My Star Wars Garbage Compactor World

I’ve talked a lot about success, but not a lot about what hinders success.  A few days ago, I posted a quote on Driftyland’s FB page  from Judges 1:8-2:3. I was watching a sermon about The Causes and Cure for Spiritual Inconsistency on The Summit’s website, when I heard J.D. Greear say:

“Small areas of disbelief produce large areas of disaster.”

I let the message resonate with me for awhile. The truth in those words is remarkable. I thought about all of the little ways, day by day, I don’t trust that there’s a plan in the works.

Then I started thinking about why I don’t trust that.

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This picture looks pretty and inspiring. I don’t know what other kind of pictures to post here.

Sometimes it’s impatience, or the desire for short-term gratification (something that hinders a lot of us). But without realizing it, I had learned one of largest, most difficult reasons behind my occasional disbelief weeks prior.

I started attending my friend Allison’s Bible study after my Bachelor nights at Shana’s ended. The timing worked out perfectly, schedule-wise. We’ve been doing a Beth Moore study, where she discusses freeing yourself from traps and snares.

Traps and snares - I’ve encountered them my entire life. I’m talking about deep-rooted insecurities and anxieties I’ve always had, that keep me from achieving my personal, professional and spiritual goals. The “traps” I keep getting caught in, the “snares” I find myself tangled in.

If you don’t know what yours are,  just finish this statement:

“I can’t believe I did ________________ again.”

For some, a snare is continuing to indulge in unhealthy food, or hurtful gossip. For others, it’s more severe – cheating or infidelity, drug abuse, gambling, etc. These are traps and snares that keep you from being your best self.

It inspired me to focus more on my snares, and like anyone else, I have a few. But the largest one… and perhaps, most daunting, is needing validation from others.

It’s hard to admit, but I’m like a dog. I love being pat on the head. I love being rewarded, and recognized for my efforts. Sometimes, I’ll do something to the point of exhaustion just to have someone nod when I ask -

I’m doing good, right?”

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This photo of a hilariously dressed dog is relevant for this post.

One of my oldest friends, Joe, unintentionally brought this to my attention a week ago. We were on the phone catching up, we hadn’t spoken in a few months, and without being prompted, he praised me.

He told me things I really wanted to hear from someone else. He told me how proud he was to be my friend and how I was always working so hard to improve myself. He said my month off from booze and my dedication to my book inspired him.

I thought those words would make all the effort worth it. But they didn’t. I thanked him profusely, but told him the truth – as soon as he said all of that, I just felt exhausted.

It was the equivalent to collapsing after a marathon. I realized I’m tired of constantly trying to prove myself – especially since no one is asking me to. It’s an constant Star-Wars-garbage-compactor-environment I’ve created, and existed in, alone.

It’s a snare because although self-improvement is important, needing constant validation and approval from people is unproductive. The area of disbelief it feeds is that I’m not enough, as I am. That if I just (insert inspiring action here), I’ll be happier, smarter, just better.

This particular snare, this area of disbelief hinders me personally and professionally. Jake (my boss) calls me a peace keeper, and there’s obvious issues with that. Previous boyfriends have expressed fatigue from overly thoughtful and frequent gift giving.  At first, I felt like they were being ungrateful, but it made sense when one pointed out that by giving way too much, they felt like they weren’t giving enough.

I am enough. I have enough. A lot of people do a lot more, with a lot less, than what I have.

So, admittedly, I haven’t quite figured out how to free myself yet. I’m working towards it. I wanted to discuss it because I think it’s a very real problem that people have. I want to challenge all of you to identify, and battle against your snares and traps. Learn how to set yourself free.

I anticipate that once I figure it out myself,  my perspective of the world will be that it’s a much sunnier place.

 

She Said Yes

Writing a book is hard.

I started writing Cold Island (my Icelandic travel guide) TWO YEARS AGO… and it’s still not done. Partially because I waited too long to write it, and partially, because I want to go back. When the idea for Conversations popped into my head, I felt immediately inspired in a ohivetotallygotthis kind of way.

So far, the book is really progressing and I’m finding a great rhythm. I’m almost completely finished lining up the people I’m featuring. I’m more than halfway through.

I feel good about it.

The one piece that was missing was the foreword – you know, the introduction. I thought about all of the subjects I could feature and what I could discuss. Then it dawned on me – I just wasn’t the person for the job.

Like every other piece of content in the book, the voice had to be someone else’s.

So I thought about it, and came to an obvious and immediate solution. Who better to honor my passion and gift for writing than the person who gave it to me? The person who inspired me, in addition to being a writer, to my selection of a college, my choice to always follow my heart, and of course, my love for Billy Joel.

I emailed her this week and asked if she’d write the foreword, and she responded,verbatim, and almost immediately:

I would be honored.”

Of course, I’m talking about my mom, Joan.

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The resemblance is….

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….uncanny…..

Not a lot of people know this about my mother, but she shares my passion for writing (as well as the Phillies and Adam Levine – whoaaaa!)

She’s a tenacious and fierce woman – probably doubling in my passion, sarcasm, and kindness. She’s the first person who showed me the importance of generosity, in an experience I’ll never forget.

We went out to lunch, and she recognized a man from our church with his wife. She told me the wife had been having some medical problems. When we left, she discreetly paid their lunch bill, and left – no thank you, no recognition necessary. Well, until now.

Graduating at Temple, thanking my mom or something?

Graduating at Temple, thanking my mom or something?

Joan at Temple, glory days.

Joan at Temple, glory days.

For anyone who knows Joan (that’s Mrs. Randall, to you), they know that she’s an incredibly thoughtful and insightful person. A force of nature. A woman, who may or may not be occasionally mistaken as Sigourney Weaver.

But a firecracker, nonetheless. And I’m so excited, and thrilled, that the first words, in my first book, will be hers.

Get excited, people.

 

A Month Without Alcohol

A month ago, I gave up alcohol.

The most important reason is simple – I felt compelled to. After a bad date, and one too many drinks, I woke up the next day feeling emotionally exhausted and shitty.

That afternoon, we had a margarita lunch at work. I decided to pass on it. It was just because I felt like a shitty bag of garbage. That night, I skipped drinking again. For some of the same reasons. I had a dinner party on Saturday, and decided to skip alcohol then, too.

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A sober dinner party… at least for me.

The idea of month long sobriety came to me during those handful of days. I thought about it, considered it. I wondered if it would be too difficult, if it was worth it.

Like any serendipitous idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. That Monday, when I was at Shana’s, I took a small sip of wine. I took another.

And then I decided to do it. To take a month off, to the day. I gave my glass of wine to Tassy, and spent the next month without even a sip of alcohol.

I didn’t avoid alcohol – I was constantly around people who were drinking. I didn’t hide from booze, I was just in parallel to it. During all of those late nights, the only sober person in a crowded bar, I found myself deep in thought.

I often wondered if, and ultimately decided, that this was a challenge from God, the universe. Perhaps to show that I was capable of being incredibly disciplined, or maybe, to show that I was welcoming change into my life.

Apparently, drunk face happens even without booze.

Apparently, drunk face happens even without booze.

If anything, it was an opportunity to get some clarity, to refresh. But honestly, it was really hard. I kind of expected to be rewarded for it.

I know that sounds selfish. It is selfish. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I thought that maybe, if I proved to myself, and to God that I could do this, there was a bigger reason why.

But nothing seemed to be happening. By the end of the month, I was a little disappointed. What was the purpose for all of this?

Was it just something I dreamed up, a way to bring reason to a bad experience? I couldn’t decide, but let it go. It wasn’t important to figure out.

A few days ago, it dawned on me. There was reason and reward from it.  While I was waiting for something BIG and FLASHY to happen, a ton of wonderful, little things happened.

I went to church every Sunday, because I wasn’t too tired from being out the night before. I fell in love with Bible study. I started journaling during both – scribbling down verses, phrases that stood out to me. I prayed, constantly.

I saved a TON of money and got a TON of sleep.  My work improved because I seemed more focused.  Dare I say, happier?

My thoughts and feelings were just clearer.

Without the influence of alcohol, weekend nights typically spent flirting with boys, or reflecting on romantic entanglements, suddenly transformed into open, peaceful blocks of time. I worked on my book. I made a HUGE vision board for my room. I cooked and cleaned more.

Honestly, at times, it was kind of boring.

But that’s not a bad thing. I desperately needed some boredom. I needed a week, or two, or three, where my biggest problem was trying to decide between two flavors of ice cream.

What a wonderful problem to have.

I won’t lie, I’m excited to have drinking as an option again.I’m going to D.C. this weekend, and Austin, the next. I’m excited to drink dry red wine with dinner, and a Bloody Mary with breakfast. But in moderation.

For the first time since I turned 21, I’ve realized that drinking isn’t an obligation or expectation – it’s a choice. It’s a deep, consistent part of our social lives, but it’s a choice.  A choice I’m glad to have.

I can’t predict how much, or how little, this experience will change me. But I’m grateful, and fortunate for it. I’m proud of myself. I did it.

And the feeling of a win, of an accomplishment, is enough for me.

 

 

 

 

The Legendary George Miller

I was sitting in an auditorium on Temple University’s campus, eight years ago, when I heard it for the first time.

“You can always learn something from any situation,” my professor, George Miller, told us. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it.”

It’s a lesson that I’ve applied to countless moments since. During waits at the DMV, in the middle of uninteresting conversations, and even during my morning commute, I’ve thought: “Hey – pay attention. What could you learn right now?”

Sometimes it’s nothing. Other times, whether it’s having empathy for a frazzled parent or forcing myself to be patient in traffic, there’s always something to gleam from a seemingly ordinary experiences or encounters.

Here’s an honest thing about my publication schedule: there isn’t one. I post things when I feel like it. I interviewed George about a month ago. I held off on finishing it because I felt like it wasn’t time.

Even after I received some swag from him from JUMP Philly (his magazine) a week or so ago, I still held off.

JUMP Philly swag.

JUMP Philly swag.

I’m so glad I waited, because this morning, George shared a blog post he wrote about being a bachelor. And even eight years later, I learned something magnificent from him.

But more about that later.

George Miller is kind of a rock star at Temple… and I’m definitely a groupie. I convinced many friends and classmates to take one of his courses. I’ve talked about him since to co-workers, significant others, and family.

Geo and the Cos. Courtesy of George Miller.

Geo and the Cos. Courtesy of George Miller.

It’s not his credentials – although, before his time at TU, he was a photojournalist at the Philadelphia Daily News for ten years. I mean…there’s a picture of him in the Philadelphia Phillies dugout.

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Courtesy of George Miller.

But I’m getting off topic.

George is a rock star because he fucking gets it.

He taught me so many things about life. About my career, and who I wanted to be as a person. He urged me to push the boundaries, and to constantly improve myself. He encouraged me to never stop learning, not even for a second. Basically, he taught me how to be a decent (and kickass) human being.

Geo agrees – “Your reputation will follow you. So I try to think long-term.”

George credits this to his grandmother.

“My grandmother, who passed away a few years ago, was my moral compass. I would always think, “Don’t embarrass your grandmother.”"

“I hold on to that mentality to this day,” he confesses.

During Geo’s time as a photojournalist, he also wrote feature stories.

“I spent my last year or two there as a news reporter, mostly writing crime stories,” he reminds me.

I don’t think I could ever forget that. A story about his time at the Philadelphia Daily News, has stayed with me since the day he told our class.

The paper did something that Geo considered to be against his morals, and he was so frustrated, he wanted to quit.

“I wish I had quit that day,” I remember him saying, with gumption.

But he didn’t, and he’s regretted it since.

Courtesy of George Miller.

Courtesy of George Miller.

That story, of when he nearly reached his moral breaking point, is the one I’ve told to those previously mentioned co-workers, significant others, and family. His experience, and his words, has trickled down to a lot of people going through similar trials.

I’ve told friends, in tears, at their breaking points – “Let me tell you about George Miller.”

During my own trials, I’ve heard those words – “I wish I had quit that day.”

In many instances, I did wish I had quit, whatever it was, that day. Sometimes I held out, and sometimes, I regretted that. But in the most significantly frustrating moments, when those words have been loud, pressing, and unavoidable – I quit.

It’s all due to a professor, who likely had no idea, how seven little words would change my life.

Although he’s already given me the best life pro tips, I asked him for more.

“After a night of drinking, put your valuables in your shoe,” he advises.  “That way, you’ll never lose your stuff.”

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George and one of his favorite past-times – baseball. Courtesy of George Miller.

“Aside from that, I have no idea how to succeed in life. I’m kind of winging it myself, you know?”

I think we all are.

 

Geo Recommends:

Music: Wreckless Erik’s “Whole Wide World.” (“It’s all about searching the world, looking for your soul mate … and recognizing that love isn’t always convenient.”)

Pulp’s “Common People” (“I kind of have issues with rich people and this song really puts this rich chick in her place.”)

Books:

“A Fraction of the Whole” by Steve Toltz

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami

“Catcher in The Rye” by JD Salinger

 

 

“Maybe He’ll Like it”

I was talking to a new friend, when those words popped into my head.

“Maybe he’ll like it.”

Like it, in regards to what I was about to admit to. I don’t recall what I was holding back, but it was pretty unimportant. Something equivalent to, “I still listen to Britney Spears when I drive home,” or “I ate soup in my bed last night.”

A quirky habit or interest that could change their perception of me….and I didn’t want to expose myself to someone I didn’t know very well. And then, those words again:

“Maybe he’ll like it.”

So I said it.

When I started conceptualizing this post, I thought I would focus on my alternativeness. But I’m already pretty transparent about that, and honestly, I was more interested in the fear behind it. The fear of being vulnerable, of releasing control of what another person thinks of me.

But vulnerability is a really powerful thing. It connects people. It brings you closer to the people you love. It’s much more powerful than being confident, despite the discomfort and fear that comes along with it. Confidence has nothing on someone who’s open, raw, and forthcoming.

Because when you’re vulnerable, you’re real.

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It’s just not an easy thing for people to do. There’s this belief, especially with women, that it’s better to be indifferent, cold, or seemingly uninterested.

It’s stupid, but I’ve done it. Everyone has.

A college friend once asked me, “Why don’t you care?”after a fight,  and I think I just shrugged, and told her I didn’t know.

What I should have said, and perhaps, what she needed to hear was – “it’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that not opening up to you protects me.”

But it didn’t. I think that’s the most difficult thing to realize about vulnerability. It seems like a way to protect you, to hold you together, but it’s actually slowly breaking you apart. It’s distancing you from your true self, and what’s important to you. 

And why? For self preservation? To avoid getting hurt? It doesn’t make any sense, when you think of it that way.

Instead of telling that friend, “I don’t know, I just don’t,” I could have told her that I was hurting. We could have talked about why. We could have hit the root of things, and moved passed it – either as friends, or not as friends, but at least we wouldn’t be shutting ourselves off just to avoid a little discomfort.

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My challenge to my readers, is a challenge that I’ve taken on for myself. Be fucking vulnerable. Find that thing that’s making you feel all icky inside, and deal with it, instead of putting up walls. Shake things up, and see where the chips fall.

Best case scenario, you make an amazing connection with someone. Worst case scenario, you lose someone who was probably kind of wishy-washy about you in the first place. Both are wins.

Or start small – admit to being a closeted Elvis fan.

Because hey… maybe he’ll like it.

Living Out Joy: Sarah Thiebaud

The music is loud. I can barely hear myself when I lean in, and say:

“Bible study.”

The clean cut, preppy guy in front of me hesitates. His eyebrows raise slightly, and he waits for me to perhaps, laugh, or tell him it’s a joke.

“I’m not kidding…” I continue, “I know Susan from Bible Study.”

Silence.

I’ve gotten used to this type of reaction.

In this particular case, a random guy, out at a bar, and I have realized we have a possible shared connection. He works at Lenovo, as does my friend Susan. He inevitably asks me how I know Susan (turns out he doesn’t), and I know I have to be honest with him.

I only replied with, “Bible study,” but I complete the dialogue in my head.

“Bible study…. Please don’t hate me for being a Christian. Please don’t judge me for having a relationship with God. Please don’t put me in a box.”

Because as soon as I admit to my faith, I can almost immediately see the person’s perception about me shift.

The words – “God”, “Bible Study”, “Faith”, “Prayer”, make people uncomfortable. You’re immediately put in a small, cramped box with the most extreme examples of religious people. Often, the same characteristics they have, and actions they take, are suddenly characteristics you must have, and actions you must take.

I know this, because I used to put people in that box.  

I was so afraid of having faith. I thought being a Christian, or having any belief, would turn me into one of those extreme examples. I would become someone that judges others for poor choices. I would become someone that had to preach to others, and to try to save them.

I was scared that friends would cringe, or roll their eyes, if I posted psalms on Facebook, talked about prayer, and went to church. I wouldn’t be allowed to make mistakes. I had to be perfect, if I was a Christian.

It made me afraid, and ashamed. 

I’m probably as prepared as I can be to write this post. By far, it’s the one I’m most nervous to write. But as I lay here in my bed, laptop propped up, listening to one of my friend Sarah’s favorite songs - Future Days, by Pearl Jam, I feel comforted.

“Back when I was feeling broken,
I focused on a prayer
You came deep as any ocean
Did something out there hear…”

Because my faith, my walk with God, is the most important part of my life. It’s been the most difficult path to take. It’s something I fail, and succeed at, every single day. And I don’t have to be ashamed of it.

I look, and listen, for direction in every moment. Little whispers, about the choices I’m making. I’m tested and broken. I’m challenged and rewarded. I’m always trying to be better, to get better. I struggle, then I flourish. It’s so worth it.

It’s something I’m proud of now… and that’s because of a girl I met seven years ago. 

The first person to really show me what a life with faith, and a strong relationship with God looked like, was Sarah Thiebaud. When she moved in with me in 2007, in an oversized loft on Temple University’s campus, I had no idea how her friendship was going to set my faith in motion.

I wouldn’t realize it for many years to come.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Sarah cites this as one of her favorite bible verses, Hebrews 11:6.

Sarah is a Christian. She reads the Bible. She prays. She believes in miracles. Her faith, and her integrity, shines through her… and she doesn’t seem to pay attention to what anyone else thinks about it.

Back in college, her actions clearly dictated how her faith was the biggest part of her life. She actively sought joy. She didn’t participate in gossip. She didn’t speak unkind words. She filled her evenings with inspiring activities.

We listened to jazz. We took personality quizzes. She texted me one day to meet her at the student center for a surprise – and we got massages. We watched thought provoking films. We took an acting class together. We even made a short film together. 

We left inspirational messages scribbled on post-its, and stuck them to the mirror in our shared bathroom.

I remember that at least once a week, she spent a day alone.

“I need to have a day just with myself,” she’d say. “Without anyone influencing my thoughts.”

Sarah and I at Temple.

Sarah and I at Temple.

It’s taken me seven years to get where Sarah was then. 

Sarah lives in Pittsburgh now, and her life is still infused with magic, clarity, and love.

“The people who live here are unbelievably innovative and kind,” Sarah says of Pittsburgh.

When I decided to talk to Sarah for the piece, I specifically wanted to ask her about staying spiritually fit. I wanted to pinpoint where she finds the most strength, in hopes to inspire others. I want other people to learn all of the valuable lessons I learned from her.

What I found, was a look into Sarah’s soul. I pulled the biggest parts of Sarah’s life – the things that make her tick, and reinforce her faith.

Yoga

Yoga, as well as running, spending time in prayer, and connecting with others, are Sarah’s keys to a fulfilled life. She’s actually a yoga instructor now, having completed a 200 hour power yoga teacher training in Costa Rica last year.

Sarah Thiebaud

Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud

“I love the spiritual and physical rejuvenation I experience while practicing vinyasa flow yoga and flying in arm balances,” Sarah says of yoga.

 

Being Outdoors

“I also have a passion for dancing and journeying to a new city or body of water,” Sarah says. “I am inspired by exploring unknown territory, or engaging in an exhilarating physical activity such outdoor rock climbing or surfing.”

Paddle Yoga

“I love paddle boarding and have practiced yoga on a paddle board in an ocean (Hawaii), a bay (North Carolina), a lake (Cheat Lake, West Virginia), and the Monongahela River (Pittsburgh). ”

 

Living Out Joy

“Wherever I am, I will find joy in a great many ways – traveling somewhere new, running outdoors, going on adventures with others, etc.”

Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud

Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud

“Don’t over think – live out your joy – have faith,” Sarah advises.  ”Start anywhere!”

 

Physical & Emotional Wellness

Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud

Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud

“I plan to own my own wellness center,” says Sarah.  ”I will offer clients personal training, nutrition counseling, power yoga and wellness retreats/yoga teacher training. I will lead outdoor fitness classes and teach yoga on paddle boards.”

 

Gratitude

“I am grateful for God given intuition and enlightenment, which inspires me daily. I’m most grateful for grace. And surprises.”

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Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud’s Facebook

“My mission is to trust that I am living life to the fullest and giving thanks for unexpected blessings.”

 

Her Faith – and sharing it.

When I ask Sarah what the most important thing in her life is, her reply isn’t a surprise.

“Being in relationship with God. Loving others and believing in the power of prayer. Taking initiative. Following my heart. ”

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Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud’s FB

“Beyond my career, I will volunteer as a traveling missionary, sharing my faith in God and writing stories about my experiences.”

Sarah’s journey has inspired me so deeply. She taught me to open my heart, and to share my beliefs, motivations, and love with others. She taught me to chase joy, and to live my life romantically with intention.

She saved me. 

 

 

 

 

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Rick Randall’s Rules for Dating

A few years back, I was driving back to my apartment, phone in my lap. My Dad was on speaker.

We were talking about my relationship.

“Yeah, it’s over,” I say simply, shrugging, although obviously, he couldn’t see me. “It’s just over.”

“Well, that’s it,then.” he said.

Continue reading…

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Vanessa Lynch Is Killing It

It’s the summer of 2014.

It’s a blistering hot day out, and I’m walking down Wrightsville Beach, jagged seashells digging into my palm. One of my dearest friends, Vanessa Lynch, is walking besides me.

It’s something out of a dream. A long, intense conversation about love, life and relationships. A beautiful, brilliant blue sky over us. And as always, Vanessa is extremely inquisitive about how content I am.

Continue reading…