Would you rather have all of the money you want, or do what you truly love and just get by?
I am lucky to have two parents that have shown me to not be afraid of taking risks. They've shown me that money isn't everything, and that it's important to have passion in what you do.
My dad started off at an insurance company as an underwriter. Over the years, he made his way up to being the head of the Marketing Department and Vice President of that same company. He climbed the business ladder and had finally achieved what most people would define as success. But was he happy?
No. He knew what he wanted to be. He had the same dream that he had since he was in high school--he wanted to be a photographer. But to risk it all, to quit his job and start out new, that is a hard decision to face. He knew if he stayed, he would be able to support his family financially, have benefits, and job security, but he didn't enjoy his life. If he quit, he would be happy, but there would be no guarantee of success. He would lose his benefits and his pretty pay check.
He did what most people wouldn't. He risked it all to follow his dream. 17 years later, he continues to do what he loves every single day. Winning awards from organizations such as The Hour Detroit and The Knot Best of Weddings, he is constantly reassured that this is his true path and is doing what he was always meant to do. The passion inside of him never died. Sure, life isn't as easy as it used to be, but to me, he has achieved true success--following his dream.
My mom is no different. For many years, she helped my dad realize his dream and played such a big part in creating this business that is so established today.
About a year ago, she finally decided to follow her own dream. She wanted to open a candy store that sold organic candy, old time favorites, and bulk candy. However, retail is a hard industry to break in to. I have heard so many people tell her that she won't make it. Instead of letting that bring her down, she kept going. She is a true risk-taker.
After months of hard work, that dream that seemed so far our of reach will come true. The Grand Opening of her candy boutique is in two weeks, and I couldn't be more proud of her. I know it will be a success.
I am fortunate enough to have parents that value what truly matters in life. They have played such a big role in my own life decisions, and I am so thankful to have learned from them.
Ever since I could remember, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I played school almost every single day. When I got to college, selecting my major was a no-brainer. As I continued on this path, I was exposed to so much negative information about the field of teaching that made me start to doubt myself. The politics, the low salary, the shortage of jobs... Is it worth it?
I went back and forth for quite a while. I knew I was smart enough and capable enough to pursue any career I wanted, so why was I settling? After much thought, I realized that changing my major just to make more money would be the true settling. I was not going to change my path and forget my dream just because I was afraid. I learned from my dad's initial mistake, and both of my parents' willingness to take risks. I knew that I had to continue to pursue my dream, because what good is life if you don't spend it doing what you love?
Look back to that childhood dream you had of "what you wanted to be when you grew up." What did you want to be before someone told you that you would never make it, or never be successful? Is that what you are doing now?
We only have one life to live. When all is said and done, what is more important? How will you wish you spent your life?
I choose passion.
Wow, it's been quite a while since I've been on here.
As many of you know, this year I started my student teaching year. (The reason why I haven't even had time to sleep let alone write on my blog!)
Before the school year began, I had so many questions, doubts, reservations and fears.
What if I find out teaching just isn't for me?
What if I don't get along with my mentor teacher?
What if the kids don't like me?
The first day of school for the district that I am teaching in was August 28th. On that first day of school, once I saw those fifth grade faces, all of my questions were answered. I've never felt more like myself and more at home than I do right now.
Every single day, those students make me laugh. They make me think and they challenge me as both a teacher and a learner. They drive me to be the best version of myself. They make me look forward to each 8 hour school day, and it doesn't even bother me (that much) that i'm not getting paid!
I am so thankful to finally feel like myself for the first time in a long time.
I am finally excited for my future.
I can still remember the day I found out about my diagnosis. I was overwhelmed and it felt like my world was spinning. It didn't feel real. In order to cope with some of the stress, I went dog shopping with my parents to some local places around the area. I knew what I wanted, a male German Shephard!
When we walked into the first store and I saw this adorable little black lab female with "Clearance" written on her crate, I knew that she was special. Little did I know just how much she I would come to love and need her.
Thankfully, the housing company that I rented my house from at Michigan State allowed pets, and if you had a doctor sign off that it was needed for medical or emotional support reasons, the $500 fee was waived. This made it easy for me to decide that I had to have her.
I know now that Luna knew what was going on with me during my treatment. She knew I was weak, and too tired to play. Despite being the active, hyper black lab puppy she is, she would calm down on those couple of days after treatment when I needed to rest. She would snuggle with me in my room for hours while I slept, sometimes sun up to sun down, without having accidents or asking me to play.
There were days I cried. I hated my situation and the life I was living. Then I'd look over at Luna and she'd look at me with her eyes, and within seconds she was climbing all over me licking me everywhere. Bursts of laughter erupted out of me. There were days I relied on her to give me joy and hope, and she gave it to me.
I never knew I could love a dog as much as I love her. Her loyalty and compassion surprises me every day.
I know the situation to just go out and buy a dog may not always be ideal, but animals honestly bring a joy to life that is so amazing. If anyone is ever in a hard emotional or medical situation, I definitely suggest to consider buying or rescuing a dog, or to spend time with a friend or relative's dog. They are incredible, loving beings.
Happy First Birthday Luna
After I got sick, I started to take seriously what I was eating and how I prepared my food. This is something that many of us disregard and overlook, including myself before this experience. However, I quickly learned how important it is for me to respect my body and health and do everything in my power to protect it and prevent further illnesses from happening.
The knowledge I've gained on healthy eating is too much to explain in one post. A lot of the knowledge I gained came from my holistic doctor. He focuses on natural remedies (diet, supplements, etc.) that prevents further illness. A lot of nutritional advice is specific to each person (based on blood levels, symptoms, etc.), but there are some things that are beneficial to us all. Of course, research each hack and make the decision for yourself.
My doctor said, "Our bodies are Ferraris and we fuel them with crude oil," a vivid analogy that has stuck with me.
1. Celtic Sea Salt
First of all, I learned that it is okay to use a lot of salt, but it should be Celtic Sea Salt. This salt is not completely white in color because it contains nutrients that are helpful to our bodies. I use salt in a lot of things I cook! Read more on Celtic Sea Salt here.
2. Coconut Oil
Whenever I cook, I use unrefined coconut oil instead of PAM (which contains silicone, check the ingredients!!!) or other oils. This was a huge step for me because I HATE coconut and cannot even stand the smell! I quickly got used to it and use it all of the time now. Read more the benefits here.
Turmeric is a great spice that you can find at any grocery store. It doesn't have a taste or smell, so it can be topped on anything. Read more about the benefits here. Below is a picture of it topped on avocado toast (a yummy, filling breakfast meal!)
4. Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream?!
Something I learned recently was that unflavored greek yogurt tastes just like sour cream! I used this food hack last week when we made tacos for Taco Tuesday! Guilt free indulgence :)
5. Egg Whites
One of the biggest health hacks for losing weight is to eat eggs for breakfast. Eggs are a great source of protein and nutrients. Many other breakfast options are high in sugar and carbs (bagels, cereal, syrup, etc.), so eating eggs prevents the intake of empty calories! Instead of eating two whole eggs, I use one whole egg with two egg whites. This takes out the calories and cholesterol, but keeps the protein and flavor! Top with celtic sea salt :)
P.S. Adding apples and peanut butter is a great breakfast option especially if you are eating before a work out! The simple sugars in the apple will provide you with energy for you workout, and the peanut butter is an added bonus of protein. This was a very filling breakfast, and resulted in an awesome workout.
6. Protein shakes/bars
One of the hardest meals for me is lunch. It is at a time of day that is so inconvenient, especially if you are a working man or woman! I have found protein shakes and bars that are higher in calories (around 250-300 cal) to be an awesome meal replacement. They are filling, convenient, and good for you! One of my favorite shakes is Orgain. Created by a cancer survivor who is now a physician, this is a protein shake that comes in ready to go cartons. There are different flavors (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and they are organic! There is also a vegan option. I have seen it at Whole Foods as well as on Amazon! Read more about the drink here.
I will try to make more posts about food hacks as time goes on! I hope this was helpful :)
This past weekend I had an interesting realization. I was photographing a wedding with my dad and at the end of a long, tiring day, my dad came up to me. He said, "Do you see that girl over there? She just told me that she followed your blog."
This made me feel really good. I looked over, and it was a woman that I had never seen before. I was overwhelmed with emotions, but mostly proud. I was so incredibly happy that I have been able to influence the lives of people through my blog that I may have never even met before.
I hope to be able to continue to take my experiences and use them impact people.
I also want to thank the people that I have never met that followed my blog that reached out to me in some way. It means so much to know that my words meant something to someone.
Challenge: Reach out to someone who has helped you in some way that you have never told and thank them. It'll make their day!!
Now that I am no longer wearing my wig, it is harder to feel confident in public. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb.
At first it really bothered me. I would see people staring at me, so many people staring. I was embarrassed and vulnerable, and there was no where I could hide.
Every night I have dreams that my hair is long again, only to wake up to reality. Literally every single night. I look in the mirror when I wake up in hopes that it looks even the slightest bit longer.
Before losing my hair, I never knew how much it made me who I am. Without it, I really don't feel like myself.
So many strangers have told me that they love my "hair cut." I smile and say, "Thank you," but what I really want to do is tell them the truth. It wasn't my choice. They get this sense that I am bold, confident, and comfortable in my skin. Maybe if I had chosen this "hair cut" that would be true, but I didn't. I'm vulnerable and unsure, rediscovering my identity.
I'm still working on my confidence, and I find confidence in other things. As time goes on, it grows. Compliments and kindness have actually helped me become more comfortable and happy with myself, which has made me realize how important it is to share kindness to others.
Today, give someone a compliment. It can be anything, appearance related or not. You could really make a difference in someone's day.
Today, my professor shared a quote with the class for our final meeting.
"Too often we underestimate the power of
a kind word,
a listening ear,
an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
This especially touched my heart because it reminded me of my journey this year.
When I was diagnosed, I had no idea what lied ahead. I told myself I would graduate on time, but to be honest with you, I wasn't sure. I was scared.
I doubted myself many times. I doubted myself when the dean of the College of Education emailed me to ask if I needed help dropping out of school. I doubted myself when people would look at me in surprise when I told them I would continue school. I doubted myself on the days I could not get out of bed to get to class, or the days I tried to go to class, only to leave after 10 minutes because I thought I was going to faint.
But I made it. I am graduating this weekend with high honor and I could not be more proud of myself.
Looking back, how I remained and completed a full time student course load with a 40-hour per semester placement requirement, all while undergoing chemotherapy, makes me so incredibly proud of myself.
I started to reflect on honestly how the hell I did this. I realized it was all of you. It was all of the people who supported me, day by day. It was the people who smiled at me, sent words of support, and believed in me.
Sure, I didn't ask for cancer, no one does. Especially not at this time of my life. But this process taught me a lot about myself and how life works. When life hands you something that is so incredibly overwhelming, you get through it by taking it day by day. You lean on the support of your friends and family to get you through, and you believe in yourself.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who helped me achieve something that I thought was unimaginable. You got me through my darkest days, and because of you, I can say: I MADE IT!
Congrats to the Class of 2017!
Almost every day on social media, you are blasted with self empowering messages:
"Don't Let Others Define You"
"Be Who You Are"
I look at those messages and I just don't get it. Obviously, the intent of the messages is supposed to be positive. These messages prove that there is a desperation in people to change the way things are in the world. I mean look at me, I want to change the way things are too. But have you ever heard someone say, "I changed the way I look at myself because of a BuzzFeed article."?
Reflecting on my own life, I began to realize that ever since I can remember, society has made me rely on external things or people to determine my self worth. I would find it hard to believe that anyone reading this had a different experience. In preschool, I would go up to my mom and say, "Look at my painting!" or go up to a teacher and say, "Look at my dress!" What was I looking for? I was looking for them to tell me how talented I was, or how beautiful my dress was.
In K-12, it was the same thing. In 7th grade, I was obsessed with perfection. I mean obsessed. I would drive myself to getting sick--literally throwing up before tests because I needed to get 100%. This was in 7th grade!!! This is just unbelievable to me in hindsight. Throughout school, I was absolutely addicted to getting good grades. I relied on that to feel good about myself. Bad grades absolutely destroyed me. And by bad I mean anything below a 90%. How messed up is that? Some of you may not have experienced it to that degree, but I think you would be lying if you told me getting a bad grade didn't affect you at all.
There were other things I yearned for this same approval and affirmation in. Sports, for an example. In swimming, I was constantly pushing myself to be better and work harder. I needed to see that personal record, or see approval on my coach's face. There are good things about this, don't get me wrong. We live in a society where competition and drive is absolutely necessary to be successful. This can be a good thing, but how far is too far? How much competition is too much? To me, the pressure can be suffocating.
Now with the age of social media, self validation and insecurity is at an all time high. We post pictures and selfies, looking for other people to like it. We look at our peers' profiles, and if we look long enough, we begin to feel less than or worthless. We are constantly bombarded with perfect images that have been retouched and edited. We look at ourselves in the mirror, staring at every imperfection, and hating what we see.
So how can you tell me to love myself, or don't let others define me? That is exactly what our society has set us up to need.
I would be lying if I told you that going through cancer changed this for me. It helped, but I am still a product of our society that craves self validation. There were times through my treatment that I hated myself. I hated that I was bald. I felt like a freak. I hated the scars and bruises on my arm from the PICC lines. I couldn't find the validation I needed. I felt worthless.
Now that I am better, although that feeling hasn't gone away, it has faded. I find joy and appreciation in other things, and obsessing over self worth doesn't take it's priority anymore.
You really do need to love yourself before you can believe anyone else does, but I have a feeling I'll spend my whole life trying to get there. I love the moments when I really am content with my self. These moments come and go, and when I'm in them, I feel on top of the world. I wish this blog post had a happy ending or some crazy advice that would change your life, but the problem is rooted much deeper than that and way out of my control.
For what it is worth, I believe that whatever makes you unique is beautiful. We have one life to live, so why spend it trying to change ourselves or push ourselves to be something unattainable?
My mom has proven to be my biggest supporter through everything. She never missed a doctor appointment or a PET scan. When I got admitted to the hospital, she admitted herself too. She stayed by my side for those five days every time.
She laughed with me, she cried with me and she sat there quietly when I would yell and become frustrated. She showed me without telling me that she would always be there and that she would never leave my side.
Here is an open letter from her:
You have so much to offer Emily and I've told you all this before. You are strong and courageous and to be able to go through all you've gone through and come out stronger and tougher. That is where the true story is.
It is a sad reality that people who are not affected by something will go on with their life and not give your situation a second thought. It's those who wake up every day and their first thought is the unfortunate situation that is going on in their life, they are the ones living a life they didn't ask for.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about you. The fears you have. The emotions you go through daily. The struggles. I think about all of this every day. And I pray to God every day that He place a bubble around you to keep you from any harm. To protect you. Yes I ask him this every day. I love you Em.
I love you mom.
All I have ever wanted is to be treated normal.
I do everything in my power to appear normal. I wear a wig. I fill in my sparse eyebrows. I hide my emotions. I cover the scars from my PICC lines. I even sometimes cover up the vein on my chest that still pops out from when I had the mass. I don't tell classmates or acquaintances what has happened to me. I attend all of my classes as a full time student. I am working hard to catch up and finish my 80 placement hours before I graduate. I got back into my job. I give off an illusion that every thing is fine--everything is back to normal. I am busting my ass and spreading my self thin. But maybe I am not ready.
I have found out that this can be extremely dangerous to my mental health. Giving off this fallacy that I am fine has actually made me hurt more than I could imagine. I am more sensitive than I ever pictured myself being. Things that never would have even phased me before bother me tremendously. If a friend is rude or unsympathetic, I say nothing. I act as I would have acted before--unaffected. But in reality, this triggers and emotional explosion inside of me that winds me down into a dark place that is hard to get out of.
I have so much stress in my life. I am so sick of being stressed. I have a PET scan coming up on Thursday, a rigorous course load in school, and the last thing I ever thought I would have to deal with is wishing I had someone to support me through it all.
I do have people that continue to help me, and they know who they are, but I guess I just thought by this age I would have more friends that I could rely on, especially after all of this.
I may appear to be fine, but I'm not. I am still emotionally and physically traumatized from what I have gone through in the past 6 months. Traumatized is an understatement.
All I want is for someone to tell me they are proud of me.
I can't tell you how much that would mean to me.
For someone to just tell me they care.
To be there for me all the time, not just when I ask for help.
I want to be fine. I want to be normal. But in reality, I'm just not.