It has been a while since I have done a post like this, so I am excited to write on this topic: The value of people watching! Now, before you consider me a weirdo or accuse me of spying on people, I just want to define what people watching means to me (or according to the good old Internet).
People watching or crowd watching is the act of observing people and their interactions, usually without their knowledge. It involves picking up on idiosyncrasies to try to guess at another person’s story.
So, yes, people watching is a little weird at times. You may even get caught when you do it. However, I attribute people watching to four things that are essential to storytelling and the ability to write believable characters.
Let’s dive on in.
1. A QUICK INTRO
In this day and age, we are constantly surrounded by information. Many of us have smartphones that can tell us what we need to know in seconds. Communication has become as simple as clicking a button, and you can see your loved ones who are thousands of miles away. With this comes the pressure of technology. I am absorbed in my phone, and, as stated in previous posts, I can become overwhelmed by the amount of time I spend on my phone or computer.
Occasionally I challenge myself to just sitting down on a park bench with no distractions. After a few moments, I’ll grow bored and restless, wishing I was at home, snuggled in bed, or drinking a nice Diet Coke. But then, when I stifle these nonsense thoughts, a person walks by. Who knows who the person is or where they’re off to…
So it’s up to me to figure out who this person is!
Maybe the person is off to a job interview; maybe the person is going to the hospital, about to receive a life-changing diagnosis. Maybe the person just won the lottery. Then comes the power of imagination, and a writer unleashes his or her talents accordingly.
Watching normal people living their everyday lives is the perfect way to learn about how we all interact.
2. SOCIAL AWARENESS
There is no doubt that people watching aids in social awareness. Once you start practicing the people watching habit, you’ll start to pick up on subtle things that can explain why people act the way they do.
Social awareness leads to emotional growth, and this is massively important for writers. We must consider ourselves psychologists, in a way: We study our characters, diagnose their flaws, and work to expose them for our readers.
Social awareness then takes on the role of various factors. When we want to develop this emotional intelligence, we have to pay attention to certain things that will help us learn more about the people around us. Here are a few:
Listen to what they say
Repeat what was said
Tone of voice
So how does this relate to real life situation?
Well, let’s consider an example from my creative writing class. Personally, I am not a fan of the classes I take at my university, but I don’t want to rant in this post. In one class, I felt as if I was learning nothing from the school activity, and so I challenged myself to a little “people watching” exercise, in which I observed my classmates and wondered what they were really thinking.
From what I could observe, I sensed that there was a lot of boredom in the classroom (constant gazes toward the clock, staring into space, etc.) and some attentiveness to the professor (scribbling in books, eye contact, etc.). Maybe I was wrong in my assessment, but even if I was, I found the experiment to make me think about how communication is so important in any environment you’ll find yourself in.
3. VERBAL COMMUNICATION
Verbal and non-verbal communication are both tied to social awareness, but I want to expand on the two a little more. In some past classes, I learned that most communication is non-verbal, and some statistics suggest that only 7% of all human contact is through verbal communication (according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian).
While the numbers could be skewed, it is important to realize that the overwhelming majority of communication is through non-verbal cues, yet we emphasize so much on what we say and how we say it (words and tone). Why is this?
Words cut like a knife, and words melt us when we’re in love or with friends or receive a compliment. Language is integral to the human experience, as we know, and so when we people watch, it benefits our understanding to know what our people are saying. Words are little insights into the mind.
Now, this can be considered eavesdropping, which I am quite guilty of doing. It’s human nature to want to know what people are up to, and the same thing can be attributed to verbal cues.
One time, I was commuting on the Buenos Aires subway system when I stumbled upon a very interesting situation. The subway was cramped, packed with people, and I was sitting across from an interesting couple. Both were obviously well-dressed, educated, young, and… Breaking up, in front of everyone.
The man was whispering to her, trying not to make a scene as he broke her heart on that train. I was shocked, terrified, and wondering if I was imagining the conversation before me. But there was no imagination in this case. And what’s worse? He kissed her on the cheek as tears rolled down her face, said goodbye, and hopped off at the next stop.
My heart ripped down the middle for the poor woman across from me. Everyone on the train pretended not to know what was going on, and no one offered any help to her. I wanted desperately to talk to her, but I was a young American and had to get off at the next stop. I was certain she didn’t want anyone bothering her, because she shut down with her non-verbal signals (more on this to come). The shame that covered her face still haunts me.
In this example, there are a lot of non-verbals to unpack, but the ability to hear what the man was saying and how he was saying it was a crux in my understanding of the situation. Sometimes, when we don’t fully comprehend what’s going on, it’s because we don’t have a full picture. Maybe we catch phrases here and there, but I was held captive by the break-up.
The words only iterated the situation before me, despite all the hints from the non-verbal communication.
When we listen to people around us, we develop a greater understanding of how people operate. We can understand how people use what they say to further highlight what they really want to do. If we’re being honest, sometimes people just don’t catch the non-verbals we send, and words step in, ready to get the job done.
4. NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
If verbals only compute 7% of communication, that means that non-verbals make up 93%. Let that sink in.
As a writer, I have trained myself to emphasize what I want to write. When characters are talking, I know exactly what they are saying to each other, and dialogue becomes one of the most key elements of the story. For example, why is there such an emphasis on the first time lovers whisper, “I love you,” to each other?
Well, according to our statistic, we should be paying more attention to how people act around us, physically, that is. Are they interested in what we are doing, or are they bored and wish they could be anywhere else? Are the people on the streets broken inside, aching for someone to ask them how their days are going, or are they madly, desperately in love?
While we are not psychics or fortune tellers, we can gain greater understanding when we pay attention to body language.
Let’s head back to my creative writing class experiment for a second. I was watching my classmates (hopefully not in a creepy way) and ruminating on what some of their body language meant. Here are some things I caught onto:
Slumped over the book. (Indicates boredom, tiredness)
Fiddling with fingers or pens. (Can suggest boredom, but studies suggest that fidgeting is something we do when we are paying attention to something)
People staring into space, eyelids drooping. (Boredom, tiredness)
Pens back and forth above lips. (Honestly who knows)
Underlining phrases in book. (Attentiveness to class)
Doodling in book. (Boredom)
Mostly crossed legs. (In a comfortable environment)
We have to consider that our minds pretty much automatically recognize these cues and place them into one big image of the people before us. But when we unravel each little movement, we start to see how our minds are smart enough to figure things out in a span of seconds.
It’s pretty incredible stuff, if you ask me.
5. STORYTELLING ABILITIES
As previously stated, we writers are psychologists, we are doctors, we are researchers. We must know what we want to write, and we have to know how to write it convincingly, or our readers will be disinterested in the story we are so so excited to tell.
I have learned so much from watching people. An infinite amount of stories are possible when you open your mind to the world around you. Just like our world is never stagnant, our created worlds are as diverse and large as we want them to be.
I will be honest with you: People watching has taught me more than any creative writing class. Maybe this suggests the classes I have taken are subpar, but I do believe the best writers are trained to watch and analyze reality before diving into imagination.
Both are integral to write, as we write what we know, but we also write what we want to know of the mystery around us. Nothing should ever be black and white, because there is always a gray area of magic around us. This magic is simply what we cannot understand, since we are only human.
But writers have a God complex. We want to be the gods of our imaginations, and that’s where our storytelling comes into place.
If you find yourself in a crowded place, pay attention to the people around you. If you find yourself on a park bench, pay attention to the people who cross in front of you. There is value to be found in observation, especially if you’re a writer. And at the very least, consider how all of these aforementioned points are tied together.
People watching is something you can do anywhere. Don’t be a creep if you decide to participate, but it can be a good way to distract yourself from your own situation, and empathize with others.
But people watching is just the cusp. Relationships are where we really learn. Don’t forget to be kind to all you meet, and really begin to pay attention to all the non-verbals.
2019 is upon us, and if you’re like me, you probably have some resolutions up your sleeve. While every day is a perfect start to aim for a new goal, New Year’s Day is always a nice reminder to freshen things up a bit!
I hope you all have been thinking of some resolutions of your own, but I thought I would share 19 of my personal resolutions for this defining year! And remember–everything is what you make it.
1. More water
I’m addicted to Diet Coke, so this doesn’t really need more explaining, other than the fact that I need to incorporate more water into my diet. Maybe some of you rely on coffee to get you through the day, and while an occasional cup of joe or gallon of Diet Coke is permissible, I plan on setting certain days as water-only days. (We’ll see how this goes.)
2. Track Tuesday
Some friends and I have recently implemented “Track Tuesday” into our weekly schedule. This simply means that we take one night out of the week to exercise, whether that be jogging (for me and Miss Givenchy) or weightlifting (for the chicos). It’s probably better to exercise more than once a week, but for now, this is a good starting point.
3. Speak my mind
Recently I read a news article entitled “Are you a people pleaser?” My answer would be an emphatic yes. I let others control me in so many aspects, and sometimes I never reveal what I’m truly thinking. Enough of that! It’s important to say what you think, or people will always take advantage of you.
4. Learn to go for it
We’re put in certain situations for a reason. 2018 taught me to remember that you’re in charge of your own life, and 2019 will be the year of going for it. What do I mean by this? I’m simply saying that we only have a set time on this Earth, and we waste so much time, whether that be playing video games, spending hours and hours on the phone (see #5), or, something relatable to all of humankind, worrying.
Therefore, I say that we spend our time going for it. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Channel your discomfort into new passions, new memories, and new discoveries.
5. Less time on phone
A few days ago, I checked the “screen time” on my iPhone and almost threw the thing at the wall. I spent seven hours on that thing in the span of 24 hours, which is absolutely unacceptable. There are so many other things I could have done with that seven hours: Hanging out with family and friends, working on new books, planning trips, making money. Instead, I was watching pointless videos, reading nonsense facts online, and lying around with nothing to show for it.
It’s time to spend less time on all technology, because the physical world around us is too amazing to forget.
6. Read more books
In today’s society, we are constantly pounded by information. It seems as if everywhere we go, an excess of knowledge is available at our fingertips. While this has its positives, there are also some negatives to this sort of reliance on technology, especially considering #5.
Therefore, I will challenge myself to read more novels in this upcoming year. Books are great methods to relieve stress and relax, and it is a great way to entertain your brain. When I am overwhelmed by the world around me, books are a source of escape. Therefore, it is time to read as much as possible!
7. Don’t be so cryptic
Some of you may have no idea what I am writing about on this, but I bet some of you can relate. Simply put, I am pretty cryptic. I am not the biggest fan of people knowing where I am or what I am doing, and I have gained quite the reputation as “Kryptic Katie.”
In 2019 I will work on being more open with people. It is important that we remember our loved ones do truly care about us, and it is important to keep them in the loop.
8. Go to church more, pray more
Prayer is a beautiful, wonderful thing, and I urge all of you to try it out. I have been slacking on this front, but I truly believe in the power of belief and faith, and so I want to pray more this year.
9. Spend more time with those I love
It is time to be bittersweet: Time is passing by, and we’re growing older, each and every one of us. It is time to realize this, because when we let our days go with no thought for the future, we can sometimes forget how important the present is–and to treasure each moment.
Therefore, we need to spend more time with the people we love, even when it feels mundane or boring or annoying, because there will be a day when we won’t see them again.
Rejoice in the relationships you have, even in the low points. And in 2019 we should work on spending more time with the people we love.
10. Write a novel that matters
Writers, listen up!
This is the year we need to actually write something–and something that matters! What does this mean? Doesn’t everything we write matter? Well, if I’m being completely honest, I find a difference between some of my novels. For example, a romance like Mystic Mississippi does not have the same value as one of my magical realism books.
Different genres exist for different purposes, but I want to write something that has symbolism, magic, and value for my readers. This will be the year when I write something out of my comfort zone, but something that needs to be written.
11. Extend the olive branch
I have spent so much time thinking of outcomes and possibilities and what-ifs instead of actually pursuing what matters (#4, anyone?). However, I have also learned that it is imperative to be kind and good-hearted to both the people I meet and the people I know.
I’m sick of losing relationships, or not even getting a chance to develop these relationships, because I haven’t extended the olive branch. I make mistakes, and I want forgiveness. I don’t want to hide away in my transgressions, but instead to find growth and develop as a person.
Olive branch, even when I am stubborn.
12. Dress up more
Well, this is going to be an interesting resolution. My entire life, I have been a fan of super casual clothing. In summertime, I am in t-shirts; in winter, I am in t-shirts covered with sweaters. However, going to college has taught me that there is value in dressing up, even if it’s just a little better than normal.
While dressing up doesn’t define a person, it can matter in the realm of relationships. Our identities are personified in so many aspects, and the way we dress ourselves can present certain characteristics before we even say a word. Therefore, I have decided I want to banish the t-shirts (even if just for a few days per week) in favor of a more stylish look.
13. Learn to cook better
This is a huge one. I am so sick and tired of eating microwaveable meals at college, and when I come home and have access to a kitchen, I’m always making pasta or sandwiches. Therefore, I want to expand my cooking abilities.
14. Wear glasses more
This may seem a little random, but it is! I have terrible vision and rely on contacts for 99% of my waking life. However, I want to wear my glasses more because, well, it is just a change, I suppose. Plus, my friends refer to my alter ego as “Glasses Katie.” Pretty ridiculous, I know.
15. Learn the ukulele
In December 2018, so only a month ago, a few friends introduced me to both the guitar and the ukulele. They love to play, and since I am always around them, I found myself strumming the ukulele one night. My friend Even taught me some chords on the “uke,” while my friend Matt worked with me on guitar.
Christmas break rolled around, and I found myself missing the ukulele, and missing it a lot. So I did a quick search on Amazon, bought one for $30, and have been playing non-stop since. My fingers are calloused, my family annoyed with my endless songs, and my brain on fire.
The ukulele is such a peaceful, happy instrument, and it is so much fun to play. I totally recommend for you guys to check it out, even if you aren’t the biggest fans of music. It’s very easy to learn, and I hope to develop my abilities this year.
16. Clean more
This should be on everyone’s resolutions list, if we’re being quite honest. While I am all for individuality, cleanliness is a must. It isn’t the most fun thing to keep up with, and I’m guilty of being a slob, but it’s time to grow up and keep a clean work space and living arrangement.
17. Exfoliate the skin
Okay, here is a slightly more comedic point on this resolutions list. Recently I got a facial at the spa (now that experience should be a blog post) and was told to exfoliate my skin more. Time to live up to that tip.
And for those of you who have never had a facial… Get one done this year. It is an interesting experience, to say the least.
18. Talk about things that matter
So often we get caught up in the mundane life that what really matters is swept under the rug. We lose sight of the people we love, and our own feelings are ignored. This is why we have to be intentional to discuss things–and the things that matter most to us.
In 2019 I hope to be both myself and open to new conversations. I want to hash out my opinions and listen to others’, without fear or annoyance or pre-judgments. But this also means that I hope others will respect my own thoughts, and be open to talking about these issues as well.
19. Remember to do what I love
It is no secret that writing is my passion, and it’s my favorite thing in the world. (And I’m sure this is true for a lot of you who are reading this blog.) However, we must remember to make time for our passions. We must be intentional, we cannot cave into boredom or laziness, and we must remember who we are in the process.
People and circumstance will always wear on us, just like eroding winds carving out chunks of canyon. But this doesn’t mean it can’t create something beautiful, and we must use our experiences to further what sets our souls on fire. At college, I lose sight of my writing, because there are so many other things to do. But we cannot always think like this, or we can lose our contentment and drive.
Do what you love in this year. It’s worth it.
Now it’s up to you: What do you want to resolve of yourself in this upcoming year? Already a week of January has flown by, and the year will follow shortly. Make sure to think of your own list, and stick to it, because if we don’t make the first step, we sure aren’t going to make the entire journey.
2018 is coming to an end, and that means it’s time for a bit of self-reflection… So here are six major takeaways from this year!
1. Things Happen for a Reason
No matter if it’s a wildfire or a sudden inspiration to become a pilot, this year has taught me that things happen for a reason. This doesn’t mean things always work out in the way we want them to, but it does mean that there is typically a hidden layer to why and how the universe reveals itself to us.
2018 has become one of my most definitive years. At the beginning of 2018, I was boarding a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I was a nervous wreck. Though I’d lived abroad for four months prior, Christmas at home made me realize how much I love my home country, the United States, and my family and friends here in Tennessee. I was pretty upset that I was going back to BA, but when I got there, things weren’t so bad after all.
I traveled to some of the most incredible places on the planet: Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of the world, and Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But this doesn’t mean that places are what make a person’s life: I truly strengthened some of my friendships, and this is key to why 2018 has been such a defining year in my life. (More on that to come.)
When I came back from Argentina, I challenged myself to write five novels over my summer break, and BAM! It was one of my most productive breaks, and my writing repertoire grew drastically. Time flies when you love what you’re doing, and… My heart learned to open up a little bit more.
In the summer of 2018, I started flying. As you guys know, I had a recent revelation to follow the flying path as my career, and I cannot be more excited for the future with this. It has become one of my favorite things to do, and a true blessing when I need to escape from normal college drama that occurs at my school in California.
In the fall, I moved back to Los Angeles, where I became a college student once more. School was pretty easy, but the reason I love college so much is because of my friends, who have made my world go round for the past few years. I love them so much, and it will kill me when I graduate early (this will be part of a good 2019 Resolutions post) and fly on home to Tennessee permanently.
We went to Yosemite in October, survived a wildfire in November, and prayed our way through December. I almost missed my flight (saved by only two minutes) home for Christmas, recently got over food poisoning, and am waiting for what’s coming next. At this point, I’m ready for just about anything–and that’s what makes life so exciting.
I can already see how things have a definite purpose in the way they work out. If I had started flying at sixteen or seventeen, I would not have ended up going to California for college, and therefore I would not have met the people who have been truly inspiring to me for the past few years. I would not have gone to Argentina, which taught me to appreciate my home even more, and I would always think, What if I’d just…
But we can’t always think like this. We have to remember that things are going to happen like they were meant to happen, but we still must make decisions in response to the choices we face. Which leads me into the next point…
2. Plan Accordingly
This year has taught me that things will happen, and you just have to adapt to whatever is hurled your way: But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for what will come.
Life is never guaranteed, and so it is imperative to be thankful for what you have. I am so guilty of this, expecting that things will go my way, but instead I’ve learned that having a back-up plan is always important.
3. People Are in Your Life for a Reason
I love meeting people! Though I’m not the most extraverted, outgoing person in the room (that would be my one-of-a-kind Momma J), I have found that people are what make life worth living, and each person has a story no one else can tell.
Over the past few years, I have really learned to appreciate getting to know people. As a storyteller, I find inspiration in diving into people’s personalities and what makes them tic. I want to know why people are the way they are, how they came to be that way, and if it’s possible that people can change.
Here is something I’d like you to think about: Pick one person in your life, somebody you have met in the past year or two. You didn’t know that person before, didn’t even know they existed! But now, on the other hand, you know all about this person. You know the intricacies of their personality; you know their history, their backstory; you can’t imagine life without them in it.
And just think… What if you hadn’t met this person? What if you didn’t get to know this person? What if you had met somebody else instead? Human connection is wild, and it’s incredible. Some people aren’t big into interaction, and others thrive off of it.
There are eight billion people (and counting!) on this planet. Don’t tell me that the people in my life aren’t here for a reason, that the souls I know now were just random specks of cosmic dust floating through the universe.
When I was eight years old, my sister was born. I remember my mom being pregnant with her, and I remember watching her grow. I was there for the ultrasounds, I felt her kick against my mom’s stomach. I held her newborn body, and I’ve watched her turn into the beautiful young woman she is today.
People are in our lives for a reason.
When I was in third grade, I switched schools. Growing up, and now even, I was never a big fan of school. I loved to learn, but the social side of things always got under my skin. Kids can be so mean, and I have always loved peaceful, calm locations. School just ain’t that way. But I met two of my best friends there, two people who have been in my life for ten-plus years now. In the spring of 2020, I will be in one’s wedding.
People are in our lives for a reason.
When I was eighteen, I got in my car, drove across the country, and settled into college a thousand miles away from home. I’d received a friend request on Facebook from one girl who was going to be my suitemate, and I was excited to meet her. When I finally did, I learned she was from Wisconsin (cheese, my favorite food), had a mouthful of a last name (Miss Givenchy), and wanted to go to Argentina (me too, lol). Flash forward a little bit: Chica became my best friend, roommate, and ultimate pusher of the buttons.
People are in our lives for a reason.
By the time I was nineteen (last year), I was on a plane to Argentina. I knew a few people, including my best friend, but was pretty nervous for the rest of the seventy-plus group also going abroad with my college. But God provides: My friendship with Maggie only grew, and we made an incredible batch of friends in our first semester: Even, Chase, Hannah, and Laiken, to name a few. Hannah and Chase left after one semester, and our friend group shifted. But then, out of nowhere, a chico named Matt appeared for second semester. The Roaches were born, and they scuttle always. 😉
People are in our lives for a reason.
I cannot imagine my life without the aforementioned people. I cannot imagine life without my family, both in Tennessee and West Virginia. I’m a realist, and I know friendships change, and I know that I haven’t met so many people who will make my world in the future (future husband, where you at?), but for now, I am so thankful and blessed by the people here today.
4. Be Realistic (and Dream Once in a While)
A dreamer burned into a realist.
When I was eighteen, I thought I’d move to Los Angeles, strike it rich as a writer, and never have to pay taxes. Oh, how things change. At twenty-one, I expect to move home after graduation, become a full-up pilot, write as much as I do now, and one day get discovered (for my writing, that is). I’ll pay Tennessee taxes, marry a good-hearted church boy, and have beautiful children.
It is important to incorporate reality into dreams.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
A big part of why I didn’t start flying sooner was because I was afraid. Looking back, I laugh. Fear keeps us from so many things, and it is crucial to overcome this. If we wallow in our fear, nothing can be accomplished.
The more we step out of our comfort zone, the more we will feel comfortable trying new things. I’ll admit that I’m not the riskiest person when it comes to trying new items on the menu. For example, I’m not a fan of fish, or anything that comes from the sea, river, lake, etc. (I can attribute some of this to one summer, when a kid chased me around with a cooked crawdad.) But I wouldn’t know this if I didn’t sit down and try it.
2018 has taught me to step out of my comfort zone. Travel South America? Check. Learn to fly a plane? We’re getting there.
Maybe there’s something you want to do. Maybe you’ve wanted to do it forever, and maybe it’s a recent goal. You’ve got nerves, you’ve got jitters, you’ve got insert whatever lie you’re telling yourself. Get out there and go for it! Pursue that dream, as long as you’re realistic. 😉
6. Be Yourself
Do people change? This has been a constant question I’ve had for years, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Growing up, I was pretty quiet. I was a good listener, had close friendships, and wanted nothing more than to get the heck out of dodge. Though I’ve retained most of who I was, the high school version of myself was pretty different than the Katie of today. I’m still the same person who prefers writing to just about anything else, but the Katie of yesterday wouldn’t be as interested in digging into people’s hearts.
And sometimes, growth comes with a case of heartache, because you have to adjust to the new you, so to speak.
But once you find yourself, stay true to who you are (however cheesy and cliche this might sound). There really is no other you out there, and you have so many contributions to society to make. Here are some examples of this:
Speak your mind, in a respectful way. In 2018, I learned this the hard way, when a woman confronted my friends and me in the airport over our political beliefs. Fun times!
If people don’t like you, so what? Some personalities just don’t melt, and you can’t make people fall head over heels for you. People should want to be near you, just because you are who you are!
Don’t be afraid to do what you love. For me, when I’m in my writing zone, nothing else matters. Though I hate writing in public, sometimes you just have to go for it.
I hope this year brought you nothing but happiness and excitement, but if we’re being realistic, I’m sure you went through your fair share of ups and downs. You probably had good months, bad months, and lukewarm months.
It’s your turn to reflect. What are some of the lessons you learned this year? Maybe they’re tough, but I’m sure they are important. Don’t forget to listen to what you’ve learned, or you’ll just end up making the same mistakes over and over again.
2019 is just around the corner, so be sure to get ready for your New Year’s Resolutions (expect a post on that subject soon). 🙂
Here in the United States, it means that we’re surrounded by Christmas music, twinkling lights, decorated trees, hot chocolate, and, for college kids, finals season. Most people really enjoy the holidays, and especially a certain component of December 25…
So, you may be thinking, What in the world should I gift my loved ones? Well, I’ve got a solution for you this year, even though it may not be the most popular gift idea for the population at whole: Why not bring books back into the equation?
Though so many people do not enjoy reading, I truly believe this may be because they just haven’t found the right book. So why not try something new (and typically pretty cost efficient) and gift your loved ones a book?
Over the years, I have found that some of the best gifts have been books. I don’t remember my first book, but I do collect them whenever I can. Here is another life lesson: You never know which book is going to be your favorite. Maybe you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, and your sister gets you a book about the Serengeti. Why not give it a try, and expose yourself to something new? Reading can definitely be that outlet!
So, in today’s post, we’re going to go through some options for you, in case you’re struggling with that perfect book gift idea. 🙂
What should you get your dad? Well, you could try a book on planes or woodworking or insert whatever your dad happens to be interested in. That being said, my dad isn’t a big reader, so I am aware of that when I’m selecting the right choice for him. Therefore, I’d pick something short, realistic, and believable.
My choice: Bleachers by John Grisham.
The book focuses on whether the famous Eddie Rake, former coach of the Messina High School football team, was loved or hated by his former players.
Some mothers are into cookbooks (my mom), and others are into chick flicks. Some are into romance, and others legal thrillers. Since everyone is different, there is an endless array of picks for you. That being said, I am aiming this post more toward people I know, and therefore…
If I would give Momma J a book, my choice would probably be: Sanctuary by William Faulkner.
My mom’s favorite author is the incredibly talented Faulkner, who is famous for developing the Southern Gothic genre. Faulkner has had an enormous impact on my own writing, and Sanctuary is one of his best novels, though quite controversial.
Sanctuary is a novel by the American author William Faulkner about the rape and abduction of a well-bred Mississippi college girl, Temple Drake, during the Prohibition era.
My sister is only twelve, so our interests in reading are quite different. That being said, I do believe that she is about to hit an age where reading truly matters, because at that point in life, you are beginning to figure out who you are and what you like. Therefore, I’d encourage my sister to pick up a classic that most of you will probably recognize:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.
Maggie Givenchy is not a reader. In fact, she’d probably do anything to avoid books if she could, since Christmas Hallmark movies are more her thing. However, I was shocked when I recommended a John Grisham book that inspired her (you will see what it is soon enough) and left her wanting more.
Though I know John Grisham is my go-to answer, I thought it would be more interesting if I picked a different book for her: The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty. (And what’s better? It has a 3.69 average on Goodreads.)
Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk.
ROACHES (my college friend group lol)
There is one book that I recommend to anyone and everyone I meet. It has become a sort of The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants book for some of my friends, and therefore it has taken a special place in my heart. I bought my paperback copy when I was fifteen, gave it to Maggie, who passed it on to Even, who was supposed to pass it on to Hadley, and so on…
What is the book, you may be asking, that has captivated a bunch of college kids who typically don’t like reading all that much?
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham.
A Washington reporter helps an on-the-run law student who knows too much about a government cover-up.
My Mamaw always reads these posts, and so I know she’ll be reading this one as well. 🙂 Therefore, though I don’t want to spoil what I will send her for Christmas, I do want to share what the book is for all of you.
Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry is an amazing book that everyone should read. It is not the most pleasant read, but the themes of hope and survival are universal. ❤
Two women kidnapped by infamous Cleveland school-bus driver Ariel Castro share the stories of their abductions, captivity, and dramatic escape.
My choice this year for my grandpa is a book I read a few years ago, but it has recently come into my mind again. Louis Zamperini is a true American hero, and his biography by Laura Hillenbrand is an excellent choice to read. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is nothing less than inspiring.
Unbroken is a biography of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash in the Pacific theatre, spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years as a prisoner of war in three brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.
You guys are an incredible source of positivity for me, and I love checking/updating this blog to see what you guys are up to and what your thoughts are. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to include you in this post. If you’re looking for something great to read, I urge you to check out the following books that have left an imprint on my heart.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding—that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives—the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness—are inextricable from the history playing out around them
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García-Márquez.
The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family, and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as “magical realism.”
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
The novel’s protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who designs modernist buildings and refuses to compromise with an architectural establishment unwilling to accept innovation. Roark embodies what Rand believed to be the ideal man, and his struggle reflects Rand’s belief that individualism is superior to collectivism.
Thank you guys for reading this post! Hopefully you’ve found some ideas for your own Christmas gifts (or your personal reading as well). I wish you guys a blessed holiday season, and I hope that wherever you are in this world of ours, you are happy and safe. ❤
Until next time,
P.S. A huge shoutout to sweet Maggie Givenchy, who was the one to come up with this blog post. Thank you for always reading my posts and listening to my wild antics. You are the best, chica!!
An hourglass reminds me of you,
And the time I will never get back.
From thinking of your glossy eyes,
And the night, dripping in black.
We all want what we can’t have,
And isn’t that such a sin?
But when I think of you,
It is true: God must forgive.
I promise I’ll let you go,
Some day or the other.
I’ll just have to wait,
Hoping for another:
Someone who will hold
Me, when the sun is bright,
And will tell me the truth,
As all is brought to light.
It wasn’t until this past year that I started writing poetry, and I have to say… It is actually pretty interesting! I know a lot of you guys are poets yourselves, and I love reading what you have to say. Though prose is where my heart is, poetry bleeds personality, and it exposes its writer in a different way than short stories and novels do.
I wrote “Clock” one dark night in early December. I was working on a portfolio for creative writing class, and I wanted a poem that truly reflected my thoughts, because isn’t that what writing is all about? We’re meant to showcase our pain, joy, and life experiences. That’s what makes us writers and poets and artists in a world where emotion is hidden away, locked up tight.
Though I won’t go into great detail on what this poem is about (hehe), I will say that it is a door to something that consumed me for a month or so. Though I can look back now and laugh, the things that happen to us can seem so drastic and monumental, especially in the moment. And when things don’t go our way, it may seem that the universe is against us, which is quite preposterous, if we’re being honest.
Things happen like they are meant to, and people are the way they are.
What can change is how we handle the situations in which we’re placed. If we allow fear and unhappiness to settle in our souls, then negative energy becomes normal. Instead, I challenge you to rid yourself of this negative energy–whether that be in the people with whom you associate or life experiences in general–and take heart in the fact that the sun will always shine, even if there are clouds for a few days.
As always, thank you so much for reading and sharing in my thoughts! It means the world to me to have your support, and I can’t wait to read what you guys have to share. ❤
IT WAS THE grayest, dreariest day of the year at the Golden Gate Bridge, which seemed unfair—but also quite fitting. The fog floated upward, choking off the reddish glow of the Bridge for the visitors and commuters alike. The atmosphere was ripe with a terrifying eeriness, almost as if God’s sadness was blanketing the Bridge—but blanketing the people there too.
And then there the crazy ones—like me—who walked across at a time like this. My legs ached from the arduous trek across the Bay, but it wasn’t like I could see anything; it was much too misty to stop and say reverentially, “Wow! What a beautiful day!” While the throbbing in my thighs was annoying, it seemed as if something more substantial hurt underneath the surface. A manic restlessness, perhaps.
With my hands stuffed in my pockets, I was hard at work thinking, remembering thatafternoon with severe clarity: How it had been bright, the round sun like a gold ring up in the sky, the clouds wispy and cirrus, like little breaths from gods up above. The two of us had been happy then. She’d bought a gold necklace and strung it across her neck, saying, “You know, I should buy you one too.” In our childhood, we’d had two little lockets that, when pressed together, created a unified heart. When separated, the hearts were broken. Yet on that day at the Fisherman’s Wharf, we had admired our identical chains with pleasant smiles. Distance can’t break us anymore.
Then there was today. I was alone.
My mind worked in overdrive. It was like my body couldn’t stop, as if I’d been propelled like a wind-up toy. My entire body ached.
I wiped my hand across my face, and it came back wet. It was cold up here. It was freezing. My heart shivered, and I felt the tidal wave crash over me, like the thousands of others that had come before it. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe. Some people survived when they jumped. The odds were infinitesimal, but still there. Why hadn’t Sarah?
A shiver glided up my spine, tickling me until I couldn’t hide the fact I was crying. Luckily, I’d been smart enough to forgo makeup, as this was the anniversary of the darkest day in my entire life. No day could compare to the stark burn of August 19th, 2013—at least in the specificity of my own little mental fortress.
For a moment my thoughts only churned around the possibility of escaping this prison. Why had I decided to come out here in the first place? It was loud and scary—as the cars whooshed by like bullets—and the fog refused to let up. And here I was, rooted to the sidewalk, wondering what was below that hadn’t been discovered. Skeletons lay at the shallow depths of the water beneath my very feet, cuddled in the silt and sediment of the estuary. My own sister had once been part of that place too.
I imagined that gold chain glinting in the darkness down below, wrapped around her lifeless body. It almost felt like a memory, yet I knew it had to be my overactive imagination. It was as if a jail cell had been opened, allowing a part of my mind to be released. It was true: Idid have an overactive imagination. I appreciated people and possibilities. Or was that something my sister did?
Everything was cloudy now, inside my body and out.
A few passersby greeted me with toasty smiles, but I was left frozen in this unique spot, unable to wave or respond at all. They looked like tourists who were at peace with whatever had uniquely happened to them. In a way, I was visiting like them, just stopping by; but in another way, I was here because this place had claimed something that was mine. Something I would never be able to take back.
The wind chill was impossibly biting, and for a moment, I stopped breathing. Sarah had attempted suicide once before. She’d jumped into a swimming pool and refused to breathe. That stubborn girl, who always fought like she wanted to, passed out as if she were about to take a dreamy nap with mermaids and starfish and cerulean seas. My father, with his bad back and clinical depression, found her face-down like a limp doll. He sprained a knee to save her life.
In the days that followed, Sarah simply said, “I didn’t mean to; I just wanted to feel what it was like.”
“How could you be so selfish?” I screamed so loudly it felt like my vocal chords could pop. “What is it with you and your fantasy about death?”
Sarah never answered the question. She only frowned.
“It’s a bit frosty,” chirped a voice behind me. My skin flared. I turned, wishing I’d brought a can of pepper spray. However, it was only an old man, a cap pulled over his head and a jacket made of wool and warmth hugging his frail body. “Are you okay?” I saw it in his eyes. He thought I was here to stumble over like the others before and after Sarah. Jumpers.
“I’m fine,” I said sharply, hoping I could convince both him and myself. The voice didn’t sound like mine. It sounded hollow. “I’m fine.”
“You know, this is a bit of a strange time to be out on this old thing.” He blinked.
“Why are you here then?” My voice came meek this time, betraying me. So much for acting tough.
He lit a cigarette, his old hands wrinkled and big. The smoke rose through the air in swirls, like I imagined that blue water to do when a body fell into it. Ripples, each defined and sharp. “I’m here because it’s the anniversary.” Then I noticed his hand trembling. He glanced up, his blue eyes watery and old.
Had he lost someone he loved? Well, obviously he had. He seemed torn-up, but for some reason, it seemed as if there were something else. The fogginess swirled around us, draping us so we were alone together.
I’d stopped moving for once. I could feel the unease seep into my soul. The disgust plagued me. Why did this seem so utterly familiar, especially this particular spot? Restless.
“Me too.” Soft. Sarah would have been ashamed. You’re anything but soft. You’re my big sister, and I know you more than anyone else. She would have poked my arm and smiled too, because she loved me and I loved her more. This is what I wanted, remember? Don’t be sad because I made my choice.
The old man was surprised. He placed a weathered hand on the railing. His chest heaved as he looked down. “It took me years to come out here. Years and years. When I came, I knew this was better than visiting that gravesite. ‘Under every tombstone is a story.’ It didn’t ring true this time. This is where it happened, so this is where I come now.”
My hand, a little thinker all on its own, wiped a stray tear from my cheek.
“I don’t mean to keep you long.”
“Sometimes,” he said, the smoke infiltrating my own lungs, “sometimes, I can see how easy it is for them. What drives them to do such a thing.”
I was quiet.
“It’s like this fog. It chokes you until you can’t see anymore. So what do you do? You either wait until you find the light—which might never come—or you go find the sun. It’s a very simple proposition. No matter what, though, it seems we’re always roaming.”
A murkiness ebbed over my mind, like an eraser swiping across a chalkboard, leaving a filmy wave of dust in its wake. The images in my mind were painful like raw slices of flesh. They were very, very personal.
Sarah had been nineteen when she jumped, and while it had been the culmination of a billion little acts leading up to that one point, I refused to let her deathdefine her. She had been a jack-of-all-trades, popular and nerdy, blonde and relatable, happy-go-lucky. She was the girl who offered a pen to those who needed one, and she offered to drive twenty minutes away to pick up a friend before school. Some hated her for her kindness, and others loved her for her generosity.
Though I was the older sister, people always said to me, “Oh, your sister is Sarah Nolan! What is it like?”
I’d look at them and smile, offended but understanding, and say, “It’s rough at times, but I can’t complain.”
In reality, I didn’t remember much about myself. I knew the basics: I hated bananas and had an affinity for queso dip; I had dark red hair that looked purplish in certain lighting; I wanted to be a doctor because my grandma had been one.
But what’s really there?
It didn’t feel familiar to think of myself so personally. It was as if my mind had closed itself up tight so I couldn’t see into myself.
One thing was for certain: Sarah was my best friend. When I turned twelve and she was nine, we hiked into this lush copse of trees behind our house, even though we both hated the outdoors. We walked nearly half a mile to a little babbling brook, where she’d jumped over the water with ease. It was barely wider than three feet, so it gave her added esteem.
“Look! I can jump over it!”
As she leaped back over, her foot caught, and she sliced the top of her ankle at the tip of her sock. There hadn’t been much blood, but it still pained her. She’d cried crocodile tears and made me carry her all the way back home. It was funny that I didn’t remember her ever telling me this, but the real reason she’d made me carry her was something besides her alleged injury. Under that emerald canopy, she had wrapped her arms around my neck and said, “You know, I don’t think I’d trade you, even if I could. Also, why don’t I have blue eyes?”
“Thanks, sis. Also, it’s genetics,” I’d said, enunciating that last word with precision. Never would I trade Sarah for the world, either.
In the present, the old man studied me like I was science. Quickly I turned on my heel and left. My body shook as one foot followed the next. It was a little rhythm for a moment, until I found my hands clenching the railing, the skin turning deathly white. I realized I was wailing. Some people probably thought I was a lunatic. I didn’t care.
“Sarah!” My lungs burned. “Why did you leave me like this?” Each whimper wracked my chest. “How couldyou?” The phrases came out jumbled. Slobber dribbled down my chin. How long had it been since she’d died? Time was scrambled like eggs in my brain. I knew the day she died like the back of my hand. It was the anniversary today, wasn’t it? How long ago, though? Years and years?
This is what I wanted, remember? I wanted to leave this place.
The afternoon before she jumped, Sarah had been herself, at least for a little while. My parents asked me to take her out around San Francisco, where I went to graduate school. “It’ll be good for her. She needs you to reallybe there.” It was true: We’d grown apart, as often happens with human beings. I had school and a burgeoning career, while Sarah had high school and all its activities. Her entire life had been based around the idea of attending one of the UC schools, and then, one late night, she’d told my parents, “I don’t want that anymore.”
Even though she didn’t want it, she did agree to try it out. She left college within a month and found herself lonely most of the time. It seemed like everyone was headed into very different directions, and she was stationary.
So, remembering that one day at the babbling brook where I was her little savior, I decided a day out together would be nice.
Sarah and our parents lived in sunny Santa Barbara, so we met halfway, and then I showed her the sights: the fishy smell at the Fisherman’s Wharf, the busyness at Union Square, my favorite restaurant in Chinatown. We shopped and dined like nothing was amiss, like my sister hadn’t been depressed for the past few months, like we still didn’t understand why. I bought her a little windblown butterfly painted lilac and teal. She’d cradled it in her palms and said, “Thank you,” but it wasn’t what she’d said—it was how she’d said it. It was the brokenness I felt as I remembered that day. It was the bittersweet happiness. I loved my sister. I would never do anything to hurt her.
I wanted this.
We did not go to the Bridge that day. Of course we saw it, how could you not? It was out there, and I made references to it. I chatted like my life depended on this conversation, when it was really the other way around. “Look at it, Sare! Can’t you see it? What a testament to humanity!”
Her eyes became vacant when their gaze landed on that Bridge. Maybe it was my memory of that day that created this vision. Maybe she understood she would fling herself from there. I finally stopped mentioning the Bridge altogether.
That night, underneath a cloak of crystal-clear sky, Sarah vanished from my studio apartment in the heart of the city. The next morning, I found my keys missing and my car gone. The terror that pounded through my veins was murderous itself, but somehow, I pulled myself together for that morning. Somehow, I called my parents and told them Sarah had vanished with my car, and I wasn’t sure where she was. Somehow, that morning, when the cops greeted me with blank stares and said, “We think your sister has jumped off the Bridge,” I managed to pass out and become hospitalized for a week straight.
Sometimes, I saw visions of her standing with me, like she had stayed on Earth. She never stayed in the same place for long, as if the movement she had craved her entire life had suddenly been given to her. These visions were nothing more than dreams, perhaps. Weird things happened in hospitals.
The honest truth was Sarah Nolan, my beautiful sister, had been a jumper. In my study of those like her in the years afterward, I knew the statistics like the back of my hand. Only 2% of jumpers survive impact. That alone was enough to elicit the pain inside me. Sarah Nolan had become a statistic, even though she could never be defined by this fact. To me, she’d always be my little sister, the only person in the world for whom I’d die.
Out in the distance, a little sliver of light began to peek through the endless grayness.
Someone in the distance cried, “Help! Help!” It was from the direction where I’d met the old man.
A woman clutched her lover. They were locked in some sort of weird embrace, staring at a man standing on the ledge of the beam. The woman shouted, “She’s going to do it! She’s going to jump! Help! Help!” It was like a spotlight had been cast on them for a moment, highlighting their terror. She? But it’s a guy on that ledge.
Like a slap to the face, I opened my eyes and saw the spotlight—and that couple—was gone. One moment they were there, and the next… It was almost as if it had been a memory, listening to the screams and the fear and the desperation from them.
Then two perfectly blue eyes filled my vision. Two very familiar blue eyes. Blue the color of azure ice. They were smiling eyes. Happy eyes. The last image I’d seen before I hit the steely water.
They weren’t Sarah’s. They were Leah’s. They were mine?
Shake it off. Help the guy!
Now, before me, this new jumper was shaking uncontrollably, his body wobbling as he hung onto the support beam. Tears dripped down his face, but it was impossible to tell if it was the condensation or not.
I imagined Sarah watching from above. What had she been thinking before it happened? Sadly, I realized the strip of gold in the sky had diminished completely, almost like a dying ember. Yet the ember had begun to burn inside my heart, and I felt her with me, and I understood she wanted me to live my life since she didn’t have the chance anymore. But this wasn’t just about me.
The young man clutched the support beam, the zest in his eyes gone, the vacancy becoming mortality. “This is what I want!”
“No, trust me! It’s not!” I reached out a hand to him, praying he’d take it.
Down the road, I saw the old man turning back. The mist began to swirl around him so that he looked like he was disappearing from this jagged earth. Sometimes, I can see how easy it is for them. What drives them to do such a thing. He began to step closer and closer to us until I heard, very slowly, “You don’t know what it’s like.”
I glanced up, my heart rocking back and forth in my chest. The young man’s mouth was wide open, his shame and terror as evident as the foggy day. He stared directly at me.
“You can’t stop me,” he said tearfully, a collection of sobs blanketing the air around us. Those words were hauntingly familiar.
The spotlight returned, just for a moment, so I could see that couple who had tried to talk me off the support beam. This couldn’t be just an overactive imagination anymore. They had tried to save me.
It was my choice to save him.
I raised my hands defensively. “No, I can’t, but you can stop yourself.”
“Don’t even try! I’ve already made up my mind.” His voice was hard. He wiped his nose with the sleeve of his jacket.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the old man approaching steadily, his eyes sullen and grotesque, as if he were watching his own death sentence. He hobbled like his life depended on this one mission, this ability to be part of this distinct event.
I heard their voices again. It was like their screams came deep within my core, within a well of pent-up knowledge. That woman shouted, “Just come down from there! Come down!”
The wailing subsided. It went silent. The old man and I exchanged a solemn look as we waited for the young man’s next move. He tugged on his shirt over and over again. “So now people start to care?” His words were like chains to his audience. What could we do to free him? What could he do to free us?
I realized my legs had stopped moving. I was standing in one position.
I had once asked that question, simply in passing to my sister. It had been a dreary day when we were both in high school. It had been a good day for us, I thought, since our parents had let us drive to Oxnard for the afternoon by ourselves. It had been a beautiful day, one spent along the majesty of that turbulent, mysterious Pacific. Simply, she sprained an ankle, and it cut the day short. She’d been so angry after that, I wanted to slap her (but when did I not?). When we returned home, our parents fawned over their little girl. My chilling words had been, “So now people start to care? This matters—but everything else doesn’t?”
I found my voice then. The young man was staring down, waiting for one of us to rise above and be brave. “Yes!” I moved a step closer, believing deep down he wouldn’t hurl himself into that abyss just yet. “Yes, we care!”
The young man seemed surprised. He said nervously, “I don’t think so.”
“If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be standing here watching you do this.” My own voice was keen. The toughness had returned. The ability to wallow diminished, the ability to soar returned. Sarah had killed herself like this, by jumping off this Bridge, and there had been many before her—and many after her—who had done the same thing.
“We can’t stop you,” I said pointedly, “but think of your family. Think of what it would do to them to see you up here.” Why does this sound so familiar?
He cocked his head at me. “I don’t have family.”
“You have to have someone.”
The old man’s presence behind me sharpened my senses. He stared up at the situation, but he was deathly quiet, almost as if he weren’t really there. I turned my head and pressed on the old man’s winter coat. He turned toward me, something fierce in his eyes. He blinked, and then we both focused on the jumper.
“You can’t jump!” I screamed, my voice like broken glass. It didn’t sound quite like me. It sounded muffled by the pain in the air, the chill of the afternoon.
The young man shook his head. “I… I don’t know what’s real anymore.”
It came back into focus.
The toasty smiles.
The couple on the bridge.
My own tears as I stood above the Bay, watching those blue waves crash into each other.
There is something about a memory that can trigger an explosion. The shrapnel rammed into me like I was being pushed off the Bridge. “I… Leah, I don’t know what’s real anymore.” My hand instinctively reached up to touch the curvature of my neck.
The gold necklace.
It hung against my neck.
I opened the locket. A picture of Leah, with her big blue eyes, was enclosed.
The shocking reality of the situation hit me like a train at full speed, as if I had been left on the tracks like a little cocoon of a human. This Bridge, the ethereality of it all, the vividness of terror—and that gold chain.
It had been a gift from my sister.
I knew Leah, my beautiful sister, who taught me to believe in mermaids and starfish and cerulean seas. Leah—my sweet Leah. The memories came over me. The happiness from that afternoon before I gave it all away. This was my grief, my penance, my hell: To remember what I’d done to her, how reckless I’d been, how I hadn’t sought help beforehand. My Leah was out there, somewhere, her life being lived. She no doubt wondered about me. She no doubt had sorrow, and strife, and her own demons, too. Leah, I wanted to scream, I pray you got over this.
I turned toward the old man. He stared at me with recognition. He must be dead, too. He must have jumped—just like me. We both turned toward the man on the ledge, his eyes now glassy and vacant. The sky behind him seemed livid with rage. I said, quite carefully, “What is your name?”
“Jonah, you can step down now. Here, take my hand.” We made contact, and he stared at me like he believed he was crazy. Was this reality or not? The only thing that mattered was his understanding that some people do actually care.
“What is your name? Your hands are so cold!” he exclaimed. Behind him, a light suddenly brightened. It may have been my “overactive” imagination. It could have been a memory. It could have been God calling us home. Whatever it was, it reminded me of my sister.
I finally remembered the answer to his question. A warming smile tickled my lips. “My name’s Sarah.”
Here is another writing sample from me. 🙂 I wrote this short story for my first creative writing class in October 2016. The writing exercise was actually pretty cool: My professor had us choose two slips of paper from a cup, and we had to write a story based on these two slips. What were my words?
Somber and Golden Gate Bridge.
I remember thinking, Gulp.
And then everything came to me, like a lightning bolt.
I hope you all enjoyed this short story. “Jump” isn’t the most light-hearted, but I hope there were good takeaways from it, and I really encourage all of you to listen to those around you. We meet people for a reason, and there are so many who could use a friend. Therefore, please be willing to lend a hand, and do your part to be kind to all with whom you come in contact.
Somehow I have spent twenty-one years on this planet. Every year that passes offers new challenges and anticipations, and through the ups and downs, things always seem to take a surprising turn.
Just since turning eighteen, I’ve lived in three different places, and all over the world: Memphis, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ve solidified my first love, writing, and found a new one, flying. I’ve made incredible friends and grown into more of my true self. (More on this later, I promise.)
I cannot wait to see what’s in store for me in the next twenty-one years of my life, but I’m pretty thankful for the ones I’ve had so far. Therefore, I’m going to be a little ridiculous and offer up twenty-one things I’ve learned since my introduction to Earth on December 1, 1997.
1. Drink lots of water, but treat yourself to that Diet Coke once in a while.
This will sound so ridiculous to so many of you. I have a (little bit) of an addiction to Diet Coke, as I don’t drink coffee or tea. It’s always been my drink of choice, so I’ve learned to limit myself so that I get my daily water intake. Water makes the skin glow, I’m telling ya!
2. Write until you can’t write no more.
DAILY QUOTA! For my usual readers, you guys have heard this many a time by now. The daily quota system has instilled a sense of accomplishment in the scope of my writing. It is a constant battle to make myself write, but over time it becomes easier.
Set a daily quota for yourself, and see how much your writing improves. It’s gold!
3. Listen with open ears and a full heart.
When people come to you, it is imperative you give them a chance. Now, some are definitely users, who will take your time and crush it between their fingers, but I truly believe most people have decent hearts–and they want your opinions.
Listening is key. People know when you are listening, both in how you respond to them verbally and with body language. Friendships are formed on two levels: Hard times and good times. There are two slices of you, in your happy times and terrible times, so if you want people to respect you, you must respect them first.
4. Pray, even when things are good.
I’m so guilty on this one. I tend to take advantage of the good times, and when things crash over the cliff, it’s like, “Okay, now it’s time to pray.”
This is not the point of view we should take. Give thanks for all you have, always. And if there’s something on your mind, pray to God. There have been countless times when I treat prayer as a genie’s bottle, expecting an immediate and resounding yes to my situation. But that’s not how life works.
So pray in advance! Things aren’t guaranteed to be easy, but there is a sense of peace when one closes his or her thoughts and allows the truth to come to light.
5. Say hello first.
When you’re out and about, you are exposing yourself to so many people, those you’ve met, haven’t met yet, and will never meet.
Isn’t that a weird thought to consider? We pass hundreds of people a day (or none at all, if you prefer the company of your home, hehe), and most of them we will never get to know.
So, when you get the chance to see someone you know or someone you don’t know or just someone in general, why not say hello first? Why not extend that olive branch, and see where it goes?
Another tip: Call people by their name, and do this often. This reinforces a stronger bond if you use a person’s name, because he or she will feel closer to you. (Maybe I watch too many psychology videos on YouTube.)
6. Be realistic (with a splash of optimism).
While optimism is a great trait to have, realism is where it’s at. We have to shoot for the stars, but be prepared for a failed rocket launch. (Hopefully that didn’t sound too pessimistic.)
I believe that being realistic (with a splash of optimism) allows you to accept the reality of your situation while pursuing your dreams. It’s not a fool-proof plan, but it works for me. When things go wrong, understand that it will eventually come back to being right, as is the cycle of the world we live in.
7. Sing whenever you can.
Some of you probably aren’t big music fans, but others of you are. I am obsessed with music, and not a day goes by when I don’t have my half-broken headphones jammed in my ear canals. Music helps my writing ten-fold, and I truly enjoy singing to myself like a real weirdo.
When I’m stressed, a guaranteed cure is to hop in my car, pump up the jams, and sing as loud as my vocal chords will allow me. It’s a great therapeutic tool–and one I recommend whole-heartedly.
8. It’s okay to say no.
When I first went to college, there was no way I could say no to anything or anyone. I loved being asked to do things and hang out with people, even if it was jeopardizing my mental health or what I actually wanted to do.
One night, a few friends staged an intervention to teach me how to say no. While at the time it seemed ridiculous, of course I could say no if I really wanted to, it became apparent that I really had no idea to say that simple word and not let others trample me. And so with this help, I became confident in my ability to say “no,” even though I do have quite a few relapses now and then.
Say no if it’s going to compromise your values, your happiness, etc. You have to do what makes you feel best, as long as you’re not hurting others in the process.
9. Time flies, so do what you love.
It kills me when I talk to people who have no sense of what they love to do. This is because I was lucky and found writing at an early age, and it has always been the driving force in who I am and why I am the way I am.
Therefore, I do believe that once you find what you love, you should pursue it (in a realistic way, to keep up with #6 on this list). If you love reading books, why not read as many as you can? If you love politics, why not get involved in your local community government?
If you’re not sure what you love, then you will find out in time. But I hope you find it soon!
10. Patience is key.
Patience is key, and unfortunately it’s a key I lose often.
Sometimes I look at my life and think of the things I haven’t done yet, and I lose my patience. Or when there are certain situations that I wish would take a different course, and then don’t… Or just the general bitterness toward a situation that makes you want to rip out your hair…
Patience is huge. It’s a skill, and it’s something we all should have. Things aren’t always meant to go our way, and we have to be okay with this. And it’s okay, because there’s typically something much better in store, right around the corner. 🙂
11. Spend time with the people you love.
A few years ago, I took a “Love Language Test” to see what my specific “love language” is. A love language is the way you appreciate people’s love for you. For example, mine is “Quality time,” as I find my happiness in the time I get with a person. Others include physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, etc. It just depends on how you are!
Though I found the quiz quite corny, I did realize that quality time means the world to me. What is the point of living without the people we love? Nothing beats a good movie with friends, a shopping trip with my mom, an episode of 100% Hotter with my sister…
If you’re interested in finding out your love language, here is a link to a quiz to find out.
12. Hop in a car/bike/your own two feet and go someplace to clear your head.
This connects to #7 for me, because I love connecting my music to driving off into the sunset and clearing my head from all the nonsense that happens. So much pressure can be put onto our shoulders, and therefore it is important to remember that there is more to life than what the world throws at us.
Find a nook that inspires you, and go there in these moments. It is a great way to relieve that tension, and you’ll feel better as a result.
13. Exercise isn’t as bad as you think.
I’m not the biggest fan of workouts, because I’d much rather stay in bed, work on a book, or watch pointless YouTube videos. That being said, exercise is another great way to relieve stress and listen to your body.
When I work out, I like to jog. It can get boring, but that’s when you can spice it up by listening to music or watching pointless YouTube videos on the treadmill instead of while in bed. 🙂
Trust me, even though I am writing these 21 tips, it doesn’t mean I don’t stumble (and stumble all the time, too).
14. Travel when and if you can.
Traveling is expensive and, at times, pretty daunting. However, it is an amazing way to see the world, gain fresh understanding, and try something new. While I have always liked to travel, the bug didn’t really bite until I moved to California and went abroad for the first time.
But it shouldn’t matter where you go, as long as you are going with amazing people and have access to food/water. While specific locations obviously can be indications of an amazing experience, I’ve found that it is often the unexpected that truly solidifies a great memory.
15. Know that everything doesn’t need to make sense.
Why do I feel like I need to know everything that is happening in the world around me? Who gave me the authority to feel like the queen of my own universe, when there are seven billion other souls walking around this planet?
When it comes down to it, we are all selfish, and we expect the best things to happen to us, just because we are, well, alive. But that’s not how it works: Things happen that we can’t control. Sometimes, the events in our lives just can’t make sense at the moment they happen, but that doesn’t mean clarity won’t come down the road a little later.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, realizing that answers aren’t always clear and perfect. Sometimes, the answers we truly need can leave us helpless and lonely before the truth is fully revealed. We have to be willing to accept this logic, or life will never make sense to us at all.
16. It is okay to let people go.
This may be the most challenging conclusion I’ve come to at 21, because I love people, and I truly think life is nothing if there aren’t people in it. (I hope everyone thinks this too, I should add.)
But this is something I have been really struggling with lately: You have to do what’s best for you, and this can mean closing a door, the book you’re reading, the conversation you’ve been having.
Only you know what is best for you–and you have to be willing to protect yourself if others are bringing you down.
17. Have fun, but remember the opportunity costs.
Econ lovers, here you go: Opportunity costs. You have to enjoy the life you’ve been given, but you can’t slack off when it comes to your future.
For me personally, this relates to my current college experience. Friends are awesome, and you have to take some time for yourself, but what about future careers and opportunities? You can’t let the future slip through your fingers because you’re too committed to your present, but you also can’t let your present slip through your fingers because you’re so invested in your future.
18. You aren’t a writer unless you write.
This is going to sting: You aren’t a writer unless you write.
There are always excuses for why we don’t do things: I’m tired. I’m stressed. I’m busy. Well, you’ve got to stand up to those negative thoughts, and sit down and force yourself to get to work, or you’re going to be stuck with a blank page for the rest of your life.
Write! Don’t let anything stop you.
19. Talk about things that matter.
Some of my strongest relationships stem from pure honesty in conversations. Does anyone really like small talk? I don’t mind it most of the time, but then I realize that I want to know what’s really going through people’s minds. I want to know if they’re anxious or happy or confused or in love, thinking about Big Macs and summer getaways to Bali or an awkward encounter with a family friend. Everyone is so unique, and there are so many stories to tell.
I’m the kind of person who wants to dig in deep. I want to talk about God and politics and the future, and I’m drawn to people who are similar.
Find the things that matter to you, and find people with whom to talk about them! It’s cleansing.
20. No one is better than anybody else.
This may not apply to everyone, but I definitely feel as if we as humans are constantly assessing the people we pass by and judging whether or not we are better dressed, more attractive, wealthier, cooler, insert adjective here. It’s why people are attracted to people who look and act like them, right?
But here’s the thing: No one is better than anyone else. The homeless guy on the street is just as valuable, just as important, as the successful guy driving a Porsche right by him.
21. Give thanks in all you do.
We only have so many trips around the sun (got this from a classic Kacey Musgraves lyric). Therefore, it’s key to be thankful for everything we’ve got, because each person on this planet has things of value.
You’ve been given one life. Treat it with respect, even when things are not as good as they could be, even when it feels like there is nothing to be thankful for… I guarantee you that there is.
THERE YOU GO.
Such a good number in my opinion. Every number, though, is a good number, because it signifies that there is more time, more opportunity, more hope. No matter how old you may be, I hope these 21 things can impact your outlook and give you something to think about. When it comes down to it, we’re all on a journey for answers, and we must be willing to listen if we want to live life to its fullest!
I hope you guys have had a great beginning to December. The holiday season is in full swing, and that means Christmas is just around the corner!
Feel it through your veins,
The mighty rush of your blood:
An emotion undulating and spreading, A virus that is you and no one else.
Your heart, palpitating like a drum, And your lungs, wings like butterflies; Your stomach in knots, and hands
like oil: Feel it roil right through you.
You wait for the perfect moment, Unsure of when it will come.
Feel your body ache, and your mind Tighten. This may never go away.
You climb higher, hoping, praying For release. But you can’t close your Eyes, no matter how hard you try. Feel its hook that won’t let you go.
This is a poem I wrote for a creative writing class in October 2018, so not that long ago. At this time, I was struggling with bouts of nervous energy, here and there, and when the assignment came about to “write a poem about your day-to-day existence,” this little guy was borne.
However, I believe this poem can connect to anyone, since we all face moments of self-doubt and confusion as to who we are and why we are placed in the situations that cause us pain. It is easy to forget that everyone experiences these emotions, even when we are taught to smile and bear our struggles in silence.
Looking back, I find this to be an interesting poem that channels what I was feeling when I wrote it. It is relevant to when I have these moments of anxious energy bubbling up beneath my skin, and therefore I wanted to share it with you guys!
I hope you are all doing well wherever you are in this great world of ours. It is rainy here in Southern California as I write this, and I am amazed by how amazing weather can be. Anyway, I will post on Monday, so check out for the next rant from me.
Sometimes the hourglass of time feels even more oppressive than normal…
This is going to be a little bit of a “venting” post, because I want to admit something to you guys. It’s not going to be Earth-shattering or panic-inducing, but it is something that you can probably relate to.
So here we go: Do you ever feel like you blink, three months have whipped by, and you’ve wasted a HUGE chunk of time?
Okay, I want to clarify: I do not feel as if I have completely wasted the past three months. I am a full-time college student, student pilot (LOL, one of these days I will finally have my license), and writer. On the social side, I hang out with a bunch of roaches (I promise, this is an endearing term) 24/7 and try not to pull out my hair due to the infuriating ways of other twentysomethings. But these things make me so happy, and I love flying and my ridiculous friends.
That being said, there is a continent of me that has been underwater for the past few months. This part of me is like Atlantis waiting to be rediscovered, and I’m sick of drowning in something I’ve caused for myself.
I’ve been writing less and less these past few months, and I can attribute it to multiple things. I knew that I wouldn’t be writing as much this semester, which contributed to my goal of finishing five novels over the summer, but I did not realize it would be this bad.
In the past three months, I have started three novels, left all of them in the dust, and waited for magic to pull me up from the bottom of the ocean. However, that’s not how writing works. I truly believe good writing comes from stretching the writing muscle, and I’ve been atrophied for quite some time.
It’s not that I don’t have material, because being away from home gives me tons of material, as you can imagine. It’s not that I don’t have the time, though my California life does get tiring. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, because writing makes me happiest (although it’s getting closer and closer to a tie with flying).
So what have I been doing to myself? Isn’t it true that if you love something, you’ll do anything to be doing it? What’s wrong with me?
Unfortunately, I do have to go to school, and this takes up considerable chunks of time. A bonus fact: I am in a creative writing class that claims the time I could use to write what I want to write, which feels pretty counterproductive.
I love my friends to death, but it is a constant battle between wanting to hang out and be with them versus taking time for myself (AKA writing). This semester I have been pretty bad at remembering to swallow my introverted pill and catch a few hours to write and recover.
With any sort of social group, there are going to be things that take up headspace, and I can pinpoint certain components of this to the reasons why I haven’t had the right mentality to write. 😉
This is the only school that matters to me right now. I am in full-blown study mode and since this is going to be my future career path, I know I need to focus more on this part of my life now. Therefore, some of my writing time will be snatched up by flying, but that’s okay. I just have to reorganize my priorities.
What do I want to write?
The three attempts I’ve made over the three months have been varied: There is a psychological thriller, Southern Gothic drama, and cheesy romance. I think I’m struggling with what I want to write, because I’m not a genre-specific writer.
My mind has been elsewhere
You’ve got to be in the game to write, and even more committed if you want to write well. With normal life comes normal struggles, including bouts of stress and exhaustion, and this affects writing as well.
Clear that headspace
What does this mean, you may be asking? Well, for me, it means getting the heck out of dodge. When I’m feeling suffocated, I grab my keys and hop in the car. A nice drive cleanses my mind, especially when I’ve got the windows down and the music on full-blast. Other methods include a nice jog or hike, a heart to heart with a friend, or brainstorming a story at a coffee shop.
Take time for myself
All right. We all know that there are extraverts (those who feed off social interaction) and introverts (those who need time to recover after a social experience) in society. There are even people who are ambiverts, a blend of both extraverts and introverts.
I used to be very introverted, got more extraverted in college, and now consider myself to be an ambivert. There are moments I live off social interaction, but moments when I desperately need to be by myself.
The cure is normally writing. But these past few months, my cure has been missing, and therefore I’ve felt really strange as a result.
You have to take time for yourself, no matter where you are in life or who you are. When it comes down to it, we all have to live with, you guessed it, ourselves. It feels good sometimes to take a breath and a moment for yourself.
In these moments, when I stop and let my mind ramble on and on, I gain some of my best plot ideas.
Force myself to do it
Daily quota, where you at? If you’ve read some of my earlier writing posts, you know I am infatuated with the concept of the daily quota, in which a writer commits him or herself to a set word limit per day. It is a great way to rehearse the art of writing, even if you have no idea what you want to write about.
While this worked for me in years past, it has been missing in my way of life for the past three months, so it’s time to reestablish THE DAILY QUOTA!
Cut out negative energy
Negative, convert to positive. Those terrible feelings that are bringing you down need to be cut out, and there are multiple ways to do this. Prayer works. Eliminating bad influences works. Trying new things works. It just depends on who you are and how you handle situations, and you know the toxic aspects of your life.
Why have those toxic aspects when they only cause more problems in the long run? I know what mine is, and I’m going to try my hardest to rid myself of its influence.
There has got to be a “stake in the ground moment” in which you are the one who knows what is happening versus what should be happening. This comes into all facets of life, whether that be with writing or relationships or choosing to cut out a Diet Coke addiction (yeah, right).
Therefore, I’m going to say, “No more,” to not writing. I’m going to scream it from a mountaintop if I have to, because my happiness is improved ten-fold when I’m working on a project.
Now let’s connect this to your life. What is the thing that you’ve been neglecting? Maybe it’s a person you haven’t been talking to. Maybe it’s a hobby you’ve forgotten. I’m sure if you think super hard you’ll be able to think of something. My request for you all is to think of this thing and work your hardest to mend the situation. You’ll know the solution if you can identify the problem.
For a lot of you, Thanksgiving is probably a pretty foreign concept. What are those Americans doing, eating a lot of turkey and stuffing and deviled eggs? (Please, please try a deviled egg if you haven’t before.)
But here’s the truth: Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays of the year.
It’s a chance for families and friends to catch up, prepare a meal together, and enjoy delicious, homemade food while remembering that we have a lot for which to be thankful. It’s a tradition that stems from values of working hard and knowing the things that have the greatest importance in our lives should be our families and friends. Thanksgiving is about people, not just great food…
And to celebrate… I thought it would be fitting to do a little “What I’m Thankful For” post. ❤
Though I am always pretty appreciate for my family, this year seems even more important than ever. Last year I did not get to spend Thanksgiving at home, as I was in Chile, but it is a different story this November. I get to be with them!!
To my Poppa Lawrence: Thank you for teaching me humility and a giving spirit. Thank you for being my sounding board, hiking companion, and example of what a man should be.
To my sweet Momma J: Thank you for putting up with my moodiness, showing me the example of who I want to be as a mother and a human going about life, and taking me on more “drives” than I can count.
To my beautiful sister, Gen: Thank you for being my best friend. You drive me crazy 98% of the time, but there is not a day that goes by when I am not thankful that you came into my life.
To my West Virginia family, thank you for contributing to my parents’ lives and taking care of them. Especially to Mamaw, I want to thank you for always reading this blog and being such a sweet example for me.
If there is one thing I have learned through college, it’s that your friends can become like family.
To my hometown friends, thank you for being with me since Day 1. You knew me at my lowest points, and you were there when I made the choice to leave Tennessee (just for a little while). You guys helped me figure out who I am, and I am so thankful I’ve kept in contact with you over the years.
To my roaches, thank you for being a second family to me. I truly believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason, and you guys are no exception. You are ridiculous at times, but you match me in every way.
Miss Givenchy, I’m sure you are reading this, so I will make a special shoutout to you. Thank you for being my #1 supporter, both with this blog and everything I do. Thank you for being an incredible best friend, LNC devotee, and wing woman. ❤ (5’11”).
Thank you, my beautiful Tennessee, for being an incredible place to have grown up and to live in now. Thank you for shielding me from wildfires and gracing us with rain. You sure aren’t perfect, but at times you feel pretty close to it.
Thank you, airplanes, for being invented. Thank you for being my outlet, my newfound passion, and the chance to feel like an angel, even for an hour or two in that big old sky. I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner, but sometimes it isn’t about timing. I’m just glad I found you.
Thank you, God, for the opportunities that I have. Thank you for protecting my friends and me from the Woolsey Fire, for letting me be home during this Thanksgiving break when I wasn’t even supposed to be home in the first place, and for always being there, even when I’m a total idiot (which is the majority of the time).
Thank you, my country, for allowing me to live here. Thank you for letting me have the freedoms I have, the opportunities I have, and the chance to see a better place for my own children in the future.
7. THIS BLOG
AND TO MY INCREDIBLE BLOGGING COMMUNITY!
Thank you guys so much for reading, commenting, liking, and following this blog. It makes me so happy to connect with you all, from so many different backgrounds and countries and ways of life. This has been a truly amazing experience, and it is something for which I’m very grateful. I love reading your posts and learning more about all of you.
What are you thankful for?
Maybe it feels like there isn’t much to be thankful for, but I’m sure there are things in your life that are absolute blessings, and you may not realize it until you really think about it. There are always going to be ups and downs, but it is up to us to harness the negative energy and convert it to positive energy. (This may sound ridiculous, but I hope it is a good analogy).
I heard something this past Sunday at church, and I believe it is wisdom:
Give thanks even in the worst of times. These times challenge us even more than the good times.
We must remember that we are put in situations for a reason, and that these moments can be the most constructive of them all. They remind us that things can get better, and we should remain committed to our thankful spirit in the meantime.
Therefore, I hope all of you can find something to be thankful for, and remind yourselves of this thing throughout the week. It can be a person, an activity, your passion, anything! And maybe treat yourself to some turkey in the meantime. 😉