Why I Count My Blessings in Life Abroad

There’s a well-known saying that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. At 20 years old, I conquered the city that never sleeps. I navigated the subway system successfully. I worked under some of the biggest editors in the magazine world (and I only cried once!) I didn’t let the rats, trash, chaos of the city or brashness of the people shake me.

Yet, even with all its bright lights and movie glamour, New York wasn’t for me. I left proud of what I had accomplished there and so glad I took the risk of following my dream of living in the Empire State.

Fast forward to 2017 and I ran my first half-marathon. For me, training for a half-marathon trumped moving to NYC. It was hard. It was sweaty. It was painful. It took discipline, hard work, dedication, and commitment. Oh, and my poor knees! (My bad running form hurt my knees.) I was always sore, but eventually the soreness got easier to cope with, and I pushed past the pain. The moment I crossed the finish line of the Hollywood Half Marathon was my proudest moment.

Fast forward a year later, and I am now living in Italy. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would live in a foreign country, but lo and behold, here I am! Living in Italy is, by far, thee absolute hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t think anything could be harder than that half marathon, but I was wrong.

Harder than the challenge of moving to New York. Harder than the physical and mental challenge of running a race. Moving to a foreign country has challenged me in every way possible. To be 100% candid, there have been a number of moments along my journey when I have wanted to give up. Then, I stop, pause, and there is always something good around me to remind that I am no quitter and that there is goodness here even when it’s hard to see.

This past week was tough, from being sick to challenges in communication and cultural barriers. So I thought it’d be good to take a moment to count my blessings and to remember what I have to be grateful for in this moment.

Here are a few things I am grateful for in the midst of the ups and downs of life abroad:

1- Good friends and family

I am grateful for all the friends and family back home who have reached out to me to check in and make sure I am OK week to week and keep me updated on life in America. One friend in particular, my very own Kelsie Lee, helped me get in touch with my parents when my phone was stolen my first week here. If I ever fall off the face of the Earth, it is safe to say Kelsie will always come looking for me. Everyone should have a Kelsie in their life.

2- The freedom and the ability to travel

Even though it’s not easy, I know that traveling abroad is such a gift. Not everyone gets to experience this. For me, I was at a place in my career and life where I was able to pack up and go. The opportunity to live and work in a foreign country is such a blessing. I get to see Italy as more than just a tourist or someone on a business trip. I actually live here. That’s pretty dope. I am also physically and financially able to travel. What a gift!

3- Good home-training

Whenever I encounter an obstacle, I think to myself, “Momma didn’t raise no quitter.” Sometimes, I imagine my grandma whispering in my ear, “Keep your head up baby.” I know that I am a mosaic of all the beautiful people who have helped raise me, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, teachers and mentors. These people have instilled in me that I can do anything I set my mind to. It is because of them that I am so stubborn and unwilling to quit.

4- Italian food

OK, so yea, it’s pretty good. My absolute favorite thing is to hear my students tell me how Italian food is the absolute best in the world. They are so very confident in this. It makes me laugh. Lets just stay my stomach has never gone hungry since living here.

5- New friends

The greatest gift someone can give you is friendship. One person showed me a wine vineyard in one of my first weeks here. My host family took me to the Alps for a weekend. Another person took me to a book store and drank hot chocolate with me as we sat and read Italian children’s books. One of the teachers invited me into her home for lunch (twice!) with her family, and the food was so delicious! I went to the fair in my town, and I got to be a big kid and ride on the ferris wheel and the bumper cars. (I was very happy!) I am really grateful for the English speakers I have met here, who help me learn Italian and who also speak English to me (Praise God!)

6- The good ‘ol USA

OK, so America definitely gets a lot of things wrong, but it also does a lot of things well, like democracy, freedom of press, and the push to break gender barriers. I most certainly do love my country more after time away.

7- Good Music = Good Vibes

Music really is a universal language. Music has been one thing that has allowed me to connect with my students and my host family. A lot of Italian people listen to American music, which makes for really good conversation. It has also been fun to listen to Italian music my students ask me to try.

8- The Internet

Oh my goodness, do I love the World Wide Web! It allows me to continue with my journalism work back in the states, listen to the latest music, and keep up with the latest news in America.

9- My host family and the teachers at my school

I think it must be difficult to allow a stranger into your home. I don’t take for granted that my host family allowing me to stay here is a big deal. Also, the teachers at my school who have taken me under their wings and given me a number of pep talks on my hard days, they are life savers.

10- Faith

My faith helps me to have hope on my worst days. Believing in something and someone bigger than me gives me strength of heart to not quit.

I am counting my blessings to remind myself that even when things get hard, there’s always some good to hold onto. If you are having a hard time in this chapter of your life, I challenge to find the good, the blessings, the silver-linings, on even your worst days.

With hope,

Stevie

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Ms. Not Know-It-All

If there’s anything that I know as a twenty-something, it’s that I don’t know everything.

To be 100 percent candid, it feels like I hardly know anything most days. And that’s OK. In my 20s, I am learning about being an adult, about living on my own, about negotiating salary, about mortgages, 401K’s and how to live with roommates. I am learning about what friendship in adulthood looks like versus college and the teenage years. I am learning about dating, about my wants and needs in relationships, about setting boundaries in love, work and friendship.

I am learning. Aren’t we all?

Since being in Italy, I have been confronted with the reality that it is impossible to know everything and have it all together at all times. It is not only impossible, but it is also not the point of travel. The point of traveling is to learn about other people, different cultures and, inevitably, about yourself in the process.

Since living abroad, my brain has been on constant information overload. I am literally always learning something new. Whether it is a new word, directions to go somewhere or a cultural norm that is different in Italy than in America, there’s always something new to learn. I kind of like it that way. The stumbling, the baby steps, the blunders are all a part of learning something new.

One of my teacher assistant friends speaks five different languages. (FIVE. Count ’em!) Needless to say, I am very impressed by him. I have remedial Spanish skills, and I can hold a conversation if need be, but other than that, English is all I’ve got. My friend and I were talking about what it’s like living in a foreign country and the process of learning a new language.

We also talked about teaching our students English. We had a similar experience in that we found a good majority of our students were afraid to speak English in class. I thought back to my Spanish classes in high school and college, and I could completely understand the reason why. There is a fear when trying to learn a new language and speaking that you will get it wrong. There’s a fear of being embarrassed and of not knowing the right words to say or of saying them wrong.

Twenty-Something Advice (For Anybody): “Throw caution to the wind. Don’t let fear of getting something wrong stop you from doing it.”

Here’s what I am learning and trying to bravely accept: It’s OK to get it wrong. In fact, the only way you will ever learn is by stumbling, taking a few wrong turns, and falling flat on your face. It’s OK to mess up. The older you get, the harder it seems to embrace this idea of learning and messing up. As adults, our pride can inhibit us from learning new things for fear of embarrassment and the fear of what other people will think.

Any person who speaks more than one language will tell you the best way to learn is by listening and speaking. You have to be willing to get it wrong so you can eventually get it right. Heck yes, sometimes it’s awkward repeating the same word in Italiano over and over again, but it’s the only way I am going to learn. So I keep trying. I keep asking questions. “Come si dice…” (how do you say…) is how I start most of my sentences in Italy.

I make a lot of mistakes, and I am sure sometimes my accent sounds really bad, but I am trying. I won’t let fear of embarrassment stop me from learning. Also, I think I have embarrassed myself so much in life that, at this point, nothing phases me. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and not sweat the small things.

“To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.”

I encourage you to fail your way to success. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong, but instead, just accept that you will make mistakes ahead of time. You won’t learn until you try!

With hope,
Stevie

Dear America, the World Is Watching

*Warning: The following post is political and not all roses and bunnies. If it offends you, well good. I ask that you take the time to consider why.

In my five weeks abroad, if there’s one thing that I have learned, it’s that American news is global news. When something happens in America, the whole world knows. It’s like a gunshot that reverberates around the globe.

My Italian host sister and host mom knew about the February 14th Florida high school shooting before I did. When I found out, I went into my room, and I watched the news coverage about the shooting at Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. I sat and listened to teenagers talk about watching their friends, classmates and teachers bleed out on the floor as they ran for their lives. (They are the same age as the students I teach every day in school.)

I listened to the name and stories of the 17 victims who died. One student, Joaquin Oliver, was a Dwayne Wade fan, who was buried in his jersey. Another student, Alyssa Alhadeff, was a soccer player and a huge fan of the U.S. Women’s National Team. I looked at the victims’ photos and videos, and I listened to their moms, dads and friends talk about who they were. I listened, and I cried.

The same way I cried about the Las Vegas’ shooting last year (where 59 people were killed). The same way I cried for the Orlando, Florida nightclub shooting in 2016 (where 49 people were killed). The same tears I cried for those lost at the Newtown elementary school (26 killed, 20 of whom were children ages 6- to 7-years-old), the South Carolina church (9 killed) and the Aurora movie theater (12 killed).

Every time a mass shooting occurs in America, I listen to the names of the victims and to their stories. Although it is heavy and difficult to hear, for me, it is important to remember the lives lost. By listening, it is a way of saying their lives, their stories mattered. I realize that there’s strength in tears because tears can compel you to action.

Americans need to know that what happens in America does not stay in America. While we are often viewed as the leading nation in democracy and freedom, the whole world is wondering what we are doing with the gun issue. My roommate for the first week of teacher assistant orientation in Italy is Australian. She explained to me that Australia had one mass shooting in 1996, changed its laws and hasn’t had one since. An Italian friend in his 20s told me that he does not understand Americans and the 2nd Amendment. He asked me how could Americans be so adamant about our “rights” and “freedom” to carry weapons in everyday, civilian life even if it compromises the safety of others?

I did not have the answers to any of their questions or concerns about America and gun control. In fact, I agree with them. Americans should be embarrassed at the number of mass shootings we’ve had in the last 10 years alone and how little has changed in our legal system. We should not only be embarrassed, but we should be angry. We should be so angry that we are compelled to change something.

What I do know is this: It is reckless and irresponsible to use blanket statements (or generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes) and to label all mass shooters as terrorists or as “crazy” people with mental illness. If we look at facts, actual FACTS, and lay aside emotions, most mass shootings in America are committed by white men, American citizens, with NO history of registered mental illness or terrorist affiliations. These are facts, not opinions or biases, but reality.

I was alarmed by a statement from NRA representative, Dana Loesch, at the recent CNN forum on the Florida high school shooting and gun control reform. When speaking about the gunman, she referred to him as “nuts” and as an “insane monster.” She said that a person capable of hurting himself or others should not be able to get an automatic weapon, and that the NRA does not support people who are “crazy” having access to guns. Loesch seemed to attempt to connect the dots between mass shootings and mental illness.

This statement baffled me. Capable of hurting himself or others? Don’t we all have the ability to hurt ourselves and the people around us? It’s a choice, isn’t it? We have free will. Just like rape or murder, mass shootings don’t require a mental illness to pull the trigger, but, rather, they require a person choosing to take their “right to bear arms” and use it for ill will. It is careless to say every mass shooter is mentally ill. It creates a stigma, and it also takes away responsibility of the shooter and the legal system that allows the shooter to obtain weapons capable of mass murder.

My question is why would any everyday civilian need bump stocks or automatic weapons, which are used in times of war and for combat. Why is the right to carry guns more important than the safety of children? How many more times do we have to get this issue wrong in order for something to change? How many more mass shootings have to occur for common sense to kick in? Does it have to happen to someone you love or do you have to stare down the barrel of a gun in order to stop simply talking about the issue and sending prayers and warm thoughts without taking action?

Dear America, we as a nation have to do better (myself included.) It is a matter of life and death. I want to be safe at the movie theater, at church, and at concerts. These are all places where mass shootings have occurred in the last 10 years. I want to send my future children to school and know that they are safe there.

Wake up America. It’s time for less talk and more action. So what can you do? Educate yourselves about gun control laws in America. Start voting in more than just the presidential election every four years. Vote in your state and local elections and only support officials who take a strong stand for common sense gun laws. Do not financially support businesses or politicians who take money from the NRA. Boycott the NRA and its affiliates. Take action. Do something.

I am encouraged by the teenagers raising hell right now to get America’s attention. As a twenty-something, I want to do my part so this mass shooting trend and careless gun culture is not something I pass down to my children. Because this should not be normal. This should not be something people ask me about when I am in another country and they realize I am American.

Dear America, it is time to wake up. The whole world is watching you.

With hope,
Stevie

Just Passing Through: Lessons From a Cross-Country Trip

From Los Angeles to Minneapolis.

Minneapolis to Vermont.

Vermont to New York.

Next up, New York City to Turin, Italy.

So I did this crazy thing. I spent the last month traveling throughout the country visiting friends before a three-month trip to Italy. The past few weeks and days before my trip, I’ve been asked the same question: So how do you feel?

Honestly, I have been so busy traveling and wrapping up loose ends in Los Angeles, I haven’t had much time to think about Italy. Well, of course I have thought about it. More so, I have not had time to worry and over-analyze my trip to Italy. (Because I am really good at that.) I have my passport, flight numbers, a bag of clothes and an open mind headed into the trip. That’s all I need.

Thanks to old and new friends who welcomed me into their homes the past month, I also have a full heart and a rested soul. The sweetest part of my trip so far has been quality time with people. I spent the first two weeks in Minneapolis, at the coldest time of the year. Let me remind you, I live in Los Angeles. Although I may be a native northerner and have lived in Minneapolis before, blood thins people. Scientific fact. It really does.

My first words when I landed in the Twin Cities were, “It’s like real snow!” (Yea, so sometimes I don’t think before I speak.)

Luckily, my parents came through in the clutch, and they mailed me the winter coat I left behind when I was California dreamin’. Minnesota is still the same, cold and aesthetically beautiful. Oh and the Minnesota accents are still going strong! (Those over-pronounced a’s and o’s though? Gotta love a good Minnesotan accent.)

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Next up on my cross-country adventure was some time in Vermont. A friend moved to Burlington, VT a few years ago for a magazine position. What better time to see a new place and an old friend? Vermont was beautiful. Lots of snow and cold. If you like organic, grass-fed beef, then Vermont is the place for you. The vibe was outdoorsy, home-grown, evergreen tree lovin’, farmer-esque. The air is crisp. The sky is bright with stars at night, and the snow, well the snow is your picture-perfect winter post card.

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Last up, I boarded a Greyhound to the city that never sleeps. It’s been seven years since I moved out of New York. It is still the same bustling, dirty, crowded, in-your-face New York. I was surprised by how easily I picked up on navigating the subway. I even had an older lady ask for my help getting a Metro Card. Perhaps I seemed like a real New Yorker? (I was definitely wearing a Dodgers baseball cap though.)

It was a long month of travel, and it was so worth it. Most important were the people I got to spend time with. I won’t forget nervously laughing as my friends and I walked on a frozen lake in St. Paul. (Don’t worry. That’s a thing in Minneapolis. There were a ton of people and even free skates.)

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Walking on a frozen lake in St. Paul

I won’t forget the crazy snow storm that hit Minneapolis on the day I was supposed to fly out, how my flight got cancelled, and my friend Michelle and her husband opened their home to me. I literally came to her doorstep covered in snow, and she had hot cocoa and a warm dinner ready for me.

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The morning after the storm hit Minnesota

I won’t forget seeing Bernie Sanders in downtown Burlington. I freaked out, and my friends were completely calm. I won’t forget going to see The Post with my friend Lucy and a group of other journalism and media professionals and nerding out about the importance of journalism and the First Amendment. I was really excited! Moral of the story: Journalism is needed for checks and balances. (Didn’t your high school government class teach you anything? Watergate people!)

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Lake Champlain photo just moments before spotting Bernie Sanders

I won’t forget making it to NYC, taking the subway with a crap ton of luggage, and my friend’s mom and sister welcoming me into their home. They literally picked me up at the subway exit in Brooklyn in the pouring rain, and they had dinner ready for me when I walked in the door.

So far in my time away from my LA home, I have been reminded of one important thing: the value of people and human connection. Any house, city, or state can become home, but it only becomes home because of the people who make it that. I think back over the last month, of the hugs, the good heart to hearts, the home cooked meals, the laughter, the movie nights, and I think what I am most grateful for in all my travels is people. The people who give. The new and old friends who open their homes. The people who live with extended arms.

That’s the kind of person I want to be. One who opens her heart and home to new and old friends. One who always lights a candle for the traveler just passing through.

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The Dodgers hat came with me cross country

Stevie

P.S. Just because Minnesotans are super cute, I thought I’d add this quintessential Minnesota moment I spotted at a Trader Joe’s in St. Paul. Because #onlyinMinnesota.

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The Importance of Dreaming in Adulthood

Have you ever had that moment when you recall the words of a parent or adult in your life years later and you realize he or she was right? I’ve had these “ah-ha” moments numerous times. Keep your hands away from the stove. Don’t date that guy. Be careful of the company you keep. One moment stands out particularly.

It was my senior year of college, and I was home in Michigan for winter break. My uncle worked in Ann Arbor so I drove with him into town to visit friends at the University of Michigan’s campus.

On our ride home that night, we were talking about my college career and my plans to pursue a career in journalism and writing post graduation.  We talked about how the average salary for a journalist compared to that of other, more lucrative careers, and I told him how that didn’t matter to me. Writing was it for me. I just knew that it was what I was supposed to do.

Then, my uncle said the most profound words. (Drum roll please. The ah-ha moment is acomin’.) He said, “You are one of the lucky ones. You know what it is you are passionate about, and now, you get to spend the rest of your life doing that.”

21-year-old me didn’t quite understand what he meant, but his words stuck. They were there when I moved to Minneapolis, a city where I barely knew anyone, at 22 years old to work at a travel magazine. They’d come back years later when I moved to California without a job lined up. His words would ring in my head when I got laid off from my editorial assistant position almost a year later. His words would echo in my head whenever a new person would ask, “So what do you do?”

Writing is something I have always just done, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t want to live a life or pursue a career without passion. Money will come and go (like literally this happens. Just ask my bank account.) Yet, at the end of the day, I know I am truly blessed to get to do what I love.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Live a life of passion. Keep dreaming of the world you want to make.”

Living a life of passion propels me forward during uncertainty, struggles and loss. It helps me put one foot in front of the other even when I cannot see the full staircase. Knowing that I have a passion and using that gift for a purpose fuels me every day I wake up.

I have had to learn the hard way, no, I am in fact not what I do. I am not just a writer or a journalist. Writing is what I do, and I love it. Yet, it is not who I am. It is not my identity. Having this realization allows me to freely and passionately pursue a life of purpose using my gifts, writing being one of them, to make an impact on others.

As far as my uncle’s words, he gave me a new perspective on the importance of dreaming and living a life of passion. My uncle has worked at a job he hates for years. He explained to me how draining it was but how it paid well.  He talked to me about how his focus when he was in his twenties was making an income and how if he could, he’d go back and discover his passion. He instead pursued the good old, practical American dream, making a dollar.

I’ve always been of the mindset that if I persistently pursue the things I am passionate about and that I am good at, the money will come. It may not be easy, but dollar signs can’t be my motivation. I think a successful life is just as much about having your head in the clouds as it is about keeping your feet on the ground. You can be a realist and an optimist. You can be a dreamer while being practical.

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We shouldn’t allow practicality to overtake our dreams. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I think my younger self would be pleased to see adult me walking that dream out. I recently found an old journal of mine from high school. I wrote down a list of life goals and dreams. A handful of them made me laugh, but a lot of them I was proud to say I had accomplished or I was working to accomplish.

One dream I had completely forgotten about, and there it was in my own handwriting from almost 10 years ago: Travel to Italy. I am headed to Italy for a three-month teaching assistant job in less than a week! Apparently, going to Italy was something I have been dreaming about for  a really long time. It was exhilarating to see myself accomplishing something I set out to do a long time ago.

What’s my point? I think in adulthood, we often get caught up in trying to make a living, buying the nice car, making a name for ourselves or just being practical that we forget to dream. We forget to live a life of passion. I never want to live like that. Even if they call be crazy, I want to be a dreamer. I want to be surrounded by other dreamers who are actively pursuing their passions despite the odds and the naysayers.

I hope your dreams keep you up at night. I hope they give your life color. Never stop passionately pursuing your purpose. Never settle for practical. After all, you’re never too old to dream again.

Stevie

 

The Imperfection and Beauty in Adventure

I am a newly, self-diagnosed perfectionist. If wanting my i’s dotted and t’s crossed is wrong, then I don’t know that I want to be right.

Being a perfectionist and travel enthusiast is a unique pairing. When you travel a ton, you know imperfection as a way of life. Nothing will ever go exactly right all the time. I was painstakingly made aware of this fact earlier this week when my flight from Minneapolis to New York was cancelled due to a massive winter storm pounding down on the Twin Cities.

I had a hectic travel schedule set for the day. A afternoon flight from Minneapolis with a layover in Charlotte. Then, another flight to NYC’s La Guardia airport. Next, I’d either take an Uber (the more expensive, easy option) or take the subway (the less expensive but longer, harder option– I had three bags to carry.) I’d arrive at the Port Authority Bus station to take a 12-hour (yes 12- hour) Greyhound bus ride from New York to Burlington, Vermont. There, I’d be staying with a friend for two weeks before heading to Italy for a three-month volunteer stint.

It was already an advantageous trip. Then, snow happened, and it completely threw my plans for a loop. No one can halt Mother Nature.

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The morning after the storm hit Minnesota

Yet and still, my situation actually ended up working out for the better. I was able to rebook for a flight the next day straight from Minneapolis to Burlington (with no crazy bus ride from NYC.) I retrieved my checked bags within an hour, and I stayed with a super generous friend for the night in St. Paul. (Thanks Michelle!)

Things ended up working out. Dare I say it, things turned out for the better.

When I look back over the last month since I’ve been on this crazy adventure, it’s been a whirlwind. I moved out of my apartment in Los Angeles exactly a month and a week ago, stayed with friends for two weeks in Los Angeles, stayed with another friend for two weeks in Minneapolis, and I am now finishing up my last few weeks in the states in Vermont/New York before leaving the country.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Take any situation, curve ball or plot twist you encounter and have the courage and perspective to call it good.”

There have been so many ups and downs in the past month and a half. There was the stress of cleaning and moving out of my apartment. There was the ant attack of my laptop bag at my friend’s North Hollywood condo. The flooding of the kitchen counter at the same apartment. Putting my two weeks in for a freelance client. The disagreement with a friend. Finding out my security deposit return for my old apartment had been mailed to the wrong address. Missing my connecting flight and bus.

It’s been a lot, but when I take time to get some perspective, all in all, it hasn’t been too awful. It’s been imperfect but not unbearable. If there’s anything travel has taught me is life and all that it entails (people included) will never be perfect. The trick is being able to look at a situation, a curve ball or a plot twist and to find the perspective and foresight to call it good. In the midst of what seems awful, find the positive thing in that imperfection.

As far as the uncertainty and adventure of travel, I have learned there’s no point in worrying about tomorrow. Today has enough cares (flights to rebook) of its own. Take it one step at a time, find the beauty in the imperfection and get some perspective. Just because life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t still worthwhile.

-Stephkt

Lessons in Adulting: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

As I am typing this, I am sitting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The weather forecast says 100 percent chance of snow, and boy, was The Weather Channel right. Looking across the airport monitors, it reads “CANCELLED” in big bold, red letters numerous times. Luckily, my flight is not cancelled. It’s just delayed 30 minutes right now.

Today, marks the next chapter of a new adventure. I am headed to Italy for three months to teach English. (Che magnifico!) Before then, I am traveling east from Los Angeles throughout the country. ( I miss the City of Angeles already, especially the sun. Oh, the bright, beautiful, relentless sun.) I’ve been in the Twin Cities for a few weeks visiting a friend, and next, I’m off to NYC/Vermont to see friends there.

Today’s travels are hectic. The schedule looks like flying from Minneapolis, MN to Charlotte, NC, and then, I have a connecting flight from Charlotte to NYC. (Fingers crossed that the snow doesn’t make me miss my connecting flight. I’ve already had to be rebooked once.) Once I arrive at La Guardia airport, I am off to Vermont via bus. So like I said….a lot.

I am nervous, excited, eager and sleep-deprived. (I woke up at midnight, then 2:00 a.m., then 3:00, 4:30, 4:45 and at this point I just stayed up until my alarm went off at 5:15.) As I tossed and turned, wrestling with getting enough sleep last night, the day’s plans ran through my head as I figured out Ubers, planes, buses, subway rides, etc. Basically, I kind of, sort of freaked out a little.

Nervousness turned to worry. Worry turned to anxiety. Anxiety turned into nearly freaking out (which can show itself in a number of ways.)

Then, I took a breath. I remembered why I am doing this. Adventure. Opportunity. Experience. Fun. Change. Growth. I reminded myself that I am brave and that I am stronger and more capable than I often give myself credit. I told myself that I can do this. Basically, I gave myself an inner pep talk.

When it comes to life and career, I have a motto I live by. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Whenever I dream of doing something, big or small, I repeat this phrase in my head. This is what I told myself when I went to New York City for the first time at 20 and took an internship at Time Inc. This is what I told myself when I moved to Los Angeles. This is what I told myself when I ran a half marathon last year.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

I think it is perfectly OK to feel fear. In fact, it’s natural. Like a point blank, non-negotiable, gonna happen, fact of life type of thing. Fear will come and go just like any emotion, but it’s up to each of us what we will choose to do in the face of fear. Will we let it conquer us and have the final say so? Or will we stare it in the eye, like a bully on the playground, and choose to get back up when it knocks us down?

So many of my friends and family think I am this brave, adventurous girl who isn’t afraid of anything. I’d hate to ever disparage this lofty idea of me, but I feel fear all the time. I just choose to not let it stop me. I never want to look back and live a life of what-ifs.

Here’s the thing, if you wait until it doesn’t feel scary, you’ll be waiting your whole life. So don’t wait. It might seem crazy to others looking on from the outside, but you will never regret actively pursuing your dreams in the face of fear. A life of passion is never something you regret.

I’ll leave you with a quote I overheard last week from the show Master of None (which by the way I have never watched), “Our time to do crazy shit is winding down.” So feel the fear and do it now. Living brightly, richly and passionately.

Adventure

-Stephkt