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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.

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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.

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