Tag Archives: love

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.

On Unrequited Love: The Art of Break-Ups From the Mouth of a Dumpee

When I commit–to anything–I give it my everything. I will nurture a relationship even as it is being dragged under, spluttering, drowning. I will throw it a life raft time and again, resuscitating it even when I can feel, deep down, that the river is going to win.

When I fall, I fall hard. My heart is an urn, filling with memories. And when it’s knocked down, each beat shatters the ceramic further, fissures growing into chasms until my storage of recollections explodes painfully before me.

I consider myself a strong, confident and independent woman. And while I’m proud to maintain my independence in a relationship, I still crumble in love. But when you give of yourself entirely to something, someone…how can you not?

I am two for three when it comes to unrequited love. I have an excellent track record of being the one who gets dumped in a relationship. And it has been over a decade since a man told me he loved me.

For so long, this had me questioning: Am I unlovable?

One of my first relationships saw an incredibly painful break-up. A few months after we started dating, I told him I loved him. But, notorious for my bad timing, I sobbed it to him to clarify a misunderstanding–that misunderstanding being why I was acting so weird.

I shouted, truthfully: “It’s because I’m in love with you!”

I wasn’t even in love with me at that moment, but I didn’t anticipate having to spend the next year holding back my feelings.

In whispers, I repeated my profession of love to him only three more times in our relationship. “You know I love you, right?” I once said. “I know,” he responded.

He knew.

And I knew.

You can’t force love.

And you can’t wait forever.

When I called him over one evening to talk, seeing our relationship disintegrate before my eyes, fearing its demise, the night ended with me punching my concrete wall repeatedly. I wanted to break something to counter my breaking heart. But the wall wouldn’t break.

We were both crying, but he was the only one who could see any practicality at that point, that our tears were only sucking us dry. He said I was amazing and beautiful, but we were just too different.

“Tell me it will be okay,” I pleaded.

And he did. He grabbed my shoulders and told me I would get through this, that I would be okay. And then he stood to leave.

But it was past midnight. I wasn’t ready to be alone with myself in a cramped apartment with a wall that wouldn’t break. I wasn’t ready to be alone with the memories of us and the hurt of that night that overshadowed any promise of tomorrow. So I ran.

I sprinted barefoot in forty degree weather down the street in my sketchy neighborhood. I ran from my pain and the puddles of my tears. I ran from the truth and I ran from him.

But he followed me. Goddammit, he wouldn’t let me run.

He walked me back to my apartment and made me promise to stay inside. And because I could see I was hurting him, I promised. I don’t break my promises.

I am an emotional, sensitive and empathetic person, but my pain blinded me to his.

I fight endlessly for my relationships because I believe so strongly in change, compromise, communication and second chances. But I’ve realized another reason I hang on so tightly.

I know heartbreak. I have felt it so deeply that it creates a hole in my chest. It has consumed me so much that I forget to take care of myself. Break-ups are a part of life. And though I always come out stronger, I would never wish heartache upon anyone.

Because of this, I would rather have my heart broken than break someone else’s.

But pain can make us selfish. Yes, the experience of heartbreak is unique for everyone but it is not unique to everyone.

I assumed that when I closed my door and he got in his car for the long drive home, his tears had stopped coming. I assumed that while I was wailing, he was watching the stars through his window, relieved. I assumed that when I dialed my friend to tell her I needed her, he was thinking of what time he had to get up in the morning for work.

Because he never loved me. So how could he be hurting just the same?

While I never fully knew the journey he went through to heal, or how long it took him to get over me, I do know his tears didn’t stop just then.

We didn’t talk much after that night. I try to be friends with my exes; it doesn’t always work out. But he did send a message a few days later to make sure I was okay, in the same breath admitting that he was still crying.

He’ll never know how that one message helped me, not just then, but in future relationships. I’ve never understood why a man doesn’t see that I’m worth fighting for, but at least I know that I am not unlovable. He didn’t love me in the same way I loved him, but he sure as hell cared about me.

Wherever he is, I hope he has found someone worth fighting for.

And one day, I’ll find someone who wants to fight for me.

**Please Note: Some changes have been made in courtesy of anonymity.

I Like My Men Emotional

My dad was the first man I ever saw cry. The second was my grandpa.

I was in fourth grade when the priest at our church passed away. That was the first time I experienced death, and the first time I saw tears slip down my father’s cheeks. In future years, I would see him cry at funerals, when we buried our guinea pigs in the backyard, and when we held our dog as he slipped over the Rainbow Bridge. Later, I would see him cry out of pride–when he walked my sister down the aisle on her wedding day, when he told his three daughters how proud he was of our independence.

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I was in eighth grade when I saw my grandpa cry for the first and only time in my life. My grandma had just passed away. Grandpa and I were standing on his porch, looking out at the street. We were both quiet, processing the hard truth of saying goodbye. Then out of nowhere he started bawling.

At thirteen years old, I was somewhat taken aback. Women, I was used to seeing cry like this. But what do you do when you are the sole witness to the painful tears of someone who society paints as a pillar of protection and strength? What do you do when you’re young and naive and still not quite sure about this thing they call life?

My grandpa opened up to me in that moment more than he would ever open up to me in the sixteen years that I knew him. “I don’t know what to do,” he told me. “I just loved her so much.”

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With those two sentences, he unlocked the door to his heart, sharing with me his deepest fear. He made himself vulnerable. And it made me love him more than I thought I could.

A girl standing next to a grown man sobbing, I didn’t know if there was a right or wrong thing to do, so I just hugged him and cried, too.

We live in a world of stereotypes. Men are supposed to be stoic; women are supposed to be emotional. Men are the strong ones; women are the weak ones.

At least that’s what we’ve always been told.

But females are paving a way for ourselves. We are shattering glass ceilings, we are dissolving stereotypes, we are striving for equality. And many men are right there with us in solidarity. Yet much of our fighting is to have the same rights as men.

What about the men in the world? Who is fighting for them to have the same rights as women?

I like my men emotional.

It has taken me 28 years to truly accept that my emotions are not a curse. Twenty-eight years, and I, a woman, finally see that emotions take off my blinders to the world, that they give me empathy and compassion.

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When I am sitting on my friend’s couch sobbing because my heart is broken into a thousand pieces, when I am screaming into my best friend’s pillow because I can’t process today let alone tomorrow, when I am a blubbery mess relaying my insecurities over a phone line, when I am blotchy and tear-stained and at my absolute ugliest… I am at my most vulnerable.

Allowing myself to be this way, to ask for help and let others see me in pain, is one of the strongest things I will ever do.

And when a man cries on my shoulder, be it out of joy or anguish, whether friend, family or partner, he is, in that moment, the most beautiful man I know. He is honest, unadulterated and incredibly human. He carries the strength of a hundred men.

I have listened to the sobs of my friend’s brother as he eulogized his father. I have mingled my tears with my best friend’s as we held each other and processed a suicide. I have watched a man swipe a finger under his eye as he married the woman of his dreams, and then later when he held their child in his arms. I have seen tears glisten in the sun as men relayed their survival stories following Hurricane Joaquin. I have shaken strangers’ hands after they told me that my performance on-stage made them well up. I have hugged crying men as I packed up my bags and moved on to my next adventure and others who have cried upon my surprise return. I have heard the wails of dozens of males as they watched their beloved pet take one last breath. I have held an ex’s hand with one of my own and collected his tears with my other as he cried and broke my heart.

And I know that if these are the faces of the next generation of patriarchs, then the future is bright.

Sisters in 100 Words

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best friends, soulmates, confidantes, supporters, dreamers, pranksters, defenders, time travelers, counselors, partners-in-crime, rationalizers, unconditionalists, problem solvers, truth-tellers, encouragers, memory-makers, idols, advisors, caretakers, believers, talkers, menders, comforters, risk-takers, co-conspirators, teachers, stress relievers, competitors, opportunists, free thinkers, listeners, comrades, borrowers, motivators, shrinks, impressionists, compromisers, helpers, teasers, guardians, teammates, shoulders, cooperators, promise-keepers, trustees, influencers, celebrators, sympathizers, opinionists, self-esteem boosters, co-workers, darers, leaders, mimickers, resources, praisers, contributors, lenders, safe havens, inspirers, expressionists, sneaksters, resolvers, appreciators, witnesses, sharers, moralists, confidence builders, energizers, tolerators, kindred spirits, role models, loyalists, ministers, secret keepers, committers, beauties, comedians, virtuists, mirrors, commonalities, forgivers, heroes, jokesters, pragmatists, identities, protectors, givers, companions, admirers, bequeathers, equals, sidekicks, examples, playmates, connections, humblers, other half, family, everything.

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The Hardest Part About Being Single is You

Chocolate candy hearts are filling grocery store shelves. Plush teddy bears smile at me while I peruse the produce section. The scent of spring attacks my allergies as I step through the automatic doors.

Single people can’t hide from the Hallmark holiday. Valentine’s Day is near.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been single on February 14. My first Valentine’s Day in college, I’d just broken up with my high school boyfriend. Actually, my first ever boyfriend.

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My newly minted independence was made all too apparent come Singles Awareness Day. But my guy friends pulled me through. One male friend, who was dating my female bestie at the time, surprised me with a rose. He said he knew the day would be hard for me. I told him I would never forget that gesture and, obviously, I haven’t. He remains a dear friend a decade later.

Another male friend, who is essentially my soulmate, gave me ridiculous greeting cards that had nothing to do with Cupid’s affairs—“congratulations on your baby” and “happy birthday” with a bikini clad woman, a palm tree, and an inappropriate joke… I have those cards ten years later.

Still, I’ve had some pretty crappy Valentine’s Days while in relationships. Sure, sure, it’s a cheesy holiday where you’re reminded, just shy of forced, to show your affection. I’d much rather receive flowers on say… a Tuesday… in the middle of fall. That’s when it really, truly comes from the heart.

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But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to celebrate at least a teeny bit. And in two relationships, I did cutesie little things for the boyfriends and bleck, V-Day wasn’t even acknowledged. (Okay, red flag, I should have high-tailed it out of there. More on that another time.)

I’m never too old to hand out cartoon, paper, wallet-sized cards that I’ve torn along the perforated edges and individually addressed to my co-workers and favorite humans. I’m always ready to celebrate Galentine’s Day.

But really, I’m okay with being single.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being in a relationship. It’s nice to have someone who I can rely on at the drop of a hat. It’s wonderful having someone to scratch my head whenever I ask (ughhhhhh, someonecomescratchmyhead) or sometimes without asking (ughhhhhh seriouslycomescratchmyhead). It takes a load off when someone can feed me after a 10-hour shift. Being sick is easier when I’m in a relationship. A lot of life is easier when I’m in a relationship. Even with the challenges and compromises dating brings.

But really, I’m okay with being single.

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So many of the accomplishments I made in the last year, so many of the milestones in my entire life have happened—have had to happen—because I’m single. Because climbing these peaks takes incredible time, energy and sacrifice. My journey has required a great amount of focus on myself.

And really, it’s all been necessary. I’ve seen too many people who need to be in a relationship to be complete. I don’t want someone else to complete me. I want to be complete by being just me.

I believe that we should fully know ourselves before we commit to someone else, but I’ve stopped trying to instill my beliefs on others. If they want to listen, they can, but they don’t have to. It’s their life to live, their happiness to create. Yet too many people haven’t stopped trying to instill their beliefs, their insecurities, in me.

The hardest part about being single? It’s you.

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Too often, in the first five minutes that I catch up with someone on the phone, I get asked, “Soooo… have you met a guy yet?” The answer I now give took me repeating it a dozen times before I finally believed it, because some days being single is hard. Some days being single sucks. Some weeks I whine about how I’m single, but then I remember all the good that being single has done for me.

And so I respond with, “Nope! I’m happily single!” I really don’t want to spend the next 30 minutes being pitied for being alone.

These are really, truly, the top responses I receive (from people I love) when I dare talk about my dating life, or lack thereof:

  1. You should just go to a bar and meet someone.
  2. Have you thought about online dating?
  3. But do you really want to have a baby when you’re 40?
  4. No one is perfect.

The hardest part about being single is you.

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I love you, dear friends, but please stop suggesting that I bring home the local drunk to scratch my head and make me dinner. Please stop suggesting I use my precious free time to click on Match.com profiles. Please stop suggesting that anyone should have an opinion about my ovaries other than me. And for the love of Pete, please, please stop suggesting I settle.

I know no one is perfect. I am not perfect. But the man who I end up marrying—in two years, five years, ten—will be perfect for me. We will be the same and different. We will be beautifully flawed. We will have our own insecurities and neuroses. We will challenge, encourage and support each other. We will place equal value in alone time and togetherness. We will complement one another. We will chase our own dreams and we will chase dreams together. We will love in a way that works for us.

When I fall in love, I promise. You’ll know. And what a lucky man he’ll be, cause I got lots of love to give and Imma love him something fierce.

I value your friendship. I love you for you. I love your significant other, whether you met at a bar or online, whether or not you choose to have children, and whether or not you’re perfect.

So please. Let’s get to the point where the hardest part about being single is not having someone to scratch my head.

She: Don’t Let Go, A Poem

Don’t let go of the one

in front of you

Who believes in herself

And the greater good,

Who still retains her authenticity

And morality

in a world of sham

And selfishness.

Don’t let go of the one

Who challenges you to think,

to be the best person

You can possibly be.

Hang on to the one

Who takes you on adventures,

Who makes you laugh,

Who opens your eyes

to see more than

What is right

in front of you.

Hold tight to the one

Who lives to get

the most out of life,

to experience all it

Has to offer.

Keep close she whose

Passion moves mountains,

Whose spirit is more beautiful

than the first bud to

Flower in spring,

She whose smile melts souls

with its sincerity.

Don’t let go of

the one who sets high

Expectations for you,

Expectations for which

She forgives you for

Falling short,

Because forgiveness is

in her nature.

Don’t let go

of she who is in love

with the idea of love,

And so loves others easily.

Hold on to her

who strives to be

No one other than

Herself.