Are you proud of you?

Have you ever looked yourself in the eye from the other side of the mirror and said I’m proud of you?

I’ve been thinking about how busy, stressful and borderline unmanageable life often feels, and how that makes it easy to overlook how much we’re really doing and how hard we are really trying on a day to day basis. I think sometimes we give ourselves maybe a little too much credit for a not-so-impressive completed To Do list, but more often than not, when life gets really crazy, I think we tend to shortchange our ego even when we are already doing more than we feel we can handle.

Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

For all intents and purposes of this post, just go with me on the idea that nobody’s life is significantly worse than anyone else’s. We all just have our fair share of problems, there’s no “my horse is bigger than your horse” when it comes to sadness, insecurity, loss, pain or guilt.

I don’t want you to stress over whether or not the problems and hardships that trouble you the most are “important” enough, if they are worthy of a withdrawal from your life and responsibilities for whatever amount of time, or if you’re just overreacting and thinking too much about something that could be next to nothing – that’s got anxiety written all over it.

Just think about all the little things that you do for yourself and for others – the coolest thing you ever made on your own, the best performance you ever gave, the most difficult obstacle so far that you have overcome, the most thoughtful thing you’ve done for someone you really care about, the time you told a really important truth despite your shaking hands and twisting stomach, the time you brightened a stranger’s day, the most selfless act you’ve ever committed – that enable you to believe that despite your mistakes, the sadness, the insecurity, the loss the pain the guilt, you do some really amazing, wondrous stuff.

Next time you pass by the mirror on your way out the door to start your day, stop long enough to look yourself in the eye and remind yourself that you are proud of you for doing the best that you can with the hand you’ve been dealt.

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A letter to my future self:

I hope you have continued to make yourself proud of all that you’ve done and all that you’ve learned along the way. I hope you are surrounded by people you would do anything for and who would do the same for you, and I hope that you still call mom and dad pretty often just to check in.

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I hope you still overanalyze song lyrics and their relevance to your life, and I hope your book of inside jokes has grown immensely. I hope you still use your sassy, quick wit and I hope you still find so much joy in making others smile. I hope you still love movies and boy bands and graphic tees with high tops.

I never want you to forget what it felt like to experience certain things for the first time, especially the firsts that college brought to you. Those years are such a significant time of personal development and discovery. Don’t forget how it felt to get your first D on an exam, the time you fell in and out of a classic college love story, the day your opinion editor first emailed you saying you’d make a great addition to the desk, the night you were selected to take over as editor when he graduated in the spring before you, and when you finally got the chance to be with the love of your life, things like that, both really small and really big, are important to remember. They mattered when they happened and they made you feel all different kinds of “alive.” Don’t forget your triumphs and your challenges, no matter how fleeting they seem.

Don’t forget to someday show your kids all of your mom’s favorite rock and roll songs from the 80s, don’t forget to tell them all the stories that your dad told to you before bedtime when you were young, tell them about your brothers and what they taught you about punk rock and living a worthwhile life, and make sure they read a life-changing book every once in a while.

mage uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

mage uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

Just remember who you are right now, how excited, creative, optimistic and strong you are. Someday you might start to forget those feelings, someday when life seems a little harder because you have a few more years behind you and your golden years – 17, 18, 19 … all the way up through around 25 – have never seemed so far back. And yeah, maybe they will feel really far away eventually. But there are some days within those years that will always make you light up and smile whenever you think about them, no matter how far they seem. Those are good pieces of your past and who you were back then to hold on to.

There are a lot of things I could say to you – little words of caution or reminders that you were born to do something great – but I think it’s important to keep this short and simple, and let your life go where it drifts. You’ll find your way to the dreams that matter most, I just know it.

Take care of yourself<3

-H

“Don’t quit your daydream”

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No matter how badly you want something to happen in your life, sometimes the fact that it may take a while to come to fruition knocks a lot of people down. Time has a way of letting you lose sight of certain things, and people get tired of waiting around.

Those two factors sometimes cause us to give up on some of our dreams and forget that there is a perfect time for everything.

I know a lot of people who have given up their daydreams in favor of their practical goals because the latter seem easier to achieve and to be good at. I’ve heard a lot of sad stories, but the way I see it, selling yourself short on your dreams is among the saddest. CU Boulder ecology and evolutionary biology major Michael Procko realizes that time can certainly be an obstacle to overcome when trying to get to what you want most, but also that it’s up to us to make time for what matters most.

“Your life doesn’t have to be so linear,” he said. “You don’t have pick just one [goal]. I know that sounds like it might be a lot of work and that you don’t have enough time to dedicate, but if it’s something you want to do, you’ll make time.”

Sometimes the perfect time happens to be right now. You’ve got a relatively short, sudden window to make your move and make it big. Usually when this happens though, you’re ready for it. It was meant to be. Luck favors the prepared and fortune favors the brave.

Sometimes the perfect time is a few years down the road, when you’ve had time to experience important and impactful things in your life and be a part of those kinds of experiences for others that you are close to. This was true for me throughout my various music endeavors and attempts to make something of myself through them. I started recording when I was in high school but the songs I wrote just didn’t say enough. I didn’t have enough powerful experiences to convey to others in a song and I wasn’t able to do justice to the few good ideas I did have because my writing style was still changing and growing. Now, six years later I’m back in the studio with lyrics that carry the glorious weight of relevance and certain understandings of the human condition, and everything is moving in the right direction because I was patient and took my chance when I felt I was finally ready.

I hate the phrase “good things come to those who wait,” because what does waiting mean? To me, it sounds passive in the given context; like if you just wait around patiently, someday a bright future will suddenly bestow itself upon you and boom, you’re ready to go. Sorry but no, that’s not how it works. Obviously I agree that sometimes you do have to wait for your chance, otherwise sharing my experiences of trying to make it in the music world would have been irrelevant. But you have to wait actively, you still have to do stuff and accomplish smaller steps while you’re waiting for the big picture to fall into place.

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Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

It’s like a puzzle, you’ve got all these pieces that you know fit together somehow but if you just sit there waiting to see the finished product, you’ll get nothing but wasted time and disappointment. You have to put it together, piece by piece, until you can see the bigger vision. Another thing about puzzles is that sometimes people get frustrated, bored and impatient in the middle of it all. Puzzles (the big kid kind, I’m talking over 300 pieces) are difficult, and you know what? So is accomplishing your goals and figuring out how to make your dreams a reality. But CSU international studies major and occasional co-author of this blog, Emma Drury, says that’s no reason to give up.

“Things become your dreams for a reason and if you give up on them for the sake of them being too hard, then you don’t deserve them to be your dreams,” she said. “Dreams are supposed to challenge us and [achieving them] is our reward for hard work and perseverance.”

Sometimes, though, unfortunately the perfect time for a dream to come to fruition turns out to be never. It’s hard when this is the case but it happens to everyone. There is always at least one thing that we wish would happen or we wish we were really good at, but it’s just not meant to be. The important thing to remember is that it is probably for the best. You won’t always know right away the reason you have been denied a dream that really mattered to you, but more often than not it is a blessing in disguise. It’s clearing space for something else to bloom, something better.

Because we all need a healthy dose of motherly advice from time to time, here is what my mom, Louann McGill, had to say on the subject of holding onto your daydream.

“Your dream is yours for a reason,” she said. “Your gifts and talents are yours alone to equip you and prepare you to see your dream to fruition. It might happen, it might not. But the journey of self-discovery and the freedom to look fear in the face and stare it down in order to embrace and receive what belongs to you is yours. If not you, then who?”

Your path may wind and you might end up having to rethink how you are going to get there, to your dream. You’re going to lose your sense of direction every now and again, but in the words of J. R. R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

The glory years

Photo credit: Yvonne Min Photography.

Photo credit: Yvonne Min Photography.

College is supposed to both destroy and create your sense of “home.”

You’re supposed to get lost, you’re supposed to fail. You’re supposed to be proud of who you are, and you’re supposed to wish that you were anyone else sometimes. You’re supposed to mess up and not always know exactly how to fix it, and you’re supposed to wonder if anything will ever be okay again once in a while.

They always say that college is the best time of our lives. Yes, I think maybe this is true, but they are also undeniably some of the hardest times of our lives, too. They just forget to mention that little tidbit when reminiscing about the glory years. That’s okay, though, because it is a time for enormous personal growth, and if we were told how challenging it was going to be before signing up, would we still go? Still go to test yourself, to watch yourself find all the wrong ways to be successful? Hopefully the answer is “yes.” Hopefully you know that he road to success, as cheesy as it sounds, is never an easy one. But it’s sure as hell worth it.

From all the “oh sh*t, what was I thinking” moments to the moments that make you say “wow, how did I pull that one off,” college is truly a time of trial and error. The amount of growth that occurs in a four-year span, whether you realize it or not, is something to be cherished, and that is why the “glory years” have the positive reputation that they do: not for all the hard times you endure, but how you eventually triumph on the other side.

I hope you look back on your college experience as a whole so far with more contentment and pride than disappointment. I hope you feel tiny little pieces of all the really important stuff that has happened still resonate within you. I hope you learned a lot about who you are and who you’re not.

I hope you look back and just see so much life in those years. The glory years. I hope at the end of it all, you feel that it was worth it.

Co-authored by Emma Drury and Haleigh McGill.

The Dignity Box

FullSizeRender

(Photo credit: Haleigh McGill)

My best friend, Emma, and I have this thing called the Dignity Box.

She made it for me for my birthday last October; a light brown cardboard box covered in hand-drawn zentangles, constellations and a few inside jokes. We put stuff in it that reminds us of hilarious, disastrous and just straight up wtf moments we’ve encountered and been through together.

It reminds us of the times we both lost and found pieces of our dignity, which is sometimes comical and other times heartbreaking.

I think it’s good to keep tangible parts of memories safe somewhere; they’re nice to look back on with the person you shared them with. Whenever Emma and I feel it’s time to open the Box, we find that perfect balance of happy tears and sad tears that pool into tiny puddles of glowing nostalgia and contentment.

The Box is a good reminder of all the laughs and the rough patches that smoothed our violent edges into brilliant diamonds.

Maybe magic isn’t real but the Box is pretty close. It can help hold people together when stuff gets really hard.

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Created by Haleigh McGill.

There are a lot of ways to preserve memories and I would suggest using some of them. You and those who have pieces of their lives within those memories will be happy it’s around to look back on in the future.

Your story in writing 

Writing is one of the most therapeutic ways of releasing stress, pain and sadness, and I don’t just believe that because I’m a writer.

Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

It’s so personal and in some ways rather incredible to see your words, your thoughts, your heart spilled over the pages that are important parts of your story.

After the basic composition classes, creative writing classes and the classes that taught me how to write like a journalist that I have taken, the most important thing I have learned from all of the above is to write in a way that makes you feel like what you have to say matters.

Even if you feel like you suck at it or that whatever you write will sound stupid, just try it anyway. You could surprise yourself, and in the words of To Write Love On Her Arms Founder Jamie Tworkowski, “Hope tends to come in the form of surprises.”

Just let everything out. The paper can take the weight of your world, the pen can handle the stress of your heavy-handed desperation to put it all to rest. Write about the things that kill you but don’t forget to write about what makes you feel most wonderfully alive.

Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

Write about the people who have burned you but also those who opened your mind. Write about the places you hope to see and the places you may never see again. Write about what it feels like to do something or be with someone that you are just crazy about. Write about what it’s like to feel really lost, and then someday soon, when you get to wherever you are going, write about what it feels like to be inexplicably found.

Now, there’s a story.

My social life is a living room

My social life is a living room, near the front door of a house, with a couch and chairs and floor space to accommodate for backflips and cartwheels. There’s a coffee table, two end tables with matching  lamps framing the couch and the walls are covered in memories and friends, old and new.

I hope you imagined a specific living room, or some variation of one. Familiarity is important here.

My place is on the left side of the couch if you’re looking at it from the front door, and the only other person on the couch next to me is my best friend, Emma.

People are constantly moving in and out, weaving through mazes that go on for days, months, years.
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Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

It’s kind of like a party, in that it’s fun a lot of the time and there are a lot of different people to talk to and make friends with. There are always new people coming in.The troubling part of this, as with any party, is that a lot of people leave. Some leave late, some leave too early and it’s rare that someone doesn’t leave at all. But that’s what growing up is in a lot of ways: learning to find your place in that flow and resisting the urge to fight the universe and what it’s doing to (for) you. I learned that lesson less than gracefully but I’m there now, I get it.

There are people who come in and niceties are exchanged and then they’re out the door. They could be old friends who happened to be passing by, or people you barely know yet and maybe don’t care to.

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Image uploaded to WeHeartIt.com.

There are people who come in and happily plop down onto the floor with wide eyes and lipstick on-point, ready to take selfies and gossip and take shots; things that are fun in small doses. Eventually, hard to say when, one of us gets fed up and they’re gone.

There are people who come in and take their place in the chairs across from the couch, poised, confident and charming. They’re good friends and good company, and a lot of times I wish they had stayed a little longer. It’s hard to tell with them, sometimes things just don’t work out.

There are people who come in and join us on the couch, some sit next to me, some next to Emma and some sit in between us which causes an earthquake that no one else can feel. They’re cute and clever and say all the right things, but every once in a while the gold melts off our eyes and we only see wildfires.

Emma is always there, in that house on the couch with me. It’s just our spot. She’s the one who stays. Whether we’re pulling the “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” card, watching the time tick by in silence in the middle of everything, laughing until we’re in tears and feeling like we did the night our music was too loud while we drove down Titan parkway or just talking about the stuff that’s really amazing and the stuff that really hurts, we’re always there together.

Emma Drury and Haleigh McGill.

Emma Drury and Haleigh McGill.

And that’s why I’m okay with the people who leave, because I’ve always got one person to count on. And that’s more than a lot of people have.

That’s my point of this lengthy metaphor: I hope you have that one person who is your rock, someone who you can run to and who will always look to run to you when things get messy. Someone who will be on that couch with you watching that party from afar, or going with you right into the middle of it.