Because sometimes it’s better not to think

I’m a pretty passionate person about matters of the heart.

Especially when the heart leads you to make decisions that your head shouldn’t be deciding.

One day last week at work, my coworker and I had been working on something together, and he sent me some content to review. I made my revisions and told him that I would send it to the final person who needed to see it when I thought it was good to go. I fired it off not too long after that and let him know, and when I passed by him a few minutes later, the following exchange occurred.

Me: I sent it to him.
Him: Oh, you didn’t think very long.
Me: I didn’t need to think.
Him: Sometimes the best decisions are made that way.

Ohhhhhhh. That’s a good word, sir.

I know that this situation had to do with something at work and didn’t involve any life-altering decisions or anything like that, but what he said is so true and applicable to so many other areas of life. If you think about it, thinking about something for too long can actually ruin a decision. Like my buddy said, sometimes the best decisions are made without really thinking much—because they’re made based on what the heart feels is the best thing to do.

My friend Bear didn’t need to think about spending $27 on candy. She just did it. Genius.

There are many decisions in life that need a good amount of thought put into them. I mean, just the other day, I was with my friend Bear at an acai bowl place and had to take some time thinking about which bowl was best to get that morning. It was important to consider the ingredients and the level of satisfaction that I felt each bowl would bring me. After a couple minutes of careful thought, I made a truly wonderful decision that made my taste buds and my heart very happy.

But not everything requires you to stand in front of a menu board and analyze every aspect of every option—because sometimes you simply have to go for it without thinking.

I’d like to give a super real example from Gilmore Girls. When Rory Gilmore was trying to decide between Harvard and Yale, she made a pros and cons list. She had always dreamed of going to Harvard before she ever even visited it, but after visiting both Harvard and Yale, her heart felt more drawn to Yale. She let fears get in the way of that feeling, though, and she then tried to think about her decision too much. Lorelai ended up having to step in to make her daughter realize that she actually wanted to go to Yale more, which meant that that was the school she should choose.

This clearly involved no thought whatsoever.

I know that sometimes when we decide with our hearts or go with our gut instincts those choices don’t always end up being the best ones for us—especially when they’re choices we make because we’re blinded by feelings we have for people—but sometimes they do. And taking chances is often the only way to find out. Risks can be scary, but they can also result in some pretty incredible things.

And taking chances actually isn’t as frightening when you don’t overthink them.

I watch the NBA All-Star Game every year, and I kept that tradition alive over the weekend. The game usually involves almost a negative amount of defense, so the score is always ridiculously high (this year, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 178-164). Despite that, it’s still a lot of fun to watch because the players are jacking up insane shots and putting on some circus-like spectacles. It’s not like baseball was up until a couple of years ago, where the game actually mattered and had home-field advantage implications during the World Series, so the players are simply having fun the entire time and putting on a show for their audience. They’re not thinking a ton—they’re just enjoying themselves and taking chances that they might not necessarily take in normal game situations.

And those chances often leave Reggie Miller saying “ooooohhhhhhh” and “daaaaaaaannngggggg” right along with the rest of us watching from home and begging for the replay.

You never have to think twice about enjoying life with forever friends.

I realize that we were given brains for a reason and that it’s good to use them. But we were also given very powerful hearts that often need to overpower the things that our brains are telling us to do. If I listened to my brain rather than my heart most of the time, I don’t think that I’d be the person I am today. I think that I would be much more fearful and much more cautious—two things I simply don’t want to be. I know what it feels like to be rejected and to have my heart broken as a result of going with my heart and not my brain. But I wouldn’t change those decisions. They’re the ones my coworker was talking about when he said that sometimes the best decisions are made without thinking.

Because if you’re constantly thinking and never simply letting your heart lead the way, how will you let yourself grow and fail and love and realize how brave you actually are?

I hope that you let yourself take chances without thinking about them too much. I hope that you let yourself pursue your dreams without always making pros and cons lists. I hope that you let yourself love others completely in big ways.

And I hope that you never let yourself think that you aren’t brave enough to take risks that come straight from your heart.

Because you’re worth living fully and taking chances

Time seems to go by really quickly, even when some of the days feel far too long.

Especially when you’re old(ish).

There’s some 10-year challenge that’s been trending on social media, so I’ve seen a lot of posts lately of split-screen pictures showing what people looked like back in 2009. While I didn’t jump on board that ship, it did get me thinking about how quickly 10 years go by. It doesn’t feel like I graduated college almost 12 years ago, but I did. It doesn’t even feel like I’ve been living in California for a year and a half, but I have.

I’m 34, and my favorite drink is Capri Sun.

I don’t remember thinking time was flying by when I was younger, but I was also too busy focusing on trying to grow up too fast. Some moments stick with us forever, and others become distant memories that we don’t recall as well as we might prefer. Some things we want to remember; others we wish we could forget. But each one of those moments has helped us to get to where we are right now and to become the people we are today.

I’m 34, and I often joke about the fact that I’m officially old. It’s like my body decided to start reminding me of my age when I hit 30—if you don’t stretch before breathing, everything’s going to hurt. The truth is, though, I’m really only older than I used to be, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m old. Maybe that whole “age is just a number” saying is true. Or there’s that one about only being as old as you feel. I’m not sure about that one sometimes, though, because that would make me 77 some days.

I often like to live like I’m still a kid. No, I can’t go completely rogue and ignore all of my responsibilities that are part of adulting, but I love the carefree attitudes of kids and the inherent ability they all seem to have to be able to find joy in almost any situation. I mean, my sweet niece Olivia was having crazy fun “dropping” (her word for throwing, apparently) toys behind her bed while we were FaceTiming over the weekend. When did stuff like that stop being so enjoyable for some of us?

These gems help keep me hip.

Another thing that I think we often lose as we get older is that special boldness to do and say what we want. Sure, there are some shy little kids who sometimes try to hide behind their parents’ legs, but even they usually start to come out of their shells after a few minutes of becoming familiar with their surroundings and the people there with them.

The other day, I was sitting on the shore, and there were a few little kids near me. One of those big ugly sea birds landed on the sand, and I didn’t really pay attention to it. I don’t like birds much. The kids, however, suddenly took off running straight toward the bird, laughing uncontrollably as they did. It was quite entertaining to watch—that bird wanted nothing to do with them, but they didn’t care at all. They were caught up in the moment and were enjoying every single second of it.

I realize that everything is much simpler when you’re that young and don’t fully understand much of the world around you. Yes, there are times in life that are full of struggle and pain and heartache and tears and so many feelings and stuff that feels like more than you can handle—and none of that should be ignored. It’s important to acknowledge reality and what you’re going through and the emotions that start to build up inside of you, but I think that it’s also good to live like a kid every once in a while and not focus on all of the “what ifs” and potential outcomes and, instead, just run straight toward what your heart desires.

What would that look like in your life? Would that mean chasing a dream that you’ve been afraid to pursue? Telling someone how you feel? Opening your heart to love? Taking a trip or journey that you’ve wanted to take but simply haven’t yet?

Me to a stranger: Will you take a picture of me flexing?

Why do we often overthink things without just doing them? It sometimes makes a lot more sense to run after the ugly sea bird without giving it a second thought. I know that I don’t want to look back at moments in my life and wonder what might have happened if I had simply been just a little bit braver—“If Only” isn’t the Hanson song that I want to describe my life. The years truly do go by so quickly, and I want to live them fully and without hesitation. I want to know that the wrinkles I’m eventually going to have are worth every single smile and every single laugh because I was able to enjoy the precious moments I’ve been able to experience.

I hope that the next time you compare pictures of yourself from years apart you see someone who has grown in tremendous ways yet still has that youthful belief that truly anything is possible. Because it is. I hope that you see someone who is bold and is confident in who you are. I hope that you see someone who knows that you’re enough and lives with the truth that you’re worth people’s time and love.

And I hope that you see someone who takes chances and doesn’t let moments pass by when they’re right there in front of you.

When you realize that you’re worth fighting for yourself

If you ever were to ask me where a lot of my inspiration comes from, I’d tell you that it’s quite often from little kids.

They’re such geniuses and probably don’t even know it.

I was in Texas over the weekend for a visit with family and some friends I haven’t been able to see in a while. Much of my time was spent with my nieces—those two little girls have captured my heart more than I thought anyone ever could.

Olivia was excited to show off her food.

I babysat Olivia and Evie on Saturday night so that my brother and sister-in-law could have a nice date night out together. The girls and I watched football (we won’t discuss the outcome of the Cowboys game right now—it’s still too soon), and after Olivia saw me eating Wheat Thins with my dinner, she later grabbed the box and ate them while we were watching the game. I’ve clearly taught her well. Prior to the disaster that occurred at LA Memorial Coliseum that night, Olivia (who is almost 2 1/2) was playing with everything in site while Evie (a little more than 8 months) sat and watched in glee and occasionally attempted to crawl toward something—she’s SOOOO close to crawling!

At one point, Olivia was standing on the fireplace ledge and then squatted down. I’ve always told her to be careful whenever she gets up there (it’s not high from the ground at all, but she’s also still a tiny human), but that night, she looked over at me and said “I be careful. No get hurt. Dangerous.” It was as precious as you might imagine, and I told her that she was right.

Besties for life

The next morning, I was over at my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house again, and Olivia showed off her new talent (that I wasn’t expecting) of jumping off of the couch into my arms. Unlike the night before, there was zero hesitation—she got up on that couch and went for it, regardless of whether or not I was ready for her. I think she knew I would catch her, no matter what, so there was no fear there. There was security and comfort, which helped to increase her level of confidence. On Saturday night, though, she didn’t have me right there in front of her, and she knew what might happen if she tried to jump on her own.

If I were standing on that ledge, of course I would jump. Yes, it would probably technically be more of simply a step off, but still—there wouldn’t be any holding back or worrying about getting hurt. I’m confident that nothing would be likely to happen.

I started thinking about that while I was on my flight home Sunday afternoon and realized that those childlike tendencies don’t necessarily leave us when we become adults. We still seem to be able to jump when we know that there’s complete security, but we’re a lot more hesitant when we’re unsure of the outcomes ahead.

If I’m being perfectly honest, though, that’s not how I always want to live. Sure, there are certainly times when you shouldn’t just jump at something without thinking or considering the consequences and potential outcomes, but there are many times when it’s better (even if it is incredibly scary) to take chances and step into the unknown. For me, when I have those strong tuggings at my heart that are pushing me to do something that frightens the Capri Sun out of me—especially when I’m being taken out of my comfort zone—I try to remind myself that I’m not actually jumping off of a fireplace ledge onto the hardwood floor like a 2-year-old.

Because I do have Someone there who will catch me.

That doesn’t mean that every chance I take is going to end like I want it to end. I’ve had plenty of failures and broken hearts to remind me of that. But it does mean that, even when those setbacks and heartaches happen after making a risky jump, I know that I’m still going to be OK. Those things can’t defeat me, and I don’t need to let them try. My God is a lot stronger than that.

This girl has been through it all with me.

During middle school, high school, college, and even some of my 20s, I was the girl standing on the fireplace ledge who was afraid to jump. Unlike in Olivia’s case, though, there wasn’t any real physical danger for me—it was simply the risk of getting my heart hurt. I think my fear stemmed from the fact that a broken heart, for me, hurts far worse than any physical pain I could ever face (and I’ve endured quite a bit of physical pain). You know what, though? I’ve survived each heartache I’ve had, and I truly believe that I’m stronger because of it. I think that the trials we face in life have ways of building us and growing us in ways we might never have thought possible. We’re usually not grateful for them while we’re going through them, but hopefully we can look back at those times and know that they were part of our journeys—part of the paths we needed to take to get us to where we are today and help us to become the individuals we have become.

I hated the color of my rental car. Naturally, my dad wanted to take my pic in front of it.

I don’t know where you are in your life today. Maybe you’re standing on that fireplace ledge with more reservations than you can count. Or maybe you’re on that sofa and about to take a leap of faith. I’m rooting for it to be the latter, because I’m rooting for you.

You’re worth taking chances and doing the things that might make you a little queasy. You’re worth letting your heart feel deeply and love intentionally. You’re worth pursuing the passions that set your heart into motion. You’re worth running full force ahead toward your dreams. You’re worth the investment of time and energy. You’re worth being loved.

And you’re worth fighting for yourself.

Because choosing love is worth the risk

There are supposedly five love languages (in case you’re wondering, or even if you’re not, mine is quality time), but there’s one that’s missing from the list.

Sports—sports are my true love language.

On more than one occasion, I’ve sat in the exact same spot for nearly 12 straight hours (minus some bathroom breaks here and there) watching college football. I’ve painted my entire body blue (also on more than one occasion) to show my fandom and win a spirit contest at Dallas Mavericks games. And now that I can watch basically any sport on my phone in any location, my life has changed significantly.

There are so many exciting moments in all sports, especially in college football. If you watched the West Virginia-Texas game a couple of weekends ago, you know exactly what I’m talking about. West Virginia was down 41-34 with the clock ticking down at the end of the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers scored and then had a choice—kick the extra point to send the game into overtime or go for the two-point conversion and win the whole thing right then and there. The commentators mentioned that the West Virginia coach is a bit of a risk taker in those types of situations and thought he’d go for it. Sure enough, they were right—Coach Holgorsen called for the two-point play.

A man after my own heart.

Those West Virginia players walked away with that 42-41 win because they had trusted their coach and his plan. He knew their abilities, and he knew that he had prepared them for that moment. I love seeing moments like that as they’re happening (unless it’s against my team, of course). They’re reminders that life is full of opportunities that we can either seize or let pass us by far too quickly.

I honestly have more moments of kicking the extra point instead of going for the two points than I’d like to admit. I can think back to exact instances when I wish I would have said something that I didn’t or do something differently than I did. It serves me absolutely no value to dwell on those missed chances, but they do motivate me to take more risks in my present.

The sign speaks for itself.

I think one of the greatest risks of all is loving people. Whether it’s giving your heart away to the one who makes it beat out of control or giving your heart to show others that they matter and that you care, there are significant risks involved. There’s the risk of that love being unrequited. There’s the risk of that love being questioned and frowned upon by society. There’s the risk of that love being given to individuals who have been labeled as undeserving.

Here’s the thing, though: No matter what the risks are, everyone needs love.

One day recently when I was at the beach, I was watching the waves come in when I noticed a man and woman and their precious daughter. The little girl was playing in the water with her dad and begging her mom to come join them. I watched as the mom barely let the water touch her toes before telling the sweet pig-tailed cutie that it was freezing. (The Pacific Ocean is very cold, especially this time of year. For some reason, kids never seem to notice things like temperatures.)

But then the little girl said “Please, will you, Mom? It will be so fun!” The woman had a sudden change of heart, went for the two-point conversion, and dashed out into the icicles—because she knew that the risk of freezing was nothing compared to the memories she was making with her daughter and husband and the joy they were all experiencing together. She chose love, and it was worth it.

Sure, not every risk you take will end the way you want it to. Sometimes you’ll go for that two-point conversion and walk away empty-handed. But sometimes you won’t. Like those West Virginia Mountaineers, maybe you simply need to trust the ultimate Coach and His plan. And maybe that means you choose love with the complete confidence that it’s worth it.

Don’t settle for the extra point when you know that you’re capable of getting two.

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.

When you feel like you’re missing out

I think there are too many times we ask “Why?” in situations when we really should be asking “Why not?”

Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

Last year, on a whim (and because I had experienced a pretty heartbreaking moment the night before), I bought a 10-game pack of season tickets to the Rangers games with my friend Amanda. Despite the financial setback, it actually turned out to be one of my best decisions of 2016. Our friend Val was part of our game-going crew, too, and we had a blast going to each game. Amanda and I even created a paper chain at work to countdown until Opening Day, and we took daily pictures of us ripping off the links and throwing them to the ground.

Bless those of you who endured that time with us and then celebrated when we finally reached the ballpark on the day for which we’d been waiting for so long.

It was worth it, too. Opening Day that year was one I will always remember for so many reasons, and I must say that I was pretty sad this year when it rolled around, and we weren’t there. I also felt like it snuck up on us—when we had the countdown, it felt like it took forever to get there.

It was a rather dramatic countdown.

I guess that’s how life goes sometimes: You wait and wait and wait for something for so long that it feels like it’s never actually going to happen. But then if you’re not really anticipating it very much, it’s as if it gets there as fast as lightning.

Even though there were times the season seemed ridiculously long, the drive seemed way too far, the nights seemed to last forever (especially the games on work nights), and the heat felt more powerful than ever, I miss being in Section 3. I miss convincing the players in the opposing team’s bullpen to throw gum up to me. I miss seeing Mark and Jeannie, who sat behind us each game. I miss persuading the parking attendants to let us park for free. I miss Dylan the pedicab guy always trying to get us to be lazy and not walk. I miss the grouchy guy who plays the saxophone at the street corner.

And part of me just feels like I’m missing out on so much.

Honestly, it’s probably for the best that we didn’t buy the season tickets this year. Val lives in a different part of the state now, Amanda recently bought a house, and I probably owe the hospital more money than a house purchase. But I’m thankful we did it that one season—now we’ll never have to wonder what it would be like to be season ticket holders, and we made some really great memories that year.

I wish I could say that about every area of my life.

I think there have been a lot of times I’ve missed out on some potentially incredible opportunities simply because I haven’t taken chances. I’ve mentioned many times before that I used to be a pretty big pansy when it came to letting guys know how I felt. There was a guy I cared about many years ago, and I never did anything about it. Whenever I was around him, I pretended that I was comfortable with us being friends and nothing more. You know what happened? Nothing. We stayed friends for a while and eventually drifted apart, and he started new and exciting chapters in his life without me.

More so lately, I’ve tried to be better about ignoring the risk factor in this regard. Even though it recently became a prolonged situation that resulted in a broken heart, I’m glad I wasn’t as silent as I used to be. I guess it’s better to know than always wonder what would have happened if you had taken a chance.

Because you don’t want to miss out on something that could have changed your life for the better.

I’ve currently been feeling like I’ve been missing out on a lot of things—whether it’s racing, spending time with people, the sunshine, or even sleep. But then I realized that I’m perfectly capable of changing my circumstances by being bold enough to take some chances.

No, my running hasn’t been that strong lately (thanks, kidney), but I’m on the mend now and can begin working toward racing again. I have to be willing to step on the line, even if it means it won’t be my fastest race, though.

And I have to take chances with people. It’s not always the easiest thing to do to reach out to people or sacrifice time when you could be doing a million other things so that you can spend time with the people you want around you. You make time for the things you want to make time for in life—and that can often mean taking leaps of faith for the sake of others.

Sometimes when I’m at work, I look outside and feel like I’m missing out on so much sunshine (I LOVE being outside when it’s sunny out). But I get off work when it’s still light out, so there’s plenty of time for me to be able to enjoy the daylight. Lately, I’ve been going on walks after work more regularly so that I can be outside, and doing so has been very refreshing. It sometimes takes me out of my comfort zone because I’m a very busy person, so it’s often challenging to set aside time simply to enjoy disconnecting from everything, putting in my headphones, and taking an extended moment to breathe.

Sleep isn’t something I want to miss out on, but I definitely need more of it. I’ve been making more concerted efforts to get more sleep, but it’s a bit difficult at times. However, I know that if I seize the opportunity to take a nap or go to bed earlier—even if it means missing out on time I could have been doing something productive—it will benefit me in the long run.

I truly believe chances are meant to be taken. I think boldness is for everyone. Why wonder what could have been when you could have listened to your heart and not your head? I think we overthink things sometimes when we really should simply go with our instincts.

Because you don’t want to miss out on something that could have changed your life for the better.

Jumping straight into the flip

Great moments can happen when you least expect them.

Like when you’re in a harness and jumping on a trampoline.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world—some of it closer to home than we might prefer—and it makes you realize how real life is.

And how precious it is.

I also broke the rules and rode a miniature pony. It was not a happy camper.

Our company had a fun family event over the weekend, and there were a lot of activities available for kids and adults alike. One of those was a trampoline contraption thing that you were harnessed into and then could jump up and down as high as you could go, and you could also attempt flips and whatnot if you wanted. I decided to try this one out, and I really wanted to try the flip thing. After I started bouncing really high, though, I wasn’t so sure the flip sounded like a good idea. It seemed scary. The guy running the contraption assured me it was safe, but I didn’t know him and wasn’t sure how trustworthy he was.

He wasn’t even jumping.

After a little while, I sort of tried to flip backward, but it was more difficult than I expected—probably because it was only a halfhearted attempt. And then I realized something: I’m going to regret it if I walk away from this trampoline without doing the freaking flip. So that was it. My mind was made up, and I was going to flip. I flung myself backward, and that first attempt nearly ended in a disaster. I didn’t go quickly enough, and I almost landed on my head or face on the trampoline. The second attempt was much better (at least I think it was), and the flip was complete.

And I wasn’t scared anymore.

I know it was a pretty small feat, but it was also a reminder that sometimes you simply have to jump and go all in when you do. You can’t do the halfhearted thing if you want what you really want to be a reality. Otherwise, you’ll be jumping up and down where it feels completely safe forever.

But safe isn’t always good—there has to be risk every now and then.

If you’ve watched anything in the news lately, you’ve probably been reminded that way too many unexpected things happen in this world, and you only get one life. Why waste it not doing the things you know you need to do simply because a little fear gets in the way? I’m not always brave. I wish I were, but I definitely have moments when I’m a complete pansy. There are people out there who are brave every single day, and it shows in the way they treat people—like those who willingly put themselves in the face of danger to protect others. To me, that’s one way to live out love.

That’s jumping straight into the flip.

It would be great if Pollyanna’s vision of never-ending gratefulness and people genuinely loving one another all the time were reality, but it’s not. Life is rough sometimes, and that thankfulness isn’t always there. And that love isn’t always there. There’s pain and loneliness and fear and anxiety and heartache and tears and anger and sadness and guilt—and so many other things that keep us from having constant smiles on our faces.

But those things shouldn’t stop us from trying.

In the movie Center Stage, Jody has more than one moment when she fears she isn’t good enough for the dance academy and that she might not make it as a dancer. When she attends a class in the city away from the academy, one of the best bits of advice the instructor gave the class was simple: “Forget about the steps—just dance the s*** out of it!”

Because doing so is jumping straight into the flip.

What I learned while coaching men’s softball

There are some things in life you don’t necessarily think you’ll ever say.

Such as, “I can’t hang out on Wednesday night. I’m coaching men’s softball.”

A few months ago, my buddy Rod asked me about getting some women together to be part of a coed softball team at work. It didn’t pan out. He was already part of an all-men’s team, and the league was about to start, so I told him I was going to coach the team since the coed thing didn’t happen and since I am not eligible to play in the men’s league.

Thus, I became a self-appointed coach of Men’s Division E softball.

The Regulators

I’m not sure if the guys thought I was serious at first, but they started calling me “Coach,” let me call the coin tosses and trusted me at third base, so it was no joke. After all, third base is an important place to be (and a dangerous one, I might add).

Throughout the season, I learned some important things about coaching men’s softball that can transfer over well into other areas of life.

Silence is the opposite of golden. In softball, especially while coaching, you have to be loud. If the fellas can’t hear you telling them to go home or to stay, you’re doing something wrong, and it’s not helping them at all. I think sometimes we’re too silent with things when people really need to hear what we have to say. Keeping quiet is not always the way to go. I used to think it was, but I’ve realized that life is too short not to say the things we really need to say.

You have to commit. My Wednesday nights were booked for the season. There were some weeks when I was really tired and wanted to go straight home after work. Then there were those games that didn’t even start until 9 p.m. That’s rough stuff. But when you’re part of a team, you show up. Those guys showed up to play week after week, and I know it wasn’t just for the juice pouches and snacks I brought for them for after the games. Sometimes we face moments when we simply want to give up and take the easy way, but that’s not always the right way to go. If you’re not all in, you might not enjoy some of the greatest things life throws your way—you know, like watching a group of adult men try to relive their sports glory days.

Taking a chance might be worth it. There are moments in the game when you’re not quite sure if someone has the speed to make it home or even to third. It often seems like the better option is to play it safe, but playing it safe doesn’t put runs on the board. You know what does? Challenging yourself and running all out until you get to home plate. I definitely saw some hardcore hightailing it from some of my homeboys in times when I don’t even know if they thought they would make it. But they had to take the chance in some instances if we wanted to win the game. You can’t always sit where you are to get what you want. You can analyze and try to weigh the risk versus the reward until your head hurts, or you can take off running and slide head first if you have to—because it might be worth it in the end.

Make friends with the umpires. I love the umpires. Not only are they really funny, but they also care about people. That’s why they’re out there and have been doing it for so long—I talked to one ump who was in his 22nd year and another in his 19th. And they have stories like all of us do. When we come across the various people we encounter on a daily basis, we don’t always know what’s going on with them. They could be dealing with more than we could even imagine or perhaps having a bad day. Or maybe they are people who simply need love in order to learn to love others. Regardless, they deserve to be reminded that they matter, and they deserve forgiveness—even if they make some questionable calls every now and then.

Our team won the city championship (yes, the Steve Kerr comparisons have been pouring in), but I would have chalked it up as a successful season with or without that trophy. I had more fun than I’ve had in a while coaching those boys on Wednesday nights, and it was enjoyable to get to know some of them better outside of the office. I’m also really glad they actually let me stick around and be a real coach, even if some of the other teams thought it was not normal. (Cue a conversation in one opposing team’s dugout. Little kid: “Daddy, why is there a girl out there?” Guy: “Well, son, I think she’s trying to coach.”) Sometimes doing what others think is silly is necessary.

Because, as Seal once so eloquently put it, “We’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy.”

Not better left unsaid

Sometimes putting words out into the air for others to hear is absolutely frightening.

But most times it’s completely worth it.

I sort of talk quite a bit, but I haven’t always said what needs to be said in the moments those things need to be said. I used to bite my tongue and swallow my words out of fear that what I really felt would become known—and for some reason, that would be a bad thing. This was especially true with guys because the last thing I ever wanted was for a guy I had a crush on to know about that crush. There were a variety of reasons for that, but it really all boiled down to being afraid.

And so silence was my answer.

There was a song I remember from Avril Lavigne’s album that I listened to on repeat in high school called “Things I’ll Never Say.” I always felt the lyrics were pretty accurate to many of my situations. Homegirl sings, “What’s wrong with my tongue? These words keep slipping away. I stutter, I stumble, like I’ve got nothing to say,” and then the end of the chorus says, “Guess I’m wishing my life away with these things I’ll never say.”

But I don’t want to wish my life away.

be brave (edited)
My favorite bracelet

I can think of so many times when I had opportunities to speak up, and I didn’t. I let those chances slip through my fingers—chances to share my heart and find out if the other person felt the same or not. But, instead, I never knew.

And I think not knowing is so much worse than taking a risk that might end in heartache.

I’ve really only done this heartache-risk thing twice in my life. A little more than a few years ago, there was a guy I didn’t think I was interested in at first. (Or, I at least told myself I wasn’t interested in him.) But when he started showing interest in me in an obvious way, I couldn’t really fight my feelings anymore. Neither of us had actually said anything to one another, though, and I wasn’t sure I could do that. I tend to be a pansy in that regard.

For some reason or another, I decided I was just going to tell him exactly how I felt. And so I did. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, but the words just started pouring out, and I couldn’t stop them. He said a few things, too, and then he kissed me. It sounds like a good situation—until he led me on for about 10 months and then broke my heart.

The second heartache-risk thing was when I asked a guy out (in person) and had to stand there face to face and get hurt. That one was definitely worse.

Even though both situations ended up involving pain and unwanted outcomes, I don’t regret either. I don’t want to be the girl in the Avril Lavigne song anymore, because I think sometimes not saying what you want to say can wind up being the biggest regret of all. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Rejection? Take it from someone who has felt that a number of times in life: It’s not as bad as always wondering and never knowing.

I’m sure there are times when it’s more appropriate to hold your tongue—like if you’re thinking something not so nice that really isn’t necessary to say. But when it comes to matters of the heart, as my sister always reminds me, “What do you have to lose?”

And the answer can’t be “dignity” because I think it actually takes more dignity to do something you’re beyond terrified to do than to be too scared or prideful and say nothing. I’m going to have to quote Hilary Duff again: “If you lose a moment, you might lose a lot. So, why not?” You might end up with a broken heart, or you might end up with everything you imagined and more.

Either way, it’s worth the risk to leave your own Wonderland.

Not all tales are as old as time

I think Disney is often more profound than we give it credit for.

Because many childhood movies are chalked full of wisdom and life truths.

As I was watching Beauty and the Beast the other day, I realized something: sometimes we are all like a girl who wants “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and finds herself in a strange castle full of talking objects and a beast—and uncertain of anything that lies ahead.

Somewhere in the midst of my singing along to all of the songs, I couldn’t help but realize how much anxiety Belle was likely feeling once she realized the impact of her decision to step into eternal imprisonment in place of her father. And it struck me that these are the same feelings we have when we face situations that are completely unknown to us—because it’s kind of scary to throw yourself out there and simply hope for the best.

Venturing into the unknown

Belle took a huge risk in giving the Beast her word that she would live in his palace forever. She had no idea what it was like in there or what her fate would hold. But she did it. She boldly stepped forward, knowing that she was giving up a life of security and predictability. I mean, you are probably familiar with the opening number in the movie—nothing truly unexpected happens very often for Belle.

Until she makes a choice.

There are moments in life when you have to be like Belle and decide that you are going to enter something with no idea what the results will be or how drastically it could change your life. One minute you’re reading next to a fountain, and the next you’re having a conversation with an armoire. While this might not be the exact scenario for all of us, it’s quite comparable on some levels.

I remember the summer after my high school year when I decided to go to LA for a day. I really had no logical reasoning. I was watching Live with Regis and Kelly one morning, and the show always promoted I had saved up some money from working and found myself on the website ready to buy a ticket. I figured it would be neat to go to New York or LA, but it was supposed to rain in New York the next few days, and I didn’t want my hair to have to endure that. I purchased a ticket for LA for the following day, had my brother drive me to the airport and flew to an unknown area with no plan.

When I arrived, I seriously had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I needed something different in my life—some type of new adventure. I ended up getting bored of the Hollywood area pretty quickly and walked to a place called Runyon Canyon Park. I went on a hike by myself and actually had a much more enjoyable time than I had expected once I landed from the plane. At first, everything was kind of intimidating—I mean, I had no transportation of my own, not a lot of money, no companions with me and a heart full of hope that didn’t want to be disappointed. But my time in the hills cleared my mind and gave me perspective as I sat at the top, looking down at a beautiful view and spending some time writing in my journal. It was just something I needed at the time.

The rest of the trip was pretty memorable: I had to short-change a cab driver, drank Gatorade from a can (which is still weird to me), slept in an airport and then had to see the face of my disappointed mom when I walked through the front door (oh, yeah, I hadn’t told my parents about my little day trip). It might have cost me a lot of money and only lasted for a short time, but I’m really glad I went on that escapade. I think it was a stepping stone in my life in learning to be more courageous and not always following such a predictable pattern.

I’m at a point in my life right now where I am really uncertain about a few things approaching in the days ahead. It’s kind of scary, but it’s also kind of exciting. I feel like I’m about to step from a place of comfort and familiarity into a land of the unknown. I feel kind of like Belle, minus the whole imprisonment and falling in love with a beast thing.

Life is full of chances to take, opportunities to seize, adventures to go on and people to love. But we have to be willing to take those leaps of faith every once in a while.

And you just might find something there that wasn’t there before.