Confession from a Former Teacher

Being a former high school teacher, my three years of experience does not compare to the time that my colleagues, teacher friends and family, even my parents, have invested. However, in my three years, my school went into “lock-down mode” quite a few times to keep our students safe when someone had escaped from a nearby mental health hospital, or when police activity was high in the nearby neighborhoods.

 The thing about lock-down mode is that we (the teachers in the classrooms) never knew what was going on until after the lock-down had been lifted. Being the only adult in a classroom full of teenagers during lock-down is terrifying. Every. Single. Time. (The “what-ifs” running through my mind, plus my classroom was the first accessible one off the main courtyard.) But that terror must never show, because they look to you when they’re afraid.
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New Year. New Goals. New Blog. Same (Passionate and Hopeful) Me.

We claim that “new year’s resolutions” are hopeless, typically broken by day three. And more recently over the past few years, we discourage others from even thinking about making resolutions, publicly doubting not only their efforts, but their intentions, mocking their “inevitable” failure.

I want to alter your perspective, even for just a moment. The concept of a “new year’s resolution” that we know today is meant to act as a promise that we make for ourselves; to start fresh with hope and love in our hearts. We reflect on the year that we had, the memories that we made, and the journey that we endured – both good and bad – and then we make new (or renew old) goals for the year to come. This type of reflection is natural, and the start of a new calendar year helps us to make marks while on our journey. Continue reading “New Year. New Goals. New Blog. Same (Passionate and Hopeful) Me.”

Envy vs. Appreciation: The Necessary Distinction

(Part 2)

(Read Part 1 Here)

During the brainstorming process of creating the 21-Day Body Positive Challenge, I went back and forth with the inclusion of social media. Millennials are targeted as a generation of narcissism, specifically regarding their social media accounts. Body positivity requires focusing in on oneself, loving oneself, and sharing that self-love with others. So, I was trying to decide if I wanted to feed the negative criticism of others – is it just another “look at me” post? But then I realized that I’m doing exactly what the nay-sayers want – I’m immediately looking at the world with a negative perspective. Sure, those nay-sayers will always be there, but why should they dictate what we chose to put out into the world?

 

Once I crossed the bridge of including social media in this challenge, I had one more hesitation to work out. It is easy to fall into a downward spiral of self-loathing and envy while looking at others’ photos…

I love her hair. I wish mine could look like that.
I want to be toned like that fitness model.
I wish I could eat whatever I want and not gain a pound like that celebrity.
Look at all the places they travel. Must be nice to have that kind of money.
Wow, that looks like a fancy party. I wish I could live that kind of life.
Why are Chrissy Teigen’s stretch marks so much cuter than mine?

When you focus so much on what others have that you don’t, that “wish” will turn into a serious case of envy before you know it. Then all the courage it took for you to post that no make-up selfie is destroyed because you got a glimpse of Alicia Keys without make-up. Or the desire to bring healthiness back into your life is ruined because you paid too close attention to the “inspirational photo” of 12-pack abs that lays in the background of your new fitness routine. How can I look at photos of other people, and not want their lifestyle, their bodies, their wealth? How can I put my vulnerable self out there?

We cannot let this no-good-very-bad sin of envy demolish our self-worth. I may want the height of a supermodel, but it’s literally not in my genes. I may want to throw a private party on a yacht in the south of France, but my part-time job at Starbucks and the massive amount of school loan debt will prevent this from happening anytime soon (unless I win the lottery or marry a very rich man, both unlikely considering I don’t play the lottery, nor am I currently dating). Sometimes, what we “want” is out of our control. And instead of putting ourselves down because we don’t look the way we want, or have the things we want, we should be grateful for what we do have. We have to work on loving ourselves for who we are, and reminding ourselves that God made us in God’s image.

Stop comparing. You are enough.

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Instead of being envious of others, we can appreciate them. It’s good to appreciate the beauty of another, to recognize the happiness in their smile, to praise them for their accomplishments. It’s when we turn another’s abundance into our own misfortune that we must be wary.

Social media is a great avenue to show others the love we have for ourselves and for them. We just have to be vigilant in our reactions, and prevent ourselves from comparing our lives with another. After this distinction between envy and appreciation has been made, then we can continue to spread our joy and happiness to the world.

Stay body positive, my friends.

Sláinte! (with water, of course)

21-Day Body Positive Challenge

Having a positive sense of self has never been a strength of mine. In fact, my introverted personality developed because of low self-esteem. While growing up and well into my twenties, I struggled with perfectionism, thinking that the way I looked, what I thought, and how I acted should be done in a certain way. And, in my mind, I always fell short. My low self-esteem negatively affected my relationships and how I perceived other people. I compared myself to celebrities, models, classmates, strangers; those who were thinner, smarter, prettier, wealthier; those who had toned arms, clear skin, fashionable clothes, and higher grades. I saw myself as “not good enough.”

It wasn’t until graduate school that I was exposed to a different way of thinking about myself. I became very interested in Ignatian and Holistic Spirituality. I recognized how perfectionism was holding me back, and I worked through the “shoulds” that I placed upon myself. I gained a greater sense of self-awareness and self-worth. My thesis focused on Jesus’ commandment to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. My eyes had been opened to the importance of self-love, and the impact of self-love on relationships. How we view ourselves has a direct correlation with the relationships that we form and maintain.

In the years following graduate school, I have tried to continue practices in self-love. I will admit that it isn’t always easy. I still struggle with moments, days, weeks of low self-esteem. But, I also work on new ways to love myself.

I share all of this with you – not because I’m fishing for pity or compliments – because it’s in our shared experiences that we can relate to one another. Low self-esteem is an epidemic, especially in our digital world. We compare ourselves to other people, and become envious of what we don’t have. Instead of embracing ourselves for who we are and how God made us (in God’s image), we wish, hope, and pray to change the unchangeable.

Today, I encourage you to change the way you think about yourself. I dare you break the habit of putting yourself down, and to make a habit of loving yourself. Once you see the positive side of who you are, you will begin to see a difference in your relationships too.

I like to be a woman of action, so I’ve designed a 21-Day Body Positive Challenge. For me, Day 1 starts today. What are you waiting for?

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Sláinte! (with water, of course)

The Joseph in Us All

As we approach Christmas in less than one week, I can’t help but reflect on the Nativity Story and what Mary and Joseph went through leading up to the birth of Jesus. Only two of the four Gospel accounts tell us about the birth of Jesus, and there are some significant differences between the two. In fact, the Nativity Story, as you may know it, is typically a combination of the two Gospel accounts. In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph (not Mary), and the Magi and King Herod play a large role, ending in the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to escape the slaughter of baby boys in Bethlehem. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah make an appearance, along with the angel Gabriel approaching Mary. We hear from shepherds (not Magi), Jesus is circumcised and presented in the Temple. To reconcile the differences, people have combined the two stories, and so Nativity scenes include both Magi and shepherds, angels appear to both Mary and Joseph, and Jesus is found laying in a manger. Continue reading “The Joseph in Us All”

4 Reasons Why Ever After is More than Just “A Cinderella Story”

For those who are exposed to life, culture, and history through film, these visual depictions can make quite the impression on young people, such as 11-year old me. Back in 1998, a new version of Cinderella, portrayed by Drew Barrymore, swept the nation. I remember this version being so real for me. I was mesmerized by the story, watching it over and over again (after it was released on DVD). Over time, I memorized each line (and I can still repeat them along with their characters today). It was a love story that I dreamed of recreating when I got older. It was difficult for me to vocalize why I’ve loved this movie all these years. But as I watch it (for the 5th time this week) I can now explain four reasons why Ever After is more than just “A Cinderella Story:”

 

1. She stands up for those who are voiceless.

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When she came across extra money, she did not even entertain the idea of spending it on herself. She knew exactly how she wanted to spend the money: to release a servant from prison. She risked her own life to fight for Maurice’s life. She dressed above her class, pretended to be a courtier, and demanded that Maurice be released from prison. When she had a chance to speak with the Prince of France (Prince Henry), she also fought for the lives of the other prisoners, asking him to release them all. Spoiler alert: He does.

 

2. She overcomes her own anxiety.

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When faced with an opportunity to tell the truth, a truth that could have herself imprisoned or killed, she reminds herself to “just breathe.” This dialogue that she has with herself is the most famous scene and most often quoted line from the film. It shows both her inner struggle and her strength to move forward with her plan. Her honesty resulted in running away, and the iconic lost slipper. But in this version, the prince did not immediately run after her.

 

3. Distress did not break her, nor did she wait for a man to save her.

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She was traded by her stepmother to a wealthy (and not-so-fantastic) man. She was treated as a servant and prisoner, and knew that no one would save her. Once she was presented with an opportunity to fight for her life, she took it. She was released from her chains, and freed from her servitude. And she did it all by herself.

 

4. She realizes the value in her own name.

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She was dishonest about her name and her class simply to save the life of an old man. She did not expect to keep the lie going, but she felt she had no choice as she continued to run into Prince Henry. As they fell in love with each other, she feared telling him the truth and tearing them apart. It wasn’t until after she admitted the truth about her name that she realized the true value in it. So when it was Prince Henry’s turn to apologize, she could freely feel his love.

 

Of course, one could tear apart this film criticizing the historical inaccuracies. But, this film’s greatness does not lie within its accuracy. Its greatness lies within the values it portrays to its audience: advocacy for the poor and powerless, female empowerment, the value of honesty and forgiveness, and the freedom of love. Here I am, eighteen years later, forever shaped by a Hollywood film. Remember to keep this in mind, filmmakers. There’s a lot of young, impressionable fans being shaped by what you put out there. Make the right voice heard.

 

Sláinte! (with water, of course)

10 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 10 Years

 

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I created this list a few years ago to present on the final day of a senior retreat. Now, on the eve of my last day as a high school campus minister and teacher, I’ve decided that I want this presentation in writing. Here are 10 things that I have learned in the past 10 years, since I graduated from high school:

10. Travel

See the world. Do it often and at different times of your life. Because you change from your experiences, how you view the world around you will change with each passing day. Visit old places with new eyes. Try foods that, at one point, you thought were disgusting. Be adventurous. Be daring. Climb the 400+ stairs to the top of a Duomo in Italy. Stay the night in a sleeper train while traveling between different countries. Do not close yourself off to how the rest of the world lives. Make some time in your schedule (and budget) to travel. Continue reading “10 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 10 Years”