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

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When I Was Almost the Girl Who Didn’t Go to Paris

Everyone has their guilty pleasure. For me, classic, early 2000’s MTV reality television is my jam. More specifically, Laguna Beach and The Hills have been my go-to’s since my early teens.

What can I say? It’s my “not so guilty” guilty pleasure. I have most of the seasons of The Hills on DVD, and I go through phases where I will randomly watch them. I am a huge Lauren Conrad fan. I still follow her fashion career today. (Girl-next-door types have to stick together.) I’m pretty sure watching The Hills for so long is subconsciously why I decided to move to Los Angeles in my 20s.

If you were ever a fan of the show, then you know there’s a crucial moment at the end of season 1, where our leading lady, Conrad, is offered a summer internship at Paris’ Teen Vogue office. She turns down the offer to instead spend the summer with her then on-again, off-again boyfriend from her home town, Jason Wahler. The two had big plans: a summer of love and a rented condo in Malibu.

In the second season, fans learn that Conrad and Wahler broke up before the summer’s end. When we see Conrad for the first time in the Los Angeles Teen Vogue office, she is with friend and fellow intern, Whitney Port, who ended up going to Paris for the summer instead (gotta love her!), and their boss, editor Lisa Love.

It is this next moment that is frozen in reality TV show history. Love’s words for Lauren echoed across the homes of MTV viewers nationwide. She looked straight at Lauren (who you can tell seems down) and said, “Lauren didn’t go to Paris. She’s going to always be known as the girl who didn’t go to Paris. Do you regret that decision?”

Ouch.

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It literally became one of the most quoted moments in The Hills history. Years later, ET Online released the backstory on Lauren’s decision not to go to Paris.

“We had a big disagreement, [creator] Adam DiVello and I, over Lauren’s decision not to go to Paris,” executive producer Liz Gateley tells ET. “I said, this is the perfect ending, because every girl makes this decision. She thinks she’s in love, and she’s going to spend the rest of her life with this person, and that was the relatable choice, and Adam was so upset!”

“He really wanted to try to convince her to go, and she was adamant that she was not going to pursue an internship in Paris,” Gateley continues.

“We tried to convince her, but at the end of the day, she wasn’t going,” Gateley recalls. “That was an authentic moment to that [theme of] coming of age. It’s like, who doesn’t look back and wish they had gone to Europe for the summer? Or taken that internship in D.C.? Or whatever it was, because they stayed behind for a boy or a girl. I mean, everybody does that. It was perfect.”

When I was 14 or 15 and I first watched this episode, I didn’t quite understand. She picked a guy over Paris? Say whaaat? While I love my girl Lauren, Love’s words hold a lot of truth. “She always going to be known at the girl who didn’t go to Paris.” (It kinda hurts my heart every time I type it.) Although Love was a tough, no-holds-barred type of woman, I really believe she was trying to impart a bit of wisdom in young Conrad’s ears. That is….to never put your dreams on hold for a guy.

Twenty Something Advice (for anyone): “Never put your dreams on hold for that guy, girl or relationship. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”

In Lauren’s defense, she was in her early twenties at the time she made this decision. Also, she eventually did get to go to Paris for Teen Vogue. Today, she is kicking butt in her fashion career and married with her first son. Overall, she definitely came out on the other side winning. Perhaps, this was something that she, and all of us, have to go through to learn from.

If we’re being completely honest, we have all had our “the girl who didn’t go to Paris” moments. I know I have. I have made many a dumb decision or two in my early and even mid-twenties for love or what I thought was love.

Recently, I made a huge, life-altering decision. To travel throughout the U.S. for a month before heading to Italy to teach English for three months. Exciting. Life-altering. Exhilarating. Nerve-wracking. Wildly beautiful and gloriously unknown. All of the above. Then, right before I left Los Angeles, I met a guy. Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong. He was great. Smart. Accomplished. Attractive. Funny. Physically fit. Cultured. Kinda dreamy. I was intrigued. My interest was sparked, and I wanted to get to know him more. Rarely does it seem like we find people who are both physically and mentally appealing? (Or maybe that’s just me?)

Any who, in my last day before leaving Los Angeles, I started to have these thoughts. Like why? Why now do I meet a guy I actually like? Will my chance be gone once I’m back? Will he find someone else?

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Then, I had to come back to reality. Yea, this guy might actually be great. The jury is out on that one. How much can you know after a few interactions? (He could easily still be a serial killer. It’s LA people.)

Yet, he could be the great guy he seems to be. So what? Does that mean my dreams and plans should be put on hold? Does that mean my life stops? Would it be possible for me to dream big, to dare, to chase after those dreams, to travel, to see the world and not settle? Would it be possible to have career and love? I think so.

I am a big believer in the saying, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” (Gotta love that Bebe Rexha song with Florida Georgia Line….If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be. Baby, just let it be.“) While I wasn’t going to cancel my travel plans for a guy, I was definitely bummed. Then, I reminded myself… if it’s meant to be.

If a guy or relationship isn’t there when you return or the person decides not to wait for you, well OK then. It just wasn’t the right one. Have the confidence to be OK with that. (Besides, in the history of our patriarchal culture how often do men leave and go off to war or to pursue a career or a dream only to leave women waiting. I think it’s high time we were OK with doing the same.)

I don’t want to ever not go to Paris, Italy or anywhere else I dream of or put my life on hold for a relationship. I am going to put my metaphorical high heels on, pack my bags, grab my passport and keep living. My wide-eyed, dreamer self believes I can have both love and life of passion and that the right one will compliment and not compromise my dreams.

Keep dreaming readers! And for goodness sake, go to Paris!

-Stephkt

Living a Life of Purpose Is About Hitting the Right Harmony

Fun fact: When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a singer. A happy mix of Whitney Houston meets Britney Spears. The soultry soul meets catchy pop. That was the dream.

For most of my life, music and the arts has always been there. Whether it was singing in the children’s choir at church, performing in musicals at school, dancing in my high school’s modern dance group or playing in the orchestra. Music is as much a part of me as the curly, kinky hair growing out of my head and the brown eyes staring back at me.

Despite my immense love of music, for me, it has always been a closeted thing. I sing to small children I nanny for to get them to stop crying. (Call me the baby whisper because it actually works.) I sing in the shower and on elevators (of course because those are the places where you get the best acoustics.) I am guilty of being a car performer down the 101 and the 405. (When people see me singing in the car, it’s never a source of embarrassment. It just means it’s time to go all out and give them a good show.) Karaoke? Oh, that’s my jam (no alcohol necessary).

I can count on my hand the number of times that I have sang solo on stage for an audience. It’s just not something I have ever done, sing for people. It’s kind of daunting because I love music so much. There’s almost the fear that doing it for others to see might take away the sweet, simple goodness of it.

That’s all changed since living in Los Angeles. One person, Jackie, who is the worship leader at my church, pointed out that I had a good voice, and she asked me to audition. All of the sudden, it was like a snow ball effect. More and more people started pointing out that I had a good voice. It became something I couldn’t hide nor did I want to. I love music. I love singing. Why shouldn’t I share that? Why am I so afraid?

So I decided to put my life motto to the test: feel the fear and do it anyway. I auditioned for my church’s music team and made it! I was so nervous on my audition. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to hit a note or I’d miss the downbeat or not hit a harmony.

Jackie gave me the best advice to ease my nerves. She said, “Sing where you are at your strongest.” So simple but so good.

Twenty-Something Advice for Anybody: “Live of a life of passion. Sing from your strongest point, where it fits, where it feels right.”

As a kid, I always sang soprano. I remember my youth choir director telling us that altos were just lazy sopranos. (Truthfully, she just was short on sopranos and was trying to  fill the spots she needed with a little pressure.) Her words kind of stuck with me though. I’ve always thought sopranos sounded better. Stronger. Think Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Then, there’s today’s pop princesses like Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Christina Aguilera. I love a good soprano.

On my recent audition, I discovered the most freeing and revolutionary fact: I am an alto. (To be more exact, I am in the range of a first alto and second soprano.) In layman’s terms, I sound better when I sing the middle range notes, not the high ones.

Jackie told me to sing where I am the strongest and that I am definitely an alto. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be told this simple thing. For years, I’d been straining to hit all these high notes that were not in my range simply because I thought they sounded better, prettier. Trying to sing notes I wasn’t built for left me thinking maybe I wasn’t a great singer. I can sing, but I wasn’t singing in my range, in my sweet spot, in the area where I am most gifted.

This got me thinking about  how “singing from where you are strongest point” applies to adulthood and career. Oftentimes, we take jobs and go down career paths simply because of the paycheck or the impressive title. Like me straining to hit notes simply because I thought they sounded “prettier,” we often pursue jobs simply because they look good on paper. We take jobs for money instead of passion and then wonder why our proverbial vocal chords (our souls) are strained.

“We often pursue jobs simply because they look good on paper.”

Here’s what I am learning: Just because the girl next to be is a bomb soprano, hitting all the runs and the pretty high notes, doesn’t mean I need to be. I am at my best when I am in my sweet spot, when I am in my own lane. Plus, me and the girl next to me probably can bust out a sick harmony if I sing my part and not hers.

It’s the same in adulting. How many people do you know who simply took a career for the money but don’t actually enjoy it? Are you one of them? I have found when I am playing a part that I was never meant to play, it’s draining, but when I am using my skills, my talents, my passions, it flows naturally. It’s easy. It’s simple. It feels right. It’s never forced.

Lessons in adulting: Take the career path, job title, relationship or friendships in life that best suit you. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses. I think you will find a life of divine purpose and passion when you learn to run your race and use the gifts you’ve been uniquely given. No one can be a better you than you. Remember: When you are singing from where you are strongest, it’s beautiful. Nobody can sound quite like you.

-Stephkt

Say Yes

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My closest friend has on more than one occasion accused me of being a man hater. Her exact words….. “Stephanie is skeptical of men.” No matter how much I try to refute this, my friend is in fact right. When it comes to my friends and guys, I am the mother hen, waiting to swoop in and save the day from any man whore, liar, Mr. Here Today and Gone tomorrow. I stand ready and on guard to help my friends avoid having their hearts broken by guys who do not see their value and worth.

I can tell you for 100% fact (and yes, I may indeed be biased), but my friends (most of whom are single) are AWESOME! They are gorgeous, educated, independent, well-traveled, witty, adventurous and fun. What more can a guy ask for, right?!

Not only am I defensive when it comes to guys whom my friends show potential interest in, but I am also defensive regarding myself. What I realized as of late is that in all my strong, independent and vivacious nature, I have also been afraid. Afraid of what you may ask? Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of going back to a place I have known all too well before: heartache. If you’ve never been there, trust me. It is not the most fun place to be.

My light bulb moment about my fear came recently when I was asked out on a date and gasp! I actually said yes. However, very quickly my fears manifested. I couldn’t allow myself to be open very long without the fear creeping up in the back of my mind. There were those nagging questions, “What if this guy hurts me? What if I start to fall for him and he leaves?”

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Say yes, more than you say no. Even if you turn out to be wrong. Because every mistake, every heartache and every blunder is just another step on the journey of where you are ultimately meant to be.”

What I realized is that by allowing my fears to dominate my thoughts, I’m doing myself a disservice. Often times, the thing we fear the most manifests in our lives. It’s almost as if we attract the very thing we fear. Yes, there’s a possibility that I and my friends may date Mr. Not So Rights, but there’s also a chance that we might each find really, great guys. Sometimes you have to stumble along the way in life and love until finally you get it right!

My recent dating situation did not turn out the way I had hoped it would. But you know what? I am proud of myself because I said yes. I said yes to a first date, and a second and a third. I took a risk. I took a chance. So what that it didn’t turn out to be happily ever after! In all honesty, it hurt. I got hurt, but I know I will be okay. Every mistake, every heartache and every blunder is just another step on my journey of where I am ultimately meant to be.

You know what I also learned from this situation: I can trust myself. There’s this still, small voice on the inside of me (some may call it a woman’s intuition, others’ a gut feeling, others’ the voice of God) that I can trust not to lead me astray. I can feel free to say yes to a date without fear. In this last dating situation, that still, small voice told me this guy wasn’t best for me and that is completely okay. Saying yes to a date is not the same as saying yes to an engagement proposal. It does not mean forever and always. It simply means: Yes, I will be brave enough to take a chance on something new.

So say yes. When a decent guy who you potentially could be interested in and are attracted to asks you out, say yes. Of course if you notice big red flags about the guy (like approaching you in a creepy or disrespectful way), feel free to say no. Just don’t be afraid to take chances. Yes, you may get hurt and you may mess up, but there’s grace for that. In this very moment, I am choosing to show myself some much needed grace. It’s not the end of the world. This guy just wasn’t best for me, but I won’t allow it to make me afraid. I’ll keep going and only be stronger because of it. There’s grace for you too. You will learn from it and only be stronger in the end.

-Stephkt

A Spark of Madness: The Robin Williams’ Legacy

Robin Williams has been the topic of discussion the past few days. With his unexpected suicide, it seems as if Williams has the world talking more now that he is gone than when he was alive. The 63-year-old Chicago native was an acclaimed actor on the big screen and on Broadway. The Academy Award winner is known for his work in Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, and and extensive list of other film, television and Broadway credits.
 
 
While his death may come as a shock to the world, the depression and addiction Williams struggled with was a part of an ongoing battle. His death teaches us that life is short and the demons of mental illness, depression and addiction are painstakingly real. His life teaches us to seize the day, to laugh, to smile, to find joy, even in the midst of debilitating pain. Be encourage today to keep living, If you are struggling with depression or mental illness, do not be afraid to ask for help. There is always hope, hope in the simple fact that you are not alone.
 
 
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Twenty Something Advice from the words of Robin Williams:

“My battles with addiction definitely shaped how I am now. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact. And the value of friends and family, how precious that is.”

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

“Comedy is acting out optimism.”

“But only in their dreams can men be truly free. It was always thus and always thus will be.”

“It’s a wonderful feeling when your father becomes not a god but a man to you — when he comes down from the mountain and you see he’s this man with weaknesses. And you love him as this whole being, not as a figurehead.”

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”

“You have this idea that you’d better keep working otherwise people will forget. And that was dangerous. And then you realize, no, actually if you take a break people might be more interested in you.”

“Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. Some get it as a graduation gift.”

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

– Stephkt

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.

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“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)

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