The Guest House: Say YES, Be PRESENT

This “being human” thing is tricky.

This past week a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (my alma mater) was murdered. He was last seen at 7pm heading to a friend’s apartment on one of the busiest streets on campus, only three blocks from my old apartment, and his body was found five days later ten miles outside the college town along a rural road.

Shock and tragedy are a part of life — but this really stopped me in my tracks for awhile when I heard. I can’t tell you how many times I ran around campus with my friends (and sometimes by myself) late at night walking, laughing…just being 19. Now people are being randomly targeted, assaulted, robbed, beaten, raped, and now murdered. All on a campus in a small town in the middle of nowhere in central Illinois, where thousands of students travel every year to have “the best four years of their lives.” The worst part about this particular crime  is that it was early evening, on a busy street on campus, on a Friday. This could have happened to ANYONE.

Whenever tragic things happen to someone, it always hits me hard,because it could easily happen to me. Or a friend. Or a family member. Life could change in a second, with no warning.

So how do you deal with the fact that, yes, terrible things happen in life?

Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive and present in a world where it seems like so many bad things happen. Especially because the “bad” these days is usually really bad. But I always go back to this incredible quote about inviting it all in, the good and the bad, and somehow it makes me feel better. Knowing that bad things are going to happen to me reminds me that I am human, and that because I’m human, I’ll recover.


I think everyone has their own way of coping with the realities of life: “life is short” “bad things happen to good people” and “you have to see the glass half full” all strike people in different ways. So it would be callous and insulting for me to insinuate that a positive outlook on life is easy. That’s way too cliche. But I have found ways to help me cope with the fear of tragedy and appreciate life for what it is:

  • Say YES. Unless you have a prior commitment, it doesn’t align with your values, or you’re sick, say yes to any and all invitations life throws at you. Coffee with an old friend? YES. A networking event where you’ll know no one and probably spend the first 15 minutes standing awkwardly with a drink in your hand? YES. A dinner date, even though your bank account is dwindling? YES. Building a snowman outside even though you’re 24 and haven’t bought a pair of snow pants since 1997? YES.

For many of you reading this who don’t actually know me, you might think this a little cheesy. And it is I guess. But I’ve learned that life is made up of the little moments that happen when you’re busy anticipating “the big things.”  Too many people are waiting to meet their future husband to be happy. Too many people are working 60+ hours a week trying to build up their 401k plan at 25 years old. And way too many people work at a job they don’t love in hopes that things will be better “in the future.” I used to think I just didn’t get it. But now I’m realizing that the way I’m living is what’s making me happy. Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned lately:

  • Be PRESENT. I am perfectly content where I am in this exact moment. I’m not looking to the future to justify a single aspect of my life. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my daily routine. I do exactly what I want to do every day. And do you know what? Life isn’t flying by the way it used to. Months used to be over in the blink of an eye, and my friends and I would commiserate over time flying with a glass of wine. Now?January dragged. It was a full month. I celebrated my birthday. I tried Hot Power Fusion yoga for the first time. I met some other bloggers in real life. I spent more money at more restaurants in Chicago than is even remotely fiscally responsible for someone my age. I met tons of new people. I started eating bacon again because damnit it smells good, and that’s it. I watched a basketball game with my dad. I went to a concert. I made enchiladas. Don’t get me wrong — I have goals, and specific benchmarks that I know I have to accomplish to reach those goals. But the goals are all my own. They haven’t been manipulated by someone else’s opinion, or by any insecurities about possibility. And because they are truly my goals, and the way I live my daily life supports m goals, I don’t feel any pressure or fear of the future. I know it’s all going to be okay, because the way I live on seemingly insignificant days will shape my life overall, and I know I’ll be happy.

So much for writer’s block, right? I just started typing and a novel came out.

THANK YOU everyone for being an outlet for me to share posts like this. I absolutely love sharing the light-hearted, food-obsessed side of me, but every once in awhile I guess it’s good to remind you I’m human as well.


  1. This is such a great post! It Is a much needed reminder to live in the moment and treat every day like a gift. One thing that I always remind myself when tragic things happen, is that they can happen in your house, on your porch, in your sleep…so don’t stop taking risks in attempts to avoid tragedy. So glad you wrote this post, and that your writer’s block subsided! Thank you!

  2. Great post. I hate how sometimes it takes hearing about a tragedy to remember these things. But everyone once in a while I feel like I need a wake up call. Your reminders to Say Yes and Be Present are so simple but so important. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wonderful post Lauren! Actually I was having a bit of a sucky day so far, until I read this – made me smile and made me realise that my current choices are the right ones – I am following my passion and therefore it is the right choice no matter how hard (or sometimes lonely) it may be 🙂

  4. Hey girl!! You are beautiful and real- I love it! Life can definitely be scary and overwhelming sometimes and you’re right, it is so important to remember that life is not something we just mindlessly get through, it’s something we need to stay present in. XOXO

  5. Great post! These tragedies always affect us and make us start thinking about life. However, it sounds like you are doing just what you want to do and have the right attitude. We all need to stay as present as possible. Xo.

  6. I truly enjoyed reading this…every word of it! It is so important to be present and do the things that you love. Life is WAY to short to be anything but happy.

  7. I like the say YES rule! It’s easy to come up with excuses and reasons why you’re too busy, too broke, too tired, etc. to make certain plans, but I rarely (if ever!) regret the times I spend with friends or going out and doing fun things.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with you! We always wait for those big moments in life and before we know it they never came and we missed so much more! It is just such a shame. We should be living to be happy not rich or because someone said we had to do it like that, because you are right you never know when something bad or tragic will happen or even how long you will be here! All goes back to living life to the fullest!

  9. They always say you don’t know what you have until you lose it. I wish that wasn’t true. I think that I have gotten much better about it over the past few years, but still.

    1. It’s difficult to remember to be grateful for every experience. ESPECIALLY during that kind of hurt. I can’t even imagine going through something so tragic, though. I don’t know how long it would take me to get past it, and be “grateful”

  10. Your sincerity makes this so easy to read! We tend to always wish we were getting more out of our lives, but then we ignore so many opportunities to truly take hold of life.

  11. What is it about a good quote that can really turn a day around or lighten up a situation. Or bring a strange/scary situation into better perspective?…It works for me too.

    And I have certainly been working on saying YES to far more things in life this past year! I hope to continue that in this year, too, with big changes ahead! Moving to a new state away from my hometown for the first time, finding a new job, planning a wedding…sheesh. But still saying YES.

    And this quote resonated with me today and it relates to your article, I believe.

  12. I totally agree that we need to give ourselves the permission to be human. I struggle with this a lot concerning my veganism. I always feel like I can do more to support animals or something when really, I’m doing the best I can. I like your two suggestions to say yes and be present. I think that describes the characteristics of a good friend.

    1. You’re holding yourself to such a high standard. And while that’s admirable, you need to be kind to yourself too! You really are doing the best you can 🙂 I agree — the best kind of friend is someone you know is always up for hanging out/trying new things, and not worrying all the time. Those are the most fun people!

  13. GREAT post Lauren, totally love it.
    My theme song is, “nothing bad ever happens to me.”
    And it’s kinda super true…so I have nothing to say except like is awesome when you’re happy and don’t let the small things get you down. That’s how I survive at least:)

  14. Kind of going along with that, nothing tragic or terrible has ever happened to me. So I think I’m a little naive and way too trusting of people. But I’d rather live that way, being trusting of humanity, than anxious/worried/suspicious all the time. I mean I’m safe, but I definitely trust people more than the average person haha. But I love being happy and appreciating the small things!

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