Take your time.

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“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

I think I go around beating myself up a lot.

Saying ‘I’m too this’ or ‘not enough that’ and if you tell yourself lies like that after a while, you start to get confused about what’s true. But God doesn’t think like that. His thoughts aren’t focused on things of this earth – His thoughts are heavenly thoughts.

Its funny because one of the main things the church teaches is how valuable we are to God. We’re the reason the Gospel happened. If we didn’t mean that much to God, none of the things involving Jesus would have occurred.

But the number of times I hear some version of “Jesus died for you because of His love for you” and the number of times I actually believe it and let it sink in to my bones are vastly different. I don’t live like I believe it, either.

I live like I need to prove my value.

As if my value wasn’t already secured on a cross thousands of years ago.

I think this most often manifests itself in the way I’m always striving to be successful, to do something cool or to achieve more.

Somehow I started believing the lie that this will prove something to others about my worth.

We are told a lot of times to keep moving forward, whether we’re told through the words or the actions of those around us. If you’re not constantly moving forward, you’re stagnant. And that means you’ve failed. You can see this just in the urgency with which people walk down the sidewalk in Manhattan. There is always a next step you’re supposed to take. There is always another destination.

I think I started focusing on this a lot in my 20s because after college, this idea seems to amp up times a thousand.

You need to graduate college. Find a career. Move out of your parents’ house. Buy a house of your own. Open a savings account. Get married. Have kids. Start a “life” by everyone else’s definition of what a life is. This is what you’re supposed to do in your 20s. You don’t have time to fool around anymore.

I believe something different.

I think your 20s are for learning – nothing more, nothing less. They’re for being honest with yourself. Living life by your own standards. Being human. Experiencing. Trying. Failing. Stopping. Appreciating. I think any age, for that matter, is about those things.

My husband and I were having a conversation about buying a house one day.

We were sitting in the living room, looking at houses, examining our savings account and finding out what we could afford. We had been out with a real estate agent. We went through the process with the bank about what kind of mortgage we could get. We had all of the paperwork. All that was left was to decide. We were sitting in the living room in our apartment surrounded by papers, trying to figure it out.

My husband asked me what I thought about all of the houses we had looked at, and I realized something: I don’t want to buy a house.

I don’t want to buy a house at all.

I’m 25. He’s 33. We’re married. We both have careers. We opened a savings account together a couple of years ago – this is the logical next step, right?

In response, I said to him, “I’m really happy with the way things are right now.”

I found myself wondering what that meant as I said it. Does it mean I’ve failed? Does it mean something is wrong with me? How will people look at it?

My first thought after saying, “I’m really happy with the way things are right now” was “Is something wrong with me?”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I think that is what’s wrong with me.

I think it’s important to stop and enjoy things as they are, for as long as you need and as long as it makes you happy. You don’t have to stay in the same place your whole life, and probably shouldn’t, according to Mark Twain.

But what is wrong with being still for a while? Besides everyone telling you there’s something wrong with it, of course.

I love our apartment. I love living in NYC. I love the life we have built here over the past three years. I’m not ready to move on yet. Nothing in me wants to live in a suburb. Or buy a home. I don’t want the maintenance. I don’t want the quiet. I don’t want to have to drive everywhere or be responsible for a mortgage. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things – that’s just not me yet.

Once I realized this, I started replacing the lies I constantly told myself – keep going, achieve more, be successful, prove your worth- with something different:

Standing still doesn’t mean failure. Go at your own pace. Take your time. You don’t need to prove anything.

Those sentences, even just reading them now, soothe my soul in a way I can’t even describe because I think we just don’t hear them enough.

It took a long time for these things to start to sink in. Some days I believe them a lot more than others.

But I think the fact that our value is secured by a God whose thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours means we don’t need to place our value in anything else.

We don’t need to find value in whether we are married or single, whether we have kids or too many cats, whether we have a job in our field or a job that we are simply happy with, whether we own a home or whether we are still paying too much to rent in NYC at 25 or 33.

We can move forward when we’re ready. Or we can accept that we need to take a step back. Or we can rest where we are and be still. None of those things defines our worth. None of those things should keep us up at night.

I think there’s something to be said for enjoying life as it comes.

In fact, I think the future will play out how it plays out, and I will have little to do with it.

After all, His thoughts are better. His ways are better than my own.

#RealTalk

Be better.

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I wrote this after I got off of work today and didn’t intend to share it because it’s nothing incredibly profound, but sometimes, you just need simple reminders of things you’ve forgotten.

I’m really introverted, so speaking with people I don’t know very well or have just met on the phone or in-person is scary to me. But I also love listening to people and hearing their stories, which just so happens to be what I do for a living, so phone calls and in-person conversations with strangers are pretty inevitable.

The only thing that has made it easier is practice. When I was in college, I realized I needed to shake my anxiety about social situations if I ever wanted to be successful in my career by just facing them head-on again and again and again. Eventually, it really does get easier.

Now, I can pick up the phone and order a pizza like it’s no big deal. In college, I would have most definitely argued with my roommate extensively about who was going to make that call. Now Seamless exists, thankfully, so introverts everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief, keep calm and order pizza online.

When I was working as an assistant dance instructor in high school, my studio had this policy for correcting young dancers. We would give one compliment about something they did well, then a criticism about something they could work on and end with a compliment about something we like about them.

This way, they would be encouraged to be receptive to constructive criticism at the beginning of the conversation and encouraged to push themselves to be better by the end of the conversation.

You wouldn’t lie to them, obviously, but it would force you to not immediately focus on what they are doing wrong, but also think about two things they are doing right. At the same time, it would encourage them to think that way too.

As silly as it sounds, I’ve gotten into the same habit at work of giving myself one compliment after every interview about something I feel I did well, then thinking of something I can improve upon and finishing with one reason why I believe I am good at what I do.

Trust me, I’m aware that it’s super lame, but it really works to boost my self-confidence and help me become better at my job. I tend to beat myself up a lot because I am a perfectionist at work, but then I read an article that asked this question:

“If you treated a friend the way you treat yourself daily, would that person want to continue being friends with you?”

I thought, “NO WAY!”

Once I started rethinking my thought process, (That’s right – rethinking my thought process. Just like inception.) I watched my internal monologue shift from “I generally suck at this” to “Hey, I’m pretty good at this. But I can be better.

That realization has been incredibly liberating for me.

So, moral of the story, I think giving yourself compliments is important so you don’t stop wanting to be friends with yourself. Go ahead. Build yourself up. Treat yourself. Live your best life.

Because even if you have nobody else, you still have YOU!

#RealTalk

Quit.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-3-40-14-pmI was recently reminded of something I learned a while ago and wanted to share because I thought maybe this lesson could be passed on as a piece of unsolicited advice. The best kind, I know.

“Basically, you are exactly what we’re looking for. We really want you.”

I knew in my heart I had already made up my mind that this opportunity wasn’t the right thing. But those words still felt really good when I heard them on a sunny Thursday, sitting across from important people in a big, beautiful office in Chelsea.

I think when you have big dreams and are in a city like New York where there is so much opportunity to pursue them, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important.

I think it’s important to choose fulfillment over temporary happiness. But I think that can be a hard distinction to make. Especially with so many distractions.

Have you ever met someone who is unhappy where they are, but has given up so much to get there that they feel stuck? Have you ever felt this way?

While dreams require hard work, sacrifice and dedication, I don’t think the right dreams will require everything you have. Because if you give up everything, you might eventually find you have this dream and nothing else. And then I think you need to question whether the dream instead has you.

There is a part of me that is a reasonable adult (mostly).

Then, there is another part of me that has all of these childhood dreams – some that are meant to become a reality and some that are better left as dreams.

Regardless, that part of me is surprisingly difficult to say no to when opportunities arise. That part of me wants temporary happiness – to be exactly what someone is looking for and to be wanted. I have to constantly remind that part of me about the fulfillment that only comes from what’s truly important.

I think sometimes opportunities are presented to us so we can learn from them, but not necessarily pursue them. This concept is unbelievably difficult to grasp for someone like me who has a fear of missing out.

But there is this really inspirational guy whose book I read a few years ago named Bob Goff. He says, “Every Thursday, I quit something.”

He decided to quit something every Thursday for the rest of his life – big or small – because he believes simplifying your life is fulfilling.

It just so happened to be Thursday when I heard those words: “You are exactly what we’re looking for.”

So, I decided to quit believing I need to take every opportunity that comes my way because I’m afraid of the question, “What if?”

I’ve noticed that feeling really only stems from my lack of trust in God’s timing. The words I heard next as I passed up on the opportunity were: “It sounds like your decision is made.”

As hard as it was, hearing that I had made a decision felt even better than hearing that I was wanted. I think this is because being wanted brings happiness that comes from others, but being decisive brings fulfillment that comes from yourself.

God is a pretty cool guy.

I think sometimes He allows doors to open for us simply because He knows we need to experience shutting them ourselves to fully understand we aren’t meant to walk through them.

There is some unsolicited advice to propel you into the weekend. 🙂 Now, here are some invasive questions:

What has you? What doors are open in your life that God is trusting you to shut?

Thursday comes once a week. What can you quit? 

#RealTalk

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” –1 Corinthians 14:33

What hurt most as a young journalist watching the election.

9718a-screen2bshot2b2016-11-092bat2b2-19-102bpmAdmittedly, this is the first year that I’ve ever followed a presidential election from beginning to end. (I know, I know.)

 

I have nothing to compare, but it seems to me one idea that was lost in this election is that the media are supposed to be here to inform, not influence.

From last year until last night, I personally haven’t seen a lot of election coverage that is truly objective and presents only the facts (All of them – withholding information is still a matter of opinion.) Maybe more of it exists that I’ve just been missing.

Walter Cronkite described a journalist’s job as holding up a mirror – journalism is simply there to reflect the truth and not distort it.

Captain obvious here: Not all, but some people don’t always tell the whole truth. (Again, withholding important information is as dishonest as lying.) So, the media are supposed to be here to check and balance.

Although news seems to have strayed far from its Cronkite days (and not just in the past year), there are still reputable organizations out there that do a good job of providing accurate and detailed insight into what’s going on.

So, what I began asking myself is: before you form an opinion, which you are perfectly entitled to, would you take time to question how that opinion has been formed?

I’ve spoken with too many people who have told me they don’t pay attention because it’s depressing and makes them angry, and they would rather not know what’s going on in the world.

I spoke with a lot of people right after this election didn’t go their way who said they used to pay attention, but now they’re checking out.

This doesn’t come from a place of judgement because I spent many years feeling the exact same way, but I believe this is the wrong approach.

I can’t get through a lot of news coverage with dry eyes.  But the freedom to have access to that knowledge and information is something that too many people outside of the U.S. don’t have, and it’s something that I don’t ever want to take for granted. It’s worth a few tears to take advantage of a freedom that people have fought for and are still fighting hard to protect.

There is one truth that hasn’t been distorted – information is powerful.

No matter where you stand on any of the issues that face our world today, please consider staying informed.

Please don’t let anger, disappointment, fear or uncertainty compel you to push aside your right to know.

I never wanted anything to do with politics. As a journalist, I eventually became obsessed with the news, but it took me a long time to even go near politics. But this election in particular (and living in New York, I think) has taught me that it feels good to be a part of something.

It feels good to be informed.
It feels good to be involved.
It feels good to commit to finding and telling the truth.

An old but still great Relient K song sums it up pretty well: “Apathetic’s a pathetic way to be.”

Despite whatever you may feel that is telling you otherwise…will you possibly examine your apathy and consider getting rid of it? I want to work on doing the same.

Not just because of what happened last night and not just because of what will happen over the next four years.

Don’t let your pursuit of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth become passive because you no longer believe it’s worth asking the tough questions.

Your involvement in important issues has always mattered.
Your commitment to staying informed has always mattered.

And regardless of the messages you’ve heard or how you felt when you woke up this morning…

you have always mattered too. 🙂

 #RealTalk

Sidewalk Realizations.

c04a8-unnamedI had a conversation with one of those guys on the sidewalk with a clipboard trying to get me to support children in third world countries a few days ago. 

Normally, I just walk by and keep my head down, and my RBF (resting biznitch face) is enough to make sure they don’t come any closer. I tried all of that, but this guy was persistent. He wasn’t scared of resting or active biznitches. So he started talking to me, and he said this: 

“Listen. You’re a successful woman (in my head: laughter) You have an education and a career. You live in New York. You have dreams, and you’re pursuing them. You’re driven, confident, compassionate and you know who you are. They need that. They need to see someone like you to be empowered that they can be all of those things too.” 

This was obviously all a sales pitch, because I really don’t know where he got that I’m compassionate in that moment as I was staring him down, but it got me thinking. 

He said something true: They need that. 

Everything else he said is debatable, but no matter where I currently fit in his description, he explained the person I want to be. 

Which had me asking the question, “What am I doing that matters?

I spend a lot of time on the internet liking memes about how I’m a twenty-something whose life is kind of a mess. Because, well, they’re relatable. My favorite one at the moment, although I can’t remember where I saw it, says this:

My parents at 25: *married, two kids*

Me at 25: “how many nights per week is it acceptable to order pizza online so I never have to interact with a human person?”

Also me at 25: *wakes up holding a chicken finger after a night of drinking*

This is hilarious, and I don’t actually drink that much but if you factor that out, mostly true. But as this guy was talking, I had a thought: Instead of glorifying the fact that my life is so not together to make myself feel better, what if…I actually tried to get my life together? 

I say that I just want to be honest. I don’t want to give people the impression that my life is perfect in any way. 

But what if I was honest in a different way? 

What if I was honest about my shortcomings, but it didn’t stop there 

What if I was also honest about my need to overcome them? 

And then transparent about my many attempts, failures and successes in that pursuit? 

What if I took all the energy I spend finding memes and used it to work toward making my life into something impactful? 

What if instead of joking about how I’m so lazy and uninspired, I became all of those things that guy said about me in his sales pitch? 

I’m not trying to be a perfect person. 

And I’m more than fine with joking about how ridiculous life is on the internet. Because let’s be real here. I need an outlet for all the crazy that happens to me daily, and I think memes were just such a great invention. I love social media, and I love the age we live in. I am here embracing 2016 with a whole heart. 

But I also think sometimes joking about this becomes a coping mechanism for me because I feel inadequate. 

I want to be able to joke about my life. I once saw a meme that said people who are offended by memes are the same people who remind the teacher about the homework in school. Why is that so accurate? I am not that person, in either instance.

But I also want to be able to take my life seriously. There are so many people out there who see me and interact with me daily, and I believe I was placed in their lives because I can be someone that they need. 

Someone recently reminded me of Proverbs 18:21 – that your words (and actions) have the power of life and death attached to them. They have the ability to give life and to destroy it. 

I want everything I do and say to empower those around me, to speak worth into their lives and to build them up. 

I want to be confident. I want to be compassionate. I want to be driven. I want to know who I am. I want to have dreams that I am actively pursuing. And I want people to see that.

So, yes. My life feels like a disaster some days. That’s just a fact. I want people to see that too.

But if I can work through my challenges and insecurities, and be honest about that journey, I think there are a lot more people in addition to children in third world countries who need that. 

If I want to empower others to be everything they are made to be, I need to start with myself. 

Thanks for the realization, clipboard man. Here is a quarter. Because I spent all of my money ordering pizza online.

#RealTalk

Smile and say hello.

Today, there was a homeless man asking for change on the sidewalk. (Actually, there were several because this is NYC, but I’m just focusing on this guy for the purposes of this post.)

He asked me politely if I had any change when I walked by, and I said, “I can’t give you anything. I’m sorry.”

Then, we small-talked about some things like the weather and how his day was going.  

He told me to have a great day, and then he said, “I understand that you can’t give me any change, but thank you for smiling and stopping to say hi.  That’s more than anyone else has done today, and it means a lot more to me than change!”

The conversation that we had wasn’t that significant and lasted about two minutes, but this isn’t the first time that a homeless person has thanked me for just smiling at him/her and saying, “Hi, how are you?” I always thought that was strange, because most people in New York scowl at you when you smile at them, and because I smile and say hi to lots of people and never think twice about it. (Clearly, I am not a lifelong Manhattanite.) I definitely don’t expect someone to thank me for smiling.  That seems a little extreme, because it takes almost no effort.

Anyway, this made me think, because I want to help people who are homeless but giving them money isn’t always beneficial and giving them food stresses me out.  Once, I gave my sandwich to a homeless man at the train station.  This is not something I usually do, but it was Thanksgiving Day, and he just seemed like he needed a sandwich. He was grateful, but I proceeded to stress about it the entire train ride. What if he has allergies that he doesn’t know about because he can’t afford a doctor, and then he has nowhere to go to get medical attention if he has an allergic reaction? I will have literally killed someone with kindness. These are the kind of things that keep me awake at night.

Seriously, though. I can give them information for different organizations that can help them, but a lot of times, there are hoops to jump through, such as a small fee or a qualification process. Or, especially in Manhattan, they’re just too full.  And churches, well, in my experience, not all but sadly too many churches will turn homeless people away for disrupting their services or for just being “too lost for the church to help.” (This is a phrase I heard at one church in college, but that’s a whole different rant for another day.)  I’m also just kind of afraid to talk to people I don’t know, because I’m shy. So I end up walking by like everyone else.

If I’m honest with myself, though, all of the previously stated ideas are just excuses to cover up the larger issue that I feel inadequate, unprepared and unequipped to do anything to help homelessness.  

Is donating spare change, giving away a sandwich, providing information or just stopping to talk to one person really going to do that much? And the answer is no, probably not, when you think about it from a macro-perspective.

But the guy on the sidewalk today reminded me of something I can easily do and a simple concept that I originally read about in THIS book: “Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” –Mike Yankoski, Under the Overpass.

It’s true. It makes me feel really good when someone smiles at me and says something kind (Unless they’re being a creep, which also happens a lot in New York.) Especially when I’m having a rough day.

And I mean, a baby born to a carpenter and his wife in a tiny, impoverished town in the middle of nowhere eventually changed the whole world, so maybe we should start small, too.

#RealTalk

Simple reminders.

9591c-10954596_10205826788807020_8014777790827034424_nToday before work, I prayed for reminders of God’s love.

This is something that I pray often because it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and forget to slow down and remember that God is with me every step of the way.  Sometimes His reminders are bright and neon and flashing, and I couldn’t miss them if I tried.  Other times, they are soft and subtle, and I have to really open myself up to find them.  But they are always there. 

On the way home from work tonight, I ran into a woman who lives in my building.
She stopped me and said: “I just wanted to thank you because you always hold the door open for me when I’m coming inside with heavy bags. And I’ve seen you talking to my dad and patiently holding the door for him too.” (He is 90, has scoliosis and moves very, very slow. And he is also one of my favorite people in the building!)
Then, she said: “You are so sweet, and I just wanted to thank you for being so sweet.”
I honestly had no idea who this woman was until she mentioned her dad, and I would not have expected her to recognize me. The purpose of this post isn’t to say how awesome I am (that clearly goes without saying) but it reminded me how powerful our actions can be.
Something that we don’t even think about could be remembered by someone else for a long time because of how it impacted them. It made me think twice about everything I say and do, and where it is pointing others.  My hope is that it’s to Jesus, but I also realize that I fail miserably at this sometimes.  In those instances, I am thankful for His Grace.

So, I’m not only thankful that she stopped to tell me these things, but also that God answered my prayer this morning through her.  He sure is an awesome Guy! 
#RealTalk

It hurts to tie my shoes and brush my hair.

So it was raining today.

Normally, that wouldn’t be so terrible, except it was also windy, and that is THE WORST COMBINATION EVER.

Aside from the fact that my soaking wet umbrella was stuck in my car door this morning, and when I yanked on it to get it un-stuck, it smacked me directly in the face (good times), today’s weather also presented some other issues.

I was trying SO hard to walk back to my car after class as quickly as possible because there are only so many times I can deal with my umbrella turning inside out and my hood flying off in one day. Seriously.

Unfortunately, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t walk fast. I couldn’t even walk slow. I could mostly just drag myself along, limping a little. And the whole time, I was thinking, “It would be so great if someone would just carry me everywhere today. Could we talk to Lester Lefton and arrange that?”

I didn’t feel this way at all yesterday! Yesterday, I felt great!! It was 60 degrees, and so close to balmy Ohio spring weather that I dared to not wear a coat for the whole day and even open my windows in the apartment and my car. It was a risk because you never know when a sudden snow storm is going to strike, but I think it was one worth taking.

I even went for a walk, bought a wild berry lemonade, actually took out all of the trash sitting in our apartment that we never acknowledge because that means we have to walk to the other side of the parking lot in a blizzard and, seriously, no thanks, and took a three and a half hour pre-professional dance workshop!

Don’t worry about the fact that I’m only dancing twice a week now and haven’t done any pre-professional level dancing since two years ago……wait a minute! Do you think that’s the reason I was in so much pain trying to put my socks on this morning?

In all seriousness, these dance classes kicked my butt.

The workshop started with two back-to-back classes. It began at 10 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m. Then, there was an hour break for lunch, and the final class started at 1:15 and ended around 2:30. The classes consisted of different styles of hip hop.

The first class was street hip hop (It’s okay to laugh picturing me attempting that.) Then, there was a jazzy, feminine type of hip hop for the second class. The third class was my all-time favorite: lyrical hip hop. Mostly because lyrical is my favorite style of dance.

During each class, we did a brief warm-up and learned a minute-long combination. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Except that after we learned the minute-long combo, we ran it again. and again. and again. and again. In big groups. In small groups. In groups of three. In pairs. Forwards. Backwards. On one leg. Blindfolded. While being whipped with a leather belt. Just kidding about those last ones! …kind of.

However, despite all of the PURE AGONY I’m experiencing today if I do anything besides lie perfectly still on a soft, pillowy surface, it was totally worth it just to experience the joy of dancing that I’ve been missing lately more than I even realized.

I am taking two technique classes this semester, but it’s not quite the same. The technical aspect of dancing is important so you can become the best you can be. It’s just like conditioning for sports. At the same time, sometimes the passion can get lost behind the structure and routine of just practicing strength and flexibility exercises. I think it’s pretty much the same for anything else. The hard work can get in the way of how much you love it, but you have to push through and work hard for the things you really love.

Sometimes (all the time), I miss the way I used to be able to do so many different styles of dance every day in high school, learn routines and perform them. However, there’s no way that would ever work with my insane college schedule/life. A lot of times, you just have to accept that even though you love something with your whole heart, you don’t have the time or the opportunity to focus on it as much as you would like. Sometimes, your life has a different plan for you! And that’s exciting and totally okay.

During the lyrical hip-hop portion, we learned a combination to a song about the heartbreak that comes from experiencing someone you love leaving you for someone else. At the end, we performed it in small groups for each other. The instructor explained that most of us have had an experience like that and asked us how it made us feel. When we replied, she said, “Show me. I should be able to understand your story and feel exactly what you’re feeling by watching you dance.”

You guys. I wanted to cry, not because I was remembering a time when I was heartbroken (I have very little experience in the whole dating area), but because I miss being able to dance like that, and it reminded me!

It’s such an awesome way to just let go. Sometimes, I can’t even remember anything after I’m finished dancing because I was so focused on that moment. I think there are lots of different passions like that. Can you relate?

I think what she said is awesome advice, because ultimately, you want your passion to transfer to the people around you. Even if they don’t feel the same way about that certain thing, you want to make them completely understand the way you feel.

Today, however, I want to cry for other reasons related to my muscles. I mean, I think I’m in pretty good shape. I try to hit the gym most days. It was just….super intense. But being sore is a good thing, because it means that you worked hard? ……right? That’s what I tell myself.

I am at starbucks working on soooooo much homework, which contrary to dancing, I do not actually have much of a passion for. In the long run, it’ll be worth it though…..right? That’s also what I tell myself. I should probably get back to that…..

I hope you’re having an awesome week! I would encourage everyone to refuel something they have a passion for, even if you don’t have the chance to focus on it as much as you would like. It can be a huge release and bring you a lot of peace when you’re under an enormous mountain of stress to do something that you absolutely love. And if you get nothing else out of it, perhaps everything around you will fade away and you will only be focused on that moment, however long or short, which is one of the best places to be.

#RealTalk

Writing Playlist:
The funky music of Starbucks