Don’t let them become missed opportunities

Sometimes we let fears and uncertainties hinder us from grasping opportunities put in front of us, and we can miss out on some wonderful things.

Like gummy bears.

I try not to let myself have regrets in life—everything happens for a reason, and we take the paths we do with purpose. But I have to acknowledge that there are definitely moments in my life that I look back upon and wish I had done things differently.

When I was in the eighth grade, I had a huge crush on this boy who probably didn’t notice me much. At a school dance that year, there was a moment when a slow song came on, and he was standing all alone. Part of me wanted to walk up to him and ask him to dance with me, but the part of me that feared rejection won that battle. I wish I had been braver. What’s the worst that could have happened? Sure, he could have said, “Eww, gross. No.” That would not have been the best situation, but I would have survived it.

Flash forward to the next year, and I quite literally hid from another opportunity. I was on my way back to class one day, and the halls were completely empty—except for the one person (a different guy I had a crush on) walking in the opposite direction as I was. I had a choice to make: I could walk by him and not acknowledge him, or I could say hi and play it cool. I chose option C and dodged into the nearest classroom, which happened to be full of all seniors. I awkwardly stood with my back against the door like I was a fugitive on the run as their confused eyes stared at this strange freshman who said nothing but, “Just give me a minute” before disappearing as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I wish I had simply walked past him and greeted him. It seems really ridiculous that I didn’t, and I wasted a chance to be brave.

Then there was last week, when I let a prime opportunity slip right through my fingertips. A couple of my coworkers and I went to get snow cones for lunch (as any normal healthy adults would do), and this is no standard snow cone place—it is THE REAL DEAL. You can mix ice cream inside the snow cone, you can get cream-type ones, and you can even get toppings. TOPPINGS, people. I stood there like a fool, truly wanting to get gummy bears on top, but when it came time for me to order, I requested only the birthday cake snow cone. Gummy bears are my favorite candy in the entire world, and I didn’t get them. It’s not like the extra $0.25 for the topping would break the bank. I was slightly hesitant because I thought maybe the gummy bears would get too cold (even though they taste great that way) or that maybe the snow cone maker wouldn’t put enough of them on there. Whatever the reason, I didn’t get the gummy bears—and I was immediately sad about that. Yes, the snow cone place is still there, and I’m sure I’ll return there (and make the right decision next time), but it was a chance for something great that I let pass me by.

I typically don’t pass up the opportunity to ride a Ferris wheel.

The truth is that we get a number of opportunities every single day. Some of them don’t seem so monstrous in the grand scheme of things, while others are pretty huge decisions we make. We only get to do this whole life thing once, and I think it’s important to take advantage of the chances you get—especially the ones that, deep down in your heart, you truly want to do. At least you’ll have answers rather than sitting back later and wondering what would have happened if you simply would have dared to chase your dreams, dared to love, dared to speak words straight from your heart, dared to trust, dared to hope, dared to forget about comfort zones for a moment in time, dared to let yourself be bold.

And dared to live with a passion that is, as Barney Stinson would say, legendary.

I’ve been trying to live so that I seize opportunities, and as the snow cone incident proves, I have a ways to go. But I do try to remind myself how short life really is in the big picture—and it goes by so quickly. There are so many moments that we could enjoy that we don’t. There are so many chances that should be taken that aren’t. There are so many possibilities that never come to be because we don’t let them.

It’s not always easy to be brave, and life can certainly throw some pretty intimidating situations your way. But sometimes those are the best ones—the ones that make you uncomfortable yet ultimately bring you peace and help you grow. Whether it’s for love or for gummy bears or for yourself, sometimes you simply have to go for it.

Because you don’t want to find yourself eating such a wonderful snow cone but wishing it had an even sweeter topping.

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And sometimes you eat dinner on a lifeguard stand

I’m a firm believer in doing what you need to do, regardless of what other people think or what they would do in the same situation.

Especially when pigeons are involved.

My sister and I recently went on a trip to Newport Beach—a vacation that was much-needed in my life and one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I’d never been to the area, but there’s a book series I read growing up that took place in Newport Beach, and I’ve always wanted to go there.

If you try to take a selfie while biking, please be careful.

The trip was so much fun—we rented bikes and rode along Huntington Beach, we rode a big Ferris wheel (even though my sister really hates heights and might have freaked out a little when the thing stopped when we were at the very top), we ate dinner at restaurants that overlooked the ocean, we hiked through a scenic canyon and ran up the hills, we ran along the boardwalk at Newport Beach and then checked out the pier, we carefully navigated our way on rocks that look like the ones from the scene in Free Willy when the great orca whale finally gets his freedom, and we became a bunch of shades redder as we enjoyed every ounce of the California sunshine as we could. (Word of advice: Don’t forget sunscreen, especially if pasty white is your natural shade.)

One of my favorite memories, though, happened on our final night. We had decided to grab food somewhere and then have a picnic at the beach. When we got there, though, it was SO packed. Parking was a nightmare, and by some rare spark of fortune, we found a free spot on the street not too far away from the pier. I hooked a U-ie, and we made the short trek there. However, it was so crowded that my sis didn’t seem content with our original plan. We spotted some picnic tables, and she said she would snag one while I went to the restroom. But the look on her face when I started walking toward her was one of someone who was about to be the victim in a horror movie.

And then I saw them—the pigeons.

I don’t like birds much, but my sister really, really can’t stand them. They give her anxiety similar to that of people with arachnophobia. And these birds were surrounding her. It was very clear we were not going to eat at the picnic tables.

Just protecting the ocean and all of its beach-goers

I spotted a lifeguard stand that said “NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY” and suggested we go sit on it and eat our dinner. She asked if that was allowed, but I didn’t see anything saying people couldn’t get on the lifeguard stands. Sure, no one else was doing it, but that shouldn’t necessarily be a factor in important decisions like this. We walked out there, climbed up, and began our beach picnic.

And it was exactly what I’d hoped for—a peaceful final evening on the beach, overlooking the vast wonder of the ocean and feeling the cool breeze blow in the air.

(Side note: That California breeze is no joke, so make sure you always have a jacket or sweatshirt with you in the evenings—especially if you’re from Texas.)

We often have to create our own paths, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not always best to do what everyone else is doing—they might not even be right. People sometimes say “You do you,” and I think it’s actually really good advice. Not everyone knows what’s best for your situation, and your actions may be way different than what others’ would be—and that’s not a bad thing by any means. If you’re not hurting anyone, what’s the harm in doing what your heart tells you to do?

I’ve been trying to remind myself of this more often. It’s easy to get caught up in hesitation and fear when you’re paving your own path, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and be bold and walk toward the lifeguard stand like you know exactly what you’re doing. For me, in my personal life, that’s meant being braver in letting people know how I feel. Yes, it hurts to share your heart with someone who only breaks it into a thousand tiny little pieces, but at least you did it—at least you let your heart lead the way to do what you needed to do.

Even if it was solely for you.

My sister and I both noticed that where we were in California and where we live in Texas have completely different lifestyles. They’re used to their ways, and we’re accustomed to ours. Neither way is necessarily right or wrong—just different. It’s better that we’re not all the same.

Life is too short to waste chances and prime opportunities because of fear or uncertainty. Don’t let the pigeons ruin everything for you. Those pigeon moments are the ones when you can find alternatives that may be better than what you imagined.

Like eating dinner with your best friend on top of a lifeguard stand at a place you’ve always dreamed of being.

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Cartwheels in the Target maternity section

Your life can be impacted by anyone at any moment and anywhere.

Even by a little girl on a Thursday evening in the maternity section at Target.

I met my cousin and her kids and my aunt and uncle for dinner last Thursday, and my trusty Google Maps told me it would take anywhere from one to two hours to get there after work, so I left two hours before we were meeting just to be safe. It ended up only taking a little more than an hour, so I had some time to kill.

Naturally, I went to the nearest Target.

I was looking around and seeing a bunch of things I probably don’t need, and then I saw a precious little girl dancing around and talking nonstop as her pregnant mom looked for some new maternity clothes. (To be clear, I was not shopping in the maternity section. The clearance rack was mixed in the same area. I’ll be honest, though: I have accidentally purchased maternity clothes in the past when they were on the same clearance rack as the nonpreggo clothes. Oopsies.)

The little girl pranced over my way and asked me my name and told me hers is Avery. After our introductions, she informed me that my hair is red—kid knows her colors. Then she told me she can do a cartwheel and asked me if I wanted to see it.

I mean, is that even a question?

She raised both hands in the air, and right before she showed off her gymnastics skills, she looked at me and said, “Make sure you’re watching. I’m really good.”

It was one of the worst cartwheels I’ve ever seen.

But it was also one of the best. Even though I didn’t think it looked so great (I’m no gymnast, but this looked more like putting your hands on the ground and attempting a roundhouse kick with both feet), Avery truly believes in herself, and that confidence made that cartwheel so much more respectable.

Then she instructed me that it was my turn. At this point, her mom intervened and told me I certainly didn’t need to listen to her daughter, but I felt a cartwheel was necessary in that moment. I’m pretty sure I’ve never completed a straight cartwheel in my life (plus, there is not a lot of space in the clothing section for a cartwheel, so the challenge was magnified), but when I finished, sweet little Avery exclaimed, “Wow! That was so good!”

Bless her heart.

Even though I don’t know that Avery’s judge of talent is very accurate, I appreciated her innocent affirmation. I think we need that every once in a while—people telling us that we’re doing well. Life can kick our tails sometimes, and I think people like Avery step into our lives at just the right moments to remind us that we can do the things we don’t always believe we can do.

I might not be a rock star, but maybe one day I’ll take over the stage.

We (hopefully) all have goals and dreams we’re chasing, but sometimes it takes others believing in us to help us more fully believe in ourselves. I remember years ago when I was growing up, I wanted to be so much like my older brother, and I wanted him to be proud of me. I was bragging to him about how high I could jump, and he gave me a challenge: He taped a dollar bill way up out of my reach and told me to jump up and grab it. I jumped and came up short. I tried again and failed again. I can’t remember exactly how long I kept jumping for that thing, but I do remember I legitimately started sweating. I also remember reaching a point when I was so tired and frustrated that I wanted to quit. The whole ordeal was beginning to seem impossible. But I thought about my brother and the fact that I thought he really believed I could get it. I told myself that he believed in me—he believed I could reach that dollar. And that helped me believe it, too.

I got the dollar—and I framed it.

Avery reminded me of the importance of believing in others and believing in ourselves. I’ve been a little discouraged lately because of all of my kidney troubles and not being able to run as far or as fast, and I often worry that I’ll never race again like I used to. But I have to believe it’s possible.

I think we all have strengths within us that we don’t always know we have. Sometimes we have to find those strengths on our own, and other times we need people to remind us that those strengths are there.

Either way, you might discover you’re capable of a lot more than you thought you are.

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When you can’t find the right avocado

Dating can sometimes be like trying to pick out the right avocado—you’re trying to find the one that’s best for you, and you might encounter some not-so-great ones in the process.

And you certainly don’t want to get one that’s a lot worse on the inside than it looked on the outside.

I fully understand that no one is perfect, and I don’t expect anyone to be. But I still have the childhood belief I always did that there are people who are perfect for each other. I look at my parents, who have been married for almost 45 years, and I know without a doubt in my heart that there’s no one else for either of them in the entire world. Spend about 12 minutes with them, and I’m pretty sure you’ll agree.

Sure, people may have to go through some imperfect matches to get to their lobsters (I’m sorry if you don’t get that Friends reference—it’s on Netflix, and there are reruns on TV all of the time), but I believe certain people are meant to be together.

And others simply aren’t.

I shared in the past that I tried a dating app for less than a day. Not a fan. But for some weird reason, not too long ago, I let a few of my friends convince me to give it another try—for a longer period of time.

I talked to some guys who seemed nice and others who turned out to be turds, but even the nice ones just didn’t seem right for me. I went out with one of those nice guys, but I felt zilch the entire time. Well, unless you count boredom, because I felt that (I know that sounds mean). So, once again, I deleted the app—this time forever.

There are some things I’ll never understand.

I think one thing I really don’t like about the apps is that everything feels so forced. Do I want to meet my Jim Halpert? Sure. But I honestly don’t want to go searching for him. And I know many people have found their true loves on dating apps, and I’m very happy for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

I do realize that I have somewhat high expectations, but I’m fine with that—and sometimes I wish my friends were, too. I understand their hearts are in the right places, but we’re all different and don’t all want the same things in life. I know what I want and what I don’t want, and I’m not looking to spend time and energy where I don’t want to. I’d rather be single forever than end up with someone for the sole purpose of ending up with someone.

My friend and I were out one night recently, and we met a couple of guys who seemed pretty decent. I realized very quickly that I wasn’t interested in either of them, but I was good with the wingman role for the evening. At one point, one of the guys asked me if I was single and told me I should go out with him. No, no. False. And then he asked me how I would know if I was meant to be with a person if I never actually spent time with him. I tried to answer as best as I could without being a complete jerk, but I had chatted just enough with him to know that we were definitely not meant to be and that I actually didn’t want to spend any time with him at all. Ever.

Truthfully, I don’t know if I’m the right person to answer his question. I know what I want to believe—I want to believe that when you know, you just know. But I’ve never been there before. Have I had hope for certain people? Of course. I think we know how that turned out, though.

But I do know something else: I know that, regardless of what your dating or marital status is, you’re capable of sharing love that’s big and authentic and pure and hopeful and genuine and bold and determined and true—and it doesn’t have to be reserved for just one person. It’s a love for all.

We don’t all have to agree on everything. We don’t all have to hold the same beliefs. We don’t all have to take the same paths to the same destinations. We don’t all have to fall in love or have people fall in love with us.

But I do think we should all know what love is and what love does—and it doesn’t take a perfect pair to do that.

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We’re all different, and that’s a good thing

One thing I loved about teaching was having a classroom full of so many different students who all had their own special personalities and creations for their assignments.

It gave me a small glimpse of the magnitude of the unique beauty that spans the world.

I got to spend some time with my sweet niece over the weekend, and I hadn’t seen her in a little while, so we had some catching up to do. She’s a little more than 9 months old now, but she’s still unsure of that whole crawling thing.

I get it. Sometimes you simply have to take your time.

I had brought a birthday present for my sister-in-law, and because wrapping gifts is not my thing, there was plenty of the tissue paper that I had stuffed in the gift bag—and this immediately caught Olivia’s attention. We started trying to get her to crawl toward it, and she would lean and lean and lean and then kind of fall forward but not actually crawl. I tried again later right before I left, and she was so close to crawling, but it just didn’t happen. And then my brother said something that really stuck with me.

It’s going to have to happen on her terms.

And he’s right—Olivia is going to crawl when she’s ready to crawl. I can encourage her and try to entice her with purple tissue paper as much as I want, but I can’t force her to get moving. It’s a decision she has to make on her own.

I think a lot of us are like Olivia in certain ways. I know there have been situations I’ve faced when I was hesitant to do something simply because I wasn’t quite ready yet. I let it happen on my own terms. I’ve mentioned quite a few times before that I used to be really afraid to let guys know when I had feelings for them. I feel like I’m a lot bolder in that area than I used to be, but it took a really long time for that to happen. Like little Olivia, back then I needed more time before I was sure taking such a huge leap was a good idea.

We’re all so different, and that’s not a bad thing. There are more than 7 billion people in this world—more than 7 billion unique personalities and hearts that need genuine love. And sometimes things have to happen in our lives on our own terms rather than those of the people around us or those that are considered the norm by most of society.

I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 27 (that’s another story in itself), which I realize seems pretty late in life for something like that to happen. But, as you know, I’ve never actually been in a relationship or really dated anyone, so it’s not like the kissing opportunities were abundant. I still needed it to happen on my own terms, though. I had just poured my heart out to a guy I really cared about, and he kissed me. Obviously it didn’t end up working out, which hurt for a while, but that’s alright—it’s another chapter in the story that’s unique to me.

And you have your own unique story, too.

Four people who probably all learned to crawl at different points in life (P.S. I LOVE this family.)

God has different plans for all of us, and your story isn’t going to look like mine or your best friend’s or that seemingly perfect celebrity or any of those other 7+ billion people out there. It’s going to be yours, and it’s going to be special. For me, I want my terms to be His terms, because then I know it’s right.

I’ve had to remind myself of that a lot lately. If you had talked to me when I was a teenager or in college or even fresh out of college, I would have told you that I’d definitely be married by the time I was 30. I’m 32, and that’s not the case. With most of the people around me in serious relationships or married or already with families, it’s easy to start to feel like I’m so far behind. But then I remember that I’m not like all of my friends and family members. For some reason, I’m supposed to be in this stage right now until, if ever at all, I’m ready to be in a different one.

I think we all go through different times in life when we feel like we’re crawling or barely crawling or maybe not even moving at all. We’re reaching for so many things that seem so far, and it almost feels hopeless that we’ll ever actually get there. It’s during these times that I start singing one of my all-time favorite songs: Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.” If you can hold on for one more day—and maybe you have to retell yourself that multiple days in a row—then things will eventually get better. You’ll reach the point when that barely crawl turns into a real crawl, which turns into a walk, which turns into dancing or running or soaring or whatever makes you feel brave.

I’ll be ready to cheer for sweet Olivia whenever she’s ready to crawl and walk and talk and do all of the other growing-up things babies do. And I’ll let them all happen on her terms as she continues to live out her own beautiful story, and I’ll appreciate her for simply being her.

Because we all need love and grace for just showing up and taking on each day.

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Whitney Houston wanted to dance with somebody, too

It’s not always easy to reflect upon the journey that’s gotten you to where you are.

Especially when your life is nothing like you thought it would be.

This past weekend marked exactly 10 years since I graduated college, and that made me feel really old. It was one thing when I had my high school reunion four years ago, but this took on an entirely new level of adulthood. I started thinking about the career path my life has taken since I entered the big kid world in 2007—from sports reporter to teacher to senior writer at a financial services firm—and then I couldn’t help but also think about the nonexistent dating path my life has taken.

And, of course, all of these thoughts piled up right as I was about to attend a wedding by myself.

There’s something about a wedding that can be tough on the single folk. Sure, it’s a beautiful day of celebrating the love of two people beginning a lifetime journey together, and you’re absolutely happy for them, but it’s also a reminder that you don’t have that and might never have that one person who picks you out of everybody else in this entire world.

And that can often feel like a dagger to an already hurting heart.

This particular wedding was a little harder than others. The last wedding I went to was my sister’s in the fall, and it truly was such a wonderful day. It made my heart soar to see my sister so in love and so happy to be marrying the man we’d always hoped she’d find. I was surrounded by my family—the people I love most in this world—and my heart felt so full. For the most part, I even managed to brush aside the thoughts that the guy who was supposed to go with me to that wedding had changed his mind and told me (in a text, of course) that he didn’t think it was a good idea.

But I didn’t have my family with me at this one to help remind me of what love really is and what it really does.

Post-wedding fatigue set in.

When the usher took my arm to seat me, he asked me how many people were here with me. I said I was the only one, and he managed to find me a lone seat right on the end of a row. I chatted a bit with the people near me and looked around to discover that I didn’t see many people I know. After the ceremony, I escaped to the restroom before heading to the reception, and I even considered bolting right then so as to avoid being surrounded by so many couples. But then I remembered that this night wasn’t about me, and I needed to be there for my friend and her new husband.

I ran into a family I know, and I asked if I could tag along with them. There actually wasn’t enough room for me at the table where they were sitting, so I went to another to ask if there were any open seats. Big shocker: There weren’t. A sweet new friend sitting at the family’s table called my name and said we could pull up a seat, and she snagged a chair for me.

This is why we need people, people—to help remind us that we’re not alone.

A little bit into the ceremony, I again considered leaving. Then I remembered that I love to dance, and I should never let my solo status keep me from dancing. Ever.

When Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” started playing, it hit me: This is why it’s been so tough lately. I really do want somebody who loves me to dance with me. I want somebody who picks me out of everyone else in the world. I want somebody who cares when I’m hurt and tries to make me laugh when I’m upset. I want somebody who appreciates my quirks. I want somebody to want to love me and want to be loved by me. And, just like my homegirl, I want somebody who’ll take a chance on a love that burns hot enough to last.

I don’t know if that will actually happen, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that it’s something I hope for in my life.

Maybe you’ve already found your person. Maybe you’re still waiting or searching. Maybe you’re not and are content. Regardless, I think it’s important never to miss out on the opportunities you have before you simply because you might have to do them on your own. Life really does go by so quickly, and there are only so many chances to seize moments right in the midst of them and live a life of passion without caring what other people think of you.

So if you want to dance, for the love, get out there and dance.

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Because par doesn’t always happen

Sometimes life has a way of kicking your tail and reminding you that you need to slow down and take things one step at a time.

And sometimes it happen when a bunch of things hit you all at once.

I played golf for the first time in years over the weekend—and I do mean years. I had told some guys at work that I was the two-time city league champ back in the day, which is true, but I was in the second and third grades when I won those tourneys. And I was the only girl who showed up, so I sort of won by default both years.

You know that saying, “It’s like riding a bike”? I don’t believe golf is like that—at all.

Let’s pretend this was a phenomenal shot.

I think my rustiness was a bit apparent in my re-debut round of golf. Because of the residual effects of my kidney surgery and the ensuing kidney infection, I was only able to make it nine holes, but that duration was plenty.

And it was definitely enough to provide me a few reminders I really needed.

Golf is a game of patience. It’s not like running or soccer or basketball or football with people hustling fast and diving and driving and expending everything they can to win. It’s different. It’s much more of a slow-paced game, and there’s often quite a bit of waiting involved—whether you’re waiting on other people or waiting on yourself. It’s not always easy to wait on things, especially when you want them to happen when you want them to happen. But that’s not how life always goes. Sometimes you simply have to be patient and take life one stroke at a time.

Golf is also a game of adapting. You can pick out where you want your ball to go each time you swing, but it’s not always going to land where you plan. There are a lot of factors that affect where each ball ends up, and you can’t necessarily control all of them—or sometimes any of them. So when you find yourself in the sand or behind a tree, you have to change your original game plan and somehow still make it work. I feel like this is the story of my life lately—and probably the story of a lot of people’s lives. We can plan out as much as we want, but it doesn’t mean those plans are for sure going to happen. We could end up in the water or overshooting the greens. We could end up in situations or places in which we never thought we’d find ourselves and that make us feel pretty close to hopeless. But somehow, someway, we still have to make it work. And somehow, someway, we still have to believe that we can.

And golf is a game of humility. You might think you’re doing alright, and then you hit one into a creek. You might feel like you’re about to master the course, and then you whiff the ball on the tee. You might think you’re about to sink a putt, and then you add another stroke because you failed to factor in the curve and the uphill. You might feel like you’ve chosen the right club, and then you don’t even get it on the green. Life in general can be pretty humbling, too. Just when you think you have it all together, something you weren’t expecting gets thrown your way—and you simply have to deal with it.

There are so many different courses out there. There are so many different shots you hit. There are so many different situations you face. There are so many different people surrounding you.

And there are so many different choices you have to make.

You don’t get many mulligans in life—instead, you have to hit the shot as is and never look back at what could have been or should have been. You might do really well on some holes, and you might have others that seem to blow up in your face. You won’t always have good days, and you might want to throw your clubs at certain points. Some holes will break your heart and leave you feeling like the next one isn’t even worth the effort. But you have to keep playing, and you have to keep swinging.

Because, even when you don’t shoot par, you might end up having one of the best rounds you never knew could exist.

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