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!

Lessons from a Drummer

I just finished watching the movie Whiplash for the first time, and I have no words that could fully describe the aftermath of wonder and confusion in which I am sitting. The confusion doesn’t come from the movie in any way, but instead what the movie provoked inside my mind. The thoughts of amazement and desire, inspiration and shame. This dramatic rendition of what it is like to be in one of the world’s best jazz ensembles shows what many people may go through in an attempt to reach their biggest dreams. However, most people are never so committed as Andrew, the main character.

My entire life, I have always wanted to be the best at whatever I do, but I have never put my absolute best effort into anything. In the movie, Andrew moves into his practice room so that he can spend more time dedicated to becoming his absolute best. I have never even dedicated just one entire day to doing something so that I could get better at it. I barely spend fifteen minutes to an hour per day in an attempt to improve. Why am I not willing to dedicate my time to pursuing my deepest desires and biggest dreams? Why am I not willing to work past my fears and inadequacies to become even the smallest bit better?

I need to break the habit of being apathetic or doing just-enough. I need to stop living life as though the things I want will eventually be handed to me because they won’t be; I will need to fight myself and possibly the world to get what I want. I don’t know much of how to begin, so I’ll follow Andrew’s lead and start doing seven things which I observed him doing throughout the film.

1. Know your exact goal.
For me, this is usually a really difficult thing to accomplish. My goals tend to be along the lines of “Learn French,” “Learn to play ukulele,” and “Start a blog.” These are nowhere near precise enough. I’m changing them to “Become fluent in French, enough to read L’Éducation Sentimentale by Flaubert without using a French-English dictionary,” “Learn how to play scales, learn strum patterns, and learn picking patterns for ukulele well enough to write your own songs and create tabs,” and “Write one non-fiction piece, one fiction piece, and one book review for your blog every week.” I know I will likely mess up at times when working to achieve these goals, but I still have something specific that I am aiming for instead of a broad idea.

2. Dedicate your time.
Sometimes spending all my time on one goal-oriented task is easy, but that is only on rare occasions. Usually I loathe spending fifteen straight minutes on one task. However, when a goal to do your absolute best is set, it takes far more than just an hour a week. It takes hours every day. I have improved with this a little lately by spending at least 45 minutes practicing French every day, but I probably wouldn’t be spending so much time practicing if I weren’t going back to France for three months in just a week. I need to spend this much, if not more, time practicing French no matter the circumstances, especially when I know I will not be speaking it regularly for quite some time because the less I practice, the poorer my French will become.

3. Practice even after it starts to hurt.
It can become incredibly painful or frustrating to continually work on one specific task until it’s perfect, but the continual work will help your body and mind find better, easier, more efficient ways to accomplish your goal. I tend to give up pretty quickly when I become frustrated with the task I am working on or when the goal seems too difficult to be achieved. Sometimes pushing through the pain is done by giving yourself rewards at certain intervals or by asking for someone to help you. However you do it, perseverance is difficult, but it is definitely worth it in the end.

4. Let people inspire you.
The people around us may not be the people we admire or up look to in our field, but listening to the encouragement and advice of others can sometimes be the only thing that gives us the last bit of hope, strength, or belief to take us through the last steps of reaching our goals. These words can sometimes be directly related to the work we are doing, but sometimes they are completely unrelated and still incredibly inspiring. Allow the people around you to speak hope into your life, and believe what they tell you, especially when it is someone that you admire in the field in which you are working..

5. Don’t let people tear you down.
Sometimes the people around us, and even our mentors/heroes, will tell us that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t capable of doing something. However, we cannot let that stop us from pursuing our dreams. It’s often difficult to believe in yourself, but there are times that you may be the only one who does. When that happens, do not let the people around you or the people you look up to stop you from reaching the goal. Keep pushing through and prove to them (and yourself) that you are more than good enough, that you are more than capable, and that you will succeed.

6. Take the final step and achieve your objective.
Often times taking the last step towards achieving a goal is the most difficult. Maybe it’s because you don’t want the journey to end, maybe it’s because you’re scared, or maybe it’s because it is the most advanced task you have to accomplish. Whatever the reason, we cannot let ourselves stop so close to achieving what we have spent countless hours and unimaginable energy and focus working towards. We must take that final step and welcome the reward of satisfying success.

7. Keeping working after the goal is accomplished.
Even after we have reached our goals, we need to continue to work on what we have accomplished and learned so that we can continue becoming the best we can be. This usually means setting a new goal to reach and going through the same gruelling process again. But life will never be as satisfying as when a goal is met, so we must strive to become better still.

For those of you who may be interested in watching the movie Whiplash, be warned that it may be a trigger for those who have experienced verbal, mental, emotional, or physical abuse. Even without experiencing any of these, it was difficult to watch at times. The physical abuse is fairly minimal; however, the verbal, mental, and emotional abuse is a theme seen throughout the entire film. If you can make it past these triggers, the movie may still be difficult to watch for some because there is a lot of language. The dialogue, soundtrack, and cinematography are all amazing in quality and strength. It is definitely a powerful film and is incredibly artistic, and I am very glad I took the time to watch it.

A New Journey

Early this semester, I was asked to return to France with the Jacques Lefevre Institute as an intern. I’m glad to say I decided to apply and was accepted for a three month trip. I wrote this poem the day I was asked to return:

Longing for Tomorrow (or Sword Beach)

Whoosh! Wave. Whoosh! Wave.
The delicate hum of misplaced air
Mingles with the constant rustle
Of the shining green blades.

This. That! This. That!
Silver speech and pointed hearing
Interrupt the gentle melody
With beautiful clashes of excitement.

Water. flowing Water. flowing
The sweet scent fills the air
As imagined bread bakes
Near the beach so far away.

Pit. Pat. Pit. Pat.
Feet move in the style of the blades
While aching for the foam soaked grains
Piled high with shells of yesterday.

This is an amazing opportunity for me to continue learning French as well as gain work experience in both language as well as art and writing. I will be helping create the language learning content that the Institute is putting together for French learners. However, because I will be working with a non-profit, I need to raise the funds to go for these three months. Please consider looking at more specific information and donating at http://www.gofundme.com/h0cqb0. Also, please consider sharing the link with the people you know.

Thank you. I hope you enjoyed the poem!

St. James

The busy streets bustle as the fog begins to lessen ever so slightly from the sprinkle that is coming down from the unseen clouds far above. Black umbrellas open, scattered and worn, among the masses. The bright red of the public transport seems blinding in the dim light of the evening. As I walk down the street with a tea in my hands, I look up to see a river and, directly across it, a clock tower known all around the world. No one here seems to notice it much, at least not beyond glancing up at it occasionally to see what time it is, but to me it is still unfamiliar and exciting. I pause as I reach the bridge and look up to see Big Ben’s giant clock face watching over the city.

I continue on my way until I reach St. James’s Park and find a bench near the water. I sit, eat, and read to my heart’s content as the sounds of the slowly moving liquid, the prancing joggers, and the gushing couples waft around me filling my mind with happiness and ideas. After longing for years, I can finally call this place home. The British accents and tourists taking photos and the smell of pasties and fish and chips with vinegar will never tire me, instead they will fill my mind and home with constant fervour.

I smell bread fresh from the oven as I roll over in bed and hear my father cutting slices for his breakfast before he leaves for work. If only this room full of yarn, books, and art supplies could be in England. Instead when I look out the window, I see the tiny forested area across the road from my parents’ house in northern Arkansas. My window is open, and I feel a cool breeze drift into my room and hear the droplets of water hitting the roof. If I can’t be there, at least I have the cool weather and drizzling rain that are so rarely found here in the summer but that fill that country with a different sort of life.

This post was based off a prompt asking one to describe any setting they wish. I haven’t been to London, but I’ve always longed to go, and I wish to live in England, thus I chose this as the location.

Featured photo belongs to Ben Cawthra.

No Idea

I have no idea what I am doing.
I never really have; I’m just one of those people that kind of goes with the flow and has far too many interests and can’t make up her mind.

All of this terrifies me. I’m graduating from college in less than six months, and I have no idea what I’m going to do. I want to continue on to graduate school, but I also want to work as an editor, move to France, move to England, crochet, write, play music, become a blogger/Youtuber, go to culinary school, be an artist, and design menswear, and those things are only half of what pops into my mind when I think about my desires for my future for a couple of seconds.
I’ve always had so many interests that I can’t count them, but as I approach the real world, the shocking reality that I cannot do every single one of these things becomes clearer and clearer. I need to make some rather drastic changes in my life, including deciding what desires I want more than others. However, I hate stopping to think about it all because it becomes incredibly overwhelming quite quickly.

I’ve been feeling rather inspired lately, but I don’t know what to do. I know I want to create, but I never know what to make or write or play when I’m feeling more inspired and become overwhelmed with the wonderful sense of awe that inspiration brings and with the dread that fills my mind upon realising that I have no idea what work on.

Today, I could tell that my inspiration was leaning most toward languages, so I spent about two hours studying, half an hour reading aloud in, and half an hour listening to a book in French. Even though, sometimes, I can feel overwhelmed by languages, I’ve never found myself actually being tired of learning them or about them, which is brilliant. However, I don’t know enough about any language to pursue a career in it. My goal for languages throughout my life is to become fluent in French and learn at least basic Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, and Portuguese. Aside from this goal and longing to live in France for a spell and the UK for most of my life, I don’t have any clue what I’m going to do, or where I’m going to do it. I know after this semester I will probably have a much better understanding of some of the things which I am interested in doing and my capabilities in those areas, but I wish I knew more about my life now. Since I only know certain areas of interest and desires, I will try to focus on those and try to hone my skills so that, when January comes, I will enter the real world and be unstoppable. Well, at least I’ll be unstoppable from pursuing my dreams and making several mistakes and a few remarkable discoveries about myself along the way.