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 you don’t have to be sorry for being you

It’s interesting to me that it can be so tough for us to apologize when we know we’re wrong, but other “I’m sorry” statements are so simple to make.

Like when we have no real reasons to be apologizing.

When you hurt someone or wrong someone in some way, there’s a need to say you’re sorry. Perhaps you have to cancel plans on someone or are running late somewhere and send an apology text—there’s nothing wrong with that. But there are other times when you might say you’re sorry for something for which you really shouldn’t have to apologize.

Especially if what you’re doing is simply being you.

I remember reading an article a couple of years ago that mentioned how women often apologize for things in the business/office setting that they shouldn’t be—things like speaking up in meetings or presenting ideas that would bring about potential changes and innovations. (I don’t know if men do this as often, but the article focused mainly on women.) Ever since then, I’ve tried to be more aware of times when I might be saying sorry and not actually meaning it.

I’m not sorry for asking a stranger to take my picture.

I eat Wheat Thins with everything and at every meal. I love them with my whole being. I have them with me at all times—there’s always a box in my car, and I carry a sandwich bag of them with me in my purse. Yes, I do bust them out at the dinner table in public places. I remember going to dinner with some new friends a little more than a year ago, and when I got my Wheat Thins out, I said “sorry, I eat them at every meal.” As soon as that first word came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I wasn’t sorry. At all. So now I make sure that I never apologize for having Wheat Thins when I’m eating.

Because I’m not sorry for being me.

I don’t believe that eating my favorite food hurts anyone, even if other people think it’s bad manners. I didn’t go to cotillion at any point in time, and I’ve never been that great with manners, anyway.

Have you ever noticed yourself saying sorry for something for which you really had no reason to apologize? Have you ever said sorry for bothering someone when what you’re about to say is really no bother at all? Have you ever apologized for not being perfect? I’m not sure why we do this. We have the abilities to speak our minds and share our hearts and go after our dreams, and we don’t have to be sorry for any of that. You do you, boo.

And in the same way that we shouldn’t be apologizing for being ourselves, we shouldn’t expect other people to be sorry for the unique individuals they are—we should be giving them love and encouragement and room to continue to grow so that they can be comfortable being themselves.

I was speaking to the junior high students at my church last weekend, and I was talking about accepting others and loving them not just in spite of their differences from us but also because of those differences. I thought back to when I was in middle school and how I was an absolutely horrible example of that. I didn’t know Jesus yet, and I was very selfish and far too concerned with what people thought of me and what I thought of others. It’s not a time of my life that I’m proud of by any means.

I’ve said this before, and I stand by it: Middle school is the worst period of life. It’s such an easy time to be mean and judgmental, and you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what life is and what’s cool and what’s not, and you have no idea of what the genuine and important things in life are yet. I’m sure that there are some mature kids in that stage of life who are rare gems, but for the most part, it’s a painful and awkward stage that we all have to go through as a rite of passage into (hopefully) becoming more mature adults who are concerned with more than popularity and what brands of clothing you’re allowed to wear and which ones are faux pas.

You know what, though? Even though that period of life can be very superficial and unwelcoming, being an adult doesn’t suddenly become easier just because you’re no longer begging your parents for Doc Martens and wearing overalls with only one side buttoned because it looks so much cooler (you feel me, 90s middle schoolers??). It can still be tough to feel like you’re accepted and like you belong, and there will be people who judge you and make you want to apologize without even knowing why you’re saying sorry. But if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have no reason for those apologetic words.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you.

I’m also not sorry for wearing shirts under crop tops.

I’m going to keep checking myself to make sure I’m not starting sentences off with “I’m sorry, but” and then following that statement with something for which I feel no actual sorrow. I won’t ever be sorry for eating Wheat Thins. I won’t ever be sorry for having an idea and wanting to share it. I won’t ever be sorry for wanting a turn to speak at a meeting. I won’t ever be sorry for telling a guy that I have feelings for him. I won’t ever be sorry for having the passions and dreams I have. And I won’t ever be sorry for not being other people’s opinions of me.

When you need to make improvements or changes in your life or your behavior or your attitude or whatever, make them. If you’ve hurt people or have legitimate reasons to say you’re sorry, make those apologies. At the end of the day, though, I hope that you’re confident in the person you are and the person you strive to be, and I hope that you never apologize for the things that need no sorries to go along with them.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you.

Because sometimes it’s better to launch the shot

There are some things in life with which you might be extremely familiar in some ways but that can still teach you or remind you of truths you need to hear.

For me, two of those things are weddings and basketball.

On Monday night (their first night as a married couple in their home), they had me over for dinner. I love them more than froyo.

When I met Amanda and Phillip back in January, I knew from the second that I saw them that I wanted them to be my people. (I’m pretty sure that they didn’t initially feel the exact same way, but I think I grew on them.) They got married over the weekend, and it was so fun and so special to be a part of their day and to see them start their forever together. I love seeing people take chances on love and chances on each other—it’s beautiful bravery that can change their lives in ways they’ve never imagined.

So as not to stray from the norm, I went solo to the wedding. I sat at Table 5 with a bunch of people I didn’t know (most of whom work with her or are married to people who work with her), and I knew from the second that I sat down that it was going to be a great night. And this is kind of a big deal—I really don’t like numbers in increments of five. But meeting new people brings me tremendous joy, and these people immediately made me feel welcome into their circle (they pretty much all knew each other already). They didn’t judge me in any way and didn’t ridicule me for bringing my own ketchup and Wheat Thins to accompany my tacos.

They simply did what people have the ability to do best—they loved me for who I am.

My Table 5 homegirl Ashleigh is so freaking awesome that it’s ridiculous.

It can be tough to be vulnerable and genuine sometimes, but I really think that there’s no reason to live any other way. Yes, you’re taking a chance by putting your real self out there, but it’s a chance that you need to take if you want people to know the real you.

Whether you’re the person walking down the aisle or the person getting floor burn on the top of her foot from the dance floor (I’m not referring to anyone specific), weddings are good places not only to remember to love people for the individuals they are, but they’re also good places to remember that you have to take chances every once in a while in life if you want your dreams to come true. Take Amanda and Phillip, for instance: They took chances on each other, and now they’re spending the rest of their lives together.

Which leads me to the basketball court.

I joined a men’s basketball league. A couple of my coworkers are on a team, and it sounded like my cup of tea. Our first game of the season was Monday night, and it was a lot of fun (especially because we got the W). There was one point in the game when I got the ball and had an open three, but I didn’t take it. I passed it off, instead. A few of the guys had been yelling “shoot it,” and then my teammate Jeff later said this to me: “Sometimes you just have to go for it and launch it up there. If you miss, meh, you miss. Just shoot it.”

Wise guy, that Jeff.

He’s right. The next open three I had, I took the shot. I missed. It was really ugly, actually. (Behind the arc is not my sweet spot—I’m more of an elbow shot kind of girl.) But I felt better about actually launching it up there, like Jeff had advised me. I really do believe that it’s often better to try something and fail at it than never to try at all. You have to take chances in life if you truly want to live.

You can’t make shots that you don’t take. You can’t achieve dreams that you don’t work toward. You can’t do life with people if you don’t take the time to know them and invest in them.

I’m thankful that I got that second chance at the three-pointer. That’s not always the case, though. You only get one life, and you don’t always get multiple chances at the opportunities that are placed in front of you.

So launch that shot—and, as soon as it leaves your hands, believe with everything in your being that it’s going to be nothing but net.

Multiple hospital trips and realizing “normal” doesn’t really exist

I never thought I’d find myself as part of the mall walkers crowd on a Sunday morning, but I also never thought I’d be making three trips to the hospital in less than a week.

So I guess life doesn’t always pan out like we thought it would.

I’ve been having kidney pain since a little before Thanksgiving, so I had surgery more than a week ago that was supposed to fix everything. When I woke up from anesthesia, I asked the nurses where my Wheat Thins were and when we were going to the bowling alley, so I assumed everything had gone well.

But Sunday morning, I woke up with a pain I don’t even know how to describe. I called my parents, and before long they were at my apartment to drive me to the ER. I was admitted to the hospital and stayed there until Monday. They sent me home Monday morning, but that exact same pain was back that evening. I really thought I was going to die.

I called my friend Michelle, and she hauled tail to pick me up and take me back to the ER, and it wasn’t long before my sister and brother were there, as well. The time in the ER waiting room felt like an eternity, and the pain just kept getting worse. I think at one point I tried to collapse to the ground, but my sister wouldn’t let me because of sanitation concerns she had.

I guess someone has to pay attention to that kind of stuff.

I was finally taken back to an ER room and hooked up to IVs that pumped some morphine and I think other stuff in me. I got a CT scan, and Dr. Kevin (whom I credited with saving my life and my kidney) discovered I had a kidney infection. Dr. Kristen (I’m pretty sure that’s her name—I can’t say everything from that night is crystal clear) said it could have come as a result of the surgery or could have been there prior to it, contributing to the pain I’ve been having for months.

I was admitted to the hospital (again), and my sweet sister stayed with me until almost 2 in the morning when I finally got up to the room. She is pretty freaking incredible—she had to administer standardized testing that day, operating on very little sleep.

For this go-round, I was in the hospital until late Wednesday with antibiotics and pain meds going through my veins. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, and I would never wish that kind of pain on anyone—and I really mean that.

As I stayed there in that bed, I was reminded of how much we need people in life. First of all, nurses are a different breed of human. I honestly think you have to have a very special heart and personality to be a nurse. They’re so kind and comforting and have to deal with so many different types of people who are suffering from a variety of things. Yet they handle it all with such grace and encouragement.

And I needed my family. I don’t think there was a day that went by that I didn’t have one of them with me for at least a little portion of the day. My parents took of work on different days, and one night my mom even slept on one of those horribly uncomfortable hospital chairs.

I think I took this to send to my friend Bonnie at some point.

And I needed my friends. Whether they were stopping by in the hospital to visit me and bring me necessities (Bonnie with a stuffed dog I named Buddy and Jayna with Wheat Thins, a coloring book and crayons, water, and a pink phone charger) or texting me to check on me, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed in a good way by all of their prayers and well wishes.

But I also realized that life won’t always be the “normal” we want it to be. I had planned on missing two days of work for the surgery. I ended up missing almost seven. Nothing about my life during that stretch of time in and out of the hospital felt normal. My stomach was super inflated from the surgery and then all of the IV fluids, and I even had a minor panic attack when the nurse told me I had to get a shot in my stomach to help prevent blood clots while I was lying in a bed for so long, and I told her that if she stuck a needle in me that my stomach would pop like a balloon. It turned out to be a bit irrational—she gave me the shot, and nothing exploded.

I blame the drugs.

The truth is, though, that the whole normal thing I’m seeking doesn’t always exist. I know life isn’t perfect, and we have to face trials we don’t want to go through. But, for some weird reason, we need them—they help make us who we are. Sure, they may look a lot different than what other people face, but we can’t all have the same things. I’ve been learning that more and more as I see most of my friends find love and happiness, and I have to remind myself that their stories are not my story. Just like my kidneys are not like their kidneys, my fairy tale (if it exists) is different from theirs, too.

Mall walking is obviously very intense.

With each day, the kidney pain is starting to lessen, and I do look forward to feeling more normal in that regard. But I also understand that I have to be a little more cautious because it’s prone to kidney stones and now apparently infections. I can’t run for a little while more, and it was pouring rain Sunday morning, which is why I went to the mall to walk for some exercise along with some guy named Larry and a bunch of others who seemed to be regulars there. It wasn’t quite the norm for me, but it was alright for a one-time bit of a change of pace and scenery. And I’m also OK with the rest of my life not being the definition of normal I would have defined it as years ago.

I don’t think normal ever really fit me well, anyway.