When I was young, I had a dentist tell me I needed braces, so I never went back.. I liked that my teeth were maybe a little too big, the chip in my tooth was well earned in a soccer game and my imperfect teeth, I felt, made me me. It was before I started succumbing to the feelings of rejection and self judgment that led to bouts of unworthiness, depression, body dysmorphia, anorexia. In the words of Pink, “everyday I fought a war against the mirror.” When I found my teaching job, I realized that just by shining my light and being me, I could change someone’s life. It was not my looks, but my soul, my compassion, my quirks that made a difference and I loved myself for once✨But it is a constant battle I will always fight. Sometimes it rears its head without you even knowing that your insecurities are winning. Recently, I had more energy than I have in a few months and the epiphany set in. I was suddenly and unknowingly being nice to myself again, taking care of myself, feeding myself and it made me both happy and sad. Sad that our minds can make us be so mean to ourselves. Happy that I finally found compassion for myself again. Happy that I had a breakthrough in realizing, how was I supposed to be a beacon of light when I didn’t even have the energy to do so? How can I make sure kids love themselves and are being kind when I can’t even be kind to the one person who matters most? We make a difference not because of how we look, but because of how we make others feel. By showing them it’s wonderful to love yourself just the way you are and to smile because you do. There is so much power in not allowing your biology, your insecurities, your predispositions, your tendencies, your reflections to bring you down (it’s ok if they do at times) & letting your soul & heart lift you up. I think little me realized that my smile was a reflection of my soul and that was what mattered💫If only we all had that wisdom and knew that our imperfections, the chipped teeth, our battles we’ve fought against our mind and doubts make us beautiful because they make our heart and souls strong and empathetic. So fight that war against the mirror, and win. Even fight the dentist if you must😝
A couple weeks ago, we took a group of students to the redwoods and guided them on an 11 mile hike where along the way we passed around 4 waterfalls. At one point we even hiked down steps that descended alongside the biggest cascade! I was awe stricken by the waterfalls, the giant trees, the ferns that decorated the forest floor (which did you know is called bracken?😳) and I felt so grateful to be able to show these students one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on🌲🌲 These students were some of the most dedicated, intelligent, determined young adults I had ever met and they inspired me and saddened me at the same time. These students had their sights set on schools like Yale, the cross country runners woke up at the break of dawn to run 16 miles before they would later embark on that 11 mile hike. Their dedication, their determination for their future is something to admire, yet at the same time I could see how society’s forward looking mind set had filtered into their every moment. The 11 mile hike became a race to the finish, to the point I could barely even keep up, and the waterfalls didn’t even encourage a second glance from the ‘finish line’ mentality🏅 I was once one of these students. I felt society’s pressure. I never stopped moving, playing sports, doing homework. I never stopped thinking about how every little thing would influence my future, what college I got into, even when the present passed me right by💨 Now, I stop, watch, listen to, play with the waterfalls. Now I am much happier✨ The students themselves did not sadden me, but society’s influence does. Setting your sights high for yourself is admirable. Believing you can be successful is inspiring. 24/7 dedication is incredible. I’m in no way saying that these things are bad, I’m in no way saying these ways of life are wrong. I’m saying that we as a society should find a balance and teach balance. That the future IS important, but the present is too. School for some IS important, but it isn’t everything, it’s not the only way. Pushing yourself IS important, but so is allowing yourself to slow down so you don’t push past the beautiful things in life. Balance IS important✨🍃⛰💫
Besides gratitude, one of the biggest lessons I learned in China was about my ego, about accepting non negotiable things I have when it comes to my own happiness✨ The particular camp we were scheduled to work at was one that was completely unexpected (I haven’t posted any pictures). It was an environment that made me feel trapped, isolated and with a lack of freedom. These things were no one’s fault, they were not intentional. They were simply cultural differences, variances in ways of life🌎 But I learned that just because something is from a different culture and I want to do my best to understand, respect and accept different ways of life, they will not always align with me, and that’s okay. I was trying with all my might to stay and teach in an environment that was not conducive to my well being, just so I could say I did it. So I didn’t have to explain why I was leaving, so I didn’t feel like I was giving up🌻 These are all struggles I have always battled: perfectionism, fear of failure, belief that choosing yourself first means giving up instead of showing courage. But I had to reframe my perspective, understand that it is okay to choose myself. That if I know I’m not happy and will not be, it is okay, it is wise to make a change. And it is best for everyone if I do💫 Best for me, best for those whose energy is influenced by my own, and even best for the children. Because I want to be myself for the kids, for the world. I want them to have a role model who is inspired, excited about life, goofy, uninhibited, and if I can’t be those sides of me, if I can acknowledge my unhappiness and leave the situation, it’s not giving up, it’s choosing me, choosing my purpose of spreading light and it’s okay to do that. It’s okay, it’s good to recognize when you feel you’re not shining your light and bring yourself back to the spaces that help you shine it. That’s what we’re here to do⛰🦁🐞🍄☀️🌈
Going to China made me realize how I’ve been to some wonderful places in my travels🌎 Places that have opened my eyes to new ways of life I wanted to adopt, brought color to my vision of the world, gave me options of life I didn’t know I could live out. Travel always had me dreaming of leaving. Dreaming of where to go next, where to leave home for. China was the first experience I had with really missing home. China had its beautiful places. Its people, its temples, its gardens, its historical boats that had me dreaming of cruising down the Li River and China is also the biggest culture shock I’ve experienced yet. It expanded my mind in different ways than other countries have. Not of ways to live by, but in ways that made me grateful for how I don’t live, and for ways I do live in my home country. Like I said, the first experience that made me ache for home, that made me feel lucky to be where I’m from🏡But it is everything I needed✨ I needed to feel the gratitude for the country I call home. I needed to realize the intangible things we often take for granted. We all live differently in this world and I’ve always said that seeing the world through another culture is the best way to learn. It seems that this summer, my lesson was to learn to have more gratitude for what I was born into at home. I’m so grateful to have the freedom to go about life as I choose. To express that freedom physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I’m sitting at home, not taking off on a plane, or driving thousands of miles trying to find the ends of the earth, and I’ve never felt freer🌕💫🌻🌼
I’ve been on a lot of road trips and I was incredulous to find that the most dreamy one I have ever been on is in my very own state. California has so many different geographies and natural wonders that it keeps surprising me, wherever I go. A year and a half ago, my boyfriend and I went on a road trip up the 395 to stay at Silver Lake Campground just north of Mammoth. It was late April and we expected the flowers to be in bloom, the grass to be green. My friend had hand drawn us a map for the whole drive, every fascinating little stop to make. As my bf and I were just about it to make it to our first stop, Convict Lake, droplets started to splatter on our window a little too hard for it to be rain. Chris said it wasn’t snow and I quipped back: “well then it’s frozen rain!”
We then proceeded to get caught in my first snow storm. We couldn’t see on either side of the highway, surpassing the hot springs, not even seeing the lakes that flowed right up to the road. We took the exit for Convict Lake, a masterpiece of the mountains I couldn’t wait to see, and were surrounded by flurries of white snow flakes. The lake was nowhere to be seen, covered in a white fog, and I still couldn’t help but dance in my body and soul. I had never been in a winter wonderland, and here I was in one, in the middle of spring, with my favorite person. It felt like magic.
Getting back in the car, we followed the Jeep in front of us, putting our wheels in their tracks as my little hatchback wasn’t quite prepared for deep, freshly fallen snow. We pulled out and finally made it to Silver Lake, where it was only us and two other campers. I had no idea it was the very first day the campsite reopened and the little old couple that hosted the campground was there to welcome us and let us know of all that we could do to survive the snow, the little places to get warm and collect firewood. That night, we slept in a snow storm. We ate Indian food in the car with the heater running and when it was time to sleep we ran to the tent, which was surprisingly warm as it was insulated by all the snow that had fallen around us. We were in our own little igloo of warmth, hearing the wind long before we could feel it, lulled to sleep by the nearby waterfall made from the melting snow.
Our plan venturing to this part of Cali was to hike around the eastern outskirts of Yosemite, to find the 20 lakes basin and hike among the greenery. But things never go as planned and considering the overhaul of snow, we made alternative plans. Our campground was in a little loop called June Lake loop, where our lake neighbored that one and another one called Grant Lake. We packed up the car and drove, asking local friends we made in the coffee shop nearby about things to do. They sent us with maps and free coffee, saying they loved how friendly we were. We started to drive north about an hour and we stopped at Mono Lake, just outside of Lee Vining, where geographical oddities lined the shores. Called tufas, they stagger like high stalagmites, as if the heavens took sand and dropped it on top of itself, like when you’re trying to make a sand castle. The water was an aqua blue and the fresh air, since it was sunnier the following day, made it perfect to walk around the lake. We fell into the quicksand like mud, making it even more of an adventure.
A little further up the highway and off a winding dirt road decorated by green, flowered meadows, is an old ghost town called Bodie. We drove the bumpy dirt roads, listened to my favorite African band and Chris played his African drum along to the beat. It was a desolate old town. Wooden churches, apothecaries, little gas pumps used by the folks that worked in the mines throughout the area. Built in the mid 1860s, when gold was discovered in the area, it turned quickly from a town of a few hundred people to one of nearly 10,000, hosting a dangerous combination of 65 saloons, a red light district and the hunt for gold. It was incredible to see the remnants of a past civilization outlined by the Sierras. It’s own world back in the solitude of the mountains. We got in our own little snowball fight but otherwise tread gently on the grounds, hearing it was bad luck to take, even accidentally, something from this ghost of a town.
Another half an hour up the highway is a little town called Bridgeport. We drove there to find the hot springs that were supposed to be filled with cleansing, though stinky, sulfur. The town was made of one little strip. We stopped at a classic red and white burger joint for veggie sandwiches and the cashier was about 14, training what seemed to be a 12 year old. And it was the most delicious veggie burger I’ve ever had. We met an old lady in a tiny shop called This and That and she told us her life story with a parakeet on her shoulder. It might’ve even been him who told us how to get to the hot springs.
Just a couple miles southeast of Bridgeport is the turnout for Travertine Hot Springs. An oasis of pools that sits up on the hillside, overlooking the meadows and pastures, not to mention an incredible horizon filled by the snowy Sierra Nevadas. An upgrowth of the earth spills out hot water into three pools that fill from the last, offering three temperatures, though all hot, to heal your body and soul. There’s something kismet about our travels, how Chris and I always happen to get beautiful places to ourselves for a bit. A sort of well known hot spring, there were a few others, but everyone was friendly as they too are open to nature’s healing properties. We had about 20 minutes to ourselves and there was nothing like those few minutes. Hot springs will change and renew you.
We had one more night in Silver Lake and we used it exploring the little mountain town. Chris took me to a cozy, red cabin restaurant where on the table there was a bowl of fresh croutons waiting our arrival. We went to the June Lake Brewery and it was the most family friendly one I’ve ever been too. Nice young couples had their children and even their giant great danes or huskies inside the open air bar. Helpful young folks were celebrating their full day of volunteering to clean the lakes after the snow and rain storms. It was the first time I thought that maybe I could live in a little mountain town. Surrounded by young families, animal lovers, philanthropist and eco friendly hearts. I’d go back to that brewery just to experience that feeling of community we all at some point seek. The connection our roots need.
Nature is powerful and unpredictable. It is best to go with no expectations, but we usually always have some semblance of one, or some version of a plan of what we believe might happen. I never expected a snow storm, a hiking trip to turn more into a relaxing road trip. But I didn’t know it was exactly what I needed. The universe and the earth will always give you that, even if it’s hard. Your adventure in nature will always be what it’s meant to be for you. We have no control of what Mother Earth will offer us and if we accept what she sends us, we can learn the lessons from it. We can appreciate all beauty, even in forms we weren’t prepared for.
I got to survive a snow storm with my boyfriend. I got to watch him make fires while I made our tent a home. We got to see who we both were in times of unexpected trials. And we loved what we saw. We found places, broadened our exploration to landmarks we didn’t know existed. We listened to local’s advice and made new friends, we heard suggestions and advice from a friendly stranger instead of from an internet site. We became a part of a community for a day. Without the surprise snow storm, without the moments of nervousness from an unexpected twist, without the willingness to and necessity of changing our plans, we wouldn’t have been a part of an old timey community for a weekend. We may have been off in wild woods, which is always good, but sometimes wild hearts need moments to meet their neighbors in whichever place they call home for the day.
It was a few years ago that my love for travel was ignited. My dad took me to Spain and Turkey in the same year and I couldn’t believe how invigorating it felt to learn about the world on a global level. I was obsessed with traveling abroad, I even went to study in Italy. Recently, with my new job and exploring my love for camping again, I decided that though of course I would keep traveling, maybe I’d get to know my own state, my own country a little better. I started to realize that I didn’t have to go as far to see wonderful, beautiful places or to learn new things about the world or myself. It’s not to say that I won’t keep traveling internationally, but this more local travel has encouraged me to find beauty in my own home. To not take where I come from for granted. I went to Utah, traveled the PNW and most of all, I feel like I really got to know my own state: California. And it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’m continually impressed and awestruck by all the different geography and landscapes. I feel lucky and proud to have fallen in love with my home. Somewhere I used to want to leave to feel like I changed/moved on, but all I needed was to open my perspectives and realize that I don’t have to go thousands of miles away to find new experiences. Seeing places like this has made me love my home and I love travel, in every form, for that.
I got a notification on Facebook that it’s been two years since I’ve graduated from college and I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how much I’ve grown since. I had an old friend message me recently and ask about how I got into living my life the way I do and it made me think about how it is that I do live it. What I seek out in order to keep doing what I love. I definitely live for what I’m passionate for and not for money, I live for what I want now instead of my college years when I felt like I was living based on society’s expectations. I figure I can always make my life work around what I love. And my first response was to say that I find the things that make me happy and do that. Then I thought about that. Of course happiness is great, but it is not a permanent thing. We are always feeling different emotions, it’s who we are. There is so much going on in this world that we are meant to feel every emotion and that’s what makes our lives beautiful (it’s something I’ve been learning just this year).
So what I seek out instead, is what inspires me. What reminds me of my passions, why I’m here on this planet, why I want to keep working every day to do good, why I want to keep exploring, why I work every day to be a better person. Because if I’m always being given inspiration, I can handle any emotion. Of course the happiness is in plenties, because I’m doing what I love. But to be inspired helps get you through everything. No matter what you’re feeling- happiness, sadness, exhaustion, frustration, if you have something that is always inspiring you, it fuels you through whatever state of existing you are in. It motivates you to continue your happiness, get beyond your frustration or reminds you that the exhaustion is worth it. If you live a life filled with inspiration, you feel you can do anything and regardless of the emotion, there is an always present fulfillment and contentment, your life always has purpose. I’m inspired by nature, travel, kids, teaching, spreading compassion, family, animals. What inspires you?