Today was my first day of teaching for the fall semester. On the first day of class, I always ask students what they want to be when they “grow up.” Beforehand, I take them through my career journey. I tell them about wanting to be an engineer when I was 17, then realizing by the time I was 20 that the world was better off without me mixing chemicals or building bridges. I tell them about thinking law school was the answer for me and chasing a career of entertainment and corporate law. I tell them about the misery I found in my first legal jobs and literally being nearly unable to coax myself out of bed some days. I talk to them about being honest with myself and realizing that my greatest passions in life are writing and sports. I talk to them about the luck I’ve found since making that realization. I tell them all of this on purpose, so they can realize that it’s ok to not know what they want to do and even more acceptable to sometimes have to change your plan entirely.
As a sports law professor, I realize that only 15 to 25-percent of my students have any interest in going to law school. Thus, I need to create value beyond the in-class material for the rest of my students. For me, I work on creating that value by hopefully inspiring them to do something with their lives after they leave my classroom. Whether it’s narrowing their focus upon a particular career, finding an organization they want to give back to or deciding where they want to call a home, I want to leave them with something deeper than textbook lectures.
When my students went around the room today, I heard many of the answers I was prepared to for: Professional baseball player (which is realistic given our program at the University of Miami), NFL scout (also realistic), brand manager, agent, athletics director, general manager.
Sitting in the corner of the classroom was one of our basketball players. When his turn came, he looked at me and said, “I just want to be happy.”
In the three semesters I’ve done this, it was the first time I’ve been given that answer. And I told him it was the best.
So often in life, we get carried away making plans that we forget our happiness. We worry about relationships and careers, houses and bills. In the midst of all of that, happiness slips away. Real, pure, unadulterated happiness. Then, we wake up one day and realize that the opportunities we had to foster our own happiness and to build a life greater than any other have all but disappeared.
There is a real epidemic in this country when it comes to happiness. We tell and demonstrate to our children and young people that happiness is based upon things. “You’ll be happy when you get married.” “You’ll be happy when you buy the new car.” “You’ll be happy when you move into the new house.” “You’ll be happy when you get the promotion.”
It is true that many of those things can cause happiness. However, they are not capable of creating permanent happiness. Permanent happiness, rather, is internal. It’s created from within. It’s born from a spirit that life–as it is–is enough. It’s generated from the realization that waking up on any given day is reason enough to celebrate. A blessing. A gift. A cause in and of itself to be happy.
For nearly 30 years of my life, I believed that happiness was a contingency. Happiness was based upon degrees, men, new shoes and where I was living. It was found in events and trips and expensive dinners. Truth be told, I looked for happiness everywhere but in myself.
I’m grateful that that cloud has parted for me. I’m happy that when I wake up in the morning, I stretch my arms and whisper a little prayer that most days goes like this, “God, thank you for legs strong enough to walk and eyes bright enough to see and for giving me this day. Let me do something good with it. Thank you for this happiness. Thank you for this life. Thank you for this gift.”
I’m going to teach young people about sports law for the rest of the fall. And while I hope they take away how to interpret case law and read statutes, I want them to walk out of my classroom with knowledge greater than that. I want them to understand that they are capable of anything. And by anything, I mean what they are the most capable of, is creating their own happiness.
Today is the first day of the 2014-15 school year at the University of Miami. For me, the first day of school always signaled new beginnings. And for someone who likes adventure, new beginnings were always welcome.
I remember when I graduated law school talking to one of my best friends, Lindsay, about one of my greatest fears: That life after school was over would be boring. I imagined myself stuck behind a desk, with my days punctuated by trips to the coffee maker and lunch. I vocally worried about life becoming habitual and predictable and my fun dying.
One thing I’ve learned in the five years since I graduated law school, is that in order to create excitement for your life, you need to be open to new beginnings. New beginnings can be as simple as picking up a new hobby or joining a new gym. Or, they can be deeper, like beginning a new relationship or moving to a new place.
With the start of the new school year comes the end of summer, which is always bittersweet. This summer was special for me, because it saw a lot of new beginnings. As crazy as it sounds, when I woke up and was 30 on June 20, my life turned a new page. Suddenly, I felt as though I really knew myself. It was like a lightbulb went off where I realized I was in full control of everything in my life. I finally understood my wants, needs and idiosyncrasies. I accepted my faults, found joy in my quirks and figured out ways to exploit my talents. Each of these led to new beginnings in my life. And as I travel down the roads these new beginnings are leading to, I’m grateful for my willingness and openess to change and accept each day as it comes.
I took a bit of a “soul searching” trip a couple weeks ago up the California coast. I drove the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco alone on a Sunday. As I wound my car around curves that felt like those of a roller coaster, I thought about the path that my life is on and where I want it to go. I thought about the joy that awaits me and the things I’ve left behind. Close to the end of my drive, I stopped at Pebble Beach and the famed 17-Mile Drive. There, I paid a visit to the famed Lone Cypress tree. This tree, that stands alone, is estimated at being 250 years old. It has been there far longer than anything around it, save for the rock it sits on and the ocean below it. Yet, it persists. It actually does more than persist–it lives.
Why? Because it’s been able to adapt to change.
What is it, that with growing up, makes us resist change? I told someone yesterday that the biggest regret I have from the last five years, is my unwillingness to let go of the past, change and find new beginnings. Why is it, that when we were young, new beginnings were exciting? Why was the first day of school–and all of the newness that came with it–celebrated? Why did we look forward to moving to college, getting a new car and going new places when we were young, but look at similar situations as adults with fear?
This week, one of my closest friends in Miami, Tyger, moves to New York City. To say that the last month of life has been crazy for Tyger would be an understatement. Imagine every personal battle one can face and then put it into the timespan of 30 days. I remember driving Tyger to the airport a few weeks ago and telling her one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the last five years: With chaos comes change. And it’s only through change that we can finally find happiness.
Some of the greatest things in my life have been preceded by chaos. However, the great things only came because I was willing to change. I was willing–and ready, because of the chaos–to begin new. To start over. To move on. To let go.
Last week, the president of the University of Miami, Donna Shalala, spoke to our faculty. One thing she said that stood out to me, is that working at a university keeps one young. I couldn’t agree more. Being surrounded by young people and their hopes, dreams and ideas is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. It’s one of the greatest things that has happened to me, not only because I get to learn from these young people, but because every fall I am reminded that life can always start again new.
We are all given an unlimited amount of opportunities that matches the number of days we have on this earth. We are given more chances for change than our mind can even begin to wrap itself around. Life doesn’t need to be stale. In fact, it’s meant to be an adventure. It’s meant to be celebrated and something that causes joy. It’s meant to be pushed to its boundaries and to be tested, so that you can figure out your full potential. It’s meant to be redeemed and refreshed. It’s meant to give you a chance to start new and begin again.
To those starting a new school year today, good luck! Make the most of it. It’s a gift.
And to those of my “older” friends, make something new today. Make the most of this life. It’s a gift.
I was standing around a cocktail table at a party on Saturday night when a friend looked at me and said, “Alicia, you travel like an NFL player does in the middle of the season.”
The first thing I thought was, “Solid sports reference.” I then chuckled, swished some champagne around my mouth and made a mental note that she was right.
When it comes to playing the career lottery, I hit the job jackpot at the University of Miami. In case anyone needs proof about that point, I have two words for you: Summer vacation.
Remember when you were in elementary school and the first day of school expectantly brought the, “What did you do this summer?” game? Remember how you would stay up in bed the night before rolling through memories you made over the prior 90 days? You’d sift through trips to grandma’s house, roller coaster rides, new pets and family vacations to pick the one memory that had the greatest chance of eliciting “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from your childhood classmates.
When you’re 30, the summer memories you get to sift through are not only more grown up, but as luck would have it, they’re more awesome.
For me, they involve airplanes.
I touched down in LA last Thursday for the last trip of my summer vacation. I headed straight to Laguna Beach for a photo shoot with the very talented Natalie Schutt. Have you ever met someone and felt like you’ve known them forever? That was Natalie. She was such a happy, fun and excited spirit. Not only did she put up with my near neurotic particularity when it comes to getting pictures taken, but she told me about her dreams and goals. We talked about our love for Jesus and how we both want to make this world a better place. She was real and awesome and cool. And dang, can she take a picture! She’s your woman if you need photos! Seriously.
Sometimes I wonder why I travel so much. Yes, a lot of times it’s for work. A lot of times I can avoid work trips, though, Yet, for some reason, I choose not to. I’m a rolling stone who hopes to someday be tied down. For now, though, I go.
I go, because every time I leave, I find a little bit more of my heart. I go, because every time I leave, I realize that my heart stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. There are pieces of my heart scattered across many states and throughout different cities. The pieces are held by people who I don’t see enough, but who when we’re together, nothing’s changed.
Southern California is special to me, because it’s one place where I can show up late at night to old friends’ houses like it’s no big deal and stay up past our bedtimes shooting the breeze and laughing about life. This trip to California was special, because I got to celebrate some exciting moments with friends. I saw Ashleigh’s baby bump and Kim’s new ring. Both were darling. I heard how Rebecca and Jenny both plan on being engaged by the end of the year. I made a mental note to try and get a boyfriend by then. So, there’s that.
There is nothing better than going to a place where you feel safe, regardless of who you are, what you did or how you feel. My friend, Rebecca, is one of the people I feel the safest around. I can tell her anything. Any crazy idea, bad decision or confusing thought. What I love about our friendship, is that there’s never been any judgment. Ever. Nor will there ever be. On both ends. Spending time with a person like that is refreshing and welcome.
One thing that’s cool about being on the road, is the new people and hearts you can meet. I didn’t start traveling alone for work until 2012. And at first, I hated it. I was so lonely and bored. I felt isolated.
For those who truly know me, I’m pretty shy. This strikes a lot of people as surprising, but while I have to be outgoing in my media jobs, I’m not naturally that way. I’m a big fan of consistency and comfort zones. Until recently, I never went too far out of my social circle to meet new people or make new friends.
I love that traveling a lot has forced me out of that shell. I love it, because it has brought me to some of the most amazing, interesting and kind people. These days, I almost make a game out of finding cool new people on the road. I make it a point to visit kitschy coffee shops or cool boutiques to strike up conversations. I’m building a tapestry of friends these days, and let me tell you, the tapestry is pretty diverse, pretty wild and pretty dang cool.
This trip to California led me to the Bits Shop in Costa Mesa. The Bits Shop is home to 31 Bits jewelry. I first learned of 31 Bits on Instagram and was initially attracted to the brand because of its bold colors and unique bead work. I then realized that 31 Bits empowers African women and helps provide them with sustainable incomes. I also learned that the company has a Christian foundation. After that, I was smitten.
So, it was with excitement that I popped into the Bits Shop. I just expected to stroll around and buy a couple pieces. To my luck, though, one of the co-founders, Jessie, was in the shop. She and I chatted for what seemed like forever about everything under the sun–from empowering women and friends’ wild bachelorette parties to Los Angeles traffic and boys. Talking to her was easy and fun. And again, I was thankful for the journeys I get to go on and the amazing people they allow me to meet.
Southern California will always be a pseudo home to me. Its coasts are dotted with my memories. Its big cities are filled with my friends. And my favorite summer vacation memories will probably always be born from it.
Summer vacation, people. It was good. Really, really good.
I spent time this weekend mapping out the trip to California I’m taking later this week. To put it mildly, it’s going to be epic. Very, very epic.
The last time I was in California, I asked my friend and old roommate, Alex, what it is about the place that holds my heart so deeply. Whenever I let my mind wander about dream places, it always winds up in California. I think Alex summed it up best when she said this, “It’s the place where you really grew up.”
California was the first place I lived all alone. With family and friends 1,000 miles away, I was forced to figure it out. To navigate places I’d never been. To search out good people. To make somewhere I never knew a home for myself.
I guess for me, California is nostalgia. A special nostalgia that grips me unlike much else. I love nearly everything about it. I say “nearly,” because I don’t love the traffic. I don’t hate it either, though. Which is strange. LA traffic is unlike any other in terms of its density. Yet, there’s something oddly energizing and freeing about being trapped in it. If you can conquer it, you feel like you can do anything. Anything.
The deeper I got into my trip planning, the deeper my heart yearned to be in California. I love Miami. I have the best job in the world. I have amazing friends. I live in the sickest condo. Really. Sometimes I pinch myself and wonder how I got so lucky to live here.
But I still miss California. When I let myself think about it, I get sad that I haven’t felt crisp air once in Florida. I miss sitting on a towel in the sand watching waves crash against cliffs. I miss nature and exploring new places of beauty. I miss beach towns–real beach towns with bars and kitschy shops and weird people. I miss the strange, free vibe that California sends out to the universe.
I called my mom and said, “I miss California. I just really, really miss California.” And as I uttered the words, something hit me. I hadn’t even given Miami a fair shake at being California.
Miami might not have crisp air. It may not have cliffs. In actuality, I’m pretty sure the highest point in Florida is a dump on I-95. I’m not even kidding about that. Miami will never be California. Realizing that was a bit of an “aha” moment for me. No, Miami will never be California. But what’s to say it doesn’t hold its own magic? What’s to say it can’t grip my heart even harder than California?
There’s a quote from the Dalai Lama that reads, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” I’ve believed for a long time that happiness is a choice. In large part, we hold the keys to how we unlock the world around us. Will we choose to be happy? Will we choose to find joy?
On Sunday, I decided to find joy in Miami. I decided to wake up early and hit the pavement and find a place in this city that grabbed my heart. And I did.
A few years ago, I went to my favorite store in the world, Tuvalu in Laguna Beach, and ended up buying Anna Quindlen’s “A Short Guide To A Happy Life.” It’s a short book, so I read it all that night. And what I took away from it, is that a happy life is one that finds joy in the ordinary. A happy life is one that finds the greatest joy in the simplest pleasures. Like the colors of flowers. Or watching a baby learn how to walk. Or a call from an old friend.
So yesterday, I set out to find joy in Miami’s simple things. Writing that seems silly, because there really isn’t anything simple about Miami. Yet, what I found the most joy in yesterday was colors. Bold, bright, beautiful colors.
South Beach, in all of its art deco awesomeness, is home to the most amazing lifeguard towers on the face of Earth. Granted, I haven’t seen all of the lifeguard towards spread across Earth, but I’m pretty sure these take the cake.
I started on 10th and Ocean and walked north on the sand. And at each block, I was met with a new design and new colors. And I was joyful. I was joyful for creativity and excitement and risk. I was reminded that living is about all three. You can’t have one without the other.
Ever seen an American flag inspired lifeguard stand? Well, now you have. There’s joy in that lifeguard stand, people. It stands there in all of its gaudiness and causes you to feel joy in recognizing that someone decided that was a great way to honor our country. It surely was great. And creative. And exciting. And risky.
What I’ve learned about finding joy, is that joy is made of layers. There are layers of big things, like trips to the Super Bowl and Greece. There are layers of moments, like falling in love, first kisses and butterflies. Then there are the layers of what otherwise could be seen as mundane, like falling in love with your home, making it your own and turning it in to your own little paradise.
I guess it’s no surprise that joy is made of layers. Joy is found in the world. And the world is made of layers. Sand and sea and sky. Each of them carries their own joy; their own way of doing what they need to do to make the world go on as it should.
The other thing I’ve learned about finding joy, though, is the most important. The most important thing I’ve learned about finding joy is this: Joy eludes no one who seeks it honestly and authentically. If you want to find it, it’s there. And you don’t need to look hard. It’s in the sky and sea and sand. It’s everywhere. It’s in us. And it’s for the taking for the people who want to find it.
I read the Bible most days, but most days, I’m not a morning person. I usually open it up right before I’m going to bed and scan through a few verses. It’s cathartic for me as it lets me re-center after a long day.
Recently, though, I changed up my routine. I decided to make God the first part of my day. For the last month, every morning when I’ve woken up I’ve cracked open the good book. Instead of re-centering, I’m starting my day off centered.
I don’t follow a structure or real plan when I read the Bible. In all honesty, I crack it open, shift around and land on whatever looks good for the moment or situation I’m in. Right now, I’m working through the book of Jeremiah.
I’m not a theologen, so this is the best way I can sum up Jeremiah: God sends Jeremiah messages through visions. Jeremiah shares these messages with the Israelites. The bulk of these messages center around how God is angry that the Israelites are are choosing idols over Him. Time after time, God warns the Israelites of their pending doom for doing so through Jeremiah. Time after time, God tells the Israelites that they can save themselves from said doom if they would just turn from their idols and to Him. Time after time, the Israelites don’t. And time after time, they are destroyed.
When I started reading Jeremiah, I almost quit. There was so much death and destruction. I couldn’t find hope in the book’s pages. I didn’t think any of it applied to me or ever could. For some reason, though, I kept turning through the pages. I kept waking up each morning to read it.
I teach a class at the University of Miami on sports governance. Whether students recognize it or not, the bulk of the class is focused upon the point that in order to successfully govern anything, one must have a clear mission and vision.
I’m a big believer of “practice what you preach.” So, this summer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what my vision for my own life is. What vision do I have for how I govern my own life? It came to me this week.
About a week into reading Jeremiah, I found a way to relate it to my life. As I sifted through the messages in it, my eyes were finally opened to something in my own life. I finally was honest with my heart and God, for that matter, about the one thing in my life I chase after that He so clearly doesn’t want me to.
For me, that thing is a person. It’s a person that I’ve let my guard down around more than most. It’s a person who has seen my vulnerability. It’s a person that I’ve loved. It’s a person who has broke my heart time after time after time after time again. And it’s a person who, a few weeks ago, I almost let do it again.
I wear my heart on my sleeve. If I like you, I will do anything for you. If I love you, I will go to the end of the Earth for you. My greatest attribute–and perhaps, flaw–is that I am loyal.
It’s easy to get caught up in feelings and emotions. It’s easy to forget the past when someone is standing in front of you telling you all the right things as they look into your eyes.
The hard thing, though, is to walk away.
I knew I couldn’t go back. And so I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. For God to take the feelings I have for him out of my heart. To not let me feel. To help me move on. Because God and everyone else–including me, finally–knows that it’s well beyond time.
If I am to be completely honest, I’ve been battling God for the last four years. I’ve been fighting with Him, trying to create my own plan for my life. I’ve been trying to make deals with Him, hoping to coax Him into believing that this is what my life is all about. Time after time after time after time, though, He’s told me, “No, child. This is not the plan I have for you.”
I had a plan. And it all but centered around him. I would’ve dropped everything, quit everything, picked up and moved if he just said the words. I would’ve left behind a great job and my dreams to let him chase his. In my plan, I could see myself racing down to the hardwood as confetti fell from the ceiling after a championship was won. My plan saw us taking over the sports world, the king and queen, if you will. It seemed pretty glorious, this plan of mine. For a long time, I would never let myself believe that there could possibly be anything better than the plan I painted in my mind.
Last Thursday, I read this:
And I knew, that my plans were not His plans. I knew they weren’t His plans, because when I was honest with myself, every time I chased my plan, my heart was destroyed. It would be built up for a period of time with “I want you’s” and “Be with me’s” and “Let’s do this” only to be left shattered soon there after. Time after time after time after time.
God’s plan isn’t one that destroys you. God’s plan isn’t one that makes you second-guess yourself or your dreams. God’s plan isn’t one that leaves you wondering if you’re making the right decision or doing the right thing.
God’s plan is hope. It is a plan that leaves you with things better than anything any plan you conspired could’ve EVER given you. It is a plan that leads you down a road to eternity–a plan to give you a future.
So I prayed. I prayed for God to take away MY plans. It was one of the rawest things I ever did. I laid in bed and over and over again said, “Please” and “I’m ready.” Let’s do this.
And He did. For the first time in a long time, I felt nothing. Nothing. Do you know HOW LONG I’ve been waiting to feel nothing?
If I were to have a vision for my life, it would be this: That when I look at it, I always see how faithful God has been to me.
After I said that prayer, I got up and got on with my day. And as the day went on, it became more and more clear the path that is being set for me and the plans that are being made. It’s a path where I get to tell a story. It’s a path that allows me to tell my story, not only for me, but through others. On Thursday, three amazing opportunities came my way. All involve opportunities for me to partner with awesome companies to share both their and my story. They are things that I would’ve never imagined possible even a day before.
That night, on my run I thanked God for helping shine a better light on the path I’m supposed to be traveling. My heart felt so open and grateful. For the first time in a long time, I felt completely free to pursue new opportunities. I felt completely free to chase after what I’ve come to realize is the plan for my life. I told Him that my life is His and that I trust Him with it. I asked him to take me where I need to go.
As I turned the last corner on my run, I head a loud “bang.” Then another “bang.”
When I looked up, I saw the most beautiful and brightest firework show lighting up the path in front of me. The lights twinkled over the water and for about 200 yards, it was just me running into a firework show that seemed to be lit up just for me. It was magical.
As silly as it sounds, the spattering of fireworks across the Miami night sky confirmed the vision I have for my life. For as much as I have turned away from God and created my own plans, He has never turned on me. And I’ve learned, that He never will. Every time that I have turned back to him entirely, he has given me more than I ever could have imagined or dreamed for my life.
And finally, I have come to understand what it means to be faithful.
In the summertime, Miami is hot. Super hot. What I love about this city, though, is the heat doesn’t stop anybody from doing anything.
Another thing I love about Miami is all of the colors. Everywhere you look in the city, there are vivid colors. Whether the colors are spattered across the art on the Wynwood Walls or the outfits women wear out for a night on the town, Miami is bright.
I love living in a city where fashion isn’t black and white. I love living in a city where the more daring you are with what you wear, the better off you are.
A few weeks ago during Miami Swim Week, I had a chance to catch up with the creator of Mamie Ruth, Emily Bargeron, at Sense Beach House. Based in Savannah, GA, the first words that come to mind when I think of Mamie Ruth’s clothing are “free spirit.” These are the types of clothes that you put on to go to a festival. They are the types of clothes you put on when you want to stand out from the crowd, but catch someone’s eye. They are fun and flirty, yet authentic.
Emily and Mamie Ruth’s story is one that really captured my heart. Emily named her company after her grandmother. My grandmother was one of the greatest influences in my life, so the thought of honoring a grandmother’s legacy through a successful, female-empowered business is awesome to me.
Another thing that I love about Mamie Ruth, is that every piece of clothing is manufactured in the United States. The company’s tag line as a matter of fact is, “Every Mamie Ruth garment is proudly made in the USA. Duh!” What the tag line doesn’t say, though, is how by committing to making her clothing in the USA, Emily and Mamie Ruth helped save American jobs in Georgia. Emily started Mamie Ruth in 2009, at the height of the recession. At the time, the production company where Mamie Ruth’s clothes are now created was getting ready to close. If it wasn’t for Emily’s launch of Mamie Ruth and her intuition in creating the clothing in the USA, many would’ve lost their jobs.
Those who know me, know that I love to shop. A lot. These days, though, I am so much more intentional about my shopping. About 90-percent of my clothes are purchased from small boutiques or collections like Mamie Ruth’s. I think it’s important to support small businesses and to get behind fellow young women who have a dream.
This Mamie Ruth outfit is one of my favorites in my closet right now. I love it, because it is something that before meeting Emily, I would’ve probably never have been daring enough to wear! I don’t think I’ve worn a crop top since elementary school, but I love the way that this one is made! It provides great support, but is still flattering. The flamingo pink color and tribal print are super cute, too. The skirt is the perfect bottom to pair with the crop top. Not only is the skirt versatile, but it’s high-waisted, which minimizes the amount of tummy that is shown with the crop top. I also love how the bottom of the skirt is sheer, which adds some fun flavor for a warm summer night!
I wore this out for a night of gossip and girl talk with one of my best Miami friends, Tyger. Another thing I love about Miami is the amazing group of successful girlfriends I’ve met. I also love that they are willing to meet up at 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night! Tyger and I met at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. This place not only has awesome food, but an AMAZING ambiance. Wynwood Kitchen & Bar describes itself as a “visual feast,” which is definitely an accurate description. When dining outside, guests are literally surrounded by murals. The murals range from graffiti art featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. to a wall of perfectly arranged silk flowers. It’s eclectic, colorful, fun, loud and the perfect place to wear a Mamie Ruth outfit!
What places are you digging this summer? What can’t you stop wearing?
My friends who are moms often talk about days where they let their kids do anything they want. Like let their kids eat cake for breakfast, ride the carousel at the mall and stay up late. They all always say that it’s so freeing, rewarding and improves their relationship with their children.
I don’t have children (although, I am sponsoring the cutest boy on the face of the planet. Meet my boy, Prosper). Thus, I can’t give a child a day where he can do anything to feel that freedom. So, I did the next best thing yesterday: I gave myself an anything day.
I woke up yesterday in Jacksonville, FL at the home of one of the friends I’ve known for the longest. July 27. It’ll always be a tough day for me, so it was nice to be amongst someone who understands my soul and gets my spirit. Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of my friend, Scott’s, untimely passing.
My dad asked me this morning why I felt so strongly about Scott. What made him different than the rest? He was honest. And loyal. And good. And pure. And gentle with me. So, so gentle. And of course, fun. And handsome.
When I woke up yesterday at my friend’s house, I could hear her footsteps walking across the floor. I wasn’t ready to get up yet, though. I laid in bed for an hour, awake. I pulled up some Bible verses on my phone. And I let my mind wander and reminisce. I know that the “What If” game is one that cannot be won. I live in the present. I’ve opened my heart. I’ve accepted. And most of all, I’ve realized that I have to keep living.
And so yesterday, I lived. I got up, got out and got on with the day that in all honesty, I never thought would come. It’s weird knowing that you haven’t seen someone or heard their laugh in ten years. It’s strange wondering if you passed each other on the street today whether you’d even recognize each other. Again, though, “What If’s.”
Yesterday, I told myself that I wouldn’t tell myself “no.” I’d do whatever I want. With no questions asked and no remorse. It was a day to feel what living full-heartedly with no limitations felt like. And let me tell you–for someone who usually has her guard up high–it was amazing.
The day began with brunch at my favorite restaurant in Jacksonville, Tacolu, with my friend Courtney and her amazing fiancee, Jeff. We ate breakfast tacos. And chips. With queso. At 10 a.m. Oh, and we ordered sopapillas. With ice cream. Because, carpe diem, my friends. Sieze the carpe. And put a scoop of ice cream on top of it.
After brunch, it was time for me to begin the drive back to Miami. I made a mental note that I was going to take it slow. And make lots of stops. And do lots of things. And live. With no agenda or focus upon time.
My first stop was at World Market. Can someone please tell me why Miami DOES NOT have a World Market? It’s a little out of hand. When I walked through the doors, I nodded to myself and said, “Mmmhmm. Oh, yes. This is good. This place is good.” I wandered the store’s aisles aimlessly for some 45-minutes. Picking up things. And putting them down. Throwing things haphazardly in my cart. Then realizing some five minutes later that I probably didn’t need them. Then remembering that this was the day of no “no’s” and putting them back in place in the cart. Luckily, I got out with only a $43 tab and this awesome mug. Which I so obviously needed. I say “obviously,” because everyone knows that Mondays are made better when you drink coffee from a “GOOD MORNING” mug. Yes, everyone knows that.
I drove south about 45 miles to America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a blasted hot day in Florida, so I rolled my windows down. And I put in my new Miranda Lambert CD. And laughed when she sang that line, “I’ve been sowing wildflower seeds and chasing tumbleweeds.” And swayed my hand out the window as I drove through street by street, looking at houses, dreaming about life.
After about 20 minutes of house hunting, I settled on this one. I mean, they say when you know, you know. And here is what I know: It has two crucial things that I hope my future home holds. A big front porch and waterfront lot.
I was ready to go, so I headed south. I decided to take the longer route, so I took the A1A instead of the 95. I kept seeing signs reading, “Beach Access,” so I thought to myself, “You know what I want to do today? I want to go to the beach.” The problem was, I didn’t have a bathing suit or a towel. But it was the day of no “no’s,” so I knew I’d figure it out. And just as I thought that, this store and all of its awful gaudiness came into my horizon.
I popped into Alvin’s and thought briefly about buying a hermit crab. It was a good deal, after all: Buy a hermit crab and get the cage and supplies for free. And judging by my RueLaLa invoices as of late, I really appreciate a good deal. Then I remembered that I’m not home enough to take care of a pet, so I left the hermit crab there. I settled for a $5 beach towel and was off.
I headed down an unassuming street and into a park that served as an artificial gate for a beach. I parked my car, hopped out, told the gal who said she liked my shirt, “Thank you, thank you SO much!” and didn’t even care that I over-exagerated the second “so.” When I hit the sand, I didn’t take off my Sam Edelman’s that I paid too much for, because the sand was hot and I decided I cared more about the skin on my feet than the shoes on them. I strolled along the beach, looking at houses and talking on the phone. I watched people fly kites and boys throw footballs. I threw my towel down and watched a pelican nose dive into the ocean over and over and over. And inside, I was laughing. And I may have even laughed out loud a couple of times. When I let the giggles out, I thought, “Don’t LAUGH out loud. You’re alone and that looks weird. You look like the weird, crazy, single lady.” Then I realized I didn’t care. Living is good.
I decided it was time to go, so I got into my car and headed south. I downloaded some new music that I’ve been digging. Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” is everything. Everything. And I may have listened to Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” 23 times since yesterday.
I stopped at a Starbucks in Daytona Beach and ordered my favorite drink–an iced, grande, non-fat Chai tea latte. I made small talk with the barista and flirted with the guy standing outside with the chocolate lab. I got back in my car and kept going south and before I knew it, I was home.
It was almost sunset, so I decided to pour myself a glass of wine. I pulled one of my dining room chairs out onto the balcony that I never sit on. I grabbed my phone and pressed play on iTunes and decided not to wear headphones as I listened to them. Yea, living means not caring about whether your neighbors can hear your music.
And I sat there. And as I sipped and bopped my head, I watched the sunset. And I saw the colors that were being painted across the sky. To the east, every shade of blue. Light blue. Sea blue. Royal blue. Navy blue. And my favorite, midnight blue. Through the blue, lines of pink scattered across making their presence gently felt like confetti popping through the atmosphere. To the west, the most vibrant orange. Deep orange faded into magenta faded into a color similar to the mangoes in my refrigerator.
With the wind lightly blowing through my hair, I thought about how much I’ve learned about what it means to be alive in the last ten years. Being alive means more than staying up late and going places. Being alive means treasuring people more than places and places more than things. Being alive means being vulnerable. Being alive means saying it like it is, because saying it like it is means being unafraid of the pain that could come to your heart. Being alive means finding joy in the smallest things, like the colors painted across a summer sky.
When the sun went down, I came in. A friend of mine who’s a producer for ESPN sent me the kindest message. I held onto these words, “Life can be very random but wonderful and tragic. There aren’t always answers but life is a gift.” A gift, indeed. The greatest gift, actually. It’s the greatest gift, because it is because of life that we get to choose to live.
We chatted a little bit more and at one point, the subject of the dreams for my life came up. And for the first time ever, I decided to be vulnerable and say out loud what my dreams are. I shared my crazy, wild, most likely improbable dreams. And with their uttering, I realized I had done something with them: I made them come alive.
I’m weird in the sense that I hate working out in daylight hours. Part of that because of the Miami heat, no, not the basketball team, but the literal hot, hot, humid, sticky heat. So it wasn’t until around 9 last night that I threw on my highlighter yellow adidas sneakers and the most obnoxious workout outfit I own. I went for my usual run around the island I live on.
Generally, I run several laps at a leisurely pace that definitely gives me exercise but definitely doesn’t challenge me. Yesterday, I realized this isn’t living. Not pushing yourself to do your best is not living. So, I ran. I ran faster than I ever have. I felt like I was lightning. I felt invincible. At one point, I was racing a boat down a straight stretch. And I was keeping up. It was so, so good. And so empowering. And redeeming.
As my feet hit the pavement, I let go of so much. I remembered that I’m still here. It sounds so coarse. But I’m here for a reason. There’s another purpose for my heart. Another reason for this life. And so help me, every single day when I wake up I will search for it. For every day for the rest of my life.
It was almost time for bed. My bedtime routine is a little intense on Sundays. I’m 30 now, so my skincare regimen is a bit more, um, regimental. And that regimen hits its high peak on Sundays.
As I scrubbed my face, I looked in the mirror and deep into my eyes. These days, they’re more hazel than the green they were ten years ago. They’ve seen a lot more, too. They’ve seen a lot of joy. And some real good excitement. A little bit of hurt, too. Most of all, though, they’ve looked into my heart. They know its secrets better than anyone. And they know the biggest regret that it holds.
I have regrets in my life. Most of them are minor. Like quitting piano lessons and dance. And not getting on that private jet to meet Bubba Watson. Yes, that was really an opportunity I passed up once. I only have one real regret, though. And it was not telling Scott how I felt. I never laid my heart fully on the line. I think I was so crushed when he died because I never got to tell him what he meant in my life. And when he left this world, that opportunity passed.
When I wiped my face off with the towel, I knew after I put on my pajamas that there was one more thing I had to do. I needed to come clean with some people. The last year of my life has been a roller coaster in terms of dating. One of those roller coasters with loops and insane drops. I’ve been riding in the front seat, largely being taken on one long ride.
So, I decided it was time for the ride to end. There were a few people I needed to reach out to so I could gain closure. There were a few things I needed to say. And maybe some things that I probably shouldn’t have said. “I miss you.” “I want to see you.” “What the hell happened to you?!” As I laid there and hit “send,” each time I felt more free. And best of all, I got answers. And my heart got some more space.
This morning, I woke up and thought to myself, “I know why moms give their kids days like the one I gave myself yesterday” as I drank from my new GOOD MORNING mug.
Days like yesterday are gentle reminders of all of the goodness that can be soaked from life. They’re nudges that to live, you need to be alive in the truest sense of the word. You need to go out on a limb and beyond your comfort zone. You need to experience to live. Experience joy and pain and fear and hurt and love. Most of all, though, you need to be free with yourself. Free enough with yourself to know when to let go. Free enough with yourself to know when to move on. Free enough with yourself to know when the time has come to realize that this is it: you’re alive.