Learning to Dance in the Changes

This past week has been the harshest round of adulting yet. If I have to give anyone any advice, here it is:

  • Never move again. Ever.
    -OR-
  • Become a nomad and travel the world forever.

Here’s why I am sending this advice.

Moving is literally one of the most stressful things I have ever encountered. Especially in a new city, and especially moving without a car. And it’s not just moving from Place A to Place B. It’s not that simple. Like “woohoo here we go, we’re moving!” Nope, it’s nothing like that. You have to pack up years worth of crap that you never knew you accumulated in the first place, try to squeeze it all into boxes that you know will never fit, load it all up, drive or get to your new place however, and then unload everything, unpack, find a new place for everything….can I be done complaining yet?

Okay, great.

The other piece of advice – become a nomad and travel the world. Because that way, you barely have any belongings, and you never have to pack a day in your life!

So, okay. The nomad thing probably isn’t that realistic. But you get the point – packing, moving, etc. is stressful as hell. I’ve also had to think about buying furniture for the first time ever.

But here’s the thing about moving…hopefully, you are moving to pursue something new. A new job, a new school, a new love, a new life. Regardless of what the purpose is, a new chapter is about to ensue. A new page. A clean slate. A new beginning. And that is the piece that will lift you up, carry you through, and keep you moving forward. Because with every decision in life, there are push factors, and there are pull factors. 

For example, leaving Buffalo, there were a good number of push factors. These are the things that make you want to leave your current situation. And this doesn’t have to be a physical move either. It could be a job ending (yup), not finding your community (mhm), or graduation (check). In Buffalo, there were a lot of push factors. I had come for a very specific reason (to receive my master’s degree). And once I did that, I was done, and it was time to leave. Buffalo was pushing me out.

But now, I am feeling so many pull factors towards New York City. These are the reasons why you want to go someplace new. I have so many friends here, the job already seems like such a good fit, and it’s just…it’s the greatest city in the world!!

Maybe I’m biased because I just graduated, my job just ended, etc., but I feel like this time of year brings about so much transition and change, which, can be a bit unsettling for a lot of my twentysomething friends, and definitely a bit unsettling for myself. But, I’ve learned the only real way to conquer that feeling is to just truly embrace it. It’s like the rain. When you are walking in the pouring rain without an umbrella and four blocks to go, you can either duck under an awning and try to avoid it, still get wet, and watch time pass you by, or you could throw on a smile and dance in the rain.

And now, here I am – in NYC, in a rainstorm – feeling all the pull factors, in an apartment full of boxes, unpacked bags, and unfurnished rooms. But you know what…I couldn’t be happier.

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Building Home

This past week, I went to Selma, Alabama for New Way’s Nonviolence and Conflict Reconciliation Training. It was absolutely amazing, and so transformative. We learned about the six principles of nonviolence used by Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement, and I met some of the most incredibly genuine people in my entire life.

While so many things resonated with me over the course of the week, two things really stuck with me.

One of the volunteers in the middle of the week gave me a card. It read, “Home: family, shelter, dwelling place. I know you feel at home here, and it is not because of the place.” And that card could not be more accurate. I felt so completely at home in Selma, but I know it has nothing to do with the place itself. It was the feeling.

The second thing that resonated with me was in talking to a friend of mine in Selma, and she was talking about the “twentysomething” GroupMe that they all had. My ears perked up…I was like, “Hey! I have a blog about that!” But then she told me that they used to call themselves “The Twentysomethings,” but now they call themselves, “The Builders.” The builders of the next generation. The builders of a movement. And I absolutely love that. We are no longer youths, but we aren’t yet the elders. We are the next generation. We are the builders.

And naturally, I started thinking about how those two things are so correlated. So many of us are still looking for “home.” I know I am. And yet, we are still so young, which is so easy to forget, but we have the ability to build our future, to build our next step.

How are you building yours?

For me, I can think of three things.

  1. Family
    • In home, there is family. And there are so many different types of ways to define this. I immediately think of my nuclear blood family, but over the past seven years since I graduated high school (ew omg I can’t believe it’s been that long)…I’ve come to understand family in a more expansive view. It is your blood family, but it’s also your friends, it’s the people that’ll stay up with you until 4am when you’re struggling through something, or those who will make you laugh so hard that you start to cry. That is family.
  2. Community
    • I’ve learned something about myself over the past two years: if I’m not able to find a community around me, then I won’t be able to call that place home. Community is the night and weekend time. It’s the group outside of work. It’s the activities you are involved with. It’s fun, and it’s comforting, and it’s important.
  3. Love
    • And perhaps the most important thing of all…love. Unconditional love. Home is where there is no question of the love that is shared. It’s giving, it’s taking, it’s 100% reciprocal. But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that this also includes self-love. If I’m not okay with who I am, I’m not able to love others. And nothing will feel like home if inside, I don’t feel like myself. To feel home is to feel love for yourself, to love, and be loved.

So, how are you building your home?

Going to Selma! …and other adult things.

 

When you’re an adult, you can eat out 3 or 4 nights a week and not have to worry about any immediate financial consequence.

When you’re an adult, you can stay up until 3am without anyone telling you no.

When you’re an adult, you can eat jellybeans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

When you’re an adult, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a flight ticket back to Selma, Alabama for a Summer Institute on Nonviolence and Conflict Reconciliation, just because you feel like it.

This week, I did three of the four adult things listed above. And I’ll give you a hint, the jellybeans thing didn’t happen.

So, in other words, I AM GOING BACK TO SELMA! And yes, it kind of is as simple as “I feel like it,” but there are other reasons, too, that I think are relatable to any other “adult” out there.

  1. Community
    • As a twentysomething, I think this is so important. I think most of us are college grads, so we are kind of in this weird transition between our college community and possibly creating our own family community. What’s in between? What does that community look like? For me, that’s one of the reasons why Buffalo wasn’t the easiest for me – it really lacked in the community I was looking for. But in Selma, the community was instantaneous. I felt it immediately. And sure enough, I was able to stay in touch with so many people there, who I am now honored to call my friends. I think as we grow, we start to form and develop all different types of communities, all over the world, and I’m glad to be returning to Selma, a community that is so close to my heart.
  2. Education
    • The organization in Selma, Something New, is hosting a Nonviolence Institute. They are incorporating Dr. Martin Luther King’s 6 Principles of Nonviolence, and teaching us how to teach others about these principles. In today’s world, there is no better time for this training. Professionally, I know I will be able to take this training with me wherever I go, but to be honest, I’m also really looking forward to the personal growth and development that I will experience. As someone who wants to learn as much as they can about advocacy, I think this training will provide the invaluable historical context and modern day tools that I have been searching for. As a twentysomething, our formal education might be over, but education is always worth investing in.
  3. Love
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In Selma, I have never felt a greater, deeper love.  And in a world full of hate, I think my soul needs to be refueled with love. It’s in the small gestures. The invitations to dinner, the airport pickups, the genuine “how are you doing?” Selma has taught me such an expansive definition of love. As this week’s podcast episode of Invisibilia mentioned, it’s the concept of  “noncomplementarity.” When you show love, love will be reciprocated. When you radiate positive energy, other positive energy will be drawn to you.

Selma, I am ready for you.

However, I know we all can’t go to Selma (or maybe, the South just isn’t your thing). In what other ways are you finding your community, learning from it, and seeking love there? I don’t think these three things are “the keys to life,” or anything so serious, but I do think they hold a significant value.

What do you think?

Ending A Chapter

As of right now, not including today, I have 18 days left in Buffalo. I remember the days when I was sitting in a back-to-back class where it felt like I had 18 years left in Buffalo and that it would never end. But now, 18 days.

I’m not necessarily sad about leaving the physical place that is Buffalo. I get the whole revitalization piece, and the Bills are like, okay…but what I’ll miss most about it is the people. I have met so many incredible people over the last two years, in completely unexpected ways. I have also strengthened some already existing friendships over the past two years, and that has also been incredible.

So in the words of one of my good friends…TO FRIENDSHIP!

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But, as we all know, as one door closes, another door opens. And even though I may not know what that other door is, I know that another opportunity will be waiting for me. But in the meantime, I wanted to make sure I learned to be at peace with Buffalo, specifically, leaving Buffalo and ending another life chapter. So, here are my words of wisdom for this awfully tricky time.

  1. Make peace with the past and right your wrongs
    • This is probably the toughest one on this list, which is why I started with it. It’s also the most important. When I left my job before coming to Buffalo, I really couldn’t wait to leave. It wasn’t necessarily the people or the town or the place or any one thing in particular. It’s just that, I wasn’t at peace with my situation. And rather than try to make peace with it, I just up and left. And looking back, I think it would’ve been nice to have that comfort in officially closing that chapter 100%.
  2. Make a Bucket List, and do it
    • I’ve thought about starting a Buffalo Bucket List before today, but never went through with it – I had thought I had done all the Buffalo things I wanted to do. But then I’ve been seeing all these “Buffalo Checklists” on Facebook, and I have a few friends who are desperately trying to convince me to stay in Buffalo…and even though I have no intention of staying, I might as well make the most of it while I’m here and enjoy the time I have left.
  3. Reflect on time spent
    • I spent two years out of my life in Buffalo! Not only that, but it’s where I did my graduate work, and where I had a really amazing start in diversity education work. I will never forget these two years. But it’d also be easy for me to kind of just move on to the next thing and say, “Yeah, two years in Buffalo for grad school,” and that’s it. When the reality is, I learned so much here and met so many great people.
  4. Say goodbye
    • Maybe this one is obvious…but I think it goes back to making peace with the place you are leaving. With the chapter you are closing. Make sure to take the time to thank all the people who have been influential during your time there.
  5. Plan a return trip
    • It’s hard to leave all these people that I love and care about. For me, it’s always been easier to leave if I already had plans to come back. Fortunately, I am working to help plan a conference that will be happening in Buffalo in October, so I will definitely be back for that. But even if you never want to go back to the place ever again, plan a trip with the people from that place, the friends you’ve made, so you know when you’ll be seeing them again.

And just remember, even if the next chapter isn’t in sight, you are the author of your own life.

Try. Fail. Never Give Up.

Try, try, try again. We hear it all the time. But I’ve never heard the “fail” part that comes after trying. And the “never give up” part? Although it’s said all the time, it’s rarely felt, especially when you feel like you are slowly on the decline and about to hit rock bottom.

Let me give you some background. In most of my life transitions, I’ve never been faced with as many obstacles as I’m being faced with right now. After high school, I applied to one college, my number one choice, and was accepted. After that, I conducted a job search for a full-time hall director position. I was offered two positions and picked the one that I liked the best. Afterwards, I applied to one graduate program, was accepted and received a fellowship. Life was peachy – transition and change were a natural part of my life. The trying was often – the failure was rare.

I know I am fortunate because of this. And I’m not telling you all this to make you feel bad for me during this current transition and change. But what I am saying is that sometimes, with trying, comes failure. And most of us probably know that. So in addition to that piece, it’s important to never ever give up. And never ever settle.

Earlier last week, I was feeling pretty low. I was getting some calls from jobs I had absolutely no intention of taking (I know, boohoo me), but for someone who lives so much of their life and passion through their work, I couldn’t just accept any old job. I need my next job to be something I like, not just something that pays the bills.

So, I had one of my friends give me a tarot reading. And her message, which seemed so eye-opening at the time, was essentially the same message I’m sharing now. Keep trying. You may fail. But never give up.

Keep Trying
I hate to keep relating this to the job search. So, in another relevant example this week: I have been trying to write a book as long as I knew how to hold a pencil. I’ve gone through dozens of ideas, and a handful of forgotten word documents are left still sitting deep within my computer files. But within the past two years or so, I came across one idea that really stuck with me, and I haven’t been able to forget about it since. I would write a little every day after work, pack my laptop and notebook and head to the local coffee shop and have a grand time by myself writing my soon-to-be novel.

You May Fail
But, like most of the other books, this particular idea began to collect dust. Work got really busy, school picked up, it wasn’t the right time, I wasn’t feeling motivated, etc., etc. I could go on an endless rant, excuses after excuses about why I wasn’t writing my book. Why I stopped. Why I was so unmotivated. But the reality is, I had failed myself. And that’s okay. I had a goal to write a book by a certain time, and I never did. Life gets in the way, it happens.

But Never Give Up
The important part is, and I’m still learning this, is never give up. Never settle. I was about to take a job that I barely wanted. And going back to the book, earlier this weekend I called a good friend just to hash out some of the details of the plot and plow through some of my writer’s block. After that conversation, I am feeling so incredibly motivated to write. The may be 75,000 words, but every word counts. Never give up. It’s never too late.