This summer has truly been one of self-discovery. I’ve learned so much about myself and about others and I’m confident I’m taking steps in the right direction toward a happy, healthy future. I didn’t think it would be so hard to write a “reflection” post, but I’m at a loss for words trying to describe the changes, both physical and mental, I’ve made just in the past three months.
My travels this summer came at the perfect time. It was a transitional time in my life as I embark on my final “first” day of school EVER tomorrow! I feel like I’m a completely different person than I was starting college and I’m constantly growing and changing into the person I hope to become.
Here are a few important things I’ve learned about myself and in general this summer:
Don’t take life too seriously. I’m making it my goal this semester to start looking at school as my “day job.” Yes, it’s important. Yes, it’s a stepping-stone for my future. Yes, I need to get good grades during my last semester. But do my grades define me? Certainly not. I’m a whole lot more than that. I used to find myself getting wrapped up in studying and the little details about school – I always felt like I could be doing “more.” Reading more, studying more. In turn, it gave me major anxiety made me less productive because I wouldn’t even know where to start! Being a student is only a small part of who I am and I shouldn’t let it consume my life.
Always make time for fun. This little detail is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in the past few months. For the past three years of college I’ve been so focused on work, working out and school that I almost forgot to live and have fun. Sure, I’ve had the greatest college experiences but I always found myself thinking too much about the future – maybe I shouldn’t go out tonight because I have to study all day tomorrow. I want to work out tomorrow morning so I think I’ll skip going to dinner with my friends. You may call this responsibility, and trust me, it is to an extent. But it’s also a limitation. When you’re constantly planning for the future, you forget to LIVE IN THE PRESENT. This semester, I’m going to be a “yes” man and do all that I can to take advantage of my last few months of college!
BE YOURSELF (and choose your friends wisely). I’ve always had trouble with identifying myself as an individual. I’ve kept people around in my life simply because I wanted to “fit in.” Of course these weren’t my intentions as I was hanging out with them, but I realize looking back on my life that they served no purpose in my growth or happiness. In fact, they would suck the happiness out of me. I was trying to be someone I was not and in turn I was masking my talents and abilities. My dreams were belittled, I put my ambitions to the wayside. This summer I’ve realized that I’m different and I’m done trying to fit some “mold” just because it’s the “college norm.” I used to beat myself up because I didn’t want to go out and live the typical “college life.” I always said I wasn’t fully living the “college experience.” But what does that even mean? It’s different for everyone! From here on out, I’m embracing that I view things differently than some of my peers. I’m defining my college experience as a time of growth, reflection and self discovery and I’m forever grateful for the experiences I’ve made in college (“college experience” related or not) that have shaped me into the individual I’m becoming.
Take risks. Simply put: where there is no risk, there is no reward. We get so caught up in being comfortable with where we are that we forget how EASY it is to change it up a bit. Life should never be boring and mundane… when it is, that’s a sign you should make a change. Take a risk because I promise you there is way more to gain than there is to lose. If I didn’t take risks this summer, I wouldn’t have traveled up north. I wouldn’t have made all these discoveries for my self. I wouldn’t have cleared my mind and opened up to so many new experiences. Sure, I was scared to death. And trust me, I had my fair share of mental breakdowns. Would I trade the risks I took (good or bad) for anything in the world? Absolutely not. Because I’ve also learned another thing – life always works itself out. It may not be how you expected it, but it’s often BETTER. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you take risks with an open mind and an open heart.
Explore new places. In a broader sense, this was the epitome of my travels. I saw so many amazing places that have opened my eyes to the beauty of the world (and has given me a serious case of wanderlust.) I know not everyone has the amazing opportunities to travel the country this summer like I have and I realize that I am extremely blessed beyond words. However, exploring doesn’t take traveling throughout America or even the world for that matter. Explore where you are. Right here, right now. Go outside. Take a walk. Some of the best memories I have from this summer were from my walks. I would pray and listen to music and think and reflect and get to know myself. I truly believe that nature connects you to who you are and who you want to be. Make sure to explore and open your eyes to your beautiful surroundings. Exploring has connected me to myself in ways I never thought imaginable.
Be a kid. It’s OK to be immature, no matter how old you are. Laugh! Sing! Dance! Have fun! Sometimes I would forget to actually “be myself” and have fun because I felt uncomfortable, and this goes along with learning to be comfortable with myself. Now I’m pretty much myself around anyone. If you don’t like my weird accents and dancing, that’s perfectly fine with me. Plenty of people do 😉 You may grow old in age, but your heart should never grow old. Keep having fun. Keep making memories. Be silly. I don’t remember the exact context of the situation but I was expressing concern about something to my mom this summer. I repeat this to myself every time I feel like I’m getting too serious now: “Just be your goofy self!” (Thanks, Mom. Bet ya didn’t know your words would become the motto of my life :-))
Enjoy being single. So many people look at being single as a “curse.” Sure, it may be lonely at times, but that’s what friends are for! Being single should be seen as a time to focus on self-improvement, exploring new things, meeting new people and taking risks. I’m single for this season of my life for this exact reason. It’s given me confidence to make the choices I’ve made and a clear mind without any outside distractions to make these decisions. For me, being single is a personal choice because I want to develop my own self worth and stability before committing to someone else. I’m learning something new about myself pretty much every day and I’m loving it! I have a big heart, and I want to share my dreams, passions and love and all that my life encompasses…. Some day 🙂 I adore this:
Read. The greatest book I read this summer was Love Does by Bob Goff. That book is absolutely incredible and deserves a blog post of it’s own (I’ll put that on my to-do list! Seriously, it’s too good for anyone to pass up.) Reading has sparked my creativity. It improves my writing, studying, relationships, mind, heart and pretty much every aspect of my life. It allows me to relax, live in someone else’s shoes for a day, and even shows me how blessed I am.
Life is short, be careful how you use your words. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. I’ve lost people in my life because I didn’t tell them how I felt when I should have. I’m stubborn and relentless and I’ve used my words to hurt people that I care about the most. If I’ve learned anything this summer, it’s the importance of doing things for other people. Don’t act out of anger. Take a few deep breaths before you say things you don’t mean. Make sure you remind people in your life each and every day how much you love them. I’ll never forget one time when I was driving with my uncle and he was in the passenger seat. I was supposed to make a right turn and passed it and all he said was, “Did you figure out a new way to go?!” It wasn’t sarcastic. It wasn’t condescending. It was a genuine question and I was seriously in awe that he could be so kind IN THE MOMENT. If that was me, I probably would have said something more along the lines of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO TURN!” Yeah, I’m working on that 😉
Be a do-er. One of the most important areas of my life that I always try to improve is how much I “do.” By that, I mean I always strive to make the people in my life feel special by doing things for them. If they need a ride, I’ll be there if I can. I’ll send a letter to a friend I haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending an “I love you and I’m grateful for you” text. Words can’t express the love I have for the people in my life, so I strive to make up for that lack of words by my actions. Staying with my uncle this summer opened my eyes to this on a new level. I remember mentioning ONCE that I was getting calluses on my hands from doing deadlifts. Next time we were at Target, he shows up in my aisle with work out gloves. It’s little things like that that make the biggest difference in life. To him, it was nothing. To me, it meant everything. He listened. He paid attention. He CARED. And he literally does things like this all the time without thinking twice about it. I hope I can give to the extent of my uncles to the point where it almost becomes effortless and second nature. I think we can all learn a little from these guys 🙂
Don’t be consumed by the idea of perfection. I’ve learned to realize that I’m not perfect. Well, duh… But I’ve learned to realize that this is OK. I have my faults and weaknesses. I care too much about things I shouldn’t. I worry. I have anxiety. I stress myself out over little things. I sometimes speak out of anger. But these qualities don’t define who I am. Instead of getting down about these things, I just focus on improving the areas that need a little work. I’m a work in progress and I’m becoming stronger every day, imperfections and all!
Spend time with God. Let’s be real for a minute here. There are times this summer when I would pray about something happening and I thought I never got an answer. Looking back, I did get answers, they just weren’t the answers I expected to get. They were better. When you pray boldly and ask the Lord for things that seem out of your own control, He delivers. I’ve prayed for some pretty crazy stuff, but look at where it has taken me! All across the country, growing and helping people. Learning more about myself in order to love and help others. Now I’m praying for Him to use me in a way that will help others in unimaginable ways. I want to love like Jesus did. I want to give like Jesus did. I want to LIVE it and not just read about it. I’m not one of those people that can sit here and quote scripture and honestly I think it’s about so much more than that. I like to believe my faith is displayed in the ways that I take risks and in the ways that I love people. I want others to know Jesus because of my actions.
Disclaimer: This post was written straight from the heart. Lots of blood, sweat and tears went into the making of this post. OK, just kidding. Maybe just tears. I hope you’re able to take some of the things I’ve learned in my journey and apply these principles to your own life. I’m still being molded and shaped by my surroundings each day and I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with you all on board.
Also, while my posts are not always “health and fitness” related, I’d like to think that everything I write ties back to it. Just because it’s not a recipe or a work out doesn’t mean it’s not important. Mental health and spiritual growth are HUGE determinants of how successful you are in the gym and with a healthy lifestyle. A healthy heart and mind make up 90% of your health and fitness journey. Building a strong mind creates more willpower and ultimately a stronger body. The greater the connection between your mind and body, the greater results you will achieve. Simply put: BE HAPPY FOOLS! Keep growing, keep striving to be a better person and keep your eyes on the prize both mentally and physically 🙂 We’re only as strong as our minds perceive we are!