Last week, my friend Grace and I decided to attend an in-person church service. It was the first time I had gone to church IN-PERSON since before the pandemic started... Let's just say there were a lot of emotions. First off, I don't currently have any in-person classes or clubs, and I haven't since COVID-19 started. If you know me, you know that I love humans. A lot. All this to say, I gravely miss seeing people and being around people! I'm assuming most people can relate to this. I also really miss going to church every week and worshiping with others. There is something that can be said about being surrounded by others and completely surrendering to the present moment. It's absolutely amazing.
Anyways, Grace and I arrived at the service a little late and ran inside. When we were running to the doors it started pouring... Down pouring. We probably looked a little like wet mops when we walked through the doors, but hey we made it! When we walked inside the worship music had already started so Grace and I quickly found a spot and began worshipping. It wasn't long before another down pouring occurred. We were only 1 song in, and Grace and I were already crying. After the worship music stopped Grace and I just looked at each other and laughed. We knew that the service was going to be great and we knew that it was much needed. The Pastor walked up onto the stage and began talking about courage. The screen ahead read,
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9
This was not the first time I had seen that verse, nor was it the first time I heard someone preach about courage, but the same story told in a different set of circumstances can produce a vastly different response. The Pastor went on to talk about having the courage to face difficult situations, go for what we feel God has called us to do, and overcome hardship. He expressed that courage and faith go hand in hand. We can't have courage or faith if we are still living in fear. It seems obvious and simple, but I think sometimes we can forget to have courage or faith in certain situations, especially if we've never been through those situations before. It's easy to have courage when things are going well, but what happens when things don't go well or a situation is brand new? For me, fear usually creeps, and when that happens faith and courage oftentimes dwindles. That's because fear can fog our vision and make us see the world through a completely different lens. It can cause us to forget how strong we are and allow doubt, worry, and unrest to enter our lives, which just leads to more and more fear. It's not a fun cycle, and courage is not a part of it. As mentioned above, you can't have courage or faith if you are living in fear.
At the service, I realized that I had been drifting through the past few weeks with a lens of fear and not courage. The scary part is I didn't even fully notice it until then. It's probably because I wasn't questioning or observing my thoughts as much as I should've been. Sometimes a situation calls for guidance to get us back to where we need to be. That service did that for me and I am forever grateful for that :)
Questions to ask yourself:
Are you living your life through a lens of fear or courage?
How are your thoughts?
What are you thinking?
Do you have faith in what you're going through right now?
How about faith for the future?
If you realize you are living your life through a lens of fear instead of courage take a second to look at where you are right now. Then reflect on all that you've been through and all the hardships that you've overcome. You've gone through all of that, what makes you think you can't get through this?
Happy World Down Syndrome Day!!! Today is one of my favorite days because it's all about raising awareness about Down syndrome and celebrating individuals with Down syndrome- something I believe we should be doing every day!! It's also a day where we can rock our favorite socks! How cool!!
I wanted to give a special shoutout to an organization that has made an enormous impact on my life and the lives of some of my best friends- Gigi's Playhouse. Gigi's Playhouse is an achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome that offers FREE programs to individuals with Down syndrome and their families. They have so many amazing programs!! Some of my favorites include:
Please consider checking them out, signing up to volunteer, and/or donating to support all of their awesome programs!!!
For more information on Gigi's Playhouse Indianapolis check out: https://gigisplayhouse.org/indianapolis/
Please consider supporting Gigi's, and all of their amazing programs, by donating: https://gigisplayhouse.org/indianapolis/
It's here! It's finally here! It's Spread the Word Day!! Spread the Word >> Inclusion, formerly known as Spread the Word to End the Word, is a day that aims to raise awareness and promote inclusion and acceptance for all people, regardless of ability status, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more. Join me and millions of others and take the pledge to include!
Today is Zero Discrimination Day. A day dedicated to ensuring and promoting equality for ALL people. Today also marks the first day of March. A month dedicated to raising awareness and celebrating people of all abilities. This month is a really big deal!! Not just to me, but to millions of people who are fighting for equality, acceptance, and inclusion for ALL people, especially those with disabilities. Every March, since 7th grade, I've pledged to play a central role in advancing the Disability Rights Movement in some way, shape, or form. In the past, this has included fundraising, attending and hosting events, campaigning, plunging into freezing water, and some other fun activities. This March is even more special and important to me because I'm currently interning with Special Olympics International!! Special Olympics International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities through sport, leadership, friendship, health & wellbeing, and so much more. Throughout my internship, I've witnessed the amazing amount of love, support, passion, inclusivity, empathy, and drive that is at the heart of this organization and this Movement. It's absolutely amazing! And it's absolutely needed. There is still soooo much change that needs to be made and it all starts with you and me. Let's say yes to inclusion, compassion, empathy, and respect, and be that change!
-Monday, March 1st: Zero Discrimination Day
-Wednesday, March 3rd: Spread the Word Inclusion (this years theme: Connection)
-Sunday, March 21st: World Down syndrome Day
-Thursday, March 25th: Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day
-Friday, March 26th: Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness
-Saturday, March 27th: Special Olympics IN Polar Plunge
A while back, I pulled up to a parking space at Kroger and sat in my car for a second before going in. I usually get out immediately after arriving and get everything I need to as swiftly as I can, but this time was a little different. As I was getting my mask and taking the aux cord out of my phone to head inside, I noticed a girl around my age taking a selfie in a car at a parking space diagonal from me. I stopped rushing to get inside and sat in my car for a few more seconds because I was shocked by what was going on. This girl kept taking selfies and then deleting them, looking in the mirror to fix something of herself (her hair, her lipstick, her shirt), and then re-taking another selfie just to delete it again and try a new angle or fix something else. This cycle happened quite a few times. Then the girl picked up her mask, put it on, and took a couple of more selfies. I assumed she finally got one that she was pleased with because she smirked after taking her mask back off, stopped taking more selfies, and then left the Kroger parking lot. Now I usually am not this observant of people, especially people who are just chilling in their cars at Kroger trying to take a selfie, but as I stated before, I was shocked and troubled by what I was witnessing. On my end, I could not fathom why this girl had to keep re-taking selfies. She was very pretty and seemed extremely put together. Did she not think that she looked good enough, so much to the point where she needed to put a mask on just to take a selfie? Who knows, but I sure hoped not, because like I said, homegirl was beautiful. It was so easy for me, someone who doesn't even know her, to see this.
As I replayed this scenario in my head, I became even more disturbed at everything I witnessed because I knew deep down that I've done this same thing. Maybe not in the Kroger parking lot, but I've definitely spent too much time trying to take a selfie or photo, just to delete it, take 5 more, and question if any of them were "good enough". Why was it so easy for me, at this moment, to raise the question about whether or not this girl knew how beautiful she was when I've done this exact same thing to myself a million times without raising the same question? Clearly, something was off. I realize how easy it is for me to see how uniquely beautiful, amazing, and gifted others are, yet it's sometimes so hard for me to see the same for myself. I'm assuming many of you are often in the same boat, and that's why I wanted to post this. Do you realize how freakin' amazing, beautiful, talented, and loved you are?!? I sure hope so, but if you don't realize this about yourself I promise you that someone else does. Maybe even someone so random, like a stranger at your nearest Kroger :)
Heritage Christian Chapel Speech
In 2016, about 3/4ths of the way into my Freshman year of high school, I transferred to Heritage Christian. If I’m going to be honest, transferring to a Christian school was never something on my radar, but I was in a pretty toxic situation at another school and needed to leave. At the time, it seemed as though my life was falling apart, but looking back now, I realize this is what started it all. As it turns out, transferring to Heritage would become one of the biggest blessings in my life.
I hope that by sharing a little bit of my journey, you are able to see that everyone's path looks a bit different. Not one of us is mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically strong and fulfilled 100% of the time, and that is okay. These struggles are what make us human! Learning to let go of identities, expectations, and illusions, and let God, has allowed me to see these struggles in a completely new light. I hope it can do the same for you :)
Today is a day to not only celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact, but a day to reflect, learn, and serve. Justice, freedom, and equality for all is still a dream and a vision at this point. We have a lot of work to do. That being said, we all have the opportunity to be kind, love others, choose to include, advocate, lead, serve, teach, motivate, and pay it forward, through every interaction we make and everything that we do. Let us put Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words into action and create sustainable change, not only today but every moment and opportunity that we get.
"The time is always right to do what is rights."
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
"Everybody can be great because anybody can serve."
"It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people."
"We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization."
"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
"I have decided to stick to love... hate is too great a burden to bear."
"Every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God."
"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way."
"He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
"You can kill the dreamer, but you can't kill the dream."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
I don't like conflict and I don't like division, so I typically steer clear from posting anything that can be seen as political or another dividing force. That being said, there is so much conflict and division, and there always has been. Truthfully though, I don't think it's a political issue, I think it's a humanity issue. A humanity issue that has always, and will always, conquer us if we continue to ignore it. These issues include hate, racism, prejudice, inequality, injustice, exclusion, division, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and so much more. All of which continue to plague us as a human species and create destruction not only among ourselves but also the environment. Will it take more deaths, wars, or catastrophic events for us to realize this?
After seeing the breaching of the US capital, and the response to it, compared to that of Black Lives Matter protests, and the vastly different response, the issues of hate, racism, and white privilege in the US were exposed yet again. But how much exposure does it take for things to change? For all humans to be treated as equal? There shouldn't need to be something significant to occur for change to be made.
I strongly believe that understanding our hearts and privileges is critical for this transformation. Change starts from within. Nobody is perfect. We all have biases, prejudices, and flaws that we all need to become more aware/ conscious of, but until this occurs, all forms of hate will continue to exist and maybe even prosper.
Can we be for love, not hate? For unity, not division? For peace, not pain? For inclusion, not exclusion? For equality, not inequality? For justice, not injustice? I'm hopeful we can. We just NEED to wake up!
Please reach out to me if you are struggling or if you'd like to talk about this!
1) You never truly know when your last day will be: Early on in the year, Kobe Bryant passed away and for many of us, myself included, it was another wake-up call to point us to the reality that death has no timestamp. We truly never know when our time is coming, and I think we’ve all become more aware of that this year, whether it was through the passing of a loved one or someone else we may have known.
2) We are not as “in control” of our lives as it may seem: We cannot predetermine where our lives will take us, what situations we’ll encounter, who we’ll end up meeting, and the pivotal moments that end up shaping us. Many times, we try to control these situations and attach ourselves to them, then end up disappointed when they don’t get met. Instead of trying to control external environments and situations (like the pandemic for example), I’ve learned that it’s much more important to let go of the external and focus on the internal. Nothing externally will ever truly fulfill you.
3) At the end of the day, we are all human: 2020 has allowed us to better understand one another and realize that we all are just trying our best. Even though my Professors may not have seen this as a positive, I loved when their dogs randomly started barking during a lecture or when one of their kids walked into our Zoom call unexpectedly. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in what we are doing that we forget that we are all just people, to begin with. I loved being able to see more of people's realities this year.
4) There is so much power in vulnerability: We all went through it at some point or another this year, but the thing that makes me the happiest is the fact that so many people were open and truthful about their experiences. There is so much power in being vulnerable and I think that when people let down their egos and showcase this, we can all connect on a much deeper level.
5) Mental health is SO important: This year was huge for mental health awareness and I learned how important it truly is. Taking time for yourself to look inwards through therapy, journaling, self-reflection, and meditation (or whatever works best for you) will only allow you to become more conscious and aware of yourself and your surroundings.
6) You have to fill your cup before filling others: You can’t give what you don’t have. I realized how important it truly is to take time for yourself and fill your cup so that you can share and serve others well.
7) Uncomfortable situations allow you to grow: After intentionally going out of my comfort zone this year I’ve realized how much I’ve grown. If I hadn’t started going to therapy, reaching out to people, and having hard, vulnerable, and open conversations, I would definitely not be the person that I am today.
8) You will only go as far as your mind will take you: If you would have told me last year, that I would run a half marathon and love every second of it I would have thought you were crazy. I realize now how much influence our mind has over our lives and what we think we can or cannot accomplish. Getting past my mind and running that half marathon while having so much fun only made me want to push my limits more and see what I’m actually capable of. A full marathon is for sure coming in the future :)
9) I’m always going to be learning: After the killing of George Floyd, I became so much more aware of the fact that I knew, and know, so little about racial injustices, our country’s history of oppression, biases, and so much more. This year I also realized how little I knew about life, politics, media, science, religion, physics, our environment, and so much more. There is a lot of information that education doesn’t cover, and it’s so important that we realize this and take personal responsibility to try and gain this knowledge and insight.
10) Everything is what you make of it: All of my classes this year are online, and by the time my sophomore year is up, I’ll have spent more of my college time online than in person. This saddened me at first because people always talk about their college years as some of the best times of their lives and I felt as though I was “missing out” in a way. Now I realize that being online has enhanced so much of my college experience. I have grown so much closer to my friends, made more meaningful connections, and began to cherish every moment. I’m so much more grateful for my education, my professors, the relationships I have, and my experiences. The time spent with my roommates and friends this year (which is a lot of time because we are all online) are times I’ll never forget, and they are truly like family now.
11) Solitude is necessary: I always thought I was an extremely extroverted person (and I’m sure many teachers can attest to that as well, lol), but after this year I’m starting to think I’m more of an extrovert/ introvert. I love being by myself and in solitude.
12) It’s okay to feel lonely: I had to put this one after solitude because I feel they sometimes go hand in hand. This year, I’ve learned to accept and honor the feeling of loneliness (and other feelings that occasionally arise). It is completely normal and okay to feel lonely, especially when being in a community with one another is hindered because of a global pandemic!
13) Relationships and connections are everything: Being in quarantine and spending so much time with the people I live with has shown me the importance of relationships and connections. People always say you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with and it is so true (so choose wisely, haha).
14) You can control social media or social media can control you: I’ve been very fortunate to have met amazing people through social media this year, but I’ve also realized how toxic certain platforms can become for me. The amount of time spent scrolling and looking at other people’s lives or posts just prohibits you from living your life at the moment. If it’s not benefitting you and propelling your future forward, then why waste that precious time?
15) There are so many distractions: When everyone was under the stay-at-home order and everything was canceled, I realized how many things in my life were just distractions that filled much of my time. Many things that I valued back then are things that I don’t value anymore, and vise-versa.
16) The time is now: I used to listen to a song that states, “If not now than when, and if not me then who?” It’s simple questions like these that I think we should ask ourselves daily.
17) Trying new things is what life is all about: I started a garden this year, and while it didn’t flourish as much as I’d hoped (and many plants may have died, lol), it was still fun trying and learning something new.
18) Less thinking can sometimes lead to heightened productivity: It sounds so crazy, but the less time I spent focusing on my schoolwork and assignments, the more productive I was. Sometimes our brains need a mental break! Taking the time to intentionally focus on things outside of school (like my health, relationships, faith, and more) allowed me to become more efficient.
19) “Vibe check”: My roommate Doan always uses this expression and I feel like it is so important to apply in life. Sometimes it’s critical to pause and assess how people and things are “coming off” or “feeling” to you. A mentor of mine says that everything in life either raises your frequency or lowers it. It’s so true. This year I’ve tried to do more “vibe checks” to see what things, and people, are filling me up or depleting me.
20) Spontaneity isn’t bad: If anyone knows me, they know I’m a very routine-oriented person. I go to bed early and wake up early so I can start my morning routine and get on my usual schedule. Well, this year I’ve learned that it is okay to get a little off my routine and be spontaneous at times (thanks to my roommates and friends). Sometimes it’s nice to switch things up and live a little!!
Today, and every day, I celebrate my friends. I am convinced that I have some of the best friends in the world and that I am “blessed with the best”. My friends are absolutely amazing. I know they will go on and create an impact wherever they are. Some will probably end up in D.C. and help formulate new policies to create lasting change, or open their own business, or run a nonprofit, or counsel people who are often marginalized; the list could go on and on. They are involved in so much and are making an impact in everything they do.
My best friend is involved in everything under the sun. She’s in college, involved in athletics (not just one or two sports, but FIVE), participates in extracurriculars, serves the community, and works. How she manages to stay on top of everything I have no idea. Anyways, we have been friends since 6th grade, and I know that we will be friends forever. Although we’ve gone to different schools for the last five years, our friendship has remained constant and has never once let me down. My best friend is someone I know I will always be able to count on to help make me smile and laugh, and I know she can say the same. We’re really good at doing this whole life thing together and finding joy in everything that we do, as you can probably tell from the photos below.
I post this to celebrate my amazing friends and best friend. Something I believe everyone should do all the time. I also post this because October is Down syndrome awareness month and my best friend just so happens to have Down syndrome. We shouldn’t need a month dedicated to celebrating the blessings that come along with those who have an extra chromosome because it should already be something that we continuously do. But since we do have this month, and some of you may not be lucky enough to know someone with Down syndrome, let alone be best friends, I wanted to share this with you in hopes that you may understand that people with Down syndrome are just people who happen to have an extra chromosome. People who are capable of being your best friend, capable of being a college student, capable of being an athlete, capable of being an employee, capable of being a volunteer, and capable of being whatever the heck they set their minds to. SO PLEASE LET THEM, just as people have let you and me.