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Brownells by the Beach Wedding

This wedding stands out amongst the rest, because it was also a vacation. Two days before the wedding, my friends and I arrived in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I felt even cooler and more privileged to be staying in the same beach house as the bride and groom. Even better, they brought their baby daughter and their dog. Both of them were probably my favorite guests there.  

Before the Wedding

The wedding was designed, created and envisioned all by the bride. (The groom may have helped, but the bride was definitely the mastermind). It was impressive the amount of work she put in to create an event that celebrated herself. While asking for direction on where to place things, in a very serious tone, the bride looked at me and said, “And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” There was no melody in her voice when she said this. I didn’t even realize she was quoting a song until about halfway through the lyric. This made it that much funnier.

Before the ceremony, I was instructed by the Maid of Honor to inform the Officiant they would be ready soon. My best attempt at casually interrupting a wedding ceremony, with the Officiant, groomsmen and groom already at the alter felt incredibly awkward. It’s important to note that for the most part, nobody at this wedding had any idea who I was, and the ones that did, hadn’t seen me in at least ten years. Everyone kind of glared at me like I was some kind of idiot, while I smiled back in an apologetic and flighty way. I was tempted to make the declaration, “I’m just following directions!” Then I remembered, I don’t care and sat down in an available seat.

Beach Wedding

As the bride walked down the aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the groom’s cool smile. He didn’t just look happy. He looked at peace.  

Beach Wedding

The Wedding Reception

At the reception, one of the groomsmen’s speeches felt more like a monologue that even turned into a soliloquy. Painfully long, but sweet because it was obvious he cared. He had so much to say that he simply couldn’t narrow it down into five minutes or less. Without knowing this information, I decided to record his speech for him and the bride. I ended up stopping three times, only to start a new video, to ultimately give up before it was even over. He’s lucky I like him. I’m not sure the other guests were as amused as I was.   

Later, I took the bride’s previous advice and hit the dance floor. Some of us dancers re-enacted multiple scenes from Grease, one in particular was the infamous scene where I was Danny Zuko and the bride was Cha Cha Digregorio. After dancing, the bride jumped in the pool with her dress still on and if I ever thought I saw a mermaid, it was in that moment. Her dress flowed around her, with her hair slicked back, and her makeup somehow unsmeared. She was beaming the entire night.  

Beach Wedding

I also hopped in the pool, but I was in a bathing suit. I’ve never done a wardrobe change at a wedding before and I have to say, I think all weddings should allow such a luxury.

Beach Wedding

The Day After

The following day, the bride (and groom) also organized and created a day of fun, full of outdoor games and a bounce house. At first I was reluctant to participate in Capture the Flag. Besides the fact that I had somehow never played before and was unfamiliar with the rules, my ability to understand them was hindered due to my suffering of a minor hangover with a large mimosa in my hand.

Yet as the game went on, I suddenly found myself sprinting toward an opponent and leaping over a fence like a track star. Luckily, that opponent cut their foot and had to take a break, because then I was on the verge of throwing up. We both called truce and let the boys run around for a while afterward. Once I got my heart rate regulated, I ended up being the one who assisted the capturing of the flag. What started as a day I was skeptic of, ended up being refreshingly fun.  

Beach Wedding

Happy Anniversary to the Brownells!

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Tom – The Ostrich Man

I have known Tom since first grade. He was my friend that lived the next street over, who for some reason found the stupid things I said entertaining. Often, Tom was the only guy in a group of girls. I have vivid memories of him across the classroom in American History and sitting at our table at Catechism.

He was the kid skateboarding on his half pipe in the backyard, and the friend I couldn’t catch in hide-and-go-seek tag. Seriously, he was freakishly fast and he knew it. He taunted me once, slowing down in speed, allowing me the false belief into thinking I was close to catching him. Each time he casually sprinted away with such large strides that I quickly gave up. It was then that I gave Tom his acronym, The Ostrich Man. I don’t know how I would feel if someone called me, The Ostrich Woman, but Tom was a good sport about it. Again, I am amazed at the dumb things I have said that he found funny.

Since then he has continued to make time to see me even long after I have moved away.

The Infamous Time in St. Pete

Keeping up with Tom, rather trying to keep up with Tom has gotten me into trouble more than once. The worst time, or the best time, depending on how you look at it, is right before going into the new year of 2013. Tom and his family were in St. Petersburg and my sister and I drove up to see them. We pre-gamed during a drinking game called, “ride the bus,” that I haven’t played since and the rest of this story will explain why.

After the pre-game, we danced and drank in multiple bars in St. Pete. Later, I found myself puking outside our hotel and in our bathroom. The next morning I had numerous missed calls and texts from Tom. His third text read, “Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee.” 

When I met up with him the next day, I didn’t feel much better, periodically going to the bathroom for false alarms. At the worst possible moment, (once my sister was driving on the highway) I had to throw up for the millionth time. Unable to hold it in, I re-enacted Alanis Morissette’s music video, “Ironic” as I leaned the entire upper half of my body out the window and vomited on the side of my car, at 70 mph. I threw up so much I popped a blood vessel in my eye. It was red for two weeks.

That is sadly not the last time I have thrown up after drinking with Tom.

A story I have kept to myself

This is a story I’ve never told Tom. In fact, I debated not sharing it at all. But sometimes the stories you are afraid to say are some of the best ones.

Over five years ago, a couple of us went out in Ferndale and had an afterparty at our mutual friends, Joey and Heather’s apartment. Before Uber, without a car, and at 5 AM, I realized I had no ride and no plan on what I was going to do. Saving me, Tom took me home. On the way, he asked if I wanted McDonald’s breakfast and I agreed, looking at him like the brilliant man he was.

Walking down the hallway to his bedroom, my heart began to pound as I panicked over what, if anything, was going to happen. Suddenly, I wondered how I could’ve been so stupid and found myself in a bedroom of a close friend I had never even kissed. Slowly, I entered, surveying the room, before turning around to see Tom standing in the doorway. He smiled at me and said, “Ok, I’m going to sleep in Alex’s room. He’s out of town. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then he closed the door and left me in a room to myself. I have trusted him ever since.

Partying Too Hardy with Tom

Most mornings after a night out with Tom, I woke up with my hair sticking out from all ends, sweating out alcohol, and feeling like death. Meanwhile, Tom would be sipping coffee, reading the morning paper, and asking what we wanted to do today. I would glare at him like the freak of nature he was and ignore his question. The only thing I was doing that day was dying a slow death.

Once, I stood in Tom’s bedroom doorway, half asleep, half drunk. While he brushed his teeth, I talked about how crazy last night was and how lousy I currently felt. When he laughed I looked at him and realized I was talking to his dad, John.

Another morning, I woke up in his basement. As I sat with my head in my hands, I heard someone laugh and clear his throat. I looked up to find John sipping coffee a few feet away. There was a glass of water and a plate of vitamins on the table in front of me.

Later, as Tom drove me home, I calmly asked him to pull over. “You going to throw up?” He asked as he veered into the parking lot of a miniature golf course. “Yup,” I answered, before swinging the door open. When my vomit was pink and tears came out of my eyes, I heard Tom moan, “Oh, you’re rejecting everything.” The lovely vitamins John lent to save me, were now on the pavement in liquid form.

When Tom Met Meredith

That was the last time I saw Tom before he moved to South Carolina. I knew he was going to meet someone there. I told him that before he left. The immense relief I feel that the person he met, is Meredith, is greater than I realized.

For quite some time I was nervous that my friendship with Tom would one day come to an abrupt end. I feared he would be with a woman who wouldn’t understand our dynamic and vow that he would never speak to me again. Seeing Meredith as this matching light of his feels like a giant exhale. Tom has always been this silly, kind man who is somehow now outmatched by his match. Meredith is this breathtaking relief of a woman who mirrors Tom.

At an after party of a wedding, I watched her attempt to save a moth, that our friend, Joey caught first and ate in front of her. She screamed in agony while the rest of us laughed hysterically. Therefore, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I kill bugs on the regular. Well, until now.

Their wedding is this May in Mexico and I am more than delighted to be a guest.

A Simple Thing That Meant More

After South Carolina, Tom was given the opportunity to travel for work, specifically working in Orlando on occasion. On one particular visit, I showed him my new apartment and we got lunch down the street. Except, the only spots available to my new neighborhood was parallel parking. I failed my driver’s test three times, because of parking. Parallel parking wasn’t even part of my exam. To say I am terrible at parallel parking would be an understatement.

While panicking in the driver’s seat, Tom offered to park my car for me. Much to my astonishment, Tom parallel parked my car, from the passenger’s seat. He literally leaned over me, with his left arm, turned the wheel one way and then the other, while I tapped on and off the brake pedal. It was probably one of the best parking jobs I have ever seen and hands down, the most impressive thing I have ever witnessed to date. Furthermore, it is also one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I could have cried.

Happy 30th Tom. I don’t know how we got here so fast, but I’m glad we are here together. Meredith is so sweet she makes my heart hurt.

Please don’t make me puke in Mexico.

Comment below to wish Tom a Happy Birthday too!

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Goodbye to Chicago, the people

Last month I said Goodbye to Chicago, the city, in terms of neighborhoods, places, and things. This time, more importantly, I am saying Goodbye to Chicago, the people. They were the ones that truly brought life to that city.

Goodbye Old Friends

If you’ve had the privilege of seeing me dance at a bar as if I’m in a music video, you will find that I’m not so special once you also see my friends, Justine, and CJ doing the exact same thing. Nobody else needs to be there. Nobody else needs to be watching. Nobody else even needs to be dancing. Those two are my dancing partners. Leaving everything we had on the dance floor, sweat, glory and all, is one of the many ways I will remember Chicago. Now in all future occasions of life, I will search for them on a dance floor.

Goodbye Chicago the People

As wild and good kind of crazy, as my friends Mike and Rachel may be, seeing their storm actually calmed me. There was never a dull moment at their apartment. Even now, as I am I not there, I know something is going on. Laundry may be stacked up to the ceiling. Pens from Amazon may be scattered all over, as well as dollar bills and spare change.

Now with their newborn son, I can only imagine their new chaos. Yet, I always admired their ability to entertain each other and find humor in life circumstances. More importantly, I was genuinely comforted to be in the presence of true love. It gives me hope for myself. They set a goal for what I’m looking for. They showed me it exists.

Goodbye the Brumfields

Rachel also continues to get smarter, which I’m sure she loves seeing I think this. Her logical perspective helps bring me back down from an emotional turmoil I can find myself worked up in. I am forever grateful to have a friend since first grade who continues to make me laugh and keep me so grounded, in my life.

Goodbye to that Chapter

Leaving those people wasn’t necessarily hard, because they have been in my life, nearly all my life. I know I will see them again. I have said goodbye to them, more times than I can count. Saying goodbye to the people in Chicago, specifically goodbye to that chapter of our lives can feel overwhelming if I let it. I didn’t cry and I haven’t yet. If I ever do, I’m sure it will sneak up on me. Those cries are the worst. Next thing you know, you’re crying in the Target parking lot, while a song from 2004 plays on your radio.

Goodbye Chicago the People

Goodbye to my main chick

Mikeala was a co-worker I knew for years, who became a great support system and my go-to girl for anything and everything while I was there. Our nights were filled with discussions of our goals for the future, analyzing past relationships over a bottle of Rosé, ordering another Espresso Martini, (even though we really shouldn’t), and dancing until we sweated out the calories of our full course dinner. I will forever miss our days and nights at Soho House. We would be there for hours, without any idea where the time had gone. Never underestimate the importance of single girlfriends. She was my rock in a hard place and I miss her dearly.

Goodbye to Chicago Soho House

Goodbye to Chicago, my Improv Class

My Improv class reminded me of how alike all humans are. In a place of vulnerability, it’s impossible to not relate to one another. Listening leads to understanding. Laughter helps too. Receiving compliments from my classmates made me feel good and want to lift others up. I miss that random bunch and will carry the experience of Second City with me far longer than I anticipated. One teacher in particular really pushed us to be the best we could be and was helpful in directing us. That class was a good way to close my Second City experience.

Recently, my entire class FaceTimed me after a sold-out performance, they organized themselves. Immediately, I realized how much I missed them. More than I thought I would. They were at The Vig, a restaurant bar we frequented after class and performances. So much so, that we became friends with the security guard, Ron. They were asking me questions like, “Are you coming to visit?” and “When are you moving back?” and it oddly made me panic. Like, Crap, should I? Am I not done living that life? Am I truly saying goodbye to Chicago, the people? I suppose I need to go back and visit to know for sure.

Chicago Second City Class
Some members of my class at The Vig

Goodbye to Chicago, my roommate

While living alone was nice in my first apartment, with winter coming I was happy to come home to a roommate. Hibernating indoors makes it easy to not see or interact with humans for at least two days. Alicia and I were co-workers, who had never met before, but I immediately found it comforting to have someone who felt everything I felt.

I laugh every time I think of us searching for the remote through blankets, lying in our “forts,” our feet in the chairs in front of us, while we lied on the couch. Binge-watching television in the winter feels less pathetic when someone is next to you doing it too. Same goes for drinking pop with pizza and breadsticks from Happy Camper, at least once a month.

I’m grateful Alicia got me out of the house to do things I normally wouldn’t have. Although she is far more intelligent than I am, able to appreciate museums and artwork, I’m just glad I can say I went to the Art Institute, the Chicago Culture Center, the Field Museum, and the planetarium. Even more than that, I went to sporting events, without a boy or alcohol involved. She was the best co-worker I could’ve asked for. Always working hard and pointing out things to me in a way that either made me feel validated, or bewildered that I hadn’t realized it myself.

Chicago Blackhawks Game

Goodbye to my new friends

All of CJ’s friends positively affected my life. In a city where I often felt lonely and clueless about how to cope with winter, I walked into a room full of strangers who lit up at my presence. They made me feel so welcome, always offering compliments as if I was the coolest bitch in the world. Some of the most fun I have ever had in life was with them. I am forever indebted to CJ who spoke well on my behalf, including me in anything and everything he was doing.

With the friends I had, I realized weather conditions didn’t matter. If anything, it made getting together and having fun that much more important. There is such a great sense of community in that city. I was blessed to be a part of it all, year round.

I do miss Chicago. I thought I didn’t, but realize I said that to make leaving easier. I suppose I miss the people there, more than the city itself, although it was beautiful. Aesthetically, I loved living there, the atmosphere; it’s entire ambiance. It was my, “kind of town,” but I don’t know if it was my home. I could definitely go back to visit, as often as life allows. Then again, I never thought I would live there until I did. Time will only tell what’s in store for me next.

Goodbye to Chicago, the people, sounds so final. I will see them all later.

MegazineGoodbyeChicagoThePeopleBoystown

Let me know what your favorite part of reading this was! If you’re one of the people I talked about, tell me your favorite memory!

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Women Crush Wednesday: Fit Body Bre

Bre enters the restaurant we decided to meet at with a wide smile on her face and her thick, blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. Upon seeing me she laughs, commenting on the cold Florida weather. It is only 60 degrees outside, but we both are wearing coats we rarely use. She orders the almond butter toast with bananas, and a latte with almond milk and a pump of caramel before we find an available table. She shares her story on what inspired her to become a fitness and wellness coach, as Fit Body Bre.

High School Bre

In high school, Bre was one of the first friends I made. I played sports to socialize, whereas Bre played them to compete. She played volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse. She could’ve run track, but had no interest. Instead, we were on the golf team, goofing off, laughing at our swings, and gushing over our attractive coach. Senior year, she scored both touchdowns for powderpuff football, thus being the only reason we won. So often, I watched Bre sprint from opponents, with her perfect, blonde ponytail swaying rapidly behind her. And each time it never ceased to amaze me. She was someone I was proud to be friends with. Being close to her made me feel cool. Like, hey I might not be the best one on the team, but my friend is. Her Barbie-like appearance contrasted her scrappiness and still does to this day.

Recently, Bre changed her last name, but her maiden name is Fila. I’m a believer in the power of words. (It’s no wonder I’m a Writer). So, it is no coincidence that she has the last name of one of the major athletic companies in the world. She lives up to that brand. She always has.

Looking back on high school, Bre believes she could have gotten a college scholarship to play lacrosse. Except for senior year, the coach we always had left, and the resources to make that happen disappeared with her.

College Bre

Not letting that get her down, Bre continued to play lacrosse on an intramural league. Senior year she heard about tryouts for a lingerie football team. Once she made the cut, it gave her validation and inspiration to move forward athletically. “So many people doubted that I would actually make the team,” she explained. I was shocked to hear her say this until she quickly pointed out that her friends in college, didn’t know her growing up. They didn’t see her for the unstoppable star athlete she truly was. For, Bre didn’t just play sports. She dominated. At that time, “I had to prove myself that I was an athlete,” she said. “People’s doubt is what motivates me.”

It was then that she traded in sports for CrossFit and weight training. With experience as an athlete came the knowledge of scientific factors to enhance fitness goals. Now she helps clients understand HIIT, plyometrics, how to count your macros, the importance of planning and prepping, and so much more.

Auto Show Bre

The thought of becoming a fitness and wellness coach and ultimately, Fit Body Bre, first occurred to her at the beginning of her auto show career. Bre had always been reluctant to open up and was only the center of attention when it came to sports. Now, she was onstage narrating for the Dodge Viper, all over the U.S, alongside other beautiful women. It took her by surprise when these women asked for tips on how to stay fit on the road. These were women she admired, yet they were seeking her guidance while showering her with compliments.

“I was a good balance between healthy living and living it up sometimes.” As someone who also did auto shows, (thanks to Bre’s referral), I also have no idea how she did this. After standing in heels all day, I was exhausted. The only fathomable cure for me was consuming alcohol, indulging in the best local food, and laughing with coworkers. All of which, Bre also did, yet she somehow managed to develop a healthy routine that worked exceptionally well. She was damn good at it too. I can still vividly remember her travel size NutriBullet. That thing went with her everywhere.

I find this part of her story to be most beautiful. In an industry where it would’ve been so easy to compete with one another, we chose to build each other up. Those women helped Bre see herself for the woman that she is. One that is strong, smart, and beautiful.

Bikini Prep Bre

Last year, Bre took on the challenge of her first fitness competition, the Official Florida NPC Bikini Competition. She placed first in her weight group, and is now nationally qualified, allowing her to compete in an even bigger show and potentially become Pro. She is undecided whether or not she wants to return to that stage. Now, her focus lies with her clients and their needs. Still, when Bre does something, she really does it, and she does it well.

This reminds me of a recent time when I joined her at a CycleBar class. If you’re unfamiliar, there are numbered bikes in the room, which are hooked up to a screen at the front, to show the bike rankings. Halfway through the class of about 25 people, my bike number showed up in 11th place. Bre was in 1st. Determined to push myself like Bre always does, I pedaled my hardest until the screen appeared again at the end of the class. I finished in 6th. Bre was still in 1st.

Fit Body Bre

Now, Bre has created multiple fitness challenges for consumers to participate in. A mutual friend of ours from high school, who lives in a different state took on a challenge. She was successful in losing weight and gaining muscle tone. She lost a total of 19 pounds but more importantly, she created a new lifestyle that reminds her to love herself every day.

In the future, the followers of Fit Body Bre can expect more fitness challenges. Young, business professionals working a full-time job, bride-to-be’s, wives, moms, essentially anyone with a busy schedule, can benefit from her coaching.“I want to show them and educate them how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle.” This means balancing workouts, nutrition, indulging in your favorite foods, and going to happy hour, all while striving to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re in the Tampa area, you’re in even better luck. In the future, she plans to bring the gym to you. She can come to your house, with gym supplies and do a one-on-one training session for 30 minutes to an hour. Friends are also welcome. More than that, she can grocery shop, meal prep, and deliver food for you every Sunday.

Bre is just like you. She often questions herself, sometimes struggles to feel support, but works hard to balance personal life and career goals. There have been periods of her life when she wasn’t as fit as she is now, as well as more fit than she is now. As someone who has known her for nearly fifteen years, trust me when I say, she has always been Fit Body Bre. She just never owned that identity until now.

You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or join her email list. Be sure to check out her website at www.fitbodybre.com.

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The Importance of Being Present

Earlier last year and even into the year prior, I came to the conclusion that I was rarely present. I lived in a different city and felt I wasn’t even taking full advantage of it. When I was asked questions like, “How do you like Chicago?” or “What are your favorite things about Chicago?” I felt like my answers sounded like I was listing off a resume for an interview. I began to ask myself, “Is this my life or what? Who am I? What am I doing?”

There would be days I had off work, particularly in the winter, where I would take a personal day. I’d set everything aside for “me time,” but felt as though I hardly enjoyed it, because I was thinking of other tasks I should’ve been or needed to be doing. For someone who claimed to be exhausted and needed rest, I was a walking contradiction as I worked myself up to the point of inner anxiety. It was as though I forgot how to relax. The entire time I was “relaxing,” I was in my head about something. Something stupid, I might add.

I felt as though there was never enough time. As if I didn’t even know what I was doing or where the time went. I always hoped to be utilizing it properly, but found it rather difficult. I was constantly thinking about what was to come, or what happened in the past that shouldn’t again. Yet by doing so, I wasn’t serving myself or anyone else properly. I was coming to the realization that moments spent in your head, filled with worry and distractions, especially while with your loved ones, are times you don’t get back. They are time wasted.

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Falling asleep at night was the only way I found peace. By losing consciousness I was no longer thinking negatively. Whether I was worrying about my career moves, guilting myself for being alone and not hanging out with friends, obsessing over a man who didn’t care, or scolding myself for not being as fit as I imagined for my body. Only to wake up and start the vicious cycle all over again. I began to see how much I exhausted myself and understand, that I truly was my own worst enemy. I knew I was trying, but I also knew I could do better, a lot better.

Thus, I dedicated my time at work to be the most productive, and my time at home to relax. But as my writing process and submitting to agents for my book came to an end, I suddenly felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to say or do anymore. I felt stuck. Then I understood I should surrender to that. I don’t need to be doing something all the damn time. Waiting is something.

MegazineTheImportanceOfBeingPresentWork

The unknown after Chicago loomed over me. How my job wouldn’t be the same, as well as my environment. Then what would I do?  What was next? I would have months ahead of me to figure this out, but the obsession continued. Until I finally realized, I don’t even know why I care. Why am I worried? I continuously remind myself that I never know where life is going to take me, but I trust and know something will happen, as it always does. After all, I was living in Miami, without Chicago on my radar when the opportunity presented itself. That’s why being present is so important. For life is always changing, mine especially so. It’s impossible to focus on the future, because I genuinely don’t know what it may bring.

Now I appreciate how things take time and those things are based on the choices I make. So, I’m happy I’m trying to make good ones.

Right now for me, I need time to truly focus on myself. Not think I am, or tell people I am, but truly enjoy my time alone, and not in such a way that I’m searching or waiting for something. I’m no longer in a rush to find answers and know everything. I know I have a lot ahead of me and that I’m doing my best.  That’s all I can do. I need to enjoy this time of working on my own. Working on my self, my relationships, and my craft. I have everything I need.

Life is good. I am blessed. I am at peace. I am present. I am here. This is my time. This life is mine and mine alone. Being present is a good feeling.

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Let me know if this resonated with you at all in the comments below! Feel free to share, if so!