The Importance of Having Friends Who Are Loyal, Inspiring, and Go-Getters

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As I grow, see the world, and learn, I always come back to one main purpose to life and that’s making connections. Who we love, know, and grow with matters and who we care for, share with, and inspire is just as important. 

I spent most of my youth living in Indiana, growing with the same kids I had known since kindergarten; those friendships I created on the playgrounds, at pop warner football games, and inside the classroom have been forever imprinted on my heart. Through ups and downs, parent’s divorces, lost loved ones, break ups, detentions, and so much more, I understood the importance of valuing the people in my life who showed me love and loyalty at a young age. 

I never wanted to regret not loving big enough, so I loved my friends fiercely and as if they were my own blood, my own family.

I could see the beauty in each flawed friend I had— I took note that we all have our quirks, and questionable characteristics, but the ones who are the most peculiar, most far fetched often need the most love. 

Then when I moved to Florida, I took my mindset about having quality friends over being friends with the masses. It’s wonderful to be kind to each passing face, but it’s also vital to choose people who choose you, and to show up for them, be a consistent motivator and supporter.

It’s easy to stay surface with friends, to gossip, to barely graze over the sticky situations; the challenge is finding people who are on the same wave length, who want to get deep and go beyond what the world sees. When I shared my heart, people began to share theirs and that’s when I built friendships on the foundation of trust, perseverance, and inspiration. 

As an adult, I see the importance of having friends who are not only genuine and authentic, but also have the ability to evoke your passions and inspire you to do and go for your dreams.

The day to day can be filled with chaos, dramas, or letdowns and let’s be honest, life gets in the way at times, texts go unanswered, weeks go by, but the most beautiful friendships and connections aren’t defined by how often you talk or hang out. It’s about how real and deep your energies vibe and connect;  it’s about having friends in your life who give you their perspective, who uplift your spirits, and inspire you to stand back up when you stumble. 

I am so lucky to have those friends from all walks of life with various interests, passions, and goals, but despite our differences, they show up for me, root me on, and I do the same. I love people I connect with fiercely because it really is that deep and those connections are one in a billion. Also, a lot of the most genuine friendships I have made, especially in adulthood, have been because I put myself out there, tore down my walls, made plans, and had 20 seconds of courage to just smile and say hi. So it’s so worth stepping out of your comfort zone to make life-long friends. 

So this is a little reminder to hug your friends a little tighter, say ‘I love you’ a little more often, and to put in the extra effort every now and then. 

Thank you to my best friends, and people I adore more than anything. Shout out to Livia for the FaceTime call that inspired this, you are my inspo!

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Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Interview #1 With St. Lucia PCV Jamelyn Ebelacker

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Interview was conducted by Katie Anderson with Kat’s Eye View and Ashley DeBoer with Thoughtful Blonde

Katie and I prompted questions and Jamie answered, so all the answers will be recorded in first person. 

Interviewee’s Name:

Jamelyn Ebelacker, you can call me Jamie. 

Quick background on Jamie: Jamie is currently serving in St. Lucia, but she began her service in Dominica, where Jamie along with her fellow PCVs were later evacuated due to hurricane Maria 2 years ago. After months of rebuilding and recouping, she had to change her assignment to work in St. Lucia. She is the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean social media guru and a great mentor to many trainees, as she is the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. We are so excited to share her thoughts and advice with you all! 

Educational Background on Jamelyn: 

I went to a very small high school in Anchorage, Alaska at Steller Secondary School. That was the beginning development of my ability to work independently and create projects on my own. Then, I went to the Institute of Native American Arts in Sante Fe, New Mexico, where I got my BFA in New Media Arts. My background is a big driving factor in what I do on the island as far as my projects go, digitally and artistically. 

What is your title/ role in the Peace Corps?

My title is English Literacy Co-Teacher, but you wear many hats here. Some other titles that are used are Literacy Support and Literacy Specialist, but essentially, you are working with a counterpart teacher or two, and then working on different projects and committees. 

 What does a typical day look like for you? Where do you spend your days?

When school is in session, it’s basically wake up, get ready, and then my school is almost in my backyard, so I just walk on over as the bell is ringing. I get there as the kids are lining up then it begins with morning songs, prayers, and then depending on how many teachers are there, it’s a matter of morning exercising, getting the kids settled, and easing them into the day. After that, the day is utter chaos, but it’s FUN. It’s both fun and frustrating, but that’s part of the challenge for the volunteer to make it more fun than frustrating. 

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Why did you choose to serve in the PC/ go to the Eastern Caribbean?

Eastern Caribbean was actually my third choice because I didn’t think I was necessarily qualified for the position, but something drew me to pick the EC as my third choice when I was applying. I’m so happy it did. I think rather than me picking this post, this post picked me. That’s how I’ve continued to feel throughout my service. There’s a continuity of kismet that underlies my service, things that just feel right. Those things remind me that I’m in place that I’m meant to be. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

In my family, I have two places where I draw my inspiration from. First, on my dad’s Native American side, I can come from a very long line of powerful women, matriarchs that really carried the family through tough times and I try to draw inspiration from their struggles and their triumphs. On another part of my family, the multigenerational members of the armed services, I come from a long line of military— both of my parents, grandparents, their parents, and so on, both on the native and non-native side. I knew I always wanted to serve and give back, but I didn’t want to be in the military or be in a position where I may have to harm someone. So I figured this is the best possible outcome: I still get to serve my country in the Peace Corps and spread the love, instead of the hate. 

What’s your favorite part about service?

Every single day is something new! For someone who gets easily bored or distracted, I love that. I love that I never know what’s going to happen day to day and there’s always something new to learn and try. That’s a beautiful way to live life. 

If you could give a new peace corp trainee any advice knowing what you know, what would that be? 

In my wise second year of being a PCV, the best advice I could give to a trainee is that your service isn’t going to look like anyone else’s and you can’t compare it to anyone else’s. You can’t go into your site and look at what the previous volunteer before you did, and try to uphold that same standard for yourself. You have to do your own time and create your own path, and not be so hard on yourself if your service doesn’t look like your neighbors or another volunteer’s. And that’s the beautiful thing about it, service is different for everyone. 

What is the most challenging aspect of service for you?

The most challenging part was dealing with hurricane Maria and how that really affected me on so many levels. You never think you’re going to join the Peace Corps and then you’re going to go through these experiences, but it’s been both good and bad. I learned a lot about myself, especially how I am and how I react in emergency and desperate situations. Even in the face of those situations, I’m proud of my response. People can choose “flight or fight” during those challenging times or shrink under the pressure, I’m proud to know that I could remain strong and step up for my Peace Corp family. That was a big challenge because that was my family in the moment, and not having control or the ability to take care of them as best as I wanted to, that was the hardest part. I’ve learned a lot about being prepared ahead of time now and taking things seriously, and being sympathetic to everyone’s situation. No matter what happens to a volunteer during their service, I know it’s not easy, and I’m here for you and whatever you need. That’s the biggest lesson I got out of that. 

***Hurricanes are a reality for us on Eastern Caribbean, and things can change in a blink of an eye while living on the island. PC provides evacuation/ consolidation routes and preparation sessions during training**

Greatest achievements during service?

Another PCV we interviewed Emily chimed in about Jamie to give credit where credit is due, and Jamie is responsible for getting all of the social media started for the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean. She has grown the social media pages through her art, vision, and consistency. 

Jamie: “PC Eastern Caribbean is one of the oldest posts, yet we don’t have a facebook, instagram, youtube like these other posts. Where is ours? Why don’t we have those? It blew my mind, so it fell at my feet to make it happen with the support of other great volunteers. I’ve built on that with my expertise and I feel as though I’ve built the foundation for something that will last long after I’m gone” 

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What are some projects you’ve been involved with and never expected to outside of the primary literacy project?

There two different categories for this— the at school projects and the community projects. At school, I never expected to be wearing an apron in the kitchen, baking up bakes and doughnuts for fundraisers and hanging out with the cool ladies in the kitchen, but here I am. In the community, I never expected to be taking over St. Lucia’s longest running beach and community clean up, helping it grow and bringing it up to a whole new level, but it’s been a beautiful way to feel as though I’m giving back. A few other things I do are mostly online by sending newsletters, emails, and running the social media. I take on a lot of digital projects, and although I didn’t expect to do that when coming down here, I’m glad I get to put my degree to good use and give back way in a way that was unexpected. 

Top things you think are essential to pack/ couldn’t live without!

EXTRA cords (phone cords, headphones, battery charges), you’ll need it. Hot sauces. ASS WIPES. 

How did you budget your money on a peace corps stipend?/ do you have any budgeting tips while in the peace corps?

You’re always going to run up against that low number in your account towards the end of the month, unless you eat like a bird and never leave your house. One of the things I do to combat that is I ALWAYS within a day or two of the money dropping into my account, I go and take out the money that I need for rent, gas, electric, fix bills, and stuff it away in a safe place until I can pay it. Being able to break it down and you get a VICA that breaks it down for your costs/ expenses is extremely helpful. Even if you aren’t the best at planning, make a rudimentary budget to see how much you can really spend on going out, travel, the extra things, until you are able to self regulate. 

Be thrifty and channel your inner recycler. I wear things will holes in them and then sow them up when they get too bad. I make my own furniture out of rum bottles. I just keep reusing and repurposing things, which helps stretch the budget. GET CRAFTY!

Why did you decide to extend your service for a 3rd year? What are your intentions for your close of service?

I decided to extend because I fell in love with St. Lucia. I fell in love with the food, the views, the people, and the culture. I realized when we had to make the decision to extend, I wasn’t done. I wasn’t ready to start saying my goodbyes and that I had more to contribute. By extending, it would allow me to continue my projects and make sure they were ready for my locals and host country nationals and neighbors to take them over when I leave. I really wanted to spend more time living on a tropical island. 

My intentions for COS, I am still thinking about it. There’s so many things I want to do, but I’ve narrowed it down to get a MBA and/or applying to work for the National Park Service. That sounds like a dang good time! (side note, peace corps has great connections with fellowships). 

Thank you so much Jamie for sharing your heart and experience with us all at Thoughtful Blonde and Kat’s Eye View! Stay tuned for the next interview! 

A New Perspective When You’re Feeling Less Than Special

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I hear it often, and it saddens me: 

People saying, “What, they think they are special? They aren’t special.” Their venomous words scream right into your face. It feels as though, a dark cloud is tapping on your shoulder, whispering a gentle reminder that rocks your core. “You’re a nobody, you aren’t special.”

The words echo again and again, as failures come rolling in, and the setbacks feel like hurdles you’ll never be able to clear. You start to think, ‘I am a nobody, nobody special.’ I’ve been there, done that too. I’m here to tell you otherwise, but as I write this all, I begin to wonder who I am to tell you different? Who I am to tell you all the thoughts in your head are just against you, to just feed your mind sweeter thoughts?

Am I a nobody too? 

Absolutely….. not. And neither are you. 

Am I not special because I don’t have the most beautiful face or the best voice or the sharpest wit or the most intuitive mind? 

Absolutely not. I’m special because I don’t have all the those things, and because I have other qualities that make me, me. Own that! 

I am Ashley Louise DeBoer, and that means something TO ME. It really doesn’t have to mean much to someone else because they may not know my heart or the way I think, or my energy might not be their cup of tea. Quite frankly, we aren’t going to be everyone’s favorite or second favorite; there will always be someone else with prettier hair, more money, MORE MORE MORE, but we aren’t playing a comparison game, at least not in this lifetime. We aren’t defined by the masks we wear, the amount of money or followers we have. 

It’s so much deeper than that, miles beyond the surface. 

As cheesy as it sounds, we’re all so incredibly special, so deeply important and unique. Not a single soul is the same as the next, so that ultimately means you are one in 6-7 billion. No one laughs the way you do, thinks the way you do, expresses themselves the way you do, dresses the way you do, experiences life the way you do. 

Each one of us is so special because we bring our own perspective to the table, even when we feel as though we are lacking or behind. 

The way you think and talk about your loves, passions, and ideas contributes to your beauty, your uniqueness. No one has lived this day the same way you have, and that’s pretty dang special, and that’s why I’m here to remind you that voice matters, your opinion matters, and your existence is validated, even when you feel as though you are sinking under the pressure. You’re suppose to be at the table, serving up all your thoughts because your perspective and perceptions should and can be heard.

So thank you to all the creatives, the listeners, the thinkers, the writers, the ones who say I love you first, the ones who show up despite the fears and reservations, you are our friendly reminder of the importance to value ourselves and all that being ourselves encompasses. 

Don’t worry so much about being something you’re not, the best thing you can be is you, as they say, “ be yourself, everyone else is already taken” So continue to see the badass that you are. Cheers to being REALLY, shockingly SPECIAL! 

Favorite Hot Spots in St. Lucia

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Living on an island is really one of the coolest things I’ve ever done; life moves with ease and much slower than I’m use to, which has taught me the importance of being patient and understanding. Every passing face wishes you well, and everyone knows each other’s names, which brings me back to my small town roots. I’ve enjoyed the simplicity of my day to day; I spend a majority of the week at training and then spend my free time hanging out with my host mom, making memories with my fellow trainees, and getting to know the local Caribbean culture. 

So here are my favorite things I’ve done while in the beautiful island of St. Lucia—

Hiking the Pitons in Soufriere, St. Lucia

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Let me tell you, hiking Gros Piton is no easy feat, being 2,619 ft above sea level. It required some grit and more sweat than I had ever imagined, but it was a great way to spend the day. It was drizzling a little when we went, so it was kind of slippery, but completely doable. It took two hours to go up, a 45 minute break at the top to have lunch and take in the breathtaking views, and another two hours down.I highly recommend hiking Gros Piton with a fun group, especially if you like to be active and explore nature. 

For more info/ pricing: http://www.grospiton.com

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Sulphur Springs in Soufriere, St. Lucia

The world’s only drive-in volcano is nothing short of amazing, especially when the hot springs allow you to take an exfoliating mud bath in the hot spring pools. First, we took a 20 minute tour of the volcano, learning all the ins and outs and facts about what was all around us. The springs are the hottest and most active geothermal area in the lesser Antilles, which is really cool. Then, we went down to the hot springs, covered ourselves in mud, and ventured into the 4 hot pools. It was so much fun, and left us all feeling relaxed and fresh. 

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For more info: http://www.sulphurspringssaintlucia.com

Choc Beach in Castries, St. Lucia

It’s simple, quiet, close to shopping centers, the movie theatre, and food, plus beautiful views. What more can you ask for? 

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Choc beach info: http://caribya.com/st.lucia/choc.beach/

For more great beach options: 

https://www.tripsavvy.com/st-lucias-best-beaches-1488648

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I hope you enjoy St. Lucia as much as I have. I’ll be moving to Grenada on Aug 3, 2019 for the next 26 months, so be sure to follow along my journey on the Spice Island!

Reflection: 2 Weeks Living in St Lucia & Peace Corps Training

Reflection: 2 Weeks Living in St Lucia & Peace Corps Training

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who has reached out to me, wished me well, celebrated with me, helped me pack, and has been rooting for while on this journey. I already knew my family and friends were special, but now I’m blown away by how beautiful, deep, and loving all the relationships in my life are. So thank you again and be sure to follow along the Doer’s Diary on IG!

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On July 2nd, I picked up my life along with 39 other volunteers to move to St. Lucia and the Eastern Caribbean (Grenada, St. Vincent, and Dominica) for the next 27 months. I’m currently in phase one of training for 4 weeks in Babonneau, St. Lucia to become a Primary English Literacy Specialist Volunteer with the Peace Corps to focus on promoting literacy in primary/infant schools. On August 2nd, I will find out what island I’ll be living on for the next two years and that’s where I’ll be for phase 2 and 3 of my training before being sworn in in October. I’ll spend the reminder of my service working at the same school for two years and during that time, I’ll focus on integrating with the community, making lifelong connections, and working with fellow teachers and kiddos from grades 1-3. 

For more information on the volunteers and programs in the Eastern Caribbean!

After weeks of packing up my townhouse, moving 95% of my belonging into a storage unit, and the other 5% in to my mom and stepdad’s house, leaving for the Peace Corps was upon us. I had to fit everything I could possibly need (and then some) into 2 suitcases with a max weight limit of 50 lbs each and one carry on. Let me tell you, that carry was a hiking backpack that weighed as much as I do. The backpack I used was a god-sent, and a best seller on amazon. So check it out, fellow travelers.  

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Packing in and of itself was consuming, and I am currently working on a packing guide once I get settled into the island I’ll be serving on, so I save future volunteers from packing too much or not enough.

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After my first three days of orientation on the island, all the trainees left the comfort of each other’s presence to move into our host family’s homes.

This is where the real fun began. You know the saying: “growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone,” whoever said that definitely knew what they were talking about.

The embrace and instant love I felt from my host mom made me feel so welcomed in a new environment. I quickly jumped into learning about my surroundings— exploring her extensive garden filled with pineapples, limes, lemons, cashews, Chinese cabbage, coconuts, plantains and the list goes on, learning a new language, adapting to new norms, and being on a whole new level of integration into a culture I could have only dreamed of. My heart is filled with so much gratitude for my host mom opening her home to me, and the people of St. Lucia for being so welcoming and kind as I ask a million questions and learn as much as I can. 

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Once I moved into my host family’s beautiful home in Babboneau, I struggled for a few days— feeling the loss of all the things and people I had been comforted by in my typical days back in the states. I cried, I shed my walls, and saw a newer, more open and vulnerable side of myself that I was willing to share with other trainees, my host mom, and my family back home. I began to realize how important this time was— I had shed my ego and left my masks to hide who I truly am back home. It’s been so humbling to just be me, and that’s enough. 

I am not immune to the desire for consistency and normalcy, but I have felt a lightness in my heart that has allowed me to be fully present and loving.

Day by day, I learn how we are all more alike than different, and how loving one another is our most powerful tool.

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Our first week of training flew by so quickly, with amble information on culture, diversity, inclusion, medical procedures, consolidation routes, hurricane tips, and so forth. My head could spin looking back at all my notes, but I’ve learned more about my role in development and leaving judgements at the door. Hearing the point of views from fellow trainees and staff has been such an eye-opening experience, to be more receptive and transparent in my endeavor to inspire and connect with others. I have been able to make so many wonderful friendships that are already starting to blossom, so for now, I’m living each day to the fullest and on Monday, I’ll be hiking with all my friends to the Sulphur Springs in St Lucia, the Gros Piton which is the world’s only drive-in volcano. So stay tuned for a packing guide for Peace Corps EC and Hiking Guides. . .

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I made it on local news in St Lucia where Peace Corps Volunteer share their stories!

Please feel free to reach out, ask questions, and connect. Thanks for being a Doer and enjoy one of my favorite quotes!

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Being Single In Your Twenties

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Everywhere you look, especially on social media, countless people have found their one in a billion, their happily ever after. They’re cozied up with the one they want to share their life with, and those love bugs are following their feelings to the alter, into long term commitment, and forevers. You see couples kissing, taking cutesy pictures, exploring the world together, cheering each other on during the highs and the lows. 

I understand that comparison is the thief of joy, and I don’t believe the green is greener on the other side of the fence, but somedays, it’d be nice to have that one person that make you smile when you want to cry, that one person who makes you feel giddy when they walk into a room, that one person who is there for you rain or shine.

But I don’t have that. And that’s okay.

When you’re single in your twenties, it doesn’t mean you are not enough or worth it. It doesn’t mean you are going to be alone forever or that you are unlovable; it doesn’t mean you are behind in life. It can feel as though are, when your friends are bringing their boyfriends/girlfriends around, moving in together, doing all that jazz but you’re just chillin and third wheeling. 

Your life doesn’t start or become meaningful because you’ve met someone to share it with. Your life is meaningful if you give it meaning and purpose, when you know your essence and cherish your heart. You don’t need another soul to validate you or give you worth. You are worthy without the words to affirm it. 

Being single during my early twenties has taught me how to be vulnerable in who I am and what I want out of life. I’ve learned how to be independent, how to prioritize myself, my future, and my plans, how to walk into a room and know I belong without a familiar face in sight. I’ve learned the importance of being present in the moment, and understanding and controlling my feelings. I’ve found calmness in my own presence, and released the need to control what I can not. 

Going solo in my twenties and throughout college has taught me how to date, how to stand my ground, and stand up for myself. I’ve been able to find my voice, and not allow a voice to talk over mine. I will not make myself small for anyone. I figured out what career path I wanted to go on, took countless opportunities, and shaped my life the way my heart and mind desired. I didn’t have to compromise in monumental stages of my growth. 

Through my single years, I’ve learned valuable lessons like you can’t love people into loving you, you outgrow people who stay stagnant, and you should never, ever settle when it comes to love.

When you dream big and you’re a go-getter, you’ll scare people who don’t see the vision or can’t stand the heat. Thank them for the memories, but let them hit the road before they weigh you down. Attraction is essential, but if it’s not deeper than the surface, what’s the point?

A few side notes to it all—

Rebounds don’t work, but time does heal wounds. 

Forgiveness is your friend.

If you like someone, tell them. Show them.  

Jealousy is a waste of energy. No one is you, and that’s your power.

Don’t let your pride get in the way.

Understanding is the way to someone’s heart.

Love yourself and others will too. 

Trust the timing of things because you can’t rush something, you want to last forever. Enjoy the single season of your life because it won’t be like this forever. You have mountains to move and places to go. Have an open, receptive heart because you’re lovable, worthy, and deserving of a love as deep as the ocean. 

Cheers to being single in our twenties! 

Graduation Reflection: How College Impacted My Confidence and My Heart

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I’ve had some time to reflect on the whirlwind of my life this past month— the newness of being a college alumni, the subtle emptiness of a once favored chapter, and the grand adventure waiting to unfold. 

As I graduated, I was in awe of all the work that had transpired for me to be in this moment—walking across the stage, receiving my diploma, turning the page on a place I called home for the past 4 years. I found myself thanking my family and friends, but most importantly, my gratitude drifted to all the letdowns and confusion I’ve endured because I was sculpted, molded by all my failures that became lessons.

Everything I had once wanted to work out, but didn’t, finally made sense. I understood why certain paths were just not for me, I was being prepared for my HELL YES.  

For a few short moments as I strutted across the stage, my life made perfect sense. I was me, and that was enough— no nerves, no distractions, just me and my value.

I had transformed, blossomed into a woman who is independent, resilient, and understanding of one’s self, others, and the world near and far. 

I had set my heart and mind to something and I achieved what I had planned to do; I accomplished something that once felt like a vague, distant dream. As I graduated, I watched it all come together, in harmony— a milestone, a coming of age story as old as time. 

A major revelation in my heart was that I am an adult now. I know they say 18 is the age you can vote and buy tobacco, move out and carry on, but as I hugged and thanked my mom, my presence was different— more confident, more assured, more adult-like. At 22, I became an adult. At 22, I graduated college and made decisions for my future that fell completely on my own shoulders. Longevity and fulfillment filtered into my decisions. 

I didn’t need training wheels for life anymore and for a few moments I glided as if I were invincible, as if I’d never fall. I rationally know I’ll rock back and forth, fall too many times to count, get a few scraped knees, maybe a broken heart or two, but with the wind in my hair and hope in my heart, I made one promise to myself— I’ll always get back up. I’ll always try again. I’ll always have faith in my heart to do better and believe in the magic of today, the magic of tomorrow, and the magic of loving myself. 

That’s one thing I hold near and dear to my heart, and know I must value through all the years to come— it’s so important to have love and respect for myself and the world around me. When I truly started to believe in myself, a ‘no’ could not stop me; countless no’s motivated me and served as a reminder that the ride is the most beautiful part of the journey. 

Graduating was rewarding, and it had meaning and fullness because of the grueling nights of projects and studying, because of the involvement I had created within my community with peers and professors, because of the passionate people I surrounded myself with, inspiring me day in and day out, and lastly because I was pushed outside of my comfort zone in every avenue. 

The ride was filled with tremendous growth and soul searching, experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world and as I reflect during my gap between graduation and leaving for the Peace Corps, I understand the important of the in between moments, making the most of the growing pains, and loving experiences before they are over. 

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and reflections like this, and I owe a lot to Florida Gulf Coast University for being the foundation for me to find my confidence and love for myself. Thank you mom and dad, Mark and Morgan, friends and family for the endless love and support, and rooting for me.

So cheers to new beginning and valuing those special people I wouldn’t want to live without!