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Failing and Finding

December 21, 2015

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.

Big time.

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:

Myself.

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.

Big time.

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.

Big time.

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On Prayer

December 8, 2015

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.

 

Trust

October 20, 2015

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.

Ever.

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.

Timing Is Everything

September 15, 2015

When the wedding was over, we did something that I’ve never done in all of the weddings I’ve been to.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

Simple enough.

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).

It’s love.

Just love.

Freely given, true, organic, spin me around on the dance floor like I’m the greatest thing that happened to youreal love.

And it’s about time.

Kaleidoscope

June 28, 2015

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)

Denim: Paige

Handbag: Michael Kors

Shoes: Steve Madden (leftover from sorority formal 2004!)

The Purpose Of Life

May 19, 2015

Somedays I feel more like a guidance counselor than a university professor.

I savor those days, though.

I savor them, because in all honesty, I find it wild that young people trust my opinion enough to guide their lives.

Not too long ago, I was one of them. The confused soul who had done all according to plan her entire life. And then, out of nowhere, she was tossed into the real world unsure of where to go now that she was free.

A young man came into my office during the week of finals. We had a more serious talk about his future. I kept pressing him with questions about why he isn’t living up to his full potential. He met me initially with “I don’t knows,” and I’d hit back with, “Well think a little harder then, because I know you know.” Finally he came through.

I don’t know the purpose of my life, Professor Jessop. I don’t know what I’m here to do or why I’m on this Earth.”

Boom. I can work with that.

So many of us on this planet are SO LOST. We run from one thing to the next expecting to be filled. We go on to the next thing expecting PURPOSE to unfold within us like some magic bloom and just like that, every inadequacy in our life to be cured.

I’ve been there. It was horrible. The years I spent searching for my “purpose” were painful. They were painful until I realized that in all we look for on this Earth, purpose is probably the easiest to find.

Around 2011, I set out to find my purpose. I took long walks. I drove to far off places. I talked to wise people. I shifted my focus. I may or may not have started going to yoga. I was SO LOST and I was looking for that one reason why I was here.

I wanted to find a BIG purpose for my life. Cure cancer. End poverty. Win a Pulitzer Prize. Spend some time in Hollywood.

I wasn’t willing to settle for mediocrity.

It’s no secret that I’m a Christian and I get most of the guidance for my life from the Bible. So during this period, that’s also where I turned. And before you stop reading now if you aren’t a Christian, hang tight with me for a second.

It wasn’t until I really started searching for my purpose in the guidebook for my religion that I found my purpose. And in studying other religions and spiritual practices, I’ve found the same purpose in their texts. Judaism. Hinduism. Yoga. You name it, it’s there, too.

In my search for purpose, I learned one big thing: The only purpose we are on this planet to serve is to love others.

That’s it.

I’ve searched high and low, and I haven’t found anything that says, “Your purpose is to create the next big thing!” Or, “Your purpose is to work yourself to death to stack up a bunch of cash.” You can look everywhere and you will never find those answers if you are honest with yourself and reading truly inspired texts.

Rather, the purpose is so simple that it should smack all of us in our faces. When we look around, wherever we may be, the purpose for our lives should be seen with our eyes.

As humans, we are not born on deserted islands. Rather, we are born on a planet filled with billions of people! We are birthed by another living being that gives life to us. At the least, our mother is with us when we are born. From the very beginning, we aren’t alone! More than likely, though, other people surround us. Fathers. Family members. Friends. Hospital workers. And then, when our parents cart us away, we go into inhabited cities and towns and suburbs. There is no silence, no solidarity even from our beginning. All of this isn’t a coincidence! The universe did not script life this way for some undefined reason. No, this is the way life begins–the way it all plays out–because from our waking moment, our purpose is exposed to us. We are here on this planet to fulfill one simple purpose: Love.

When you get to it and break it down, life’s purpose is so simple: LOVE OTHERS.

But if you really dig yourself into it and if you really set out to LIVE YOUR PURPOSE, you realize it’s the hardest thing you will ever do.

Loving others freely, fully and truly can be heartbreaking. There’s a handful of people, believe it or not, that I’d LOVE TO HATE. The universe or for me, God, though, tells me not to, though. In my ear, it whispers, “Love, Alicia. Just love them.”

Love looks different in different times and different places. There’s friendly love. There’s parental love. There’s romantic love. There’s forgiving love.

They all serve a purpose. And that purpose is your life.

I got the biggest smile on my face when the young man told me the only thing he was looking for was his purpose. I think he felt mocked when I almost giggled when he said that’s what he was looking for. I quickly said, though, “Look, your classmates are usually looking for a front office job in the NBA or NFL, which I can’t find for them as easily. You, though? I’ve got you.”

I told him, “Here’s how you find your purpose. Go home. Look around your house. Look at the people there. Go to your fraternity. Walk around. Look at the people there. Walk outside of this office. Take a stroll around campus. Look at the people there.”

He was beyond annoyed at this point. I like to talk, though, so I kept on.

“When you think you’ve seen everyone in your life that matters, I want you to go home. And I want you to go look in a mirror. And I want you to realize that you’ve found your purpose. Your purpose is to be a good person to all of those people. Your purpose is to LOVE THEM even when they are at their worst. Love will look different in every season through which you walk with them, but let me tell you something, if you can LOVE THEM through every single one, you will have served the greatest purpose on Earth.”

He stood up. Shrugged his shoulders. Kind of shook his head at the ground and said, “Have a nice summer, Professor.”

I didn’t give him what he wanted. I didn’t tell him his purpose was to obtain some grandiose job or to live a life of luxury. I didn’t tell him that the universe expected him to kill himself with stress and burden to fulfill his purpose. I didn’t tell him that he needed to keep searching.

All I told him, was the truth.

And sometimes, the truth hurts.

Slow Down

May 11, 2015

I spend a lot of time watching people these days.

Yes, I am acutely aware how creepy that last line reads, but hear me out.

I spend a lot of time watching people these days, because I think our culture is losing its interpersonal connectivity.

We are so wired. Wired into everything. Our smartphones for the most part.

But then there comes our jobs. And our TV shows. And our social media networks. And the personal rat races we are all running.

And in the midst of all of this, we forget to slow down. Or maybe perhaps, it isn’t that we forget to, but we altogether don’t know how to. Perhaps we don’t slow down, because we don’t see any value in it. “Work harder, do more,” they say.

Why don’t they tell us, though, that the greatest ingenuity and the best gifts come when you slow down and let life in?

I work on a college campus and when I walk from one building to the next, I play a little game with myself. The game is called “Count the number of college kids on their cellphones.” Creative, I know. I’ve never been one for titles. The best email I ever received from my Forbes editor went something like this, “Alicia, please be more Whitman-like and less Shakespearean with your headlines.”

Anyhow, while playing “Count the number of college kids on their cellphones,” I have generally found that about 80-percent of the young people I walk by are so immersed in the ongoings within their smartphones that they aren’t looking at their surroundings. They aren’t catching glimpses of the beautiful trees in bloom or the mama duck crossing the street with her ducklings. They aren’t catching eyes with the cute boy looking their way or commiserating with the girl crying alone under a tree. They are walking through life unobservant, focused mainly on the quick access to communication, thrill and fulfillment of their desires that is sprawled out on a glowing screen in front of them.

My unofficial studies have brought me to the conclusion that in this attraction to the false realities spilled out across our cell phones, we are losing touch with what is real and in front of us.

I want to slow down. I want to pull away from the force of the smartphone. I want to enjoy life–the real life that is found in people and places and things and feelings. I want to stop living vicariously through a smartphone and start doing the real thing myself.

I’ve become a lot more intentional with my time in the last year. When you’re building a career, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of it all and work yourself to death. You find yourself saying “yes!” to every opportunity at the expense of a personal life and interacting with people outside of your professional bubble.

In the last 365, though, I’ve said “no” a lot more than “yes.” I’m still not perfect about it, but I am getting better.

What I’m the most proud of, though, is my ability to disconnect. To unplug. To pull away from the digital life and into the real world. And let me tell you, the real world is good. Really, really good.

There was a time in my life where I couldn’t sit through a dinner without pulling out my phone. It’s embarrassing to type those words, but it’s true. These days, I tuck the sucker away and let things in the digital world go on without me while I enjoy real life, with real friends and their real stories and real issues. And you know what? It’s really amazing. It’s really amazing, because you can really connect with someone when you pour your entire self and focus into them.

Sometimes, slowing down takes you to the cutest nail bar in the world while a friend visits you for a week.

Sometimes, slowing down takes you to the cutest nail bar in the world while a friend visits you for a week.

These days, I don’t fret about the next tweet. A lot of people ask me how I built my social media following. When I got started in 2011, a big part of it was being strategic about when and how often I shared content. I’d pause every hour for twenty minutes to find something witty to say. As you can imagine, my Twitter productivity was off of the charts, but my real life productivity wasn’t so much. Now, I can sit back and let social media go on without me as I get involved in real life. And you know what? It’s been fine. Great, actually. My followers haven’t flocked away, and in all honesty, they’re probably grateful for the break from me.

I don’t answer or send email on the weekends unless it’s an emergency. And let me tell you something, it’s rarely an emergency. When Monday comes and I respond, all is ok in the world. Nobody has died. Nothing big or real or meaningful has been lost. Only my personal life has been gained.

Weekend brunch with friends is one of my favorite ways to slow down. Loving this dress from Chloe's of Captiva, an awesome boutique with plenty of options for weekend activities.

Weekend brunch with friends is one of my favorite ways to slow down.
Loving this dress from Chloe’s of Captiva, an awesome boutique with plenty of options for weekend activities.

Here is what I’ve learned: Life begins when you slow down.

As a twenty-something, I would’ve never believed that last statement. To me, life was about pushing the envelope. Life was about seeing how much I could get done. Life was about seeing all that I could see.

At thirty, I realized that’s not what life’s about. Life is about slowing down long enough, hard enough, to soak it in. Living comes in slow motion. It comes in the little steps, in the small moments, in the tiniest of thoughts and touches.

These days, I go to farmer’s markets. I talk to the farmers in broken Spanish. I touch all of the produce and inspect it. I slow down to look at it all and dream of ways I can use it. I’m intentional with my cooking, working hard to cook most of my own meals.

These days, I hop in the car and drive a few hours to visit a cute boutique or coffee shop that I read about. I talk with the owner. I hear their story. I build a friendship. I widen my circle. My life becomes diverse and better.

These days, I only work for eight hours, five days a week. I leave my business in the office and let home be the place for relaxation and fun. I treasure visiting new haunts with old and new friends alike. I get a kick out of trying new activities and visiting new places. I feel grateful that I’m surrounded by a circle of people whom I can trust with my deepest secrets and to also pull me out of my shell.

Weekend finds: Obsessed with this new notebook I scored at Rifle Paper Co.'s Mother's Day sale (75% off, people!).

Weekend finds: Obsessed with this new notebook I scored at Rifle Paper Co.’s Mother’s Day sale (75% off, people!).

Slow down. Live. Soak it in. Have fun. Be yourself. Try something new. Sleep. Relax. Try again. Watch life begin. Again.

Shop:

Dress: Chloe’s of Captiva

Necklace: Rocks Box (Get one month free with the code “RulingSportsXOXO” at checkout!)

Journal: Rifle Paper Co.

Coffee mug: Homegrown Monogram Mug, Anthropologie, $8.