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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Slow down. Live. Soak it in. Have fun. Be yourself. Try something new. Sleep. Relax. Try again. Watch life begin. Again.
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.
I met Megan during my first weekend of college. We were in the middle of sorority recruitment and ran into each other outside of our dorm buildings. We sat and chatted like we were old friends. Little did I know then as an 18-year-old that she’d become one of my best friends, greatest confidants and favorite people to talk to.
Megan is getting married in July to a great guy, Craig. To celebrate her upcoming nuptials, we headed to a place we’ve both wanted to go for as long as we’ve been friends: Nashville.
I can sum up Nashville by saying one thing: It’s perfect.
Nashville is the right mix of culture and Southern charm. The restaurants serve amazing food, the drinks are good and not too strong. The scenery is pretty–a mix of rustic with lush greenery. The shopping is ideal–streets lined with cute boutiques with stuff you’d actually want to buy at reasonable prices. Needless to say, I never wanted to leave Nashville once my flight touched down.
I’m Megan’s Maid of Honor, so I was able to plan a fun bachelorette party itinerary for our group. Initially, we wanted to rent a house for everyone to stay in. I started booking things about six weeks out, and realized quickly that every house and nearly ever hotel in the city was booked for the weekend we were heading there. This seemed crazy to me, so I finally called one of the hotels to see what was going on. It turns out the NRA was having their annual convention the weekend we were there and had blocked every room in the city. Crazy!
We were lucky to find two rooms at the Holiday Inn Express Nashville Downtown. Due to the convention, they were priced a little higher than you’d normally want to spend for a Holiday Inn (over $400 per night). However, even though this wasn’t our first choice for hotel, it ended up being AMAZING! For starters, you can walk to the bars and restaurants (and live music!) on Broadway. Everything else that you’d want to do is also a quick drive from this location. The employees at the hotel were also so helpful, welcome and accommodating. I would stay here again in a heartbeat.
We landed in Nashville early on Friday morning. Our first stop was the Pancake Pantry. Flapping jacks since 1961, this spot is a hotbed for celebrities and musicians in the area. There was literally a line wrapped around the building to get a table, but it was well worth it, because the food was delicious! I had the Cherry Supreme Pancakes–pancakes with cherry compote rolled into them and then topped with more cherries. Talk about delicious!
After eating, we walked around a shopped a bit. There are SO many cute gift shops in the Nashville area (more on that later). Next, we went to the Ryman Auditorium, which is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music.” We took a self-guided tour and got to see dressing rooms where the likes of Patsy Cline and Alan Jackson have gotten ready to perform. The self-guided tour was reasonably priced, had some fun picture opportunities and was a nice way to learn about Nashville’s history.
Once our tour was finished, we walked around the corner and had drinks at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Tootsie painted her bar orchid in 1960 and was known for letting struggling songwriters pay for their drinks with IOUs. Willie Nelson signed his first songwriting deal after performing at Tootsie’s. We had a blast at Tootsie’s! We actually ended up there twice on Friday. We went there for a quick drink on the rooftop after touring the Ryman. For early in the afternoon, the rooftop was PACKED and filled with fun-spirited people enjoying live music and the nice weather. We headed back later in the afternoon to meet up with my friends Sydney, David, Anthony, Patrick and Brandon, who were randomly in town. The drinks are reasonably priced and the vibe is fun, so I’d definitely suggest stopping at Tootsie’s.
After Tootsie’s Round 1, several of us headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Hatch Show Print. Hatch Show Print is the location where many of the posters advertising performers’ concerts in Nashville are designed and printed. It was cool to see the design process and some of the interesting historical posters. Their gift shop also has some great, unique finds. I’m a big country music fan, so visiting the Hall of Fame was fun for me. My favorite part was seeing the costumes that some of my favorite performers have worn during the career. If you aren’t a big country music fan, I might skip both of these places, though.
Next, we headed back to the hotel for a lingerie party with champagne for Megan! Each of the girls brought a gift for Megan and to thank them all for traveling, I gave each girl a gift bag. Amongst other things, the gift bag included sunglasses, these cute bachelorette party inspired hair-ties in Megan’s wedding colors, and a handmade Nashville-inspired tea towel that my mom made. This site has a super cute iron-on transfer design that you can use to print on the canvas tote bags. Overall, the tote bags were a big hit and it was fun putting them together.
We enjoyed dinner that night at The Southern. The gumbo was super hot, the craft cocktails were creative and delicious and the vibe was relaxed, but cool. This was a fun place to have dinner and the menu offered a lot of options at different price points. Girls could order a nice steak if they wanted to, but there were also less-expensive, but still delicious options. If you eat here, I would suggest asking to sit in the main dining room. We were tucked away in a private dining area, which was nice for us to be able to chat with each other, but I think it would’ve been more fun to be in the thick of things.
That night, we hit the bars on Broadway. It was SO much fun! The guys in Nashville were such gentlemen. I don’t think any of us paid for a drink all weekend. We started the night at Tin Roof, which was a good place for the night to unfold. While there was live music, it was a more mellow crowd and you could actually find a place to sit and hear the person across from you. We were ready for something a little wilder, so we headed down the street to Honky Tonk Central (amazing name), which ended up being SO MUCH FUN! There are three stories in this bar, and on Friday nights, each floor had a different band playing. We headed up a few flights of stairs to the floor featuring a really fun cover band that had everyone dancing. The band played everything from Taylor Swift to Sam Smith and Tom Petty. It was a great time that probably kept us all out past bedtime.
On Saturday we hopped in the minivan (oh yea, I rented a minivan, because since there were six of us, it would be cheaper than taking Ubers) and drove south to Franklin, TN. If I ever disappear, look for me first in Franklin. Franklin is perfect. The homes are on expansive, lush plots of land. The life is a little slower–people talk slower, walk slower and are just more calm, gracious and polite. I travel a lot, but Franklin was one of the first places in my life that when I stepped out there for the first time, everything just seemed to make sense.
My friend Sydney who lives in Nashville told me that we HAD to eat at Puckett’s, and she was right! Puckett’s is a restaurant housed in a cute little grocery store found in a strip of shops and restaurants in Franklin’s main thoroughfare. There was a wait to be sat, so we made our way to the bar, where the bartender mixed us all up some Moscow mule inspired strawberry drinks. They were AMAZING. The staff at Puckett’s was so nice! I’m not a huge drinker, so I wanted a coffee. There was a cute coffee shop next door and they welcomed my going and bringing a latte from there into their restaurant. Our food was delicious. We shared fried green tomatoes (delicious), fried green beans (even more delicious) and hot chicken (MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD) and just enjoyed a slow, lazy lunch.
After lunch, we strolled around Franklin and took in its shoppings. Franklin’s shops speak to my boutique loving soul. There were amazing gift shops (Lulu), cute paper goods and card stores (Rock Paper Scissors), sweet boutiques (Philanthropy) and THE MOST AMAZING bath goods store I’ve ever been to (Bathos). Do yourself a favor and spend $8 to order the Artemesia Mud Mask. This is a “fridge fresh” mask, meaning that because it is made of fresh, organic ingredients, you need to store it in your refrigerator to preserve it. It is such a treat, though, because once you put it on your skin, the feeling of the cool mud draping around your face is fantastic. From here on out, Bathos’ masks are going to be my go-to gift for friends.
I never wanted to leave Franklin, but the time came. That’s because we had tickets for a show at the Grand Ole Opry! The Orpy has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. So, we loaded up in the fan and drove the 30 or so minutes away to the Opry. The Opry and its surroundings can best be described as country music’s Disneyland. Being in a venue whose stage has held some of my favorite artists was inspiring. The show was super fun and entertaining. Mark Wills, Kristian Bush, Craig Morgan and the Charlie Daniels Band performed for us as we sipped house wine. Afterward, we took a behind-the-curtains tour, where we got to see dressing rooms and even grace the Orpy stage ourselves! This was a blast to me, but again, if you aren’t a country fan, I’d skip this.
After the concert was over, we decided to head to a different area of town than Broadway to see its bar scene. We headed to Midtown to check out two bars, Winner’s and Loser’s. And yes, Winner’s and Loser’s are right next to each other. However, despite the opposites found in their names, the bars are practically identical in their vibes and patrons. The crowd featured a lot of recent Vanderbilt graduates and a group of fraternity boys who took a real liking to our 30-something selves. I felt a little out of place and aged out of both Winner’s and Loser’s, but the vibe was fun (there was even karaoke!) and the drinks were cheap, so they may be worth checking out.
Sunday’s activities were some of my favorite of the trip. Thus, it’s lucky that you made it this far in the post, because this is where the gems lie!
On Sunday morning, we headed to Pinewood Social. Pinewood Social is the COOLEST PLACE ON EARTH! It features an amazing restaurant, with a great brunch, bar and coffee menu. Beyond that, though, there is a bowling alley, swimming pool (yes, you read that right!), ping pong tables and bocce ball court. We enjoyed brunch at a big, comfortable table inside. After we ate, we wanted to head outside to enjoy cocktails in their great open-air environment and soak in the perfect Nashville weather. The manager was super accommodating in this request and we spent hours in comfortable throw-back chairs sipping craft cocktails and talking about the great weekend we had. A few of us played some ping pong, but overall we mostly enjoyed the company! This place is a hidden gem. We all remarked about how surprised that we were that it wasn’t packed to the brim with people, because the service was great, the drinks were fun and fresh and the scene was SO DANG COOL. Go there. Now.
Our time in Nashville was coming to an end, but there was one last stop we had to make. it was a stop for popsicles. Yea, you read that right.
12 South is akin to the hipster area of Nashville. People there are just so cool and don’t even have to try to be cool. There are great murals on exposed brick buildings. There are awesome shops. There is a big, beautiful park. And then, there are the popsicles. Las Paletas is a Mexican popsicle shop started by sisters in the 12 South neighborhood. The line for these sweet treats goes outside of the store’s door, but it is well worth the wait. The popsicles are served from a couple of small freezers and the flavors range from pineapple chili to chocolate and avocado and peanut butter. They were all SO GOOD. Every single last melting one of them. Go there and thank me later. I wish I had a freezer full of them with me here in Miami, but I don’t, which means one simple thing:
I NEED TO GO BACK TO NASHVILLE. Right now. Seriously. i would if I could. It was as close to a perfect trip as trips come. Everything was enjoyable and just so pleasing. What a gift and wonderful way to celebrate one of my favorite friends.
I spent my 20s a drifter of sorts, wandering from city to city, apartment to apartment, searching for and building my life.
The later I got into the decade, the more the resounding voice of my Dad said, “You need to put down roots.”
In April 2013 I made a decision that surprised a lot of people and confused others. I applied for a job at the University of Miami teaching sports law. The job would not only take me 2,000 miles away from home to a place that in all honesty, the first time I visited in 2006 for a 21st birthday party I didn’t care for, but would also lead to the winding up of my legal practice.
It was a bold move, a brash move perhaps even. And I couldn’t fully verbalize or explain why I felt compelled to do it, other than I loved sports, I knew about the law and I wanted to work with young people. For some, though, these answers weren’t enough to justify a life changing decision.
In the back of my mind, though, I knew there was another reason why I was going to Miami–a reason, that at the time, I just couldn’t put my fingers on.
I dream every night. Bold, vibrant, memorable dreams, many of which come true. Rarely are there monsters in my dreams. Instead, my dreams are peeks into the exciting things about to come into my life.
Last July, I had a dream where clear as daylight, the voice in it said, “There is a boy.” A week later, Prosper came into my life. Because of Prosper and his life story, I am now a Community Champion for an organization called I’m Me, which is working to end the orphan crisis in Haiti.
I truly believe that had I not laid roots down in Miami, I never would’ve become involved with an organization located in and focused on Haiti. I do not think it’s coincidental that months before my life would cross with Prosper’s that I moved to a place that is less than a two-hour flight from Haiti.
A few days before Easter, I’m Me’s founder, David, invited me to spend Easter with the I’m Me kids. I didn’t blink at the opportunity and said, “Yes!” I flew into Haiti on Good Friday–one of the darkest, most solemn holidays of my Christian religion. Straight from the airport, David took our group to one of the darkest places I’ve been in my entire life–the orphanage from which he got Prosper and the other nine children now living in I’m Me’s home.
I went to that orphanage for the first time in November, and it’s safe to say it rocked me to the core. Going there changed my life. I held babies that hadn’t eaten in a week. I held lives that although young, were dying a slow and miserable death. I smelled sweat and sat in dirt and saw bugs fly by. In that darkness, I realized for the first time in my naive life that Hell exists on Earth.
Going there again this time still rocked me. There will never be a day that seeing children helpless and hurting becomes easy. There is no way to prepare for the pain that stings your heart when you see the sights that exist in Hell on Earth.
This time, David walked us down into the basement that we wandered into last November. In November, we didn’t find any children in the basement. This time, though, was worse. This time, we found a room full of babies, diaperless, lying in a dark room unattended to. I wanted to pick them all up, hold them and carry them home with me to America.
Unable to do that, I picked up one, Patrick–named after David’s brother, the co-founder of I’m Me–and began rocking him. I looked into his eyes, which wouldn’t meet mine. I ran my fingers across his soft face and up into his curly hair. He didn’t coo, giggle or smirk. He was lifeless, stoic. My heart was breaking in the darkness of the room I held him in.
As I stood in the dark room, I realized there was a glimpse of light breaking through the room. I turned over my shoulder and saw that the light was beaming through the sliver of a window behind me. I knew what I needed to do.
I walked Patrick over to it. I wanted to show him the light. I wanted this boy, who prior to my getting there was lying alone, half-naked in the dark, that life exists outside of the walls of his personal Hell. I wanted to bring the smallest bit of life to a boy whose life the world had all but forgotten.
When I got to the window, I moved Patrick from the cradled position I had been holding him in and propped him up in my arms so that his eyes could peek outside of the sliver of a window.
I received the most beautiful gift in that moment. I received the gift of watching life come to this boy’s face, as for perhaps the first time, his eyes were met with light.
We spent more time at the orphanage this time than we did last time, which didn’t make leaving it any easier. The time, though, came for us to leave. Afterward, we went to the I’m Me house, where I was quickly reminded how quickly love, encouragement and empowerment can change the lives of neglected children. I thought the I’m Me children were thriving in November. They are thriving even more five months later! They’ve learned their numbers and letters and can write their names. DaeDae, who couldn’t speak the first time I met him, is the chattiest toddler I know and even sings in English! It’s amazing the work that God can do in the lives of children and I am so blessed to be able to watch this journey unfold.
On Saturday we woke up, hopped in the back of the truck and set out for a 2-hour drive into a voodoo village near the mountains. The long drive underneath the hot Haitian sun took us through the biggest per capita slum in the world, Cite Soleil. Cite Soleil can best be described as organized chaos. There are beautiful parts of it–the scenes of community, the pictures of people working hard, the visions of creativity coming to light in its street-side markets. There are ugly parts of it–the children wandering naked, the garbage spread out in large heaps everywhere, the hopeless eyes in some of the poorest people in the world.
The organized chaos is one of the worst parts of Haiti, but also one of the best. I tell my friends that going to Haiti is like an adventure. Where in America can you pile 12 into a truck and drive without getting pulled over? Where in America is there a place where you can drive 100 miles and not encounter one stop light, or stop sign? Where in America can you go and just let your hair down, sing at the top of your lungs and laugh with the wind blowing on your face? I love Haiti for the adventure it provides. I love Haiti for the beauty that exists within its borders. These two things, signal to me Haiti’s great opportunities.
After hours in the back of the truck (and my hair literally resembling a rat’s nest), we arrived at the voodoo village. It was Saturday afternoon, about 12 hours before Easter. The village was quiet, with a few people milling about. It was surrounded by a good number of trees and a mountain. Before entering the village, there’d been talk in the truck about what goes on in the village. Talk about the poverty of the village. Talk about the rituals of the village. Talk of the sacrifices performed under a tree in the village.
As the truck crept through the village, I saw all of these things. I saw the village’s poverty as its children ran about its dirt roads in tattered clothes without shoes on their feet. I saw a glimpse of the village’s rituals when I saw the church where it holds voodoo ceremonies. And I saw the existence of the village’s sacrifices when we drove past the tree boldly marked with a red line under which the sacrifices are performed.
We drove the truck to the end of the village and parked. There, we saw a handful of children playing soccer without their shoes on in dirt underneath a beautiful tree filled with leaves. They laughed and giggled, and most notably to me, they didn’t run, when we, strangers, appeared.
We met them on the dirt field underneath the tree. In our shoes and pressed clothes, we turned a jump rope for some. We joined a soccer game whose goals were marked by rocks and whose players largely went without shoes. And we were merciless against them in soccer, as David, an NFL player, may have scored at least four goals on my count against them.
We let them take selfies on our smart phones. We laughed and giggled with them and chased them up the mountain only to realize they were a lot better at getting down than we were.
We didn’t speak their language, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter, because we each spoke a common language–a language whose diction was marked with sounds of friendship, care and understanding.
As time went on, more children appeared. They journeyed down the road that wound through the voodoo village. Their shoeless feet hit the hot dirt to get there. They climbed over the mountain and down the hill to reach this space, marked with a beautiful, lush tree filled with leaves. At the time, I didn’t wonder why they were all coming to this space marked with nothing but a tree. Looking back, though, I should have.
About an hour into our time under the beautiful tree, two men appeared. They had with them long, wooden benches. I watched from the side as they set them up under the tree. Once all of the benches were set up, I noticed that the children wound up their games and began making their way to sit on the benches underneath the beautiful tree.
I approached one of the men to figure out what was going on. He spoke English, and I learned his name was Pastor Mark. “I come here every Saturday,” he said. “This village has been practicing voodoo forever. The adults won’t come to Christianity. Every Saturday, though, the kids come. They come to sit under the tree with me and learn about Christ.”
Pastor Mark is putting down roots. He’s putting down roots in a community that has suffered the effects of poverty for far too long. He’s putting down roots in a community whose populous is largely uneducated. He’s putting down roots in a community where sacrificing animals is still a common, accepted practice. He’s putting down roots with a younger generation that is accepting that there might be another way.
Most of all, though, Pastor Mark is putting down roots with a group of young people to teach them that love is the only way, and that forgiveness is the key to a life well lived.
The best part about the roots Pastor Mark is setting, is that they are taking hold–they are gripping the ground. The world in this community, is about to change. Light is getting ready to come in on the heels of these children, who on their own accord, walk away from the voodoo tree every Saturday evening and enjoy laughter and joy under the beautiful tree down the road.
Sunday was my favorite Easter. I ate macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, instead of my mom’s typical amazing Easter feast. I didn’t go to my home church, let alone church at all. Yet, I felt Christ and his power the most this Easter Sunday of any Easter Sunday I’ve experienced.
To me, Easter is about redemption. The story of Easter literally involves darkness and light. Good Friday–the day on which Jesus was crucified–was the darkest day in the Earth’s history. The Earth literally turned black. Three days later, on Sunday, when Christ ascended into heaven, light was restored to the world. If one believes in Christ, they understand that it is only through His love that the world saw light again.
I saw Christ’s truth come to life this Easter Sunday. I saw it come to life, as I sat close by and listened to David recount the story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven to I’m Me’s children. I watched firsthand as the children accepted Christ and what He offers into their life. I saw the light beam from their eyes when they acknowledged that because of Christ, anything is possible, that their transgressions and those of everyone are forgiven, and that love is the only answer in this confusing world.
We all dig roots. Some we dig as the result of our choices. Others, we are led to dig. Regardless, roots stick. The power that they sink into the Earth remain and move forward through generations. The greatest gift of my life are the roots I’m digging in Haiti–roots that I never imagined I’d dig. As my life continues forward, I look forward to seeing the results of the deepening roots, and the light that hopefully shines over them.
I’m Me is laying down some roots of its own. A year ago, the money it raised through its “House the Vision” campaign allowed it to take in 11 orphans, feed thousands of street children, provide jobs to 12 Haitians, and feed 200 children per week. I’m Me has just launched its “House The Vision: Part 2” campaign. This campaign is focused on fundraising for state-side office space in Dallas, TX. I’m Me has grown much faster than any of us anticipated or dreamed! Due to this, it is critical that I’m Me is able to hire the necessary people to carry out our vision and also provide these people with a safe, clean space to bring their dreams for ending the orphan cycle in Haiti to life. This campaign will fund the office space for I’m Me’s employees to help empower Haitians. To learn more and donate, click here.