The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

img_3651I want to tell you about the best gift I’ve ever received. I’ve received some pretty awesome gifts in my 23 years on Earth (new camera, laptop, trip to NYC!). But the gift I received this past February surpasses them all.

As you may know from reading this blog, I was in a grad program in Germany. After several months, a pit began to form in my stomach. With dawning horror, I slowly realized that this program was not the right fit for me. The reasons were varied (the classes aren’t interesting, Germany is cold, etc.), but I just knew. However, I have never quit anything big before in my life. I didn’t identify with the term “Quitter” on any level. I’d dedicated so much time, energy and money to this grad program. Should I just stick it out for another year and a half? I’d certainly given it the old college try, but maybe I could try a bit longer?

But I knew in my heart it was time to go. So with trembling hands, I called my parents to tell them I was dropping out. They had spent equal amounts of time, energy and money on this endeavor with me. They’d fielded my teary phone calls when I was homesick and lonely, helped me gather the insane amount of necessary visa paperwork, sent me care packages at Thanksgiving, and even booked tickets to come visit me. So, so much. And now I was telling them I planned to leave without a degree!

As the Facetime video rang, my nerves mounted. They answered, and I immediately started to cry. Through tears, I choked out, “I’ve decided I want to leave my grad program and move home.”

Their response?

“Congratulations! We are so proud of you for making this tough decision. We love you and your room at home is always ready.”

THAT was the best gift I’ve ever received.

The knowledge that no matter what I do or don’t do, my parents love and support me. Looking back at it now, I should have known they would react that way. After all, that’s what parents do: they love unconditionally. Unfortunately, though, not all parents are great at loving their kids through their failures or directional changes. But my parents’ reaction will stay with me forever. It inspires me to be the same way with my children one day, and I’m sure I will understand a whole lot more once I become a mama.

The other great part of this experience? It helped me realize that people don’t care about what you do as much as you care. They just want you to be happy, so stop stressing!

We can all give the gift of unconditional love to the people in our lives. I try to every day, and I hope this post can encourage you to do the same 🙂

Stop Over-Glorifying Youth (Please!)

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetHi! Remember me? Good. I’m back to rant about something that has been bothering me lately. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

If I had a dollar for the number of times someone has said to me, “You’re so young! The world is your oyster! Oh to be young again!” or some other wistful, care-free cliché, I would have approximately 105 dollars. Which isn’t even enough to replace the breaks of my Honda. But still, it’s a lot.

Our culture is obsessed with youth. We glorify it like nobody’s business: young love, beauty, sexy bodies, travel, wanderlust, wild spirit, no responsibilities, spring break in Cabo, nary a care in the world. The list goes on.

Well, I am almost 24. I have been out of college for two solid years. And I want to tell you that being young is not. always. that. fun. Examples for your review:

-Need a job? Not enough experience.
-Need professional clothes to get said job? Not enough money.
-Not sure what you want to do? There are millions of options to disorient you and confuse the living daylights out of you until you have decision fatigue and are paralyzed.
-Who are you going to marry?
-Student loans. Yeah.
-Where should you live? Choose wisely, because it will “set your path”…
-An old lady at church just asked if you’ve graduated high school yet…
-Here’s another UNPAID internship (AKA slave labor) to “build your resume”.

Being young has less responsibilities than, say, being a parent. I’ll give you that. But it also has far less stability and support. No one else is going to get the groceries, not even once. It’s all you. I have moved seven times in the last six years. It’s exhausting. But you know what’s more exhausting? Trying to buy into the youth-glorifying culture that our society sells. I get caught up in what people think I should or should not be doing. I have friends that say “You shouldn’t tie yourself down! Just be single and go backpacking through Europe for the next five years! It’ll be great!” Then other friends who say, “You should start your career already! You’re behind the rest of us who jumped in the day after graduation.”

I honestly don’t think there is a right or wrong. Everyone has to struggle through this decade of immense transition and change. I just wish older people would stop making me feel bad for not enjoying it all the time. Because the truth is, there’s a 99.99% chance that if they could push a button and go back to age 24, they wouldn’t! My mentor and friend in her 50’s, when asked, said, “I do not envy you! So many big decisions to be made at your age. I wouldn’t want to go back.” WORD.

Listen, I know getting older has its negatives. No doubt. I’m just saying that every age and stage of life, without exception, has its negatives. And I want to work to change our culture to one that is more open and honest about those challenges. Maybe this blog post can make a dent in the conversation.

Are you with me? Let’s start together.

 

Hello from Texas

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Hello from the great state of Texas. I am readjusting to America day by day: free water, small talk, giant trucks everywhere! It’s been so nice to spend time with my brother and boyfriend. My parents return from their travels on May 8th and I can’t wait to see them too. These photos were taken on Easter. Don’t these guys look handsome?! Anyways, that’s me, folks. Leave me a comment about what’s new with you these days!

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Dutch Tulips with Mom and Dad

Have you ever been to the Netherlands? I have been twice before, but this time was extra special. My parents picked me up in Münster and whisked me off to the tulip fields across the border. I don’t have a particularly green thumb (re: black) but I can appreciate gorgeous flowers as much as the next person. And man, these flowers inspired me to plant my own! These photos were taken at the Keukenhof garden, which is basically Disneyland for flowers. I was awe-struck and couldn’t help saying “Look at that, Mom!” around every corner. Below are a few photos if you’d like to see.Dad thoroughly enjoying the tulips…All in all, an inspiring visit! I’m off to purchase gardening supplies…

Goodbye Germany! (for real this time)

img_3080If you scroll through the archives of this blog, you will see several posts with titles similar to this one. I think I’ve said goodbye to Germany at least four times without knowing if or when I would return. But each time I knew I wanted to return, so I pushed to make it happen: I connected with a family to work as an Au Pair, I found an internship, I applied for a Fulbright and then a graduate program. I knocked on doors (or kicked down doors) to get myself back across the pond. I have not one, not two, but three visas from the German government. They’re probably like “Really, this girl again?!”

I say all this to show what a big role Germany has played in my formative years. I grew up a lot here. This country has taught me so much, and for that I am forever grateful. I have friends here who I know will always welcome me with open arms and host me on their sofas when I visit.

But I feel so much peace about saying goodbye. Once I made the decision to leave, I’ve felt zero regret or doubt. This time I am saying goodbye without the intention of finding my way back. Sure, I’m young and who knows where life will take me, but I am thrilled to live near family and friends in my home culture. I can’t wait to start my career and make friend and call people in the same time zone.

So goodbye, Germany (for real this time!). You have been true to me and of me. Thank you for everything.