Thursday, November 17, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

The longer I work in the Public school system, with under served youth from so many diverse and often hard to imagine backgrounds the more grateful I become for the opportunity to always go home.

Next week, for the holidays I'll be spending the whole week with my family and I am so looking forward to it. There's something so comforting in knowing that no matter how far I go that I'm always welcome home. That's a feeling that I don't take for granted because I know that not everyone gets to feel that way.

As humans we all long for community, for a home. I believe that we all have within us a desire to be welcomed by others, to have a place where we can let down all of our walls and just be.

I don't know if you know what it's like to feel lost or alone, like you don't belong anywhere or don't have a place to call home. I've never had those feelings myself but I've seen them, I've seen them in the eyes of students. Young people that are too young to know the feeling of rejection from the people that they call family.

I've never felt it but I've seen it and seeing it and being around it makes me hurt to my heart. It makes me value the home and the community that I have but it also makes me want to create that everywhere I go. I want to learn how to make the students that I interact with and the people that I meet feel safe, feel like they have a community and most importantly feel at home.

As I count down the days to Thanksgiving I can't help but to audibly acknowledge my blessings and all of the things that I'm grateful for. I'm grateful for my parents and the safe haven that they've always created in our home. I'm grateful for my siblings and how we always advocate for and support each other. I'm grateful for my church community, that they're not just people that I interact with on Sunday's but people I do life with.

I'm grateful for my friends and how they are continually putting up with my craziness. I'm grateful for the gifts and the talents that the Lord has blessed me with and how I've been able to use them to glorify his kingdom.

 Right now, more than anything, I'm beyond grateful for my job and the way that it exposes me to situations that I had never seen before. Situations that show me how to have a little more compassion, a little more patience, a little more empathy.

I struggle sometimes with putting myself in other people's shoes and allowing myself to settle into their skin, to see the world from their perspective. Sometimes I'm so deep in my own life that I forget to look up and take in what's going on around me.

 As I get ready to spend an awesome week at home I can't help but to see all of those that aren't sure of where or with who they'll spend the holiday. My favorite holiday, the one where I'm surrounded by so much love and laughter is for others a day where they're reminded of how alone they feel.

How can those of us that know what it's like to have a home and a community make ourselves available to be a source of love for those that are lacking it? I don't know all of the answers but I do know that love is the starting point. I wasn't there when my parents first decided to start a life together and to build a home but I think that love was the main component. So if we're sincere in our intentions and we love others, maybe just maybe, they'll feel like they belong...maybe with us they'll feel like they have a home.

Happy thanksgiving everyone. May you be surrounded by love this holiday season and may that fuel you to love others.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Someone who cares.

"Dear Nicole, Thanks for coming to our school and taking your time to teach us about your career. The moment I heard you, a spark came up. The way you talked about what you did made me realize how much I'd want to be like you. Someone who has passion and loves their job. I want to be like you. Someone who cares."

In 2011, when I traveled as a student in Up with People there was a word that we used quite often. A seemingly normal word developed and grew into something that defined my semester abroad and the years that followed. 

After we'd have meetings or huddles, right before we'd start a new project or tackle a new challenge we would break on the word 'Burn'. Burn was more than just  a word, it was a declaration, it was a call to action. Burn was a reminder to always be the spark that lights the flame, to always empower. 

During my student semester abroad I would pump myself up on difficult days by saying the word burn and trying to implement it into my day. I remember one day in particular, I had to do an educational workshop in a difficult class. The students didn't seem very engaged and not at all excited that we were there. I thought to myself if I can inspire these young adults, if I can allow my passion to bleed onto their lives then I'll be doing something right, I'll be burning. 

I walked into that class with a fire burning in my eyes and passion roaring in my chest. I gave them everything I had and when I left I felt like there was a heat on my back from the excitement and the energy that was left in the class. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had made a real difference, like I had changed the atmosphere of the room instead of it changing me. 

I started this post with a letter that I got from a student that I met a few weeks ago. In October I spoke on a career panel at a high school in Denver; my topic was education and I spoke about the different jobs I've had and how they fit into the field of education. I spent a majority of my time on the panel laughing with the students and telling them about all of the times that I changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my life. Each rotation ended with me telling them about how broad and exciting the education field is and how it has changed my life. I burned so bright that day.

I grew up never wanting to be a teacher, never wanting to work in education. I wanted to change the world, I wanted my name to be written down in books and for everyone to always remember me. As I got older, as I was changed by education and educators I realized that the way to change the world, the way to make a real impact is through education. 

It's through my career in education that I was able to travel all over the world. It was through education that I was given the chance to speak in front of classrooms on 4 different continents and share my opinions and encourage conversation among youth. It's through education that I get the chance to work with students all over Denver, helping them to see their worth and the possibilities that their future holds. 

Reading that letter from that student kind of made me have an 'I can't believe this is my life' moment. I can't believe that I've grown up to become the person that I am today. Someone that loves young adults and fights for their dreams, someone that a student meets for 15 minutes and knows right away that I care about them. Someone that burns in every aspect of their life. 

I hope that you've found your passion in life. I hope it roars inside of your chest and you use it everyday to make a difference. I hope when you meet people that they look into your eyes and know that you're not just floating through life but rather you're on a mission, you're walking in your purpose. 

I hope that you burn. I hope you burn so bright that you ignite every single being that you come in contact with. I hope one day, you get a letter from a person that you met for only a few moments. A letter that tells you how you've changed their life. I hope you change the world. 

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Portland and me.

For my birthday this year, I decided to take a trip and it ended up being so much more than just a vacation. My goal was adventure, laughter and time in a new place surrounded by people that didn't know my name. I wanted to be immersed in greenery and create poems whilst getting lost in all that Portland had to offer me.

When the plane landed in Portland and it hit me what I was doing, traveling in a brand new city all alone, I couldn't stop smiling. I was grinning like a five year old at everyone who looked my way and that feeling of excitement and joy stayed with me the entire trip.

Portland is irrefutably beautiful. The scenery is healthy and inviting and the people are busy but kind. There's a sense of hustle and bustle in the city of Portland and in the demeanor's of the people quickly passing by. Though they seemed to be in a hurry, I was comforted by the fact that anytime I smiled in someone's direction, I was met with kind eyes and a returned smile.

I celebrated my 25th birthday in Mexico and to be funny my friends decided to trick me and pretend like they didn't remember what day it was. I knew that it was just a joke and that at some point I would be overwhelmed with presents and so much love but for a moment I felt so alone. I thought to myself that I hoped I'd never have to spend my birthday by myself, surrounded by people that didn't know what a special day it was.

On my 27th birthday I wore all of my favorite things, with the most important thing being my roommates Minnesota Twins hat. I put my umbrella and scarf in my backpack, along with my journal and headed over to a local spot to have brunch. I ordered two eggs, potatoes and a biscuit and I ate alone while reading 'Bossy Pants' by Tina Fey, it was exactly how I envisioned starting my birthday. Alone but far from lonely.

I was comforted by the fact that no one around me knew how special of a day I was about to have and humbled by the thought that maybe everyone else would be celebrating special moments as well. I walked around with a smile on my face and what felt like a secret in my heart. There I was, only a few hours into being 27 and it was already my most exciting birthday yet.

Growing up a twin, my birthday was never just for me. Even though it was annoying in the early years I grew to love it as I got older. I looked forward to that day and spent it being reminded that from the womb I had a partner in crime, someone to venture through this journey of life with. As the years passed and decisions took us in different directions we spent our birthdays together less and less. I can't remember the last time my brother and I entered into a new year while living in the same city. My brother will always be my twin and we'll always share a birthday but this year, for some reason, I felt like October 26 was mine, made just for me.

Portland was the sentence that ended this most recent chapter in my life. It reminded me of who I've been, who I am and who I want to be. It confronted old insecurities and doubts and reminded me of the hope that's so deeply embedded in my blood and the strength beating in my chest. I've never liked myself more. never been more content with my life, never felt more connected to the lives ebbing and flowing around my own. 

If you're responsibility free and have the money and the time, I strongly encourage you to take a trip by yourself. Go to a city that you've never been to before, stay somewhere cool, bring a journal, talk to strangers and immerse yourself completely in your own company.

It took me turning 27 and traveling to a random tree filled city to be reminded of the peace and joy that the Lord has placed within my heart. 26 was an amazing age filled with excitement, transition, love and so much happiness but 27 will be better. 27, is already better.

Thanks for keeping up with me. Until next time friends. Xoxo.