Winding roads help me think.

When the road is long and there are trees as far as the eye can see and so thick that you can’t see what’s hiding underneath them, I begin to relax. I breathe deeper, I smile more easily, and the stress that has built up in my back and shoulders over the last few months falls away. It’s almost as if I can’t breathe in enough of that crispy air that always accompanies pines and mountains.

After long hard days, weeks, and even months, I will stare at the ceiling at night and imagine myself away. When I was little, I used to have a lot of trouble sleeping. I would toss and turn and all manner of scary things would keep me awake at night. In an effort to get me to sleep – and probably to help me let of go of his arm so he could go to bed – my dad told me to lie very still and picture a place in my mind. He said to picture somewhere that made me feel peaceful and relaxed. I think the example he told me was to picture resting in a hammock on a white sand beach, but that didn’t suit me at all.

Instead I saw myself looking overhead and seeing just small gleams of light peeking through trees. I could hear the crunch of the leaves and pine needles under my feet. I could smell the rawness of the dirt and bark in the air and feel the coolness of it on my face. I was not in a hammock on the beach, but instead resting on the small porch of a home in the woods. And slowly, slowly, I felt myself slip off to sleep from the relaxation of this image.

Winding roads help me relax.

It’s always the winding roads that lead you to the best places. The way they lean and turn with the land instead of cutting harshly through it. It rocks me into a state of peace where my head is clear and my heart is full of happiness at the knowledge that this road can only lead to good things. I’ve always liked being in nature, and when I think of nature I think of trees. Dark, tall, and thick trees that transform the landscape into a place where fairies and all creatures of the imagination can live.

DSC_01851576That imagery from when I was so young still helps me today. I stay very still and look at the ceiling and try to relieve myself of the stress by remember what it’s like to look into the blackest sky at night and see nothing but millions of stars, brighter than anything you could see in a city. I smile and remember spending those nights at the lake with the comfort of the land around me and just spending hours watching shooting stars across the sky.

Then I wake up. And I’m in my little bed in my little room and the only thing to remind me of the feeling I love so much are the postcards covering my wall.

Winding roads lift me up.

“As much as I love the beach, I would much prefer to live by the mountains” I told a friend a few months ago. They didn’t agree with me.The beach was for them and nothing else. I do love the beach. I love being near water, but not the salty kind that leads into oblivion. Living on the edge was never my thing. Whenever I do go to the beach, I know that I couldn’t stay there very long. I love it, but it’s not where my heart resides. I find myself thinking of those winding roads that lead up, up, into the trees and waterfalls and dirt paths.

DSC_00031832I think about places a lot. The more I think about the places I love most, it isn’t the place so much as the atmosphere that I have fallen in love with. The casual, care-free life of the beach was never for me. It was the rugged and cozy life of the mountains that appealed. Nothing was more comforting than picturing myself curling up by the fire with a cup of tea and big, big book. When I remember the things I love about London, I think about the mannerisms of the people, the feel that the architecture brings, the energy that the people had for the city, and all the little things that made it so special. The one thing I loved about Paris was sitting in a cafe at the end of the day with my crepes and wearing my favorite skirt. It was then that I felt I had really gotten a feel for that Paris that so many others have fallen in love with.

Winding roads have atmosphere.

There are probably many reasons why I have a love affair with the trees. I don’t think exploring them too deeply matters, though. I just know that they make me happy. It’s nice to know what makes you happy instead of being stuck feeling lost and out of place. When I do feel lost and out of place, though, all I have to do is take a nap and fall asleep to the picture of woods and all the mystery, romance, and natural peace they bring me.

So take me to the mountains. Let me breathe among the pines and dream among the stars. Let me imagine a world where fairies fly free and there is still so much to be discovered. Drive me up those winding roads that sway with the earth. Watch how more in sync with myself I become. Watch how happy I feel. Watch how the stress on my face will melt away with the fresh air. Maybe then you’ll understand, and maybe – just maybe – you’ll feel a little bit of it, too.

I’m six years old and still getting used to living in this new country. The local mall has a big playground that my mom takes us to once in a while, and that’s where we are traveling back to today: A day at the playground in the mall.

It was busier than usual, and I remember running around and laughing. It was just like any other day until a stranger decided to make it something that would change a lot about how I saw myself.

There was a line to go down the slide, and I took my place in the back of it like I was supposed to. I didn’t cut and I didn’t complain. I was just waiting to go down the slide because at 6 years old, a slide is the equivalent to the biggest roller coaster at a theme park. Some other kids lined up behind me. They couldn’t have been more than a year younger than me, and we all waited excitedly together as the line moved along. It wasn’t exactly a long line. Looking back there were probably about seven of us all together, but it felt long.

A minute or two later it was just about my turn. The little girl in front of me was just about to go. I don’t really remember what happened next. Just that a woman – obviously a mother of someone there – was standing next to the slide and basically told me in a not-so-nice tone that I was far too old to be on the playground and that I should be ashamed of myself.

Remember, I was six years old.

I didn’t go down the slide. In fact, I didn’t say anything. I don’t really remember details, just that I was so confused and upset because the sign said you had to be 11 or under and I was definitely under. Why did the kids behind me get to go? I do remember looking back and realizing that the ones behind me were her kids, and saw her smiling at them going down the slide. But it didn’t matter. None of it made any sense to me. I left my sister to keep playing and went to find my mom. I told her that a lady had told me I couldn’t play on it, and I still remember how hot my cheeks felt and how confused I was.

I don’t know what happened after that. If I know my mom, she probably went to confront the woman and tell her that she had no right to make judgments like that (because she’s cool like that, and that lady was a jerk). Providing, of course, I had explained what had happened clearly enough.

I never played on that stupid indoor playground again.

Never before had I seen myself as unusual. I had always been taller than the other kids my age, but I didn’t know that meant anything. Apparently it made a six-year old first grader look like a 10-year old, and after that day playgrounds never appealed to me much. I thought that I was too big for them and that I’d break them or something. I was already too tall for the monkey bars at school, and didn’t really find much appeal with anything but the swings for all the elementary school years afterward. I avoided the playground at recess. Instead I would sit on the side and read a book, go on the swings, or I even remember just walking in laps on the asphalt. Recess was always my least favorite part of the day because it was the time that everyone could see just how freaky I was. I was too big, and there was something wrong with that according to the woman at the mall.

I stopped growing. I’m not tall now. I’m exactly average height for a woman, in fact. But I still feel like the geeky, nerdy, and too-tall girl inside. I’m not particularly comfortable in my own skin, and while I’m sure there are many reasons for this, the first time I really remember feeling that being different was a bad thing was that day at the mall.

Maybe that’s also why I just feel uncomfortable at malls in general.

First of all, everything is going to change.

Who you are now and who you want to become probably seem pretty far away. In fact, if my calculations are correct, you’re only just beginning to think of what you’ll want to spend your time studying someday. You aren’t 100% sure on what university you want to attend – all you know is that it’s going to be a university, and hopefully it’ll be far away so that you can have your own adventure.

All in all, life isn’t bad. There’s always that crippling self-doubt and insecurity (and that won’t change too much, but you’ll learn to understand and examine it), and only just beginning to get a clearer sense of the future.

I know exactly what you’re thinking, doing, and how you’re trying to very hard not to show the fear that you will become nothing but a disappointment. I know that you’re dealing with things from the past that are only now just starting to make sense and haunt you, but that you don’t know how to find answers or understand. The people you love the most are also the ones you hide from the most because you want to make them all so proud of you. I’m not sure if you’ve done it yet, but one day you’ll write in your journal your plan for being the perfect daughter and sister.

I know it all.

Don’t worry though – nothing will turn out as you expect or hope. In the next few years you will be opened to a whole new world where you realize that writing isn’t something to be afraid of and treat like a hobby. Instead, you will want nothing more than to be a decent writer – not even a good one, just decent – and you will find that it is still the best way you can express yourself. In fact, an entirely new perspective on writing will take shape, and when you take the best trip of your life to date, the experiences you have will fuel your creative spirit.

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There’s going to be a few months where you pump out essay after essay and story after story because you can feel it again . You can feel the magic and energy that spilling those words onto the page brings. Your fingers can’t keep up with the words coming out, and the clickety-clack of the keys and the scratching of the pen will get faster and faster until you come to find that you’re not even breathing anymore. You’ve been holding your breath in an effort to make the words come out as fast and as smooth as they seem in your head. This, you will realize, is what you always wanted to do. Every teacher told you it wasn’t a good idea. Being a writer doesn’t make money, they said. It should just be a hobby since it’s a skill that’s not worth developing, they said.

What they said is wrong.

Everything will change. You will lose all the friends you thought were the best you’d ever have. It will be because of a tangled web of mistakes, and the only way to get out is by cutting yourself lose. There will be some very hard days where you spend hours staring at the floor in order to avoid eye contact. One day you’ll step out into the hall and cry. You’ll call your dad just to hear the voice of someone who is on your team. Then you’ll take a deep breath, stand tall, and take it one day at a time. Solace will be found in books – lots of them – music, and stream-of-thought melancholy writings that are nothing but a way to get it out there. Then you’ll see that this is nothing to dwell on, and that it is time to move on.

It’s not an easy transition, but it isn’t hard, either. You’ll meet incredible people, have incredible opportunities, and not let anything hold you back. You make goals and spend sleepless nights fretting over whether you’re good enough. The doubt and the insecurity is still there, but you have a new attitude now. Don’t let anything hold you back. In the end, maybe that’s the reason it worked out.

Maybe that’s the reason you will find yourself sitting on your bed in your apartment (that you somehow manage to afford), with a bookshelf that is overflowing, at a university that is practically in your own backyard. And you will be making plans with friends who get you on a deeper level. That attitude still comes attached to massive fear and doubt, but you’ll find a way to get through.

Every little stumble and road block is a chance to learn, and that’s something that you don’t quite get right now. You’re still struggling with the past. While the past will not leave you entirely, in a little while you can look back and say, “I am a part of all that I have met” and be proud to understand what that means.

Everything is going to change.

You’ll discover so much more about yourself. You will know your definitive likes and dislikes and find that french fries are actually quite a big ‘like.’ And as much as it may be hard to believe now, you’re going to look in that mirror someday and be darn happy with what you see. Not proud, but overly confident and accepting. There’s not a thing you’ll want to change.

Perhaps the most important thing you will see is that Heavenly Father really truly loves you. He will always provide a way. And with every mistake you make, He will be there. In fact, He loves you so much that he gives you not what you want, but what you need. Through others He will show you a future that is far greater and makes you feel warmer and happier than the one you planned for yourself. He will help you overcome the doubts.

So have faith. It seems so far away now, but when you look back the differences will be almost comical.

I love you for everything you are and that you will become. Hopefully you’ll come to love yourself, too.

In my closet there is a red dress that is probably the most expensive thing I have. I love it. It’s beautiful and whenever I wear it I can’t stop smiling. It’s like this little magic piece of clothing that makes me feel confident and special. Yet, I’ve only worn it twice. In three years.

My reasoning behind this is that because this dress was so expensive and is so “fancy,” then it’s not something I can just wear whenever I want. It has to be saved for a special day when I won’t stand out and a form fitting red dress fits the dress code. It’s for this reason that my favorite dress has only seen the light of day twice.

The first time I wore the dress – Washington, DC. I was sweaty and tired, but my smile is still genuine.

Perhaps the reason I feel this way is because the dress was bought for a special occasion to begin with. It was for a gala I was attending while at a journalism conference in D.C., and it was the first time that I had ever had reason to buy something so nice. I never went to prom, and the dress I wore as homecoming queen cost about half of what this one did (and that dress has only been worn twice as well, come to think of it…). I got to go to the city and try on dress after dress for the perfect one that would fit the occasion. I first found it in green, and when the saleswoman said I should try it in red, I fell in love.

It wasn’t until this last Sunday when I looked through my closet that I wondered why I wasn’t wearing this dress more often. I mean, I love it. It cost a lot. So why shouldn’t I wear it?

Where did the idea come from that things have to be saved for special occasions? Why can’t I wear my favorite perfume every day, or use that expensive lipstick on a regular old Wednesday? Why can’t I put on those cute shoes, read that book, or wear the most beautiful item in my closet?

As I sat there looking at this beautiful dress that I really wanted to wear but I was telling myself it wasn’t okay to, I realized that I had the wrong perception about all of this. The truth is, when it come to things like this – saving perfume, lipstick, or a dress for a special occasion – there isn’t really any point to it. Every. Single. Day is a special occasion. It’s special because you’re alive and living and breathing. Today is special because I am here to enjoy it. If I live my life holding out for special days, I am throwing away so many others that could have been just as wonderful if I had simply let them.

I have only worn that dress twice in three years. What happened to all those other days? Weren’t they just as valid, too?

I am done with waiting for special occasions. I am going to wear my Dior perfume if I feel like it, because there isn’t any reason not to. I am going to wear that red dress if I feel like it, because it makes me feel beautiful. And I am going to eat cake if I feel like it, because every day is special enough that it deserves cake.

The perception that only certain days in our lives are really special is something that I am trying not to live by. The way I see it, every day should be special. There’s no reason to waste time just waiting for the day to wear the red dress. Do it today. Love today. Live for today, and not for someday. I don’t want to look back and see all the days that I left hanging in the back of my closet.

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I often talk about The Lake, and most people assume that must mean that I don’t live near any water. I live about fifteen minutes away from a lake – but it’s hardly a lake. They say it used to be beautiful, but years ago pollution and mankind destroyed the biology of the lake so horribly that it’s really turned into what more closely resembles a bog than what I would call a lake.

Obviously, I don’t go there very often.

But, when the weather is unusually nice, and I feel in need of something nicer to look at than my TV, I take the drive down and walk around for a little bit. And even though it isn’t very pretty and nobody there knows how to drive a boat properly, I leave with moods lifted and life looking a little clearer.

I sometimes try to find clarity through naps, eating, and shopping. Yet nothing compares to the cleansing power of water, trees, and a little fresh air. Even if it’s not at the most beautiful place in the world.

I know I’m a little bit late to the yoga pants game, but I thought that I might as well add my two-cents. And indeed, there are two parts to it.

First of all - there are far more important things to worry about than whether or not yoga pants are an appropriate article of clothing to wear. There is starvation and medical emergencies, slavery and sex trafficking – all things that I deem a far more worthy thing to debate a solution for. I could go on about this, but it’s already been done here, and I suggest you check it out. I completely agree with that article, and I’m glad that somebody was smart enough to realize that there are weightier issues in this world.

That being said, I would like to (hopefully) briefly discuss my own thoughts on modesty. A few years ago when the “yoga pants” issue first popped up, I was honestly a little shocked that people were making this out to be such a big thing. I participated in several discussions with friends and acquaintances about it, and my thoughts about it now are the same as they were then.

I never have – and never will – dress for anyone else except myself. When I choose my clothes, I do not choose them to please anyone else. If I don’t like it then I won’t feel good in it. If it’s comfortable, I will wear it. Let me repeat: What I wear and when I wear it have never been and will never be for anybody else.

I don’t dress modestly to protect boys from harmful thoughts. Frankly, I see it as ridiculous. What they think is their problem, and why should I be bothered to worry about everything I’m wearing just in case it stirs a thought in a boy? In fact, I think that we should be teaching men to be better than that. The problem is not with the women here – it’s with what we’re teaching our boys. If we teach them that it is okay to think of a women like this, and to let something as simple as clothes be an excuse for less than ideal thoughts or actions, then our expectations for men are simply being lived up to. In the story of David, it was not anyone but David’s fault when it came to the choices he made. He chose to look. He chose to commit adultery. He chose to despise the word of God. In the end it was his choices that led to his demise, not whether or not a girl chose to wear a mini-skirt or yoga pants. I do not believe that I can be held accountable for something that really had nothing to do with me in the end. I may have work something more fitting, but it was the other person chose to do in that situation that defines them – not my pants. I dress for myself, not anyone else.

That being said, it’s no secret that I choose to dress more modestly than a lot of the world. I never liked it when church leaders told us to dress modestly so that boys felt more comfortable around us or so that we could help them with their priesthood duty. Perhaps these results might come around as an afterthought, but I never thought that they should be the motivator. I wasn’t going to live my life just to make someone’s easier, harsh as that may sound.

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I struggled for a long time with dressing modestly because I thought that if I slipped up or made some sort of mistake, then some young man’s salvation may be on my hands. Now if that’s not a terrifying thought to a 13-year-old girl, I don’t know what is. After a lot of thought I realized that I was looking at this from the wrong angle. Dressing for someone else all this time had made me insecure and self-conscious. I was afraid of the judgments that others might be making and I didn’t want to do anything that would make anyone think ill of me. In short, I had little self-worth.

So why did I continue to dress in a modest fashion? If it hasn’t sunk in yet, I’ll tell you again: I dress for me. I wear the things I do, the way I do, for a reason. I respect myself and I honor the body that God has given me by choosing to dress in a way that shows that I respect myself. I dress like I respect myself because I do. In the church we often say that our body is a temple; that it is a holy thing and should be treated as such. I wear things that I am comfortable in and that I feel show that I respect myself and my body – that show I respect God’s greatest gift. I walk a little taller and I smile a little brighter when I’m comfortable and wearing something for me, not to impress (or protect) anyone. Somewhat ironically, I tend to impress more this way. In the end, respect, self-worth, and confidence will get you so much farther than submission or worrying about what someone else thinks. I don’t wear particularly revealing clothes for several reasons. I don’t feel comfortable in them to begin with – and I am all about comfort – and also because I don’t feel like those clothes really show what I think of myself. I just don’t think I need to wear those sort of things to show that I think highly of myself.

Where do yoga pants fall into all this? I wear them. They’re comfortable and functional. I feel good in them and I like them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters.

Wear what you want if you feel good in it. We all have our own definition of what that means, and our own choices on what and what not to wear. Nobody should be able to tell you what to wear. They are your choices, and you should feel good about them. Now, I know several people of my same faith who feel comfortable in things that I don’t – and as far as i’m concerned, that is just perfectly fine. They can make their own choices about what they like, and I respect them for that. Friends – feeling comfortable is not a crime, and neither is wearing something that you feel comfortable in. Nobody should be telling you to wear something for the sake of someone else.

I will continue to wear my yoga pants as I please (and where I please, thank you very much), but I will also respect those who choose to do otherwise.

Again: Don’t worry about what other people think. Just wear what makes you feel beautiful, confident, and of course – comfortable.

Here’s the thing about moving out:

  1. It’s expensive. Duh.
  2. It’s scary. How do you cook? What is detergent? Are dishwashers supposed to be making that sound?
  3. It’s completely different than anything else you will do. Having a place that’s yours and that you pay for?? Insanity. Wrapping your head around skydiving is significantly easier.
  4. It’s overwhelming. So much to sign, so much to buy, so much to do!
  5. At first, it feels totally foreign. When there aren’t any decorations up, and that light at the end of the hall is flickering for no reason, all you want to do is run and go back to the familiar.

Despite all this, no matter how many things may make you think moving out isn’t worth it, I promise you that there are benefits to leaving the nest. Urban Compass (a marvelous NYC resource for finding your own perfect place) was kind enough to ask me to share my starter experience with you, and maybe if you live vicariously through my experiences, you’ll be completely prepared for what lies ahead! Or maybe not. I can’t make any promises, but if anything I hope you get a laugh or an idea or two about how you’d like to customize your own space someday.

Like most people around here, I moved out to go to school. I was determined to do two things: Keep it clean, and to live off of something that wasn’t ramen.

However, before I could even try to make something as simple as soup, I needed to make this cold building a home first. I moved into an apartment for four girls. Each of us had a private room that we could do with as we pleased, but we had to decide how the living room was going to look. I didn’t have a lot to do with the decisions, but I’m not disappointed with the results.

Protip: Hide donuts among your wall gallery to make it that much more appealing to the general public.

Protip: Hide donuts among your wall gallery to make it that much more appealing to the general public.

Fairy lights may be all the rage, but I’ve always wanted them. They provide a great cozy atmosphere that is perfect to write or think by. In my room, it’s even bright enough to read by (my personal favorite thing). I like having small things like the pictures and the lights that made a room yours and add some personality. I’m writing this sitting underneath the pictures and by the lights while watching an old Audrey Hepburn movie, and I can’t think of many other wonderful ways to spend a Saturday night. Am I right?

Anyway, let’s not get into my lack of a social life.

Instead, let’s talk about the most important thing in my apartment is the little IKEA bookshelf in my room. I cannot live without books. I brought my favorite books with me (i.e. All the Jane Austen) as well as some new favorites (All the Light We Cannot See, anyone?), and I only wish that I didn’t have to leave so many behind. Anyone who goes to my parents house can’t believe that there more books on the shelves that are there now.

My books. My postcard wall. My British bunting. Those are the things that really made the place mine. Sure, I liked the floorplan and I’d paid the money and gotten the keys…but it wasn’t mine until I pulled that comforter out of the plastic and put it atop the bed that the bed became mine. It wasn’t until the books were out of the boxes and on the shelves in perfect  order that I felt like it could be my home. And it wasn’t until the bunting was hung and the last postcard was stuck to the wall that it was really mine and I could sleep comfortably.

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Protip: Boyfriend on couch = aesthetic appeal

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The Sanctuary. AKA: the bedroom. You can see a glimpse of my postcard wall on the left! 

I’m not saying it was easy. There were so many things that might have made it easier not to start out on my own at all. The security of living at home, the money, and just the sheer effort of having to pack everything in boxes to name a few. Nobody wants to move in to find that the garbage disposal doesn’t work, or that the apartment overheats, or that their smoke detector is low on battery and won’t. stop. beeping. They’ve all happened to me, and they’ve all been frustrating and given me more stress than I would like to admit. Yet I still seem to keep coming home and climbing up that ridiculously high bed – I need a step stool – and sleeping with good dreams instead of rental nightmares.

So what is it that makes a place your own? Is it the location, the people (or lack thereof) that you live with? The floorplan or extra features? The decor? For me, it’s a combination of all those things that make me feel sage coming home at night and allow me to sleep without too much tossing and turning of feeling homesick. In the end, anything can be the defining factor, and I’m just glad that so far it all seems to be working out. I think that, in the end, everything always does.

2015. I can’t believe it.

As I look back on the last twelve months, it’s almost hard to see how much was able to happen. Nearly everything in my life changed, and I guess it’s that time to reminisce over all that 2014 has brought me.

I feel so blessed to have the life I do. I’m doing exactly what I wanted to be doing at this stage in my life, with the addition of a few great bonus things. I am surrounded by incredible examples of all things good, and I feel the love of my friends, family, and Savior on a daily basis.

In January I found myself the lucky victim of a surprise party that my sister organized to celebrate my birthday.

February found me celebrating not just Valentine’s Day, but also the news that I had made it into the Journalism program – something I had been stressing over for the last two months.

In April I found out my parents were leaving the home I grew up in for a newer (and bigger) upgrade.

In May I was awarded a scholarship that has made buying textbooks and other school supplies a burden I don’t have to worry about for the next while.

June was the month of the big move. I was home packing up my little London-themed room, and I said goodbye to the acre of land I spent my summers in, lounging in the pool for hours at a time. Alas, there is no pool at the new house, but it does have a gazebo….

I also took a road trip with Kevin and some friends to California ( you can read a little about that here) and fulfilled my bucket-list dream of seeing Jimmy Stewart’s footprints in Hollywood (FANGIRL ALERT).

I worked a lot in July, but also found the time to go to the rodeo – I love me some cowboys – and take a trip up to the family vacation home in Canada.

I said goodbye to Kiana in August as she left to be a teacher in Russia. I moved into a new apartment – my second move for the year – and started to find routine in my life again.

September brought my back to school, but I also said goodbye to Claire as she went on her own adventure to London for a study abroad. I got promoted at work, and spent the nights studying and trying to recover from the mountains of stairs I had to climb to class every day.

October was another month with goodbyes. Amanda moved to Montana, and I found my life lacking Jamba Juice dates and late-night In-N-Out talks about boys and work.

November = Thanksgiving. Immense mid-term stress, and Kevin and I celebrated one year together – something I never thought would happen.

And here we are in December. Claire is home from London, Kiana is back temporarily before leaving for Germany and another job in a few days, and Kevin and I have made it through another Christmas together. I finished another semester strong and am on my way to some sort of scholarship, and I even started a new – and very different – job this month. I moved again two weeks ago (three times in a year???) and gained a few Christmas-worthy pounds (thanks, mom).

So here I am, sitting in a dark room and typing out my last post of 2014 as quick as I can so that I can go back and join the party downstairs. I’ve got my shiniest jewelry and most festive shirt on, and I’ve even brought myself to wear a glittery crown proclaiming ‘Happy New Year!’ in big block lettering. I can’t believe this year that held so much anxiety and change for me is already over. It didn’t seem like it would ever end a few months ago, and I almost don’t want to let it go. Almost.

Thanks for all the wonderful opportunities, 2014. Here’s to the hope that 2015 is just as good, if not better!

California - June

California – June

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I probably walk more now than I ever have before. I walk up and down three flights of stairs every morning just to get breakfast, as well as up and the the stairs from my apartment to my car. At least an hour and a half of my time on campus is spent walking, and let’s not even start on when the parking is bad – which is all the time.

I spend an hour a week walking in circles around the grocery store, most of which is just to give me time to make sure I’m not forgetting something (which I always do. Without fail.). I walk from my car to the office building where I work, and then up the second floor and to my little cubicle.

Walk, walk, walk. I walk a lot. Always in a hurried manner, and always thinking about where I have to be next. Over the last few months I’ve gained calves of steel, as well as the ability to run up flights of stairs with only minimal breath loss. But it wasn’t until I sat down and started delving into my current read that I realized how much I miss taking walks.

The I’m devouring reading is called Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of the Jane Austen Fandom - and it’s marvelous. Even the introduction was delightful. Reading it has reminded me of all the reasons I fell in love with Austen in the first place. I remember when I was sixteen and reading Pride and Prejudice for the sixth or seventh time, and my favorite thing to do was to go sit in the acre of land we had as our backyard, snuggle down in the grass, and lose myself in the world of Elizabeth and Darcy in the warm light of late Spring.

It was probably around then that I started taking walks more. I would make playlists with my favorite songs, maybe take a book to stop and read for a bit, but the whole point was to just go out for a walk. I would often take my dog with me to make me look a little less crazy, but there was just something about strolling about in the evening air that made it more than just putting one foot in front of the other.

It was really the only time I had to think to myself. I could lose myself in my thoughts while simultaneously exploring and getting some form of exercise. And I’m not talking a quick stroll around the block. I could be gone for hours. My dad once thought something terrible had happened to me because I had gone for a walk well past 11PM, and he didn’t there was any way I could have lasted that long. Yet there I was in the local park, just walking circles among the trees and around the swings. I had completely lost track of time.

Jane Austen herself loved walking. She would take long walks every day, and accumulated many miles over the years. Personally, I think it’s on these walks that she probably got her best ideas for stories. Even now, I think that I always had a clearer and more focused mind while out walking.

Isn’t it amazing that you can really go anywhere with just your own two feet? You don’t have to worry about gas or merging lanes. All you have to do is walk. I spent the majority of the last summer before college out walking. I was so stressed about moving and what was ahead that the only way I could focus and not lose my mind was by escaping the confines of my room and going out for some fresh air. I could go for miles. At the time, my family lived atop a hill that had a nature path underneath. That dirt path saw a lot of me every night, and I wish that I still lived somewhere like that. Somewhere that had a place for me to hide and escape the pressures of every day life. Sometimes I brought friends with me, and to this day some of our favorite memories and best conversations happened as a result of a late night walk. There’s just something about getting out and taking some time to escape it all.

It’s no secret that I’m a solitary person. I like having alone time. I like just sitting and reading, or drinking a cup of tea and binge watching a new show. I don’t like big parties, and I don’t like crowds. Maybe that’s why I like walks so much. It’s a time that I am completely alone and in my own world with my own thoughts. I can think about whatever I fancy, and there isn’t anything to bother me. When there isn’t anything to distract me and I can just think? Those are the times I feel most at peace and in harmony with everything around me. Those are the times I feel most like me, and I learn more about myself as a result.

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Probably the best sort of walk I can imagine.

What makes walking so enjoyable? I understand that to many it many seem mundane and tedious, but anybody who knows me knows that I find the deepest pleasure in the smallest things. I love sunsets and watching clouds in the summer. I love walking into antique shops to smell the books, and a gift of a new mug or pen will make me just as happy as anything else. So maybe what makes walking so enjoyable is the pure simplicity of it. The fact that just going out for a stroll and gazing at the mountains and stars can make everything in your head make sense again is beautiful, and all you have to do is put on a pair of shoes and step out the door. There’s no charge or waiver to be signed. It’s a simple gift that I think we should all take more time to enjoy.

So when I look ahead to 2015, I am determined to get out more. To enjoy nature. To breath in deep and take a moment to stop and smell the roses. I already spend a lot of time walking, but I’d like to spend some more time talking walks. I like to think Jane Austen would approve.

I didn’t sleep very much last night. I was exhausted, but I found myself tossing and turning and unable to sleep because of all the things running through my head. Plus, someone had turned the heater up to 80 degrees and there was no way I was sleeping comfortably in that heat.

Among the many things running through my mind was the amount of work I had to do to prepare for my finals in a few hours, the fact that I had to work Christmas and miss being able to be with my family, and to top it all off I’m moving this weekend. I wasn’t ungrateful for all the things happening to me. It meant that I was getting an education, I have a job, and that I can afford to move to a nicer place. But all these things still come with huge amounts of stress. I want to do well in school. I want to do my job properly so that I can keep it and still afford to move. I want to move without forgetting anything and not having to pay a ton of fees. Maybe it’s good stress that’ll drive me to success, but last night I was so overwhelmed that it drove me to tears. Tears that I’m sure my roommates could hear through our all too thin walls (another reason I’m moving).

There isn’t a lot one can do about stress at 3 in the morning, and I felt helpless. There was no way I was going to be able to pull all this off and still pass my finals. Yes, I cried. And I felt stupid doing it, but it just happened. I always over think everything, and as I saw the mental checklist of everything I had to do in a matter of days, I just wanted to roll over and not deal with it.

When I decided rolled out of bed a few hours later (still with no sleep) I accepted that the only way I was going to get rid of the stress was by tackling it. I tried to be productive and study for the finals I was taking soon, but it felt like it was hopeless. The material just wouldn’t stick like I needed it to, and I was starting to feel down again. Somehow I picked myself up, but on some real pants, and got myself to the testing center.

As I sat there with what felt like a novel of questions in front of me, I offered up another silent prayer for everything to work out however it needed to. I had been praying in my heart all night for some way for everything to figure itself out, because I just didn’t know what to do anymore.

Yet again, Heavenly Father showed me that he knows and cares about me.

I finished the test and found that the information came easier than I had expected. I walked out to see my score over 12% higher than I was hoping for, and higher than any test I had taken throughout the semester. To say I was surprised would be a bit of an understatement. I know that it wasn’t all thanks to my incredible brain power that it went well.

As I walked over to take my other final, I got an email from someone at work. They told me that they would take my whole shift on Christmas day, not just the hour I had asked for. I almost started crying right then and there. I would be home for Christmas. I can enjoy the day with those that mean the most to me. Everyone else keeps telling my that getting paid double is totally worth it, but I don’t care how much you pay me – there are things in this world that are infinitely more important than a few extra bucks. Family is one of those.

How did my other final go? Just as great as the first one. It was comprehensive, and I still scored over 90%. I didn’t understand it. The test I’d taken on Monday had been just okay, and it was open book AND note. So why was I doing better on these tests that were far longer and covered far more material?

Maybe there’s a scientific explanation, but I think that the real reason is because I had to be taught another lesson in humility. I can never just rely on myself. It’s always whenever I offer up an extra prayer and rely a little more on my faith that things will be okay that the outcome is even greater than I expected.

So have faith. Pray. Remember that even when things are overwhelming, you don’t have to carry it all by yourself.

I’ll be home for Christmas, and it’s thanks to that faith and prayer that it’s happening. And people say miracles don’t exist.

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