You Cannot Rush Freedom (400 words)

freedom, inspiration, life, writing

Most of us exist for tiny moments of excitement–forever looking for the next thrill to write home about. I wish life was always this simple and we did not have to think about problems or troubles or figure out 5-year plans. But the truth is, an honest life is one of requirement. Everyday we must come to terms with the fact that our lives are not completely our own. We are responsible for other people–in the most benign to the most extreme of ways.

And nothing wakes one up faster than realizing that another person is counting on you.

I imagine taking this type of ownership to its highest peak. Because without sacrifice, we are incapable of offering anyone anything. Sometimes, the hardest part of my day is facing this blatant reminder in the form of an unrelenting alarm clock. It screams, “Wake Up!” when all I really want to do is sleep. The act of hitting snooze in this instance is probably one of the most selfish things.

When I was a child, I relied upon my parents to prepare me for every future event. From school and extracurricular activities to family special occasions; I was helpless without them. At times I found myself helpless as a result of them. Now that I am an adult, I remember the way I would rationalize their dysfunction on my life. I did not see drunkenness and disorder; it was unpredictable fun. My mother was not financially irresponsible and careless, she was spontaneous and carefree.

This is the lens I used to guard my innocence when what I really needed was protecting.

I dreamed of leaving my destructive nest and living a life of order and structure. I remember trying to fly on my own for the first time and it was then I learned that you cannot rush freedom. I thought maybe flapping my wings and kicking up dust would guarantee that no one could ever reach me. But the higher I flew, the more I lost sight of my calling and destiny. It took coming back down and sitting in the reality of all the hurt I experienced that finally gave me the courage to let it all go.

I could have chosen to cling to my past and perpetuate the cycle of pain, transferring the guilt I felt onto my offspring. I could have continued to run from my responsibilities. But I know I must live a life of intention.

And God intended for me to be free.


Winter Commencement: 2017

The following is the speech I wrote and read to the Winter 2017 graduates from Union County College on Thursday, January 12th at 6 pm in Rahway, NJ. The speech was intended for my fellow classmates–however, I believe it holds a message for anyone who has ever felt like giving up but knew they had what it took to keep going. Regardless of how long it takes, or the difficulties you will inevitably face–I challenge you to keep fighting, and striving for excellence no matter what.

I hope this message inspires you.

When I was invited to speak today as a Student Representative for all of you—I thought to myself, who am I to speak on behalf of everyone else?

I thought that maybe I could tell you how easy it was to finish my associate’s degree. However, that would not be the complete truth. It is far easier to find student parking on Cranford’s campus.

When I look back at my last five semesters, I become aware of this present moment that I had not yet known was possible. It was not always easy, but we all made decisions over these last few years that led us successfully to where we are today. We made sacrifices because we believed our lives would flourish when we chose to be intentional about where we wanted to go.

For some of us, especially me, the decision to invest in our own success took an extraordinary amount of time. We were often not ready when life came knocking at our doors. We held on too tightly to comfortable things. We aggressively fought losing battles against time. We allowed the idea of taking a necessary risk—to knock us off our feet.

Sometimes, some of us gave up too easily.

Today we claim victory and achieve excellence for our families and ourselves. We made it to this significant checkpoint in part because of our individual efforts—but also with the support of everyone in this room. Let us take a moment now to applaud all of the faculty and staff, as well as our friends, family and loved ones who encouraged and walked with us through this journey. [Applause.]

You may not realize your strength, or the power you possess—but I look out at all of you and I can see the fruits of your determined perseverance. The fact that you are here today is the ultimate sign that you are doing more than just passing each test. So hold fast to what is good, positive, and true. Take a deep breath, dwell in this sweet moment now, and let go of any thoughts that make you feel doubtful or weak. Do not let anything hold you captive below the full range of your talents and capabilities.

Keep fighting to make your unique mark on the world.
You are all brilliant sparks just waiting to light up the sky.
But you have to keep going. There is still so much farther you can go.

commencement, graduation, selfie, union county college, speaker, 2017
Winter Commencement: 2017

The Warrior’s Revelry: 2017

I pray you find what you are looking for in 2017.

But more importantly, I hope with a burning urgency for the realization that what you seek is already alive and well–within you. Getting in better physical shape, eating all the right things and meeting your elusive “One”, will not compare to developing the courage to live your life aggressively.

It takes courage to face the ultimate heartache in an effort to prevent it from overcoming your original course. There are eager, fractured parts of your once trusting self–begging for your immediate attention. Pleading with you to take a second look at this pain and turn it into a success story. Encouraging you to grasp a unique opportunity and make up for where you once lost.

Know you are meant for some legendary stuff.

Instead of damsels in distress, I believe you and I were destined to be the heroines (and heroes) of our own narratives. The hero does not wait in dread or sit with vivid anxiety. He or she does not torture their self by poking excessive holes into open wounds. No, they take time to absorb their failures and recover from them triumphantly.

Quite often this means taking a stand in the hostile and merciless battle against the dreadful healing process. It is, wrestling with your self doubt and putting the voice of adversity in its place. Picking up your heart after a catastrophe and brushing off the rubble and dust.

Deciding the one you love is worth your fight and vulnerability.

Courage is sharing the ugly truth with the intention of honoring the people who deserve a whole lot better than your apathy. It is acknowledging the various possibilities of where the truth will lead. Not being swayed by the fear of the unknown and trusting that being honest is the only way you can grow.

Because you cannot acquire anything worthwhile, until you learn to first let go.

passion, fire, art, portrait, girl

–I pray that you, find your way through, whatever may be blocking you.


The After Effects of Shock.

I dragged the pitiful remnants of my sorry 2015 into what was then, the new (2016) year. Still, this was not even the worst part. Everyone told me to just “let it go” as if I could somehow give away my hurt and manifest some unguarded strength that was eluding me. For some reason, people tend to forget about the after effects of shock. It was like I stood outside of my body–pleading with myself to stop.

Stop emoting over a person who does not have the capacity to love you properly.
Stop fighting against every sign telling you that you are better off.
Stop trying to prove you are worthy enough.

Just, dammit stop.

Shock had other ideas about how I was going to “get over” my loss. It reared up in absolute ugliness–breaking the hearts of everyone I was ever close to. It decided that I did not need to repent or reconsider my actions, words and thoughts. No, we were going to drive intentionally off the cliff of ambivalence, never fully understanding what was happening until I hit the bottom rocks.

I believe: You can only relate to others as much as you have resolved your deepest grief.

But I did not want to sit regretfully with the betrayal or think on anything I did wrong. I could not face what I should have done differently because at the end of the day, he/she/they were gone. So, I chose to wrap myself around the certainty of shock. Certainly shock would protect me, by blocking the valves to my heart. It could obviously mask the feeling of cold creeping in my frostbitten fingertips.

It could absolutely hide the fact that I was dying inside. 

I want to be able to honestly say that one day I decided to fight back. That I tore into my frigid nature and found a way to warm up my internal core. The truth is, there was an essence I was missing and a peace I denied. Trying to do good on my own misguided terms only spread the disease I was feeding and left tons of damage behind. There were months where I read countless books, articles and blogs in an attempt to figure out how to help my self. Yet at the end of it all, I still felt lost.

But 2016 was not a total loss.

I could sit here and list all the amazing things happening in my life right now, but I will spare you my “self-righteous” brag. Instead, I leave you all with this final thought:

No matter how many failures you endure, the cost of which may seem unfair and unreasonable–your success will eventually outweigh the loss.

2017 #RISEUP

determination, bravery, facing fears

Love, You.

universe, galaxy, heart, art, self love
Artist: Federica Bordoni

It will never matter how compatible two people are if they lack the necessary spark. I heard about this chemical imbalance going around, incomparable to all the damage I have ever gone through. Promised myself I would close off my aortic valve–permanently.
But the longer I stand on my own two feet, the harder it is to remain isolated. I claim to be tentatively ready to rejoin the race. Feeling it is possible to purge and at the same time replace.

A damaged heart continues to beat. 

Despite my violent outbursts and protests against my own unnecessary pain, I always resolved to eventually recuperate. There is no excuse for wallowing when life offers so many beautiful new beginnings. We are attracted to quick starts that send reviving jolts to our hearts. Thriving when our affections are reciprocated.

I can see the sun rising over my independent horizon. Natural light floods into the drought of my conscious mood. A cloud lifts, from my negative, misguided loop. Drawing me back to what is important. I am full of resilient stars and effervescent moons. Born to recover one hurt after the other on the verge of a definite breakthrough.

And it is with this full awareness that I can finally face the truth:

No one will ever, love you better–than you.

Hearts Don’t Grow on Trees.

I want you to know that one day he will show up suddenly at your door. Brow beaten, shoulders hunched, tail between his legs…he will come when you least expect it–looking for a way back in. When this happens you must remember how you feel RIGHT NOW. Call to mind the emptiness he left in his wake. The weight he placed in your arms, the absence of his embrace.

Do not forget the promise you made to yourself
when you decided you never wanted to feel this way again.

He said you were a silly girl with a vacant head. Holding on to the fantasy he planted in your mind. His intentions were halfhearted and fickle–while he searched for reasons to run away. But none of his excuses will matter when he tries to knock down the walls around your heart. Resilient hearts do not grow on trees. 

hearts, trees, art, roots, prose

When he comes back, remind him how hard you fought to stay sane–and how easily he blamed you for what he lacked. Tell him you pushed–not because you were weak.
On the contrary.
You are the strongest woman he has ever had the opportunity to reject.
Assure him he will never get that chance again.

Draw strength from your spine and shake your self respect awake.

Someone who loves you would never treat you this way.

September March.

quotes, carl sagan, reflection, art

When looking back makes you feel uncomfortable, moving forward becomes easy.

I am reminded of a time when sorry did not lead to “I told you so“. When I knew without a doubt where I was heading. This was a very long time ago. I do not remember ever believing that I could do anything. In fact, by the time I started college I still did not fully commit to any one direction.

I wanted to write, but hated the idea of research. The only subject that really interested me was love. Love, that always seemed to be just out of my reach. Maybe this is why my focus was off. Instead of zeroing in on what felt good to me, I was way too busy trying to solidify connections with characters I could never take with me.

Today, I know in my heart I was lost.

Today, I have an opportunity to look back objectively. Not with regret and longing or in lingering pain and confusion. I look at what my deviations cost. The time it took to realize what I was truly meant to do. The people I hurt and strung along on my way to the inevitable.

The most powerful thing you can do in the midst of your own personal chaos is to take some time alone. We live in a society of now, pledging our efforts to yesterday’s goals, forever trying to catch up.

But, “not all who wander are lost“.

Most dreamers require an extraordinary presence of mind to cast the shadows of doubt from their lives. In the time it took to recognize my strengths, I had become committed to running away from them. If my college track record is any indication–the one thing I KNEW how to do, was run. I measure my trials and experiences against a race in which I feel I am currently in last place.

I understand now I am wrong.

Naturally, when you expect so much from yourself you can fall into a pattern of self-deprecating taunts. By any means necessary you cut your losses and filter out the damage you caused in order to quickly move on. Unfortunately, refusing to properly face your mistakes only encourages you to cover them up.

I do not have time to waste in any more cycles that stall my progress. Now–I keep my head down, my work honest and my thoughts to my self. Though I feel it in my surroundings, I will not be wrapped in the vicissitudes of love.

Not until I know I am ready and my own work is done.