self-talk

I recently heard a story from a beautiful, African American woman who wore a stylish black cardigan and dark red lipstick. Her dark, silky hair was perfectly curled, and her smile illuminated our faces like a flashlight exposing the darkness. As she began to speak, her deep, rhythmic voice reverberated off our concrete classroom walls; her voice and its warmness filled the room like blowing breath into a balloon. I was touched by her presence even though we were separated a considerable distance. She held a sweet sense of humility, a knowingness and experience, in her voice. She told us a story.

This kind and gentle woman had been incarcerated for 14 years. Her story starts as a child, when she experienced domestic sexual trauma that continued into her teenage and adult life. She got wrapped up in some bad relationships which propelled themselves into criminal activity. Her story is not unlike many others; when trauma starts this early on, it isn’t a choice. It is a lifestyle given without any permission or consent. Among her triumphant stories was a small detail about how she began to tell herself lies and believe them. Her identity was built on false narratives, destructive words that shaped her, and a lifetime of untruths. She said eventually, she didn’t even know her real birthday.

Although I am very different from this woman, I share many of her same vulnerabilities. We all do. We are all capable of telling ourselves lies that become truth and this truth becomes our reality and this reality becomes our life. We can tell ourselves that we are worthless, purposeless, hopeless, that we have no friends, no choice in our life trajectory, and no control, or that we’re unattractive, disliked, stupid, or meaningless. We can say these things, and they will become true. I spent a lot of time in high school convincing myself that I needed to change; that I needed blonde hair and tan skin before I could be loved. Or that I needed bigger muscles and a smaller waist before I could be attractive. Or that if I spoke and acted a certain way, I would fit in. I began to believe myself. These lies became my reality and that reality became very grim and oppressing as I tried to fit into all the images that society tells us are important. My saving grace came when I began to tell myself something else: I am smart, I have importance that goes beyond physical appearances. I am loved exactly how I am. Then I began to tell myself something even more radical: Maybe I could even change the world. These things I told myself changed my life perspective. Our self-talk matters.

You may truly think you are worthless or unloved or a failure. I am not condemning your feelings or telling you that you are wrong. The thoughts you have about yourself are valid. That is really how you feel and that must be recognized. What I am saying, however, is that you should start telling yourself a new narrative. Every day wake up and tell yourself the truth that you want your reality to become. Roll out of bed and tell yourself, “I am loved. I am important. My work is meaningful. My life is valuable. I am kind, lovable, and gentle. I am free from addiction. I am free from sadness/anxiety/depression. I am in control. I am loved by something much larger than me. I was created with purpose. I was created with passion. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Or maybe just tell yourself one of those things or maybe all of them if you need it. Some days I do.

This week my mantra has been “I am strong, I am capable, I am confident” because each of those words touches on an insecurity I’ve felt this week. On Monday, I told myself this phrase as I walked to class, practiced a speech, worked my job, went about life. On Friday, my mantra became my reality: I endured the week with strength, competence, and self-assurance. My positive self-talk came true.

As you read this I ask you a simple question: What do you need to hear?

And I implore you to take on a simple task: start telling yourself that. Today, right now, this week. It may save your life.

thankful for the moment

I’m sitting in a hip, jazzy cafe in Palo Alto, California. I’m sipping on some water because I just indulged in a milk tea with boba that was absolutely delicious. I arrived in California this morning around 11:00am, after leaving my apartment at a shockingly early time of 3:30am (shout out of appreciation to my boyfriend, Avery, for waking up and driving me to the airport). All day, I’ve jumped from plane to plane, city to city, to finally land in this spot. This comfortable spot of sitting in a worn-out leather chair in a young and busy coffee shop in a beautiful city.

It is no accident that I’m here; it took years of hard work, focus, dedication, sacrifice, and perseverance to get to this place. It took planning, purchasing a plane ticket, organizing accommodation, and a lot of thought to get here. Yet, I keep thinking to myself, This must be a mistake. What if I show up to the interview and they say, “Sorry, we have no records of you. It must have been a miscommunication.” At least then it would all make sense. I don’t say these things to self-flatter or to self-deprecate, only to give a voice to my darkest fears in this moment. Tomorrow, though, I’m interviewing at Stanford Medical School and that is a reality I never dreamed of coming true. Flying in, over the beautiful city of San Francisco and after coming in from Los Angeles, I thought about my hometown and how drastically different this is from that. I feel like I don’t belong here, like it is all a big mistake and I’m the butt of the joke, but somehow I know this is where I’m supposed to be.

I’m overwhelmed with appreciation at how far I have come and how beautiful this moment is, like finally letting air out of a balloon that has been way too full for way too long. I never expected this moment, but I know I worked hard for it. I never felt entitled to anything but felt indebted to giving this dream everything I’ve got; I reflect on everything I’ve worked diligently for and how I have sacrificed some of the ordinary joys of a 20-something to make it this far. Those moments lost are worth it, because the feeling of accomplishment in this one is so, so sweet. I reflect back, and I feel grateful.

Grateful for the people who helped me get here, financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Thankful for the people who have continuously believed in me, even when I was down on myself. I’m thankful for the people who pushed me to keep going when I wanted to give up. I’m thankful for the people who let me cry on their shoulder when I needed to. I’m not in medical school yet, and I’m certainly not a doctor, but I think it is worth celebrating this moment, no matter what happens in the future.

I have no idea what will occur in the next few weeks, but right now, in a warm and inviting cafe in Northern California, I am so happy. Happy for opportunities, for growth, and for truly having the chance to chase my biggest dreams.

pieces

Two nights ago I went restorative Yin Yoga at Shakti before my first day of classes yesterday. During one of the periods of long, extensive stretching I let my mind navigate to the place it wanted to go without my own coercing. During this small period of tabula rasa, I saw a girl trying to move very large puzzle pieces, almost as large as she was. At first I thought that the girl was actually a child and the puzzle pieces were indeed gigantic. Later I decided that the girl was not a child, but that the puzzle pieces were much larger than I had imagined. In this depiction of these large puzzle pieces, I was soon enlightened to find that the pieces were all different. Some of the pieces were people. Some of the pieces were experiences. Some of the pieces were memories. Some were ideas. Some were bright; some were dark. But the girl was trying so hard to put the puzzle pieces together. Fit this one here, put that one there. But she was struggling, for reasons unknown to me.

Until later.

We are boxes of puzzle pieces. My puzzle, the one specially designed for me, holds many different pieces than yours does. Mine is not any less than yours or better; just different. My pieces have my family, the people who have really taught me to grow, taught me to imagine, taught me to live, and most importantly taught me to love. Each piece is a sister, a mother, a father, a cousin, a brother-in-law, an aunt, a grandmother, a grandfather, a nephew, and the list continues seemingly infinitely. Each person has marked me like a sneaky, steady stream erodes the rock. The results are irreversible, good or bad. There are smaller pieces to my puzzle that are acquaintances, friends, and passers-by. Teachers, preachers, and leavers. The point is, each person I have encountered in my life is special to me because they have made me who I am, without me knowing it. It may be scary (and it is) that I really have limited control over whom becomes a new piece to my dynamic and changing puzzle. My experiences, memories, ideas, beliefs, successes, and failures are all essential elements of what makes my puzzle interesting and unique. They were all there, being ran over with the eyes of a girl trying to figure out where they all fit.

What differentiates me from the eggs, milk, chocolate chips, and flour sitting in a bowl? Why am I different than the neutrons, protons, and electrons out in the universe waiting to collide? How are these elements, when in combination with each other made whole, different from me? What makes me different is beautiful. I am different because I am not a bunch of puzzle pieces sitting in a box. I am not even puzzle pieces sporadically laid out on a table. I may sometimes be a girl trying to fit the pieces together in a way that looks satisfying to my own eye. But most profoundly, I am the daughter of the one interfering with my efforts. I am different from the cookies and the atoms because I am being actively formed. I am not just sitting, waiting to be combined or collided. I am a creation. My efforts are useless. My efforts cause me nothing but confusion. One of the major downfalls to my perception of this reality is that I see only a portion of my puzzle; whereas my Maker sees everything. He understands why some really ugly pieces are there. He knows with utter comprehension why a certain undesirable experience occurred. He knows, not because he sees the final picture, but because He created the final picture. He knows where every person will fit, not because He sees where the pieces should fit (this is the mistaken perception I have), but because He created those pieces to fit together. Some may disagree with this philosophy. And if you do, that is fine. But I would love for you to ascertain the idea that I wholeheartedly believe that you, too, are being created with intention and purpose.

So after seeing my obvious difficulties in trying to solve the puzzle, basically blindly, I have surrendered my efforts. I see the pieces, I acknowledge their importance. My Creator will create me. My Maker will make me. My role in this game is the accept the changes. The good ones. The bad ones. I don’t know what my puzzle will look like, and truthfully I don’t want to know. Because I know that God never creates anything less than perfect. And I rest assuredly in that. So God, take my pieces. And make them perfect in You.

 

namaste

My own health and fitness journey has been somewhat of a hilly ride. Ups and downs of oscillating between being feeling good and feeling like I’m not good enough. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot about my own body, my own boundaries, and my own ways to balance a healthy life. 2015 was my year of finding this balance. I used to spend hours upon hours in the gym lifting weights, doing squats, doing crunches, and running miles on the treadmill. At the time, I thought I was happy. I thought that I was okay with letting an exterior appearance determine so much of my happiness. But I found myself with a lot of anxiety. I was undoubtedly physically stronger. But my mental strength was on the other end of the continuum. I valued appearing strong, appearing fit, and appearing invincible over the truly invaluable qualities of mental happiness and manifesting a physical health that will help me live a long life that is absent of health complications. Fast forward to May of this year, at a place called Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL.

I am infatuated with cardiovascular medicine. The heart is so amazing to me, and it is even more extraordinary how much control we have over the cardiac complications we can develop. For this reason, living a healthy lifestyle means more to me than looking thin in a dress or being happy with the person I see in the mirror. Health to me means finding strength internally and externally. A healthy lifestyle means I try to make healthy choices daily, but I don’t obsess over eating bad. I try to choose the better option for my body, but I don’t get anxiety if I eat something full of sugar and totally not-healthy.

I took my first yoga class in Gulf Shores. I had been trying to do it at home but I had not been using the best resources. But I wanted to try something new, I had just bought new yoga pants and what better place than the beach? So I attended my first hot yoga session and it was HOT and HARD. Truthfully, I almost passed out because of dehydration (sweating a lot with only one bottle of water in me) and temperatures of around 90 degrees in the humidity of a southern summer. But it was wonderful. It was challenging. It was invigorating. It was refreshing. It made me feel strong and whole. That began my love affair with yoga.

Being a college student is tough. There are a lot of demands; most from academic courses, others from social life, spiritual development, clubs, and trying to stay fit. Yoga is my time during the week to strengthen my body physically (I have lost around 9 pounds in college!) and help my mind pause in the midst of a chaotic life. I would recommend yoga to anyone that is trying to overcome workout-related anxiety, gain mental happiness, become healthier for life, strengthen and elongate muscles, gain stability and control, and essentially anyone just curious about a new workout! I want to include some of the resources I find really useful for yoga at home and yoga beginners!

  1. Podcasts. If you’re interested in doing yoga from home but still want to feel like you’re at a class, podcasts are a wonderful resource. I prefer going to class for the group camaraderie but sometimes staying home is the only option! Some of favorites are 502 Power Yoga : Louisville, KY  and Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga with Kinndli. YouTube videos are also always a great option!
  2. A yoga mat. Yoga is possible without a mat, but it definitely makes it easier! A cute mat makes it that much more enjoyable, too. I got mine from here.
  3. Tight fitting clothes. It is difficult to do yoga when your clothes are flopping around everywhere! Tight pants and a form fitting tank top with a sports bra are usually the best options. I love Lululemon apparel (found here) but for more affordable options look at places like Forever 21 (here).
  4. Hot towel and hand towel. If you’re going to try hot yoga (which I would recommend after you have practiced yoga and feel comfortable with some of the poses!),  you will need a towel. I like mat towels because my mat doesn’t stay dry whenever I sweat a lot. Mat towels and hand towels come in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns. I like Yogitoes by Manduka! Find them here.

Here is a video from Reflexion Yoga on YouTube that explains some of the fundamental poses that are essential to grow your practice.

The new year is a perfect time to begin your decision to choose a healthy life! I have found my balance and peace in doing yoga to maintain a fit life and sound mind. Let me know if I can help you with your practice anytime!

new year

Happy New Year’s Eve!

2015 was one of my greatest years so far. I have seen myself grow so much just in the past few months and look forward to how much I will learn about myself and my future in the next year as well. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve this year. My highlights of 2015 include:

  • Gaining my beautiful, healthy baby nephew
  • Getting nominated, interviewed, and selected as Presidential Scholar
  • Spending prom night in Nashville with my very best friends (whom I miss so much)
  • Being Valedictorian for the class of 2015 and the great experiences that entailed
  • Spending two lovely weeks at the beach with my family
  • Taking my first, REAL yoga class at Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL
  • Relaxing over the summer and reading some extraordinary books
  • Shadowing a cardiac electrophysiologist at Vanderbilt
  • Attending NEEDTOBREATHE and For King and Country concerts
  • Moving to Belmont, living with my amazing roommates, and making lifelong memories
  • Getting the opportunity to conduct biological research in neuroscience
  • Finding my niche at Ethos church
  • Continuing to learn through difficult times and lean more dependently on God
  • Realizing life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. But that isn’t what makes it beautiful.

In 2016, I have decided to change up my blog posts! I am going to post more frequently and hopefully I can help others with some of the things I have decided to write about. As you probably know, I am a college student studying biochemistry and wanting to pursue medicine. I would love to incorporate more of my study techniques, my ways to navigate through difficult material, and different things related to my course of study. I am going to post more about my journey through yoga and how I became interested in yoga. I will continue my posts about concepts and ideas, and I look forward to sharing more of my opinions on philosophical texts and ideas. I also want to spend more time focusing on Christianity and spirituality. So if you are interested in very different hobbies and interests, I welcome you to my blog!

For 2016 you can look for posts that center around:

  • My journey as a science major and pre-Med student
  • My ways to find happiness and motivation in high stress situations
  • My thoughts on various scientific and philosophical texts, concepts, and ideas
  • My journey as a yogi, health and wellness tips, and ways to find healthy eats in different places
  • My occasional beauty post or recommendations
  • My raw and vulnerable thoughts as I navigate through difficult times
  • My reasons for being a Christian and some of the readings I find helpful

I am excited about this change for my blog, but I look forward to continuing the types of posts I have been about since day one. I hope many of you can find ways to help me in various aspects of my life as well. I pray for all of you to have a happy new year, and find many joys and successes in 2016!

 

plastic hands

flower envelope.

I started college this past week, and I already have the addition of so many unique experiences. I have been to an outdoor free concert in downtown Nashville, I have exchanged “hellos” with more people than I thought imaginable, I have made friends that I plan to hold onto, I have ran and explored around my magical campus, I have had moments of homesickness, I have attended interesting lectures, I have attended boring lectures, I have eaten at amazing restaurants, I have heard fantastic musicians, and I have most recently spent quite a bit of time in my dorm reading and writing notes and trying to decipher scientific text into simpler terms for my own understanding. But tonight as I write notes over chemistry concepts, my thoughts keep navigating towards neuroscience…

Plasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to change and conform to new environments, new demands, and new experiences. It is a rather novel concept but to me it is absolutely awe inspiring. Our mind is the single most complex organism on our planet and remains the most complex system even when we extend to the Milky Way that envelops us in its gravitational embrace. Our minds, the envy of computational and electrical engineers across the world, is able to physically adapt to change. It is living, growing, and becoming more dynamic with every encounter we have and every memory we form. Your neural connections are on fire as you read this very sentence. Your brain is processing every bit and piece of information and deciding instantaneously where it is to be stored. Why does all of this fascinate me? Because I sometimes feel we as humans forget that we too have this plasticity feature. We are not supposed to remain complacent or dormant. We are not encouraged to become comfortable as the character we were cast for the play of Life. If the brain has the unique quality of changing when needed, of becoming better adapted for the role that it is required to fill, then we need to replicate this quality in our everyday lives. Open up your mind, your home, your heart, and your eyes and look for ways you can become an asset to the vast world around you. Find your passion and fall deeply in love with what it takes to pursue it. Be adaptable. Be the moldable human being God designed you to be. Stretch your beliefs, stretch out your hands to others, and stretch yourself vehemently in ways previously unthinkable. It is my belief that when we use our plasticity as humans, and as lovers, and as sons and daughters, and as warriors, and as citizens, that we have moved towards the bright and hopeful road of satisfying the great Creator.

So go out here. Look for the changes you need to make to be a better person, to make better decisions, and to make the world a better place.

I pray you find your ability to change and use it.

“His master replied, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23.