What Is Courage?

Just a quick note on a thought that’s been rolling around in my head the past couple weeks:

Courageous people aren’t fearless people. They are the ones who are scared to death but face their fears anyways.

They are the ones are who are shaking, sweating, heart pounding, but stare down the barrel of the gun.

I hope you find this empowering. I hope it reminds you that everyone can be and is courageous.

So be brave, be bold, be vulnerable. Because I know you have it in you.

No I Don’t Drink, Yes I’m Vegan, And Can We Move On?

When I was twelve years old, I sat in the back seat of my dad’s car rifling through the beach bag looking for something to drink. I saw the word “lemonade,” opened the bottle, and took a swig.

“Dad?” I said. “This lemonade tastes weird.”

My dad peered in the rearview mirror and calmly told me, “That’s because that’s not lemonade.”

I gave him a confused look.

“That’s alcoholic lemonade,” he said.

I promptly proceeded to spit out the window and dab my tongue on a towel, following that up with a dramatic montage that involved me asking my dad what was going to happen, was I going to be drunk, was I going to die?

When I was 23, I poured some of the punch bowl contents into my cup at a party, being sure to plop the enticing sorbet on top. I then filled up my cup again. I was really unexpectedly emotional that night. I found out later that was spiked punch. Considering I had zero tolerance for alcohol, that may have explained my emotional state. Maybe.

When I was 24, I was playing with my plastic water glass and my friend’s plastic whiskey glass, which looked exactly the same. I took a swig of what I thought was water, then immediately spit into the cup. I told my friend I’d pay for a refill of his whiskey. He denied the offer. He wasn’t mad; he was simply amused.

Those are the only times I’ve ever had alcohol in my life.

In the first five minutes that I begin talking to someone new at a restaurant, based on my ordering, they ask me two things:

1. Why are you vegan?

2. Why don’t you drink?

Despite my attempts to steer the next 30 minutes of conversation in another direction, the table topics continue to revolve around my lifestyle choices, usually due to incredulity and discomfort from the other party because, ohmygod they could NEVER give up cheese and have I really NEVER had alcohol?

It exhausts me.

I’m so very tired, people, of being the spotlight of attention just because I am different from you. Just because I make unique choices. Just because I make you uncomfortable.

I don’t sit at that table and lecture people on their cheeseburger and the beer they are sipping, but somehow, my salad and water make people uncomfortable.

I am all for deep and meaningful conversations, but this is not going to turn into one of those. This is going to be 30 minutes of you trying to mask your judgment of me but failing miserably. This is going to be 30 minutes of me hearing the same insulting jokes I’ve heard a hundred times before. This is going to be 30 minutes of me taking deep breaths while the walls close in and I get backed into a corner with no one to defend me but myself, bored at this point and just waiting for the organic leap to the next tête-à-tête to determine if you’ll ever be able to get past me being different.

Why do I have to explain myself? Why does my being different make you uncomfortable? Why do you feel you have to defend yourself when all I’ve said is “No, I don’t drink” and “Yes, I’m vegan”?

Since I’ve already put out there why I don’t eat animals, I’ll talk about my sobriety, since at this point in our table talk, without knowing my full and short-lived relationship with liquor, you’re probably weighing the odds of me being a recovering alcoholic or a crazy religious nut. I can assure you, I am both. (Just kidding.)

I don’t owe you an explanation for why I don’t drink, but I’m going to give one to you anyway. And you’re probably not going to like it. You’re probably going to have some reflexive retort back at me because I’ve somehow hit a button I didn’t know was there to push. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll say, “huh” and move on.

I don’t drink because I want to be in control. I don’t drink because I like reality. I don’t drink because I like to be present in the moment, no matter how shitty it is. I don’t drink because I like to face my problems head on and then learn and grow from them.

For the record, I don’t smoke pot for the same reasons (and yes I live in Seattle where I CAN HAVE ALL THE POT IN THE WORLDDDDD).

I am in fact often mistaken for being drunk–sometimes the drunk person–at a bar because there I am making my own dance floor with my signature crazy legs moves, singing at the top of my lungs, laughing my loud and wild and pure and unrefined laugh, and making an utter fool out of myself with absolutely no care in the world.

Maybe I am weird because I’m different. Because I naturally have no inhibitions. Because I’m not easily embarrassed. Because I’m okay with staring my fears and insecurities in the face without any vices and letting the world wash over me leaving me scarred and scared and oh-so-bring-it-on ready.

Because I want to always be wholly, truly, honestly and authentically me.

My lifestyle choices don’t define me. I am not just a vegan and just a sober person. I am a woman who craves integrity and humor, who has insane attention to detail, who is increasingly more curious about the natural world and our role in it, who loves love, who speaks her mind, who has lived here and there and done this and that.

So please. The next time you meet someone who is different than you, don’t define them by a label. Accept that they are different, embrace that they are different, ask yourself why their being different bothers you, make a mental note to address that issue with yourself later, and move on.

How to Change the World in 4 Easy Steps

We all want our lives to have meaning. We all want our time on this earth to be significant. We all want to make a difference in the world.

But how, exactly, do we do that?

It’s something I struggled with greatly when I took a break from wildlife conservation to work in a more stable veterinary clinic setting. It’s something that tormented me as I set off to chase my many dreams. Was I being selfish? How was I giving back to the world?

I have since realized four things:

First, every job is giving back in some way. Maybe you’re helping the needy, maybe you’re inspiring others, maybe you’re boosting the economy, maybe you’re putting a smile on someone’s face or simply making their day a little easier.

Second, my career does not define me. My values, beliefs, morals and desires define me.

Third, by focusing on myself, I have been able to gain incredible self-awareness. I know my wants and needs. I know my skills and talents. And I can nurture them and use them to change the world.

Fourth, changing the world does not happen on a monumental scale. Change in the world is the result of chain effects. Little things. Elementary, my dear Watson.

So how do you change the world?

 1. Know yourself

Self awareness goes a long way toward making the world a better place. Take time to actively engage in conversation with yourself, to get to know you. Spend quality alone time with no one other than yourself and learn to enjoy it, to crave it. Slow down. Pray, meditate, journal or find an active means of self reflection to guide you along the path to self discovery.

 2. Love yourself

Appreciating your own self worth is pivotal to anyone’s success and happiness. People who want to change the world want to do so because they love humanity, they love this earth. But we absolutely cannot fully love anything else without wholly embracing who we are as individuals. If love really does make the world go round, then it starts within ourselves.

3. Be yourself

In a world full of so much sham, authenticity is a rare find. Live your life with honesty and integrity. Never try to be anyone but yourself. If we are not truthful to ourselves, then we are not being truthful to the changes we wish to see in the world.

 4. Give of yourself

Pay it forward. The focus on giving back isn’t on being selfless, because learning to love yourself can be an incredibly selfish task, one that requires constant time and sacrifice. Give of yourself by being open and vulnerable to the world so that you can find your role in it.

And that’s it. It really is that simple.

How do you change the world? By turning the focus inward. Look to yourself and there you’ll find the answer.

The Stranger on a Plane Who Saw My Broken Heart

I held the pink, laminated reusable boarding pass in my hand, rubbing my finger over its bubbled edges. The weight shifted in my backpack as I re-situated it on my shoulders and picked up my laptop case. I handed my paper ticket to a woman behind the metal fence and walked along the concrete to the plane’s steps.

No security checkpoint and no overhead storage bins awaited me. My ears would not be alerted by an announcement that the plane was about to lift off. I could reach into the cockpit and touch the pilot. I could hold hands with nearly everyone on the plane without having to leave my seat.

Though it felt like the 1940s, it was 2015, and I was leaving the place I’d learned to call home.

I was saying goodbye to an island whose people, simplicity, and natural beauty I’d come to love.

And yet, at that moment, I wanted to be away from people, floating on a cloud among the birds of the sky. I wanted to be free but have all the answers, I wanted to feel loved and worthy and adored, and I wanted the fissure in my heart to be miraculously healed.

As the plane took flight, I leaned against the thick, sweating window glass, trying to become invisible. I didn’t want to look outside because that meant accepting the daunting truth that those turquoise blue waters I’d come to know would no longer be present in my daily life. I didn’t want to look down because then I’d see that I was moving away from those white sand beaches of quiet isolation, not toward them.

I didn’t want to look out the window because then I might see my reflection, and that would feel like staring into the face of someone I didn’t know.

Instead, I closed my eyes tight and hugged my backpack to my chest, trying to shield my face from the other passengers on this 14-seater plane, trying to hide my pain. But the tears falling down my cheeks coupled with my silent sobs gave me away to the man sitting across the two-foot aisle from me.

Wordlessly, he removed a tissue from his bag. I was burying my brokenness into the nylon cover of my travel backpack when he tapped me on the shoulder. I raised my head a couple inches to see the tissue dangling by my cheek.

The stranger on the plane smiled at me.

Without saying anything, I took the tissue and wiped my eyes and runny nose. I crumpled it into a ball for later use and then made eye contact with the man. My lips turned up ever so slightly, a genuine smile but one that took effort nonetheless.

The stranger on the plane nodded his head and turned to look forward, giving me privacy to process my feelings.

His kindness reminded me that I am not and should not feel alone in this world, and that I am also allowed to have my feelings–no questions asked.

I didn’t know that the next two years of my life would be the hardest two years of my 29 years. I didn’t know that they would also be the most rewarding.

I didn’t fully understand all that I was leaving behind, that it was a testament of self-love to jump headfirst into this new unknown–lost, scared, confused, sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, and in that moment, so very broken-hearted.

I didn’t fully grasp that taking this first step on the next part of my journey would, in time, prove to be one of the most valuable and meaningful chapters of my life.

It took me two years to recognize that abandoning the island life to chase opportunities in the city was one of the most courageous things I have ever done. Two years and I realized that leaving that island home–one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done–was also one of the most loving things I could ever do for myself.

I am not, I was not fearless. But I did stare fear in the face while navigating an increasingly rocky path to become the incredibly self-aware woman I am today.

If you asked me if I’d do it all over again, I don’t know that I’d say yes. But if you asked me if the loneliness, heartache, and utter confusion were worth it, I’d look you in the eyes and tell you that believing in myself and knowing who I am and what I want in life is my biggest achievement, and I have those feelings to thank for that.

101 Thoughts I Have While on My Period

Periods suck. Unfortunately, half the global population deals with them–or dealt with, bless you souls–on a monthly basis.

Please enjoy this stream of consciousness list of thoughts I have every month. Note: This is not for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned.

  1. Are you gonna eat that?
  2. Someone please carve out my uterus.
  3. Oh, great, diarrhea.
  4. If men had ovaries…
  5. *Sobbing* But that puppy only had three legs!
  6. Am I dying?
  7. Pretty sure I’m dying.
  8. Wow, I have reached a new level of cranky.
  9. How do men put up with hormonal women?
  10. In need of a sign that says, “Get out of my way, I’m menstruating.”
  11. Why is everyone so loud today?
  12. It’s really only been 7 minutes since I last ate?
  13. My bloated stomach looks like a loaf of bread.
  14. Look at me, still thinking about food.
  15. How many more days is this going to last?
  16. Can I just hibernate for the rest of the week?
  17. It feels like there’s an anvil in my uterus.
  18. This better all be worth it when I have kids.
  19. My poor bed, I remember when you didn’t have period stains.
  20. Why don’t they make black mattresses?
  21. There goes another pair of underwear.
  22. No but seriously, that was my favorite underwear.
  23. I literally have no period-free underwear left.
  24. Was that just the wind or am I leaking down there?
  25. Probably bleeding onto my scrubs but I’m over it.
  26. Why are tampons so expensive?
  27. Maxi pads feel like a diaper.
  28. Wow, these farts could kill a person.
  29.  UTERUS FOR SALE!
  30. There’s an army of angry minions inside me.
  31. Oh, hey, back pain. You’re back.
  32. *Googles: How much of my life will I be on my period?*
  33. Hey. I asked if you were gonna eat that?
  34. YOUR PERIOD ONLY LASTS HOW MANY DAYS?
  35. Life isn’t fair.
  36. I wish I was a man.
  37. No I don’t.
  38. I wish men had periods.
  39. I wish men understood what it’s like to have a period.
  40. I wish periods were universal among women.
  41. Can someone please scratch my head?
  42. And feed me?
  43. Wow, that’s a lot of blood.
  44. Good thing I’ve gotten over my fear of–
  45. Oh my God, I’m going to pass out.
  46. Periods are gross.
  47. I feel really gross right now.
  48. *Sobbing* Why am I so gross!?
  49. And ohmygod, those bags under my eyes!
  50. I just want to cry.
  51. I just want to sleep.
  52. *Searches: “Top 10 Movies to Watch On Your Period”*
  53. *Watches movie and cries like it’s “Titanic” IRL*
  54. Why am I so emotional?
  55. Ohmygod, I can’t stop crying.
  56. But that three-legged dog!!!
  57. How will I ever get through work tomorrow?
  58. BUT I DON’T WANNA GO TO WORK TOMORROW.
  59. Women should be allowed additional sick days because OUR FALLOPIAN TUBES HATE US ONCE A MONTH.
  60. HEY. YOU. THEY CAN HEAR YOU CHEWING ALL THE WAY IN AFRICA.
  61. Food is my favorite.
  62. Free uterus!!!!
  63. Is someone punching my ovaries?
  64. Two thumbs up for diarrhea.
  65. Oh geez, and nausea.
  66. Oh boy, I’m dizzy, too.
  67. Must be because I’ve lost FIVE GALLONS OF MY INSIDES.
  68. World, why you gotta be so cruel?
  69. Girls rule the world.
  70. *Listens to Girl Power playlist*
  71. “If this period doesn’t kill me it’ll make me strongerrrrr, stand a little talllllller”
  72. Maybe I’ll feel better if I go for a run?
  73. Wait, let me poop out the rest of my insides first.
  74. Look at me running like a homicide isn’t happening in my pants.
  75. I feel like my vagina fell off at mile 3.
  76. “My period hasn’t killed me, I am strongerrrrrr.”
  77. Wait. But my period might kill me.
  78. *texts girlfriend: “Why does my uterus hate me?”
  79. *texts other girlfriend random period question*
  80. *breathes sigh of relief with friend’s response*
  81. *friend says she’s on her period, too*
  82. *texts her: “Soulmates.”*
  83. *crying* My friends are the best.
  84. There is nothing to eat in this house!
  85. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
  86. I could literally tread water in my period blood.
  87. It is literally like Old Faithful has sprung out of my vagina.
  88. I DON’T CARE IF THAT’S GROSS.
  89. YOU TRY HAVING A PERIOD LIKE THIS.
  90. I’m sorry, I love you.
  91. I just love love so much.
  92. I need to be alone right now.
  93. I wish I had a pet.
  94. Animals are the only ones that understand.
  95. Wait, if I got my period today does that mean that I’ll have it when…
  96. *curses like a sailor*
  97. I have Satan for a uterus.
  98. The universe is literally conspiring against me.
  99. This is the worst day of my life.
  100. Wake me when it’s over.
  101. Are you gonna eat that?

My Battle with Lyme Disease All Began When I Met a Paraplegic Sheep

paraplegic sheep

If you’ve read my blog more than a couple times, you’ve probably come across some stories on my battle with Lyme disease.

I’m now entering six years (!) since my diagnosis. The journey has been painful, exhausting, and frustrating but never discouraging–for which I owe a great deal to a paraplegic sheep named Rocky who taught himself to walk.

To read about how Rocky helped me get through my first six months and beyond, read my article here that was recently published in Wide Open Pets, a worldwide website dedicated to all things animals.

If you’re battling Lyme, chronic or not, know that you’re not alone, and that even though the road gets rough, you always have the strength within you to persevere.

UPDATE: My story was picked up my Daily Mail UK! Check out their third-person narrative of me and Rocky, and learn the facts about Lyme disease.

This Is My Greatest Accomplishment, and It Might Be Yours, Too

Earlier in the week, I came across a list of questions on the Internet intended to engage two people in meaningful conversation. The questions are deep, thought-provoking, probing, and personal.

I tried to think of my answers as I went through the list, but one stuck out at me:

“What is your greatest accomplishment?”

I’ve been reflecting a great deal on my most recent accomplishment–becoming a published author. My initial thought was to answer with that.

But then I thought of all the solo female travel I’ve done. Maybe independent travel is my biggest accomplishment.

Yet I couldn’t choose between the two.

So I dug deeper.

I remembered the many hardships I went through to write my book, many of which are outlined in its preface. And then I remembered how I fought through a knot in my stomach each time I set off on a solo excursion abroad.

And then I remembered what it was like to go to my first professional acting audition, to send in my first freelance writing query, to get my first official rejection. But beyond that, I remembered pushing through the rejections, time and again, to follow my passions, my dreams.

In all of my accomplishments, I’ve never been fearless. But I have stared fear in the face and persevered. Courageous people aren’t fearless people; they are the ones who are scared to death but go head to head against their fears anyway.

My greatest accomplishment? It’s believing in myself.

On the days when writing a 254-page book seemed a daunting task, I never doubted that I could and would do it. All the times that I hugged my backpack to my chest on sketchy bus rides, homesickness creeping in, I still trusted in my instincts and personable nature to embrace the culture I was about to immerse myself in.

Every rejection I received after an audition or writing submission was a challenge to press on.

Believing that I can do whatever I set my mind to is, hands down, my greatest accomplishment.

Think really hard about what you consider your greatest accomplishment to be. If you find that you can’t decide between two, reflect on the journey that led you toward each of these.

I’ll bet you’ll find that believing in yourself is your biggest accomplishment, too.

never stop dreaming. never stop doing.