Sunday, October 23, 2011

How was your weekend?

I spent my weekend watching a baby deer drink milk out of a bottle, swinging in a swing that was too small for my 19 year old butt, walking along a dirt road while talking to my younger brother about life, looking through old photos, playing Mexican train, and eating twice as much as I normally eat.

Yep. My brother and I stayed with my grandma this weekend. I used to stay with her all the time, but this weekend was the first time in a long time. I figured it was time to come out of my confined "me" bubble and keep her company like I used to. I got to re-charge on love, peace, and childhood nostalgia.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Decisions, decisions..

I've been thinking a lot about decisions today and my attitude towards decision-making. One of the biggest and most life changing realizations I've had this year has been "Believe in your decisions and believe in your path." I read that on a blog and I was just like, "Oh my God. This changes everything." And from that day forward, I believed in my decisions and I believed in my path.

In other words, you make the decisions you make for a REASON. If something feels right to you and your gut is saying YES YES YES, then believe in that decision and trust yourself, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it. TRUST YOURSELF. Also, believe in your path. Believe that everything will work out in your favor and that you're in good hands. When you make a decision and it feels right and it feels official, don't question it. Know what you really want. I talked about this in my Tiny Buddha post, but I just wanted to go into a little more detail with this whole decision-making thing.

Usually, I'm a horrible decision maker. Especially when it comes to simple decisions such as, "Should I buy the regular M&Ms or the ones with pretzels in them?" I could literally stand there with both packets of M&Ms in my hands, looking from one to the other while the cashier looks at me, wondering if I'm about to steal them or something. But making decisions should not always be that complicated and I try to tell myself this. Just ask yourself these questions:

What do I REALLY want?
What makes sense or feels right to me?
What is more important to me?
Will I be able to wake up with a smile on my face in the morning if I make this decision?

So, next time you're faced with a difficult decision, whether it's what kind of M&Ms you should buy or what path you should go down in your life, ask yourself those questions.

Today I realized that I am on the right path as of right now and it made me really happy. If I would have listened to everybody else and gone down the path they expected me to go down, I would have missed out on all of the amazing things that have been happening to me lately.

And THAT is incredible to me. THAT proves that the universe always has bigger plans.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding Your Happy: Shannon Kaiser interview

As I've said before, I love inspiring people who use their talents to help others. Shannon Kaiser is one of those people. I've never interviewed anyone before, but I've always wanted to. Shannon was nice enough to let me ask her a few questions.

Shannon once followed a career path that she hated. But it wasn't just the ideal "I hate my job" syndrome. It made her feel empty, lost, depressed, and not good enough to break free. She cried all the time and turned to self-abuse and drugs. She felt like a prisoner of her own life. Shannon's true love was writing. She began cheating on her advertising job with writing. ( She had found her real passion, but felt too afraid to leave her secure job and secure paycheck to pursue what truly made her happy.

It was a scary journey for her. But she made it out alive and is now a happy, healthy travel writer.

I'll stop talking (typing) now and share Shannon's interview with you:

Q: At what point did you realize that advertising was not what you really wanted and how did you feel when you realized that? I realized advertising wasn't the best fit for me in 2008 when I was sent oversees to New Zealand for a work assignment by the ad agency I worked for. On that trip, I was so thankful to be in a new country, but the work I was doing felt forced. I couldn't connect with it or the people in the office. I wanted to spend time exploring the country, and that is when I realized my desire for travel writing. At the time, I felt depressed, hopeless, and stuck. It wasn't until I learned that I could change my circumstances that I gained confidence in my dream. But if I were to be honest with myself, even in college when I was pursuing a degree in advertising, I felt a tiny nag that something wasn't quite right.

Q: Most people turn to harmful actions when feeling empty or depressed. Did you ever result to doing anything extremely harmful to numb the pain? Yes, sadly my journey went to some dark places. I ignored my inner voice for so long that I turned to every harmful action possible. I went through periods of trading one addiction for the next. I was a workaholic (70-80 hour work weeks), bulimic, exercise maniac (3-4 hours of exercise a day), sex addict, food addict, and a drug addict. I turned to self-abuse and sabotage because I didn't see a way out. But now I know there is a healthier, happier, and more compassionate way to live. And treating myself the way I did only kept me from getting what I really wanted. But by going through each dark moment, I was able to learn what it really feels like at rock bottom. Now I can relate to people going through the same thing and I can genuinely help them.

Q: What advice do you have for people who genuinely feel like there is no place for them in the world and that they have no real passion? I can relate 100%. I felt this way for the majority of my life. Feeling different from everyone and feeling like I did not belong and that there had to be something more. My advice would be simple. Follow your heart. Remember that you do matter and that you are greatly important. The world needs you and your greatness, so shine your light and trust yourself. Also, recognize fear for what it is. A false indication of reality. Learn to become friends with your fear. When we want something, that little voice comes into our head and says we are not good enough, strong enough, rich enough, etc. It is our duty to say, "Fear, thank you for your contribution, but we are going to bust through because I am good enough, strong enough, and I have everything that I need." Some actual things that helped me were praying and meditation. I asked myself what I valued in life and made a list of my top five values and created a life around those values. This helped me find a place for myself. I started to meet people with the same values.

Q: What is your favorite place that you've traveled to so far and why? I loved Paris because of the food and the self-realization that came from traveling for two weeks in a country where I didn't speak the language. It is a beautiful thing to immerse yourself in the unknown and work your way through getting comfortable. My overall, most memorable experience was Morocco. I ventured into the High Atlas mountains and slept on the sand in the open Sahara Desert. Riding a camel and hanging out with local Berbers drinking mint tea was the most intense evening of my travel life. Seeing people make a life out of nomads through the desert with nothing more than the clothes on their back, but still so much peace and happiness in their hearts was inspiring.

Q: What kept you motivated in following your true passion? Leading from my heart, rather than my head kept the passion and motivation alive. Also, reminding myself why I am doing it. I want to make a difference and inspire others to love their life fully. I ask myself how I can be of service to the world. The notion of combining my passions and values together in a job is rewarding and if I wasn't doing it, I would feel like I was dying. So the motivation is always there. However, there are times when I feel like I am working too hard. When it feels like an uphill battle, that is when I step back and relax. Sometimes, not doing anything at all is the best course of action. I judge each day by the seeds I plant, not by the harvest. Everyday I let my heart lead me to the best course of action towards my goal. And as long as I am planting seeds, I am on the right path. Because the harvest always comes. Just trusting is key.

Q: What was your greatest challenge in getting to where you are right now? The biggest challenge for me at first was busting through the fear. The fear kept me paralyzed for years and that is when I turned to some not so healthy things. Then I outed my fear and it wasn't so bad at all. In fact, it felt way better. The second most challenging thing was trusting. Leaving corporate and branching out into the big sea of the unknown was terrifying (more fear) because I didn't know what would happen, where money would come from, etc. But learning to trust was critical to my success. Also, having patience. I have learned to be patient because I may think that I want something and I want it now, but as time unfolds, it may not have been the best thing for me in the big picture. For me, learning to trust that everything was in the right order and that I was always taken care of was huge. Also, letting go of expectations. I had all these expectations on what would make me happy. Having X amount of followers/fans, making X amount of dollars, etc. But the real value of success has been recognizing the blessings that I do have. And even if the outcome doesn't look like I imagined, the feelings of peace, happiness, and love are always with me. And that is true happiness and success for me. 

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring travel writers or just aspiring writers in general? 1. Declare your worth. Many writers shy away from their dream because they have fear, whether it is not feeling good enough, smart enough, etc. Turn that fear around and believe in the power of you. 2. Write. Write when you take trips anywhere, even to the bar down the street. Everything can be a story. And get your messages out there. Submit to blogs, editors, etc. Network at events. Volunteer to write for local magazines and newspapers for free. Just keep writing. 3. Follow someone you like. Look out in the market and see who is doing what you want to do. Align yourself with them to see what works, then make yourself different by being true to you. Learning from example is a great way to get footing into the world of writing. 4. Read travel writing books, how to be a travel writer, get on Press release lists from tourist boards, and start a blog. A blog is key. 5. Forget what you hear from everyone and follow your heart. I can't stress this one enough. People will always be keen to share how they did it and how that is the only way, therefore convincing you that that's how you should do it. But trust that there is no right or wrong way. Only you know what is true for you. So always ask yourself if it feels right or if it feels forced. Always choose the path of least resistance. It will help you make your dreams come true faster.

Shannon is currently working on securing a literary agent for her first book, Find Your Happy: An Inspirational Guide on Loving Life to the Fullest. It is a memoir in which Shannon shares the tools she used to pull herself out of depression. She wants to help readers remove blocks to reach the happiness within. Shannon suspects the book to be out in 2012.

Shannon's website:

Thank you Shannon for answering my questions, and thank YOU for reading.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Eminem

I wouldn't normally write a "Happy Birthday *insert name of popular celebrity here*" post, but I want to make an exception because I have a vulnerable story I want to share with you guys.

On this exact day around this exact time last year, I was up late and sitting in my mom's dark office turning to the internet for comfort. I had been in zombie-mode for weeks. I had not smiled a real smile. I had not laughed a real laugh. And I had not cried. Even though I wanted to, I just couldn't. It felt as if I had a lump of lead in my chest instead of a heart. I was going through a phase of feeling very sad, lost, and empty for several different reasons. So I was sitting at the computer desperately searching for SOMETHING to make me feel better. I came across many different inspiring words of wisdom, but none of it was getting to me. I felt completely emotionless. But just as I was about to give up and drag myself to bed for yet another restless night, I came across the lyrics of the song "Beautiful" by Eminem. I felt the lump in my chest slowly dissolving as I read these lyrics and by the time I was done, I had burst into tears. Literally BURST into tears. And I didn't stop. I cried for well over an hour and cried myself to sleep. They weren't tears of joy or pain. They were just tears that had been building up inside of me and needed permission to come out. I cried out all of the yucky emotions and woke up feeling like a new person. That song hugged my soul. It made me feel better, even if it was only temporary. And ironically, this all happened on Eminem's birthday. I didn't plan that. It was just a cool coincidence. It's amazing how much music can heal people.

I wanted to share this with you because I just really love strong, inspiring people who use their talents to help others.

Always reach out and share your strength. You could possibly send a person to bed feeling like they actually have a reason to get up the next morning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Have you smiled today?

As I promised myself and you guys, I went out and sat on a street corner while holding a sign that said, "Have you smiled today?" It was a bit different from how I imagined it would be.

Expectation: I would feel awesome, content, and in tune with the rest of the world as people honked, smiled, and waved at me as they drove by. I would sit there in the beautiful weather on a soft patch of grass while "Fix You" by Coldplay played on my portable CD player. I would sit out there for half an hour and walk home feeling happy and full of love.

Reality: I felt extremely awkward and only a few people smiled and waved. No one honked at me. I barely made eye contact with anyone, even though I was wearing sunglasses. The weather was a bit hotter and stickier than expected. "Fix You" by Coldplay (One of my favorite songs on the planet, by the way) played on my portable CD player, but I barely paid attention to it because I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I got attacked by gnats and a few ants. The grass I was sitting on wasn't soft or lush. I sat out there for about ten minutes before walking home feeling a bit disappointed in myself.

What I learned from this is that things don't always turn out how you expect. You fantasize about doing certain things and when you do them and they don't turn out like you imagined they would, you become disappointed. The best moments in life are unexpected & unplanned. They just happen and they're magical. And sometimes, things turn out even BETTER than you expected.

I'm reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower right now (Yes, I'm just now reading that. How late am I?) and Charlie sort of reminds me of myself. (Only way cooler and nicer) He's thought consumed and observant and lives in his own little world all the time. I wish I could tell you how to get out of your own little world and into the real world, but I haven't figured that out yet. But like I've said before, being imaginative is never a bad thing.

What I do know is that I went out there with my sign and sat on the street corner like I said I would. I didn't leave as soon as I sat down or even when gnats started attacking my face. I stayed and let myself relax into the moment a little bit. And some people DID smile and wave. Others drove right by without a glance, but that's okay too. I guess the best way to get out of your head is to get out into the world, even if it's scary or makes you uncomfortable at first. I hope I at least made one person feel better though. That was all I really wanted to do.

Have YOU smiled today? I have.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tiny Buddha guest post

I am very honored and excited to announce that I am being featured on Tiny Buddha today! I have been such a fan of the website for a long time and writing for it was sort of a little dream of mine. So many inspiring people sharing their pain, strength, and wisdom. Such a wonderful community and I'm so happy to now be a part of it.

Check out my article here:

Huge thank you to Lori Deschene for being so wonderful to me.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fear is a jerk

"Fear is such a weak emotion. That's why I despise it." ~ Lupe Fiasco

I despise fear too. I'm probably one of the biggest wimps you'll ever meet in your life and I hate it. If I could change one thing about myself, it would be my terrible habit of talking myself out of everything. I always get an idea that seems wonderful at the time, and then that little voice called "FEAR" begins spouting off reasons why I should turn and run instead. Fear tends to drive my life. I want the wheel back.

When I was younger, I used to have a "just do it" attitude towards fear. In 3rd grade, I performed two different dance routines in front of a giant arena of people. I swallowed my fear and danced my heart out. In 7th grade, I gave a speech in front of my entire student body. I swallowed my fear and gave the best damn speech they'd ever heard. In 8th grade, I played a goofy character in a play. I swallowed my fear and got an applause after my scene.

I miss that girl.

Something I noticed today is that whenever I'm with my younger brother, I'm not afraid of anything. I'm not afraid of what people think. I'm not afraid of what people do. I'm just 100% me because my brother is my best friend and I feel comfortable around him. We walked to Sonic for ice cream today and I openly danced to a song that was playing when we got there. I didn't care if people thought I looked stupid. I didn't care if people stared. I'm like a completely different person in front of my brother.

Maybe I should act like I act with my brother even when he's not around. Brave, confident, and secure.
Maybe I should stop trying to talk myself out of everything and "just do it."
Maybe I should pretend that I'm not afraid at all and that fear is just an illusion. Isn't it?

The other day, I got an idea. I wanted to buy a poster board and write "Have you smiled today?" in big letters with a sharpie and sit on my street corner holding the sign. Just for fun. Just because I like making people's day when I can. But then stupid, irrational fear started putting "what-ifs" in my mind. What if people laugh at you? What if someone kidnaps you? What if people throw rotten fruit at your face?

How about this. What if someone is driving home to kill themselves and seeing that sign changes their mind? What if someone had a horrible day and seeing that sign gave them the boost they needed? What if someone likes your sign so much that they want to be your new bestie?

Fear is stupid. I'm sick of dealing with it. I'm going to buy the poster board for my sign. And I'm going to sit on that street corner with the hope of making at least one person feel better.

I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.