Why Friendship is so Important

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I am a very relationship oriented person.  I love the connections that I make on any level, and I am very dedicated to seeing my closest relationships grow and flourish.  However, I haven’t really realized how important true friends are until lately.

Today, I was telling my best friend about some heart-wrenching revelations that were made apparent to me by certain circumstances this morning.  Without skipping a beat, she said “ya need me to kill him?  I’ll be right over.”  We laughed and moved on, but the sentiment was clear: she has my back.

Beyond hypothetical murder, my best friend has been there through it all.  We live an entire country apart and she’s seen me through a mistaken marriage, a much-needed divorce, a sketchy re-establishment of my single self, and several other relationships that ended with heartbreak.  Not to mention several moves across state lines, job hunts, and just recently being laid off.

Not once have I felt like she wanted to get rid of the friendship.  Not once has it crossed my mind that it would be easier to just let our relationship fade into yearly Facebook greetings and random “how are you?” texts.

We are solid.  And in a world of uncertainty, there is nothing more important than knowing 100% for sure that someone, somewhere out in the wildly rolling waves of life, is keeping the lighthouse lit just for you.

Friendship, real, true friendship, is a priceless gift that cannot be sold for any price.  So, what is real friendship and why is it so important?

Real friendship is honesty.  Honesty in all of its forms.  I once asked my friend “do you think my shorts are too tight?”  She answered to the affirmative in record time.  They have also made their feelings quite clear on how I was treated in various relationships while still allowing me the freedom of making my own decision.

Honesty is giving the gift of our pure, unadulterated thoughts.  Having honesty in our lives is incredibly important because it is only when we see our surroundings clearly that we change or enhance them.  This quality in a friendship is necessary in our daily lives because when we are able to completely open up to someone else, we can completely accept ourselves.

Real friendship is trust.  One of my friends has reason to mistrust her man, but the thought of having to watch him with me has never once crossed her mind.  She knows without a doubt that I would never in a million years do something to betray her trust in that matter.  I share an Amazon Prime account with one of my friends, and never once has the thought occurred to me that she would use my card or do anything underhanded with the information.

If you have trust with someone precious to you, that covenant needs to be protected at all costs.  So many times we focus on having certainty in romantic relationships, but having a relationship unfettered by romance yet still safely anchored in utmost confidence is priceless.

Real friendship is support.  God knows how many times my friends have heard me rant and rave about how this or that isn’t fair, or about how this coworker hurt my feelings, or about how he lost the best thing that ever happened to him.  Never once have they made me feel like they aren’t 100% on my side.  Sometimes, being on my side means reeling me back in and making me realize that I’m being a bit ridiculous, but they always bring me down with love.

Having a support system in your life is so. completely. necessary.  We love to think that we can do it all, but the hard truth of the matter is we cannot.  Or, rather, we cannot if we wish to stay sane.  People who are there for you in your darkest, most pathetic hour are the individuals who make up the foundation of your life.  If that stone isn’t pure, the whole thing crumbles.

Real friendship is laughter.  I cannot tell you how many times I have laughed until tears ran down my face and my abs nearly cracked from being contracted for so long.  I have sat with my friends and burst into giggles over the stupidest memes and the most relatable stories, and inserted hilarity in the place of tears on so many occasions.

Laughter is such an amazing release, and if you cannot truly laugh until your air supply runs dangerously low with another person, you are not completely living.  In order to completely experience life, we need to share all emotions with another person, and gaiety is the best emotion to share.

If you do it right, your true friends are going to be with you for life.  No matter the status of any other relationship in your life, friends are the pilings on which our pier is tied.  No wave, no matter how wild, can knock down something solid.  And no pier, no matter how beautifully fit together, can last without a sturdy steadiness beneath it.

Our relationships in life are our only lasting legacy.  While we are alive, our true friends are our main source of sanity, issue reality checks, hand over tissues, contribute to late night musings, and overall make our lives enjoyable.  If you’re smart enough to make these relationships a priority, they will give you back tenfold on your investment.

So relish in your wine nights.  Share secrets.  Listen.  Be there when the universe is crumbling at their feet and beside them when they conquer the world.  Love them.  Appreciate them.  Keep their confidences and let them keep yours.  Support them.  Don’t be afraid to need them.  Together, the world will unfold before you.  And when it does?  Hand in hand, go kick some ass.

 

It Takes a Village

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Yesterday I chaperoned our end-of-the-year 8th grade dance. ¬†Well, merely chaperoned is an understatement. ¬†I’m in charge of our 8th grade end of the year activities, and thusly I’ve been prepping for this event for months. ¬†In addition to making sure that the students ‘left room for Jesus’ during the dance, I also spent several hours setting up the event and an hour afterwards tearing it down (AFTER, of course, a full day of teaching).

What made an impression on me, however, was how many people stepped up to help me out. ¬†I’m used to doing things on my own, and while I vaguely knew that people had volunteered to help, it was overwhelming HOW MUCH they helped; it was truly awesome to be able to trust the people around me to step up and help me get the job done.

All of this reminded me of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”. ¬†As teachers, we have thousands of children to raise, and I am lucky to have an amazing village of teachers around me to help shape the children in our care. ¬†However, I feel that this saying applies to more than just raising a child; it also takes a village to provide the catalyst for success, motivation, and fulfillment.

This is not a very popular idea.  In America, there is a glorified image of the Lone Ranger taking on the world all alone and rising to the top.  Yet in reality, this type of win could only be achieved by stepping on the people below you in the fight to get the top, and you are limited by an unsavory reputation and the smell of burning bridges behind you.  However, if you truly cultivate a village around you, your potential is unlimited, and you and your village will progress together.

The original village mentality was built around survival.  If one person was out of line or there was a rife in a relationship, that threatened the very existence of the village.  It all came down to trust, and if that trust was lost, your membership in that community was called into question.  This guaranteed that the village members toed the line-their survival depended on it.

Today, we don’t need a village to survive. ¬†But I would argue that we do need a village to thrive. ¬†And while social media has done us a disservice by bringing to life the paradox of ‘the more you share the lonelier you feel’, it has opened up the possibility of being able to hand pick our village.

This is an amazing opportunity, so I’m going to repeat it: we live in a time where we are able to individually choose our village. ¬†We are able to actively search out people who will add value to our lives. ¬†This includes people who expose us to new information, pick us up when we stumble, and help us discover the tools we need to keep growing.

This, of course, comes with a flip side of the coin. ¬†In order to choose these individuals as your village, you need to bring something to the table. ¬†Gone are the days where you might happen to be born into the village where the best cloth-weaver resides, and where you can pick up on her skills by exposure. ¬†Now, in order to take advantage of someone else’s years of practice, you have to be able to contribute to their lives in some way.

It is a harsh reality, but it is true: if you do not bring value to anyone, no one is going to chose you to be in their village unless it is by happenstance.  I believe that this is why so many people stay by their hometowns and have the same friend circle throughout their entire lives.  People have a need to belong no matter what level they are on, but if you want to belong to more than the Friday night local bar club, you have to infuse your being with value.

Just as the top villages of old worked their ass off to make sure there was food, water, and shelter, the successful villages of today work just as hard to make sure that their minds are in tip top shape.  And the concept of striving for full potential is just the same as scrambling for survival; every single person has to be at the top of their game or the whole network suffers.

The ability to choose your village is a privilege that many forgo, simply due to the lack of effort or lack of preparation.  Actively seeking like-minded people is a foolproof way to light your own personal fire while getting the benefits of helping other people light theirs.

Take the time to think about who you admire, who you can see is creating your type of success, and who you want to be as a person.  You cannot simply run up to these people and create a shortcut to prosperity-achieving ANY kind of personal goal is always through hard work.  If you put in the arduous work, it will show.  And once it starts showing, the people you seek out will be attracted to you because YOU can help them, too.

It truly takes a village to become the best version of yourself. ¬†Don’t shun the idea that you need help to get to where you want to be. ¬†While you’re waiting, strive to become the best version of you on your own, and when that is achieved, there will be people who come into your life to skyrocket you to heights you could have never even seen if you stayed in your own bubble. ¬†Strive for more than survival–seize the chance to thrive!

 

Appreciation is a Powerful Drug

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Last weekend, all of my friends got together and had an amazingly fun girls night-without me. ¬†Whomp Whomp. I had prior obligations, and while I was sad that I couldn’t be there, I know it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

What made this event stick out to me, however, wasn’t the fact that I was missed out, but the fact that they all took the time to tell me that they wished I was with them and to make sure I knew that they would have rather had me join in the fun.

Now, having a group of girlfriends is probably old hat to most women my age, but I haven’t yet had this experience: I grew up fast, working all the time, and I was married throughout college, the time when most people are forming solid friend groups for life. ¬†This show of appreciation for, well, just being¬†me made me feel amazing.

This got me thinking: how often do we take the time to let people know that they are appreciated simply just for existing in our lives? ¬†When do we take the time out of our day to write a text, drop a note, take advantage of a pause in conversation just to say hey…you’re awesome. ¬†Thanks for being in my life.

Polite habits are ingrained (or should be ingrained) in us from childhood.  Say please and thank you.  Write a thank you letter when you receive a gift.  Make sure that if someone does you a favor you pay them back somehow, someway.

Yet we rarely take the time to appreciate people just for being them. ¬†And let me tell you from one who has received an abundance of ‘just because’ recognition lately: it feels damn good.

When it comes down to it, appreciation is simply showing that you notice and you are grateful. ¬†Writing a thank you note for that brand-new wedding crock pot is a formalized way of saying Hey! ¬†I liked this thing you picked out for me. ¬†I am really happy that I don’t have to go get one myself. ¬†Thank you!

When you tell someone ‘thank you’, or ‘miss you’, or ‘wish you were here’, it’s saying that you notice them and you’re grateful for what they bring into your life. ¬†You observe what they do when you’re around, and you care when they are not around.

There are so many people in your world that deserve appreciation.  

That barista that makes you coffee every morning?  It would make her day to hear a heartfelt greeting and sincere words of acknowledgment on how much she kicks ass every morning.

That office lady who always greets you with a smile, no matter what?  It would mean the world to hear even the smallest affirmation of  how well she does her job.

That coworker who keeps his head down and just does his job-but does it well?  He would love to hear that people notice his dedication.

No matter how much we tell ourselves that we can give ourselves our own props and it doesn’t matter how other people notice, when push comes to shove, this is complete and total bullshit. ¬†While we can, of course, keep going without cheerleaders and can accomplish anything we want sans pats on the back, the truth is, receiving that acknowledgment and recognition from others around us can act as high-octane gas in our fuel tank.

Sometimes, our encouragement just serves as as a touchstone for others on their journey, a sign that they are doing what they need to do.  Other times, our confirmation can be the push that sends them soaring beyond anything they dreamed they were capable of, that little rev on the engine that sent them shooting beyond the mark they made for themselves.

We never know where anyone is in their life journey. ¬†So seek out opportunities to appreciate others. ¬†These opportunities can be as big as letting someone know that you think they’re doing such a great job that you’re going to recommend them for a promotion, or as small as saying thank you to the random stranger who holds open the door for you.

There are so many situations that we fail to take advantage of; appreciation opportunities are actually quite frequent; you simply have to pay attention:

Tell your friend that you miss them when they aren’t there.

Tell your spouse that you feel lucky to be married to them, just because.

Tell your coworker that they are doing amazing, especially when you can see they’re having a tough day.

Tell your boss that you appreciate his communication.

Tell your mailman that you appreciate his service.

Many times we tend to think “well, it’s just so-and-so’s JOB to do that. ¬†I don’t need to acknowledge anything”. ¬†Who the hell cares? ¬†It’s MY job to teach, and guess what my favorite thing in the world is: hearing ‘thank you’ from a student. ¬†People may be getting paid to do something, but money exchanging hands should not be a determining factor for with-holding gratitude. ¬†Besides the light that you will bring to others, it also serves to make YOU feel amazing.

Take the time to reflect on who actually is a help to you, who makes you feel amazing, who is there for you when shit hits the fan, who makes you laugh, who knows you inside and out, and who is doggedly keeping your life running in the background. ¬†After you’ve realized all the amazing people that you know and who is true gold in your life, take the time to sincerely tell them ‘thank you’. ¬†And then, every once in a while, just so they don’t forget…tell them again.

Dear Men: Court Me like This

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Once again, surprise surprise, my thoughts have turned towards relationships. ¬†One of these days I’ll be able to shake it off like Taylor Swift and mull over some other profound thoughts, but for now, my mind is stuck on love.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what I as a woman have the right to expect out of a courtship and eventual relationship. ¬†So many times we get used to being treated poorly and we think that this is normal, and then something happens that makes us go Oh! ¬†So THIS is what being treated like a lady feels like!

The standards for dating, in my eyes, have been playing a game of limbo for years: how low can you go?  How low can you go?  And yet when you try to stick to a higher principle, it can seem discouraging because that immediately shrinks the eligible bachelor pool down to 1.5 men in the nearest 100 mile radius.  Yet I have decided that when I am ready for another go-around on the roller-coaster of romance, I will not settle for less than I deserve.

So what, exactly, do I feel that I (and all women) are entitled to?

Women deserve to be courted.  And yes, I mean courted in the old-fashioned sense.  Women warrant feeling like the man wants to pursue them and is willing to put in extra effort to make that known.  This means paying for things, that extra text to make sure she gets home safe, making sure to compliment her on her outfit/makeup, and overall making her feel like she is wanted.

In most social settings, you can really tell who likes you and wants to potentially date you versus someone who just wants a piece of ass.  This was made abundantly clear to me yesterday when I had one guy at one bar approach me and start a nice conversation, then offer to buy both me AND my friend a drink.  At the next place, I had a guy talk and flirt with me for hours without offering anything.

In the current hook-up culture that we have going on, being courted is rare. ¬†Yet if a guy really wants to get a quality girl, he has to put in the time and effort that it takes to make that bid for her affection. ¬†Trust me guys, it’s worth it.

Women deserve to know where they stand. ¬†I have seen endless amounts of memes where the woman is freaking out because her man hasn’t texted her back in days and she has no idea if he still likes her or not. ¬†If a man truly wants to seriously date a woman, he needs to make his intentions crystal clear.

Speaking from experience, not knowing how someone feels about you for weeks or months on end is a shitty feeling. ¬†I am all about being busy chasing your own dreams, however, busyness is something that can be communicated. ¬†If a man likes a woman but simply is strapped for time, that needs to be something that is addressed. ¬†Quality women will have things going on on their own and will more than likely be just as busy. ¬†However, days without communication can be misinterpreted if they aren’t given the proper heads up.

Women deserve to keep their bodies to themselves.  I am all about an amorous sack session, but that should not be expected right away.  As a woman, sex is a powerful bonding experience, and it should not be viewed as normal to give that privilege away cheaply.  If a man is seriously interested in a woman, he might hate the thought of waiting, but he will do it without making her feel pressured because he respects her and wants more than just the cookie.

Sex is amazing.  Yet if you were to compare sex just for sex versus actual lovemaking with someone you care about and are connected to on a deeper level, lovemaking will win every time.  You get all the heated passion PLUS a deep level of trust and intimacy that cannot be found stumbling home with some random from the bar.

I am all about women having the freedom to enjoy whatever they want whenever they want with whomever they want. ¬†However, once you’re ready to pursue something real, it’s worth it to hold out; those who want ALL of you will wait, those who don’t, won’t.

Women deserve to feel beautiful. ¬†I don’t care if you are a solid 4 or a 10+; no matter where you fall in the stereotypical beauty scale, the man you are with should make every effort to make sure that you feel like a million bucks. ¬†No woman will ever get tired of hearing “WOW” when she steps out the door or a low whistle when you bend over to grab your purse from the floor.

Feeling beautiful is so much more than feeling like your guy loves your body or your face. ¬†Feeling beautiful is feeling completely seen by someone else, and knowing that they like the view. ¬†Feeling beautiful encompasses a woman’s whole being, and a man who truly wants to pursue the whole woman will gladly make that known.

Women deserve effort. ¬†This is my last point because I know that sometimes, the things that I mention above are hard for guys. ¬†Some guys don’t make a lot of money. ¬†Some guys would rather choke than say what they actually feel. ¬†Some guys are awkward and have no idea how to interact with a woman properly. ¬†No on is perfect. ¬†However, no matter how far away a guy is from a streamlined dating machine, if they want a woman bad enough, they will put in the effort.

This effort might come in the form of planning out an entire date of free things. ¬†Cost-effective, yet the time it takes to think everything through is work. ¬†Effort might come in the form of someone who hates words mustering up the courage to simply state “I like you”. ¬†Effort also always comes in the form of communication; no matter what your hangups, quality women are infinitely able to work with them if they are made clear and attempts are strongly made to work through them.

Overall, the goal of courtship is to see whether or not this is someone with whom you can build a quality, lasting bond.  If there is no effort put in to obtain this partnership, than there will more than likely be no effort to maintain the connection.  A relationship with a good person is a privilege for both men and women, and its benefits will correlate with the value placed upon it.

So men: if you aren’t ready for a real relationship, don’t try to add notches on your bedpost with women who are. ¬†And if you do want to try to win the love of a real woman, do it right. ¬†Court her like she is a lady of old and you are her knight in shining armor; when a woman feels desired, respected, and safe, there is nothing that she will not do for you. ¬†Put in the work to earn it, and the ROI will be more than you could have dreamed.

 

The Gifts my Ex’s Gave Me

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Breakups suck.  In the moment, it always seems like your world will never be quite right again, and there will always be a part of you missing.  Yet I have gone through enough separations to know that this is not the case; eventually, you will feel whole again, and you will even be able to look back on the relationship with fondness and not pain.

My most recent breakup has led me to contemplate all of my past relationships. ¬†When you’re in smack in the middle and full of new love, they seem amazing. ¬†When they’re removed from your life, you sob in wrenching pain; eventually, months later, you wonder what you ever saw in them and roll your eyes at your past self and her choices. ¬†But for me, years down the road, I am thankful for all of my failed relationships because they each have shaped a part of who I am.

None of my ex’s were rich; they didn’t buy me fancy clothes or whisk me off to Europe in their private jets. ¬†But in their own way, they each gave me gifts that are immeasurable in value, even if their presence in my life was not meant to be.

My first ex gave me the gift of heartbreak. ¬†I lived several states away from my high school boyfriend, and as brief as our relationship was, I was devastated when it ended. ¬†I was SURE that I was going to marry this boy, and I lamented as most stereotypical teenage girls do, writing very bad poetry and pouring my heart out in a song (that I years later found, shuddered at, and promptly deleted). ¬†And yet all of this innocent heartbreak soon healed, and I found that I was able to move on with my life just fine. ¬†It’s partly because of this early, necessary, over-dramatic heartbreak that I am able to move on from all of life’s storms that seem to keep coming my way because it taught me that pain is not forever.

There will be people in life who cause you immense amounts of agony.  And yet, this hurt is able to be overcome with time and personal growth.  It is those moments of overcoming this pain that we discover our true unshakable ability to keep marching on.  When we are in the trenches of more suffering, we can remember how we persevered before, and muster up the courage to burst through yet again.

My second ex gave me the gift of freedom. ¬†I grew up very conservatively and extremely religious. ¬†While I am thankful for the solid foundation that this upbringing gave me in terms of values, I am also very thankful to not possess such a narrow-minded view of the world anymore. ¬†My ex-husband was the opposite of conservative, and while most of his ideas are way too radical to be contemplated in the realm of reality, being around someone who opposed my views so violently caused me to question why I subscribed to certain world-views. ¬†It’s because of him that I have been able to rebuild what I believe and have been able to be so empathetic and compassionate to others in turmoil around me.

Anyone who causes you to question who you are and what you believe is a valuable person.  Sometimes, this self-questioning leads to a more solidified stance in what you think.  Other times, such as in my case, it causes a shaky foundation to crumble, leaving room for constructing one that is more solidly built.

My third ex gave me the gift of experience.  He was almost 18 years older than me, accomplished in so many things, and had a zest for life that drew me too him despite the age difference.  Growing up in the Midwest, I had never dreamed that there were so many simple and varied pleasures to enjoy.  Eating cucumber sandwiches on the beach, gambling in Vegas, drinking wine on the sand while the sun goes down, completely feeling the music at a rock concert one day and an acoustic performance the next.  Because of him, I have a thirst for experiencing ALL of life, and I eagerly grasp any opportunity to try something new.

Sometimes, meeting someone with more experience than you is intimidating.  It can make your life seem pitiful and pale in comparison.  However, if you jump at the chance to listen to their stories and allow yourself to get caught up in the whirlwind, you will inevitably end up with way more interesting stories than standing on the sidelines watching.

My most recent ex gave me the gift of inspiration. ¬†Before I dated him, I was established in my career and going with the flow of life. ¬†But when we met, I saw in him a drive and a passion for more than the status quo, which quite honestly seemed a bit much at first. ¬†Yet as we spent more time together, he influenced me by example. ¬†He’s the reason I started this blog, started exploring my options for other side careers, and started striving to exceed my own expectations. ¬†It’s because of him that I feel that I have a renewed purpose in life, and I can feel that energy trickling into all facets of my being.

There are those people who come into your lives at the exact right moment and with just the right tools to spur you on towards greatness in your own journey.  Sometimes those people get to stay with you, and you get to do that for each other for many amazing years together.  Other times, those people touch us briefly before spinning off into the universe, too caught in their own destiny to stay.  Either way, their inspiration is valuable, and no matter how brief or long the encounter, you have to be grateful for their impact on your life.

Some of us get lucky and find our missing puzzle piece right out of the gate.  Those people get to grow and learn together, help each other out along the way, and build an amazing lifetime of memories together.  Others of us have a more rocky path; we are the ones who reach our hands out again and again, only to have them slapped down by those we desire.  We can choose to ache with each dismissal or to take each experience as a lesson in what we truly want and deserve.  With each rejection comes a stronger assurance that eventually, our hand will be taken with gentle strength, and we will finish this journey together with someone who is worth every bit of pain and sorrow along the way.

 

The Anatomy of a Broken Heart

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In the cartoons that we watched when we were younger, a broken heart is dramatized by a jagged line. ¬†The two halves split apart and sometimes fall to the ground, symbolizing two people going their separate ways. ¬†It’s simple. ¬†It’s clean. ¬†It’s nothing like reality.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of muffled sobs and hot tears pouring down your face. ¬†It’s made up of deep shuddering breaths and wiping the back of your hand across your nose, uncaringly smearing snot across your cheek. ¬†It’s made up of red, swollen eyes and deep breaths that end when another wave of hurt crashes over you like the slap of the ocean on a windy day.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of memories of the good times. ¬†It’s remembering that one time on that one Saturday that he made a stupid comment and you both laughed and laughed until your sides hurt and the best kind of tears streamed down your face. ¬†It’s feeling the sensation of his hand still intertwined with yours, feeling safe and cared for and warm as you strolled along the beach. ¬†It’s hearing his car pulling into your driveway, looking into the mirror one final time to make sure that you look perfect, and flinging open the door before he can knock.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of words. ¬†The “hi” that he spoke when he first walked up to you. ¬†The “miss you” that followed an extended period of time without seeing each other. ¬†The reluctant “goodnight” that came at the end of every phone conversation. ¬†The “like a glove” phrase that become an instant addition to every successful parallel parking job. ¬†The exaggerated “oh yeah” he drawled as you changed outfits, showing him a glimpse of skin.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of fights.  The serious discussions that ended with resolutions that made things better and relieved embraces on the couch.  The play fights that ended with you getting your ass kicked but refusing to accept defeat.  The battle of wits that took place every time he tried to prove that he was smarter and you told yourself you just let him win.

In reality, a broken heart is made of touch.  The slap on your ass when he was feeling frisky.  The tender kiss on your forehead when your head was on his chest.  The long, tightly gripping hugs that happened when you walked in the door.  The passionate kisses that fanned the flames of physical love.  The playful squeeze on his biceps to let him know that yes, you notice his workouts, and yes, you like the results.  The secret thrill when he reached for your hand and your fingers intertwine perfectly.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of what could have been. ¬†The joyful anticipation meeting of his mom where she, of course, would love you and tell him in private that “that’s the one”. ¬†¬†The vacation to Hawaii that would have been your first real adventure together. ¬†The nervous awareness of him meeting your parents in the future. ¬†The proposal and wedding that was crazy to have been thinking of already but you allowed yourself glimpses of because you knew in your heart that this was the guy you wanted.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of silence. ¬†The blank cell phone screen that won’t show his name, no matter how many times you look at it. ¬†The endless occasions you tuck a moment of the day away to share with him later, only to quietly push those moments to the side when reality strikes again. ¬†The stark absence of your best friend when a crisis happens or when you nail your goals.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of hurt. ¬†The desire to hate him for leaving, yet not being able to because you still love him too much to want to hurt him. ¬†The crumbling realization that you were not enough. ¬†The ache that comes with knowing that it’s truly the end, and no amount of convincing or begging will change his mind. ¬†The screaming pains that initially hit you, even when you know it’s coming.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of change. ¬†The weekend routine that suddenly ends. ¬†The awkward response when some asks “hey, you still dating that guy?” ¬†The unwelcome reality that no longer can use your status as a way to curve unwanted attention. ¬†The moment when you find a perfect book for him but slowly place it back on the self, your fingers lingering a bit longer than normal.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of the knowledge of healing.  The understanding that someday, your heart will not hurt for him anymore and panicking at the thought of not caring.  The awareness that someday, someone else will take his place and feeling physically sick at the thought of loving another.

In the end, a broken heart gets shattered because it is fully given.  No jagged line can encompass the pure pain of completely surrendering your most precious possession to another, only to have it tossed around for a few months and then given back.  The heart wants what the heart wants, but it cannot do anything but yearn when the other heart stays closed.

Eventually it will heal, and it may even forget the pain, allowing itself to be fully given again, in good faith and with the same wide-eyed innocence and trust as the first time around.

But that’s in the future. ¬†And in the now, it still lies there; bloody, raw, bruised. ¬†It still wants to be healed by the person who broke it in the first place. ¬†It craves the warmth it has gotten used to. ¬†It misses its companion heart, still beating, yet so far away.

And so, allow yourself to fully feel.  Sob at the memories.  Shudder in the waves of pain.  Scream in defiance.  Punch something in frustration.  Something broken must be acknowledged to ever be fully healed, and as much as it feels like you will never rise from your crumpled, pathetic spot in the dust, your heart is stronger then you think, braver than you feel, and even at its most broken, capable of so. much. love.

Things My Students Taught Me

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In the last couple of days, I’ve had to face the truth that I may have to find a job outside of teaching. ¬†There are limited positions available in along the coast, and I refuse to move somewhere that I don’t want to live. ¬†While the hunt for the perfect fit is not yet over, I am steeling myself to face the worst if the stars do not align.

The reality of doing something else for a living is heartbreaking. ¬†I absolutely love what I do. ¬†The ability to have a career where I am able to get a taste of pretty much every other job on the planet is a beautiful experience. ¬†The best thing is, while I’m teaching my students, they’re really teaching me.

My students taught me the power of laughter.  Humor is such an underutilized tool.  I have had far greater success with my students gently nudging them to do the right thing with a well-timed joke or an exaggerated sigh of exasperation that they know is fake.  My favorite times are when a students makes me bust out laughing in the middle of class because they did or said something completely off the wall, which inevitably causes the class to send out gales of laughter too.

Laughing at something together creates a powerful bond.  It actually takes quite a bit of vulnerability to truly let out a giant belly laugh over a joke or a certain circumstance.  Laughter is also the best way to ease hurt, and if you can make your students laugh or even bravely put on a smile through their tears, you are helping them more than you realize.

My students taught me the power of mutual respect. ¬†I go to great lengths to show my students that they are respected in my classroom. ¬†I ask them to do things instead of order them. ¬†I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, even when the compliance is not enthusiastic. ¬†I make sure I listen to student’s concerns fully, even when my eyes are mentally rolling so far back in my head they are in danger of becoming lost in my gray matter. ¬†99.9% of the time, I know that I have my students’ respect. ¬†It those times when I indulge in my own bad mood or snap at a student in frustration that their respect for me becomes diminished.

Knowing that you’re respected in any given situation is an empowering feeling. ¬†No matter how many times a student shows disrespect, holding out any token of respect causes them to shift their mindset and usually ends up in changed behavior and a mumbled apology. ¬†No matter how tempting tit for tat may be, clinging to the higher standard of dignity as an adult in any situation is immensely gratifying and highly useful.

My students taught me the power of simple gestures. ¬†Many, many times when I’m feeling down, a student has given me a picture that they have drawn, or stopped to say a personal goodbye at the end of class, or randomly told me that they think I’m a great teacher. ¬†Small things. ¬†Simple things. ¬†Free things. ¬†But it truly is the little efforts that make a huge difference.

So many times we move along our paths without taking advantage of the opportunities offered along the way. ¬†Is someone visibly harried and stressed out? ¬†Compliment them. ¬†Is there someone who is usually a ‘background person’ in your life with whom you don’t interact much? ¬†Stop and say hello, maybe make some conversation. ¬†Did you buy two chocolate bars but really only want a bite? ¬†Split them with a friend. ¬†Don’t listen to the voices that tell you nobody will care or notice your efforts; trust me, they will.

My students taught me the power of listening.  Teachers like to talk.  That is our job.  Yet this becomes a problem when the words flowing out of our mouths cut off the words trying to get to our ears.  Whenever I take the time to bring an unruly student aside to chat with them, they inevitably articulate some problem or issue either outside or inside of class that is affecting their behavior.  Even if I cannot resolve the problem for them, my simple act of listening usually does the trick to change their demeanor.

Most of the time, our actions are simply bids for attention.  Some people may need the attention just to validate their existence.  Others need it to get through their struggles.  Whichever way you slice it, taking the time out to listen is always a deposit in the bank of that relationship.  Feeling listened to is a deep human need, and those who are able to provide that service freely and without expectation are rare and valued individuals.

My students taught me the power of love. ¬†As a teacher, I want nothing less than for my students to suddenly awaken to the fact that they actually love to read, they can’t wait to write the next essay, and they can hardly contain their exuberance for the next class discussion. ¬†As much as that would be my dream come true, the reality is that there are some students who will never ever reach that point while they are with you. ¬†Sometimes, they are not hungering for knowledge, but simply starving for love.

Giving your love to someone without stipulations is a powerful thing.  The more trouble a student causes, they more they desperately need that affirmation, that feeling of security, and that knowledge that your love is a constant.  Love does not have to manifest into like; many students/people are unlikable.  Yet there is not one who is completely devoid of anything to love.

Overall, my students have illuminated to me over and over the deep need that every individual has for human connection.  Those attachments range from deep, soul-connecting conversations to shallow mentions of the latest fashions, but at the core, all of our interactions are building small threads person-to-person in our network, which web out to create the unique fabric of our lives.

As much as possible, take the opportunity to make your connections full, deep, and rich.  Give of yourself so that you may receive of others.  Take a step back and allow everybody to teach you something, regardless of their role in your life.  Be the first one to show vulnerability.  Trust.

My students may leave my class knowing how to write an essay, but I will leave knowing just a little bit more of my purpose in the world.  And that, my friends, is more valuable than any Harvard education.