For Maddie Elliott

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on the fragility of our human lives, the time limits on all of us that we simply cannot see. I know that I wrote it yesterday, yet I had no idea I was actually writing about one of the most beautiful souls kristina-m-m-158842I have ever known. I was yet to realize a wonderful friend and kind heart had just been lost.

This is for Madeline Elliott.

Though I knew her through classes and crossed paths throughout the years, even I could tell that Maddie was truly one of a kind. She was the kind of girl who could bring a smile to anyone’s face with one of the most infectious laughs I have ever heard. Every time I talked to her, whether it was about something important or simply trivial, we always ended up talking for so much longer than we had planned because she was just that kind of personshe could connect with anyone.

From the moment I met her I knew one thing: this girl is going to touch so many lives. And she has. Because it isn’t about how long you live, but truly how you live. She did it beautifully. From someone who keeps their phone password as her birthday and the best friends whose lives were changed with her in it, to the strangers she passed on the street with a simple smile to lighten their day and the people who knew her, adored her, and she didn’t even know… This girl was incredible. Her presence was a light in so many peoples lives, including mine, and when I said in my post yesterday to tell people you love them, I meant it. Because things like this happen, we lose people, and loved ones are gone before they had a chance to make this life their own. But I know that Maddie did, she lived a beautiful life of faith, impacting so many people with who she was. Her loss is a great one, her love was infectious, and her memory will last forever in each one of us.


I wrote this for you Maddie.

I live for the strangers who smile at me as they pass by and those who always remind me that they care.

I live for the “have a good night”‘s from the elderly because they’ve seen enough of bad ones, they know life can be unfair.

I live for the people who know how to laugh, straight from the belly with their heads tipped back in abandon.sabine-van-straaten-280388

And I live for the people who have changed my life, and they never even knew how many pieces of me came from them.

There’s something about free spirits, the ones who’s hearts beat and it feels like the world is beating along;

Every breath they take, the wind blows a little longer. Every connection they make, their life grows a little stronger.

There is warmth in their smile, their hope, their being— that irreplaceable kind of energy that makes the world keep moving

and time keep changing, as the world around us moves, these are the kind of people who help us to get up and move along too.

But sometimes we have to slow down, we lose something big, someone important, and we forget about the moving,

the loving, the changing, the hoping… We might forget about the living to mourn those who can no longer do so.

So what do you do when the one who embodied the idea of life with their own, with their living and loving and hoping;

aaron-burden-195608The idea of making every breath one of beauty, of light, of changing the world by just being part of it.

What do you do when they’re gone?

You stop, take a moment, maybe two— take as many as you need— and you hold on to the blessing it is to know someone like that.

Take a breath, take a few, and remember what it means to tell someone those three little words, “I love you.”

Remember their heart that beat for the world to beat with them, remember the smiles they offered, the hope that they held.

Remember the moments they changed your life, the laughs they abandoned themselves to, the memories they made.

You hold on to the love they left behind for you.

And you spread that love, that hope, that faith; you spread it until there is no place in this world left untouched.

Make the laughter they held the healing you feel as time jerry-kiesewetter-189034goes on and the wounds of loss begin to close.

Say what you mean, those three little words, as many times as it takes for someone else to hear your voice.

And be there, in this world, be present in the lives of those you love. Because we never know how much time any of us have

to leave something good behind while we can.


My prayers go out to her family and her friends, to all those who knew Maddie, for my heart is with you. If anyone would like to support them in this time, here is the link to the gofundme page for Madeline.

In the words of Helen Keller,

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.”

Growing Up: 4 lessons I’ve learned from Books

With finals coming up next week and a weekend ahead of too much studying, instead I’ve been thinking about all the books I haven’t gotten to read this summer. From the classics I bought a few weeks ago at Barnes & Noble to my favorites that I still enjoy re-reading, I’m the kind of person who learns a lot from my books.

I’m also the kind of person who ignores what I learn from what I read.aga-putra-125108

That being said, I think we could all use a reminder every once in awhile take a break and hold onto the things that used to mean a lot to us. So as a little motivation for the upcoming weekend and a reminder that there are still two weeks to catch up on reading before the new quarter starts, here are four of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from literature. And you can bet that Fitzgerald made this list.

Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

No matter who you are, how much money you have, or who you’ve been in the past, life is something that will always come with obstacles. If you’re like me, the hardship of doing something or the fear of what it will take to get there can stop us from even trying. We decide not to race. But in The Art of Racing in the Rain, told from the perspective of a dog, it really is the effort that counts. That’s the thing about life… We have to be willing to fail, otherwise what would life be to us? Failure is a part of the game, nidhin-mundackal-281287like getting on a bike for the first time. Even if your parents told you that you’re not going to fall a few times, you are. They lied to you. But that’s the point, you’re supposed to learn all about it along the way, it’s how we become who we are. As for the falling part, you don’t stop tripping as you get older. You simply figure out how to fall the right way.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“No good sitting and worrying, what’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does.”

If I told you that I do my fair share of worrying on a daily basis, that would be an understatement. I’m a worrier. A big one. Summer quarter hasn’t finished yet, but somehow I’m still thinking about the midterms I know are coming by the first week of October. Does that mean the worrying prepares me for the tests any better? Not really. But I’m not the only one who thinks about things like this, a lot of us do it. One thing that a lot of people forget to do, however, is live in the moment. Sometimes we have to take things in stride. If anyone was good at that, it would be the young witches and wizards in Harry Potter— with the wrath of Voldemort and the pieces of his soul breathing down on them, they didn’t have time to get caught up in what might be coming. Neither do we. Because as much as I would like to say we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us to worry, there’s no guarantee there will be a tomorrow for each of us. And at some point, we’ve got to start living. Why not now?

Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

When I made the decision to switch my major to English, I wanted to mark the change with something permanent, even if it was something small. So I filled the top of my laptop with quotes that mean something to me, little reminders of the lives I’ve lived through literature. Among them is this beautiful line of fiction, possibly one of the best. As someone who has high aspirations and dreams of who I want to be, I also want to change from who I’ve been in the past. robert-crawford-12905But it does not bode well to dwell on dreams and forget about reality in the process. I know that a lot of us hope for these changes, the hope to become someone better or to succeed in a way that fulfills our dreams… Even while we do so, we also have to remember that the only way to be better than who we used to be, we have to know who we were first. To get to the future, we have to be present.

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”

Last but never the least, let’s talk about love— it all comes down to the beating heart of humanity. Love is the kind of thing that you can ask someone what it means get a different answer every single time. I wrote an essay last year defining love as “a manmade construct used to symbolize devotion, with no real concrete definition due to its reliance on singular experiences that differ from person to person.” It cannot be defined by gender or by passion or by sex or by society. Love is feeling, it’s telling someone to call when they get home safe, or asking how their day was and caring about the answer, or twenty seven years of sticking by their side in sickness, in health, and everything in between. Love is listening to someone’s heartbeat against yours, the only sounds in the room, and understanding that you don’t daria-sukhorukova-496 (1).jpgalways need words to tell someone how you feel. In a generation said to have forgotten what “love” means, I don’t think that’s the case. Like anyone else, we just express it in our own ways that grow and change with who we are. No one can tell us how we are supposed to feel it, we just do. And I can be okay with that.

 

No matter what you find in your life or how it impacts you, the lessons we learn have the potential to change who we are from little bits of our personalities to the people we want to be. I feel like learning from books is a chronicle of time, the timeless value of life in literature. If we can’t learn something valuable from that, can we ever learn anything at all?

Happy Friday everyone, until next week.

How to “Do Good Work”

Almost two weeks back home now and I’ve been catching up on my reading lists little by little. By now, I’ve read at least 2,500 pages between about 5 books, added far too many quotes to my quote wall, and found one book that I am discovering so much in that I just had to share it with you all.morgan-harper-nichols-157838.jpg

In 1999, Stephen King wrote a book called On Writing, a memoir on the craft of writing itself. Though I like it for its specificity to what I want to do for the rest of my life, I have found that a lot of it applies to anything else in this world too. There are a few quotes I could pull from it that really stand out to me, but there is one that I think I like just a little more than the others— you’ll see why in a second.

Keep in mind that mind that we live in a world where the work never stops, people are always moving, multitasking (no, not orange) is the new black, and the sky isn’t quite the limit anymore. The limit seems to be wherever we decide to put it; we’re the only one’s who have that power when it comes to our own work. Take my writing for example, I’m only as good as I put in the work to be— if I don’t have time to read then I will never have time to write. That’s the limit. For other people, it could be a mental block, holding themselves back when they could do more and be more if that was something they truly wanted. It’s not always about the time, but the work we put in towards whatever goal we are trying to reach.

Like Stephen King said, “Sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

Ever felt like that?

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I know we’ve all been there, almost like trying to make yourself go to the gym but all you can seem to do take a short walk on your lunch break  instead. Or every time you try to create something new and better than the last thing you did, it turns out to be so much less than you had hoped it would be…

It’s called trying. The key phrase in King’s quote is that still, you’re doing good work.

Have you ever taken a video and then watched it, only to cringe at the sound of your own voice in the background? I know I really don’t like hearing myself on video, most people don’t. But if you ask anyone else if it sounds as annoying as you think, they’ll probably say no. It’s all in your head.

Now take this idea and extend it to the work you do or the effort you put into different aspects of your life— just because it doesn’t quite turn out the way you want it to or falls short of your expectation doesn’t mean it isn’t just as important as all of your successes., even if you can’t see that. The big idea behind it all is perseverance, I don’t know where any of us would be without it.

I am nineteen years old, the last time I can still claim the title of teenager, and quite possibly the final year I can keep my grip on the chunk of adolescence I know I’m going to lose hold of within the next year. My friends are all growing up, getting engaged, moving away, tanner-larson-297481and pursuing a future for themselves. My parents and my friends parents are all gearing up to finish what they started with us, sending the last of us to college, taking vacations without us, and finding their way to the hopeful retirement that seems to keep upping the age every year.

Yet it seems that no matter where we’re at in this moment or where we’re headed in the near future, we’re probably going to hit a few roadblocks and end up “shoveling shit” in the process. That doesn’t mean we should quit, and that definitely doesn’t mean we’re not good at what we do. I think it just means we’re human.  And as humans, whether we know it or not, we will always find our way back to doing good work when we’re ready to.