balance: priorities.
I am sure many of my readers remember my post about being self-full at the end of last summer when I was ashamed of how easy it was for me to kick all my healthy habits and mindfulness to the curb. My priorities were with the right intention - to survive working a full time job and still enjoy a college summer with friends while doing it. Crazy, out-of-whack intention? Definitely not. However, my execution of meeting my priorities failed. I allowed myself to be lazy and forego things that made me feel good about myself because my "other" priorities were too important.
This summer was different - you didn't see me writing here. But this time, it was because I made it a priority to stay off my computer screen (Netflix included, peeps) when I wasn't working. Staring deep into a computer screen for 8 hours a day can become draining quickly, and I wanted to save my digital creative energy for work. I was still able to write and express myself through my company's blog, Hacks & Flacks, where I published four (!!) articles during my internship focusing on my very personal journey to interning at March, my take on what companies actually look for in an intern, some advice on writing social media content, and finally, how you can make professional gains from a personal blog (weird, right?). One of the coolest parts: two out of the four got picked up by a daily PR brief, In The Know.
Another thing about priorities: they're not something you can half-ass.
Well, I mean, you could - but then they're not priorities at all. They're just one more thing you "should" be doing. I learn that lesson over and over when I make priorities for my mental and physical health, and then sometimes, don't measure up for myself. It can take a long time to build mental discipline - it's a conscious decision, again and again.
I learn the importance of keeping my priorities straight the hard way, more often than not. I've nearly thrown up in yoga class because I ate poorly hours before. I've shown up to work or class hungover and spent the entire day being unproductive and regretting every second of the night before. I've said something out of anger to someone I care about - and immediately wished I was more intentional with my words.
Despite these mistakes and lessons learned (some more than once), the most important thing about priorities: they never expire. Ever. They never stop working or forgiving if you're willing to work and forgive, too.
At the end of many of my yoga classes, our teacher often reminds us that now is the time to begin again. To start over, and to leave anything we're not proud of and everything that isn't serving us in the past. I think that's the most important thing this summer taught me. I can begin again every single day. Heck, I can begin again every hour, if I need to. Every minute, every conversation, every action, every single time I struggle or succeed, is another chance to prioritize what's important to me. And if that's not comforting, if that's not reassuring, if that isn't enough to make you want to reevaluate your priorities and try again tomorrow, then I don't know what is.
I am a judger.
I am one to judge people - I always have been. Mostly in my own thoughts, silently in my head, but oftentimes out loud to my friends, too. I judge everything: people's choices, their relationships, their morals, the way they present themselves on social media, and even shallower things like what they are wearing or how they do their makeup.
I am going to preface the rest of this post by saying none of this is easy for me to share. We all have parts of ourselves we are not proud of - this is one of mine. But it has become so important to me that I am willing to write about my own internal struggle with it, because I know many if not all of you can relate.
I have lived my entire life being a "judger." With my friends, my parents, to myself. The worst part is, I grew up thinking it was okay. Everyone talks about everyone. As long as you are kind to someone's face, what you say or think behind their back isn't harmful. I was a "nice girl" through and through - that's what I thought, and that's what I wanted everyone else to think, too.
This past March, for spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Montego Bay, Jamaica for the second time. I would once again get to live and work in a Mustard Seed orphanage for the mentally and physically disabled for the week. If you have read some of my other posts, especially this one, you know that my spring break mission trip to Jamaica last year changed my life. This year, I went into the experience with a completely open mind, knowing the effect it had on me last year, yet unsure what to expect for myself this year.
At the beginning of the trip, one of my good friends in our group was reading a book called Love Does. It is about a man and his inspirational life story all centered around the message that love, above all else, truly does have the power to move mountains. For some reason, the singular phrase "Love does" really stuck with me going into our week. I made a commitment to myself to approach all the upcoming interactions, rewarding and frustrating alike, with a mindset of love.
Surrounded by the residents at Mustard Seed, it was so easy. So easy to see love in all of them. So easy to show them love. So easy to show the orphanage staff who dedicated their lives to caring for the disabled my love, too. So easy to feel the love around me every night when my friends and I would gather in our mission house to sing, play a guitar we found with only five strings, and share memorable stories from the day or from our lives back at Elon.
However, a few days into the trip I started thinking. In general, our society judges and ostracizes those who are "less" than us: the poor, the ugly, the different, the wrong, the disabled, the whatever that makes them different from us. Myself, as a judger, included. Why was it so easy for me to show love to the residents, who embody absolutely everything we usually judge in our society? Why did I decide now was the time I wanted to show love, but back home I did not show any love or compassion to those who were "different" than me?
Love does do many things, but love absolutely does not discriminate.
My initial feelings were confirmed in my mind when I heard a passage from the Bible in a reflection on our trip. It is still completely relevant even if you are not religious. Matthew 7:2-3 says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
For days and weeks afterward, I could not shake the weight of those words. Did I want the way I was judging others to be the way by which I'm judged? Why was I focusing so much on the faults, or simple differences, of others when I could put that energy into working on myself? I felt like I had been punched in the face. Why had I spent so long just accepting the judgements, often harsh and uncalled for, that I was making?
Here's why: because it so easy to. So easy to accept the narrative that is constantly, silently going through your head judging the people around you. So easy that, often, we don't even realize how negative our internal narrative is being and how much of a disservice it is doing to us.
I challenge you to really listen to your internal narrative when you find yourself in an uncomfortable or frustrating situation. Judgements are often small but come in multiples, over and over before they are so common in our thoughts they are like white noise. When I tuned into mine, it was easier for me to identify what thoughts I wanted to exile and what thoughts just needed to be tweaked a little.
It does not happen overnight, and it's a long road ahead for me to rid myself of the judgement I put on both myself and others. But, I am confident that, like I said, love does. Love does forgive and move on, and love is more powerful than any judgement you could impose on yourself or anyone else.
As I sat in my new house in Elon, North Carolina contemplating how I wanted to share what has been on my mind lately, I realized that the last time I wrote about something besides travelling was in August. August! That was five months ago. My blog was my first outlet where I felt like I could write and listen to what I had to say, and maybe other people would want to listen too. That's a weird concept, you know? How often do you listen to what you have to say? Today, so many people and things are shouting at us - believe this, read this, look at this, do this - especially in my generation. I think we often forget who is really in charge of what we are doing, thinking and believing - we are in charge of what we believe and do.
but, don't be afraid to tell yourself to shut up.
While I was living in Dublin and travelling, it was often the little things that made me the most anxious. Many of these things were out of my control. I started to learn how to better cope with the anxiety I felt over such small problems. In turn, I began to focus my energy and the time I spent worrying into being productive. Suddenly, I was pushing myself to do things I would not have thought possible before travelling to Dublin. I decided to apply for a spring-semester internship. "Yeah, maybe you could handle a full-time class schedule and an internship. Why not?" Then, I decided to apply to be the Vice President of Recruitment of the Panhellenic Association at Elon. That is, direct all of sorority recruitment. I almost talked myself out of that one - "There is definitely someone more qualified than you. Why not a smaller position in Panhellenic?" Then, I convinced myself to reach out to the company I dreamed of interning with last year and experienced my first awfully hard disappointment when I did not get the internship. As I wrote the email, I thought, "They already know you - you interviewed last year and they didn't want you. Why not try a new company?" But I forced myself to hit "send" anyway. Then, I convinced myself not to apply to be the Student Leader of Elon's Catholic Ministry trip to Jamaica that I went on and raved about last year after it changed my life. "You are a good leader, sure, but you're not super religious. There are so many people who are good leaders and more religious - leave it to them." But, after some hesitation and some self-encouragement, I poured my heart into my application and applied.
Then, I waited. "Maybe, you will get one of the four things. Maybe, you were right, and your newfound confidence will pay off a little." Maybe.
tell others what you're thinking, and maybe you'll hear it too.
Without even realizing it, the first way I learned to do that was by writing. I clarify things in my brain by reading what I am writing. Then, it began happening that way with spoken words, too. If I am upset, or excited, or nervous, it does not feel real until I say it out loud to someone. I started to realize that if I talked out my doubts or my hopes, it often helped me to understand what was going on in my head and make sense of whatever I was going through.
With that realization, I started a second journal. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend and mentor, I started The Five Minute Journal, a journal that prompts you to reflect on the same principles every single day: what you are thankful for, what would make today great, and positive affirmations ("I am..."). Then, every night, you are prompted on what made today amazing, and what could have made today better. Same five prompts, every single morning and night. In one month, it has begun to transform how I see self-talk. I am telling myself everything I need to hear without even realizing it until later. I took this picture in bed tonight before I sat down to write this post, and if I just convinced you of its power, you can buy it here.
Talk about yourself.
Last April, I wrote this blog post about having faith in yourself and your decisions and not chalking everything that happens to you up to fate. Accountability, if you will. I wrote about the disappointment I experienced when I did not get the internship I wanted most last summer. But most importantly, I said that I knew better things were coming. Rachel, holla girl, because damn right they were coming.
Within a two week span, my world turned upside down in the best way. I received an offer to intern with Trone Brand Energy, an advertising agency in High Point, NC this spring. Then, I was slated to be the next Vice President of Recruitment for the Panhellenic Association. Just days later, I accepted the position of Student Leader of Elon's 2019 trip to Jamaica. A few weeks later, I got an interview with the same company that had turned me down the year before after I reached out again. Last week, I accepted a full time summer internship with that company - March Communications, a tech PR agency in Boston.
And since then, I have been talking about it. I told everyone that asked me how I was. At first, I hesitated - I value being humble and I wasn't really sure if anyone besides me cared. But, the more I explained my next endeavors to my friends and family, the more I started to value them and really understand just how lucky I am to be here now.
Listen to yourself.
I am proud. I am proud of myself and my faith in myself. "Talking" to myself and listening to what I had to say changed my entire perspective on what I am capable of, and it changed my future. I wanted to share my accomplishments with my readers and I did not want to sound like I was bragging - so I hope this is an effective of way of doing both things.
I think it can be hard, especially in college but all throughout your adult life, to find your voice and not lose it. I think people, especially women, often doubt anyone wants to hear what they think. To every single person reading this: people do care, and people will listen. But first, take the time to listen to yourself.
Finding a balance between selfish and selfless.
This morning, I stepped foot on my yoga mat for the first time in three months. It has been four weeks since I went for a run. To some, this may seem insignificant. But to me, it is hard to even write this for others to read.
When someone passes away, I often find that their obituary includes praise of their character. "She was kind, smart, and selfless." Selfless. She was "selfless."
I came home from college in May with a list of goals for the summer. Being the goal-oriented person I am, I literally wrote down what I was "dedicating" my summer to: health, self-love, and self-improvement. At first, I stayed consistent to my dedications. I was training for a 5K and running at least twice a week, I bought a new yoga class pass, I was journaling almost daily, and I made an effort to meal-prep and cook most of my food at home.
Then, I started working 40 hours a week. Within days, everything I was working for went almost forgotten. The last run I went on was my 5K. I would sign up for yoga classes and cancel. I put down any book I tried to read. I would think about blogging and end up convinced I "had nothing to say."
Why was it suddenly so easy for me to lose sight of my goals? Why did the things that are inherently most important to me get pushed to the back burner? It has always been important to me to give to those in need. Giving my time, energy, and love has always seemed more valuable than giving money. Up until recently, having my obituary saying I was "selfless" was something I would have strived for.
But when you are not taking care of yourself, when you put your own needs and goals for self-improvement to the side, you cannot give others your best because, simply put, you are not your best. It is so important - if not essential to your prolonged wellness - to be selfish sometimes. You absolutely cannot selflessly help others without first taking care of yourself and working on your body, spirit and mind. When I stopped nourishing my body and soul, suddenly I felt like the rest of my life was malnourished too. The fire I feel when I'm working for things I'm passionate about went out.
I want to be known as someone who is self-full. Someone who understands the potential of their contribution to this world and does not take it lightly. Someone who values that potential enough to put themselves first.
Selfish and selfless have opposite connotations, but they both create unrealistic expectations. Let's find the middle ground.
Growing up, I was raised to be a go-getter. I wanted to jump on every opportunity that crossed my path. In first grade, my class put on "The Magic School Bus" play for our parents to celebrate holidays around the world. I wanted to be the lead, Ms. Frizzle. I got it, and got a dress with a map of the Earth on it to match my role.
Freshman year of high school, I went to graduation with my friend and watched the student speaker - a senior who writes a speech and is chosen to speak on behalf of the rest of the senior class. I knew I wanted to be that speaker when I was a senior. Three years later, I wrote a speech with my entire heart poured into it and got the role as student speaker. I was able to give the speech in front of my entire graduating class, my family, closest friends and favorite teachers. Two years later, current seniors are still reaching out to me for advice on how to write their speech for the student speaker audition.
As often as I went after something and got it, I went after something else and was denied, or had an outside factor turn me down. Sophomore year of high school, my school had a ten-day trip to Europe. As soon as I saw the posters, I knew I wanted to go. But my parents quickly reminded me I did not have $5,000, and that I would probably want to go on the Europe trip when I was a senior, which is when most of my friends would probably go. I decided to listen to them.
Freshman year of college, I applied to go on a mission trip to an orphanage for children with disabilities in Jamaica. I worked hard on my application and was pretty confident I had a good shot of getting a spot. A few weeks later, I got an email saying that I was not selected for the trip.
First semester of freshman year, I applied to be a tour guide on campus. Similar to my application for the Jamaica trip, I worked hard on the application and was hoping I had a good chance. Soon after, I was not moving on in the interview process.
Needless to say, I was disappointed when I was denied and I have been disappointed many, many other times when things did not go my way. But for every single time I have not gotten something I wanted, something better came into my life later.
We have all seen the quotes and mantras that praise the idea of "fate." The idea that everything will fall into place and to "trust the system."
I want to challenge that concept. Rather than trusting "fate," rather than leaving the things that happen to you up to "fate," what happened to having faith in yourself and the decisions you make? Furthermore, and more challengingly, what about continuing to have faith in yourself after failure?
Two years after my parents initially said "no," to my high school's Europe trip, I travelled to Germany, Austria, and Poland with every single one of my best friends and ended my senior year in the absolute best way possible. Just like my parents said I could, if I was willing to wait two years.
A year after being rejected from going to Jamaica, I decided to apply for the trip again. This time, I was accepted and spent my sophomore year spring break working at the orphanage alongside 10 other Elon students. During the trip, I quickly realized that I would not have been emotionally stable to handle that experience a year ago. My freshman year of college was extremely draining and a trip of that nature with absolutely no communication with home would have only made me more anxious. However, a year later I had matured and the trip to Jamaica could not have come at a better time in my life.
Four months after I was rejected from Elon tour guides, I applied to work for Elon New Student & Transition Programs. The office runs New Student Orientation and other programs that facilitate healthy, productive transitions in every part of the college experience - from getting accepted into Elon, to preparing for life after graduation. It was exactly the kind of work I was passionate about and wanted to be involved in. A year later, I not only work for New Student & Transition Programs but I have been promoted to Public Relations Coordinator within the office and plan on continuing my work with NSTP through graduation. I cannot imagine a better on-campus job. If I had become a tour guide, I would have never applied to work with NSTP.
I have faith in myself to make the right decisions for my future, but I also have faith that if something does not work out, time will tell why it did not. In January, I was rejected from my absolute dream summer internship and took weeks to process my disappointment. Four months later, I still have not figured out what better experience is coming - but I have faith that it is absolutely on its way. Maybe not this month, this summer, or even this year, but I know everything is as it should be.
Have faith in yourself, but more importantly, have faith in your future. It makes everything just a little bit easier.
As my sophomore year at Elon comes to a close, I am so thankful for this place I call my "blog" where I am able to share my thoughts and experiences! With just about 5,000 views in 6 months, thank you so much to everyone who has given me a read!
More to come in the future! xo
Just living, learning + loving and writing some of it down along the way. Senior + Director of Panhellenic Recruitment at Elon University in North Carolina. Currently interning + curating social for some badass clients at SFW in Greensboro, NC. Yogi, sightseer, shopaholic, foodie, writer.
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