Make It Comfortable

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Recently, I've done a lot of moving.
I moved into a new apartment about a month ago and in the past week, I moved into my classroom. 
Both of these moves required hard work to create a space where I could live and work comfortably. 
On my first day at work, I walked into a room full of desks and bookshelves. It was a total mess. No teacher could happily teach in that mess, nor could any student learn. My new principal walked in and asked how I was feeling and all I could say was, overwhelmed. He told me to ensure I made the room mine by creating a space I am comfortable in. It has taken 3 days, but that is exactly what I did. He knew that if I was comfortable, my students would be comfortable. Sometimes making a space where we are comfortable is what makes us better. This isn't limited to decorating though. You see, in life, you have to do what makes you comfortable. Obviously, I don't mean go sit on the couch and watch tv all day because it's comfortable (nice try). What I mean is this, you have to do what is best for you. I once dropped everything and drove to Disney World on a Friday and came back on Sunday. Crazy, right? It was what I needed. I had so much going on. I didn't even tell anyone I was going because I knew if I did I would get negative responses in regards to how irresponsible it was of me to go out of town when so much was going on. Here's the thing, I went on that trip, I had the time of my life, and everything that was going on still worked out just fine. The only difference was that I did what was best for me instead of staying home and being miserable. It's okay to do what's best for you. Other people don't have to understand it. You only get one life. Don't be afraid to live it and don't be afraid of doing what's best for yourself.

The Dating Game

Sunday, August 13, 2017

When you believe one way and act another, you'll find yourself in an awful mess.
I have always believed that love finds you and that looking for it is useless (you don't have to agree).
That is my personal belief, but for months after my breakup I was searching for what I had lost. Date after date, disappointment after disappointment. Twice, I managed to get myself hurt pretty badly. I saw only what I was looking for and latched on so quickly to the hope that maybe I had found what I had lost. That's not the way it works and I knew that! I just chose to ignore it. In reality, I should have been building myself up. Finding myself, focusing on my career, knowing that when I least expect it, love will find me. It may be in a month, a year, a decade, but hopefully not a century.

It took me a full 6 months to finally listen to what I've known all along is best for me. Right?! 6 months. But here's the thing, I am not upset with myself for those 6 months of dating and hoping to find my Prince Charming. I needed that distraction, it was a part of my journey to realizing I am strong on my own. Now I am free to focus on my career, my hobbies, my friends and family. Even though I am not looking for my prince, I have still had a few duds pop into my life by surprise, but that's part of it. I have learned to be hopeful but not let down.

You are strong on your own. One day, someone so perfect is going to show up in your life and surprise you with love. Now, I'm not saying go delete all those dating apps off your phone. It's totally possible to swipe right on your soulmate (I think?). All I'm saying is, don't be convinced you WILL find your soulmate that way. Take it easy and enjoy your life. This is your time, make the most of it. You can't do that if you're caught up in the dating game. Focus on the world around you, love will come. Be strong, be you, and don't let the dating game take control.

Back To Your Roots

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I recently went back to work as a counselor for a week at YMCA Camp Hanes. It was hard, exhausting, and the best thing I've done this summer. Hanes is a very special place to me. I called it home for 15 months, working and living there and meeting some of the most incredible people. Camp Hanes played an instrumental role in me becoming a teacher. I started at Hanes in 2014 after working two summers at Camp Galilee in Missouri. I was challenged in so many ways at camp. I learned to embrace the differences of others, I learned I can do hard things, I learned I can truly be myself, and most importantly, I learned I was meant to be a teacher.

I try to go back to Camp Hanes at least once a year to volunteer because it is so important to me to remember what got me to where I am today. If a counselor does their job well, they're one of the hardest workers in any job field. What other job do you have 12+ kids under your supervision 24 hours a day? Being a counselor, age group leader, and outdoor educator taught me skills that gave me a leg up in the teaching realm and I hope I never forget that. My love for camp is so strong and going back to it reminds me that I am where I'm meant to be and that I need to be grateful for the opportunities and people that helped me get there.

Now, let's relate this to you. Whatever you're doing right now... you didn't always do it. Someone or something helped you get there. School, a parent, teacher, previous job, supervisor, etc. I am fortunate enough to be able to go back to the place and people that helped me get to where I am today. You may not have that option, but you can send a thank you or just take some time to reflect. Get back to your roots, smile, and be grateful.

Going With Your Gut

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Every now and then difficult decisions find their way into our lives and if you're anything like me, you struggle greatly with them. I mean, I can't even decide where to eat dinner on the daily, let alone make a life altering decision! Decisions are scary! Making a decision means something is in fact going to happen... something different than if you had chosen another option. What if you choose wrong?! Helloooo anxiety. Anybody else? Just me? 

Recently, I had one of those seemingly ginormous decisions come flying into my life out of nowhere. I was on my fifth teacher interview and all was going well. I had a good feeling that day. They offered me a fourth grade position, great!! I was excited and ready to accept. I text everyone in my phone, "GUESS WHO'S TEACHING FOURTH GRADE MATH AND SCIENCE NEXT YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!" I then proceeded to buy a cupcake to celebrate (obviously). I pulled in the driveway, excited to eat my treat when the phone rang. Another job offer... this time for first grade. 

Anyone who knows me, knows I have forever wanted a K-2 teaching position. All through my year of student teaching fourth grade, I made remarks of how I couldn't wait to get back to the lower grades. So... you'd think this would be an easy decision, right? Wrong, so wrong. I became beyond overwhelmed. Don't forget about all those text messages I sent out. My phone was already blowing up with congratulations texts, just in time for me to awkwardly text back and be like... just kidding... maybe... I don't know. 

Let's get to the part you really came to read about, how I dealt with the anxiety of making this big decision. First off, the fourth grade position just felt right. I knew it in my gut. There was just an overwhelming feeling I had that it was the right choice. I was beyond confused by this because it was everything I had said I didn't want. I became worried about what people would think! Would they think I had settled for less and just accepted what came my way? This brings me to my second point. Sometimes what's right might be the farthest thing from what you envisioned (and let the haters hate). The final thing that helped me was talking to other people. In talking, my true feelings came out. Every person I talked to told me to go with the fourth grade position. They could just tell.  

I went with my gut and the reality is, if I don't like the choice I made, well... I can do anything for 10 months. Relax. Decisions aren't so bad. Take a deep breath and work your way through them. You've got this!

The All or Nothing Thinker

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The all or nothing mental distortion is something that has plagued me forever.
Basically, my mind goes to extremes when I am thinking about things. It either has to be all or nothing, there is no in between. This is a pattern of thinking that often sets me up for failure. You see, when something doesn't happen all the way, the way it's supposed to... my mind says NOPE! At this point I become overwhelmed with frustration, which can shut me down quick. That's no way to live. Thankfully, I know this about myself and have a desire to overcome it.

If you are an all or nothing thinker like myself, there's a few things you can do to keep that wonderful mind of yours in check.

1. Accept your mind works the way it works and it's totally okay! It makes you YOU!

2. Understand that you CAN do something about it.

3. Begin to take note of when you are thinking in an all or nothing pattern.

4. Ask yourself what would happen if... (and be realistic with your scenarios here, don't let that anxiety take control!)

5. Try some things in between all or nothing and see what happens, you'll be okay, I promise!

I know these guidelines are a bit vague, but everyone is different and we all have our own way of working through our mental obstacles. The biggest thing you must realize is: if you want change, YOU have to do something. I formulated these 5 steps based off of what helps me to help you begin to change your thinking. Again, this is on you. No one else can persuade your amazing brain to change your patterns of thinking. You've got this!

Out: A Year of Being Me

Saturday, July 1, 2017

One year ago, I published and shared a blog post that would forever change my life.
In this post, I shared my truth. I openly admitted to being gay. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. What if people hated me? What if everyone I loved slammed the door in my face? These questions haunted me, but what haunted me more was keeping my love a secret. I was tired of lying and hiding. Before publicly coming out, I told a few friends and family. Something that has eaten away at me in the past year is knowing that some people were offended that I didn't tell them personally and they had to find out via social media. To those individuals, let me say this: you can't imagine the courage it takes to utter the words I'm gay to someone you love so dearly. The fear of rejection in that moment is at an insurmountable high. I hope you understand why I chose to come out the way I did. I have also had some individuals ask me why I chose to come out publicly. The answer is simple, to help and inspire others that may be going through a similar situation. You'll be happy to know that my words have indeed encouraged at least one individual. I was fortunate to get a very positive and loving response. I'm sure not everyone is happy about my truth, but anyone who disagrees has been respectful and I appreciate that. Enough about all that, let's talk about the incredible year that resulted from me fearfully clicking "post."

After getting an overwhelmingly positive response, I felt happier than ever. I could share pictures of my boyfriend without writing a caption that led you to believe he was nothing more than my best friend. I could be me and not have to worry about trying to hide a huge piece of my life. I could talk about cute boys and romcoms with my friends. No longer did I have to deny who I truly was. When I met new people, I got to introduce my boyfriend without fear. I think you get the point, I was able to live freely and no longer care what people thought of me.

My life only got better from there. In the past year I have become a teacher, become a member of the Project Life Creative Team, made incredible new friends in Charlotte, Phoenix, and Orlando, been interviewed live on Facebook, connected with people all over the world via social media, traveled, had people reach out to me about how I have inspired them, and so much more. Coming out didn't stop my life, if anything, it sped it into motion. Coming out made me stronger, braver, and much more confident (shout out to my girl Demi Lovato). When new opportunities come my way I gladly accept them, when in the past, I would have shied away. I am proud of who I am and I am doing my best to use my God given talents to help others. I hope that's the person you see me as and don't get hung up on just one part of me. (Let's be honest... anyone who isn't happy about me coming out didn't read this far into this post) Anyways, thanks for reading, thanks for loving, and thanks for being a part of my journey. Here's to many more years of happiness and adventure.

Alone in New York

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Okay, the title isn't completely true. I was staying with my friend, Ellise, and she was with me 2 of those 5 days. But the other 3 were totally me, alone, in New York City. And let me tell you: It was more than I ever dreamed it would be.

Being the introvert that I am, I was slightly nervous about traveling alone in the big city.
Would I get lost?
Could I figure out the subway?
Would someone try to steal my money?
All of these questions aside, I knew I had to face my anxiety. I did and it was one of the best choices I have ever made.

The first thing I decided was that I didn't want to be a tourist, well, I didn't want to look like a tourist. Ellise taught me all her tips and tricks. The best place to stand in the subway, to put your headphones in, and no matter what, do NOT stop in the middle of the sidewalk to gawk at the towering skyscrapers that surround you. My first day alone I was hesitant but by my second, I was full on New Yorker. I walked fast and with purpose, headphones in (Welcome to New York by Taylor Swift playing), jaywalking and all. Those people that stand on the streets handing pamphlets to tourist didn't even try to get my attention. I had done it. I was an honorary New Yorker.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still went to all the touristy places and took all the touristy pictures but since I was alone, I was able to spend as much or as little time as I wanted. I quickly found that there was so much more to New York than what you see on your first trip there. That city isn't as big and crazy as you think. For every busy tourist packed area, there are five more calm and beautiful areas to explore. I sought these places out. I walked along the water, I hiked all of Central Park. I found peace and quiet in a city known for its sleepless noisy nights. I was able to recollect myself after a long and strenuous school year.

I suppose my point here is this, if you have the chance to travel solo, DO IT. It allows you the freedom to do what you want to do. You're free to explore and enjoy in a way that is best for you. Solo travel can be anxiety inducing but here's the thing: No one cares that you're eating lunch alone. If you get lost, no one has to know but you. I faced that fear and it was one of my best life experiences yet. Go explore our world, you'll be happy you did.

Coffee With My Ex

Monday, May 22, 2017

(and why I'm okay with it)

Just last week I met up with Mike at Amelie's. 
When I told people I was doing this, I got all kinds of reactions. 
The most common response was - Why?!

To most people, it seemed impossible that we were going to spend time together as friends and nothing more. 
Believe it or not, that's exactly what we did. 

You see, Mike is a man who changed my life. He probably knows me better than I know myself.  God brought us together in his perfect timing. We experienced so much in life together. We were a part of each other's journey and what an honor that is. I have no intention of throwing those memories away.

Now hear me out, I understand not every story has a peaceful ending the way ours did, however, my challenge to you is this: Whatever your situation, try to look at it in a different light. Sometimes a new perspective is all we need to turn to the next page of our journey. 

It has taken time, but I have been able to turn my page. 
I now have a choice - I can burn those old pages or I can embrace them and remember that they made me who I am today. I choose the latter. Talking with Mike, catching up, and embracing our new friendship is what truly set me free. 

I have moved on from my past but that doesn't mean I have to leave it in the dark. It is a part of me. I will always care and love. That doesn't mean I haven't moved forward, it simply means I have embraced my past and and acknowledge my story as a whole, not just a chapter. 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Growing from Heartbreak

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 brought me a lot of things. One of those things was true heartbreak.
I have chosen to share my journey in dealing with heartbreak in an effort to inspire those who may be dealing with any of the difficulties we face in life.

First off, I want to say 2016 gave me so much good and I am beyond grateful. I will also say that so much of that good came from my relationship, so when it came to an end, you can understand how it felt like my world had come crashing down. I will not focus on the immediate feelings that were felt but I do want to tell you about the good that came from this change I experienced. Yes, there was good that came from my heartbreak.

You see, I believe there is good in every situation, you just have to look hard enough to find it. In slowing down and thinking about what had happened, I remembered that nothing bad had ended it all. The timing wasn't right and that's okay. In accepting that, I was able to see all the incredible ways my life had changed through my relationship in the past year and a half.

Mike empowered me. He taught me how to be myself. Through our relationship I was able to become comfortable in my own skin. We gave each other the encouragement to come out, something I know I will never regret. He gave me the courage to face my anxieties. Our long distance relationship forced me to work hard to overcome the anxiety I have struggled with for so long. While there are so many other wonderful lessons I learned through our relationship, the most important to me is that I learned to genuinely love.

These are the silver linings I have chosen to focus on in recent weeks. I have nothing to be upset about. While dealing with change is difficult, I am so glad I have so many incredible memories and have learned so many important lessons. Always look for the silver linings in life.

One last thing I realized in going through this process is how many incredible friends I have made in Charlotte. The amount of people who were more than willing to go out of their way to comfort me was unbelievable. Thank you to those who were there for me, it did not go unnoticed.

While one chapter of my life has come to an end, a new one has begun. I am thankful I have so much good to remember. I am grateful to have had someone be such an important part of my journey. Thanks for helping me be my best self. As I move on, I move on a stronger, better person than I was a year and a half ago. For that, I'll smile.

The Creative Team

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I recently announced I have been chosen to be a member on the Becky Higgins 2017 Project Life Creative Team. I consider this a huge honor and want to fill you in on what exactly the Project Life Creative Team is.

Becky Higgins is the creator of one of the greatest scrapbooking systems of all time. For people like me, documenting everyday life is a treasure, but it can be hard to find the time to get day to day memories into a scrapbook. Becky created a simplified method to be able to quickly and conveniently document the year in a way that won't take all of your time and won't break the bank. There are physical products, digital products and (my favorite) mobile app products. If you want to learn more about Project Life, click here!

I have been using Project Life since around 2012 when my aunt bought me my first core kit - Thank you!! I love using the physical product but when I moved to North Carolina, I found I no longer had the time or space to keep up with it. Right around the time I moved, Becky released the mobile app. I can now scrapbook right on my iPhone (or android device) and have the pages printed and delivered to my door.

This year I have the privilege of sharing some of the layouts I create on the app with the world. Being on the Creative Team means each month I will submit layouts that may be used to inspire the use of the Project Life products. I still cannot believe that I was chosen. If I can inspire at least one person to document their journey, the hard work will be more than worth it.

I hope you will choose to follow this new adventure with me and I hope I inspire you to cultivate a good life and record it.

Here are a few of my submissions that landed me the incredible honor of being the first man on the Project Life Creative Team.



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