22 May 2012

Learning: Gratitude

This one is half learning, half teaching.

Now that almost three weeks have passed since my graduation, I am (finally) about to mail out my thank you cards.

Now, after reading that, you are probably thinking one of two things:

a) Oh, thank you cards! That is so nice, no one ever does that anymore.

or, b) UGH! I hate thank you cards. So annoying.

If you are thinking a), you are probably either old fashioned or well, older. If you are thinking b), you're probably younger and a member of this technological age we're wrapped up in today. Now, I won't debate you on the fact that writing out thank you cards takes time, and that's something that I know I am always running short on. But it's not just an old fashioned gesture.

Over the past couple of years, I have had several occasions that have called for thank you cards -- my high school graduation, donations from friends and family for my trip overseas, and dinners and parties in the time between those. Now of course, my college graduation is a huge occasion, and I received probably 50 cards congratulating me on the achievement.

First of all, how nice?! It's been such a blessing to see how much the people in my life care for and are there to encourage me. Without my friends and family I am quite sure that I wouldn't have made it this far. That's where thank you cards come in. When you come to realize how much you have to be thankful for, writing out thank you cards is the perfect response.

So do it. Thank the people in your life, and not just when they send you a check in the mail. All the time, for all the little and big things they do for you or anyone else. You'll be better for it.

04 May 2012

The End of The Beginning

In seven days, I will graduate from college with a Bachelor of Arts in English. I'll be twenty-two years young.

While I can't imagine what the future holds, as bright and beautiful as it is sure to be, I can tell you about the things in the past that have brought me to this moment right here.

I stepped out of my comfort zone to go to a school four hours from home. I took classes that broadened my world views. I met people who were like me. I made friends with people who aren't like me. I read, a lot. I traveled to France. I learned about social injustice. I became an activist for the things I cared about. I broke up.  I went to China. I danced, a lot. I lived with awesome roommates. I fell in love. I saw the beauty in the Chinese language. I laughed, a lot. I took pictures of everything. I made mistakes. I learned to be a better navigator. I served people. I fell in love with mankind. I learned from people older and wiser than me. I went to Catalina Island. I prayed.  I started to understand people better. I cried. I learned the importance of obedience. I got a good job. I lived in four different dorms. I put 40,000 miles on my car. I saw my brother grow up into a real man. I learned things the hard way. I got a sister-in-law. I was afraid. I ate some unbelievably delicious foods. I was happy. I took the risk, even when it seemed hard, or foolish, or just plain scary.

And here I am.

So now, as I count down the days to my graduation and savor those last moments that make this experience one that I will never forget, I want to tell you what you should do. Not just for graduation, but for every day of your life.

Get out of the box. Learn about this beautiful crazy world we are living in, and I promise you, you will fall in love with all the beautiful crazy people around you. Travel: go to the places that you dream about, that call to you in a way you can't explain. Learn from the people in your life, old or young, weak or strong. Read, laugh, pray, cry... a lot. Be present in the lives of the people around you, especially the ones who really matter. And just do it. Don't make excuses, don't find reasons to say no -- because that's always the easy way out. Instead,  just say yes. Leave your excuses at home and step into the next biggest adventure of your life.

I'm doing it. And I'll be honest, I have no idea what that looks like, but in so many ways, that's the beautiful thing about it. Jumping, diving in head first with no idea what the bottom looks like.

Are you living it?