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the year of the seed.

 the 90's were so good to me.

the 90's were so good to me.

i had a cute birthday post idea: to write out twenty-seven lessons i've learned in this very hard and unexpected year. i thought it would be witty and deep and soft to the touch, and it would be the perfect night cap to my birthday. you all would read it and be filled to the brim with insight and inspiration. 

but amidst the faithful friends who reached out and the sweet family that surrounded me and the reflection and creativity i've been swimming in all week, i couldn't really get past the first two lessons. i'm rarely short on words -- words are kind of my life --  but here i am, staring at computer screen, waiting for the cute witty things to start flowing from my fingertips...and i've still just got these two. they sum up so much of where i'm at, that i think i will leave them alone. so, i leave you with my two lessons, along with my word for the year: seed, coming from a favorite quote that is currently stuck in my heart (and soon to be tattooed on my shoulder, stay tuned.):


"they tried to bury me, they didn't know i was a seed." // mexican proverb

~~~

lessons from my twenty-seventh year.

  1. i am more fragile than i tell people i am -- at the end of most days, i just wish that they would remember i'm just a person with feelings and insecurities and tender places. 
  2. i was given this life because i am strong enough to live it -- even when i don't believe myself to be very strong at all. 

uphill battle, i look good when i climb.

minimalism-table-red-tomato-shadow-background-wallpaper-1the first person to ever tell me i had leadership potential was mr. muldoon. he was my history teacher in high school -- maybe my junior year? he looked like colonel sanders with a jolly face and wide-brimmed glasses and the sweetest grandpa-like demeanor. i don't think i got an A in his class because, well, history is really detailed and i was more of a big-vision-person in high school. but i liked him so much and i looked forward to every class i had with him, particularly when he would hand back our tests or papers. no matter my grade, he would always write the same thing: "keep trying :)" shortly before the end of the year i was staying after class to work on revising a test i had failed (WHAT THE HELL, HISTORY, Y  U  SO COMPLICATED) and mr. muldoon was full of grace and kindness and jokes. he didn't make me feel stupid for not knowing the answers, but asked me good questions and helped me along the way to those answers. he did not judge or reject; he just listened and helped. i used to wonder if he wished i was smarter at history or paid more attention in class, but on this particular day i was feeling extra sensitive -- so i made some flippant comment about how dumb i was. then he dropped this bomb on me:

"Rachel - never lose your zest or zeal for life. it is contagious and you will lead people with it. maybe history isn't your thing because you're filled to the brim with zest and zeal; that's not a bad thing."

i held onto that promise for like, ever. i repeat it in my head sometimes and i'd be lying if i said i've never written it on my bathroom mirror. zest and zeal. lead people.

---

i've never had hatred like i've experienced in the last few months. for people who have wronged me, for people who think they did the right thing, for people who love me so much but messed up so badly and hurt me so deeply. i harbor such bitterness for the malicious acts of strangers who didn't listen to my story, for the support people who turned their backs, for the people along the way who reached out once just to get the juicy gossip and then never called me again. i'm filled with hatred, with anger, with bitterness.

and i am so sick of it.

i don't know if it's my new job or this article i read or the sweet little tomato that sprouted in my garden this week, but something feels different. maybe i realized that the more hatred and bitterness i have within me, the less room i have for zest and zeal. maybe i realized that 2015 is far from over, and i can't quite write it off yet. maybe i realized there is just so much left for me to create in the world, so many more stories to tell, so many more people to love.

so i'm done. at least i'm going to try to be done. i'm done wasting energy and tears on people who don't even think twice about me. sometimes the bad guys win -- that's just the way the world works, whether we want to admit it or not. all i can control is myself, and it's about time i start to do me again.

so maybe it's just that i'm having a good day or i was around creative souls last night or my medicine is working overtime, or i truly just can't quit the idea of making mr. muldoon proud -- but this is my new refrain, my fight song, my reprise.

now if you'll excuse me, i have some tomatoes to harvest.*

 

(*alternate ending: no time for haterz, got too many tomaterz.)

not that kind of gala.

"stems face to the right, throw away anything you wouldn't buy, and be done quick." simple instructions, short sentences, impatient glares. got it.

i have this new job and it's off-the-charts glamorous. ok ok, i don't hate it. but it isn't my calling, at least not in this way. i worked my ass off for years in jobs like this one just so i could one day avoid having to work another job like this one. but here i am all the same, in a job like this one, with scheduled breaks and meals alone and slip-resistant shoes, and everything i thought i'd be doing at twenty seven feels like a distant memory. i cried in my car after every shift for a week straight because i feel so very low, so very defeated, so very humiliated. this job makes my everything hurt. get a master's degree, they said. it'll get you places, they said.

every box of apples weighs approximately three thousand pounds. i open it and start to do my apple duty, which i will have to do again in like an hour because apples go quick. i grumble inside my head during pretty much every task at this new job. i have hot tears behind my eyes because i don't want to be here, i don't want to be doing this. there's nothing to learn here except good old fashioned elbow grease, and i think i already paid my dues. i scraped green olives off bar floors for three years wondering if there was more to life, and now these apples are my green olives from yesteryear.

i lay a whole box of pink lady apples before i realized i was in the gala apples section. as i place the last one in a perfect row, i hear "wrong section? happens to everyone. and stems are to the right, remember." yes, yes. to the right. gala with gala. pink lady with pink lady. i rearrange them all and try to make conversation with Impatient Glare Man. he warms up eventually and i try to stay on his good side so that he'll  smile more, or at least glare less. as i am mentally patting myself on the back for being able to charm the shit out of anyone, i drop an apple. DROP IT. like my hands are made of butter! and -- get this -- it actually split in half. right down the middle! besides box-cutting a beer in half (you bet i did), this was the second mistake i had made so far. a brand new apple, ruined.

"eh, don't worry about it," he picked it up for me and started to take it to the trash. "you know, it's weird. the strongest apples are always the ones that break when they fall." and he walked away.

and all i could think was HOLY SHIT I'M THE APPLE. I'M THE FUCKING APPLE.

and then i was like, NO WAY. are you seriously going to pick this moment, this exact place and time to teach me something,?!?? right here, in my grocery-stocking, uniform-wearing, hourly-wage job??!!

and Universe was like YEAH GIRL I GOTCHU.

so somewhere between this very random apple analogy and my very much-need epsom salt bath, i think i have my first truth. that's what they say will get me through this season, small, real, profound truths. so, my truth:

i am incredibly strong.

i am incredibly prone to breaking when i fall. 

both statements are true. and neither one could exist in me without the other.

my secret mentor, Cheryl Strayed wrote the best book you will ever read and tonight in my bath, i read this: "coal mining is hard. but do you think coal miners stand around all day and talk about how hard mining is? no. they do not. they simply dig."

so i'm digging. admitting that i am susceptible to breaking, but that it doesn't change my strength, because maybe you have to be strong enough to break. i'm allowing myself to feel all the feels, but reminding myself to simply continue to dig. and yes, i have a freaking trader joe's to thank for this truth. more specifically, Impatient Glare Man, who i hope never reads this. the monotonous task of displaying apples got me a little bit further tonight. the Universe grabbed my shovel and said, let me dig for a second here, i think i found something. and? i have a truth. and that's enough for me tonight.

500 days of [reality]

i think we all fantasize about our lives being portrayed in a movie one day, in a full-length feature film where people laugh, cry, and leave the theatre inspired to be a better human or something. and if you don't fantasize about this, you just gotta know that i do. i mean, i also walk around convinced my life is 'the truman show', but that's mainly because of the weird dramatic twists and turns it has taken and the strange amount of times i feel like people are following me around. but, i digress. in this movie of my life, i imagine someone strong and charming and kind of quirky playing the lead role. like, someone with Olivia Pope's bad-ass attitude, Amy Poehler's charm and humor, and Blake Lively's hair and boobs (it's MY movie, okay??). i know i've only lived 27 years so maybe there isn't a lot of material quite yet, but i do think about this movie a lot. it makes me feel like the things that happen are significant somehow, and that i have a lot of time left to make an impact.

currently, however, i think i am in one of those montage scenes. there's a cute song playing, something by Sara Bareilles or Ingrid Michaelson. oooh, or maybe they would write me a duet that would debut in this movie?? (again, it's MY movie) there are all these clips of me filling out job applications while wearing cute glasses and a slightly-off-center-messy-bun. i sit in a coffee shop and type away at my resume and a group of tween girls would giggle and gawk at me because i look so grown up. there are scenes of me walking the streets drinking cold-pressed juice and taking time to look up at the sky and just breathe. i would have cute bangs (never been able to rock them IRL) and an endless amount of money to buy lattes, even though there's no job to pay me. you'd see me getting drinks with friends and reading at the beach and by the end of the montage i would look more real, more put-together, more whole. and after 10 minutes of this nonsense, i'd have a job! and a new apartment! and friends! and a life! and meaning!

ok ok so clearly this montage thing is crap. i mean, does anyone's life work like that?! no. and if yours does, can i take whatever pill you take that makes you skip through the hard parts and get right to the better parts?? i don't even like cold-pressed juice. the only time i tried to, it cost $9 and tasted like ass so i threw it away and got chik-fil-a breakfast. come to think of it, my montage would actually just be different scenes of me eating junk food and stealing free wifi in public. anyway...

the real-life in-between stages are painful and boring and long and slow. but i'm learning that this isn't necessarily just a phase, it's me figuring out my new normal, my new reality. above anything else, i just feel really lonely and i'm trying to squeeze into it gently. someone told me recently that losing your job can be like losing a member of the family -- it is so true. a job that i gave my whole heart and all my evening hours and extra thoughts to is now gone. it is such a tough pill to swallow most days. i have tried to set boundaries, which doesn't make sense to some people but i guess i just have to get over that. i do a lot of things all by myself, my least favorite way to do things. i have tried to convince myself to do laundry for the last four days, but i can't seem to find enough reasons to have clean clothes. i apply for all kinds of jobs, everything from the kinds i am probably not qualified for, to the kinds that ask for the name of my high school. and i just...wait.

it's shameful to talk about how i feel, especially because all my emotions are kind of depressing. i struggle every day with this question: is it better to feign happiness so i don't make people uncomfortable around me? or is it better to just be myself, and risk the people not wanting to be around me at all? for some reason, it always comes back to this for me: i would rather be unequivocally myself, as sad and lonely and frustrated as i am currently and be rejected for that, than to be accepted for something i am not. i am not fake, i've never been good at it. i am too real sometimes, too much of myself. and it might cost me certain friendships or my place in certain circles. this process, it's hard. it's long. it's lonely. so here i am writing about it on some little corner of the internet that i've called mine for a few years because that brings me a strange sense of progress, like i'm making an impact. even if it's just for me, i can deal with that.

i don't feel like Olivia Pope most days, but someone wise recently told me that just because you don't always feel brave, it doesn't mean it isn't there. it's like this little stone in my pocket that i always carry around. sometimes i feel it shifting against me, reminding me of its presence. other times i am searching in every box and purse and drawer to try and remember where i put it, only to find it right where i left it; with me, in my pocket, at all times.

so, maybe this is just for me today. maybe i am the only one who feels less than brave, less than perfect, less than normal. but in case that's you, too, please know this: we are so much braver than we give ourselves credit for. and no offense to the talented actors of the world, but montages are for the sissies. skipping through the hard stuff is for the weak ones, and i do not want to be a weak one. i want calluses on my hands and sweat on my brow to show i've worked hard and kneaded through the tough stuff, even when it all feels like tough stuff.

i still would really like to be able to rock bangs, though. and have spontaneous dance scenes erupt around me as i walk to work. #lifegoals

 

spontaneous-dance-scenes-film_500-days-of-summer

is anybody out there?

i used to send screenshots of my calendar to my friends with a "LOLLZ SO BUSY I COULD DIE" comment or two. i filled my every hour with meetings and coffee dates and homework and errands. it was all scheduled out, like most working adults, because there just aren't enough hours in the day, amiright? i loved the busy days -- tuesdays were my favorite. they always started with an early coffee and ended with late night laughs from students who gathered on my couches and left their trash and drank hot tea. and between those bookends, i squeezed as much productivity in between as i possibly could. okay, sometimes i would take a nap in the afternoon, but it was always just to prepare myself for the late night laughter. i was busy a lot and i loved it. as in, if there was a day with a lot of blank space on my calendar, i would fill it up on purpose. i always had something to do or someone to be with. life makes sense for me when it's busy. i feel like i have a purpose, like i'm needed, like i mean something. the busy ended a lot sooner than i would have dreamed. in its wake it has left a lot of hopelessness, anxiety, and - if i'm honest - a deeper sadness than i have ever known. my days are less busy, my hours are less full. i drink less coffee because i get more sleep and that is not a good thing in my book. i check my phone every hour and remember what i normally did at this time, just three weeks ago. sometimes it makes me glad i don't have to sit through another bullshit meeting. other times i could cry realizing i don't get to sit on my couch with them anymore, at least not in the same way. i scroll through the pictures of the life i used to have and my emotions are a strange mix of jealousy and anger and quiet sadness. i bottle it up and store it on my bedside table and wait for the perfect moment to let the shit hit the fan because i'm super healthy like that. my therapist told me to keep a gratitude journal or go for a drive instead -- but this is the closest thing i have to a journal right now because my whole life is packed up.  so here i am, to let this shit out. not for you, not for anyone else, but really just for me. and my poor, sweet, innocent therapist. god she's the best.

things that i have learned/have been confirmed since being unemployed:

1. i suck at being alone.

2. instagram is literally the worst. comparison, jealousy, ignorance, passive aggression, and hunger are the only things i see/feel when i scroll and i'm over it.

3. my need to feel busy is synonymous with my need to feel purposeful. i want my life to matter.

4. three hours with a toddler is still really hard for me.

5. my laptop in a coffee shop can only keep me company for so long before i go basically insane. i've told my life story to at least twelve strangers this week and i don't even feel weird about it.

6. adventure fuels my fire. spontaneity is my drug of choice.

7. amy poehler is the best medicine always forever amen.

8. i should blog more.

9. cops don't care that you just lost your job. the WILL still give you a ticket and they WILL be mean and you WILL see them in court because i don't watch Scandal for nothing, Officer Neadles!!!!!!

10. i have the bestest friends + home team in the whole world. reminds me of this quote: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri Nouwen

in conclusion: don't ask anyone but me for details about what happened because it's like effing TMZ out there; don't ask me what's next because i have no clue. except that i'm running away to a beach in Australia for two weeks and I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED SO BYE AMERICA; don't take my sarcastic and pithy blog posts/texts/instagram captions as meaning anything other than i am doing the best with what i am working with and you just have to be okay with that or GTFO.

"set your life on fire; seek those who fan your flames." -Rumi.

RUMI JUST GETS ME OKAY.

moments.

every time i sit down to tell this little corner of the world what it is i love the most, i feel like i'm saying what i've said a million times before. and then i second-guess my choice of words, and i think that maybe people only think of the way my words annoy them, or maybe they just don't get it and move on to read the words of men and women more famous or profound than someone like me. i think i'm forgotten or ignored, which is the most painful feeling to feel. every time i sit down to think about why i am where i am, my mind is flooded with the stories that all happened before this one. i think of the whining and complaining i did to get here, and i think about all the missteps i took, all the signs i read wrong, all the backtracking i did. and i think that people are judging me for the perfection i lack, when really i just feel like i wasn't taught any better.

every time i sit down to plan what's next for me, i am amazed at the dreams my heart can come up with. the feeling of "more" is so large in this room, it could drown me. and it makes me think of the stories i want to tell my kids and my neighbors and my brothers about my life. i think of the speech my best friends gave at my wedding, the one that mentioned how they saw in me a desire for more, for bigger, for better. and i think of how there's nothing better than being known so thoroughly.

every time i sit down to take stock of what's going on in my heart and my life and my world, i think of stories. i think of the student leaders who let me in our their journey of discovering who they are and who they're meant to be in the world. i think of the 18 year olds who sit in my office and tell me about the Lifetime movies that have been their lives. i think of the women who sit on my couch and stain my shoulders with their tears because broken hearts hurt like nothing else. i think of the moments i get to be a part of, i think of the words i get to share, i think of the laughter and the late nights and the ice cream and the long walks and the brave steps. and i think of the friends who make me better, who love me anyway, who fear no evil when i'm scared shitless.

every time i sit down to rest, i exhale. because this is enough, i am enough.

 

next. [from the archives]

When you graduate college, they tell you to anticipate the repeat of, “So do you have any idea what’s next?” for at least a year. At least, that’s what they told me. But several years later, I’m still hearing that question over and over. Sometimes, I even hear it in my own head. There isn’t a book called “Next” that you receive in the mail along with your diploma. You can’t Google “what should I do with my life?” and expect a personalized answer. They don’t make a Next pill that introduces new concepts to your brain, and you can’t even follow anyone else’s Next because it’s usually starkly different than what you want your Next to be.

And yet, our culture is obsessed with this four-letter-word.

“So, do you have any idea what’s next?”

I worked as a bartender in Pasadena, CA for two years after I graduated college. Yep, I used my liberal arts degree to mix vodka-tonics and scrape green olives off the floor. In many ways, I loved that season. But approximately 300 times a day, some semi-intoxicated patron would ask me, “so what are you going to do with your degree?” I would always half-smile and say, “This!” And their look of pity was equal parts entertaining and nauseating.

When I finally figured out what was next – an entry level job at a higher education institution – I felt like a champion. Like I was crossing a finish line with a number pinned to my chest and an ice cold Gatorade waiting for me. I moved across the country to a state I’ve never lived in, and entered my new chapter with a nerd smile. “Next, party of one!”

And on my first day, my new boss asked me, “So what’s next? Grad school?”

I kindly told him that I would love to revisit this conversation as soon as I unpacked from my cross-country-move 17 hours ago.

My empty left ring finger made for even more Next questions, especially once I started dating someone. “Is he ‘the one?’” “It seems like it’s getting serious…what’s next for you two? Do you think he’ll propose?”

Fourteen months later, my left ring finger was occupied and I put on my “I MADE IT TO NEXT” sash and waved to all the little people who believed in me. I finally got there. Next, population: ME.

But we’re getting married in 3 months, and my grandma has already asked me twice when we’ll be having babies. And everyone has asked how long we’re planning on staying in Dallas. And no one has made me feel like I’ve gotten anywhere; only that there’s more to get to and until I find Next, I won’t be happy.

Round and round goes the Next game. We are all guilty of inquiring about everyone else’s next chapter, next job, next exciting thing to talk about.

The worst is that it’s in my own mind. I’m always worrying about what will come next. Where we live, what I will do, when we should transition to another state, another job, another next. I think like a wife, when I’m still just me. So no, dear reader, I am not immune to this mindset of Next. Unfortunately, I’ve become obsessed with it.

I cried for months, longing for a job exactly like the one I have today. And now that I have it, I want something else. I don’t love the geography of where I live right now, and I miss home. So I want to go back to California next. Who knows if anything would even change if I got back there; I just know that every time I see palm tree pictures on Instagram, my heart aches in a deep place. And my mind stays there, in that place that I do not live, hoping that I can get there Next.

But what about Now?

I’ve been told that it’s important to be constantly aware of what season you’re in, spiritually speaking. I think there are seasons for Next, but I also think there are seasons for Now. And I’m currently longing to get back to Now. I’ve been so obsessed with Next (which I hear is pretty standard for an engaged woman) that I’ve forgotten Now. I’ve forgotten who I am presently, what I’m doing in this moment, and whose life I can impact today.

I miss Now, and I want to get back there.

My name is Rachel, and I am a Next addict. But I’m working on it.

in the end [we're all the same.]

i always tell people that my favorite movie is the breakfast club. if you haven't seen it, drop everything and watch it right. this. minute. if you have seen it, then you know i mean "favorite movie" in the sense that lucky boys is my "favorite breakfast burrito place" -- everything about it is perfect, but it's not something i could do every day unless i want to end up fat and miserable. the film doesn't make me fat, but any time i hear the first few strums in that simple minds song, i'm pretty much already ugly-crying. the breakfast club is on a long list of movies my dad made me watch because "he swore they were awesome". some others on this list included: fargo (literally what is happening), brazil (the title makes no sense), and soylent green (i just can't). so imagine my eye-roll when my dad carved out time in his day to show me yet another movie. (mind you, this is before smartphones could silently entertain teenagers while they're parents tried to hang out with them.) well i can tell you that i was proven wrong that day; my dad had picked a winner. within minutes i was sold to the story of the brain, the athlete, the basketcase, the princess, and the criminal. the lives of five high school students -- all from very different worlds -- intersected on a saturday morning spent serving time at the mercy of their principal for crimes they committed against the humanity of secondary education. john hughes' gift of story-writing just comes alive in this film, and i am better because i have seen it.

i have a framed picture of these five individuals that i've long kept in my office, with a david bowie quote from the beginning of the movie: "and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, they are immune to your consultations. they are quite aware of what they are going through."  i keep this picture in plain view, in an attempt to continually remind myself of the very potent truth the film portrays: there is a deep, real, raw level of humanness that we all possess. when we are most vulnerable, most exposed, and most honest, we all quietly admit that we just want to be accepted, loved, enough. we want to be acknowledged and believed in, and reminded that we are not alone in this thing.

when i have hard conversations with college students who have made terrible mistakes, i keep this picture in mind. i see it when i sit on my couch with young women who trust me with the deepest corners of their hearts, when i mediate conversations between co-workers who are fighting because life is just so messy sometimes. i think of it when i feel the resistance of students who hate me for enforcing the rules they agreed to follow, when they lie through their teeth even though they know i only ask questions i already know the answers to. i remember their humanness and i keep it mind as i figure out a way to encourage them along to the answers.  i constantly try to remember that they have their whole heart in this thing and they are all just trying to make it, experiencing their own stretching and growing as their lives intersect with others. these years are hard and gross and long and yet sacred and fragrant, and wonderfully, impossibly short. i think of their unstable identities and misguided momentum every time i walk back in through the doors of this home of mine. i wish they could see me carefully craft together their discipline letters, where all i want is to help them. i know it's hard. i think of them, i do. and it makes me treat them better, speak more tenderly, listen more fully.

and sometimes i am confronted with my own raw humanness. there are moments where i am most vulnerable, most exposed, and most honest. it is in those moments i remember that i, too, just want to be accepted, loved, and enough. i am just like them, lost and trying to figure it out. i am just like them, with an insatiable thirst for a more wild and colorful life. i am just like them, amazed that sometimes, despite my best and most authentic efforts, i have disappointed them. i have proven my finite humanness and limitations. and those moments hurt like hell.

however, in my five years of working and living amongst college students, i have found that there is nothing sweeter than these moments. the moments of saying all the goodbyes, reading all the notes, and having nothing else to do except cry hot tears in the parking lot of trader joes because i'm just going to miss them so much. or the moments of feeling so simultaneously loved and uplifted and yet so betrayed and misunderstood that i am rendered speechless and laying on my bathroom floor. it is in those moments that i feel like i can't wait to do another year of this but also i want to quit right now so i can rid myself of all these feelings. it is in those moments that i understand these students all the more. i get it. i am no different than any of you. my heart is fully in this thing, and it sucks. and it's awesome. but it sucks.

i'm self-aware enough to know that i have a lot more years behind me than i do ahead of me in this crazy weird work that i do. and whatever is next will, i'm sure, take up a lot of my words in this tiny internet corner. but for now, i rest in the fact that of all the millions of things that separate all of us from each other, there is a real, tactile, beautiful thing that binds us that we cannot deny; our humanness. i think keeping that in mind may just help us treat each other a little bit better.

 

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and then there was me.

every year at about this time for the last few years, i have so many feels. i feel so happy to have spent the last nine months with incredible students. i had the most perfect staff i could have asked for in my homecoming year at APU. i feel so sad that this season is ending and in a lot of ways i feel like i'm getting dumped so i want to eat lots of ice cream. i also feel so excited for the next season each of them is stepping into. i feel so proud of the growth and passion each one has exemplified. i feel so encouraged by the ways they have made much of Jesus this year. i am better now than i was, and i could do this whole thing all over again and still want more. ---

i have a friend who loves plants, and in her modest los angeles apartment she has a few hanging plants. while i joked that her living room looked like a jungle, she told me a story about these plants. she said that she tried to trim the hanging vines but shortly after doing so, the vines doubled and tripled and grew even longer than before. the pruning makes them grow, she said. it's almost uncontrollable.

and as i think back on this year and reflect on the situations that i found myself in, i kind of feel like that. i see the vines that needed to be pruned. i see the ways i thought i was the best i'd ever be, and was swiftly reminded i am but a work in progress and Jesus is nowhere near through with me yet. i see the times where my vines were cut off at the root and then drenched in holy water so i could grow. and oh Lord did i grow. i kind of feel so much like that plant in my friend's living room.

---

in case i haven't said so publicly enough yet, college students are my jam -- i am so richly blessed to have lived life alongside some of the world's greatest this year. i am so unworthy of the joy i've experienced. the broken and tear-filled conversations chiseled away at my being. the laughter and inside jokes and ridiculous amount of text messages filled me up with those intangible perfect experiences that keep our souls afloat. i am thankful for the ways Jesus showed up this year: in floods and fire-alarms and talent shows and study sessions and early mornings and late nights and coffee cups and fritata plates and all the most unexpected places because that's the kind of God we serve. he takes the mundane and blows our minds with it -- reminding me that he deserves all the glory and i'm just along for the ride. i hope i never forget what it feels like to be so in love with my work  and the people i get to meet because of it. i wish i could share my feels with everyone in the world. this group of humans has my heart.

 

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[trinitot appreciation]

to conclude RA appreciation week, i am dedicating a page of one of my most sacred spaces to my sweet RAs, the eleven humans i have been blessed to supervise this year. i couldn't have asked for a better staff for my homecoming year at APU and i am so grateful for all the things i learn from them! i'd like to use my words, my favorite tool, to introduce you to them: Beau: my neighbor and the best person to be Number Four In Command, officially. when i met Beau he was excited to see me, really loud and forward, the first to laugh at his jokes...and not much as changed since.  Beau looks at the world and is just grateful to God in the way he speaks and acts and lives. his zest and zeal for life inspire me to enjoy the simple moments of life in a way that celebrates experiences and people. Beau teaches me that life is meant to be enjoyed, how to tell awkward jokes, and to pursue passion and truth in every day life.

Brian: continuing on the legacy of  the first south brotherhood is everyone's favorite Brian. he will probably pretend he thinks this is lame but secretly he'll think it's touching. or actually maybe he really will think it's lame. i may never know. what i do know is that Brian is a person of integrity who is wise beyond his years (even though he's REALLY old). Brian teaches me to look at situations from a different angle, which i so appreciate as a leader. he teaches me to have an adventurous spirit and to never say no. Brian leads his residents in ways that i believe will impact them for their entire time at APU and trinity is so, so lucky to have him.

Micah: even though Micah has been fired more times than i can keep track of, he has impacted me greatly. Micah loves people so well, it almost makes you mad. he teaches me about vulnerability, authenticity, and childlike faith. he loves Jesus like crazy in ways that show me how exciting life can be when it's built on a trust that God always provides. Micah reminds me how to be goofy in a way that beckons people so that they feel welcome. we are so blessed every time he walks in, grabs an ice cream sandwich from our freezer and plops down on the cough to tell us about his day. he teaches me to slow down in life and enjoy people all day long. he makes me laugh and he embraces growth and pursues wisdom. but he's still fired.

Trent: i knew from the moment i met Trent how deeply he wanted to be an RA. there is no way he knew exactly what it would entail but he has persevered through it all, despite hell or high water...literally. Trent teaches me about God's new mercies and unending desire to grow us. he teaches me to embrace people and celebrate them for who they are. Trent loves his guys in obvious ways, and they clearly love him back -- such a sign of a deep connection. Trent isn't afraid of expressing his heart no matter how big -- or loud -- that is. :) he is creative and passionate and dives right in and i am grateful to have him in trinity this year.

Hannah: my quirky and adventurous lover of life Hannah. Hannah has the best sayings, the best use of emojis, and the best style. she is kind and warm in a i'm-so-cute-because-i'm-southern-yall way, and i love her spontaneous spirit. Hannah teaches me how to embrace the new, celebrate the awkward, and learn from the bad. she shows me how to love people right where they're at, despite what anyone else thinks. she has fostered a community that loves each other well and it is no doubt they follow her example. she is wise and gentle as she approaches the world and i want to be more like that. the girl's got a wide-eyed-wonder type of outlook on life and to know her is such a joy.

Michelle: i can't talk about Michelle without cracking up and clapping my hands. Michelle is a dynamic leader with incredible wisdom, and one of the funniest people you'll ever meet. she is so intentional with people and so naturally gifted at loving everyone and she inspires me to do that better. Michelle teaches me that adversity does not mean failure, it means perseverance. she is so hard-working and so smart, i wish i could go back in time and do college again with Michelle as my life tutor. she cares so deeply about loving her residents, it evokes so much emotion in my heart. she loves this job like crazy, and she is a dream RA for any RD to supervise.

Cori: as a fourth north alumna, i am honored that the legacy has been entrusted into such wonderful hands. Cori is just the epitome of student leader -- she's got it all! wisdom and grace and maturity and kindness and joy. the fact that she replies to my i'm-sorry-i-triple-booked-our-one-on-one texts with "hakuna-matata" should tell you enough about what i learn from this rockstar. she teaches me to seek out lessons, to lead confidently, to call people out, and to choose joy. Cori is a conqueror and she is a confident daughter of the king and she knows exactly who she is all the time. i want to be more like Cori. she is my secret mentor. so secret she doesn't even know.

Evelyn: my Brazilian irma -- i knew from day one this girl was a kindred spirit. Evelyn is so incredibly intentional with people and experiences. she is finishing college before americans can order a drink and that makes me so incredible proud. Evelyn loves life and loves to laugh and is proud of who she is and i love that. Evelyn teaches me how to pursue deep connections over a cup of coffee, how to truly care about how people are doing, and how to process through the hard and yucky stuff. Evelyn is the stuff of dreams when it comes to RAs -- her girls are obviously very connected to her as she has reached out to them in meaningful ways. she teaches me how to keep people glued together and reminds to me include people who may be on the fringe. she does not forget, she is responsible, she is light and life.

Katie: my other other better half (after Jared and Robyn) and surely responsible for keeping me afloat this year. Katie keeps our staff focused and alive and laughing at every turn. Katie is creative and innovative and strong and fully capable of running the world. she teaches me about the depths of joy and the gravity of God's love and how to live into that. she is incredibly wise and mature and has wonderful discernment as she navigates the world. she is a humble servant leader with a dynamic skill-set and the ability to keep things awkwardly hilarious. she teaches me how to keep going, how to inspire others, how to wear onesies. i couldn't do this year without this girl and i will forever be thankful for her presence in my life.

Melody: there is no other woman alive who has packed as much life into a small package quite the way Mel has. this girl is the kind of girl everyone wanted to be growing up -- hilarious, adorable, edgy. she surfs, she wears cool sandals, she can talk to literally anyone. she is so chill i can't even handle how awesome it is to be around her. Mel teaches me how to go with the flow of life and let things slow down in order to appreciate it more. she shows me how to keep smiling and try and try again and how to accept and celebrate everyone. Mel is a truth-teller and a contemplative leader who listens well and laughs loudly. she makes me proud in the ways she grows constantly and finds adventure, whether she is in azusa or capetown.

Sara: fifth south was themed as "wisdom pursued" and there is no better way to summarzie Sara. this girl knows everything about everything and i secretly take notes after our one on ones so i can pretend to be smart too. i love her outlook on life and she reminds me that knowledge is unending and incredibly valuable. Sara is so strong and wise and continues to challenge herself and inspire others. she cares so deeply about impacting people and organizing experiences to help people grow and become more of who they are meant to be. she is high-achieving and so inspirational and i have no doubt God specifically ordained her to be an RA this year in this place.

with happy tears all over my face, i end this celebratory week with a grateful heart. i hope you all know how much you mean to me. i wish i could explain the way you inspire me; words fall short. i am so proud to know you all and to have done life together with you this year. <3

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little before [much.]

"whoever is faithful in little is also faithful in much." luke 16:10 i am in a season right now that i have often found myself in. antsy for what's next, what's coming, what might be better than this. i have a tendency to try to be ten steps ahead of what is happening in my life, never wanting to be surprised or caught off guard. i am an abstract and creative thinker by nature, so i dream big dreams and cast vision for myself -- which i think is good, of course. but i definitely get too caught up in it and find myself frustrated with what i have in front of me because i somehow decided it isn't good enough or sexy enough or challenging enough or whatever enough. and i get mad all over again, as if this current life i'm living wasn't a very big dream i had not even a year ago.

i was running the other night (i've mentioned that running surfaces all of my frustrations, yes?) and i was yelling at God in my head about how i felt like what i had wasn't what i wanted and how he, once again, was withholding his best from me and how dumb my life must look from the outside and why didn't he listen to my plan because i made a really good one up in my head. and i glanced up at this unbelievable sunset across my favorite southern california sky, and  i felt like i heard him say (with attitude, because that's how God and i roll): "why would you ever try to compete with my creativity? i made that sunset and it's different than every one i've ever made. i made the body you constantly criticize, and it's currently moving you to run countless miles. and i have an adventure planned for you that is wilder than your tiny brain could ever dream up. i created creativity itself, so i win at dreams and visions.  look at what you have in front of you. don't worry about the much that comes later. i've got it under control."

and i was like, yeah...yeah okay, God.

 

 

Southern20California

breaking up with [can't].

my shins felt like they were on fire when i heard her coming behind me. "rachel, you look great! nice work!"

she held up her hand for a high-five and i legitimately heard the *ding* of her white-tooth smile. if i wasn't so damn prideful i would have ignored it because i knew extending my arm would probably throw off my balance. instead, i faked a smile and returned the gesture so she wouldn't know i was drafting up my will in my head because i knew the end was near.

why is she so happy? and why is she lying to me about looking great?

let's get something straight: i don't like happy runners. they freak me out. they scream inspirational phrases while they run a 7 minute mile and talk about lean proteins and compression shorts and how to prevent chafing. i know who my people are; happy runners are not my people. i don't even know if we speak the same language.

besides not quite being a happy runner, i'm also the world's worst running partner. i'm not kidding, you guys. there may be some part of me that is clinically insane and i really don't know why i have friends. my sweet, encouraging husband told me he was proud of me while we were running, and i told him to stop patronizing me. another time, he ran a total of seven inches ahead of me and i think i breathed actual smoke when i screamed "WAIT UP!" i told you. insane.

i can't run another ten feet. i can't keep up with everyone. i can't let myself be embarrassed like this.

i've been telling myself what i can't do for years. "can't" has been an idol for me, a thing i cling to in order to shape and justify everything. the tape of my physical shortcomings runs on repeat through my mind, to the point that i forget the voice is just my own.

i'm not a runner. i can't do a half-marathon. 

and over and over again as i put one foot in front of the other, my tape gets louder and louder.

i can't do this. i can't push past this pain. i can't go further. i can't go faster. 

insecurities rear their ugly heads like the monsters i've often thought they were. and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. my indignity causes me to try and find something to blame, as if this "thing" about me, this "can't" thing i've got going on is all someone's fault or a part of some big joke. i scream back at the tape in my head, blaming God for creating my body this way, resenting my childhood for the absence of anything even remotely active, and of course shaming myself for the years of neglect. 

just give up and do something easy. do something you're good at. 

i guess what i'm here to confess is that i have repeatedly told myself i can't run a half-marathon, even well into this half-marathon training. i confess i am easily discouraged and not even remotely close to being able to say with sincerity "i want to go for a run right now." i confess i am not a good steward of the temple i've been given because i am not grateful for legs that move me forward and a heart the beats wildly in my chest. i keep asking God to make me more grateful, and i'm here to confess that i think he's keeping his promise. it's so hard, harder than i wanted it to be.

do i love it yet? nope. do i want to quit still? every day. do i own any compression shorts yet? couldn't even tell you what they are. but i still show up. one run at a time.

i've gone back and forth about writing this. it feels embarrassing and like the proverbial i told you so!  will be shouted at any minute. but as with many other strongholds in my life, i have found that the louder you speak it, the less power it has over you. and i don't want to be beneath the grasp of can't anymore. i want to break up with can't and give it a swift kick in the ass. i want to be braver than can't, and i want to explore the idea of being a runner. maybe even a happy runner.

~~~

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i'm running a half-marathon with team world vision. they do amazing things, even through people like me who hate running. with every $50 donation, team world vision provides sustainable clean water for a child in east africa for life. for life, people. 

i would be humbled if you would join me in my journey. my goal is to raise $50 for every mile i run, so that i can provide children with the opportunity to drink clean water for the rest of their lives. all the information on how to donate can be found on my personal page at team world vision: http://team.worldvision.org/site/PageServer?pagename=TWV_Home

grace and peace to you as you do the things that make you feel brave.

 

can i get a what what for an update.

i'm sipping strong coffee at 9:00pm because that is my new life, a life in which my evenings are drowning in research papers and reading outlines. grad school, dear friends, is as hard as they say it is. and yet instead of being steadfast in my studies, i remembered that i miss this space, this corner of the world i call my own. so i'm here to update, if you're all still listening. we are three months into this sweet new season. some days jared and i feel like we just moved in, and other days we feel like we never left. which is funny because there was no "jared and i" the last time we lived in this city. i think that's one thing marriage does to you; it makes you re-imagine your entire world in a way that places your spouse in every memory and chapter of your story.

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jared is doing an amazing job over at JPL. i am epic proud of the way he wakes up early each day with energy and zest for learning. he'd never tell you himself, but he's received a lot of affirmation from people up top. beyond his work hours, he pours into his role as my partner here at apu. even when the fire alarm goes off at 3am, even when the boys next door decide that midnight is the best time to play dubstep at level 400, even when i have to leave in the middle of dinner to take a student to the hospital, or when i cry because i don't want to watch any more football (yes, this happened.), and even when he probably would rather sleep or be alone, he invests in what it means to be a reslife husband. i love him so much in those moments, and more than i ever thought i could. we are in such a fun chapter of life and i'm loving it. i am winning on so many levels. and he's encouraged us to sign up for a half-marathon which will be awesome and also my own personal hell. but an opportunity to achieve a goal with my bestest friend? sign me up please.

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my job is teaching me more and more about myself and my strengths and (mainly) my weaknesses. LOL at that one time i was like "i'm so bomb at this RD stuff!" there's still a lot to be learned. i am beyond blessed to be back in this building but OH MY GAHHH is it keeping me busy! there is so much pain and so many stories that need to be heard and with 400 students and only one me, i am a bit exhausted. but praise be to God for a living hope -- for trials that make us trust him, for grace that extends far beyond my inconsistencies. some days i feel confident in my ability to develop students and do this whole reslife thing, and other days i walk around doubting every move i make. i still feel shaky and confused some days, and there is always someone who seems to be doing a much better job than i am. and when i doubt my own ability or feel weighed down by insecurity, i receive sweet notes from students who make every ounce of this job worth it. i am blessed with a staff that keeps me laughing and reminds me to live enthusiastically. i don't know if i'm equipped to lead them in all the ways they need, but i know Jesus makes up the difference. i give my best, i care deeply, and i trust the process.

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there are people done with grad school and friends having babies and endless stories of promotions and it always beckons the question in my soul, "am i enough?"so i'm learning that to be present, you must not only accept your circumstances, but also your own effort. i am doing my best. 

you are doing your best. maybe you needed to hear that tonight just like me.

you can build a throne [on bayonets]

if you're getting married soon, and everyone has told you that "the first year is SO hard" and you sort of want to roll your eyes and throw things at them, this is for you. i can't count how many times someone told me to "buckle up, because marriage is a lot of work", but it was often. and i totally believed them  -- they were married, after all! it will be hard, they said. get ready for the hardest year of your life, they warned. so i suited up and went in as prepared as you could possibly be.

and then marriage was flippin' awesome.

so i kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and braced myself for the hard stuff to really happen. so a small fight about the forgotten grocery list turned into the OH CRAP HERE IT IS, THEY WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. but then it would be just a small fight. like we have sometimes. the kinds we forget about within an hour.

so here's what i've decided.

i'm no longer allowing anyone to speak anything over my marriage, and i'm not going to dictate to young brides what their experience will be like. we can do so much damage with a simple statement like "the first year is so hard." i know my resume is only 11 months of marriage deep, but i know the way fear works in the minds of young marrieds. it sucks.

marriage isn't hard. life is hard. there are seasons of life that are difficult, whether or not you have a spouse. so my advice? pick a good partner. learn how to be a good fighter and an even better forgiver.

and stop telling someone what their story will be like.

rant over. (for now.)

in the absence of martyrs [there's a presence of thieves.]

the last two weeks have a been a whirlwind of detailed training, deep bonding, shared meals, beautiful stories, and -- most of all -- my wildly unstable emotions. (shocking.) transitioning back into apu's world has been such an adventure so far, and i'd be a fool to consider myself anything other than richly  blessed and completely content. i spend my nights in the exact apartment i was in when i first learned the beauty of raw community, and the power of owning your story. who's life is this? so of course, the nostalgia has stirred up so many thoughts about memory this week, and how inconveniently selective mine is. i've always said i don't retain information well, but i think i do. i still hold onto some pretty potent memories that i'm not particularly fond of, memories that i wish would just go away. walking this campus again reminds me of who i was when i was 18, 19, 20, 21, 22...all the awesome experiences i had and all the great people i knew. but my memory keeps focusing in on all of the bad decisions i made, and all the hard places i was in during those years...all the opportunities i had to do good and to make a significant impact, that i just wasted. and i just keep thinking, gosh who am i to be in this position where i lead students who are in their most vulnerable state? who on earth thinks i deserve the opportunity to mentor and hold accountable these fragile humans, these people who are yearning for wisdom and good influence? and my memory keeps reminding me that i am not worthy of this opportunity. at all. and that just keeps playing over and over in my head: you aren't worthy. you aren't worthy. you aren't worthy.

and here's the thing: i'm not worthy. and i think that's the point.

i've made every mistake you can make, and i know far too well the way the mind of an apu-er works. i've done it all, seen it all, talked about it all. i've lied and hidden and been so broken i didn't know which way was up. and now i've been entrusted with hundreds of students as they traverse through arguably the most difficult time in their lives, armed only with my story and the strength to move forward. and that, to me, is the point of the gospel. 

i didn't save me.

i'll never be able to save me.

and i most certainly to not deserve to be in a position of leadership, mentorship, or authority.

but do any of us deserve that, really? do you?

i am not envious of the story that is perfect from start to finish. i never wish i had done it all right. i've never regretted the fact that it takes me a little bit longer to learn things sometimes because my goodness do i learn it well. i would so much rather have a story that cannot be told without the grace of God, and not the one where i truly deserve to be in the position i'm in based on my perfection. i don't want that gospel. that gospel sucks.

i want the kind of Jesus who uses people in the midst of all the shit they've gotten themselves into. i want to drown by way of grace, and be flooded with a Jesus who doesn't let you stay where you were. he made me very good, and he hasn't given up on me yet. he is what makes me worthy of this career. and that's the kind of Jesus i want.

how the lincolns got to LA [according to my instagrams.]

we picked up our huge moving truck and i had a minor heart attack. we were on the road with high spirits and plenty of cheez-its, as you can see.

 

jared was in full #beastmode as we journeyed north to CO. gordon did fine, kind of.

i almost got a decent picture of the colorado sign! i never claimed to be a photog, people.

 

to my delightful surprise, my bestie Betsy was in town as well! this was a much needed reunion.

 

and we enjoyed a girls night with the lovely bride-to-be, miss Ali. seriously, how did i get so lucky?!

 

meanwhile, jared...

 

we enjoyed a CO Rockies game with the family! they crushed the Giants, and i talked baseball to a perfect stranger. it was a good night.

 

Jared and i got to visit the Blue Moon Brewery, located right on Coors Field! such good beer, and such a wonderful sight to see.

 

our truck started to billow smoke somewhere outside of needles, ca. also known as the armpit of america.

 

to my right, there was nothing.

 

to my left, a sad jared. :(

 

just when i thought our moving truck was the largest thing i'd ever seen, i saw the even bigger production that was our moving truck + tow truck. "big blue" as it was affectionately called.

 

with only one major setback, we finally arrived to APU right at sunset. it was surreal to walk into trinity, and thousands of memories came flooding back.

 

what a sweet welcome into our new home, from sweet friends who we are lucky to get to do life with again.

 

so there you have it, people. we are very slowly setting up our new space, and we are already beginning to feel at home here. we've purchased some pretty sweet furniture pieces from craigslist, God bless it. once i figure out the feng shui, i'll be sure to post pictures.

i am humbled to be back here, and overjoyed to be able to fall into a blanket of amazing community. our friends have already taken such good care of us ; i am thrilled at what is to come. azusa is most definitely where we belong for this season; it's such a good feeling to know that.

i hope you all enjoy 'murica day tomorrow! <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in which i am more vulnerable than [maybe] you prefer.

i stopped forcing myself to think of thirty things i will miss about texas. i've thought about it every day; it really hasn't been lost because i forgot or was lazy. truthfully, i ran out of "things" and could only think of people. i'll miss people the most. you know who you are, you dallas-dwellers who have made my stay here so unbelievably pleasant. i will miss you. and on the eve of my last day at work, i can't help but sit around and think of that sweet quote from winnie the pooh: "how lucky am i to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

{so let me interrupt your regularly scheduled program to use this space to shed some weight during a very heavy week.}

~~~

i go through seasons where i forget who i really am. i forget what it is i stand for, what it is that gives life, where it is i find hope. and i just want to take my face off so i can slap it. i wish, so desperately, that i would just listen for once. CAN I GET AN AMEN.

~~~

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i've been dealing with some fear this week. fear of what lies ahead for me, for jared, with jobs and money and friendships and traveling and details. fear that i've been given a gift i do not deserve, and fear that it won't take long before everyone else realizes that, too. fear that i wasted some of my time, that i wandered from all the hopes i had when i moved here just three short years ago. i fear the people that follow me will make people say 'rachel who?' because they're going to do so much better than i ever did. i fear inadequacy will be my legacy. i've been replaying scenes over and over in my mind this week. moments i'll miss, moments i awkwardly made it through, moments i hope to repeat, moments i hope i forget. and of course, that's life, isn't it? tons of moments stacked on top of each other, where we did the best we can with what we had to work with at the time. and i just have to keep repeating that truth to myself; i am doing the best i can, with what i have to work with. 

i have also been dealing with a great deal of insecurity this week for a long while. the scorching heat of Not Good Enough has been burning behind my cheeks for so long, i just want to melt down and start over. and like i always do, i tried to hide that. from my husband, from my closest friends, and even from myself. and that plan works almost never. so of course it comes bubbling out of me in really not adorable ways: long text messages, late night car rides, et al. but it comes out. and i dance around in freedom, wondering why i'd ever convince myself of anything else. but forgiving myself is always the hardest part of the equation; i'd keep myself on the chopping block all day if i could. it's hard to feel forgiven, especially in the midst of insecurity.

i want to be better at practicing what i preach, but i do believe that has to start with recognition of where i am. i'll never be someone who pretends to be perfect; that's much too crazy for me. i've messed up a lot lately, but i want to learn to be more selfless, more loving, more gentle and kind. as i close this chapter and move toward the next, i just have to keep reminding myself: i did the best i could with what i had to work with at the time. and i'm forgiven, which means i have to forgive myself as well.

so i'm just going to keep working on all of this, and i'll continue to keep you posted along the way. but let the record show that i love vulnerability more than anything, and i think being honest and open about the gross in our lives is the only way we'll ever see it become good -- by God's grace i hope we see it all become good.

~~~

[epilogue] if you haven't heard the amy grant song 'come on out', you should go listen to it right. this. minute. if you haven't heard of amy grant, i really feel bad for you. she taught me how to harmonize, how to play guitar, how to own mistakes and sing about them. and how to have awesome wavy hair.

but I will be a witness  that there's nothing in me dark enough  the power of forgiveness  cannot resuce from the deep

i'm feelin' 22

30 days of texas  

~~~

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this is one of those "uh, really?" kinds of things i'll miss, but it's funny how you kind of begin to like the odd parts of this job. i live in a building that's almost 50 years old. and it is quite obvious that 50 years ago, architects had no clue how loud 18 year olds would be. but here we are in 2013 and these people are loud. loud and unashamed, let me tell you. i have heard more than i ever wanted to; i guess the "hall director apartment" signs outside my door really don't phase them, because they talk about all their OMG-weekend-moments that could really get them in trouble. i always know when the parties are, and which students have the "goods" (if you will), and who is definitely not talking to whom anymore. i hear new versions of cuss words, and i almost want to thank them for keeping me in the loop. it's sort of weird that i enjoy listening to all of this drama, but i really do. it's like listening to a soap opera play out every day. i'll miss the charm of this old building, and how it's allowed me to remember to laugh at young independence as i go about my day.

t w e n t y

30 days of texas

~~~

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i love unique things that aren't a part of big corporate america, and denton is definitely full of them! there is so much history in this city and a fun way to discover it is to explore all the streets that are filled with little mom n pop stores. whenever we have people come visit denton, we always try to take them somewhere local -- what's hard is actually choosing because there are so many! obviously we have a lot of favorites, but i really do just love the overall feel of small businesses here. it's a pretty large city but it always feels smalltown-ish when you walk in and out of the one-of-a-kind shops. and you can tell people work hard to keep their businesses running; t feels so industrial and historic and...texan. haha. i feel like people have always worked this way in denton, and that the city was built on a bedrock of  people who love serving their local community through small businesses. i feel like i'm giving back when i shop locally, which makes me feel like a good american. :: salute :: clearly dentonians are faithful to their small business atmosphere, because people pitched a fit when the city put a subway sandwich shop on the square, in a historic building. watch the political drama unfold here.