Seizing Opportunities

I’m not really the most qualified to write about this. I’ve not actually had many opportunities worth mention come my way, let alone seized them. But that’s part of what this is about. The opportunities I have had have been beyond incredible, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. But I passed others by and dreamed of others without them appearing.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Europe on three separate occasions, each for a month or longer; to freelance edit through a small publishing company; to become friends with some amazing people; and to write on a daily basis and have people actually interested in my work, even if it’s only a handful of people.

Some of these opportunities were handed to me; others I worked my butt off for and still am. But here’s the thing a lot of people don’t tend to think of about opportunities: most are not handed to you; most of them you have to make.

I’ve never been very good at taking initiative. I enjoy being given assignments and then working until they’re finished. But the things you really want in life rarely come in such a fashion. My study abroad trip was an opportunity that was presented to me, but I had to work like crazy trying to raise the money to go and studying French with vigour, and it was the same for my internship a couple years later. I’m awful at fundraising, but I worked as hard as I could until I got to where I needed to be. And after I arrived in France, I did everything I could to ensure I was giving 100% to getting the best grades possible and do the best work I could with the best attitude. Some days seemed easy, others seemed like death, and others could almost be ignored. But I never stopped working with everything I had while I was studying or interning.

When I started freelancing, I rarely got any work, and most of it ended up being pro bono. Eventually I started getting asked if I could edit things for particular prices, and who was I to turn them do? I started to build up my resume bit-by-bit, and I will continue doing so my entire life. But if I hadn’t started editing for free and trying to get my name out there among friends and such, I never would have gotten the recurring position I have at the publishing company. I’ve only had three projects with them so far, but each project has taken well over 35 hours of work and taught me more than I could have ever expected about the editing world, the different writing manuals, and my own ambitions in editing. I’ve learned that I definitely prefer editing fiction works, even though most of my paid editing work has been nonfiction; I learned that I prefer APA to MLA or Chicago, despite the fact that I know MLA the best; and I learned that I will never know everything about editing, no matter how much I study and work.

Many times over the years, I’ve let my anxiety stop me from meeting people and becoming friends with them. Thankfully, I’ve not let each opportunity to make a new friend pass by because my life would be quite drab without those humans whom I’m lucky enough to call my friends. It can be odd to think of friendship as something that you have to work at, but it can be really difficult sometimes, whether it’s because of drastic differences in current moods and opinions or busyness and full schedules making it near impossible to talk to/see your friends. For me though, I have to work a little harder. I tend to feel on a regular basis as though even my closest of friends hate me, even though I know it’s far from true. The negative thoughts and overwhelming fears that are constantly flooding my mind tell me that I’m an awful, worthless, despicable, clingy human being. And they also tell me that if I think that of myself, then others must think far worse. Feeling like that can make it nearly impossible to talk to friends, let alone strangers and acquaintances, and I constantly have to remind myself that those things aren’t true. It’s difficult to think positively about such things, and it’s even more difficult to act upon the positive thoughts by messaging people and showing them that I care about them, no matter how I feel that day.

Almost everyone has the opportunity to write nowadays and even the opportunity to have a public audience of some sort. But writing is one of the things I am most passionate about, and it’s also one of the things I have to work the most at. Sometimes writing can seem easy, and it tends to get easier the more I do it. But it is also one of the most difficult things to do, especially when trying to write things that appeal to your audience, that you enjoy writing, that are well thought through, and that are entertaining to read. And all of those things changes so much from post to post and project to project.

I—we—need to stop letting opportunities pass us by. We need to stop waiting for opportunities to present themselves and get up and create our own opportunities. Because the ones we make for ourselves tend to be the most satisfying. I know I’m going to keep creating more opportunities to grow creatively and to encourage others in their lives, their creativity, and their imaginations. What opportunities are you going to create for yourself?

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My Top Three Pet Peeves

This certainly isn’t a topic I’d usually write about, by why not give it a go?

Let’s start with the lowest first, shall we?

  1. People clipping their nails in public.

I’ve never understood how people can do this. I understand wanting to even them out and trim them, but why not wait until you’re home? Okay, I know this one is a little ridiculous, but I hate the sound of it. I don’t know why, but I do. The sharp clicking and snapping that occurs as the metal pinches through the keratin makes me gag. I don’t even like hearing the sound when I’m clipping my own nails, and I can handle it far better than when I can hear others doing so. I definitely know how it feels to break a nail and to want to fix it, but you can use a file for that and shorten the others when you return to you abode. Am I right?

  1. Not following the enter and exit signs for stores and the like.

Seriously? They are clearly labeled. Very clearly labeled. Unless it’s the Walmart Neighborhood Market across the street from where I’ve been staying…then one door is marked “Entrance” with the small red “Do Not Enter” sign below it, and the other is marked “Exit” with the small green “Enter” sign underneath it. When it’s raining or you’re in a giant hurry, it can be really tempting to go in through the exit if it’s closest, but taking one or two seconds longer to enter won’t make that much of a difference. Plus, it makes it difficult for those who are (italics) following directions to get through the doors. Yet again, this is fairly silly, but there are stickers and signs everywhere.

  1. “Learn English!”

This is by far my biggest pet peeve, especially when these words are uttered by travellers. I’ve met countless Americans who only speak English that think anyone and everyone in the world should as well. When I hear people say, “This is America! Speak English!” it breaks my heart. Many of the people who are recipients of such verbal abuse do speak English, sometimes as their first language, but they are communicating with others who may not or prefer not to speak English. But also, if just going on holiday or on a brief business trip, one might not want to or be able to fully learn a new language.

When I was returning from my first stay in France, Karissa and I were in the waiting area near our gate at the Montreal airport, and we heard a group of people talking. They were clearly American and were speaking loudly about the announcements coming over the PA system.

First man: “What is that? Is that two languages?”
Woman: “I think it’s Spanish.”
First man: “No, I think it’s Italian.”
Second man: “Why on Earth would they do that?”
First man: “Don’t they realize we’re in the US of A??”
Woman: “Apparently not.”
Second man: nearly yelling “Why won’t everyone just speak English?!”

Clearly, they didn’t know we were in Canada. And even though they’d been on our flight from France, they couldn’t recognise the French language in the least bit. They continued complaining until we were boarding our flight to Chicago.

If these people had put any thought into what they were claiming (even if we hadn’t been in Canada at the time), they would have noticed their blatant hypocrisy. They were complaining about people not learning English while traveling and the like, when they had just spent time in France without learning French. This isn’t something that many Americans think about, specifically those who make these remarks, but it’s true. They wish to force foreigners to speak English, but they are not usually willing to learn the languages that are spoken in the countries to which they are traveling.

I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum, as I’ve gone a little overboard with the amount of languages I study. I’m currently studying French, Spanish, and Italian, and although I can’t speak Spanish or Italian at all, I’m certainly willing to try. I just wish others were as well.

What are your top pet peeves?

Someone Once Told Me

I don’t have the best memory for facts, what people say, or even what I’m doing at any given moment. My memory is truly awful. I have a calendar on my phone, a bullet journal in my bag (or in my hand), to-do lists on Habitica and in notes taking up all of my phone’s memory, and screenshots of things I want to remember on my cell and my computer. But there are some things I won’t ever forget, like my friend Amelia’s laugh, the fear caused by a car accident, the feeling of a salty wind blowing across my face, or how I got so excited to make Doctor Who snowflakes and eat peppermint ice cream with Karissa that my heart problems started acting up.

There are certain things that just become a part of you, whether you want them to or not. Sometimes those are emotions, events, the feeling of something against your skin, or words someone said to you. I’ve received so many amazing compliments over the years; half of them seem pretty cliché when typed out, but they were entirely sincere and followed by very detailed and encouraging explanations. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received wasn’t really one of the best because of what was said, but because of the circumstances it was said in and how it was said.

Earlier this year, I went on holiday to London with my best friend and her brother, staying in a rather nice part of the city. Our last night there, I walked to the Italian Garden in Kensington Gardens to spend some time alone, read, and bid the beautiful park and neighbourhood goodbye. It was wonderful. The sky was cloudy; but along the horizon, the white fluffs parted, and a glorious sunset was starting to shine over the lands. Just as the sun started to paint the skies with orange, red, and purple hues, I started my way back to the hotel, my nose buried in On the Other Side as I walked down the pavement. When I made it back to our street, I glanced up to ensure I wouldn’t collide with any unsuspecting travelers as they came out of the inn and hotel doors scattered along the road. When I looked, I saw a couple and their dog about 150 yards away, gracefully walking in the direction from which I was coming.

They were decked out in gorgeous clothes and were obviously on their way to some sort of fancy event. The woman was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. Her mixed skin was glowing, her black hair was luxuriously bouncing in tight curls, and her lace, seafoam green dress was swirling with the wind. I read a couple sentences more, but as we approached each other, I turned and said, “I’m sorry; I love your dress!” I wasn’t even really expecting a thank you in return, but she definitely responded.

“Thank you! I’m so glad you said that; I was wanting to tell you that you’re gorgeous! I love your style! Keep wearing it. I love your clothes. You’re gorgeous!”

I couldn’t help but beam. My back straightened out, and my mouth opened in a smile that hurt my face because of its size. The confidence that had left me early that morning rushed back tenfold.

When I first got dressed, I was so excited to wear the outfit I had chosen for our final full day in England. I put on my black DeLorean tee, a brown plaid, wool skirt, my Minnie and Mickey Mouse shoes, and bright red lipstick. I knew it was a slightly odd outfit, but I really enjoy expressing my moods, interests, and personality through my clothing. However, after breakfast, I lost a lot of my excitement for the day and my anxiety started to take over. I still had a wonderful day and was in a fairly nice mood, but my self-esteem plummeted. I spent a large portion of the day worrying what others thought of my appearance, even though that is something I usually don’t care about, and I felt as if everyone was staring at me the entire day, making me incredibly uncomfortable and self-conscious.

But this astonishingly attractive and seemingly successful woman had apparently been wanting to compliment me, a rather eclectic, plain girl who had spent the majority of two days hiding in the pages of a book because she didn’t want to look into the faces surrounding her—well, and because the book was just so wonderful she never wanted to put it down. This compliment not only made me feel better about my appearance, but about my interests, my passions, and my eccentric personality. I don’t really know why, but it did. And I won’t forget it anytime soon. Because it took place in the city I long to live in, it was from a woman I could never compare to, and it was at a time that I had started to question everything about myself as a person. It reminded me that being me is a wonderful thing, and I should never sacrifice myself to meet the social standards and ideals.

What is a compliment that left a lasting impression on you? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Working in France

It’s been an amazing seven weeks in France. It’s been quite different than the staff and I had originally anticipated, but it’s been an incredible time despite the changes that have taken place. I’ve been able to participate at two local churches, a Bible study, and the Institute to learn more about the French spiritual condition and to teach about it as well.

The churches I have been able to participate at are both about twenty minutes away from the Institute, though in opposite directions and they are two of the only Protestant churches in the region. Though others do exist, they are few and far between. There are some people who drive around an hour to go to one of them because it is the closest Protestant church.
Last Sunday, we were able to partake in what is the near equivalent of a potluck at the smaller of the two churches. This church averages about ten people and has been without a pastor for nearly two years. They learn about God from having guest speakers who are willing to come for free and by listening to podcasts.The commitment they have to learning about God is incredible; however, it is extremely difficult when they do not have the resources available to them to learn in a clearly understandable and cohesive way.
The other church we attend is much larger averaging in about seventy people. The building is barely large enough for the size of their congregation, but it only encourages them to continue spreading God’s word and trying to grow in size. This church was able to host two services for Easter as well as help host a Southern Gospel concert put on by a group from Paris. It is a very charismatic church, full of people who want to see that all people know they are loved by them as well as God, despite differences in beliefs, religions, and lifestyle so that the people they encounter might come to know Christ.
The Bible study I’ve been going to is held at the university in Caen. Technically, it is not allowed, and it cannot be called a Christian group. Because of this, it is a group averaging around twelve people some Christians, some not. They go through different selections of scripture each week. They do this by reading through it two times and then going through verse by verse and asking questions, which may or may not have definitive answers. It is an amazing way for some of the very few Christians to interact with each other and a few who disagree with their beliefs in a friendly and intelligent manner. This group has become more than just a discussion group though as many of them have become close friends. They have become more willing to talk about religion, beliefs, and God, and this has opened many hearts.
The groups that come through at the Institute are mainly here to learn about the region and have a cross-cultural experience in France. While they are here, though, they are able to learn about the spiritual condition as well. This, combined with their many other experiences, leads many of the people to have a desire to learn French and return to study as well as minister. These groups have come to an end, and we are now preparing for the students who will be coming to study for the summer. These students will have a chance to impact the churches and the lives of people in France in combination with their studies, and I am excited to be able to work with them, even if only for a short time.
I do, however, still owe the Institute some money for my internship. I would really appreciate your prayers as I continue trying to raise the rest of the funds. I have raised all but $1600.
If any of you are interested in helping support me in my last month, please contact me.

Well, I least I learned something

People always tell horror stories about saying the wrong word in a foreign language and either saying something offensive or sexual. They rally are trying to say something innocent, but the word is mispronounced or the phrase doesn’t mean what the speaker thought. Well, after a few years studying French, I have have finally made that, and I left laughing but embarrassed.

Many people start off making more understandable mistakes like saying “je suis chaud” or “je suis excité.” Both have sexual connotation, but to the person learning French, they mean “I am hot” and “I am excited.” (The correct way to say the first is “J’ai chaud.” For the second, one should continue the sentence and state why he is excited.) However, I seem to have generally skipped these and jumped to one many probably haven’t encountered.

At lunch last Friday, Jacob and I were eating the delicious creations of our incredibly animated and lovable cook Danielle when she asked what we were going to do for the rest of the day. Jacob simply said he would continue sleeping so that he could recover from falling ill, and I listed a couple work assignments before saying that I needed to knit. This led to a conversation about knitting and crocheting in which Danielle learned that I prefer to crochet instead of knit. As the conversation drew to a close, her interest was sparked, and she asked what I am knitting. I told her assuredly I am making a hood for my sister. Or at least that is what I thought I had said, but the wide-eyed expression crossing her face as she tilted her head and leaned slightly forward told me otherwise. “Comment? (What?)” she asked. “Une capote,” I responded without the assurance I had before. She asked again. ” I repeated while making the motion of putting a hood over my head. I was incredibly confused. I had thought she might ask what I was knitting and wanted to be able to tell her, so I had looked up the word earlier in the week using both a translator as well as a dictionary. I didn’t see how the word could be so wrong. Danielle waved her hands gently in front of her, saying “Non, non, non, ça, c’est pour les hommes. C’est un préservatif masculin. (No, no, no, that’s for men. That’s a condom.)”

Apparently it can also mean a cape or the roof of a convertible, but the first thing a French person will think of when they hear the word ” une capote” is a condom. The word I needed was “un capuchon.” You can take this as the embarrassing story it is or form one of many different lessons that can be found in it. I’ll largely just look back on this story and think of the time I learned the French version of “a rubber” after telling someone that I am making one for my sister.

If you have any embarrassing language stories, please tell them in the comments below.

For those of you interested:
I have officially raised 2575 for my trip! Thank you all so much for your help!
I do still have quite a bit to raise.
If you would like, please visit my fundraising page for more details about my stay in France and about how to donate to my internship funds.

La première semaine

My travel experiences have always been a little bizarre or planned last minute. I can’t say I like it, but it certainly keeps life interesting. When I found out my itinerary just one and a half weeks before coming to France, my nerves were wrecked. All the unexpected changes on flight day didn’t help. But even after a majorly delayed flight, a changed flight, and running through the airport like a maniac running from a herd of charging rhinos, I finally made my first connecting flight and met up with a friend from school afterward until our next flights.

Since then, my life has been a strange mixture of the familiar and the brand new, as the village I lived in two years ago has changed and the people I’m living with are no longer the twelve people I came to know as family, but instead three of them and four people completely new to me (as well as one visitor who left before I awoke this morning). I’ve already become incredibly attached to these fantastic people, but my heart is being pulled seven directions for John, Marshall, Cate, Dylan, Karrisa, Anna, and Michelle.

Because of all the groups who will come and stay at the house throughout the spring, I’m living with Claira in Elvira’s apartment, and it’s incredibly different from what I had known before. But it’s only a block from the house, and it’s nice to be forced to go outside every morning. The view from my window is gorgeous and will never fail to be so, especially just as the sun is peeking it’s first rays over the horizon in an attempt to grab onto our beach and stop blushing after its first sight. It’s still fairly shy most of the time, but the sun has made more of an appearance the last couple days.

I’m so excited to start working on a more set schedule this week, even if it means working at 7:15 in the morning. Because my week of ease and jet lag is over and the first group’s arrival today, I will be working on overload in the mornings and the evenings and then have a bit more time to work on my own projects and the language learning content (editing, creating, and artwork) in the late mornings and mid afternoons. I get to take part in helping several groups of American’s learn more about France, French, and the state of the church as well as make their stay as enjoyable as possible. I’m so excited to see how God uses my time here to impact the people I encounter and change my own life as well.

Starting this week, I’ll try posting more often about the details and funny/interesting stories and such. But here’s to my first week finished and to my second week beginning.
Feel free to comment below and ask questions about my stay, experiences, travels, and work.

I am still trying to raise the last $1600 for my stay, so if you would consider donating that would be wonderful. There are several ways to contribute, and they are all listed on this fundraising page: http://www.gofundme.com/faith_in_france

Stay faithful, and stay fantastic. I’ll write you later this week.