2014: my biggest challenge

To say that 2014 gave me the most memorable experiences of my life would be an understatement.

Countless times this past year, I have tried to write about these exciting events, but I quickly found myself diving into my next adventure. So here’s my spill.

I started off 2014 working with my spunky friend on an educational session presentation for the NACA national convention! In February, we traveled to Boston, MA with other members of our activities council (SMAC), and I achieved a new high from presenting in front of a full room of eager student programmers from across the nation. I felt so proud and accomplished that I could feel my small mark already being made.

In March, I faced my “biggest” downfall when I lost an election for a leadership position. I had never considered the position until others encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone to go for it, so I shed a bucket of tears when I first heard the news that it was not mine. My boyfriend has a special way of making my see all the other opportunities in front of me, and he helped me realize I have a special energy to see others grow. I then began to refocus this energy on my present and future.

Also, I failed spring break. Yes, failed. I spent the entire week in the library from open to closed writing the prospectus for my thesis. I even used my special access on campus to work on it over night (multiple nights). My thesis was my biggest enemy, and I was determined for that to change.

In April, I saw my hard work pay off. I sometimes feel very overlooked within my sorority, Delta Gamma (which I think is probably normal for everyone at some point), but this was such a shock. I was invited to an awards banquet with our president and adviser, and I won the award for Student Activities Member of the Year! I was genuinely surprised and had a smile on my face the rest of the day, the rest of the year actually.

Later that month I was also inducted in The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. I had been waiting for this moment since the beginning of my sophomore year. My new goal was to revamp this prestigious organization and make it something worthwhile for USM students. This became my next big project.

In May, I watched several of my close friends and best friends graduate, which means it was time for my senior year. I was in disbelief, but life keeps going.

Over the summer, I was so lucky to work on campus and live here for free! I learned all about summer conference housing and had an awesome summer with my friends!

At the end of summer, I was able to travel to St. Louis for a Phi Kappa Phi national convention. I coincidentally met a friend there and had an awesome time exploring the city with her. The convention taught me so many ways to make PKP stand out, so I quickly created a plan to incorporate what I had learned into making our new student organization stand out and last far beyond my senior year.

The fall began just like any other. I was so excited to catch up with friends, and our sorority was vigorously preparing for formal recruitment. Every semester has its adjustments, but this semester came with more adjustments than I had signed up for.

  • I was a new commuter. I would get to campus at 8 A.M. every day just to guarantee I could park where I wanted.
  • Modern. Dance. Class. Although I had taken a lower level modern class previously, I was not prepared for the amount of energy I would need for this class. #needcoffee
  • I had a job! I now work with the university’s communications department and I love every day of it.
  • Changing clothes multiple times a day. (Reason? Class to work to dance to class to dance to work to… wait what’s next?)
  • Observation class (AKA the most intense “writing intensive” class ever). Scheduling observation hours between work and 19 hours of class was a cluster-mess. I don’t know how I got through that.

Trying to fit in all this plus everything else I was already doing (like my thesis, student involvement, leadership responsibilities, etc) was even more difficult than before. I’m sorry to all the people I used to hang out with in the HUB everyday. I truly wish I had still time to sit in there all day. I had to deal with the things that are most important to the moment and also figure out which things I wanted to continue to keep.

*Breathe*

I went through a phase this semester where I was very down on my life. My best friends since the beginning of college stopped speaking to me without explanation, and I soon figured out that I was putting in more energy than what I was getting out of it. The things I previously enjoyed then became miserable and heartbreaking. Reality became very real. I have mascara stains to prove it. I talked God’s head off asking for answers and eventually realized that they were right in front of me. I started focusing on the things I have, not the things I don’t have. I became much closer to my Little Sister, roommate, brother, boyfriend, and other sorority sisters whom I have always wanted to be close with but now I had a chance.

Once I realized what I needed to do, I took action and I was happier. I didn’t think about the past or the things that use to make me upset. Every day was an opportunity to make a difference and a gift from God. I became so much more thankful. I’m even convinced that this new energy is what led me to a 4.0 that semester, despite all the crazy things that were thrown my way.

Of course there’s so much more that happened (like hiking Red Bluff, or seeing Phantom of the Opera LIVE, or running into my brother at college parties, or my cruise to Mexico), but the main thing is where I am going with this new vision.

On New Years my heart sank…I graduate in 4 months.

I’m going to be very honest. I have NO CLUE what I’m going to do after graduation. I’ve toured and applied to graduate schools for audiology, but I have also considered public relations. I have thought about taking time off school to work for a little while. I’ve even applied for a couple jobs already.

Now that I don’t have tunnel vision to grad school, I am trying to prepare myself for several different routes.

In the meantime, I am hoping and praying that MY path will show itself to me in time. I know that I have a true support group like no other, and I feel so damn confident to face the challenges that await me this year.

2015, on your mark. Get set.

I’m going to live.

(WARNING: This is a New Year’s post and it’s long.)

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of BuzzFeed articles, blogs, news posts, comic strips, nutrition labels… ya know, things that are irrelevant. A lot of them talked about why I should travel, why I should not get married young, why I should feel old or weird or awkward or confident after reading X number of GIFs that aren’t always that funny. And of course, there’s the one I seem to see bi-annually, “22 Ways Your Best Friend Is Actually Your Significant Other” (so funny). But most importantly, there are the new year’s resolution posts.

I found myself reading a lot of this “wisdom beyond my years” material, so I could write a more unique reflection about the new year. I thought I’d reference a few of them and say yes, or no, or that’s stupid, or “whaaaa?”. I even wrote drafts on drafts on drafts. But then I realized that was lame. This blog is about me, and as far as a new year is concerned, I’m going to reflect on my life.

Reset.

Every year people ask me if I have made any new year’s resolutions, and these past few years I’ve basically said no. I don’t really “believe” in them. Because let’s face it… Cigarette sales will never decrease. Fresh fruit and vegetable sales will never increase. And everyone who buys all the cute new workout clothes that are on sale the beginning of January is going to stop going to the gym once they get all that Valentine’s Day candy. It’s all a cop-out. I mean, it’s the truth.

Actually, since I didn’t have this blog for the first half of last year, let me give you a short blurb about some things I did and saw; we’ll call it “luckettmebefore”. Let’s see…I:

  • had a big reunion with my high school friends at new years
  • went on a wild Goose Chase across Nashville, TN
  • walked around campus barefoot
  • gave SMAC my everything (especially with all the obnoxious Facebook posts)
  • did some new things for my sorority as an officer
  • fell in the shower (may have chipped a bone? oops)
  • stood by my best friend as she married the love of her life
  • stole a lot of pop tabs… out of trash cans (not ashamed)
  • had Five Guys for the first time
  • won a scholarship (HOLLA)
  • walked across the highway a few too many times for my friends to handle
  • experienced a tornado and learned who all cared enough to call or text me immediately (seriously, thank you again). Also saw all who cleaned up afterwards and helped restore faith in the community I now love.
  • saw Alabama Shakes and Maroon 5 live (and you should too)
  • collected all 50 state quarters!
  • had my first “real” job, I guess you could say
  • had a cold spring break with my best friend and met some Jewish republicans
  • became obsessed with thrift shopping
  • had a douchebag of a date (gotta have at least one of these to talk about)
  • fell for the sassy red lipstick trend
  • became an organ donor
  • made new and unexpected best friends

And then of course, there were all my big summer adventures, and I started writing, and… I think you know how most of the rest of my 2013 unfolded.

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On January 1st, 2013, I made a memory jar. I painted the top emerald since that was the color of the year and wrote “2013” on it in silver glitter. Every day* of the year, I took a slip of paper and wrote down something good that happened. Then I put them in the jar and never looked at them again. Well today, I opened that jar and randomly pulled out 13 slips. These are a few of my happy moments of the year:

  1. Was able to sleep and relax.
  2. I snorkeled through really rough water!
  3. I talked a lot with my friends.
  4. I got several keepsake voicemail messages from Mary Beth, and John gave me a ride home 🙂
  5. I had a fun time at OEC with Elyssa, Lindsey, Christian, Kimber, and Gavin.
  6. I slept a LOT today.
  7. We decorated a part of campus with hearts and I got flowers. They make me feel so special 🙂 🙂
  8. Finally home and traveled safely.
  9. Last day at PT Hawaii 😦 Vangie was so sincere
  10. I bonded with my roommate, and I made it to class despite my alarm not going off 🙂
  11. Met a lot of great people and slid on a super TALL slide at boys bid day
  12. Watched the Life of Pi and The Lucky One
  13. I drank all day and felt so much love from my family, friends, and sisters. I’m so thankful for everything they put up with from me. I’m thankful for another year of feeling so alive.

Well then… random indeed. I swear I didn’t redraw any haha. Every day I was always able to think of something good that happened. I never drew a blank about what to write. I want you to realize that there is something special about EVERY day, and all those small things from your daily life add up to make your life one bright ray of sunshine. Even this small (Pinterest) activity made me remember that.

*I’ll be honest though. The past month I didn’t put notes in the jar because I got distracted by lots of other things. So the fact that I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, danced all night, got my first Fall 4.0 GPA, saw Christmas lights in 3D, visited the Mississippi School for the Deaf for 2 days (“epiphany worthy” experience), and found a really special dance partner, all didn’t make it inside the memory jar. Sorry to all persons involved.

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—–

Now back to my reflection…

In 2013, I learned:

  • “Never let someone or something stop you from following your dreams, with an ‘S’. Dreams.”
  • Make the most of each moment and make a difference until your last.
  • Relax, Reflect, Rejuvenate. (Not gonna lie…. I had to write in my planner to do all of these things, BUT I still feel much more refreshed than I did before.)
  • Be bold and confident. Own it.
  • Networking is one of the best things you can possibly do. Meet EVERYONE.
  • You won’t be young forever.
  • Be resourceful. Even if people make fun of you for it.
  • Don’t let one thing define you because (ya know what?) one thing doesn’t define anyone.
  • Failing is good. Do it intentionally every once in a while.
  • Sometimes you’ll have to make sacrifices for what you love.
  • Worrying gets you nowhere.
  • “All things will pass.”
  • Patience is a virtue… And it pays off tenfold.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • There’s a lot of beauty right in front of you. Just open your eyes.
  • “You can always retake a class, but you can’t relive a party”
  • If you’re passionate about something, show it. Give it your all.
  • There are times when it’s best not to listen to your parents.
  • “It is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.” (aka, Step away from the social media)
  • Hidden places are often the coolest treasures.
  • Don’t be afraid.
  • “Remember no man is a failure who has friends.”
  • If someone continuously goes out-of-the-way for you, they are worth keeping.
  • The silver lining is much thicker than you think.
  • You can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.
  • You should be willing to get your hands dirty and do any task (big or small) that someone asks of you.
  • Live for the memories that make you feel infinite.
  • Make the first move.

And (new things) I learned about myself… well:

  • I can be a diva sometimes, and I’m very thankful for my friends who put up with it.
  • I don’t have limits. I don’t let them happen. I can do anything I set my mind to.
  • I can speak Cat.
  • Sarcasm is a reflex.
  • Experiences are always better. Put some miles on that mind.
  • I’m driven and like to take control.
  • One of my favorite places to relax is on a rooftop.
  • I’m strong enough to get through a kidney stone.
  • I’ll never figure “it” out.
  • I do crazy sh*t sometimes, and I don’t care what other people think about me.
  • I want to be an audiologist.
  • I get EXTREMELY excited if I have high iron levels because I love to donate blood.
  • I’m really proud of where I’m from.
  • I make a LOT of faces.
  • My spirit animal is a sea turtle.
  • According to my StrengthsFinder test, I’m an Achiever. I feel dissatisfied with myself if I do not achieve something tangible literally every day. (It takes a lot for me to admit this.)
  • Which leads me to… I love being active.
  • I think I would be a great NASCAR driver.
  • It has taken a lot of work, but for the first time I really feel appreciated by those around me.
  • I’m meant to be exactly where I am right now. There’s a reason.
  • I’m really proud of myself.

Best 365 days of my life…so far.

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Now as for my future days on this beautiful planet, I’m going to make the best of them.

I’m going to dance to my own beat. Use my new blender to make lots of smoothies. Workout enough to look like an action figure. Be realistic… Show off my style. Let my freak flag fly high. Stay hydrated. Do good. Call my grandparents more often like I use to. Make something. Take chances. Finish that book I started last summer. Get more smile wrinkles (smiling’s my favorite). Put my damn phone down and look around. Not take myself so seriously all the time. Wear fun socks. Fall in love. Surrender my control more often. Explore and experience what life offers me. Not sweat the mistakes. Find inspiration in every day. Listen more to others. Do something unexpected for someone else. Exceed people’s expectations. Continue to write. Maybe I’ll even try being bored sometimes; it may get kinda crazy.

The first thing I will do when I return to school this week is post lots of inspirational quotes around my room in all the different nooks and crannies I can find. I’m even going to post them on my desk in the SMAC office, in my car, on my binders, etc. This year, I want to see great advice and encouragement that I can live by every day.

But what are my plans for 2014? As of right now, I know I’ll start my senior year of college in the fall, I’m doing a group presentation in Boston, MA at a national convention (SO ecstatic about this), I’ll hopefully get an apartment, and I’m starting my honors thesis. Yeah, all of that’s kind of scary, but I’m ready for some new challenges.

I’m going to do a lot of great things this year; I can feel it. But most of all, I’m going to live.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KINfQbfZwik

Oh, and Happy New Year! I hope you have a memorable one too!

Life is good.

Well it’s been about two and a half months since my last post. I’m already half done with this semester, and I feel like I owe my awesome followers and myself a little journal update.

Eating at USM President Dr. Bennett's house for "Dr. B's Book Club"

Eating at USM President Dr. Bennett’s house for “Dr. B’s Book Club”

As a refresher, I’m a junior, so I would think that overall I should be getting a little more busy and overwhelmed. Surprisingly this has felt like the easiest semester yet. I think I finally got my ish together, and I feel like a new person. I’m actually going to bed early (well, early for a college student), working out regularly (outside of my ballet class), and not stressing over little details. Heck, maybe I’ll get my first fall semester 4.0; that’s my goal at least.

Live at 5.

Live at 5 in downtown Hattiesburg.

This is my first semester living in my sorority house, and, gosh, it’s crazy fun. I’ve had so many moments of awkward bonding with these girls, and I love how my close friend circle continues to expand each day; not to mention, it’s super convenient when trying to find the perfect outfit or swap swag when there’s only one minute to spare.

I always get attacked when I walk in my room.

I always get attacked when I walk in my room.

I had quite a few friends graduate in May, but this hasn’t stopped me from seeing them. I love that my close friendships have only adapted to the times and are now growing in different ways. I’ve also made so many new friends! I personally love meeting people, like anyone and everyone I come into contact with. These people have affected my life and play a part in it (whether they have lines or not), and I think I should take every opportunity to meet them. I like to think that some of them will even be a part of my distant future, so we shall see!

USM Homecoming game with old and new friends.

USM Homecoming game with old and new friends.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time with our new Delta Gamma members and trying to be the role model that I had at that time during my freshman year. I’m so impressed with these girls and just wish that I were able to spend bundles of time with each one of them.

Myra and I were glad that Recruitment was over. Super ready for Bid Day festivities!

Myra and I were glad that Recruitment was over. Super ready for Bid Day festivities!

I’m also so freaking proud of my chapter right now. More than ever before. We have given every ounce of oomph to every task that we have been given, and it shows! We’ve won the homecoming team activities and philanthropy events; new and active members have made their presence known, not only in the Greek community but also all across campus. I’m running for a few positions within my chapter for this upcoming calendar year, and I can’t wait to see how everything works out.

Delta Gamma on Team 2 for Homecoming!

Delta Gamma on Team 2 for Homecoming!

Speaking of, I actually applied to be on USM’s orientation team for next year and was called back for the second round of interviews this upcoming week. I’m thrilled to be going back, so pray for me!

SMAC got a its logo on the Student Activities HUB window!

SMAC got its logo on the Student Activities HUB window!

On top of that exciting news, I also received some outstanding news that I’ve been waiting to hear for the past two months. Two of my fellow SMAC executive members and I will be presenting an educational session at the NACA national convention which will be held in February in Boston!!! This is a big deal, y’all. I jumped around all day yesterday telling everyone I know about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will surely keep telling my friends over the next couple weeks. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

Can't wait for Boston with this awesome friend!

Can’t wait for Boston with this awesome friend!

Get ready Boston because you can't stop this!

Get ready Boston because you can’t stop this!

Also, SMAC has done superbly well this semester! I’m beyond proud to be a part of this team. Of course there have a been a couple flukes, but I have never seen us caught off guard by them. I have so much faith in our members, executive board, GA, and advisor that SMAC will continue to do great things for our university and just straight up conquer the world.

Sisterly support at SMAC's Ice Skating event this semester

Sisterly support at SMAC’s Ice Skating event this semester

SMAC has rubbed off on me so much. I’ve gotten more organized (oddly enough) and more silly and creative too. I mean I’ve dressed up as some crazy things the past few weeks, like a rock and a pinata. All complete with awkward confrontations and worthwhile memories.

That Halloween when I rocked.

That Halloween when I rocked.

I’ve found a new love in exploring my college town by finding new places to visit with my friends, but we have still gone to the regular spots as well. This also includes volunteering. This morning Delta Gamma actually helped with the annual Gallant Hearts Guide Dog Center dog walk, and once again it was a beautiful day for such an event. For the first time, we also visited the state veterans’ home in Collins, MS a few weeks ago. All these experiences have really opened my eyes to some hidden opportunities, and I’m grateful to be able to share these moments with my friends.

I asked State Senator Sally Doty (whom I met at NEW Leadership Mississippi over the summer) to come speak at DG's chapter meeting.

I asked State Senator Sally Doty (whom I met at NEW Leadership Mississippi over the summer) to come speak at DG’s chapter meeting, and she so sweetly agreed!

So back to classes… one thing I can’t share with my friends is my school work. I don’t have a tremendous amount of outside work to do, like I did in the past, but I have something new and big tacked on.

AN HONORS’ THESIS.

This is my chance to present research through the Honors College that I will compile over the next (less than) 2 years. By research I don’t mean Facebook creeping; I mean real legit stuff. I was nervous about this process at the beginning of the semester, but now I have two advisors in place and just have to figure out a topic. I have a lot of ideas thanks to the fact that I reflect on all my class lessons throughout my daily routine. My only problem is that everything sounds so interesting, and I don’t know how to properly ask a research question (yet). I can’t seem to go a day without sounding out the Northampton symbols or analyzing situations in regards to how a Deaf person would feel, but I know this type of nonstop thinking will only help me in the long run.

Oh, I became a Grand Big!

Oh, I almost forgot. I became a Grand Big!

Side note: I’m in Womens’ Chorus again! I’m also really glad my best friends were able to come watch our fall concert (:

…which means it’s finally Fall! This is my favorite time of year mainly because of the different colors that the leaves radiate. I miss seeing the yellow leaves of the gingko trees at home, but I can’t wait to see them when I visit next time.

Visiting Dana for her 21st birthday.

Visiting Dana for her 21st birthday.

I have only gone home once this semester, which is pretty normal, but I was able to see several of my good friends that still live at home or are working. I also entered a fun little contest/pageant at the Delta Hot Tamale Festival in Greenville, MS, and I was crowned Miss Hot Tamale 2013! This was definitely a huge step outside my comfort zone, but I received immense  support from my close friends. I am still immensely appreciative for my friends who visited me at home that weekend to help me not freak out and watch me work it. And especially for my roommate, who dealt with corn husks being all over the floor for a week. Thank you.

"Hot Tamale, y'all"

“Hot Tamale, y’all”

Random tidbit: my hair is getting long! No more cutting it. I’m trying to see how long I can get it again.

Since it is junior year, that means this is the year of turning 21. Several of my friends have turned 21 already, but my turn is quickly approaching. Mine is next Saturday (same day as our DG initiation) , and I honestly don’t have any birthday plans set for the weekend. I will probably just be spontaneous. That’s usually a real adventure, so I’m banking on that option.

One of my new friends :)

One of my new friends Riane!

Finally, I think I’m ready to sign off again. I know this was long, but, hey, I had a lot to cover. I can’t wait to see what other opportunities God has in store for me, my family, and friends. Every day is a journey. A new day. A new beginning. That’s what keeps me going.

That and the free coffee.

Summer is officially over

Well…

The past three months have been one hell of an awesome summer! I’ve basically written about it all, so I’m really not sure how to wrap it all up.

The past couple weeks I’ve just been relaxing at home and packing up for school again. I’ve tried helping my brother with college research since he is a high school senior now. I’ve tried reading a little. I finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower and absolutely loved the movie. Lots of crying, but it’s OK. It just makes me so happy. I tried putting ice cream at the bottom of my snow cone, but it just wasn’t the same. I’ve started eating more fruit at home, and less servings of everything. I’ve adjusted my lifestyle to fit who I am now.

Originally I started this blog to record my journeys this summer, and I’d say that I’ve done pretty well. There were a few times when I got behind, but I didn’t let that stop me. I got back on track to make sure I still told the whole story (well, most of the time) even when I was tired.

Sidenote: This will probably be my last post. I’m about to start school, and everyone knows I have no time for myself, let alone a blog, during the school year. That’s crazy talk. Don’t worry though, I’ll try to post something sporadically about my life, and I’ll definitely consider continuous blogging next summer as well.

I just looked back to read my first post, and some of my original schedule changed. I went to some unexpected places and experienced new things that I had no idea about three months ago. I didn’t do a few things that were planned, but that’s OK too. So many changes happened this summer, so I’m just going to ramble about that for a little bit.

I think that life is all about change. Changing others. Changing perspectives. Changing ourselves. Changing the world. I don’t want to brag, but I know that at MGS I changed at least one person’s life. It makes my heart incredibly warm to know this and makes me want to care even more about the people around me. I’ve learned about different cultures and have experienced different things. I’ve gone through a women’s leadership program that actually (contradicting my first blog) has changed my mindset about writing. I already liked to write before this summer, but now I have developed more appreciation for those who write and the importance of recording your thoughts in time. I mean, my thoughts from the beginning of this blog to now have changed so much! I write differently. I’ve developed a style, I think. I love it. Sure, sometimes I don’t have the time for it, but I’ve never forgotten about it.

I’ve changed.

As crazy as it sounds, I have. It’s one of those things that I find difficulty putting it into words. I feel truly blessed all the time, and I think about different things than I did before this summer. I communicate differently, like a lot differently. I feel connected to the world.

One of my Delta Gamma sisters (who also traveled a lot this summer) told me a few days ago that there’s a difference between a tourist and a traveler. I think it’s because these two groups of people have different motives. Tourists want to have fun and see the world, but travelers want to experience it. They want to be a part of this place, basically do what the locals do, and learn the lifestyle. I “amen”ed her immediately and felt instantly deeper connected to her. There’s something about having lots of experiences that make you more knowledgeable of the world and more relatable to people. Experience the world. Learn about it and use your knowledge to change it.

I am SO ready for school to start tomorrow. I can just feel that it’s going to be a great year. I mean, come on, I’m a junior; I’m turning 21 this year! Hollaaaaaa

Actually, I’ve been in the ‘Burg for a week now and have been trying to prepare as much as possible for this semester. My Delta Gamma sisters and I have been working hard for sorority recruitment in a few weeks. I’ve been getting organized and ready for a new year with Southern Miss Activities Council as the Vice-President. I met today for Senior Honors Orientation to talk about starting my Honors College thesis (lots of writing, yay!). What can I say? I’m growing up. I’m a big girl now. One of the “older girls” on campus, and it’s kind of scary, but isn’t that what college is about? Isn’t that what life is about?

I’m ready to do the things here that I have grown to love and with the people I have grown to love even more.

I’m also ready to scare myself and do new things that I wouldn’t normally do.

I’m ready to succeed, and I’m ready to fail.

I’m ready to take those totally bad study breaks to take time for myself and breathe. Just breathe and relax and know that everything is going to be alright 🙂

I’m ready to meet new people, and I’m ready to get closer to the girls in my member class that are living in the DG house with me this year.

I’m ready to figure out what I want to do for my thesis and as a career one day.

I’m ready to make mistakes, and I’m ready to learn from them.

I’m ready to lead, and I’m ready to follow.

Honestly, I’m ready to fall in love, whether that means more in love with the people I care most about or someone new. I have no idea!

I’m ready for God to take me by the hand and just say “Rachael, I want you to do this for me.”

I’m ready to be led one direction or called where I am needed.

I’m ready to change even more and continue to develop who I am and what I stand for.

I’m ready to explore the town I am going to school in and not just know the campus like the back of my hand.

I’m ready to be there for others.

I’m ready for a lot of work and a lot of play.

I’m ready! Junior year, let’s do this!

With love,

Luckettmenow

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gyLR4NfMiI

(My best friend thought this would be a good way to close out my blogging and also get pumped for school. She was totally right.)

One big happy family

As soon as I returned to Mississippi, my sister and I drove to Grandaddy’s house in the country. Every year, my mom’s family has a huge reunion with relatives coming mainly from Texas and Alabama. Some even come from Hawaii and Nevada. Family reunion is my favorite time of year, so I’m really glad that I was able to come home in time to see my many relatives that are only here once a year.

We have traditions, but, you know, sometimes certain circumstances (like plumbing problems) tend to change them a little. Grandaddy usually makes the BEST pancakes, and I always eat them with Karo syrup. Unfortunately we couldn’t make the pancakes, but I did something new!

My aunt from Indiana needed a partner for horseshoes, which is always played on Saturday with some of my uncles and male cousins. I have never played before, but I agreed only because she said I was her temporary partner until my cousin could join us. Well, shoot, I nailed it! It took me almost a whole game to figure out my technique, but my aunt and I ended up winning three games in a row, beating all my uncles and cousins that had decided to play that day. Girl power!!

After dinner, we decided to watch some home videos from previous reunion years…Gosh, I could not stop laughing. It was hilarious. One thing I remember is how everyone in the room said “SANDYYY” when my Grandaddy’s old dog appeared on the big screen. Everyone loved that dog before it passed, and the memories brought such huge smiles to our faces. Seeing how everyone looked, dressed, and acted over the past 25ish years was priceless. It brought my family closer, and we shared so many laughs.

On Sunday, I always hate leaving but it makes me look forward to seeing my family so much more the next year.

Immediately when I got home, I started unpacking my bags from Hawaii and trying to get readjusted to being at home again. It was different, but it’s always home. It always will be.

One Last Hoorah!

Thursday was my last full day in Hawaii and to be honest, I spent most of it writing my final report for my internship. I worked hard on it and I think it really paid off. I learned so much from being on and off the job and I know that I have a new perspective on quite a few things in life.

I worked on my report, browned a little more, and we took a break to get more local food at the Rainbow Drive-in. I should have gotten the Loco Moco dish, but I had been craving a cheeseburger for a long time.

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We ate outside and enjoyed the sunshine, before cruising to find the best shave ice in town. Of course, I had to have some famous Hawaiian Shave Ice before I flew home! We had to search for this little place for longer than expected because they moved to a bigger, nicer location, but it was totally worth it!

First, we were greeted by these two adorable (obviously, boy and girl) shave ice characters.

IMG_6966Second, the extensive menu…

IMG_6969Third, the… spam?

IMG_6967And last, but (seriously) the best, SHAVE ICE!

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From looking at their menu, you could tell they had a lot of choices. I chose the flavors haupia (white side) and POG (orange side) ((POG= passion fruit, orange, and guava)). I got lilikoi cream on top which explains the seeds. AND ice cream on the bottom. The ice was so fine and smooth that I couldn’t even compare it to snow cones I had seen on the Mainland. It was ridiculous how different this tasted. Also, you would think that the ice cream would be watery from the ice melting on top, but it wasn’t. It was literally perfect, and I want more 🙂

We drove back home to finish all our business and soon enough it was time for my cousin to pick me up to hike one last time. We were going to hike… Stairway to Heaven.

We went to the Koko Head Stairway which is shorter but more physically intense than the more famous Stairway hike. I was ready! People were really excited when I heard them talking about it. Some even sounded intimidated, but I wasn’t afraid at all. I thought it would be a good workout if anything.

Oh what a workout that was.

That was the most physically intense thing I’d ever done. We walked straight up the side of the crater on train tracks.

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My cousin said there are approximately 1,000 steps to the top. The steps are the pieces of wood built between the rails. A long time ago, before this was a hiking route, there use to be a military bunker at the top, and the train would bring any supplies back and forth to them. I don’t know when that operation stopped functioning but it did. And now people walk the tracks weekly, or daily, to stay in shape.

It’s VERY steep.

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The “steps” are unreasonably far apart and high, and I could feel it!

There is not a tourist station or water or city workers or nothin’. Any maintenance to this area is voluntary, so if you want it fixed, you have to do it. The main people using it are locals, mostly athletes that are in training or post-college grads looking to stay in shape or get ripped.

Thankfully we went later in the afternoon so the sun was not shining on us the entire time. Even without the sun’s heat, I was burning up! It was challenging! You had to lean into it almost the whole time. I felt the need to go fast so I didn’t feel the burn so much, but then I’d get worn out and have to catch my breath (a lot more than I anticipated). There was even an area where the train tracks were elevated off the ground, so someone could easily slip through and fall. At this point in the tracks, a volunteer had made an alternate route ON GROUND for those who chose to take it instead. I chose the thrill.

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It was actually a little easier than walking up the normal steps, except for the fact that you had to lean even more into it the whole time. I’m glad I did it though. “Do one thing a day that scares you” is a quote I saw almost everyday here, and I’m going to try to live by that now.

We finally reached the top and it was beautiful. You could look inside the crater,…

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Over the city, and at Hanauma Bay!

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At the top a lot of people just relaxed and listened to music while the forceful winds blew the sweat off their bodies.

We didn’t rest long because we had to clean-up to meet my aunt and uncle for dinner, so we starting making our way down.

I followed some other hikers’ example by walking down sideways. I found this a lot easier on my knees and thighs, so I alternated sides all the way down. The no-ground area was a little scarier though because I had to lean backwards to walk down. By the time I reached the bottom of that section, there was a dog and her owner ready to walk up it. Wow, brave animal.

By the time I reached the REAL bottom, my legs were so sore. I knew I would feel this over the next few days (and I did).

We showered and drove to Roy’s, a fancy-schmancy place. The waiter even put my napkin in my lap for me. It was very loud, but I liked that our table was right beside all the action.

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We split a few appetizers, i had my main dish, and then we split the desserts.

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Our appetizers were a mix of things, and I honestly don’t remember what everything was. But it was definitely good. Very good. I had a mixed seafood plate, which included scallops, opa, shrimp, and crab cakes. Our desserts were pineapple upside down cake (I think our homemade one was better, but I may be bias) and a chocolate lava cake, both served with ice cream.

Wow, so grateful. It had been a wonderful day with my cousin, aunt, and uncle, but I can’t wait to see Mississippi soil again.

I was stuffed and exhausted by the time we were leaving that I just wanted to go to sleep. I’ll finish packing tomorrow.

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We left the house nice and early (7am) to drive to Hanauma Bay for my last big Hawaiian adventure. This place is known for being snorkeling heaven. People even see honu by the dozens. Honu are sea turtles, and I’m kind of obsessed with them.

I’m glad we got there early because we actually snagged a parking spot and then met our friends at the entrance. As we entered the gates to the new visitors center at the top of the crater, you could see the beautiful blue green water and the reefs not far from the shore.

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We all had to watch a video explaining how important safety is in this area for us and the fish. Obviously you can look but don’t touch the marine life. Be safe. Etc. So we walked down to the shore, found a spot to put our bags, and didn’t waste a moment putting on our snorkel gear.

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The mountain in the far left is Koko Head that I hiked last night.

The mountain in the far left is Koko Head that I hiked last night.

We started off center of the shore and headed toward the left end, the side further from us. Right off the bat I saw tons of fish! I had a few exposures left on my underwater camera but they didn’t turn out quite as I expected. And it’s a shame because this water is SO CLEAR. I could see everything within probably ten to fifteen feet in front of me.

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The Hawaii state fish!

The Hawaii state fish!

(Don’t ask me about the dot or bars on my pictures. The people in my area that develop pictures are incompetent, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.)

The water was shallow so the reef was ridiculously close to my body at all times. I was so nervous that I was going to brush against the coral that I pushed myself away from it a couple times (Sorry fishies!).

The fish were unbelievably beautiful! They were so colorful and lively, swimming all around me, some within a foot or two of me. I wanted so badly to reach out and touch them because this experience felt so unreal. By this time I had become pretty skilled at snorkeling, so sometimes I just stopped swimming to stare at the reef and the communities of fish. They dug into the sand, ate off the reef, and even came out of their hiding places.

After snorkeling for about 45 minutes we were nearing the end of our path. My aunt paused for my uncle and I to catch up to her. She pointed to where we were going to snorkel and then end soon. I bluntly said that I wasn’t getting out of the water until I saw a sea turtle. Then we kept going haha.

As we were going along the end of our path, LITERALLY less than a minute later, we saw a honu!

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I was ecstatic. It was nibbling on the reef that was close to my feet and it was such a magnificent creature. It was so chill, not minding at all that we were there watching it. It swam so smoothly through the water and popped its head out of the water once to mimic us I suppose. I tried to just stay there until my fingers shriveled up like prunes, but once again we had to keep moving.

We turned around to head to shore and as the water became more shallow, we came upon several schools of fish.

First I saw small silver fish (no longer than my fingers) swimming in packs. But then I saw average sized white fish whose eyes were on the sides of their heads traveling in intimidating packs toward the same direction as me. As soon as they saw me they just stopped to stare and I guess try to figure out where to go since I was about to intercept their path. Wow, the large number of them almost blinded me, and I actually was tempted to swim straight through them just to see how they would freak out! I imagined a bad version of Finding Nemo occurring, so I decided against it and let the school make the first move. They turned around and creepily watched me, so I swam away.

Soon enough, we reached the shore and walked back to find our friends. It was still so early but it already felt like I had experienced a full day of activity. We left to see a couple more tourist attractions…

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"Sandy Beach"

“Sandy Beach”

another blowhole

another blowhole

…and then ran home to wrap up my stay. Of course, there was weight trouble with my bags, that’s no surprise with me. We packed up the car and headed to airport. Check-in was fine, and I gave a hearty farewell to my aunt and uncle.

I am beyond thankful for this opportunity to work and explore in such a great place, and I will really miss it. People have asked me if I plan on returning or moving out here, but I haven’t really decided yet. I hopefully have many years ahead of me giving me lots of time to live in different places and experience different cultures. I would love to return as much as possible, but I don’t think I want to live here. Another quote I’ve always lived by is “Nothing gold can stay.” I don’t want to live in a place that is so beautiful that I have nothing to look forward to. I love getting the chance to see and experience new wonderful, beautiful, exciting, daring things, but I don’t want to be surrounded by it permanently, in fear that it would not be special to me anymore. So for now, no, I do not plan on living here, but I really want to visit again someday to share this with the rest of my family.

…so then after my aunt and uncle left me, I had an ordeal because I forgot my coconut syrup in my carry-on bag and my first flight was delayed. I don’t even want to talk about being picked up from the airport.

I’m just really glad my older sister was there for me at home and that I was also able to call my best friend between my early flights. Thank you. It means the world.

Packing up

These past few days have been mainly work. I continued to get a lot of feedback from the employees at all locations and get to know them a little better. I did a few new things but mainly other tasks that I had done before, like the mail (but I wasn’t a victim to the envelope opener this time!) and checking in patients.

I scanned a lot of charts at PT Hawaii- Kapolei which is similar to what I did as a student worker this past semester. So I was able to accomplish a lot in just a short time.

By going through a lot of papers at WorkStar, I found out how many patients are being treated there. As long as it took me to figure this out, I really enjoyed counting through the papers (I mean, I use to be a math major). It was pretty fun.

One day, one of the girls walked around the office with a paper bag in her hand passing out some type of food. She asked if I wanted one, to which I replied “What is it?”. She said it was an avocado popsicle.

What. I had no idea what to think.

Because I love cultural immersion, I accepted her offer and tried one. I wish I would have taken a picture because most of the ones on Google look too cute and yummy.

This (http://www.altdaily.com/features/4661-15ice-cream-trucks-don-t-sell-these) is what mine looked like.

Yeah, the color was definitely hard to get past. There was never a stage between frozen and “too mushy”, so the texture made it difficult for me to eat. It had a slightly sweet taste, and the girl beside me ate hers in like 3 minutes. But would I eat another one? No. Never. I couldn’t even finish this one.

(As the girl from “Kittens Inspired by Kittens” would say,…”YUCK!”)

Yesterday, my aunt and I shopped down in Waikiki for the first time this trip, and I’ll be brutally honest. I hated seeing so many white people; well, some were actually lobster red. Either way…At this moment I realized the past three weeks I had been living the true Hawaiian life: in their neighborhoods, on their beaches, in their workplaces, in their restaurants and grocery stores, etc. I underwent culture shock from seeing people of my own kind, and I felt weird about it. We shopped for a little bit and ate. By the time we were done, I was ready to get out of all the chaos, the cute tootsy-fruitsy tourists, and the packs of size 0 Asians that were cluttering this place. Waikiki at night is a crazy place. I could do it alone, but preferably no one should.

On my last day on location at work, I got several hugs and lot of people telling me to visit again. Especially from the facilities manager at PT Hawaii- Kapolei. She is so sweet.

We went grocery shopping one last time and headed on home for a home cooked dinner and more chocolate haupia cream pie. YUM.

Hawaiian Redbox

Hawaiian Redbox

I packed and packed, but it was hard to imagine myself leaving this place. Three weeks here is a long time and I had gotten use to the way we lived, developed new habits, adjusted to the weather, etc. Regardless, I am very ready to see my family and friends and be able to talk to them any time I want since I couldn’t always do that here (Thanks, time zone difference). I just want a big hug when I get home. But two more full days of adventure are ahead. LEGGO.