Why “Why Not” Became the Question to Change My Life!

It seems so simple to say those two words, “why not?”  I had never really considered the power behind these words until they were spoken to me in a new way, in the way that would change my life.  Everyone has an inspirational story, but it is the inspiration of others that helps us to grow and become more.

When I was in my early 20s, I was in a difficult point in my life.  I had left an abusive relationship, was getting divorced, and was a single mom.  I had to find my way out of the pit of depression brought on by years of abuse.  I had to find the strength to juggle work and caring for my child.  I had to learn how to go through the motions each day.  Yet, I knew I had so much potential that was burning inside of me.  It was there, just waiting for me to let it out.

One day, I was having lunch with my mother, and I was telling her about the Harry Potter series and how much it had inspired me.  I was always a bookworm, and I loved every genre.  From the fantasy worlds that gripped me with their magic, to the tragic tale of Les Miserables, I was devouring books as a child and teenager.  When I discovered Harry Potter, I escaped the monotonous life I was in and found my passion for stories again.  I told my mother how I wished I could take the stories I had in my head, and write a book like Rowling did.  Then, it happened.

She asked me “why not write a story?”

It took me a few moments to think about it, and I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason.  What was stopping me?  It was my disbelief in myself.  I never thought I could do it.  I did not believe I could possibly accomplish this feat of writing a novel.  So, I challenged myself to write a novel, and I did.  While the story is great, it needs work, and I realized I needed to go back to school, grow, learn, and pursue my passions.  Now, when I think I wish I could do something, I ask, “why not?”  This simple question has changed my life, and I hope it can inspire others to change theirs.

Thank you mom!!!

Dare to Dream, and Embrace Inspiration!

The moment I stopped dreaming is the moment I ended up in some of the lowest point in my life.  From wading through the oppression of an abusive relationship to entering the focus of caregiving for a while.  I have found that life is full of inspiration, and some of it comes out of those darkest moments.  Then, the light emerges once more and dreams become possible again.  Without the struggles, I would not have the experience or inspiration to write.

What it boils down to is that dreaming leads to great things if you have the will and determination to pursue those dreams.  Everyone should dare to dream, and embrace the inspiration that pours from the wounds of their life.  This is what makes us human, relatable, and interesting.  We all have great springs of stories that fall in tears, and everyone must climb through trenches that were created by mistakes and poor decisions.  However, not everyone can turn these moments into inspiration for dreams and goals.  Many will live and die in tragedy.  Those that are able to tell their stories or create a masterpiece from the various colors of their life journey are the ones that become authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, and motivators.

I have learned this lesson, and I am taking the many sources of inspiration in my life to create something inspiring.  I have been a dreamer on and off, but as I have overcome more, my dreams have grown, and I will not stop until I reach my goals.  I have made it to that point that many may never get to, and I hope to inspire others to get to this point as well.  It is crucial for people to have a dream, but without the willingness to take action and to take a risk, it will never become a reality.  Be one of the stars that lights the way for others.  Take your dream and make it whole, tangible, and real.  Become the inspiration for others who are still trudging in their self-made trenches, seeking a light to guide them.

Why “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg Can Help You!

I have heard fellow business students speak about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” over the past semester and knew I had to read it.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the business world is evolving and women are taking more risks, or if it is because I attend an all women’s day college, but the popularity of this book is making its mark.  I have lofty goals and know the glass ceiling still exists in many ways for women.  As soon as my semester was over, I dove into this book.  The main concept that is discussed in this book is the fact that women tend to steer clear of the table, when they should be willing to sit down, even if they are the only woman, and “lean in.”  It is necessary for women to become more involved in the business, the dialog, the negotiations, and to not fear discussing important topics.

Sandberg even goes as far as discussing the need for women to speak about their family choices such as having a baby, and to not turn down opportunities because they think their pregnancy or children will affect it.  Instead, they should determine the choice they make based on their desires.  I have seen how women limit themselves, and I am a shining example of this as I have always put others ahead of myself, until recently.  I think Sandberg makes an important point because women tend to remain silent when they should be speaking up!  It is crucial for women to know where they are going and what they want.

As more equality is found in the workplace, more fathers will need to step up, and I have seen this happening as well.  My husband is incredibly supportive, and while I can nitpick and say he is not taking on enough housework, he takes on a great deal of the work with the kids.  I assume that as I work more outside of the home, he will step up even more and take on housework.  Sandberg shows the unfortunate seclusion men face when they become the primary caregivers for their children, and this dynamic also needs to change if women are to rely on them more.  The important thing is for the dialog to continue so changes can be made.  Women need to “lean in” because their opinions and challenges matter.  Without an equal say, there cannot be an equal society.

Sandberg brings up important topics, some of which are already widely discussed, but her overall message is important to the development of women in the workforce.  There are many things I will take away from this book, but more importantly, when I find myself backing away from a situation because I am one of the only women, or I am nervous, I will “lean in.”

The Power of Determination

It seems only fitting that I blog about this truly important word.  Determination.  I am at the end of the fall semester, and I have papers, projects, tests, and plenty of other assignments to complete.  Like all college students, I am having to pull from the massive force of determination I have to complete my assignments, and to do them well.  I have the added work load of having my wonderful family to care for, and my job as well.  In fact, as the holidays approach, my home has erupted into mayhem and my son has become quite a handful as he has decided to give up on his grades in high school.  Yes, this means I am faced with many challenges, all at the same time.  This is when determination becomes central to my ability to overcome.

I know everyone has their own unique roadblocks that seem to erupt at once, so this is a topic that can apply to everyone.  I have found the more I am weighed down by these obstacles, the harder I push back.  It is because my desire to achieve great things and to help others is stronger than the weight of chaos.  Unfortunately, this is not necessarily going to inspire the same initiative in everyone.  I have tried to inspire my son to push back as well, but his mind works differently, and the more I try to control him or even help him, the more he pulls away.  I have backed off to see if this makes a difference.  For those with a mentally ill child, you know the difficulties that can arise, and that they do not always respond how you may expect them to.  So how can we help them to become determined?  The honest answer is that I do not know.  This is something I am still working on.  In the meantime, I can control myself, and I will carry as much as I can, and I will succeed because I will not accept less from myself.

Determination is not only useful in education, it is needed when adopting a healthy lifestyle, it is used in your career, when budgeting and saving money, and in so many other ways.  People who excel in sports must have this trait.  Those who become leaders, politicians, authors, and so many other fields need to be determined.  So how can you find this within yourself when you are overwhelmed?  You have to have a reason to work for the ultimate goal.  What is it you hope to achieve and why is it worth it?  If it is important to you, you will find the determination you need to succeed.  The semester is almost over for me, and I know only one more semester is between me and my graduation.  This is what pushes me to excel.  Think about the goals in your life and if you are working as hard as you can to reach your goal, if not, you may not be as passionate about it as you thought.  Perhaps it is time to reevaluate your goals and plans because you should be passionate about what you are working towards.  You should be working towards fulfillment and happiness.

Empowering Women Series!

I am going to write about this ever-important topic this week because this is something that affects both men and women.  There is still a gap in pay between the genders, a glass ceiling, and a social model that objectifies women.  There are women around the world with no control over their lives, their bodies, or their fates.  There are women in abusive relationships who struggle to keep any shred of confidence or dignity.

How does this affect men?  As times change, men are seeing how this inequality affects their mothers, aunts, wives, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters.  They see co-workers who work just as hard, if not harder, get less pay.  They see the statistics and actual benefits of having women at the top, at board meetings, in project committees, and in other leadership roles.  The data is there, and it will be explored later this week in a blog post detailing the ways women can benefit companies who invest in them.  When men and women come together, share ideas, and work together, great things happen.

How can we empower women today?  There are various avenues that should be taken to help women to succeed.  It begins with a change in stereotypes and mindsets that limit the expansion of women in fields typically enjoyed by men.  The sciences is just one example, and women are finally breaking the glass ceiling in this area, but not completely.  More work needs to be done.  From helping girls to realize their potential in the earlier years of school, supporting them when they have dreams to accomplish great things, allowing them to lead without being termed “bossy,” and listening to them, we can initiate changes.

Colleges tend to have higher rates of women working toward degrees compared to men, yet, men still hold a vast majority of the executive positions.  This is a problem.  Women are not hired or advanced in some careers because they are of child-bearing age.  It is time to cast aside the plague of discrimination that permeates our society and become a part of an advanced, equal, more successful 21st century.  Join me this week as I tackle the various reasons that hold women back, analyze the statistics related to this important issue, and explore simple changes we can make in our lives to become empowered, or for men, ways you can help to empower the women in your lives.

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Reflections of Walden Pond

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Two years ago, during my second semester at Cedar Crest College, my “Edgar Allan Poe and the Mad Romantics” class went on a trip to Salem and Concord, MA.  While there are many experiences I has on that trip, and I will visit them later in my blogs, the day at Walden Pond was uniquely transcendent.

The early fall day hung over us, it was a cloudy day with rain barely held in by the clouds, waiting to burst open.  The pond held the reflections of newly changed leaves and the remnants of a green summer.  What was most profound was the feeling that Thoreau’s footsteps still echoed in the heart of the land, under the years of changing landscape.  His words were whispered by the trees as visitors from all over the world came to find solitude where Thoreau did, even if it was just for an hour.

I did not have a spiritual epiphany, nor did I figure out the secrets of the world, but I was able to see the land, the natural space, that so influenced a writer who holds the hearts of so many.  I connected to the experience as I drew in the chilly fall air, and felt I was on the right path in my life.  I escaped, for a moment, from the crowded moments of technology, and the fast pace of the world we know today.

I saw the reflections of the trees, and thought of Thoreau’s words, “Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; —a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun’s hazy brush,—this the light-dust cloth,—which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still.” (Thoreau Chapter 9 “The Ponds”)

Because I had read Walden Pond, I saw the pond through his eyes, and I walked away with an understanding that the natural world holds many lessons, if we can find time from our busy schedules to learn them.

The Beauty of Narrative!

I was lucky enough to have my Narrative Medicine professor, Gillian Pidcock, invite me to accompany her to New York City today for the open mic night for authors published in the new Fall 2014 Edition of “The Intima.”  This incredible journal is filled with stories of narrative medicine.  The topics spread across various stages of interactions with illness and healing.  The authors, each carrying a tale of loss, pain, understanding, or healing, read with the emotion truly befitting stories of humanity.

That is what narrative medicine is, a compilation of our stories as we traverse the inevitable world of illness.  We will all face a moment where we must care for someone we love, watch as our parent takes their final breath, endure an unbearable silence as we are given a diagnosis beyond our comprehension, or fight to survive through pain that suffocates us.  This is part of the human journey, the inevitability of mortality.

I could feel the passion, pain, and heartbreak fill the room as these narratives were read.  It was an experience that helped me to see the value in narrative medicine as patients are treated as a number, and caregivers are cast aside as “merely” a caregiver.  These stories highlight the need for humanity to find its way back into the medical world.  The need for patients, caregivers, and doctors to find a way to communicate on a human level.  Without this connection, we lose a bit of ourselves, that which makes us special.  We become a hospital bracelet, a test, or a file.

Please check out “The Intima,” and read these amazing stories. http://www.theintima.org/

Inspiration from Gwyneth Lewis

Gwyneth Lewis, Poet Laureate of Wales, among many other titles, visited Cedar Crest College this week.  I was lucky enough to be invited to have dinner with her along with faculty and a fellow student.  Not only does Gwyneth Lewis write poetry ripe with description, she is inspiring to speak with.

I am using her epic poem, “A Hospital Odyssey,” for an essay in my Narrative Medicine class.  This poem is more of a journey into the depths of illness and healing which parallels Dante’s Divine Comedy.  It is impossible to not be swept into this fantastical world that became hers when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Having my own experiences watching my children suffer through their illnesses, I could relate to the odyssey she portrays.

She was open to speaking with me at dinner about her experience and how she wrote this incredibly personal narrative in a beautifully poetic form.  I found Ms. Lewis to be a remarkable woman, willing to share her expression of pain and hope through the powerful form of language.  She writes in both Welsh and English, and does so with passion for words.  My life has been enhanced because I was able to spend the evening listening to this woman, and I am sure I will find even more meaning as I delve into the passages of her book and write my essay.  If you seek poetry about the truth of depression, healing and illness, relationships, and pain, read Gwyneth Lewis’ work.

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Inspiration from Jean Kwok

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to have breakfast with Jean Kwok, bestselling author of Girl in Translation, and Mambo in Chinatown.  She was a guest speaker at Cedar Crest College, and I was the one chosen to give a short speech/introduction of her before she spoke to the school.  One of the first things I noticed about her was how welcoming, energetic, and open she was.

There were eight of us at the breakfast, including Ms. Kwok, and she told us about her experiences as a writer, her joy at being able to share her life with others, and some hints about a book she is currently writing.  She made everyone at the table feel comfortable, and she listened to our questions.

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After my introduction, she complimented me and even said “that has to be one of the best introductions I have received”.  She didn’t know at the time, but I was so nervous to speak in front of a group of people, and to introduce a bestselling author was terrifying to me.  She helped boost my confidence, and because of that moment, I have been able to speak at other engagements where I have received more praise.

That evening, she spoke about her life and how her experiences after emigrating to the United States impacted her and her family.  She spoke about her family, her education, and how she worked in a clothing factory as a child, at night.  She has taken desperate circumstances, and worked hard to become an inspiration to others.  She now speaks to people around the world, and she is an icon for determination.  She inspired me to push myself even harder.

I highly recommend her books for anyone who has not read them.  She weaves a fiction from her real life experiences, but the honesty of her living conditions help to create a deeper understanding of what it means to struggle, and to find a way out.  If you ever get a chance to listen to her speak, take it, because she has an incredible story.

I will be having dinner with and listening to the Poet Laureate of Wales, Gwyneth Lewis, next week, and will post an update afterwards.  Stay tuned.