Y’ALL. It’s been one hell of a year. Looking back on this time last year, I was 21, graduated from the best university (Go Buffs!) with a double degree and certificate, and…hella lost. Then I turned 22, an age forever stamped with Taylor Swift’s lyrics, rookie status in the job market, and steeped in the societal normalcy to have it together.
Holy guac, if I could encompass what the heck happened in the past year…I would. In fact, if any wordsmith could help me out, that’d be really nice? Crazy is an understatement, having some of my best moments, counterbalanced with some of my worst moments, all occurring in this dense measure of time. I think one of the things with getting older is that there’s an expectation to morph into a more mature/stable mold of ourselves going one step deeper into adulthood and shoot, I’m not sure if I took a step back or not. The notion of growing up is exhilarating, scary as f***, and inevitable. I guess the expectation that we gain clarity of what we truly want to do and pursue as we get older is extremely overrated. If anything clarity is the opposite of what I have. I want to do everything, and that came in fruition this past year. So many things excite me, and while I’m still trying to figure things out, I’m learning so much and getting closer to being where I want to be…I think.
For my last 22 days of being 22, I thought I’d give an ode to the most challenging and best year of my life yet. The notorious chaos of “the twenties” are apparent in its vicissitudes and rewards, and the experiences in this journey have been nothing short of entertaining. Since turning 22, I’ve taken a gap year after graduation, worked about 10 jobs, revisited Europe, and have been constantly thinking about the next steps to set myself up for success at 23.
With that, I present…22 lessons I’ve learned in the year of being happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time:
I’ll release one lesson each day counting down to the big 2-3.
Lesson 1 of 22: Failure ain’t too bad.
I think the stigma that failure drags along leads to a fear of doing things wrong, which can ultimately lead us to shy away from taking a risk. We have to change the paradigm, people! Instead of failure, framing my experiences that don’t work out as a learning experience makes risking it for the biscuit more approachable. As long as you grow from it, that failure is a success. As a matter of fact, a lot of my best decisions this year stemmed from some “failures” of mine. I wouldn’t have gotten to backpack and frolic around in Europe if I hadn’t “failed” in something I had my mind and heart set on for a while. Traveling was THE thing I needed, coming in at the right time and right place. When one thing doesn’t work out, it doesn’t make me a failure. Turns out, I’m okay, and I’m glad I failed. We’re human, we make mistakes. Stepping above these circumstances make for noteworthy victories. Fail a lot, and celebrate these.
Lesson 2 of 22: Get up, dress up, show up.
Last night, I went to the Nicki Minaj concert with my little sister and some friends. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a loyal Nicki Minaj fanatic by any means, but I do jam to her songs frequently (like, tell me you don’t groove to Superbass). Well, I developed a newfound respect for her during the concert when she shared some words with the audience.
She was in her monologue, doing her thing where she pauses after phrases and the crowd goes wild. She goes, If there’s one thing I can’t stand –(pause for dramatic effect)–it’s a lazy ass b****!
I gave her a standing ovation and several fist pumps, which meant, SAME HERE, NICKI! I think that is a simple and truthful message to ripple out to her youth-infused fandom, with all the youth involved. I think the youngins’ these days could use a little pushing, so preach, Nicki!
Working hard has been an innate discipline since I was young, and nothing was ever handed to me. To this day, I believe that working hard will be rewarded in some way/shape/form. It’s an embedded habit; I get restless when I see folks sitting around, and it irks me when I sleep in. I can tolerate a lot, but laziness is a pet peeve I cannot empathize or compromise with. From experience and now in “the real world”, being proactive toward your dreams is the only way to attain them. There is no entitlement to anything unless you took the time and effort to make it yours. And PSA to complaints and excuses that stem from laziness — I don’t feel bad. Laziness, we’re not friends. We have one life to live, so let’s not waste it sitting around.
Lesson 3 of 22: Leave the phone at home.
Doing so puts me into anxiety mode. Working remotely with my jobs has me in a relationship with my iPhone, and I’m constantly engaged with it — checking emails, Tweeting/‘gramming/posting, researching…etc.
Well, a couple weeks ago, I forgot my phone. I even thought about turning around 10 miles into my commute for the thing, when I finally surrendered. But…trust, and believe — best mistake ever. I did not realize just how attuned to my phone, primed to check it and pounce at every alert, update, and notification. Part of it is conditioned with working, and part of it is that I’m just a huge evangelist of all things tech and digital. I will say that forgetting my phone at home that day was liberating, to say the least. No strings attached, and did not have an obligation to check my phone. I had lunch outside on Pearl Street, and ‘twas lovely.
I think back to my nomadic Europe adventures, when access to wifi was minimal, and recall the sweet luxury of it. I’m more aware of reality, and it totally deserves our love and attention. It’s awesome, and I encourage us to detach from our devices more often. Make a rule to not check your email during the weekends, and part ways with the glorious gadgets in the evenings or before bed. We’ll all be okay 🙂
Lesson 4 of 22: Everything happens for a reason.
Easier said than done, but trust it. Believe it.
This usually comes in fruition in the aftermath of a situation, after all my stressing and being crazy. I think I would save myself some grey hairs if I would just breathe and let things be sometimes. And as I type this, I know that I won’t, because it’s not my nature to do that, let things be. I guess with this lesson I learned in the past year, it’s a reassuring answer to a lot of the chaos.
Lesson 5 of 22: Everything happens for a reason.
Easier said than done, but trust it. Believe it.
Lesson 6 of 22: Take a day.
Waking up past eight is sleeping in for me. Laziness is a pet peeve of mine. But shoot, if I’m honest with myself, I’m not Superwoman. Just a girl trying to get it together. So with that, I’ve embraced having a day to myself. I love to read and take walks and be with myself and tune in to my surroundings without work. I’ll grab coffee to sit outside and people watch, and stay covert in the audience seats of life, rather than in the spotlight. Happy Sunday, y’all!
Lesson 7 of 22: When one door closes…
Too many times have I faced rejection this year, personally or professionally. The feeling of not getting what I intended or planned for is not a good one — I’m a huge planner! As difficult as that is to take in, . The most beautiful metaphor I want to bring to this is the night I fell in love with Vienna, Austria. My homegirls and I picked up some antipasti and wine from Naschmarkt, and bussed up to watch the sunset in Kahlenberg. We took the last bus up and ended up being late, missing the sunset. To our surprise, the moon took the spotlight, and that’s the moment I fell in love with Vienna. When a beautiful, anticipated plan doesn’t…well, go as planned, something different and beautiful in its own sense may follow. it’s not the end of the world. Chances are, some just as marvelous, if not even better, waits.
Lesson 8 of 22: Learn to say NO!
There was a point when I had eight jobs at once. As a fresh newb in the the real world upon graduating, I was desperate to be in a niche, belonging to something of utility in the job market. I applied to more than 20 jobs, researched Craigslist postings and company job boards till the wee hours of the night, altered my resume too many times to “fit” different positions, and was absolutely willing to settle for anything and anyone that would take me. Fast forward one year, and I know I can be honest and filter out what will be beneficial for me.
Lesson 9 of 22: It’ll be okay.
For the magnitude of worrying and stressing out that I do, this is probably the one lesson I constantly draw back to that gives me a little reassurance. Up until recently, I predominately worked with 30-year-olds or 3-year-olds, namely, my bosses/colleagues, and then their kids. From what my mentors and bosses are showing and telling me, thirties seem awesome: you’re established, stable with a job, and starting a family. Either professionally or personally, they have contributed vastly in helping me in any capacity they can. I guess what I’m trying to say is that these folks in their thirties (real adults who have it together), give me hope. They are some of the dopest humans I know and look up to. And I know when I get to that point, I can be cool and influence the crazy twentysomethings and be changing the world. Too far? Nah. Watch for it.
At least for me, this has made me grow. Not vertically (though I wish), but just as a gal trying to make it. I love feedback, I love corrections, and I love knowing what I can improve on. This isn’t always the easiest to accept, especially because constructive criticism doesn’t always come in a box with a pretty bow, but I’ve learned to take these and make them be little gifts to better myself. Knowing how to take criticism can make us better, smarter, cooler, and better looking*
*Not backed by science.
Lesson 12 of 22: There’s always time for coffee.
In fact, it’s my favorite type of run. It’s the elixir of life, and something my palette has a fond respect for. Add a companion for the perfect day. Never order decaf.
Lesson 13 of 22: Learn from your friends.
One of my best friends from high school is getting hitched, and this weekend was her bachelorette party. Despite the struggle this morning, I thought about the hilarious things that went down last night, and looked around the table of ladies that surrounded Jacqueline (bride-to-be). In high school, we did everything together – plan prom in Student Council, go for Starbucks after school (the cool thing to do), and even did a graduation speech at our commencement ceremony. Now that I look at her, she’s still the baby-faced, gorgeous, kind, Jacqueline I know, at the same rate, she’s grown in to this mature, smart, reliable woman. It fills me with joy to see her conquer these milestones in life as she starts a career, get married to the man of her dreams. It fills me with joy she’s a friend of mine, and I get to have this cool human in my life.
Lesson 14 of 22: Stop sweating the small stuff.
But like, seriously. Save yourself.
Lesson 15 of 22: Siblings are one of the best gifts.
I love love love being a big sis, and now that my sibs are growing up, I don’t have to be Mama Bear all the time (although I’ll always be for them). It’s fun to hang out and be best friends rather than a parent figure now that they have a mind of their own and being smart and all. I needed a quick nap yesterday, and entrusted my baby bro was my alarm clock. A simple task, yet, he complied without fail and even did his homework near where I napped so he would make sure I was up for practice. What a guy, and so thankful for moments like these.
Lesson 16 of 22: Write down ideas.
My brain goes 143mph sometimes, and on a good day, some thoughts come through that have the potential to make some serious impact. I’ll spare you the details until they become reality, but I think these spurts of brilliance deserve to be recorded. I have some random notebooks filled with crazy plans, and these etches could be the blueprint of something I pursue in the near future.
Lesson 17 of 22: Stay young.
My baby sister turns 17 today. She’s excited she’s one step closer to “adulthood”, and I can’t help but smile knowing she is. For a 17-year-old, her maturity rises among her peers, and she’s a hard-working kid. For a 17-year-old, she has the street smarts of a grown city dweller. For a 17-year-old, she…surely acts 17. Mei keeps me in the know of what’s up in the youth nowadays. She teaches me the slang all the cool kids are using, and is an honest fashion consultant, sometimes a little too honest. She is in that stage of admirable rebellion, impressionable vulnerability, and hard-headed stubbornness. My baby sister, Mei, is the youthful, spontaneous, honest reminder in my life that some things aren’t as complicated, and having this mindset is a relief to the whole growing up thing. Grateful for her.
Lesson 18 of 22: We live one of the coolest entities of the universe.
After traveling across nine countries and 15 cities this summer, my awareness of the world around me has been heightened in the best way. Foregoing my bed/closet/car to explore via backpack and hostel-hopping has taught me lessons incomparable to the classroom textbook or lecture. Travel is something very close to my heart, with having it be prodigious transformative phases in my 22 years of existence. This second Euro-trip validated the depth of my travel bug, and my goodness, is there a lot to see in this world. In total, I’ve been to 15 countries, and to think that is barely 8% of the world is mind blowing. The crazy thing about traveling for me is realizing how huge the world is, and yet, how freakishly small it is as well. This planet is so dope, and we owe it to ourselves to get to know it!
Lesson 19 of 22: Work for a startup.
Being an asset in an environment of hard work and passion is something special. With the past year under my boss, who founded her own consulting business, and I see what it takes to make dreams come true for her. That excites me. At a start up, it’s less of a hierarchy, and the idea of utilizing the strengths of every team member fosters a work place I love being at. I love having the trust with the team and Everyone tackles issues together, grows together, celebrates together. It’s awesome.
Lesson 20 of 22: Stay positive.
Pity parties are no fun, and no one is trying to show up to those.
Lesson 21 of 22: Stay hungry.
Not just for good guacamole and food trucks, but also for opportunities and meaningful experiences. Never settle and keep that thirst for knowledge!
Lesson 22 of 22: Stay foolish.
Y’all, I’m so weird. I’m so so weird. I’m crazy, I think a lot, and I have an average of 18 tabs up on my browser, which usually mirrors the brain activity going on inside my head. At one point, I had eight jobs, working all days of the week. People tell me I have too much going on, and I get it. Yes, there’s a bit of truth in that, but I’m trying to make it in this world, y’all. I’m trying to make some moves in our generation, get on a 25 Under 25 list. I don’t think that would be feasible without a little hustle and grind. I crack bad puns, I laugh at my jokes, I like to goof around. I’m impressionable, gullible, vulnerable. I’m all sorts of extremes, and shoot, that’s what makes me, me.
So with that, I bid 22 farewell. It’s been way real, and it’s been a blessing. 23 is here, and I’m ready to take what I know, learn a lot more, and tackle the heck out of this year. I have some goals I’ve set for myself personally and professionally, and I’m hoping to cross those off the list and share them with you as they come in fruition. Cheers!
When I’m not gushing over typography design and hashtags at work or in rabbit holes with Instagram travel accounts, chances are, I’m dancing. Quick background: I started dancing when I was in high school, kind of a late bloomer in the dance world. Through YouTube videos, leaping through empty grocery aisles, and using my patio deck window as a mirror to learn to dance, I developed a passion for it, and continued the sport as a collegiate dancer. After college, I went onto dancing for the NLL, MLL, and the World Ski Championships. Now, I am so excited to add one more badge to my collection!
If there is one thing I believe, it is that hard work is rewarded. It may not be right away, it may not come in the form you expected, but in the end, working hard lends itself to a desired outcome. So…several weeks ago, I tried out to be an NBA Dancer.
To be completely honest, tryouts were intense, exhausting, and physically/emotionally/mentally draining. The amount of prep time, hours dedicated, and thoughts accumulated to what felt like a week-long marathon, and my mind and body kept racing nonstop. Through the process, I have taken note of some habits that have developed and realized that these are universal lessons to be applied to everyday life.
1. Embrace discomfort.
I took extra dance classes, and consequently, was taking studio classes with young and talented kids. I had a good decade on these teengers, and they were kicking my butt with flexibility, stamina, and the way their bodies could endure any choreography and technique thrown at them. During the tryout week, small groups were analyzed, improv choreography was tested, and showmanship was primed. The whole process forced me to be outside my comfort zone, and I have realized, it’s how we grow as people. Push yourself!
2. Take care of yourself.
Our bodies set the parameters for what we can achieve, and being healthy is the best gift we can give ourselves. Our physical, mental, and emotional well-being directly correlates with how we act, think, and live. Body aside, treat yourself! For interviews and training camp, we had to dress up and do our hair. Little things like that do not go unnoticed to people, and it was fun to pamper ourselves and get dressed up. Enabling ourselves to perform at our full capacity is the least we can do to make the most out of this wonderful thing called life 🙂
3. Be kind.
This is a mantra I live by, and it’s good for the soul. A cool thing about auditions was that all the women in the group were extremely supportive and encouraging. By being kind and accepting, I built relationships and trust during the process with the ladies auditioning with me. This fostered such a reassuring environment, and now they are my teammates. Be genuine, be you. In a day’s interaction, the guy in front of you ordering coffee could be your next boss. The lady who bumped into you at the grocery store could have a vital connection to a prospective employer. Someone you smile at could be your next best friend.
4. Never stop doing what you love.
Being in a practice atmosphere, dancing with people next to me, and being able to all work towards something, lit up this feeling inside of me. A feeling I like to describe as passion. Dedicating time to do something that tugs on your heartstrings is so fulfilling. As a dancer, it’s an underappreciated art in the grand scheme of things: the label of dance being a sport, the industry itself, the low-pay…etc. Despite it all, it’s a labor of love, and to feel that so deeply is a marvelous feeling. I hope you find something you are infatuated with and stick to it, no matter how hard. This propels you!
5. Stay true to who you are and believe.
Perhaps one of the most significant takeaways. In the unique setting of the audition atmosphere, the pressure is on to impress a panel of judges more than ever. With a short and dense amount of time to showcase, it’s tempting to play up a persona and force a personality for approval in return. In the case with tryouts, I reassured myself to just “do me”. In the interview process, abiding by this allowed me to answer genuinely and with honesty. It made things so much easier, and consequently, less stressful. I was able to effectively exude who I was to the judges, which you owe to yourself. Be you!
If someone were to come up to me a decade ago, and told my awkward, lanky, naive 8th grader self that I would be an NBA Dancer one day, I would not believe it, 100%. Five years ago, when I was dancing for CU, I still would’ve thought this was an intangible dream. Fast forward to today, I still can’t stop smiling, thinking about the moment my name was called when the director announced the team.
There is something to say about fighting for something you want, and achieving goals. Reaping the benefits of hard work is an incredible feeling. I am psyched to be on the court and to live out one of my dreams this season! Go for it, dreamers!
I have 57 minutes before landing in Dublin, the first of many stops on my adventure to cure wanderlust. The past two weeks seem like a blur, being a marathon of booking flights, checking hostels, messaging Airbnb users, and ordering train tickets, all intertwined with work and dance practice. With the help of an airport margarita, I was knocked out like a baby after takeoff.
Before dosing off into a position only forgiving via window seat, I remember looking out five minutes into takeoff. Seeing the geographical quilt that my window quaintly framed, put things into perspective for a second. It was bizarre to be thousands of feet in the air going 550 mph, when it was just two hours ago that I was on solid ground, driving 65 mph to DIA. It was bizarre it was just this past weekend I danced at the last Mammoth game of the season with my teammates. It was bizarre that I am sitting here right now staring down at this view, when it was just a fortnight ago, I decided in a split second to follow through with something I’ve been wanting to do for two years now.
The green and brown squares and circles showed no visible signs of civilization, and it made me realize just how small we are in the grand scheme of things. What surrounds us every day and what occupies us that keeps us busy seems trivial from this view. I dig this. I dig the anonymity, and it brings a special kind of serenity. We are so small in this massive world, and I am so ready to see it these next six weeks.
I’ll be documenting my nomad life via Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (thisisdeelife). You’ll meet my travel buddies, Liz and Veda, and I’ll see you when there’s wifi!
Those words embellished the right side of a cardboard poster from one my eighth grade projects. Ms. Johnson assigned this project to the class, challenging us to define ourselves. On the top right corner, it needed to be a motto we live by. At 12 years old, I didn’t know much, but that was my motto and can’t help but smirk a little thinking back to my awkward, lanky, pre-teen self, having clarity in words to live by. Fast forward a decade later, and it’s soothing to say that some things never change.
A dream of mine that only came in fruition within the past several years was to go professional with dancing. That is, NBA/NFL style. Being a passion of mine, I’ve always saw dance as a hobby, and something I did on the side. As I danced for the Buffs in college and dedicated over 30 hours a week to it, “pastime” did not serve justice what dance meant to me. Via 5:00AM alarms, night practices, and giving up holiday breaks to practice with my team, being a member of the CU Dance Team was stitched in the fabric of my identity, embedded in who I was, and was essentially a massive asset to defining who I was. I took pride in being a part of CUDT, which reflected in person I was growing into. Some of my teammates had danced professionally, and I admired them so much for it. It was an intangible dream for me, until senior year approached, and I knew I was not ready to give up being on a dance team. I tried out for my first professional team, dancing for the Major Lacrosse League. I loved it. I just knew that was the niche where I need to be. It’s hard to describe, but I guess it’s what folks say about Love. You just know. So I made my dream to be items on my “To-Do List”, things to check off in reality, and not stay in the realm of dreams.
So a little over a week ago, I went to my first NFL Cheerleader audition…
Trying out for one of my dream teams, terrified is an understatement. But that’s almost how I knew it was something I had to do. I remember clutching my headshots and applications in my right hand, walking up to the immaculate venue and taking deep breaths. I prayed while I stretched, and took my brain to a level of focus, charged by the desire to do well. A couple hours later, 49 numbers were called to advance to a week-long process of finals, mine included. Elation ran through my veins, and that moment of pure bliss is something I’ll remember forever.
Now with risks, you either get the biscuit or you don’t. In the scheme of auditions, one puts herself out there, open to judgement, critique, and a fate rested in a panel of judges. There is constant expectation to show this panel what you’re made of. It’s the ultimate test of rhetoric. I primed myself to perform at my best and be at my best at all times. During the week-long process, it was all I thought about. I talked to myself a lot. This in turn, was a personal growing experience: I really had to know myself to show others who I was in a short span of time. I learned about how I reacted in times of pressure, and learned to cope with it. I learned to take in feedback and implement that to improve. I was outside my comfort zone in the midst of extremely talented and beautiful women. I had to train myself on confidence. I had to trust the process.
The tryouts ended with a final showcase open to the public, and all our work this week was encompassed into two and a half hours. At the end of the night, the new team was announced. I remember being paralyzed from nervousness/anxiousness and my mind spinning. Typing this out takes me right back to that circle of NFL Cheerleader hopefuls, all holding hands and looking down, deep in curiosity of the new team. I remember my number not being called and my heart dropping. I remember the number of a friend being called out and feeling on cloud nine for her. I remember the ten minutes of silence after as I packed my things to leave. I remember hugging my family and sobbing on my mom’s shoulder, only for a moment though because she started crying and saying how proud she was.
Two days later, the week still lingers in my mind, and the feelings of the past week gives me tingles in my fingertips. I think back to the final show. When I’m on stage, I forget about my hamstring that painfully tugs at me whenever I lift my right leg. I forget about the feeling of wanting to vomit all week from too many butterflies. I forget about the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into the process. All that is trivial matter when I get to perform with amazing people. Last week was one of the coolest and inspiring experiences of my life. I could do this ten days a week, free of charge. It’s a labor of love. THIS is why I do what I do. THIS is why it’s my dream.
I’m grateful to have danced with the women that I did — serious talent that made everyone bring their A-game. I’m grateful for the directors, judges, volunteers, and alumni — the tremendous amount of work they put in is unreal, and not unnoticed. I’m grateful for the corrections and feedback to push me to improve. I’m grateful for the friends along the way who’ve helped with everything, from rhinestoning my top, to daily motivational texts, to well wishes, to wisdom. I’m grateful for the friends who did this with me, because that sisterhood bond is something I will cherish. I’m grateful for the new friends coming out of this week, and humbled to have more remarkable people in my life. I’m grateful to have a healthy body to move and groove and keep doing what I love. To have so many people invest in me and believe in me is something I will never be able to truly repay; I am extremely grateful. This past week has brought out so much love and support in my life, and is the ultimate blessing. It’s not the biscuit I originally had in mind, but this biscuit came in the form of a pleasant surprise.
As I sit writing away in a coffee shop in the company of my latte, I am trying to hold back some tears. Happy ones. Normally I just do me in a coffee shop, but today, there is a commercial being shot here, so I actually don’t want to be in the background sobbing. I know I cry when I watch The Lion King or during fireworks shows, but the lump in my throat right now is a genuine measurement of the impactful week I’ve had. My heart is so full. I am so happy, and so fueled to go for it again. I loved pushing to be my best at all times. I will take that wherever I go: at my job today, being there for my little siblings, my next interview, or at practice with my teammates. And I will keep pushing myself in all endeavors of life, and hope you will, too. Don’t give up on what you want.
Dream. Go for it. From 12 to 22, my word stays strong. And so it will when I am 32 ,and you bet when I’m 72. Cheers to that, and cheers to dreams.