Georgia 

For my birthday in march one of my friends handed me the book The Alchemist. For those of you who haven’t read it, it is a tale of a boy following his passion and learning to trust that what is to come and what is supposed to happen will happen, because if someone puts their whole heart into something, the universe has a way of helping us achieve it.  Though I finished this book months ago, I recently ran into someone who reminded me of how true this small parable of a story was. As I have continuously written, the past and present never really exist, they are created by our own mind, all we really have is a multitude of presents. That being said, the other day I ran into someone who I will refer to as Georgia, a person who is a few years older than me, following a new path his heart and life have brought him to, road tripping across the U.S..  There is a piece of magic in meeting new people, in seeing their world be turned into words before me, of listening to the way they describe stories and situations they have been in, and of at the same time realizing you may never see this person again. This last statement leaves me distressed at times because I find connections such as the one I had with this person rare, moments where you are so absorbed in a conversation you seem to forget where you are and are disoriented when you stop speaking, but I have come to realize the purpose of this is to remind us to be present.  I love meeting new people, and always have, but I often wonder when and if these small moments will ever turn from singular to sequential, if the universe is setting these people in our path to stay with us and we often walk away, thinking that is the only thing we can do. I feel as though space and time are often excuses we tell ourselves because there is a small amount of fear in telling someone about who you are and how you see the world. But what if we didn’t? What if we are supposed to hold onto these people that come in moments? As I drive home from visiting my grandma who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I am humbled by the thought and reality that today is now, and now is what I have and what she has. we can stress that we don’t have jobs, that we aren’t married, that we aren’t getting a good grade, and that we aren’t living up to our potential, but in the end worrying isn’t stopping things from coming, it is merely stopping us from seeing the good right now in front of us. As I continue to move toward the next chunk of my life, I am constantly reminded by the people around me that life is not a set of coincidences, but rather a set of purposes. As Paulo Coelho wrote: “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them,” it’s not until we step back and see them in such a way that we realize this.

the present

I think the most beautiful advice I have ever been given is to look at life only as a multitude of presents, meaning there are no yesterdays, no tomorrows, no later-ons, no soons, just a whole bunch of nows. For the past week I was in the mountains of Yosemite with my family on vacation, a place I have been going to with my mom’s side of the family since I was born every year. When I was younger I would look forward to going to Yosemite, or how I pronounced it “yo somebody” because it was a giant play ground, and I was hyperactive. The mountains were a place for me to escape from the confinements of a school desk and to play with my cousins. At the age of 22 I am still in love with the mountains, the rivers, and not surprisingly, still hyperactive, but as I grow older I find myself more entranced by the people I am surrounded by on these vacations. I find that nature has a way of helping people open up, of humbling them in a way.

Vividly I can remember staying up till 1 am one night in my cabin talking to my dad. I am blessed to have the relationship I have with my dad, one of smart-ass comments and a love of learning. We were bantering back and forth about the stupidity of characters in Jurassic World, remarking on how many times I had fallen off my bike mountain biking (it was more than once), and then somehow we ended up talking about his family. My dad is the youngest boy and second youngest of six siblings, which is amazing to me because it is just my younger sister and I that make up our family. We started talking about my grandpa, my dad’s dad, and it eventually ended up my dad telling me all these crazy and most of the time dangerous stories of his childhood. My grandpa died when I was in middle school and because he lived in Texas, our relationship never truly developed before he died. I am sad that I was not able to get to know the person who raised my father, whose blood runs through me so to speak, and also who lived a life that went unnoticed by most people, yet none the less was extraordinary.

The most prominent thing I learned that still floats like a ghost in my mind is something my dad told me that night in the cabin. My grandpa was a doctor, more specifically a pathologist. He worked long hours and weekends to support his family, but when he wasn’t working, he was an unsung hero. Now I was raised Catholic and no longer practice my faith, but my grandpa never missed a day of church. My dad told me that the Catholic church gave my grandpa the right to bless the bodies of unborn babies or fetus’s of aborted babies. With a clear face my dad told me he had asked his father when he was younger why he did this, why he took the time to bless these small beings before they were cremated, and he said simply and stably, “because I think someone should look after them, I think someone should care.”

It amazes me how many things I do not know about my grandpa still, but more amazingly, how little I know about the world and the people around me. So often I walk around with two eyes and hands glued to my phone, waiting for the next text message, while at the same time walking past individual’s carrying stories potentially like the one about my grandpa, and they are not heard. Now I am not saying texting people is not important, but after not having service for a week, it was refreshing to speak and listen, rather than type and read. The stories weren’t abbreviated, emojied, or shortened, they were raw, real, and full of emotion. They were present.

My past week was filled to the brim with advice on how to follow my dream, how to have stability in my life, how to sneak out of the house, and more importantly, how to be happy. Day by day we walk around afraid to reach out and talk to those around us, it is like a social stigma has arisen around conversations between two people who do not know each other and this makes me crazy! As human beings we are naturally curious, yet how are we supposed to learn if we are only surrounding ourselves by the same people, by the same conversations, and by the same perspectives. The answer is we can’t learn this way. It took me 22 years to hear these stories about my grandpa and the special mark he left in the world, and I know he is not the only one who lived a humble life. As I said earlier life is a series of presents, and in order to fully be in the present, you must simply be there fully at the moment in what you are doing.

So turn off your phone, leave it at home, because the texts can wait, or better yet the call can wait. Listen to the people around you when they talk and make sure you listen to you when you are talking, because after graduating from college I know for a fact most of us are not as skilled as we think we are in multitasking. Stay focused and sharp to the conversations. Talk to strangers. Ask how the cashier at the grocery store is doing. Ask how the lady making your coffee is doing. At the end of the day the connections we have with those around us, the ones we love and enjoy being around, those are all formed because we share with one another- our thoughts, perspectives, memories, food, money, etc. So what is more important than sharing the present, these small moments that make up our lives? 7 billion people all saw today in a different way, lets talk about it.

An open letter to my parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

I look back onto the last four years of my life, and I can’t help but feel a sense of guilt and gratitude for all the things you have helped me succeed in. The morning swim practices, the hour phone calls, the surgeries, the major changes, the moves. These are things I take for granted sometimes, things that I forget are the reason I am where I am today, things that have caused you both to sacrifice for me, things I fail to realize their importance in my life and career, and these are things I know I may never be able to repay you for, but these are also the things that have made me realize the importance of doing what you love, of chasing the dream, and of listening to that calling.

From when I was still a little kid till now as a 22 year old, I cannot remember a day when either of you complained about going to work. This is something I thought was normal in our society, but coming to college I realized it was a rarity. Many of my friends were raised in homes where their parents lived to work, where their job and career left no time to do anything they loved, where they were raised to realize money brings happiness. I knew this was wrong. I was raised to chase what makes me happy and to know that success will come later. I was raised to stay determined and fight for what I believed in and was passionate about, even if that meant standing alone. I was raised to understand that success is not a solo climb, but a web of connections with likeminded individuals. I strive to be like that, to lead a life where I feel like I am making a difference, where my job, career, and calling are all one, where what I do is what I am. I feel as though it would be an injustice to you both for me to follow something half-heartedly, to do something merely for the money and financial stability, to do something because it will give me an easy comfortable life.

So to you both I say I have a dream, I have a passion, I have a calling, but I do not have a clear path of what it will take to get there, what will come my way, and what it is I need to do to attain my dreams. I am unsure what tomorrow or a week, or a month, or a year will bring me, but I am excited and I am hungry. I want you to think back to when you were 22, when the whole world was open to your ideas, dreams, passions, and musts, and to think about what your calling was. What was it that made you become a teacher? What was it that made you quit your first job because you hated it? What was it that made you realize being happy was more important than pay? I am there right now. I am at the crossroads of deciding between a life of stability, okayness, wheat toast, and a life of possibilities, color, and cinnamon raisin bread. Of course I am not really talking about toast, but the blandness that I will be having, the loss of taste due to a pre-conceived life. I do not want that, you did not want that, and you raised me to want more, to be more, to make more of myself. To you both, this may seem childish, irresponsible, and illogical for a college graduate, someone who has an education and all the tools to succeed to be at a place in my life where I don’t know what to do next, where I am vulnerable, but let me reassure you, at least I know what I want. At least I know at this age what I would sacrifice for, what I would do regardless of pay, what I want to do for the rest of my life. I believe this in itself is also a rarity.

It may be scary for you both to try and understand that I am okay with failing, that becoming a writer will not be an easy route, that I don’t have all the answers right now, but then again part of growing up is figuring things out for myself. Part of growing up is learning from mistakes, reaching rock bottom and picking yourself up again, going after what you want at full speed. You may both think I am going into this with my head in the clouds and no feet on the ground, but if I have learned anything from watching you two as I grow up, it is that success revolves around happiness, not the other way around.

There was an exercise I did recently this year, and though it may sound morbid, it put my life into perspective, and it made it easier for me to tell you both why I wanted to try going after what I love. I sat down and wrote two obituaries, the first of the life I knew I was headed towards- becoming a teacher, teaching for my whole life, traveling on breaks, writing for fun, raising a family, and being remembered as a loving, caring, person. Now this is a respectable life, one that I would not be embarrassed to live, one that no one should be embarrassed to live, but it would not be one I want to be remembered for. I do not want to be remembered as not following what I write about, not walking in the footsteps of what I knew I was capable of, not living up to my full potential, and because of this I wrote my second one. The second was the life I wanted to live, the life I wanted to be remembered for, the life I knew I must have, and that was a life full of traveling, writing, being published, speaking to people about my ideas, living abroad, raising a family, and ultimately living a life where I was unable to summarize it because I was unsure where it would take me. This is being uncomfortable with being comfortable. This was taking advantage of that “must” inside me, that calling that I would do regardless of pay, that passion I was born with and want to, need to, go after. This was the life you raised me to chase.

As I said before I do not have all the answers, finances, or knowledge to attain my dream instantly, and I may never have all the answers or knowledge, but at least I have the will and determination to try. I do have the assurance that failure will come, that this road will not be easy, and that stability may take a while, but who am I, if I don’t try, if I settle, if I don’t put my head below the water and fight to touch the wall. If I have learned anything from coming into this family, from being surrounded by your brothers and sisters, it is that life is too short to wait for what you want to come to you, that nothing will come easily, and that not having to reassure yourself every morning what you are doing is what you actually like/maybe love to do is success within itself. I recently read that sequoia trees can grow to be 310 feet tall, yet only have a root system that is about 10 feet deep. Their roots stretch from tree to tree, using each other’s interconnectedness to help stabilize themselves above ground, and in the same sense, I too am coming to understand that it is through connections that ideas become reality and dreams become a way of life. Just as you have watched me grow my whole life, I need you to watch me now, to help support me, and to remind me why you chose to do what you do, because no one achieves his or her dreams alone, yes no one. By choosing to be happy, to make a change, and to follow your calling, you in turn inspired me to do the same. You may be unsure as to what I am doing, you may have fears that I will fail, and you may question my path at times, but it is my own and know throughout it all I am carrying parts of you both with me. Remember that I am young, remember who you were at 22, and remember that I am just beginning. Just as you watched me a few years ago in swim, I am still training and my race has yet to begin, but what is anyone without fans to support them along the way, to cheer them on, and ultimately to share in the small bouts of success along the way?

Comfortable with being comfortable

As I sit here in my room, moved back in with my parents, and having left college a week ago, I have never felt so, as Google definitions says: “open to injury” in my entire life. For most people there is a deep seated fear in the term vulnerability, this type of natural instinct that sets in, like we are zebras grazing the grasslands waiting for danger to approach us. I mean Google did define it was the ability to be open to injury, and the idea of being injured is not palatable to most people. We could all look at vulnerability this way, we could see it as something dangerous, a feeling that should be avoided, a sensation we want to toss out the window and then go sit back down on that large couch of comfortability, but it is this idea of being open, fully open, and the potential to be injured that most people overlook. The more I sit here, my friends many miles away, moved into the guest room of my house, the more I realize I have never felt so happily unsure in my entire life.

As a twenty-two year old, my path was planned for me the past four years of my life, summarized by athletics, classes, and the much needed squeezing in of social activities. I knew exactly what my next day, week, month, and year would look like, and I became comfortable with that. I began to see things before they happened to me, tests that would come, books that would be read, mojito night acquaintances that I would run into. Now don’t get me wrong, this sense of patterns and reliability was nice, and it allowed me to not have to think about what was to come next, because what was to come next is the question every single person asked me my last month of college, and to have a plan was easier than saying “I don’t know” and getting practiced responses from people who did have a plan. But now, looking ahead and knowing that nothing is mapped out, that plans are not set in stone, that there are no more mojito nights (not too sad about this actually), and that I don’t even know what tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year will bring, I for once feel the power of choice.

So often in life we are drawn to the idea of stability- financial, marital, etc- but with this idea of stability, we fall into a pattern, a comfortability, a pre-conceived idea of someone else. I have watched friend after friend apply and receive jobs for things that I know they will not wake up for every morning excited to jump out of bed for. Most of you may think this is unrealistic, the ability to be excited to go to work every morning, but it is, and maybe then it is not longer considered work. Now I did not say you won’t be tired, that my friends would be a lie, but to be passionate, to be excited, to be driven, that is within reach. I have seen it everyday with my parents, and because of that, I am a believer. We are all guilty of at least one time in our lives doing something because someone else wanted us to, because of fear of disappointment, fear of failure, or just plain fear. But why? Is fear that bad? Is failure really the end of it all? The answer, I can honestly tell you, because I have failed many times and I have faced fears, is NO. Fear in itself when met, opens our eyes to what we have not seen before, the perspective we have not viewed the world in, or as Robin Williams showed us, the desk we have not stood on. To jump out of that plane, to ask that person out, to tell someone you love them, to tell your parents you don’t want to do what you have been doing, and to even touch a spider, these are all fears, and if face, WHEN faced, show you things about yourself you didn’t know before. And to be honest, failure is inevitable, so why were we taught it was something to be looked down upon? We will fail, we will fail a lot, and maybe after failing a lot we will fail some more, but at least we tried. At least we learned something about ourselves. At least we put ourselves out there.

At this age, the world is open to us, fully open, and it will be our choice of what we want to do with this open space. Do we want to follow the path that we have seen, that we know every step to, that we often times think about and question, OR do we want to walk and follow what we all have inside us, that yearning to make a change, to play that music, to write that book, to ask that person out, to take that class, to try out for that team, to start over. I say, take the road less traveled. I have often times noticed that when you come to that time in your life where you are stuck with that internal and external pull, the pull between choosing what others want and think you should do and the pull to do what you must do, the universe will help you do what you must do. This may sound cheesy, and many of you may stop reading after this or roll or eyes or believe me to want to convert you to something, but in reality, this is true. When you step outside your comfort zone, when you put yourself out there, when you follow whatever it is- the passion to paint that picture, write that letter, quit that job, change your major- you will meet people, you will talk to people, you will read about ideas, you will think of ideas, you will do new things, you will fail, you will succeed, and in about a month you will look back and wonder why you were ever comfortable with being comfortable.

As I said before, we are so young, and we must stay hungry. The world is ours to take and we all have the potential to make a change, be someone, and do something, but it is our decision to follow that. As we choose day by day to do what we love, we are in turn inspiring others to do the same. It is a large network of connections we are making, actions that are inspiring, words that are encouraging, and possibly writing that is making a difference. The world is open, now its up to you.

Here’s to 2015. Thank you UC Davis.

Today, as I sit here in my room, as I procrastinate packing when I am supposed to be moving out in about a week, and as I try to study for my last finals, I realized that the world lied to me. As I prepare to graduate in about a week, I feel unsatisfied not only with the idea of graduating college, but of also leaving UC Davis behind. I am sure that most of us were told by our parents that college will be “the best years of your life,” and as I think about that now, I laugh. To think that the best years of a person’s life span from the age of 18-22 and happen solely in one place, now that is humor. But they were so serious when they told me this, waving goodbye through the car window as they drove away, leaving me behind with a twin size bed and a box of power bars. Today I sit here and am calling my parents out and anyone else who told me this on their bullshit.

For the past few months I have been in a panic, feeling uncertain about every aspect in my life. What am I going to do next year? Where should we go to dinner, because this could be our last time here you know? What alcohol should we drink, should we try to wean ourselves off for the real world? Why is it alumni and not alumns? To sum up my final year at UC Davis, I would say I am constantly filled with a sense of un-satisfaction, and yes I know that is not a word. For the past year I have felt pressured to exert myself completely and squeeze every element of fun and life out of college I can, because it’s the best years of my life right? After this it all goes downhill and the worst part is we are only 22! Bullshit.

To most the word un-satisfied carries a sense of negative meaning, but let me clarify. I am thankful I am not satisfied. I am grateful I do not feel completely in a state of peace or bliss. I am not satisfied, and because of this, I want more. College has given me the best experiences of my life thus far. That one time someone fell asleep on the toilet. That time we danced for a mile. The broken tank top strap. The island. These memories are nice, they are numerous, and they will be with me forever, but they have also made me realize that they will not be the last of their kind. To me college has been one giant brownie dessert, but I have only been given one bite and I am hungry for more. To think that we believed once these years were done we would become boring fun-suckers, and to think there are still some of us out there who still believe this. I tell you we are only 22, and we have not even begun.

In four years I have learned to never drink white wine on an empty stomach, that riding your bike at night makes you feeling like you are flying, that cows actually cannot be tipped, and that learning is surprisingly cool and fun. In four years I have given my heart away and had it returned, I have chipped a front tooth, I have had two shoulder surgeries, and I have said goodbye to a sport I loved. In four years I have learned to fear squirrels, to realize the best drunk food is oatmeal and peanut butter, and that changing your major is not the end of the world, because I did it three times and am still alive. In four years I have learned to respect people and embrace their flaws, I found my best friend in a chemistry tutoring session and another the first day of my senior year, and I learned that my parents actually are pretty cool humans. In four years I realized I love reading and writing, but am still unsure as to what my purpose in life is, and can say honestly I have not used algebra or geometry in my life since freshmen year. In four years I have learned friends are the most valuable possession a person can have and that you won’t remember the midterm you will take tomorrow at 8am, but you will remember missing the opportunity to make memories. I learned that I felt more satisfied with $5 in my bank account than $50 and that saying thank you is never outdated or said too often. If I have done all these things in four years and can walk away satisfied, then I have done something wrong, then I truly have not lived.

So thank you Davis for giving me this sense of un-satisfaction. Thank you for pushing me out into the real world with a sense of fear and uncertainty. Thank you for showing me the uniqueness of college and the ability to feel both alone and connected to so many individuals. Thank you for pushing me to want more of what you gave me, for instilling in me a belief that the best is yet to come. And thank you for leaving me wanting more, and giving me the resources to go out and get it.

So as I sit here, still at my desk, still starring at the room I have called home for the last 3 years and the one I will be saying goodbye to in about a week, I am satisfied with my un-satisfaction. One of my professors once said the best way to eat an elephant is to eat it one chunk at a time, meaning that if we want to have success and continual happiness, we must remember to keep in mind the short-term goals. College has been one of the best short-term goals I have achieved in my life thus far, but like the elephant, it is just one chunk of a much larger goal. We have made it through four years and yet we are so young. We must continue to stay hungry, to stay humble, to embrace mistakes, to make our enthusiasm infectious, to stay determined to improve, to want more. We must remember to keep our own dreams as close to reality as we can until they become our reality, and most importantly we must remember that happiness leads to success, not the other way around. May we continue to crave more out of life, and remember the days of when we were an Aggie as the very beginning of the best to come, as the first chunk of something greater. Here’s to us 2015, let’s go be someone.

Learning how to hesitate

I don’t think I really learned to hesitate until I came to college. I learned to hesitate before making important decisions. I learned to hesitate before deciding what to eat, what to drink, what to say, what classes to take, and who to talk to. I thought I was being smart, over thinking what I should be doing, analyzing every possible situation and outcome. I thought the decisions I was making now are important, “life-changing,” and should be thought about carefully at all times, but realistically, I was fooling myself.

3 days a week from 2:30-5:30 I babysit a 10 year old boy named Jesse. Tell Jesse your birthday and he can tell you what president was born on that day. Ask Jesse where his favorite place in the world is and he will tell you Tatooine. Jesse hates blackberries and sliced apples, but he loves strawberries and any snack that you are eating that he has never had. He loves reading non-fiction because it’s real, it happened, and it’s something he can see in his mind. Jesse is also high-functioning autistic, which for many of you that don’t know, it means that most things in life are very black and white to him. For example, in my room I have pictures of myself and my friend’s hanging on my wall. One day Jesse walks in, points to a pictures, and matter of factly tells me: “Sarah you don’t look so good in this picture.” Most of us would be embarrassed, feel angry, get defensive, but I laughed. I laughed because it was true, I knew I didn’t look good, and I laughed because it was the truth and no one ever really tells you the truth anymore.

Most of us walk around telling people what they want to hear, beating around the bush, and softening the blow for anything and everything. But then again who really wants a friend that tells you the blunt honest truth? Who wants someone that is going to say how things are no matter the consequence? Oh wait, we all do! As I was picking Jesse up from school the other day I watched him walk up to a girl he didn’t know on our way back to my house. He lets go of my hands and runs up and taps her on the shoulder and says “Hi I’m Jesse.” It’s simple, but when do we ever do this? I am amazed at his fearlessness to walk into the unknown, to take chances, and to say EXACTLY how he feels. It is refreshing and liberating to know that when I am with him I don’t ever overthink, I don’t ever have to guess how he is feeling, and I can in turn be the same way.

I recently read a book given to me by a friend titled “How to Get Naked,” and no this book is not about stripping clothes and learning to unbutton pants, but instead how to get naked emotionally. I used to think self-help books weren’t for me, that I could figure things out on my own, but as usual, I was wrong. This book told me to do things that made me sweat with anxiety and now that I look back on it, it was because this book told me to tell people exactly how I was feeling. This is scary, actually this is a nightmare. I normally keep things to myself or tell everyone around me BUT the person I actually should be talking to. I either think hey eventually someone will tell this other person making it easier on me, or eventually these feelings will just pass so it’s actually good I never said anything? WRONG. I was scared, nervous, and did not want to tell anyone how I felt because that would mean they would know I liked them and could possibly like me back?! It’s silly now to think about how nervous I was, and still am at times, but then again someone once told me if you aren’t nervous, it means you don’t care.

I recently told someone that I had feelings for them, someone that I had liked for a while. I did it for Jesse. I did it because if at 10 years old Jesse can be so brave, why can’t I, and I couldn’t think of a logical enough reason why I shouldn’t be. I told them exactly how I felt, yet at the same time I allowed them to not like me. That’s really the key, but it is also the worst part. To allow someone to now want you , to not share the same feelings as you. In the end, this person said they don’t feel the same, that they had not looked at me in this way. It hurt, I would be a liar if I said it didn’t. I was bummed and sometimes still get nervous when I see this person, but the best part now, is that I have nothing to hide. I walk around feeling like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder because I said exactly how I felt, I left nothing up to mystery, and you know what? It was worth it. Even though I was rejected, even though I was sad, I know I have options, we all do. We all fear the unknown, the things we cannot control, and we all assume and predict the worst in situations. We hesitate. When we learned to do this, I am not really sure, but we need to stop. The moment we pause, the moment we overthink, and the moment we believe we can’t do something, we have in that moment proven our fears to be correct. We are losing time because we are pausing, when we should be acting. I am blessed to have such an amazing person in my life like Jesse to teach me that life is simple, words are powerful, and saying things black and white is how it always should be.

I am still learning, I am still trying to make sure I say how I feel, to stop hesitating, and it is hard. For the past 4 years of college I have over thought and it has gotten me no where and left me wishing I had said or done something. There are no rules in life, in talking to someone, in becoming who you want to be, so stop over thinking everything. Go make yourself uncomfortable, go make yourself sweat, be nervous, be scared, because this is living. Waiting for the perfect moment, waiting for the perfect decision to be thought of, it will never come, you just passed it by waiting. Amy Poehler once said: “Great people do things before they are ready,” and if you think about it, its true. We are never ready for anything in life- relationships, tests, death- yet it all comes and we all have to face it. So why not face it now? Why not be honest? Why not let things be black and white for a time? If a 10 year old can do it, we all can.

Fear.

As a college student I always find myself in rooms full of people- my classes, the quad on campus, bathrooms, restaurants, bars, parties,etc. Yet, as a college student I am amazed at how little interactions we actually do within these rooms. Yes, it is very awkward to talk to people in the bathroom, and yes going up to strangers is weird and uncomfortable, but is that it? Is that our biggest fear when approaching someone? That feeling we get that is half fear half nervousness that makes us doubt everything we are about to do and psych ourselves out. This feeling is scary, it can even be terrifying, but what I have recently discovered, is that missing an opportunity to meet someone, to expose yourself personally, to actually talk to someone new, to me that is far worse.

Today in one of my classes my teacher told us to stand up from where we were and go sit next to 5-6 people we didn’t know. Now for the past 6 weeks I have sat in the same spot, in the second row between two of my friends, and I have become comfortable here. I wasn’t afraid to talk to the people next to me, I knew the professor saw my face everyday (bonus right?), and I also didn’t feel the need to move because I was comfortable right? Wrong. After getting up and finding myself sitting next to five complete strangers, the Professor then asked us to tell one another our greatest fear. The class was silenced by these words. Not only were we supposed to sit next to strangers, but we were supposed to have a conversation with them all and then tell them all the most vulnerable aspect of ourselves? Now I thought this was crazy too at first, but at the same time I felt my own curiosity rise up within me, wanting to know what these people around me feared. What is it that they feared the most in this world? What would they think of my fear? Would they look at me differently?

Not being afraid to speak first, I told the group my name and proceeded to tell them my greatest fear and why. I told this group of strangers that I was fearful of time, of not having enough of it. I did not want to be sitting in my death bed, looking back at my life and feel the weight of regret. Whether it is regretting not swimming for another year, not telling that person how I felt, not thanking these influential people in my life, or simply for not going out that one night I was tired, I want to live a life without regrets. I feel as though time carries such a heavy weight within us all, making us second guess everything we do, making us think it will affect our future in someway, when in reality the future is as real as the past, meaning it never exists. We only have a multitude of presents, so we should use them, take advantage of them, and stop worrying about what we cannot control.

After explaining my own fear, shakily speaking my words at first, I learned that most of these people, strangers, girls I had never met before, shared my same fear. They explained their fears of no longer having their parents around one day, of not being able to support themselves, and of not being able to figure out their purpose in life. I am surrounded everyday by people like this in college, people who walk around sharing my same fears, aspirations, and questions, yet I have never taken the time to get to know them. Most of us travel around with headphones in, with our phones glued to our hands not wanting to feel alone, yet by doing these things we are in turn isolating ourselves. By failing to look up and recognize the people around us, we are just adding to our own loneliness.

I no longer look to these five people as strangers, instead I see them as friends. I exposed more of myself to them than I have to some of my good friends and family. Through our shared vulnerability we were able to make connections, ones that went past what we do on a normal basis. I learned through this exercise that fear limits us from reaching our potential, it literally kills us from the inside out. By being fearful we worry, we stress, and we hesitate and I think these are the worst things a person can do. Once you being to overthink and hesitate, the moment golden is gone, it has passed, and we have let our own irrational fears get the best of us.

As I prepare to graduate, I look back on the amount of strangers I have passed and not spoken too, of the amount of people I have been to scared to open myself up too, and I regret it. I regret not taking the chance to talk to someone because of my own personal fear, but now I know better. I know that life is full of a multitude of moments, without a past or present. I know that most of us are all fearful of the same thing, and because of this we are all connected. We aren’t as lonely as we thought we were. My teacher ended lecture today by telling us that life should be a win/win situation for everyone. Meaning that life should not be based on who wins and who loses, but ensuring that we all end up winning in the end and in order to do that, we need to live in the present. As cliche as it sounds, and as overused in country songs as this is, it is the truth. Our fears are killing us- emotionally, physically, and psychologically, so as Elsa said not too long ago…we should let it all go. Let go of the fear, let go of feeling afraid to go up to someone, and let go of placing yourself in a position to feel lonely. Get out there. Go. Now. Take advantage of the moment you have now, the multitude of moments you have now, because the black and white truth is that is all we really have.