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.
People tell me I’m too trusting.
They throw that line out like it’s an accusation, like being too trusting is a flaw or a disease.
They utter, “Be careful.” They say, “You’ll get hurt.”
Perhaps in life, I have been too trusting.
To me, though, I see being trusting as being the opposite of fearful.
And if there’s one thing I’ve never been, it’s fearful.
I’ve never been afraid to take a walk with the homeless man to talk about his life. I’ve never been afraid to walk up to the lonesome soul on the street and offer them encouragement. I’ve never been afraid to sing karaoke in a room full of people. And I’ve never been afraid to give someone a second chance.
And my trust in these situations has never failed me.
I’m a sentimental person. Always have been, always will be.
I keep track of important dates in my mind.
They’re a baseline of sorts, rolling around in my memory like a measuring stick. “Last year, you were here.” “See how much you’ve grown this year?” “Oh, how much can happen and change in just a year!”
The last 365-days have been about trust.
And never regretting my giving of it to even, arguably, the least deserving people of it.
The last 365-days began with my trust being completely destroyed. Shattered, broken, eliminated. By someone I trusted more than anyone.
There were sleepless nights. And a lot of tears. And many “Why me’s?” And some, “How did I let this happen’s?”
Slowly, but surely, though, trust was restored.
In the strangest of places.
Trust was restored 17-days later, when I got on an airplane alone and went to Haiti. And I saw faces that had been saved from the pit of hell. And they had smiles on them.
They had smiles on their faces.
Trust was restored 27-days later, when the little boy that God put in my life finally found out the date of his birthday and got to celebrate it. With cake and candles and love.
He was beloved.
Trust was restored in the minutes, days, weeks, months and now year that followed.
It was restored by the little and big glimpses in which I saw God working in my life. And in the world.
The things that happened to me over the last year are just too big to be explained by coincidence. They’re unlike anything this little, short life of mine has encountered.
There were the people that came into my life that encouraged me. People who seemingly came out of nowhere. There were the notes that people sent me telling me that they loved me and that I mattered and that they believed in me. They said they were blessed and grateful that I was part of their lives.
And somewhere around Day 100, my guard came down. And slowly, but surely, the girl I used to know came back to life.
I was alive again.
In the last year, I’ve seen more rainbows pop up in the sky above my head than in the 30 years that preceded the last 365 days. Everywhere. Rainbows in the craziest of places. Rainbows in the least expected of places. Rainbows, always, in my neediest of times. Never failing. Always there.
“When I send clouds over the earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all life.”
The clouds came. Oh, they came.
But the rainbows, and the sunshine, and the life, and the people, and the joy?
They overcame the clouds.
On day 363, I realized where I went wrong.
On day 363, for the first time in my life, I realized I put my trust in the wrong place.
I went to church and the preacher preached a sermon that hit me like a semi-truck. It was a sermon about trust. And how we get hurt when we put it in the wrong places. We can’t trust man to save us. When we do, we will only be hurt.
And that’s when the clouds come.
On Day 17, I started fully trusting God.
I laid down my plans. I picked up His. His crazy, perfect, inexplicable plans for my life.
And the clouds parted. And joy returned.
And 365-days later, I can thank Him for it all.
My trust has never failed me.
When the wedding was over, we did something that I’ve never done in all of the weddings I’ve been to.
We all went, together, to the honeymoon suite and kept celebrating. Bride and groom. Bridesmaid and groomsmen. Friend and family. We all went, together, and kept celebrating–laughing and joking, reminiscing and dreaming–until early hours of morning.
The night was the perfect punctuation for a weekend I needed. A weekend in which I was reminded of my past and a weekend in which I was nudged forward to my future.
It was a night in which only one thing mattered: Time.
Over the last few months, I’ve become obsessively aware of time.
How much time I spend working. How much time I enjoy with friends. How much time I miss with my family.
And in the midst of it all, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is this: Timing is everything and time is everything.
So maybe that’s why, in the infancy of their marriage, my friends didn’t run off to be alone. Maybe that’s why the rose petals on Jenny and Cullen’s wedding bed were destroyed by Jenny, Rebecca and I rolling through them, tossing them on each other and laughing so hard that we couldn’t breathe whilst doing so.
Maybe it’s because these days, times in which everyone you care about is in one place are few and far between. And the times when everyone is together celebrating are even fewer and further between.
So we celebrated.
And savored our time. Our precious time.
It was hard not to think about the time I spent in California. The six years–six wonderful, magical, inspiring years–I spent beating the pavement, chasing my dreams. Blindly, Naively. Cluelessly.
It was hard not to think about the times we spent together. Rebecca, Jenny and I. A trio of three completely different yet seemingly similar girls whose fate or crazy dreams brought them together in Los Angeles.
It was hard not to think about how we’ve seen each other at our best and at our absolute worst. Literally. Joy. “I got the job at Disney!” Pain. “My dad has cancer.” Sadness. “I got screwed over by X, Y or Z guy. Again.”
It was hard not to think about how much time has gone by.
I was 22 when I moved to California. All I knew then is that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. I figured I’d become an agent, although if I’m honest with myself, I really had no idea what that entailed.
I really believe that the first place you live after college becomes your home. It’s where you cut your teeth in life. Where you find yourself. Where you fail. Where you pick up the pieces afterward. Where you come to life. And where you move on.
California will always hold me. Unlike anything else. Places, people or dreams. The place stole my heart. And if I’m honest, I’m ok with it having it.
I’m an introspective introvert, and I know that’s surprising to some. My job forces me to be outgoing, and I like it that way.
In reality, there are only a few people that I let fully into my world. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s shyness, maybe it’s that I’ve only found a few people in this world that I can trust. Whatever it is, I can count on one hand the people I share my deepest feelings, biggest convictions, truest fears and greatest hopes with.
It’s with their souls, that if I had all of the time in the world to spare, I’d share it with.
I stole away for a moment at the wedding on Saturday. And I just watched. I watched my best friend from law school and her fiancee spend time together. I looked on at their happiness. I saw their ease. I saw their compatibility.
I looked out on the dance floor, and I saw the same in every corner my eyes stared. I saw so many of my friends, who just a short time ago had their hearts rocked by one actor or another, some rock star or has been, or some athlete or professional jerk. And on this night, not so far away from our Los Angeles past, they were spinning around in sheer and utter joy.
I smiled. The biggest smile I’ve smiled in well, probably ever. Even though I was standing alone, it was the first time in a long time that I haven’t felt painfully alone at a wedding. And it felt that way, because it was the first time in a long time that I was fully hopeful for my future.
I was fully hopeful for my future because I could see it.
Time brought me here. To this moment. It cleared out pieces of my past that needed to go. It took me places I needed to see. It reunited me with people I needed to know. All for this. This fleeting but perfect moment that seemed like it was only mine. This fleeting but perfect moment that felt like it was right on time.
One thing that held me back from finding the perfect career was my inability to visualize or put words to what I wanted in one. When someone asked me what I wanted to be, I threw out catch phrases or ideas of what I thought the world wanted or expected me to be. “An agent.” “An entertainment attorney.” “I want to work in music.” “In Hollywood.”
I had no idea what any of that meant, looked like or symbolized.
So, it’s no wonder I never found it.
The same could be said for my love life.
I spent five of my best years of my 20s chasing someone who I don’t know why I ran after. If you asked me what characteristics he held that I admired or sought in a relationship, I couldn’t tell you now. Then, I saw what I thought the world wanted me to have. Power. Success. Drive. Good looks.
It’s no wonder it never worked out.
My interview for my current job lasted seven hours. Ahead of the interview, my boss asked me to prepare a one-hour lecture on sports agents. He didn’t narrow the topic beyond that. It was left broad, with little guidance of what I should cover about a nearly billion dollar industry.
Seeing as I never was an agent, I figured the best thing I could do to prepare was call the greatest sports agent of all-time: Leigh Steinberg.
The call went something like this. “Leigh, I have to give a presentation on how to be a sports agent. What should I tell them?”
Leigh spent over an hour on the phone with me, going through the in’s and out’s of how to build an agency. He was meticulous. The information he gave me was paramount. When we hung up the phone, I knew that none of the other candidates would be able to compete with what I was about to present. I had clarity.
“How can I thank you for your help, Leigh?” I said.
“Just go get the job, Alicia.”
Find what you want.
Then go get it.
I finally know what I want when it comes to that missing piece of my heart. The place I’ve held empty for a long time, waiting to know, to understand, to feel what needs to fill it.
And it’s no longer a label.
It’s no longer a title.
It’s no longer status.
It’s no longer looks (ok, maybe it still is).
Freely given, true, organic, spin me around on the dance floor like I’m the greatest thing that happened to you, real love.
And it’s about time.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother had this kaleidoscope. It was heavy and dark blue on the outside, and for some reason, there’d be periods of time where I’d spend hours for a streak of afternoons just staring into it.
I’d twist it and turn it, deeply concentrated. There were a handful of scenes I liked more than others, but truth be told, I was in awe of the constant beauty that always floated in front of me as I twisted and turned it.
I don’t know where that kaleidoscope ended up after my grandparents passed. If the last few months are any indication, though, if I still had it, I’d probably be looking into it a lot. Twisting, turning, waiting for the next thing.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately turning things over in my head. I tend to do this at least once a year, right before my birthday.
I reflect. I introspect. I look to improve.
The best way to describe the journey that was this last year of mine is as a kaleidoscope. Life’s journey is like a kaleidoscope. Beautiful things always fall into place, and with the next twist and turn, quickly disappear only for a new, beautiful surprise to come into view.
I turned 31 last Saturday and the thing I’m the proudest of accomplishing during my 30th year of life is becoming open to change. For once in my life, I accepted the twists and turns. I took them as they came and didn’t try to turn the kaleidoscope of life backward to escape back into a former scene.
I’m a creature of habit and comfort, so none of this came natural to me. The last year was like a movie of sorts. It was a movie of tests and triumphs, like life was finally saying to me, “Are you ready to let go and let what’s meant to be happen?”
In the last year, I’ve been given great opportunities to take the next turn. With love. With my career. With my comfort zone. And every time I’ve twisted and turned, I’ve been met with the next beautiful surprise.
In retrospect, the next beautiful surprise has been a consistent theme in my life. If I’m honest and true with myself, the decision to change and move on to the next thing has never been met with destruction. Rather, only contentment and what was meant to be.
I’m another year older. I’m officially a passenger riding in the decade that is the 30s. And I have to tell you, it feels good! It feels good not worrying what comes next. I don’t worry anymore, because I know life is like a kaleidoscope. And only the next beautiful surprise awaits with every twist turn.
Necklace: Jules Smith Open Geometric Necklace from Rocks Box (Get 1 month free with the code RulingSportsXOXO at checkout)
Top: Studio LX (Miami)
Handbag: Michael Kors
Shoes: Steve Madden (leftover from sorority formal 2004!)