Explore

When you feel uninspired, unmotivated, restless…it’s time to explore. It’s time to get out of your house, take a walk, drive somewhere, take a spontaneous Saturday trip to a nearby city with no plans. If you feel like you aren’t meant to sit inside all day, working, studying, doing nothing…it’s because you’re not! It’s time to get moving and get some fresh air. Any excuse to get outside is a good one.

Maybe you can tell I’ve been unmotivated lately. I needed to get out and do something. Last Saturday my mom woke me up and said she wanted to drive to the city to explore a little and hang out for the day, so that’s what we did. I had some stuff to do, I always do, we all do. But I knew I wasn’t going to have a productive day if I stayed home, I just wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes, to get rid of the “but I should do _____ instead…” guilt, you have to picture how your day might go if you stay home. Are you feeling energized, motivated, ready to tackle that thing? If not, you may end up wasting your time procrastinating, doing unimportant things, and feel even worse for trying. Can you do it tomorrow instead? If so, a little day trip might be just the break/motivation/reset button you need.

I’m the best and worst person to take this advice from…on the one hand, I tend to prioritize family and healthy fun over to-do lists, and I can’t say I have ever really regretted putting something off to spend time with people I love. On the other hand…this can get me into trouble sometimes if I sacrifice sleep or get stressed later on because I didn’t prioritize my work…so take this with a grain of salt. But, I find that most people tend to put themselves under too much pressure, and I’ve always valued quality time with people above all else, so maybe I am the perfect person to give this advice. Trust me, it’s kind of impossible to regret actually spending time with people you care about.

Also, I’m a big believer in hometown pride (see my last post) and the whole “bloom-where-you-are-planted” -type affirmation. So even if you feel like you live in a boring place, I think it’s a fun challenge to seek out the local gems. I’ve always found surprising beauty in my literal and figurative backyard. I do happen to live an easy drive away from a couple major cities, but I often have just as much fun taking a walk in the park near my home…which, thanks to creative locals, occasionally has some fun surprises in store. The photo above was taken this past summer when my friend and I left the park path to take a shortcut past the baseball field and through the woods…and hello, someone had built a teepee out of branches tucked away in the trees! Super fun, random discovery.

Magic can be found anywhere, I tell ya, you just have to keep your eyes open…and explore from time to time.

P.S. If you need some new jams for your road trip playlist, I thought it might be fun to share what I’m listening to currently. Some old and new favorites of mine:

(shoutout to my cousin for randomly telling me I could pass for the singer of the band Alvvays, because it was just what my playlist has needed lately. Thanks for the accidental music rec Claire!)

Being a fan

Go team!! Why do we love rooting for the home team and being fans so much? It’s part of our identities. We attach so much importance to team allegiances. We get emotional, we get excited, we keep track of statistics and players and wins/losses. Maybe “we” is too much of a generalization, but I feel like here in America especially, everyone has a favorite team of some sort.

The Cleveland Indians’ 2017 season recently came to an abrupt end, the team coasting through the final month of the regular season with a record-setting 22-game win streak but ultimately losing the American League Division Series to the Yankees after 5 games. It was disappointing for sure, but as a lifelong Cleveland fan, I’m pretty used to experiencing loss. The Cavs brought a championship to Cleveland last year for the first time in my lifetime, but since baseball is my one true love as far as sports go, I’m still holding out for a World Series win by the Indians (their last one was in 1948). Last year, they came about as close as you can get, losing to the Cubs in game 7 in extra innings.

There’s something really special about maintaining a loyalty to a certain team. In my communications theory class, we discussed how proximity and shared interests draw us to other people. When you find out you are from a common hometown or area, or you are fans of the same team, it makes for an instant connection. These are your people. It’s fitting that the nickname for the Indians team is the Tribe. It really is our tribe.

I attended my first ever postseason baseball game on Oct. 5th in Cleveland. It was the first game of the ALDS; people were excited, hopeful. The stadium was packed full, loud, electrifying. The Indians were looking good, it was an easy 4-0 win that night. It was natural to chat with and high-five the strangers around us. We were all there for a common purpose. We were rooting for the home team. The phrase “Rally Together” was emblazoned everywhere you looked. Everyone sang along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with a smile during the 7th-inning stretch. There’s something about coming together for that major shared interest, coming together as fans.

The same applies for many things. Going to see a band in concert, keeping up with a favorite TV show or seeing the work of a favorite artist in a museum. There’s something about humanity that craves connection and familiarity. I love sharing excitement (and even disappointment) with thousands of strangers. I love things that can bring us closer, even if only for a moment.

What do you think? Has being a fan of something ever made you some fast friends? Isn’t there something special about having a home team? After all, there’s no place like home.

Grief and high delight

“Against my better judgment, I feel certain that somewhere very near here—the first house down the road, maybe—there’s a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody’s having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.”

–J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. It stuck with me immediately and has continued to resonate with me for years, even though out of context it sounds a bit odd. Even in context it might be odd by some standards, but if you are the type of reader who appreciates some good Salinger, I think you understand perfectly. Even if not, I think we can all relate to this feeling in our everyday lives…the feeling that some days you just bounce between those two extremes on the spectrum of emotion, grief and joy, and sometimes the oddest things bring you joy in the midst of your grief. It just seems to go that way in this world…such major highs and lows, so many joys, but so many tragedies.

Sometimes when grievous things happen, I find myself wondering why, but at the same time, I don’t really dwell on the “why.” The photo above was taken on Sunday in an herb garden that my cousin planned and planted several years ago. It has been almost half a year since a rare and aggressive cancer took his health and his life.

I find myself thinking of him in some small way every day since, and sometimes I do wonder, “why?” But mostly, I don’t, at least not as much as before. As young children, we often ask “why” repeatedly. As children, we are curious, inquisitive, learning in high volumes. As children, we need to ask “why” to start building connections between everything in this great big world we have newly joined. As an adult, however, I find that the greatest lesson I have been slowly learning in the past several years is that I will never understand everything. Some things don’t have a clear answer to the “why.” Some things aren’t meant to be understood.

I still feel stressed, anxious, or deeply grieved by some things. But I have found a remarkable peace in letting go of “why.” My faith is definitely the major influence in this mindset and this peace I have regarding hard and heartbreaking things, and I really couldn’t imagine having this extent of calmness in the face of certain tragedies without that belief that there is a God who is perfect and holy and cares for all of His creation, despite all the bad things in this fallen world. I want others to come to this same peace, but I’m not very good at talking about God to others because my faith is so deeply a part of my being that I just don’t know where to start or how to word it. Instead, I just try to live a thoughtful life through which I can pass this peace and joy to others in some small way.

So when I think of tragedies in the world, some affecting many people, such as the recent multitude of natural disasters or the shooting in Las Vegas, or some affecting a smaller group, such as losing a family member much too soon, I don’t dwell on the why. I believe things happen for a reason, or maybe weren’t “meant” to happen, but have positives even despite tragedy. But I’m not meant to understand it all. I’m only meant to love my family and do my best to work on my tiny presence in the world, through the joy and the grief. Remember to always look for the light in the darkness, because there are always glimmers of hope. If your heart has been heavy lately, I hope this can encourage you.

“Grief will succeed joy, and joy, grief, just as night follows day. This is how the Father of lights has established the path of those who are being saved. Just have patience and hope: engrave these in the depths of your heart—with these, all adversities will be faced.” – Elder Ephraim of Arizona