Be there for the world


It’s a beautiful mid-November day, almost so lovely that you can’t believe in a few months harsh winds and heaps of snow will make all interactions with outside nearly intolerable. As I walk home from the train, I listen to an episode of Lena Dunham’s staggeringly good podcast, Women of the Hour. This episode is about bodies and woman after woman explains her own journey to accepting her body. One woman, the filmmaker Rachel Fleit, talks about having alopecia, a disorder where her body rejects hair. She describes having to accept her condition as how she was meant to live and using that to “be there for the world” as she is.

Be there for the world.

That phrase echoes in my mind and I think about what that means. Sometimes it’s being who we are and believing that is enough. Sometimes it’s being kind and gracious to at least one human.

It’s not always easy to be there for a world that is an ugly, unsafe and destructive place. We feel scared, unwanted, too small to make a difference. We are all hurting a bit after some unspeakable acts occurred in multiple cities across the world in the last few days. It’s not only painful, but now we have a deeper fear that wasn’t present a week ago.

We all want to do something, but feel powerless. We changed our status, we call to question decisions made by our leaders, we point out other situations that also need our attention and prayers. We want to be there for the world but this is all we’ve got, or so we think.

When things like the attacks that happen this weekend occur, I often try not to read too much about it. I like to get the basics, but I do not allow myself to read up on each detail and click through the horrific images. .

Instead, I try to be just a bit better in my daily life. I smile harder at the cashier, I call my mother, I compliment someone. These are all very small things but it’s how I process and grieve the injustices.

The world really needs us to be there for it right now. No, a woman sitting at her computer in Illinois probably can’t stop terrorism or eliminate poverty or even shame her Facebook friends into caring about the same thing she does, but she does have the power to be a good person right in the moment. She can be herself and be kind doing it. That’s all the world has ever asked of her.

Maybe we can’t change the world as individuals, but we can all be better humans. Let’s hold doors open. Let’s not post shitty things on the internet about people we disagree with. Let’s smile more at strangers. Let’s forgive. Let’s seek out understanding. Let’s remind the people we love them that we do.

Better people means a better world.

Why I quit NaNoWriMo already

This blog has gotten quite dusty in the last few months. I could tell you that I’ve been busy, that I am focusing on other writing, blah blah blah. Truth is, I don’t have a really good excuse.

When I started this blog, at the beginning of the year, I was lonely, directionless, and not in a good space. I’d break down on the bus crying or would bother my friends for hours seeking reassurance that I would be OK because I wasn’t sure I would be. Then, around April/May,  I started making some hard decisions and clearing my life of things that were no longer serving me. That makes it sound like I became a kiss-ass version of myself and all of my problems melted away, but it was less inspiring than that. Small shifts here and there started to add up and by July I was the happiest I’ve been in a really long time. I am still riding that wave.

My writing, though, that’s another story. It’s like the ache you feel in your knee that you ignore until you no longer can. I would often tell myself that I needed to write but wouldn’t. I’d find something else to do or give into my fears. I put it off for so long that even when I sat down to write something at work I would obsess over each phrase, believing it was terrible and I have no right to ever call myself a writer.

Successes in other parts of my life – training for a marathon, taking a storytelling class – were enough to quite the voice in my head.

At the end of last month, I started to look at how 2015 has unfolded and was really pleased with the things I’ve been able to do and accomplish. For a second I thought that I could coast on into the next year, spending the last few months binging on Christmas movies and holiday treats, but then the voice that I’ve ignored for months was able to be heard again.

Write. I needed to write.

It was nearly November and I thought that I could do National Novel Writing Month. I completed this while I was in Lesotho and look back to it as a good experience. I came up with an idea, and like my first attempt it is loosely autobiographical. It was a last minute decision on Sunday, November 1, but I ended the day at 1,700 words.

Then next morning, at 5:30 a.m., I pounded out more words with the same kind of excitement to be writing and thinking again.

However, the motivation quickly died. It could have been the daily word goal, the early wake up calls or the unthought out idea, but within days I dreaded the moment my alarm went off and I would have to write. Just like when I was training for the marathon, it would always get better as I actually did it but I never felt super proud of what I was doing. It had become a chore.

On Tuesday I got up an hour earlier and I did write but not for NaNoWriMo. Instead I wrote what I was feeling in my heart and then I started my day feeling accomplished and knowing the little nagging writing voice inside of me was satisfied. Today, I did the same but worked on editing and rewriting a piece I submitted for publication. Again, I felt happy and complete.

While I think my original idea for this NaNoWriMo does deserve some exploring, I think I am going to quit this venture 11 days into November. Part of me feels ashamed and that I am being lazy, another part a bit relieved that I don’t have arbitrary goals that I need to sacrifice for.

That doesn’t mean I am going to stop writing. Earlier this year, I began writing essays for a book that I hope to finish earlier next year and I am going to direct my attention to that. It’s the story in my heart that I absolutely feel that I need to tell for me, not for anyone else. And so that’s what I am going to do because, as Elizabeth Gilbert says, this thing wants to be made as much as I want to make it.

I am glad I started this journey because it got me writing again, and maybe that’s all I needed and not to write a book my heart wasn’t super into. What I learned from my turnaround earlier this year that it is OK if I don’t do everything and that sometimes I quit and disappoint. I can only serve and be good to others if I am being good to me. For me, at this moment, that means writing the book I am supposed to write and doing so on my terms.

3 1/2 Minutes

I have a knowledge gap of events and news that happened between 2011-2013. It’s mostly songs, movies or light news that came out between those years, but there is two year’s worth of things that I missed because I was living in a hut in rural Africa. Big news, such as the Boston Marathon bombings or the 2012 presidential election, made it to me but much didn’t and, two years later, I’m still catching up.

It’s because of this knowledge gap that I didn’t know who Jordan Davis is, nor his story. It’s possible that I did hear the story and forgot, but I wasn’t exposed to the constant news cycles about Jordan Davis the way I was with stories about Michael Brown or Freddie Gray.

Last evening I attended a screening of the documentary “3 1/2 Minutes 10 Bullets” about the death of Jordan Davis and the trial of Michael Dunn. The story, as it intertwined from the evening Jordan was murder to the final guilty verdict of first degree murder, was all unfamiliar information to me.

After the movie, Jordan Davis’ mother and father, along with the film’s producer, took questions from a moderator and audience. His parents have bravely used their situation to be on the front lines of igniting change when it comes to gun laws and racial tension.

I wanted to ask his mother, Lucy, a question. For several minutes, I thought about getting up to the mic and waiting until it was my turn. With a shaky voice, I would start by thanking her for courageously sharing her story and then I would ask her the one question that burned through me as I watched the film: What can I do? I didn’t and just listen to the other questions.

While I was in Lesotho, I once got a ride from a couple from South Africa. The man was Afrikaans and the woman, as she told me, was Indian but her family had been living in Durban for years. As we talked, the woman started to make very racist comments about “those blacks.” It led to a discussion about an apartheid and I started in about Civil Rights and the changes in the U.S. since then. Part of me knew I was talking without good information, but I truly believed, in my own little world, that the U.S.’s racial issues had improved since the 1960s.

“You Americans, you think you are so much better than us,” she turned around from the passenger seat to look at me in the back. “You are not. You have just as many issues as we do and racism is still a major issue in your country.”

I wanted to refute that, but I knew there was truth to it. I wanted to argue that Civil Rights was several decades prior while apartheid was only two, but I couldn’t because I truly didn’t know the racial climate in my own country. Or, if I did, I chose to ignore it as a major problem.

The discussions on racial tension and gun violence in our country have opened wide up since I returned. Every time a Michael Brown or Sand Hook is dragged into the news and everyone’s fingers point in opposite directions, I go numb. I notice it until hurts, almost like touching a burner to see if it is hot, and then I turn away. I don’t post much about it on social media and I’ll mostly just listen as people bring it up in social conversations.

For most of my life, I’ve kept my opinions to myself out of fear of how I will be perceived. It’s so much easier to be a mute than be the one everyone rolls their eyes out. But as I stared at a woman and father who unjustly lost their son I realized I can’t do that anymore. My heart is so broken from the way we treat human lives in this nation that I can no longer pretend it is not happening.

I don’t know what I am going to do forward, except look for opportunities. Where I can led my voice I will. Where I can be involved in the conversation I will. Where I can be involved in the solution I will.

What can I do? I can stop ignoring.

Drop in the bucket

Children from my village in NIger.

Children from my village in Niger

This evening I attended a lecture given by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I read “Half the Sky” during pre-service training when I was in Lesotho and thought they would have some interesting things to say. The married couple is promoting a new book, “A Path Appears” about opportunities to make a difference in the world and living a life of giving, and as I slowly begin to think about long-term goals for myself I thought I could maybe draw insight from these profound journalists.

I read “Half the Sky” at a moment in my life when I felt very sure of what I was supposed to be doing. Although I did question how effective my work in Lesotho was, I rarely questioned why I had come. I knew that I was living out a greater purpose and contributing to something bigger than myself, even if that contribution was minuscule compared to Lesotho’s great challenges, such as malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and poor education structures. At least I was trying.

During the lecture, Nicholas and Sheryl told stories of how small contributions can make changes. They acknowledged that crises in Sudan and Syria can’t be solved by do-gooding individuals, but we all have the power to drop a bit in the bucket and maybe that little drop could start a ripple. Just merely believing in drops in the buckets is the very first step, Nicholas said.

While they spoke, I began to think about my friends doing incredible work in Chad, Uganda and Madagascar, or my friends who’ve started socially consciences businesses or are studying to take on some of the world’s greatest health issues. My day-to-day life seems so pathetic compared to these people, people who believe in the power an individual has to ignite change and are out there doing it to their best ability. I felt sorry for myself, guilty and ashamed, wondering why I wasn’t doing more.

On the way home, I sat next to a young woman with a stroller. Her infant daughter cooed while the woman spoke on the phone. We got off at the same stop and I was slightly annoyed because she was taking up much of the entry, and I had to walk to the other side of the plank to get around her.

I figured she would take the elevator, but when we both reached the stairs it occurred to me that this stop didn’t have an elevator. I asked her if she needed help getting the stroller down the three flights of stairs. She nodded yes.

Months ago, agonizing over what my purpose is in life the way a teenager girl does about whether or not the boy in her class likes her, I told a friend that I wanted to do something big with my life. He said that sometimes we don’t need to have great achievements or travel to the other side of the world to be good people; we can do that in the moment.

Sometimes we get so much pressure to do more and be more that anxious people like me don’t see what they are capable of in the moment. We can be extra nice to the customer service rep, thank a co-worker who did something helpful for you, give up your seat on the train, or open the door for someone. No, these small gestures are not going to end civil wars, eradicate poverty or feed hungry children, but they send out a cosmic message that people are good. There is hope.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you, where you are.” Just believe that drops in the buckets matter and slowly you’ll see yourself letting a few fall.


I can’t sleep.

My mind is running, ruminating, over old thoughts from years ago that can still aggravate me when triggered. Tonight’s fuel is a few Instagram photos, which led to some Facebook stalking, posted by a former colleague. This is a person I worked with so long ago that’s probably unfair to continually judge us both as version’s of ourselves that we no longer are, but I am still bitter.

This story isn’t that interesting. Basically, I invested in another person and the person’s work, my support was not applauded or rewarded in the way I wanted it to be (thanked never, in my version of the story) and the person went on to great things, never acknowledging or needing me. All I ever wanted from this person was validation, and it was never given to me.

All of this hits me at a time when I am taking some hard looks at my life and, as cryptic as that seems, I am actually quite happy at the moment. Most things in my life are going really swimmingly, but I want to catapult this moment into another great phase, but I am not exactly sure what that is. My job has a five-year limit and so I am starting to play with some potential life paths, thinking that I have time to make tough decisions and lay the foundation necessary. I’ve been nagging friends with heavy questions about their own life decisions and then begging them to decide my fate so I don’t have to.

I am not joking when I say that I have 13 potential ideas for my life and many of them vary different. However, there is always a challenge or a fear that overpowers audacity or authentic passion and I am confused as to where my heart wants to go.

When I think of these things, these ideas, I think of the people who will laugh at me, the people who will say I can’t and then, worse, the people who will not notice. I put a lot of value into other’s opinions of me that mine is sometimes so weak I can’t hear it and when I desperately need it to make a real decision I am can’t hear it at all.

So tonight, when I saw photos of the successful life my former colleague has had, I wondered what I could do to finally get validation from this person. And that makes me sad.

Maybe I don’t know what I want to do with my life, or even the next phase, but I do know that I want to stop doing things for others’ validation. I don’t want my purpose to be the end game anymore.

I know that it’s hard to unthink that way when it’s the only way I’ve ever known, but I have a feeling the answer to my wavering and the validation I am truly seeking, the one from myself, will come when I can start to see myself and all that I am from a different angle. Only when I start searching for my own voice will I hear it.

Why I chose World Vision

Today marks two months until the Chicago Marathon, which simultaneously feels like tomorrow and forever. So much time and not enough.

Even though my IT Band is still giving me some issues, I feel good psychically. The rest of my body is eager to run and feels at ease out there on the trail. I know that the next five-six weeks will be the toughest, but I am OK with it because I also know that once I am out on the streets of Chicago all will be worth it.

My nerves are a bit more touch and go when it comes to the fundraising.

Yesterday, thanks to an anonymous donation (whoever you are, I love you), I was able to hit the halfway mark of my goal – 13 people who don’t have access to clean water will now thanks to some great humans I happen to know.

However, I still have about $700 to raise, which seems doable but not without some uncomfort and awkwardness.

Other members of Team World Vision, those who have run five, six, seven, races with TWV, say that the running a race that the first person who tried it died is the easy part. It’s the asking your friends and family to give some of their hard-earned money to a cause (not just a cause, though, YOUR cause) that is the excruciating part.

When I was about nine years old, standing in front of a cement stoop and trembling with a Girl Scout cookie order form, I decided I would never sell, seek donations or do anything that involves me asking for money ever again. I hate asking people for money because of the awkwardness it imparts on us both and I try to never put myself in that kind of situation.

This past year I’ve thought a lot about the things I am afraid of in life and how that fear paralyzes me. I don’t want to avoid being vulnerable and in turn risking who I want to be. I want to be the person who does things and does things that help other people, not the one who talks about it and says some day. And, as a dear friend once advised me when I was contemplating all the reasons I shouldn’t do Peace Corps, sometimes the reasons why we shouldn’t do something are the reasons why we should. Because I am afraid of asking people for money to support something I truly believe in is the exact reason why I should run this marathon and fundraise along the way.

World Vision is not just a charity I chose because it’s one of the biggest or because they have the brightest jerseys. A lot of people run for TWV because someone spoke at their church or they know someone who has done it for years. For me, it was personal.

Along the road between Maseru and Thaba-Tseka, the road I ran hundreds of times while training for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon and trying to find some kind of normalcy in my life, there is a World Vision sign. WV had worked with leaders in the area to form HIV/AIDS support groups that not only taught prevention but also helped those impacted by the disease, whether it was them personally infected or a family member. The WV team did such a great job integrating people from the surrounding villages in their efforts that they deemed the project sustainable and stepped away from it, allowing villager leaders to be the driving force. What I liked about WV wasn’t that they were dropping in and giving a bunch of things to needy people, rather working with people in those areas to develop sustainable solutions. They also hired Basotho to run the office, not expats.

World Vision, like any aid organization, isn’t perfect but their approach to development, on the ground in Lesotho, wasn’t about giving to feel good, rather being an active member of society to help find solutions because that is our duty as humans.

I wanted to be apart of that, even if in a little way and even if these efforts aren’t directly related to WV’s HIV work in Lesotho. Clean water is still a worthy issue to bring attention to, another firsthand understanding I received in Lesotho and Niger.

Sometimes I wonder if I am not fundraising enough. Today I saw the donation page of a someone trying to raise $10,000 with the marathon right after raising $7,000 for a triathlon. But, just like a marathon, fundraising isn’t about sprinting to the finish or trying to be the best. It’s about exploring the different ways to get to my goal, the fears behind them and then unlocking the courage to be vulnerable and awkward as I ask a friend to give a little bit of their income. Because I may just reach the finish line or I may just find a whole new journey and path.

Yes, raising the second half of my goal is scary and I do worry about it, but sometimes we need to do scary things because we are called to do them. Sometimes we need to face our fears because hiding behind them hurts more than just us.

Please consider helping 1,2 or 3 people get access to clean water. Donate here

Writing again! But not here. But it’s about running!


Hi, loves,

Yes, I know that it has been forever and a day since I’ve really posted on this blog. Do you miss my emotional mess of words? Well, they are coming back.

Sort of.

Not really, actually.

But kind of.

I am currently training for a marathon and decided that I should record the emotional mess that is running a marathon and trying to raise money for a good cause. So, I am jumpstarting my old running blog, A Silly Girl Who Likes to Run. Yes, I know that blog name is ridiculous, but I am committed and hopefully I committed to keeping that thing going. While I won’t go on and on about my emotions and trying to be a better person, I will use running and raising money to talk about my constant struggle of not feeling good enough.

Sounds like a jolly good time, right?


So, for the next few months, join me over at A Silly Girl Who Likes to Run. In the meantime, I will think of something extra awesome to do with this space when I return.

Also, if you feel inclined to support my marathon training and quest to raise money for clean water in Kenya, visit my Team World Vision Fundraising Page.