Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why I Write

It's been an interesting adventure since I started this blog. At first, I started it because years ago, I was sitting at home, bored out of my mind, but wanting to get my voice out to the world and make some kind of impact. I then used it when I visited inner-city Chicago to describe my journey, thoughts, and reflections as I lived and worked in the rougher parts of America. Then, the blog sat there, unattended to, but still a place for me to come back and revisit some memories and thoughts. However, I rarely used it.

And it wasn't until I realized I needed a writing outlet a few years ago, that I began to take it a bit more seriously. Why not just journal? Well, I do that too at times, but it's different. When I blog, it forces me to come to a resolution, some kind of conclusion to present. I also leave out a great amount of details and just present with you the emotion. I'm sorry to say, but I don't like sharing the details, for other's privacy sake and my own. Journaling is only from my perspective and my raw thoughts, good and bad; my own form of reality that leaves out many facts and truths.

But what I can do is describe my feelings. That isn't so hard for me as I'm a huge feeler. Talking about my feelings is what I do to stay sane. And as I talk about them and write them to the internet world, I see that the main reason why I sit there and write is to let anyone who stumbles across this space know that they aren't alone.

There are so many times in our lives when our emotions overwhelm us and we succumb to the raging storm that comes from within. We look at each other, with our distorted realities, and think "That person must have it together. Surely, they wouldn't understand what I go through." Yet, more often than not, when you really look into that person, you see that they aren't that different from you. We all struggle with insecurities, fears, doubts, passions, joy, beliefs, and so much. We just have to stop looking at the surface, and be willing to face reality: that things won't ever be perfect or easy and that's OK.

I was reminded of this fact as I sat in the car with a friend (where all my best conversations happen), and she blurted out, "Hannah! You're just so cool and you know how to be friends with almost anyone. People like you automatically and you just always have something funny to say." A smile spread across my face and a laugh escaped me. I replied, "Well thank you, but the entire time, I was thinking that YOU were doing so well with talking with people and everyone seems to adore you. As for myself, I thought I was being a fool and just so awkward." We then sat there, smiling and laughing, at our foolish selves, but feeling that much better about ourselves.

So thank you to all of those you stop by this place and take in my words. I will caution you that my words don't reveal the whole story and even my lengthy novels can be misconstrued. You may not understand my intentions, but I at least hope, they can start a conversation. One that penetrates the surface of ourselves and digs deeper into our hearts. And then I hope, we can be friends.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What does it mean to be beautiful?

It's one of those mornings where I have to get down on my knees and pray. The words and emotions from a blog post I had just read echo in my mind: "I just wanted to be loved and accepted. I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to be in control of something." And the way the woman did it was through bulimia and overdosing on laxatives because she was so scared to gain weight, even a measly 5 pounds. So she ended up in the hospital, barely escaping death. I was nearly brought to tears.

And yet, a fear then ran through me as I empathized with the woman and saw similar struggles.

I have to get on my knees and ask for help and forgiveness of my own similar desires. It's normal to want to be beautiful and feel like you belong. And yet, I have also believed the lies that to be thin is to be beautiful. To look a certain way means that then I will be loved and accepted.

Now, I must admit I'm nowhere near developing an eating disorder, but my weight and body do weigh on my mind from time to time. I sometimes check the scale, fear that the number will be higher than last. I look at other women and see how flat their stomachs are and how thin their arms are and I begin to dislike my body. Even though I've been told countless times "Hannah, I wish I had your body" or "You're beautiful just the way you are", I don't believe them or let it slide off because I fear that it will change one day and so I have to keep pushing and watching so that NEVER happens. So that I can always be beautiful and loved.

I know I'm not the only woman who deals with this. Almost every woman I know deals with body issues and the desire to be beautiful.

For me, I love being active: running, biking, hiking, dancing, sports, etc. are all activities I enjoy. I even realize that I sometimes need to be active for my emotional state. When it's been a rough day, a good run or jiu jitsu practice can calm the raging storm and I feel more at peace once again and can think clearly to deal with the issue. I started working out a bit more seriously recently due to more time on my hands and my desire to get better at jiu jitsu. Honestly, I was tired of getting injured and wanted to find a way to get stronger and better at my game. I wanted to be able to put up a better fight with the people I practiced with (especially since 95% of them were men who were bigger than me) and saw that I needed to get stronger and take care of my body.

And yet suddenly, after a few weeks of being in better shape and seeing the improvements in my body, I began to fear that I may lose it. I began to lose sight of the main reason why I wanted to be in good shape in the first place. Suddenly, it's a number of calculating calories and going for a random run just to make up for those cookies you ate after lunch.

My goals are to be healthy and strong. I want to feed my body the right kind of foods and exercise it in the way that makes it feel good and keeps it working well. I want to do it because I want to live long and happily. Taking care of my body is a responsibility.

And yet, to be beautiful doesn't mean I have to be thin or have the right hair color. For me, I want to be the beautiful person that when people are around, they feel loved and can seek comfort in. I want to make them laugh and feel better about life when things are hard and down. And I can be THAT beautiful person whether I weigh 30 pounds heavier or lighter. Yes, my metabolism will slow, my skin will sag, and my hair will grow gray. But in the end, I can work towards a more everlasting beauty and seek my love from the One who matters, who tells me that no matter how I physically look, I am still wonderful and beautiful in His eyes.

What kind of things you have started with the right intentions that have turned down a more fearful and anxiety ridden path?

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Wrestling Match

For this past week, I have felt like I've been wrestling with myself. Emotions like anger and sadness rise up, and I want to battle them back down and say "Get over this! Calm down." A wrestling match ensues between my emotions and the other part of me that desires inner peace. Eventually, we run out of a time and nothing is settled and I end up just saying, "Forget about it." And yet, the anger comes back the next day and we're in another tussle where no one wins.

So I turn to God and say, "Why am I so angry? Why am I like this? Why am I so horrible? If I truly loved, this wouldn't affect me. If I was wise and discerning, I could see the bigger picture and these small actions wouldn't upset me. Why can't I get this right and just be a better person?"

I apologize for the horrible way I've been feeling and in all the cruel thoughts I think. I apologize for falling so short. I tell God, "I'm sorry Lord. I have failed yet again. But I will continue to try and change!"

And finally, towards the end of the week, I sit down tired, not in anymore control over my emotions and thoughts than when I began. I turn towards Jesus and say, "I'm sorry. I want to be a better person. I want to be loving. I want to be peaceful. I want to be merciful, gracious, and so much. You have to change me."

He just smiles and whispers, "Stop trying to force it and just be happy where you are at. It will come in time. Enjoy the present you and give yourself grace in those moments. Then you'll be able to give it out that much more to others."

I realize it's the same issue: me trying to be perfect and in control. The me trying to change me, through methods of more anger and frustrated discipline. And naturally, only more rage and exasperation arises and a downward spiral ensues. But instead of beating myself up for all the ways I fall short, I must step forward and get on my knees at the cross and surrender. I must say, "I can not change myself. So please, do your work with me." I must not say this in a frustrated, angry voice, but with peace, acceptance, and trust. I am not alone in this struggle and there is a love there, waiting for me to step into it and be transformed, not through my will, but His.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Conflict in Relationships

"Why do we hate conflict?"

"Because it's just horrible," was the thought that went through my mind. I was in Chicago, listening to the director of my program speak about political issues and race. No one really said anything, but just stared at her. She continued on, "Really guys! Why is it we don't like conflict? Why do we avoid it so much?"

The conversation happened over 3 years ago, but it still lingers in my mind and I still ask myself, "Why is it that I hate conflict so much?"

Anytime I think of conflict, this horrible tension rises and my stomach begins to feel sick. I mentally think of all the places I'd rather be than in the location with the presence of disagreements and conflict. I want to run. I want to hide. I want to be anywhere, but where conflict resides.

Yet, as much as I don't like it, I have to accept the fact that I personally have probably grown the most after some form of disagreement or strife. And that, there are healthy ways to handle conflict and it's definitely a learned skill and something to be practiced.

I have to say that I've learned a lot about conflict from my good friends Isaac and Aidan (hi guys!). They love to debate, especially about philosophical and theological topics. And at the beginning, I was highly uncomfortable with it and often got perturbed. I hated debates and honestly, didn't want anything to do with it. I had only negative experiences with any such kind of debates and thought they were horrible. Yet, I loved the topics they brought up and wanted to participate in the discussions. However, the debate style made me anxious and nervous and I didn't know how to handle it.

I had voiced it to Aidan at one point and said, "Look at what I found! But I don't want you to find any loop holes in the argument and debate with me about the article. I just wanted to share it with you." I believe Aidan was kind of taken aback by it and he asked me about it. Him and Isaac then made it a point to be careful around me when topics came up. They often just sat down with me and asked me what I thought and made sure to affirm my ideas and put down my doubts. They were gentle with me in their discussions and really listened to me. I soon found myself much more comfortable around them when they debated and even adding my two cents here and there or asking questions. It took a while for me to learn to be present in the midst of conflict and be OK with that we were all passionate about our view points, but that it was OK to disagree as well. Just because someone didn't agree with me, didn't necessarily mean there was something wrong with me.

That's usually the biggest fear about conflict: that you could be wrong and therefore, there is something horribly wrong with you.

The next and probably biggest person I have learned about conflict with is my sister. We have lived together for most of our lives and have fought on and off for the past 21 years. Of course, anyone will tell you that the great things about siblings is, you can fight, but yet know it will be OK because in the end, they're still your brother/sister and they will still love you. The conflict will not end the relationship. Yet, that doesn't necessarily make the conflict any easier to deal with.

Over the past year, I have learned a lot about my sister and who she is as a person. We talk often and as we've both matured, learned to explain ourselves and how our brains work. Even though we look very similar on the outside (random strangers have come up to us and asked if we were twins), we're very different people on the inside.

And I love that we're different.

Where I am weak, my sister is often strong in. We joke about how vocal she is and how everyone appreciates her honesty in situations. Kate will say, "Maybe I'm too vocal," and I go, "But I love that about you! You're the voice in my head I don't let out. You stand up for me when I don't." And she has admitted that I sometimes calm her down and have helped her to watch what she says.

And of course, with two very different people living together, there will definitely be conflict.

There have been many times where we don't handle it well. One or the other or both will be severely hurt and upset. Sometimes we just don't understand the other and don't see eye to eye. And as we have continued to fight and argue, we have also gotten a lot better about it. We've learned to try to meet in the middle and compromise and talk out our problems. And even at times we will be upset with each other, we do our best in the midst of it to still respect the other person.

The biggest realization on how much we have improved came a few weeks ago. We were talking late one night and I had been feeling some resentment towards her. I voiced to her my feelings and I could tell that I must have triggered something. She looked upset and we sat there, in silence for a moment. She announced she was going to run an errand and then go to bed. I let her go. I have also learned with my sister that when she's upset, it's best to just let her go and feel what she's feeling and talk to her later. And of course, I'm the opposite. When I'm upset, I want the person to follow me and ask me what's wrong. Kate has learned to do this as well and often comes after me.

The next day, I thought about my sister and all the things she must have been going through. The comment I had made had been one I had said multiple times before and Kate has voiced before how it can sometimes make her feel and come across. I did my best in the moment to put myself in her shoes. So I called her up and we chatted for a bit as if nothing had happened and then I said, "Look, I just wanted to check up on you. I know I upset you last night and I wanted to apologize for that." I was preparing for a long drawn out conversation and tense moments. But what happened utterly surprised me. Kate simply responded, "It's OK. I can see where you were coming from. Honestly, it's just been a rough week and it just was another thing added on top of that. I'm sorry I made you feel that way though." I then voiced how I could see that and said I understood that she must be feeling torn and overwhelmed. We talked a bit more, apologized, forgave each other, and it was done.

The conversation lasted 5 minutes.

The next 15 minutes was full of random plans and funny moments about the day.

I came home from work and hugged her, feeling relieved and happy that we could make it through a conflict so easily. I voiced at how great I thought we did about getting through that conflict and she just kind of shrugged. "Well, that's what you do, isn't it? You just listen to the other person and try to understand them. It's all about just understanding the person and voicing that."

And with that, I can see that the key thing with conflict is, really listening to the other person and stepping into their shoes. The hardest part about conflict is putting down your pride and really trying to see things from the other person's point of view. You actually may be wrong. And while that is scary, it's one of the best ways to grow. Kate challenges me and I love that about her. Of course, she's also laid the ground work of that she loves me and will really listen to me and makes me feel safe with her, but she also loves me in the way that she will sometimes calls me out and say, "I don't think I agree with that. I love you enough to point that out because I want the best for you."

That's the other thing about conflict: it's sometimes the best way to love each other. To call each other out and say, "You're wrong in this and I want the best for you, so I'm going to help you grow." You don't go about it in a self-righteous kind of way and declare that you know best. You don't tell the person they are horrible and make them feel stupid for their view point. You open up a discussion and love the person in the midst of it, listening to them, but gently pointing out that there are other perspectives. It doesn't mean anything is wrong with them or that they're horrible: but you see the potential in them and their worth to say, "I know you can do better than this and live a great life. Here's what I think."

And the thing is, they can do that for you too. It's a two way street, where one learns from the other. I love this definition of friendship:

"Friendship requires a humble confession that I can learn just as much from the other as he/she can learn from me."-Ruth Lin 

I'm not a professional at conflict at all and am still making a lot mistakes. But I'm learning and my friends and loved ones help me each day in that. We help each other grow. We make mistakes, we fight, we talk, and we work things out. We love each other and are passionate. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I Was Lucky, But Most Women Aren't

(Warning: This is kind of a more intense post that involves references to physical and sexual trauma. Just be advised)

I had walked out of the gym into the evening air, feeling pretty good after a decent workout. I saw my car, only about a 100 feet away and headed over to it. It was dark and some people were walking about, so I walked quickly to my car. I jumped into my car and set my bag down in the passenger seat, making sure I had everything before I left. Suddenly, I heard a groan. I quickly turned to look out my car window. 

And there he was. 

And suddenly, all my fears and horror stories of women being attacked flooded my mind and panic arose in my chest. 

His hand was on my window and I instinctively locked the car, staring at him, not knowing what to do. He groaned again and I could tell by his shrunken face, messy beard, and  disheveled appearance that he was probably a junkie. No coherent words came forth, but just low and slow moans from his mouth as he continued to look at me. 

Panic was rising higher and higher in me. "I have to get out. I have to get out of here now." I tried quickly turning on my car, but for some reason, the car alarm went off and I had to disable it. Thanks to my tricky alarm system, I realized I'd have to unlock the car in order to turn it on. "But if I unlock it, then he may be able to get in." And I shuddered at the thought of him being able to open the car door.

I heard a louder groan and stared at him as he pointed a finger at me and pushed it on the window. He then lifted his other hand and made a gesture. My eyes widened. I had only seen that gesture made by some males as a crude joke or in sexual references. My stomach dropped. He was asking me for a hand job. 

Frozen in fear, I just stared at him. He moaned louder and pressed his finger to the window. He then out spread his hand and pressed all five fingers to the window. Was he signaling that he'd give me $5? The sickening feeling in my stomach got worse. I shook my head and found myself yelling, "NO!! NO!!" He then just stared and as I looked at him, shaking my head; all I thought was, "Please don't have a gun. Please don't."

He continued to linger there for a few moments and I found myself, making up more plans to escape. I had a phone nearby. I began thinking about how fast I could quickly unlock my car and turn it on. Other ideas and plans began forming. And eventually, as I yelled a louder "NO!" he lifted his hand off my car window and began to slowly walk away towards the gym. I found myself quickly turning the car on and driving away back home.

And yet, I felt so gross, disgusted and scared.

It felt like I was covered in dirt and I wanted to wipe away the filth as fast as possible. I felt so weak and helpless. I wanted someone to protect me, to have jumped in and use their power to push the junkie away. I felt stupid in thinking I could walk in a parking lot at dark. When I had seen some shadowy figures, why had I assumed they were just other people walking to their cars? Why didn't I just walk back into the gym and wait? And a sickness hit my stomach. He had wanted a hand job. That was one of the first things he thought when he saw me. He didn't think about my life or who I was as a person. He just wanted the physical pleasure I could offer him.

I came home and told my sister, who quickly turned angry and said, "WHAT HAPPENED!?!" As I explained the story to her and got more upset, she quickly calmed down and said, "You're OK now though. Next time, call me." And at last, tears came to my eyes and I said, "I just wanted to have a good day. Why has this day been so crappy? Why me?" And my sister hugged me.


It's been over a week since the incident and I've been able to process it and calm down. Of course, the lingering fear that someone may come up behind me still remains. I was already pretty cautious as a woman in those incidents, but now, there's an impending fear that won't leave me. And as I replay the incident in my head, I think about how lucky I was that nothing actually did happen. Yet, I feel worse when I think, "And what about all those women who do have something like that happen? They have experienced so much worse. I felt sick enough with that brief moment. But what about the women who aren't as lucky as me? What about the traumas and scars they experience?" 

And the horrifying thing is: incidents like these and much worse, happen often, on a daily basis. Some woman is stripped of her worth and told all she is good for is physical pleasure. It's terrifying.

And yet, they also begin to believe that it is somehow, all their fault.

I saw this temptation within myself. Especially as a few others found out about the incident and one of the comments was "Oh my gosh Hannah! You got to be smart! Come on." An anger burned up inside of me as I snapped back, "I'm not stupid! Walking in a parking lot isn't a stupid thing to do!" We angrily bantered back in forth, as the person's concern for me was evident, and yet, my already present frustration and guilt screamed their presence. My sister was the one who pipped up, "I'm pretty sure Hannah feels bad enough about this. She was the one who experienced it after all." 

My father found out and insisted that I next time ask one of the guys from the gym to walk me out to my car. "Hannah, they're all doing some kind of martial arts or kick boxing. Trust me. The guys will be more than happy to do it. They'd love the chance to fight off some guy for real and protect you."

That brought me to the next realization: we have become lax in taking care of one another. Instead of walking the other person to their car, we sit on our couch and say 'bye'. Instead of walking up to a front door and knocking, we stay in the car and honk till the person comes outside. We don't offer to pick each other up, but instead say "See you there." When someone says, "I'm walking home," we just wave as it was nothing, not asking for a text or phone call when the person gets home. 

So men, walk your female friends to their cars, especially at night. Women, watch out for one another, and stay in groups if you can. Males, also watch out for one another, because you can also get jumped or mugged just as easily.

And women, it's OK to ask for help. In a world and culture where we're often told to be "independent and strong", we must fight against the lies and step up and ask for help, especially from our male counterparts. We can be strong and independent, but the world is much bigger and stronger than our individual selves. That is why we must ban together to fight against the world, otherwise, surely, we will fall.

And men, you must ask for help as well. For the most part, women probably won't be able to offer up physical protection (it's just how it is). But, we will help you in other valuable ways: emotional and mental support, providing you with care and encouragement, and showing you love and value, no matter what you do.

Again, we all have to be in this together. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Anxiety Attacks, But There's Hope

There's a pain in my chest. My hand goes to my heart, trying to calm the storm that's about to begin. "No no. Not now. Please."A burning sensation rises in my throat. The world begins to narrow as my mind demands attention and shouts in fear. My breath quickens. "Please go away," I mentally beg. The terrifying claw around my heart begins to squeeze, and the pain in my chest intensifies. Tears begin to well up in my eyes. "No no. I don't want this." I'm scared. The sense of doom on my shoulders gets heavier and heavier. My mind races. Now I have to get out. I have to find a safe place. Thoughts are flying through my mind at 1000 mph, and I can't even focus on what I'm thinking. I close my eyes, trying to calm myself. But bam. I'm hit at full force by the thoughts and emotions that plague me. I open my eyes again, and just stand still. It's too scary to go back in: to face whatever it is that's haunting me. To... face myself. Heart pounding, short burning breaths, intense chest pain and on the verge of tears, I freeze, hoping it, whatever is, will just go away.


It's my sister.

"Anxiety again?"

I nod.

"We'll be home soon. Almost done grocery shopping. Want to talk about it?"

I look down at the cart. "Maybe in a bit. I'm not even sure what's wrong."

"That's OK. You don't have to know. You can just talk."

And I'm grateful for someone who will just listen without judgement and validate my emotions.


Anxiety. It differs between people with various symptoms, frequency, and severity. Mine hit me full force when I was 21 and I would continue to battle it daily for the next 2 years. I saw various doctors and tried finding a therapist for a while. Some understood automatically and others dismissed it as a "momentary distress". For a long while, I just ignored it. It never really affected my life directly and I could still do activities; but after one really hard week with bouts of anxiety and depression, I found myself curled up on my bed again in a panic attack, and I came to realize that while I was still living, my quality of life was severely diminishing.

For me, I always imagined myself as this dog tied to a post with a really short chain. It seemed like no matter what I did, something around my chest and neck would squeeze and hurt, and I'd be reeled backwards in pain and fear towards the one spot. Stuck in anxiety, it felt like I couldn't freely live anymore and run towards the dreams I once wanted to. I'd then lie down next to my post, whimpering, trying to figure out how to be free once again.

Now, it's been almost 2 and a half years since my battle with it all began and I can say that now, it's not as prominent of a struggle. I still do battle with anxiety and probably will for the rest of my life. But at least now, I can experience moments full of peace and I cherish each and every one of them. Moments where there isn't a raging storm roaring inside of my body and mind. The first peaceful moment I had experienced was when I was walking home after having cried to a friend. In the walk, I stopped and searched within myself: there was no anxiety, but peace. I closed my eyes and soaked in the moment. The freedom felt amazing. There was nothing gripping at my heart and breathing felt easy. I searched harder and thought, "Is my anxiety really gone?" But soon, the anxiety popped its little head out and waved, letting me know its presence was still there. The moment only lasted for about 10 minutes, but it will always remain in my mind as one of the most peaceful moments of my life. As the years went by, I found other moments of peace popping up: sometimes doing laundry, taking a shower, or eating my food, I'd stop and smile and think, "No anxiety! Yay!"

And while I reflect and rejoice in the progress I have made, I know I am also grateful for my anxiety for many other reasons; many which I have already blogged about on here. And yet, I have been continually reminded of how when God breaks us, His light shines through that much greater. Through my anxiety, I have been humbled. Through my anxiety, I have learned to be more empathetic and understanding. Through my anxiety, I have grown more patient. Through my anxiety, I stopped just looking at a person on the outside, but stepping closer, and working to peak into their souls and understand them that much better. I learned to dig deeper and listen. I have learned to reach out to others and ask for help. And yet, I still have such a long ways to go.

Again, I feel like God is reminding me on how much He shall break us, but in that process, make us shine that much more. I first wrote about it here, where I saw how broken things can turn into something beautiful. And then, I was reminded of another moment, where I heard about God breaking things apart, but using them for his purposes. I wrote about it here, but this was the moment I was reminded of:

"I was on the verge of tears and ready to spill my guts. However, a few minutes later though, her mother came back and began randomly speaking to her daughter about a sermon she heard a few days ago. It was about the woman who broke the jar at Jesus's feet and washed them with the perfume from the jar. The mother then stated, "He said that the jar was broken so that the perfume could leave the jar and be shared with everyone. He then also said that sometimes, God needs to break things in order to use them, so that he can shine through the broken pieces and put them back together even better than before." I was just standing there, almost in tears, wondering, "Is this woman speaking to me? Or is that egotistical of me to think?" I was standing there, feeling as if I was breaking, and I felt like God was saying, "You're supposed to be like this. It'll be OK. Just wait.""

I write now to remind myself and others that there is hope. Things become broken to be used later for a purpose one can not see right now. I will be the first to admit, that in the midsts of all the anxiety and panic attacks, I yelled numerous times with tears in my eyes, "God!! Why me?!?! Please take it away. I'll do anything. Why me??" And yet, as the struggles went on and God helped me to battle through, I can look back and go, "Oh. That's why." I am nowhere near perfect, but I can say that I am moving forward. God has used my brokenness and weakness to shine His light and love people all that much better. And I'm sure He's doing that for you as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


"Why can't someone just tell me what to do? Why isn't the right choice so obvious?" is the thought that seems to go through my mind often, especially as I have gotten older. 

As a child, most of the decisions were made for you. You were often told where to go to school, what to wear, what you should eat, and what activities you should do. If you were left to making a decision, it was often of simple matters: What TV show should you watch? What game should I play during recess? Go on the swings, or play on the playground? Should I get chocolate milk or white milk? 

Simple things. Things that, if you chose something, you could easily change it for the next day. Nothing seemed quite so permanent or intimidating. 

My first big decision on my own came when I was about 14 and had to decide what high school to go to. I remember it being a little stressful of a time. I would sit on my floor and pray that God would tell me where to go. I'd flip coins over and over again, saying, "This school on heads, or this school on tails." Eventually, I'd have to do the best 4 out of 7, then the best 5 out of 8, and so on. I talked to my parents and teachers all about it and hear their input and I looked to my friends for where they were going and why. But despite me looking to my elders, friends, a game of chance, destiny, and God, the decision was still left to me. 

Looking back, the decision didn't seem that hard at all. I remember some very key things that happened that led me to my decision. I remember the moment where I decided that I wanted to choose a school that would give me room to breathe and explore other things in life. I was tired of the strictness of private school, the suffocating religious practices, the strain of money it put on my family, and the overwhelming workload. I didn't want to spend some very key years of my life only focusing only on homework and my GPA. I wanted time with my family and family, the ability to explore new hobbies, and adventures. 

Again, in retrospect, that decision didn't seem that hard. I could also be comforted that if ultimately, I didn't like my school choice, I could switch schools. Knowing you can change your mind and your surroundings is a comforting thought.  

But now, the decisions seem a bit more daunting. They involve more time, more dedication, and have more permanence than other areas of my life. To go to grad school or not? If so, where? For what? And it's easy to realize that these next few years could determine what I may or may not do for the rest of my life. Do I really want to do that for the rest of my life? How will that help my future? Do I even want to do this? 

Then other questions arise, creating various images in my head of what my future could look like: Should I marry this person? Should I move to another city? State? To another country? When should I have kids? Do I want kids? Adopt? Give birth? Where should I invest my money? How much money should I save? What should I buy with my money? How much should I tithe? Do I stay at this job? Or do I look for another job? Should I switch careers and pursue something else? Or stick with this one? Should I buy a car? Old? New? What color should it be? What type of car should I buy? What country should I visit? Where do I stay? For how long? 

And the decisions go on and on! 

With each decision comes a new possibility of the future that lies before me. I'm worried of making a wrong choice, scared that the choice will lead me down a road I didn't want to go and that I'll end up regretting my decision.

Making choices on your own is scary. Terrifying. The responsibility and weight of your own life is on your shoulders and no one wants to mess up. 

Yet, I suppose the one thing that is reassuring is that just because I make one choice, and even if it's the worst of them all, things can still change. I'm never stuck. Life is constantly moving and changing. The only thing you're really guaranteed in life is change. And with that, you must learn to give yourself grace and self-acceptance so you can move forward. 

Marriage choices is something that really intimidates me: I don't want to be a couple that gets divorced, so when I get married, I'm planning on it being for life. One of those decisions you can't back out on. As I've seek council and advice in the area of relationships for many years, one piece of advice stands out in my mind that I received from an elder co-worker on the day he was retiring and we were saying good-bye to him. I sat with him at the table in our break room and did just some small chit chat. I think he had been reflecting on his life, because suddenly, he began telling me his story of how he came to Arizona and all the events that unfolded in how he got there. He admitted that his marriage was on the rocks after 25 years and they were on the brink of divorce. He then said to me, "And at that time, I had a good Christian friend who gave me some good advice. I'd go to him over and over again saying how my wife did this or did that and how she'll never change. I was so frustrated with her. And you know what? That man looked me in the eye and said, 'She's not the one that needs to change. It's you. If you change, then she will.' And sure enough, when I began changing, she did too. And our marriage healed and blossomed once again." 

While I took that to heart to remember for my own marriage one day, I think it can apply to all other areas of my life as well. Even if I somehow end up in a situation I don't like, know that even in that moment, I still have a choice: a choice to make the best out of it and change my out look. I have the choice and the ability to change myself, and with the help and grace of God, hopefully, I'll succeed. And maybe that's one of the most important choices to keep in mind: choosing to change yourself in the moment. All else will follow.