Wise Words from the Caged Bird

In honor of Maya Angelou’s life and passing this week, I’d liked to highlight some words of wisdom from her that twenty somethings can apply to our everyday lives. The poet, actress, professor, activist and author passed away May 8, 2014 at 86. She left behind a trail of wisdom in the form of countless novels, interviews, scripts and poems. I hope you are inspired by this matriarch of creative genius and leader of social change.

mayanagelou

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou’s Facebook (2011)

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – The Art of Fiction No. 119, the Paris Review

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”  – Interview from the April 2011 edition of O, the Oprah Magazine (2011)

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” – Date unknown

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Excerpted from Letter to my Daughter, a book of essays (2009)

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Date unknown

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” – Interview with Oprah for Angelou’s 70th birthday (2000)

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Seasons Change

I am a northern girl. To be exact, I hail from the great state of Michigan (Go Green! Not Blue.) For me, this translates into loving winter and not being such a fan of summertime, at least summers in the south. Anywhere further south than Missouri and I am dying. I literally avoid the sun at all costs. Not because I don’t like a nice summer tan, but because I don’t like the heat. Dry heat or humid heat, it is all sucks to me, and anything that reaches an access of 90 degrees is outside of my happy place.

Luckily for me, the state I currently reside in has all four seasons. So during the three months of intense heat, I grin and bear it, knowing that this season will pass. I am confident that fall, winter and spring will come again and I will not always have to endure temperatures above 100. Much to my summer loving friends’ chagrin, summer will end eventually. So I am learning to be content for the time being.

change

Isn’t that a lot like life? Sometimes, it seems as though we get so caught up in the here and now that we forget that every season will pass. I sat down for smoothies today (one perk of summertime- swapping out coffee/tea dates for smoothie dates!) with my mentor today, and we got to talking about being content in the season that you are in. As a twenty something, this is definitely easier said than done. We are in such a stage of transition, such a stage of uncertainty. It is easy to get down about the season we are currently in and spend our time focused on the dangling carrot of our future.

While it is great to have goals and work toward them, I would encourage you to embrace the season you are in, right now. Yea, it may be summer outside and, like me, you may hate the heat! Think of all the marvelous things that summer brings that the other seasons don’t, holidays like July 4 or Memorial Day with family and friends, barbeques, summer festivals, travel and great beach time! There’s a lot to look forward to in this season.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Take a second. Breathe before your breath runs out.  Don’t try so hard to move past the moment. These days go by and they’re gone before you know it. This is life. Don’t miss it.”

Francesca Battistelli, “Don’t Miss It”

Seasons come and go. If you are in a difficult season right now where maybe you are searching for a job or walking through something stressful, know that this too shall pass. This season will not be your forever. If you are in a season of uncertainty or transition, take some time to get perspective. Find the good in where you are right now and learn to make the most of it. If anything, hard times provide an opportunity for growth, to make you wiser and stronger for the next season. If it’s raining in your life, learn to dance in the puddles. If there’s a heat wave, grab some sunscreen and a visor and enjoy the sun!

So don’t waste this season away, wishing that you were somewhere else.  Each day is a gift. Make the most of them. Remember to live. Live in the present and learn to make the most of your now. Guaranteed if you don’t, one day you will look back and regret it.

– Stephkt

A Story of Hope

hopeIn honor of my mom, I got to share my and my family’s story for Mental Health Awareness Month in Beautifully You magazine. I hope you will read it and share it with anyone who is living with a mental illness or is a family member or friend of a mentally ill person. More than anything, I hope you will read this part of my story and feel encouraged in whatever struggles you may have, encouraged to hope, encouraged to keep going when it is hard, encouraged to live.

Click here for the story: In Honor of My Momma

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope.” Renee Yohe, TWLOHA

 

Thanks for reading!

-Stephkt

Riding Solo and Loving It

I love weddings. The flowers, the music, the food, the beauty of the white dress and how it perfectly fits a woman’s silhouette, the delicacy of the veil, the quiet moment when the bride takes a breath and begins walking down the aisle. I love it all, but for some reason, as I was preparing my mind for a friend’s wedding, I could not find that old joy.

What’s the deal? I’ll get to see college friends. I get to dress up and look pretty. I get to eat free food and shake my tail feather on the dance floor. Then, it hit me. I am 23 years old. Before when I went to friends’ weddings, I felt so young and childlike. Not that 23 isn’t still young, but it is older. I am getting older, and now, when I go to friends’ weddings without a date, it is going to start to be more noticeable. Whenever everyone else is holding hands or sharing a dance with their partner, I will be on my own.

JennyGioviJenny and I on her wedding day

I’m not going to lie. This realization stung. It also confused me. See, I am a very independent person. I bet you are rolling your eyes, thinking, “Yea, sure another one of those independent women speeches.” Truthfully, since childhood, I have been the kind of person who enjoys doing things on her own. So fear of being alone at a friend’s wedding was perplexing.

I haven’t dated in three years. In those three years I have had my moments of loneliness. Sometimes I see my friends with their significant others on social media, and I want that too. There are times when I am stressed out or sick, and I think how nice it would be to have someone to comfort me. A prime time when I feel the absence of a significant other is while grocery shopping! Can anyone relate? Once you carry 50 pounds of groceries on one arm, you start to wonder when Mr. Prince Charming will come riding in.

I had to take some time to myself to get perspective. I realized that while I have had my moments of loneliness, they don’t last very long. In the three years that I have been single, I have grown tremendously. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I have gotten to know myself better, my likes and dislikes, my quirks, my pet peeves, things that I can improve on and my deal breakers for a future relationship. I have gotten to travel to new cities. I got my nose pierced. I ran a 5k, and am working on a 10k. I rock climbed for the first time. I moved 12 hours from home. I road-tripped cross country on my own. I joined a growing magazine’s staff. I grew.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Be patient: Take a lesson from chess. Sometimes when you are young everything seems so immediate and emergent. It’s usually not. It’s one thing to see a move you want to take. It’s another to be able to wait until the right time to take it.”

Sarah Hall, CEO of Harley & Co.

 

My hope for you is that you will grow too. Yes, we will have our days when loneliness starts to creep in, but don’t let it get you down. Be too busy relentlessly chasing your passions to entertain the thought of loneliness. I encourage you to live a full life now. Don’t look for wholeness or purpose in the arms of another person. The right person will find you when you least expect it, when you are busy living. When your friends start dating and marrying, don’t seek out relationship just because you are feeling antsy. Instead, patiently wait. Live with intention, even if it means having to stand alone at yet another friend’s wedding. Your time will come.

jennwomackJenny'sWedding

P.S. There is always cute, single people at weddings. Enjoy the free food and the potential eye candy! 😉

– Stephkt

 

Your Neighbor’s Battle

It is easy to get caught in the rhythm of life and forget to remember that there is a much bigger world outside of your own. As a twenty something, this is particularly easy. Sometimes I find that I am so focused on my own success, career wise and relationally,that I forget to stop and be helpful to the people around me. This dawned on me recently after a few encounters with my neighbors. Two encounters that literally stopped me in my tracks and changed my perspective.

My neighbor to my left is a young adult probably in his late twenties. He drives an old Suburban. Recently, there has been a foreign vehicle parked in his driveway. A small, silver car that belongs to his father. His father, who has stage four cancer, and is now staying with his son in his last dying days. His father came out and introduced himself to my dad and I on a rainy day when the whole neighborhood had lost power. I was so consumed with not having electricity that I wasn’t very friendly or patient when he introduced himself. And then he shared his story with us and I was stopped dead in my selfish, minded tracks.

ImageTo my right is an older woman who lives by herself. She rarely comes out of the house and doesn’t drive. She has visitors from time to time, who I am assuming are her family checking in on her. I assumed she did not drive because of her age. I had never directly met her or seen her close up, but the other day when I was pulling in my driveway from work, I saw her come outside to get her mail. She had a walking stick and black shades covering her eyes. I now know that my neighbor is legally blind, lives alone and takes a bus every morning to get to wherever she needs to be. Again, stopped in my tracks.

These are my neighbors. Why do I know so little about them? Why have I never stopped to take the time to get to know them or even say hello? Sometimes our worlds are so centered on me, me, me.  How can I get that job? Or that house? Or that boyfriend/girlfriend? Me, me, me. I am guilty of sometimes having this mentality, but it wasn’t until recently that I stopped and took my focus off myself and looked to the people next to me.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anyone):

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato

I now know that life is less about me and more about how I can connect, serve, and love other people. My neighbors reminded me of this. I hope today that you stop and really think how can you be of service to someone else. This world is a lot less about you and me but more about us and what we can do for one another. After all, you never know what your neighbor might be battling.

-Stephkt