New Beginnings

Forty-one days.

Forty-one days until the basement full of shopping bags will be relocated. Forty-one days until my years of living in my oh-so beloved home in the lovely suburbs of Chicago will come to an end. Forty-one days.

The classes are set and the first of many student payments has been sent in. I am, in only a matter of time, going to be a college student.

I have known I would be leaving for college for months. I have known NIU would be my home for the next for years for some time now-it was the only school I applied to and there wasn’t any looking back-and I am beyond excited to start my next chapter. And yet I am also sad. An emotion that I have been battling confusion about ever since I have linked sadden and college into the same category. Excitement and a sense of nervousness? Normal. But to me I am just sad. Excited and sad.

I am a home girl. Born and raised in Wheaton, its the only home I have ever known. But, I am also fully aware that it will only be a matter of weeks after I back up and head to DeKalb before the dreaded “For Sale” sign will make itself at home on our front lawn. And oh how I will with all my might for that sign to set up camp elsewhere. My home has been my whole life.

It is where I said my final goodbyes to my father, and where I parted with my beloved dog. It was the meeting ground of new hello’s and the sanctuary of where the afternoon naps have always taken place. And when that sign stick its roots in the mud the two people remaining in that house will be up and out of the oh-so lovely and yet oh-so expensive Wheaton. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

Where will I go when I have breaks. My new house won’t be home.

Who will greet me when I come home on warm summer nights?

I have grown accustom to the culture of living in a cul-de-sac with such fabulous community. A place where you can receive high quality car washes for reasonable prices, all while supporting a local small business. (Insert heart eye emoji)

Community.

But, with great love comes great losses.

At the age of eighteen I am lucky to say this is the first big move I have experienced and while I know full well it won’t be the last I consider myself honored to have known such love of a home growing up.

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I Pray One Day I Can See the World Through A Child’s Eyes

I am constantly filled with joy at the love that I see from children.

They do not hate anyone, everyone they encounter is a friend. Skin color doesn’t mean a single thing to them. Age is simply a viewed opportunity to learn from someone new. And the world is full of possibilities.

My three year old niece has recently become a big fan of talking to everyone she sees. At the park she ran around with a boy many years older than she. She told me after that she was excited to “run with the kid”. She runs to save me from the “monster” when a balloon hits my head. A four year old that I work with at school has become the best of friends with one of the special needs high school kids in the class. Children simply have a heart full of love.

Today I took my niece out to breakfast. We walked into a local Cracker Barrel and I was already ready to walk out. She hadn’t eaten anything other than two chips all morning and the poor girl was simply hangry. She was not having it. I sat her down and attempted to distract her with coloring and games but it was just not suiting her needs. I looked around, bright red, embarrassed that I was unable to control her and glanced over to see an elderly women that was eating by herself.

She was smiling.

It wasn’t too busy and I figured maybe my little Evelyn just wanted to talk to someone that wasn’t me. At the moment I was the devil because candy was not on the list of things I would let her eat at eleven in the morning.

I pointed the women out to Evelyn and suggested she go talk to her. She walked over to the lady and chatted up a storm. I sat and observed from two tables over as Evelyns voice of excitement roared through the aisle.

She told her about her recent birthday and the birds she saw outside and the fun bath she took earlier and even ranted to her about how I wouldn’t give her candy.

Fast forward and we wrapped up our meal. Evelyn told me was going to draw a picture for her “new best friend” she scribbled and scribbled and scribbled and then plopped out of her seat and walked right up to the women and said “I have a surprise for you.” Gave her the drawing followed by a big bear hug and walked away.

All by her own free will.

It’s makes me think. If a three year old child can selfishly give up one of her own prized possessions for someone she hadn’t known but one hour, why do we struggle to love people so much?

Why does it take seventeen lives being lost to gun violence for us to rally together as schools and say no more?

Why is it that it is only after a classmate takes their own life that we talk to those we hadn’t before?

I pray that I can learn to show the same grace to those around me as my niece shows to those she encounters. This world is full of hate and shame and the simplest of joys are what keeps this world going. I pray that I can learn to see life through the eyes of a child.

And I pray the same for you.

 

 

The only perfect leader is the Lord. Doesn’t me those that sin aren’t worthy of leadership positions.

It’s funny, really, how so often others think so much more highly of us than we could ever imagine thinking of ourselves.

In the past week I have had two people, on two separate occasions, come up to me to discuss faith. Both said that they look up to me highly as a spiritual leader. I am not saying this to gloat about myself. To be completely honest I do not read my bible every day and I struggle daily with questioning my faith.

How does this work?

If God is real why would He let this happen?

How do I know heaven is even for real?

Given I have been reassured multiple times that these are all normal things to question as a teenager growing up in a christian environment I still don’t think that these are questions I should be wrestling with if I am someones spiritual leader.

And if I am battling this then I mustn’t be a very good leader.

The two people that I had these conversations with where both peers. I think they could tell my shock when the spoke so highly of how they look up to me.

My first thoughts where if only they knew half the things I am battling.

If only they knew half of the sins I commit on a daily basis.

If only they knew…

Then I realized, thats the thing, they do know. They where both peers that I am relatively close with. Both know some of my poorer choices I have made and the words that come out of my mouth, and yet they still chose me. Why?

Well I didn’t ask both of them, as one of them is a non-believer that I didn’t want to pester with my own insecurities but the other, well, she is a christian. And so I asked her.

Why? Why me? Of all the amazing young adult Christians you know. Why me?

Her response was simple, and non-hesitant. “Because, In all your battles and trials you always come back to the Lord.”

I said thank you and left good enough alone but I thought about that a lot that night. This peer, whose relationship I value greatly, respects me as a spiritual leader. Knowing all my flaws and mistakes.

It made me think about my own life and my own leaders. While I don’t have a spiritual peer leaders that I have a close relationship with I have a few close adults in my life that I respect greatly. None of them pretend to have it all together, and none of them hide their flaws from me. And I look at them with the upmost respect.

Makes you think.

Maybe the most respectable leaders are the ones that humble themselves. The ones that openly admit to a lack of perfection and still keep fighting. The ones that are nothing in comparison to our Great Lord, but the ones that know where the end goal is.

That is the type of leader I hope to continue to be.

And I wish the same thing for each and every one of you.

Not all realizations are fun, but they can move mountains.

Recently I have come to the painful realization that my mental illness does not only impact me, but those that love and care for me as well.

I've always known that my mental illness impacts others I just didn't know that people actually cared about me. It wasn't until this past week that I truly realized, in the bottom of my heart, that I am loved.

I know I am loved and cared for, I always have. In a sense of I have never doubted that my family loves me. I haven't even every doubted that God loves me. But what I did not know was that my best friend cares enough about me to text me multiple times when I don't reply within a few hours. Or that the one man that I look up to more than I can even try to form into words cared about me enough to drop everything and drive across town to make sure I was okay.

Realizing that I am loved was a wonderful feeling.

Realizing, not long after, that therefore my illness impacts those people greatly?

Well that was a much harder pill to swallow.

Ever since I have been diagnosed with depression I have become selfish.

I, for the longest time, didn't care if I bailed on my friends, making them feel unloved and betrayed. It didn't cross my mind as a big deal when I ruined family events because I was sitting in a corner crying.

It had nothing to do with any of them. It was a me issue, and so it shouldn't impact them. Right?

Wrong.

I was on the phone a few days ago with a family member who I care about greatly. They said to me that they simply did not understand depression. That the whole depression and anxiety bit didn't make any sense to them. They seemed angry at me for being mentally ill. Like I let them down in some way.

When I hung up the phone I was angry, how could you possibly be angry at me for something that I have very litte control over? It is not my fault. It is not something I asked for.

Then I sat back and thought about it. That family member never said he was angry at me for being mentally ill. He simply said he didn't understand. He said he was at loss for words. But then he said that he loves me.

I realized that maybe, just maybe I needed to stop making assumptions about how people are feeling.

I remembered that the first time I talked to my best friend about her mental illness I didn't understand. I hadn't yet been diagnosed so all her struggles simply confused me. I wasn't mad at her, I just care about her. I didn't know what to say so I told her exactly what that concerned family member told me. I told her that I didn't understand, but that I loved her.

And after I told her that we sat in her room in dead silence. Because was at a loss of words.

Does it stink that my own personal struggles impact others so deeply? Yes. But I choose to see that as not only proof that I am loved but as my motivation to get better.

After all, the Sears Tower wasn't built with only one person that cared. It took a village.

And I, I am a skyscraper in the making.

I may be seventeen but I am still a kid.

 
I am terrified of growing up. Absolutely mortified.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

When I was a little kid I would look at all the teenagers and adults in my life; I would think to myself “I can not wait until I am a big kid just like them!” 

Now that I am a big kid I wish with all my heart that I could just simply click my heals and go back to the days when my biggest concern was making sure that I slept with all of my stuffed animals so that none of them felt left out.

But change is inevitable. I am going to grow up. Days are going to turn into weeks, which will turn into months and then years and before I know it I am going to be a home owning, tax paying, hopefully wife and mom to a bunch of crazy litte kids.

People always tell me to enjoy being young, enjoy not having a ton of responsibilities. I always look at people cross eyed when they tell me to enjoy not having a ton of responsibilities. Do they know that I pay for gas, and I have to manage my bank account? Are they completely ablivious to the fact that I have to attempt to keep my room tidy and my clothes clean, my grades up and my social life active?

I have plenty of responsibilities.

But when I step back and think about it, all those adults are right. I should enjoy the responsibilities I have now because one day, in the blink of an eye, I will have a hundred other things to worry about.

Being a teenager today is scary. Our country is accumulating more and more debt our nation seems to be falling apart at the seams, and my generation is the group of kids that is going to be left to try and pick up the pieces.

So yes I will continue to pay attention to the news. I will continue to form my own political views. I will make sure I know how to take care of the basics of being a young adult.

But I will also be a kid.

I will listen to Taylor Swift in the car with my best friend because I like her music. I will snuggle up with my Mom when I am sick because she always knows how to make me feel better, even at the age of seventeen.

And I will never let the fear of growing up stop me from being young.

When my OCD makes me think that nobody cares.

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OCD is not something that I talk about often. It is something that I have just recently been officially diagnosed with but something I have silently struggled with for years.

No my room is not perfectly clean 24/7, in fact more often than not it looks like a tornado came through it. And no I do not have to wash my hand after I touch every door handle.

But I have OCD.

OCD has gotten a reputation. That it is just this thing people have that makes them have to have everything in a curtain order, or that causes them to have to do things a curtain number of times.

Yes, all of this can be true. But it is also so much more.

I obsess over thoughts. Negative thoughts. Thoughts that the world would be better off without me. Thoughts that not a single soul on this earth cares about me.

I have found that it has gotten worse and worse over the months. I have accepted it because I am being treated for it. And I am growing to appreciate it. Because I now obsess over the positive thoughts as well.

A few nights ago as I was sitting having a conversation with two people that, if I am being completely honest, are more like parents to me than anything. I was sitting there pouring out my heart of how I just felt so tired of the constant battle I was facing. I looked up, with tears flooding my eyes, and I saw two people in tears with how much they cared for me. Two people that I thought just put up with me because they wanted to do the right thing were sitting right in front of me, in tears as I spoke to them about how lonely I felt.

I truly did not know that any person on this earth cared about me that much.

Since that day I have not been able to stop thinking about how grateful I am for those two people. Is it healthy for anybody to obsess over any thought? No. Not at all.

But obsessing over my newfound knowledge of the fact that people care about me is a heck of a lot better than obsessing over the idea that I am a living, breathing, burden.

 

Today was a day my depression spiked up. But you would never know it.

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Today was an awful day.

I mean terrible.

But you wouldn’t guess it. Not by looking at me. Not by even talking to me.

Today I woke up to the same alarm as I do everyday. But the moment I opened my eyes I knew what kind of day it was going to be.

I rolled out of bed after five minutes of encouraging myself. I mustered up the energy to go into the bathroom and brush my teeth. I even took the time to take a morning shower in hopes of refreshing myself for what the day had ahead.

It did not help. Not at all.

I got of the shower feeling even more exhausted than I did when I woke up. But I put on a nice often. They tell you to dress how you want to feel. I wanted to feel happy so I put on a nice dress and did my makeup. I put in effort.

Still. Nothing.

I went to school and sat through all my classes. I participated in the class discussion. I laughed at all the jokes. I talked to my peers in the hallways.

But inside I was crumbling.

I came home and went to my tasks. I went to babysit and I laughed and played with the kids. Soaking in every moment, because to me the most joyful thing here on earth is the sound of a happy child.

Nothing.

I went to church and I sang all the songs and listened intently. I prayed asking God to just give me one moment of genuine happiness in that awful day.

Nothing.

You see the thing about depression is that some days just stink. Some days you really do just have to put on your big girl pants and fake it until your head hits the pillow. But that is hard to accept as a Christian. As a Christian I want to just be able to say that it is all in my attitude. That the day is only as good as I make it. That God is by my side so I will be fine.

I think that it is thanks to God that I am able to go through my day without a single soul knowing my world is crumbling around me. Because I know that it is by Gods grace that through all the thoughts in my head telling me I am worthless I am still able to function as an active member of my community.

That, right there, is how you know you have beat depression.

An Open Letter to the People That Care About Me.

 

Everybody, no matter who you are, has at least one person that cares about them. Just today I was talking to my therapist about how it is both a blessing and a curse that I care about everyone so very deeply. Because, you see, I care about everybody a tad bit more than I care about myself. And that can cause trouble.

I am extremely blessed. I have people every where I turn that care about me. Some people care about me a little more than they should, given the role they play in my life. To the people in my life that care about me. Here is what I want you to know.

I don’t believe that a single soul cares about me. I know, logically, that people care greatly for me but on this one subject my heart and my head just don’t agree.

I could sit here for hours and tell you about specific times when it was made plain as day that I am loved. And in those moments, I felt flooded with love. But the moments fade and at the end of the night when my head hit the pillow I was left feeling lonely.

So, to you, the one that hasn’t given up on me yet. Know this.

Know that I thank God for putting you in my life.

Know that when I send you a text at 11 at night asking how you are it is probably because I am lonely and need some company but don’t want to be a burden.

Know that when you send me texts saying that you are thinking of me it gives me the courage to get through the day.

Know that I will cling to anybody that shows me they care. Because for me to truly feel genuinely loved is a rare occurrence.

Know that even when I am sitting in a room full of hundreds of people I feel like I am in a soundproof room, screaming for somebody to open the door and rescue me.

Know that I care about you. A lot.

And above all. Know that I am grateful for you. Because all though I may not always know in my heart that I have people that care about me it has been ingrained into my brain as fact that I am surrounded by people that have my best interest at heart.

To my friends, thank you for going on random drives with me to nowhere. Thank you for always playing all the right songs. And thank you being somebody I can be serious with and then dance with five minutes later.

To my adult role models and my non-biological family, thank you for always being just a phone call and a drive away from a pair of loving arms. Thank you for taking me in as if I was one of your own without even blinking an eye.

And to my family, thank you for loving me uncontrollably but never failing to make me laugh. Thank you loving on me when everybody else turned their backs. Thank you for understanding my crazy family in ways nobody else can. You make the holidays merrier and the sad days bearable.