life

9.

Have you ever met people who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life? I have a friend who I met when we were just teenagers. It was so apparent to me he was meant to create music. I remember sitting in the music room where I pretended I could harmonize, watching my friend light up while he sang and went against the grain. It was so clear who he was going to be in that moment.

That same year, I spent an entire weekend forcing a thought on what I should do with my life. If I racked my brain any harder I’m sure I would’ve popped a blood vessel (it’s still up for debate if I did). All I could come up with was generic answers about changing the world. I was disappointed and frustrated in myself that I couldn’t figure it out.

A few years ago I had a particularly intense year of work and decided to take a solo vacation. (One of the perks of being a single working woman.) As an extrovert, taking a week to not talk to a soul was a new experience for me. My mind would wander most at night, when I’d sneak down to the beach and lay in the cool sand watching the moon shimmy behind the floating clouds. I wrote, and I thought a lot, hoping I’d get the answer to the question that still miffed me, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”

You never forget the moment the purpose giver speaks to the purposeful. It wasn’t a glamorous moment. In fact, I almost missed it. I had come from the bathroom to walk down the stairs to play a pick up game of volleyball when the thought brushed quietly through my mind – your greatest purpose is to love.

How simple? How broad? Isn’t that even cliché? I knew that I was to love, but when I stopped to really think about it I realized how revolutionary that thought was. My whole life I was looking for something totally different. I was looking for significance in doing something. Although if our purpose is to love, then being an artist, a mother, or a mayor is a way to express and give it. We certainly can do all those things that we are gifted at well, but without love we won’t feel fulfilled in our purpose. And who knows maybe you are so gifted, you may just change those avenues a few times in your lifetime.

Here’s the truth: Our purpose isn’t to prove the value of our existence by doing things. Our purpose is acknowledging the value of our existence by loving. At the end of my life, I don’t think I’ll ask if I got it all right, but I’m certain I’ll reflect back and wonder if I loved well.

 

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life

7.

It was the last quarter of the game and I was finally benched. With a burning foot, I realized tripping into my first high school basketball game didn’t just sprain my pride, but also my ankle. I’m not sure whether it was the somersault I did or, getting my foot caught in my pants while running full speed that did me in. All I knew was my foot had grown to “elephantiasis” status and turned purple. To make matters worse, we lost 39-0. You read that right. We didn’t score one point. How do you recover a loss like that and then explain you are on crutches because you tripped before the game? I think it was clear basketball wasn’t my sport.

Living in New York was the dream. I was enthusiastic about the new world I was about to enter. I graduated excitingly and  ran around applying for what seemed like countless job opportunities. After a few months I was over 80 applications deep and dozens of interviews in with a losing score of 80-0. That’s right, I didnt score one job. It felt like I had fallen and everyone who believed in me was watching. I didn’t know how to handle a sprained dream. They don’t sell crutches for those.

It took time for me to mourn the loss of my expectations. Once I did, the truth settled in – The dream may not be an accomplishment, but a confidence in the journey. I wasn’t unworthy of the dream, but maybe the dream looked different than I expected. I have had really incredible adventures that I couldn’t have even dreamed up even if I tried.

Over time the look of my dreams have changed, but so have I.  Now I leave space for the dreams to be free to form how they wish. I carve out space for growth and process so they stay alive. Every once in a while I look up and see I am living a dream; but even more, I see am winning because I stopped keeping score.

 

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life

6.

You could not convince me that I was not a child prodigy growing up. By the time I was ten years old I had at least 3 full cassette tapes worth of songs I wrote on my own (quoted from my 6th grade school report). By twelve I had a designer line drawn out with accessories included. (Doc martins and clear plastic coats may have been in the line.) I was also a proficient speaker to thousands. Just ask all 12 of my stuffed animals and the other 988 imaginary friends. I knew I was bound for greatness at a young age. It was only a matter of time before this greatness was discovered. And by time, I meant any day.

Fast forward to my young twenties and I was not quite changing the world. In fact, I was barely experiencing the world I lived in. Reality looked more like I was dying a slow death at desk job I would have rather napped at than answer one more email. I thought I was destined for greatness, yet it felt like I was shortchanged to the 4 walls I lived in.

At twenty-five, it was time to finally change the world and find my souls destiny in New York City. I got accepted and excelled at my dream school – Parsons School of Design. Yet, after school, no one in the universe seemed to be privy that I was a prodigy waiting to happen. I entered the fashion world working in retail to make ends meat while being overworked in an unpaid internship from hell. With my dreams deflated by an industry I no longer loved; once again, I found myself at the crossroads of wanting to change the world and feeling shortchanged.

There were so many moments where I felt like the life I bought into was a lemon. I thought, if I was meant to be average, why did I have a desire to make a big difference in the world? There was a constant tension between trying to be satisfied where I was while still desiring to do great things. I have felt lost on many occasions in my life (mainly while driving), but never more lost than in that tension of in-between. You know, those moments that feel seemingly aimless, small or mundane.

Here’s the truth, we aren’t shortchanged from greatness, we are just seeds comparing ourselves to the oak trees we will becomeA seeds entire potential is packed in the smallest of forms. In fact, it cracks, breaks, and reforms constantly to become its destiny. You can never say what day or time a seedling became a tree. It wasn’t one sudden moment; it was a million small moments. Is a tree less in purpose when it’s small, or when its in winter with no leaves versus the days it’s in full bloom? I’d venture to say, no. Just the same, approaching the seed spaces; the moments that feel small, undefined, or broken are not short-changing us, but are purpose-filled, growing us into the greatness we were born to become. 

 

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life

5.

I still remember the ice-cold, melt-your-soul, kind of rain in New York City. When I was in college I interned for a couture fashion label whose office was right by the river. It was frustrating to have to walk almost a mile to the subway with 40lb garment bags bigger than me. All while trying to balance an umbrella, which did nothing to save me from the rain falling sideways from the wind tunnels.

Trying to get a day right when everything is going wrong feels like moving a freight train bare-handed. What makes it even harder is being frustrated with yourself about not being able to change it. I’m learning that sometimes the most frustrating things we deal with (or people) have to do with what we want to change, but it’s not actually changeable in our hands.

I couldn’t change the rain or that it was pelting me sideways or that I threw away countless umbrellas’. I could quit but, I didn’t want to give up on the dream. So the only thing I could change was my perspective. Now I could say I could’ve changed my attitude; however, attitude is a direct reflection of the way we see things. So if we don’t change our perspective, then our attitude won’t move.

I’d like to tell you that after I changed my perspective it got easier and sunshine and rainbows followed; however, that isn’t real life. I had to be okay with it not being okay. Sometimes it’s a frustrating day, sometimes it a frustrating season.

So here is what I pass on to you. Give yourself grace. Not every day will be okay, and that’s okay. It really is, I promise. If it were meant to be perfect, you wouldn’t need tomorrow.

Once you breathe and give yourself grace, find a place that makes you happy and find a reason to laugh. Why? Because it’s so good for your heart. If your heart has happy beating through it, it adds color to those rainy days.

 

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life

4.

It took me several seconds to decide if I was going to laugh or cry the moment my face hit the ground. I’d never fallen so dramatically in all of my life – especially over something so silly as getting my heel stuck in a crack. At 22 I decided to give college a try, while maintaining a full time job (that I was not so enthusiastic about). Lugging enough bags to title me “the bag lady,” I walked my usual route to the train after class. I didn’t know what happened until my bags and I were sprawled across the sidewalk in front of someone’s house at 10:30 at night. Walking into a stranger’s lawn to pick up my flip phone and the pieces of my dinner that fell out of the container, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous that must’ve looked.

I laughed the entire ride home and laughed again when I told my co-workers. I re-enacted it several times just for the drama and laughed some more.

Looking back, it’s still one of my favorite stories to tell. Maybe because in that same time frame, I put so much pressure on myself to get my life together that there was no grace or space for cracks or falls. I was juggling school, work, trying to be healthy, starting my first fashion show, and to top it off, battling exhaustion.

Taking the fall relieved the pressure of perfection and laughter was medicine to my pride. Being human, it’s only a matter of time before we fall. (And truthfully, who walks a mile in heels? Not me anymore.) The story ended well. I still walked everyday back to the train, and giggled every time I passed the scene of the crime.

Here’s the truth: taking a fall is inevitable, but being able to laugh when you get up is invaluable.

x.

 

p.s. Remind me to tell you about the time I tripped on my pants running to get to my first basketball game and sprained my ankle in front of the huge crowd…

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life

2.

My grandparents live in a storybook home tucked away in the mountains. Christmastime it is plush with winter white, as the snow never fails to dust its bare limbs. It’s truly a storybook come alive, especially when their red barn warms the frost bitten sight.

In the barn, I found time had stood still for 50 years. Dusty dolls from Japan stood frozen, suitcases retired with residue from far away lands, and then there were my childhood photo books and journals lightly laced with cobwebs.

I poured through the pages determined to find an answer to questions I hadn’t quite formed in my mind yet. There was a nagging sense I needed to find something. I think it was me I was looking for. As adults we are on the constant hunt to figure out who we are, yet as children we just are unapologetically.

My journals from when I was a kid far differed from those of my young 20’s. At 9, I talked about the pop tart I ate that morning, and wrote to my Diary as “Dear Jonathan” referring to my big celeb crush – Jonathan Taylor Thomas. As a young adult in my 20’s, my journals were heavy laden with not doing it right and not being enough. It was clear, I was waiting to get it “right” before I allowed myself to live.

Young hearts are sensitive, passionate and open. They are in wonderment of new experiences, yet equally navigating the growing pains of reality in front of them. The bruised parts of the past that were locked away, are also shadows begining to creep into the quiet spaces. It’s hard to let yourself breathe at times. But I urge you, young heart, don’t let the growing pains take your focus from your freedom. Freedom to be young. You have all the space to make mistakes, to take risks, and to fail. Regret is harder to wash off than mistakes being forgiven.

Life isn’t delicate, though it is short. Splatter on the blank canvas of life. I assure you it will make sense one day when you look back at your barn filled with treasures of memories.

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1.

I remember the day my independence began. It was invigorating, and slightly scary. Finally, I could take on the world and change it to my liking. I was free.

It was still dark outside, when dad drove me to the airport to head to Texas for a year of soul searching. I was just 18, though I felt like I had been ready for at least 5 years to be out of my parents house. Yet, in typical Jessica fashion, I left all my bedding at home in DC and had to sleep on a bare mattress in the fetal position for lack of warmth. Welcome to adulthood. In truth, I thought I was so prepared mentally, but no one could’ve prepared me for myself.

It’s hard to be an adult, especially when we feel like a kid inside trying to figure out how to do this “adult” thing. So I wanted to tell you what I learned in my experience being an adult and, sometimes a big kid. If you don’t mind, my letters will come in spurts of inspiration as I reflect and continue in my own life lessons.

The one thing you must first remember is that life isn’t delicate, and it isn’t long lasting. It moves like a freight train faster than you think. There are no real rules in how you do it, just standards in which you choose to live it.

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