I met an above average number of famous people, traveled to picturesque places and even paid for professional head shots in 2016. I’ve given it a lot of thought, though, and this is hands down my favorite and most important picture of me from this year.
I rode the train alone to Amsterdam this August. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scope out Pinterest and Instagram beforehand, seeking out the best places to take the pictures to really send a message to the Internet of how awesome my trip was.
I hit the pavement in a fresh pair of Birkenstocks immediately after dropping off my suitcase at the hotel. It was raining, gray and cold, but I was undaunted. I needed a picture of my smiling face and Pinterest-inspired outfit in front of the Comic Sans like “Amsterdam” letters spelled out in front of the Rijksmuseum. You know, so the world could know and see that my trip was living up to all expectations.
I handed my phone to a stranger who looked trustworthy enough. I’d just lost my phone on a boat ride in Haiti a month before, so I couldn’t afford to lose another. She smiled and snapped pictures. I told her, “Thank you so much! I really appreciate it.” She nodded and walked away. I walked towards the Rijksmuseum, scrolling through my camera roll confusedly.
There were two pictures. And in both, I was fighting the wind and rain to keep an umbrella out of my face.
Certainly, it was not the perfect moment I hoped to capture and share with the world. In hindsight though, it was everything it needed to be.
I’m taking a break from packing my suitcase to head home to Denver for Christmas. It’s Christmas again! It feels like I was heading home to the cold weather and my family just weeks ago. The calendar, though, tells me that another year has passed. And as I think about 2016, I have contentment in my heart, because I know it was everything it needed to be.
When the clock struck Midnight on January 1, I told myself it’d be a year of redemption. I started the year reading the book of Hosea and ended it turning back to what I needed.
I’ve battled to create a perfect life for myself. And what 2014 and 2015 taught me, is that’s impossible. Life is filled with heartache, challenges, betrayal, disappointment and regret.
If you give way to what may come, though, life is filled with redemption. It’s filled with hope and joy and a future and peace.
It’s filled with my 2016.
I let go of expectations in 2016, and perhaps that is the most freeing thing I’ve done in my years. My favorite instance of this arose in early June. Earlier in 2016, I met a University of Miami alumna who runs a nonprofit in Haiti, teaching children there about marine life. She invited me to bring the I’mME children on one of her boats to look for dolphins and whales.
The first week of June, I flew to Haiti to surprise the kids with a boat ride to celebrate the completion of their first year of school. I had such great anticipation for the day. In my mind, it’d be a Disney like day–perfectly executed and enjoyed. We’d see dolphins and whales jumping over the water, laugh and giggle with each other and soak in the sun, sand and water.
What I painted in my head for the day little resembled the day that unfolded. We woke the children early in the morning and didn’t let them know where we were headed, as we wanted to surprise them. We packed them tightly into a tap-tap, while the adults rode in the back of an open air truck. It was hot and dusty and every single one of us forgot to eat. As was traversed through Port-au-Prince, we were pulled over outside of a United Nations checkpoint lined with armed guards. We were stopped for a fair amount of time, during which one of the children got sick in the back of the tap-tap. Given that there’s little free flowing air through a tap-tap and we were driving in the middle of a hot, Haitian day, the kids in the back of the tap-tap were stuck with a smelly, hot ride.
It took us several hours to reach our destination. When we arrived, we realized we forgot food. We were hours from home and not near a place where you could purchase food or snacks. Everyone was getting cranky, but we proceeded with the boat ride nonetheless.
The American in me never stopped to think that the children had never been on a boat. I couldn’t communicate with them in Creole, so you can imagine their horror as I snapped life jackets on them and then threw them over the water to a handler on the boat. Their surprise and confusion intensified as the engines were fired up and we started cruising towards one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen.
The water was choppy that day and there were high winds. The boat started rocking back and forth and the babies started wailing. It was then that I realized we also forgot diapers for them. Pieces of the boat actually started blowing off and for a quick second, I almost had a panic attack wondering how we’d save the children if the weather took a turn for the worst and the wind and waves picked up even more.
To my surprise, the boat outing lasted several hours. Before I knew it, we were picking up the kids and packing them and their things into the tap-tap to begin the long journey back to Port-au-Prince. I felt defeated. I wanted nothing more, but for the kids to have a perfect day filled with fun on a boat. I wanted to cry, because in my eyes, it was anything but.
As we were getting in the car, I had one of the Haitian adults ask Prosper, the boy I sponsor, if he had fun.
He said, “Wi!”
T-john then asked him why he had fun.
Matter of factly, Prosper immediately responded, “I had fun today, because today I went on a boat and I have never been on a boat before.”
In that moment, a 9-year-old boy taught me one of the greatest lessons I’d learned in my then 31-years.
The lesson he taught me was to let go of expectations and to accept what may come with an open heart.
When I look over the last year with that perspective, it’s been a year of great redemption. I’ve stopped making plans for my own life. Instead, I’ve surrendered to His plans. For after all, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'”
2016 saw my heart finding a soft landing spot. It saw the building of memories to last a lifetime with friends, old and new. It saw developing deeper relationships with my parents. It saw the creation of purpose for a career. It saw traveling to places literal and figurative I never thought or knew I could go.
Most of all, though, it saw me giving up.
As the most extreme type-A person I know, perhaps the most surprising thing about 2016, is that it no longer pains me to write those words.
For once, I am not trying to manipulate my future. Rather, I am welcoming what may come with open arms, finally recognizant of the truth that great expectations may perhaps be the most futile and dangerous symptom to plague a life.
I had fun this year. More fun, probably, than I’ve had in any year before. I had fun this year, because I took each day as it came to me and molded it with ounces of hope, faith and joy, to make it the most exceptional.
I had fun this year, because I had never experienced 2016 and this year, I experienced 2016.
Wishing you all hope, peace and joy this holiday season and that you can give up your expectations in exchange for the great surprises that await you.
I had lunch at Pastor Steve’s house earlier this semester.
Pastor Steve and his wife, Arlene, are the University of Miami’s Athletes in Action Ministers. Pastor Steve is also the team chaplain for the Miami Heat. It was inside the Heat’s media dining area that I first met he and Arlene. Our conversations for most of the season centered on my constant battle of finding a man of God, but that’s a story for another day.
“Have they told you about the Bibles?” he asked in between bites.
“What have they said?”
“They like them. They’re reading them. They’re appreciative,” I replied.
“What’s the last place you’d ever live in America?” If you asked me this question in 2011, I would tell you Miami.
I grew up in a small, close-knit suburb of Denver where you can make it anywhere you want to go in ten-minutes. Everyone knows each other and more than likely also knows your mother and grandparents. There’s little diversity and few challenges to the norm in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
My career in the sport industry began in 2011 when I started RulingSports.com while practicing law in Orange County, CA. I launched the blog in July and it received decent traction. In December, I marched down the hallway of my law firm’s office, into my co-worker Colin’s office and closed the door. “Write this down. In two years I’m going to be writing for ESPN.”
I don’t think I gave him time to speak. I swiftly turned back around and marched back to my side of the office to bill some more hours. It was a bold prediction and certainly a haughty move. But I’ve always had strong self-esteem and belief in my abilities.
I started RulingSports.com not merely to provide sports law coverage, but to begin shifting the needle in terms of how sports news is conveyed. I wanted to channel away from negativity and toward highlighting athletes making a positive difference in the world. I wanted to celebrate athletes’ feats; not their demises.
Nearly simultaneous to the start of my sports career, the Nevin Shapiro scandal erupted at the University of Miami. Stories related to the scandal were filled with some of the most sensational allegations. To the rest of the world outside of Miami, Miami was filled with nothing but criminals, cheaters and rule breakers. The program was out of control.
In 2011, I was one of those people outside of Miami. I went on ESPN Radio stations to discuss the NCAA’s case and voiced my disgust and displeasure over the unsavory allegations being made. I called for the NCAA to levy heavy sanctions.
Over the next two years, I worked with a major broadcasting agent who pitched me for numerous sport broadcasting and writing jobs. The process was moving too slowly for me and there was no guarantee anything would pan out. Recognizing my unhappiness as a litigator, I asked myself what else I’d like to do. I knew I loved working with college-aged people through my work as a national officer of my sorority and that I knew a lot about sports law, so I pursued a career as a professor.
In 2013–two years after I told Colin I’d be working for ESPN–I didn’t find myself in Bristol, CT. Instead, I found myself in the place I’d never thought I’d call home, Miami, as a first-year professor at the university I questioned, the University of Miami.
Today, though, I know why God sent me to Miami instead of Bristol.
Today, as a professor who has taught 28 of the current Miami Hurricanes football players and many more over the last four years, I have a chance to change the dialogue on how this team is covered and represented in the mainstream media. I have a chance to show the world outside of Miami–like the person I used to be–that in total, what this program represents resembles nothing close to criminality, but rather, some of the most positive attributes in society.
I teach the children of billionaires and the children of those who have nothing. I look at and treat them all equally, because they are in my eyes. They are all equal, because they’ve chosen to pursue a college education to give themselves a better tomorrow.
Walking around campus at the University of Miami is a beautiful scene. I often think of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I have a Dream” speech. Walking around campus, I see people of every race, religion and sexual orientation. They laugh together. They all sit around tables and stare at their smartphones together. They sip Starbucks and sit by the beautiful palm tree lined lake in the middle of campus together. The football player and the non-athletic class introvert slap each other’s hands as they pass by each other in the breezeway.
I feel like I’m in a utopia when I am at work. I think to myself often, “If the world looked and acted like what happens here, it truly would be a beautiful place.”
My students are leaders. My students conduct research and lead projects that are changing the world. They are artists and musicians. They are innovators and inventors, constantly pushing the needle and improving the world’s technology. They are humanitarians that travel to developing countries to serve the needy. They quietly volunteer in their communities and don’t ask for recognition. They manage football schedules that sometimes account for 60+ hours of their week, along with courses, internships and other extracurricular activities.
My students are dedicated. My students are in class everyday. They are prepared. They speak up. They have relevant items to add to discussions. They engage with their peers. They perform well on exams. They don’t ask for favors. They accept the grades they earn. They are the true definition of student-athletes.
My students care about their peers. A few weeks ago, I gave a hypothetical in class of a female sport industry employee being sexually assaulted in front of co-workers. I asked a classroom full of students how they would respond. The first two hands up were those belonging to football student-athletes, Michael Smith and Terrance Henley. They gave wise answers of how they’d handle the situation and protect their female co-worker and her dignity.
My students are accountable. Sometimes, I don’t think students know how perceptive professors are to all that’s going on in the classroom. As I was wiping off the board as class ended one afternoon, over my shoulder I heard my student, Brad Kaaya, say, “Hey, man” in a serious voice. I turned over my shoulder a little bit and saw Brad pointing and looking at a fellow student, who is not a student-athlete. “You need to throw your trash away!”
My students look out for other people. Two years ago I was battling a bad inner-ear issue that impacted my balance. During this time I went for a run, fell and tore up both of my knees badly. I went to work with bandaids covering both knees. Former Hurricanes running back, Duke Johnson, was in my class at the time. After I finished teaching and the rest of the students left, he came to the front of the classroom. “Hey, is everything ok?” he said. “Yea, why?” “I saw your knees and wanted to make sure nobody did anything to you.”
My students are intelligent. The NCAA measures Division I athletic programs’ academic success through a tool called the Academic Progress Rate. It measures two things: 1. Whether student-athletes graduate or remain enrolled in school (i.e., don’t drop out) and 2. Whether student-athletes are academically eligible. The highest score a program can score is 1,000. The NCAA requires a 930 minimum. The lowest score the University of Miami football program has ever scored is a 956. Earlier this month, the University of Miami football team was one of only three of all 128 FBS teams to receive the AFCA Academic Achievement Award.
My students are talented. Two of my former students will play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Six of my former students signed with NFL teams this season. They’ve broken records. They win games. They have God given athleticism.
I have many talented, intelligent, driven and wonderful friends who work at ESPN. This isn’t about them.
It’s about changing the dialogue.
Stop calling my students, “Convicts.”
I understand that the film airing Saturday is about a game played in 1988. I was four-years-old and a Colorado Buffaloes fan then, so truth be told, I remember nothing of this game.
And that’s how it should remain. If the dialogue surrounding the film was merely about minutes on a gridiron, that would be one thing. It isn’t, though. The film is perpetuating a stereotype that doesn’t meet a single one of the young men I’ve taught in my four years at the University of Miami.
That’s wrong. It’s unfair. And it is not unbiased journalism.
In fact, one ESPN.com article wrote that the “Convicts” label still follows “the Hurricanes to this day.”
Well, let this be the last day.
If the world outside of Miami needs some labels for the Hurricanes, here they are: Leaders, dedicated, caring, accountable, intelligent, talented.
“Did Coach Richt give the players any instruction when he gave them the Bibles?”
“Yes, he told them to start in Proverbs.”
So it’s in Proverbs that I’ll end.
Proverbs 31 is an incredibly important chapter in the Bible for women. Proverbs 31:8-9 is the mission for my life. While it relates mostly to my work in Haiti, it is relevant here:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy.”
When I was looking for a church to join in Miami shortly after moving to Florida, I spent several weeks moving from one congregation to the next seeking a spiritual home. I’ll always remember this time, because over three straight weeks and inside vastly different churches, the sermon was the same.
Looking back, I find it so apt that the message that greeted me when I moved to Miami was to rest.
To let things happen. To let the Lord do His thing. To wait. To quit the endless doing.
The last decade of my life can best be surmised with one word: Work.
I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am.
Over the last decade, there have been few moments were I truly felt I could let my guard down and rest. I have spun my wheels in every direction, taking on countless projects, jobs and opportunities that came my way.
In the sport industry, work is glorified. If you glance at my Twitter timeline or read the Facebook feeds of my friends in this industry, it is as though we are in a competition to out work each other. The competition is fierce, and there is a perception that if you slow down someone will sneak in to take your spot.
Given this pressure, when I entered the sport industry in 2011, I rarely took breaks. I worked weekends. I glanced at my phone during nights out with friends and even while on dates. I worked from sun up to sun down and was always “on.” “Vacations” were traveling to sporting events to cover them for whatever media entity I was working for at the time. My life resembled nothing of a work/life balance.
Then I heard those sermons. My first Sunday in Miami, the pastor who preached at the church I attended said something that I had known since my first week of Sunday school: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.”
A lightbulb went off in my head: If God could create the universe and still find time to rest, I could be a productive member of the sport industry and still find time to rest.
Resting isn’t weakness.
Resting is about recharging.
Resting is about securing your purpose.
Working in sports, it’s easy to get burnt out. The days are long and the seasons seem to never end. Working without rest, it’s easy to lose your purpose and rather, just begin to exist.
In the last year, I’ve become very intentional about observing the Sabbath. Yes, the Sabbath is about worship, but it is also about rest. It is one day that we are called to stop and pause our worldly work. It is a day to recharge our batteries. It is a day to ensure our relationships are secure. It is a day to slow down to fully appreciate all that has been given to us through His grace and beautiful work. It is a day to question whether we are truly living out our purposes on this Earth.
I’ve said, “No” more in the last year than I ever have. I’ve turned down speaking engagements. I’ve opted out of trips. I haven’t written as much as I used to.
I’ve rested more than I ever have.
And in that rest, I feel that more so than ever, my purpose has come to life.
I am no longer scattered. The work, people, places and activities that I invest in are intentional. I know that each fulfills the purpose I was put on this Earth to live out.
When you don’t rest, you lose restlessness.
Instead, you gain focus.
And through that focus, you develop priorities.
When your priorities are set, time to rest becomes abundant. You recognize the times in which the work is done and all that is left, is for you to enjoy it.
What are you doing that you aren’t meant to? What wheels are you spinning that are making you tired? What are you pursuing to keep up with others that prevents you from living out your true purpose?
It’s critical to identify a mission for your life. No mission is too small, and no mission is too lofty. A mission is a reason for existing. To identify your mission, ask yourself what purpose you most desire to serve.
After identifying your mission, brainstorm ways you can accomplish it. What goals must you achieve to ensure that your mission comes to fruition? What roadblocks might prevent you from achieving it?
Those living for a mission–or higher purpose–know that their livelihood must be spent working towards achieving that mission. They cannot get lost pursuing roads that don’t lead to the completion of the mission.
Yet, those living for a mission–or higher purpose–know that they are best equipped to achieve their mission if they allow themselves rest.
If you don’t know your mission yet, that’s ok.
I’ll let you in on a secret, though.
I didn’t find my mission through working. My mission didn’t come to me through long nights or hard work.
My mission arrived when I stopped everything. When I slowed down. When I took long walks. When I sat on the beach and journaled. When I sipped coffee and turned off my smartphone. It came to me when I gave my brain and heart permission to pause the rat race and search for what I am here to do.
It’s an amazing thing that our purpose isn’t found through work, but in rest.
Ten years ago, the girl on the right graduated from college. An engineering college, at that. To date, I still have no idea how my non-mathematically inclined self managed to graduate from the Colorado School of Mines in four years, let alone make the honor roll there.
Ten years went by so fast. As I look at my wide-eyed, chubby cheek face, I wonder if the 21-year-old knew of the adventure she was about to embark on. Truth be told, I had some idea that my life would be fun. But if you told me that morning in Golden, CO–a place 20-minutes away from my entire family and a stone’s throw away from my dad’s job–just where my adventure would take me, I’d laugh.
The biggest thing I’d laugh at would be the notion of becoming a college professor. As an undergraduate, I was the student that drives most professors nuts. Extracurricular activities and my social life were my top priorities. I was an officer in my sorority, a vice president of the Panhellenic Council, Student Body President and a cheerleading captain. I spent classes texting friends at other schools and flirting with the boys I sat in the back row with. Needless to say, I was the model Social Chair, but not necessarily the model student.
Things changed in law school when I put a screeching halt to my social life and dug my nose into my books for three years, managing to grade on to the law review and graduate cum laude. What a difference three years makes!
In the ten years since I left the safety net of my home and Golden, CO, I’ve hated my job and found my dream job; fallen hard for someone and got my heart broken; lost and made friends; moved from one corner of the country to another and traveled the world. One decade later, here’s what I wish the girl with the wide eyes and chubby cheeks would’ve known back then:
1. Your First Job Won’t Be Your Dream Job, But That’s Ok
My parents taught me as a child that with hard work and an education, I could accomplish anything in life. I’m so grateful they did this, but I also think that upon graduating law school, I had unreasonable expectations. As a professor, I see these unreasonable expectations–and perhaps entitlement–in some of my students.
More than ever, students are receiving high-caliber, global educations. They have access to thought leaders and worthy internships. And through the gaining of this experience and access to influence, the idea that they will easily transcend the corporate ladder or immediately land a job with a prestigious employer is born. When reality sets in that they may have to take a lower-ranking job with a less notable employer, frustration arises.
More than likely, your first job won’t be your dream job. That’s ok, though! It’s a stepping stone. It’ll provide experience. And most importantly: It’ll pay the bills. Stay there for a year and promise yourself you will move on as soon as you can.
2. Don’t Accept Your Dreams Not Coming True
While your first job may not be your dream job, that doesn’t mean that you should give up on your dreams.
In 9th grade, my high school gave us the day off of school to shadow someone in an industry we were interested in. I spent the day with a sports writer at the Rocky Mountain News. The guy was miserable. He told me about how low paying and time consuming his job was. When my mom picked me up in the afternoon, I scrapped the idea of ever becoming a writer.
It’s funny how our passions can’t be contained. 14-year-old Alicia had no idea that 27-year-old Alicia would launch a successful blog that would lead her to writing for Forbes, The Huffington Post and CNBC.
At all expenses, make your dreams come true. Even if they’re wild. Even if others tell you they’re unreasonable.
3. Don’t Stop Learning
Your formal education may be over, but if you stop learning, you will stop rising.
When I graduated law school, I remember after the ceremony my dad telling me that it wasn’t the end of my education. I was irritated, because I had just been through three years of academic hell. He was right, though. As an attorney, I will always be required to keep up with changing laws and statutes. Now, I am grateful that this is a requirement of my profession, because it will keep expanding my brain and understanding of something I’m passionate about.
Become an expert in something. Devote your life to the complete knowledge and understanding of it. Value the time that you spent gaining an education so much so that you refuse to stop being educated.
4. Find A Hobby
Truth be told, I worry a lot about younger Millennials as it relates to work-life balance. I often ask my students if they have a hobby. They either A) laugh and/or B) look at me like I’m old and insane.
“Hobbies, who has hobbies? I just jack around on my smartphone all day,” is what I imagine them uttering under their breath as I hassle them about their lack of hobbies.
I’m lucky to work in sports, which may be one of the top-3 most interesting and fun industries in the world. Truth be told, 99.9% of my job doesn’t feel like work.
Regardless of whether you love your job or not, it’s easy for work to consume your life. The need and drive to make money or gain power or notoriety is typically what’s at the root of this.
Let me tell you something, though: When you get to the end of the race, you’re not going to kick yourself for the time you spent not working more.
You’re going to kick yourself for not running the 5k race, skipping out on golf with friends or never learning how to play the guitar.
Beyond that, somedays at work suck. Really suck! Even if you work in sports! If work is all that defines you, what is your defense mechanism for when those days arise?
Find something you like to do. Find something that is selfishly done merely for your own pleasure.
5. Start Saving. Now.
I paid for law school on my own. I also went to law school in one of the most expensive counties in the United States, which added to the expense.
By the time I graduated from law school, my friends that I graduated undergraduate with (most of whom are Petroleum Engineers) had been earning $100,000 per year for three years.
I felt so behind them when it came to earning and saving. At 25, I couldn’t envision how I’d ever be able to live without roommates, purchase a new car or own a home.
At 31, those fears have subsided. They have subsided, because from my first day working as an attorney, I began saving.
Find a financial advisor or analyst that you trust. I’m lucky that one of my best friends from undergrad, Austin, entered the field. He holds me accountable with my savings and finances, which is a big deal, because I’m a shopping fiend.
6. Spend Wisely
On that note…
My friends reading this probably just spit out whatever they’re drinking when they see that I’m advising others to spend wisely. I love shopping. Always have, likely always will. It’s cathartic for me. I also like traveling. Always have, likely always will. Flights are my drug of choice.
I’m 31-years-old, and even though I’ve been saving since I was 25, it’s only now that I’m learning how to spend wisely. I spent my 20s living in Southern California routinely dropping upwards of $100 on dinner and drinks with friends. I’d splurge on new outfits before dinner and drinks. I’d buy new makeup and get my nails done before that.
Luckily, these things were all purchased using cash and not credit. What would I have to show now, though, if I hadn’t spent that way? How different would my mutual fund account, retirement account or house look?
At some point, you have to draw the line and limit your spending. Learn to be frugal now. Put yourself on a budget. Prepare for the day that you will own a house, have a spouse or children. Don’t fall victim to marketing schemes, points programs or credit card offers. Hold yourself accountable to a cash budget that fits within your means and goals. Practice this accountability, so that when the days of the spouse, children, or house come, it is not a hard skill to adapt to.
7. Date! And Date Wisely
Along with not having hobbies, another thing that worries me about my students is that it appears that so few of them date or are in committed relationships.
I lived through hookup culture in college. I knew I was going to law school, so I didn’t want to get tied down. I saw my future in a career and outside of any relationship I was going to secure during my undergraduate years.
Our grandfathers courted our grandmothers. They sent letters and asked for permission. They picked them up at their houses promptly at 8 p.m. and had them home before midnight. They planned dates that included activities outside of the bedroom. They held hands for months before “rounding any bases.” Pursuit was the name of the game.
These days, with a swipe of your fingers across an iPhone you can find a date, boyfriend, future husband or someone to have sex with. Nothing is sacred in the world of relationships anymore.
Think about that.
Our culture is engaged in a relationship war that if you really get down to it, threatens the future of humankind. Adults are marrying at older ages and more are foregoing the option to have children.
I can’t tell you how many of my friends–myself included–have been hurt by hookup culture. DATING IS NOT MEANT TO BE CASUAL. Dating is an action meant to be engaged in with the understanding that two people are pursuing the possibility of marriage with one another.
Don’t be reckless with your dating life.
I’m not just talking about using contraception or protection. I’m talking about giving actual, sober thought to the repercussions of your relational decisions with others. I’m talking about being intentional in seeking out people whose background, future, interests and HOBBIES! align with yours. I’m talking about pursuing the one true thing that we all hope to find, and that’s love.
Don’t risk good, perfect, true, honest love for one night. As Tim McGraw says, “I love you ain’t no pick up line.”
Wait for it. It will come.
8. Give The Nice Guy (Or Girl) A Chance
Due to hookup culture, the plight of the nice guy or girl is real.
We are living in an age and culture where people are suspicious of nice gestures. We are living in an age and culture where for long enough, girls haven’t been asked out by boys, so they shirk when it happens.
I am a confidant to many of my female students. I hear about everything from menstrual cycles to heartbreak and relationships to family drama.
Over the last three years as a professor, one thing that has struck me is my female students’ reactions to nice young men that pursue them.
“Professor Jessop, can you believe that guy asked me out?”
Give the nice guy a chance. Give the guy with enough courage and CHIVALRY to ask you out and pursue you the chance to do so. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe he’s not the one. At the end of the day, it’s one date. Put your smartphone down for an hour and go.
Women cannot demand and expect more from relationships if we are unwilling to give the nice guy a try, but allow the jerk to walk all over us.
One of the only regrets of my life was giving five years of my 20s to someone who didn’t take his relationship with me seriously. To the outside world, he was the ultimate catch. Tall, handsome, great head of hair and an NBA coach. On the inside, he took me on a roller coaster ride.
Nothing was ever definitive. All that was given were future assurances (if you can call them that) and a chase. I fell for the chase.
Today, I find myself 31-years-old and single. When I hear the young women I teach complain to me about the nice guys seeking them out, I can only think of myself.
I let so many nice guys go for the chase.
There were the ones that sent me flowers to work. Those that bought me nearly front row seats at sporting events. Those that wiped the tears off of my face when he did something wrong.
Those guys are all married now. They’ve found nice, wonderful girls. Because they’re nice, wonderful people.
That’s how healthy relationships work: TWO nice, wonderful people DATE each other and engage in HOBBIES together.
Whether you are a man or a woman, don’t waste your time on relationships that aren’t good. Break free. Give someone with a clear, honest heart a chance. It’ll be worth it.
9. Keep In Touch With Friends, Parents and Professors
My greatest accomplishment is that I remain friends with my best friends from high school, undergrad and law school and have a solid relationship with my parents.
Don’t lose touch with people. Friends, family and mentors. These people are in your life for a reason.
In the years following undergrad, my friends and I saw each other each summer, at a minimum. We’d gather at homecoming football games or at Christmas parties. Watching our lives unfold and their families grow has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life.
Call your parents once a week. My relationship with my parents has matured so much in the last ten years. Their friendship, guidance and love have allowed me to overcome every obstacle I have encountered in the last decade.
Ask your parents questions. Have your mom teach you how to make your favorite dish. Ask her about her first heartbreak or how she and your dad met. Have your dad tell you about his greatest hi-jinx and favorite thing to do on his day off. Recognize that your parents are human, too–people with feelings, pasts and futures. Accept them for who they are and thank them for all they have been to you.
Your first mentors in the working world should be your professors. Professors are experts in the areas they teach. Reach out for guidance. Keep the door to your university open. Drop them an email, handwritten note or Christmas card. I can assure you, we want to know how you’re doing. And don’t spare the details: We are happy to be here for you in the failures and successes.
10. Give Back
7-percent of the world has a college education. 7-percent!
Your acquisition of a college degree in and of itself means that you are leading a blessed life.
Your degree empowers you to change the world you live in. I’ve interviewed hundreds of athletes in my career, from LeBron James to Steph Curry and Robinson Cano to Emmitt Smith. The one question I always ask athletes, is whether they have an obligation to give back to others.
I’ve never been asked that question. I’ll give you my answer, nonetheless. My answer is a resounding, “Yes.” As a college educated woman living in the United States of America, I have an absolute responsibility to give back to others.
Find a cause that you’re passionate about. Learn how you can become involved in it. If the opportunity you want doesn’t exist, create your own plan to address the cause. I guarantee that your education provided you with some insight into how to accomplish this.
In the last ten years, I’ve built an impressive resume, moved across the U.S., traveled the world, saved money, had my heart broken and mended, and strengthened and found relationships.
Yet, the experiences that I am the most grateful for are the times I was able to give back to others. Working closely with I’m ME, a nonprofit working to end the orphan crisis in Haiti, and developing women’s leadership skills as a national officer of Sigma Kappa Sorority, provided me the greatest platforms to utilize my college education.
This world will not get better if the educated don’t tackle the issues it is facing. Seek ways to eliminate injustices. Use your brainpower to find a way to feed the hungry. Engage with your peers to find new technologies to end epidemics.
The 7-percent should serve the 93-percent.
Because if you ask this professor, the only hope I have for any of my students is that they make this world a better place.
Ten years ago, I wish that was the advice a professor shared with me.
DVR is a really terrible invention for a person like me.
It’s a terrible invention, because I’m the type of person inclined to care only about how a story ends.
I want to skip through the muck and just get down to the bottom of things.
Did the person live happily ever after, or not?
They didn’t? Ok, I’m out.
Five years ago if you asked me, “Alicia, would you want a DVR for your life?” I would’ve resoundingly responded, “Yes!”
“Tell me how it all ends, right now!”
I know better now.
I’m a planner. Always have been, likely always will be to some extent. And if you ask anyone close to me, my planning drives them all nuts.
You can ask one of my best friends, Brit, about the time I sent a meticulously detailed Excel spreadsheet to everyone in our circle of friends in an extensive attempt to logistically coordinate our summer plans.
Or, you can ask my Dad about the time last week that I told him I plan to be married by the time I’m 35-years-old.
“It doesn’t work like that, Alicia,” he said before I brushed him off.
“You don’t know me. I’ll be married by the time I’m 35,” I said quickly before hanging up.
I watched Peyton Manning’s retirement press conference the other day and found great satisfaction in his saying other players could be stronger, faster or more skilled than him, but nobody could out plan him. Manning’s ability and commitment to planning took him to the pinnacle of success.
I’ve planned. A lot. At the age of 7, I planned to go to law school. I planned to work in sports around the age of 14. I planned to live in California and somewhere along the line, I planned to live in a house on the water.
As I get older, though, something has struck me. As much as I hate to admit this to my younger, neurotic self, it’s struck me that some of the most beautiful things in my life are the pieces of it that I didn’t plan.
I’ve heard friends’ parents say that there are few good surprises in life. Usually when you get hit with a surprise, it’s that you have cancer or that you miscarried the baby or maybe even that your friends planned a really obnoxious surprise birthday party for you at your least favorite bar and your ex-boyfriend is there.
There are definitely bad surprises in life.
This isn’t a post about that, though.
In an effort to cut my obsessively compulsive planning habit, I’ve started treating life as one, big surprise birthday party.
Life is one, big surprise birthday party, because you know that there’s a possibility that certain things are coming down the road. So, you try to brace for them. Maybe you put on your best dress and make sure you curl your hair and at least put on mascara before you leave the house. You might even cancel other plans. Then, when your friends pop up from behind your couch, you aren’t entirely blindsided by their presence. You brace for what’s coming the best you can and ensure you are prepared to the extent best possible. Then, you sit back and let it happen. Or not happen.
Every now and then, though, your friends get a good one off and catch you entirely off-guard. And so, you show up for the surprise birthday party looking like a person who has walked across the Serengeti Desert alone and unkempt for months. Your hair is a mess, your makeup is nonexistent and you’re shocked and slightly angered at what has just happen.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the latter kind of surprise.
It’s a surprise born of complete unexpectedness. Because it’s born of unexpectedness, the surprise arises in a space free from entitlement.
I expected to go to law school. I expected to work in sports.
I didn’t expect the great things in the middle.
And truth be told, like an ice cream sandwich, the things in the middle are the best things.
I moseyed through the aisles of Target yesterday, the store where these days more often than not, roughly 30-percent of my paycheck seems to be spent on clear essentials like toilet paper, Keurig coffee pods and a brightly colored Brita water filtration device.
Near the toothpaste aisle, my phone rang. It was my Nana. I usually avoid talking on the phone in public, but the lady is 88-years-old, so her calls always get answered. We had a nice chat for a handful of minutes. Then I got to the dairy aisle. And my childhood best friend that I haven’t talked to since December called. She has two kids, a husband and a full-time job, so our conversations at this point are sacred. By the time I made it to the home storage aisle, we were all caught up.
I had some more shopping to do, but there came a moment when I circled back to the Keurig coffee pods aisle and I just had to stop. Big red cart in tow, middle of the aisle, not caring what others thought of me, I stood, looking up, catching my surprise over the great, big and small, entirely unexpected surprises life has granted me.
Yesterday I was sent pictures of the little boy I sponsor in Haiti, Prosper. That kid’s entrance into my life remains one of this journey’s greatest surprises. At a period of melancholy in my own life, helping him and fighting for his dignity was a piece of hope I could tether my rope to. To date, the establishment of a heart for Haiti and the presence of practically a second family there is one of my life’s best–and most unexpected–surprises.
When Prosper came to the I’mMe home, he was terribly malnourished and on the brink of death. When I became his sponsor, other than his name, the first thing that captured me were his eyes. He has these great, big, beautiful eyes. At the time I first looked into them, though, they looked so hopeless and depressed.
I was surprised with happy tears yesterday when I saw sheer joy in those same eyes. In February, the I’mME boys and girls were taught about love. The boys were told how they should treat ladies and the girls were told how women should expect to be treated. The final lesson was a student engagement activity where the boys took the girls to dinner.
On Prosper’s face, I saw nothing but pure joy and clarity. Happiness isn’t even a fair word to use to describe that child’s face caught up in the moment. It was freedom and peace, and maybe a bit of surprise as to how great this gift of life really is.
Many of the best surprises that have entered my life have come into it merely by refusing to say, “No.”
Some would say that my fatal flaw is my inability to say, “No.”
I’m overworked and overextended. Some days, I don’t feel like my right hand knows what my left is doing. I tape a radio show in San Francisco every Tuesday, where the host, Ted, lists off my job titles.
And every time he does, I always think to myself, “I have too many jobs.”
Fifteen minutes later, when the segment is done, I throw away that thought. I throw away that thought, because I realize what a wonderful surprise in my life it has been to have the fortune of so many opportunities.
Saying, “Yes” to the opportunities that arise gives way to some of life’s greatest surprises.
If something sounds remotely interesting, I’ll say, “Yes” to it. That’s how I’ve become a professor, writer, launched a national conference, served on boards, started a small public relations company and now, helped launch a start-up fashion brand.
Two summers ago, I saw that a woman working in fashion who lived in Miami started following me on Twitter. I thought her career sounded interesting, so I followed her back. As it turns out, she was my neighbor, so we got coffee later that week. As our friendship grew, Megan told me about the handbag company she was launching, LOUISE & ELEANOR. Earlier this summer, she asked me to come in as the Director of Branding and Communications for the fashion start-up.
I could have easily said, “No.” Instead, I thought, “That sounds interesting” and said, “Let’s go for it.”
It’s been a fun and incredibly surprising ride. The handbags are being worn by celebrities, we are entering the sports space through tennis and I just got off of the phone about the possibility of filming a reality TV show about building the brand this summer in Los Angeles.
I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the crystal, sea-green Atlantic Ocean in Miami right now as I write this. I always wanted to live on the water. I don’t know where that desire came from, seeing that I grew up in a landlocked state. Somehow, though, in a grand surprise, God blessed me with the opportunity. I’m still entirely in awe and surprise at the way in which He did, though.
I recognize that there is one constant theme that flows through the wonderful surprises my life has been graced with. That one constant is this: I’ve never been afraid to say, “Yes.”
When I returned home last night, I was hit with one last surprise.
Caught up in my mind’s own wandering on the Keurig Coffee pod aisle, I walked away, completely forgetting to purchase my coffee. For an addict like me, that’s problematic.
I woke up this morning realizing what I’d done and became instantly annoyed. I scurried to my kitchen, opened my cabinet to grab a package of oatmeal, a breakfast peace offering of sorts. To my surprise, tucked and hiding nicely behind the box was one, little perfect pod of coffee, in my favorite flavor albeit.
Savor the surprises. Be open to the unexpected. And if the chance interests you in the slightest way, say, “Yes.”
I planned to write this on December 1, but like much of this year has gone, something else popped up in the place of my plans.
I failed this year.
When the clock struck Midnight on January 1, 2015, I had but one New Year’s resolution: Travel less.
I made my intention of traveling less known to my close circle, my not-so-close circle and even my students. And everyone I let know about my plan responded in the same way, “Why?”
In my mind, I needed to travel less to settle down. To find myself. To dig some roots in my still relatively new home of Miami. To build a life that isn’t always about jetting off with a suitcase. I needed to travel less to let “real life” unfold.
Tomorrow I’ll get on to my count, 34th flight, of 2015. If you’re counting (like I am), that’s one flight every 10.7 days.
That was not the plan.
Yet, when I get to the bottom of things, perhaps it was better than the plan.
Perhaps it was better than the plan, because “real life” unfolds the way it is meant to when you let go of the reins.
Perhaps “real life” unfolds the way it is meant to when you take a step back and just say, “Yes,” to all of the goodness that approaches you.
Perhaps “real life” unfolds when you stop trying to fit your life neatly into a box that you believe “real life” looks like and just start enjoying what’s in front of you.
What I sought this year in traveling less was simple spontaneity. I wanted pure joy unmarked by grand plans and schemes. I wanted to find happiness in the little things, like a local coffee shop, standing dinner dates with friends and maybe even falling in love with someone who lives in my same zip code.
In 2015, I got spontaneity. Oftentimes, though, spontaneity came through the vessel that is an airplane.
In April, my friend, David, called and said, “Why don’t you come and spend Easter in Haiti?”
Ok, I’ll come.
In May, an email came reading, “Why don’t you come to the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500?”
Ok, I’ll come.
In July came an email stating, “Why don’t you come to Germany for four days?”
Ok, I’ll come.
I found a lot in 2015 by merely saying, “Yes.”
I helped a friend start a fashion brand. I raised thousands of dollars to end the orphan crisis in Haiti. I interviewed sports leaders and taught at a top-50 university. I met new friends that live in every corner of the Earth.
In the end, though, when the clock strikes Midnight wherever I find myself this New Year’s, I will know I found one important thing in 2015:
I let go of a lot this year. The main thing I let go of is fear.
I let go of the fear of my life not looking like other’s lives.
I let go of the fear of the unknown. I let go of the fear of loneliness. I let go of the fear that drives much of my desire to control every situation I’m in.
If there’s one thing that has always stood about me, it is this: I don’t let go easily, especially of people.
You could take my home from me. I’d let you take all of my clothing. Take my belongings, if you will. Do not take my people, though.
I’ve always held on strong and tightly and never found it easy to say goodbye to people. I’ve always been this way, because I’ve been afraid of what life would look like without them.
I remember in first grade, we were assigned book buddies. I latched on to my book buddy. I loved the guy! Several weeks into the program, I was devastated when the time came to rotate book buddies. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my book buddy. How could life be any better than it is now, with this here book buddy, I thought to myself.
This year, most of all, I found that it’s ok to let go. Sometimes, the thing you have to do to get where you need to be, is not stay put. Sometimes, the thing you have to do to get where you need to be, is let go.
Sometimes, believe it or not, life is better on the other side of “Goodbye.”
So this year, I let go.
I let some friendships slide away.
I let the biggest relationship of my 20s fade into the sunset
I met the most amazing and interesting people across this globe, fully knowing and accepting of the fact that I may never see nor even talk to them again.
And in it all, I realized that I was ok.
I was ok, because in 2015, I finally realized that our time here on this precious Earth is short.
I finally realized that nothing on Earth is promised forever.
I finally realized that because of my temporariness on Earth, all I can do is live and love to my best ability during the time I have with others. With some, I’ll have a lot of time. With others, I’ll have mere moments.
I finally realized that this all of this is ok.
I finally realized this, because for once, in 2015, I lived in the moment.
I failed this year.
I failed big time this year, because I thought that not traveling was the key to me being able to live in the moment.
Looking back upon pictures and memories stamped in my mind for eternity, I know now that I was wrong.
I know that I was wrong, because forever inside of me is the day a best friend from high school and I ran around like little kids inside of a palace’s garden in Germany.
I know that I was wrong, because forever inside of me is the hours-long truck ride across the Haitian countryside spent with new friends with the biggest hearts as we discussed our boldest dreams.
I know that I was wrong, because forever inside of me are the memories under the stars in cities across the United States with my family and old friends, which cemented our places in each other’s lives into eternity.
I know that I was wrong, because forever inside of me are the dinners with strangers, breaking bread and drinking wine and contemplating our lives, which although not forever interwoven, were once marked by the gracious presence of each other.
Forever inside of me now is a belief and an understanding that life, contrary to all of your plans, gives you everything you need.
Right on time.
All of the time.
Even if you fail.
Is it just me, or has the world become a lot scarier in 2015?
Last night before I went to bed, I sent my final tweet of the night. In it, I explained how I can barely watch the news anymore. I can barely watch the news anymore, because it seems that all that graces my TV when I turn it on is hatred. Or fear. Or anger.
We’re living in a visceral world. It’s a world filled with a lot of hurt and anger and confusion.
I spend a lot of time on social media for my career. In the last few weeks, my eyes have been stunned by posts and headlines denouncing the power of prayer to solve the world’s problems. The New York Daily Post went so far as to run a front page headline after last week’s San Bernandino shootings reading, “God Isn’t Fixing This.”
While the New York Daily Post’s headline was a clear push towards the need for gun control or gun reform in America, the sentiments on the page have been echoed elsewhere frequently as of late. “Prayer is not enough.” “Take your prayer, I’ll take my guns.”
I have a hard time with those sentiments. I have a hard time with those sentiments, because they signal that God is not enough to overcome this world and its problems. If God isn’t enough, then what is? If we give way to fear and let it control our ability to “solve” this world’s problems, how much worse might this Earth look?
When it comes to the power of prayer, I can only speak to personal experience. And in my personal experience, every one of my prayers has been answered. Literally. Some have been answered favorably, others have been met with resounding “No’s.”
The thing, though, is that when I reflect on my life, the times in which I have put my full trust in Him are the times in which my life has been met with the greatest ease and peace.
Just last week I prayed a huge, great prayer. It was a prayer for something personal that was burdening my heart. It was an issue that had been looming for literally years that I had worried about often. Yet, it was only last Sunday that I realized I had never prayed about the issue. For as many tears as I had shed about it and as much as it kept me up at night, I never asked God for His help.
So last Sunday night, in tears, I prayed. I prayed a true, honest prayer and laid out my petition to God. Less than 24-hours later, my prayer was answer. My burdens and worries were carried away. A new day arose.
I’ve never lost a loved one to gun violence or war or malnutrition or injustice. So I know that the above might sound smug and insensitive. Please know, that is not my intention. My intention, rather, is to merely defend the power of prayer. I can defend the power of prayer, because I have seen firsthand the effects of it.
I have seen my life restored when I thought it was on the brink of destruction. I have seen joy restored in places that were only filled with darkness. I have seen kindness arise in the least likely of sources. I cannot attribute any of this to chance or circumstance. Rather, I can only attribute it to prayer.
It’s easy to say “God Isn’t Fixing This” about the rising, growing, potentially catastrophic problems this world is facing. When you know the God I know, though, you recognize that is wrong. To me, God is love. And what this world needs more than anything right now is love.
And so tonight, it is love for the world that I will pray for, because that’s the only thing that’s fixing this.