When will you cease to be a lattice my brain needs to untangle?


unapologetic apologies

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

You will probably be uncomfortable at some point. I’m sorry, but I am most likely going to hug you. A lot. Why? Because physical touch is something we have lost on the way from here to now. Touch is our reminder that we are still here, still breathing, still thriving. It lets us know everything is okay, everything will be okay.

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

At some point you will probably be stomach sick of my positivity, optimism, and raw happiness. It might seem unfamiliar to you, but I wear all the facets of human existence on my sleeves and my face. I have no way of hiding it, I’m sorry. My happiness is a conscious choice, it is a contagious choice. The glass can always be half  full depending on which angle you view from.

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

I will probably make you angry because I am going to push you out of the space you feel safe in. Please know my intentions are not to hurt you, they are to help you grow. I care about making you stronger; I want to see you succeed. I have invested in you, and I am fiercely committed to pushing you to be better. I will always hold you accountable. No matter what.

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

Whether it’s a year, a month, or even a few minutes, I will cherish my time with you. I want to learn from you because I know our time together is limited and you have a plethora of experiences, knowledge, and stories to tell. I want to know all of it. Share this time with me, and understand my pain when we go too long apart. You add the brightness, hues, and saturation to my life.

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

At some point you will be subjected to the silliness and goofiness that is me. Dancing is a way of life. Stupid jokes are the catharsis of smile and laughter. Pranks are my breath of fresh air. I struggle to walk the line between professional and playful and you will probably shake your head and cover your face but i. can’t. stop. This life can’t be taken too seriously. We only have this moment together, why not be unapologetically fun. Unapologetically us.

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

I want to give you the world. I want to take you out to lunch and make you cards and cook for you. I want to give things to you, thoughtful things. And no, I don’t expect anything in return and no I don’t want you to pay me back. My world is not a system of checks and balances nor I versus you. It is we. This is how I connect us back together.

If you are in my life, I’m sorry.

I am going to love you. You may not be related to me, you may have just met me, but already, I love you. Let me shower you with love and affection because we live in a time where we can’t express this love for fear of being perceived as “weak” or “emotional”. I digress. You hold a special place in my heart and in my life and I love you for occupying it and bringing all your different colors and sounds and pictures. You need to know you set my world ablaze.

do not quit

2015 is coming to an end.

With that in mind I opened up a letter today that I wrote myself in August when I first arrived in Miami, to City Year, to my school.

This letter had a powerful intention. Since the middle of the school year is the end of the already burnt candle, it is a time when some people do not return to Miami.

To City Year.

To their school.

To their kids.

I wasn’t going to open this letter today. I had been having a good day, why not wait for one of those really horrible days for a pep talk from yourself? But it was the very last day before a well needed two-week break, so I thought why not.

In the middle of the last period of my day I sat on a stool, leaning against the door of my classroom that contained 20 of my loud, rambunctious students eager to bust out of this room and begin their break, and read this letter to myself.

In that moment as I read the words from this letter I had forgotten I wrote so many months ago, 20 steel wires made of gold anchored me to this arduous classroom for the duration of the year.

I don’t quit. I don’t like it, I never will. But life is hard and even the most benevolent intentions can become cloudy and confusing when you get into the thick of whatever it is you are doing. It is so incredibly easy to lose track of why you started in the first place.

But 2015 is coming to an end, and there is no better time than now to reflect on our year to see if where we are is really where we are supposed to be, where we want to be. If you don’t have 20 steel wires made of gold anchoring you down to where you are, maybe it is time for a change.

Honesty is always the best policy.


Dear Kels,

If you are opening this, it probably means you are struggling. I hope your year has been everything you have imagined so far. I hope you have been challenged in all the ways you wanted. I’m here to tell you that even if you feel like giving up, don’t. You are not a quitter and that has has never been the case. You have been through so so much and despite what is going on, you are here for a reason. You up and left your friends, family, and life to follow your dreams and here you are. You can’t turn back now because you have come so far and you can do anything.

Remember your mindset.

You can choose  to be happy.

Find happiness in the simple things like you have always done when things get rough. Call your friends, go for a run, make something tasty.

But above all, remember why you started.

You wanted to change the world in some small way. You wanted to help. Make a difference.

This school and these kids need you. You are strong. You are one of the strongest people. Others look up to you and seek your strength during hard times. If others look to you when things get difficult that speaks volumes of your true capabilities and power. We don’t get to choose where we are born but you are here to give to something bigger than yourself.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Maintain your growth mindset and welcome new challenges into your life as opportunities to grow your mind and your skills. Good or bad, this experience is here to to test you to your core. But I know you got this because you do not give up. You don’t give up on people, ever. Dave would not want you to give up. He is so proud of your accomplishments and the wonderful woman you have become. Everyone is proud of you. But above all, do it for him. Keep going to give these kids and others an opportunity to live, and truly live. Open their eyes to a new life.

Remember, it is a curse and a blessing to feel everything so deeply. You are an optimist- so see the blessing part this year.

I hope at this point you have accomplished all that you have hoped to. If not, take a look at your goals. By the end of the year I hope you look more mature and ready to take on the world. I hope you have learned to let go of your need to control and have faith that everything will work out (and it will! It always does!). SIDE NOTE: One area I hope you have grown in is your ability to stay true to yourself. Don’t feel like you need to change yourself for the approval of others. Just be you, and do so relentlessly. The people who are supposed to be in your life will come. Be patient with yourself and others. Remember that not everyone is as tuned in as you are. People are still growing and are all at different points in their journeys. Be someone who helps them grow.

You can do this.

You started because this is important to you. Your actions do make a difference.

Go get em tiger!



Ignite your flame

I recently filled out an application that included a question that truly struck me as original and thoughtful in comparison with most application questions I have seen these past couple months. If you are in the same stage of life as I am, I know how sick you probably are of answering the bland and tasteless “Tell us a little about yourself” question.

This question does absolutely nothing for me, and mostly likely it does absolutely nothing for the organization that is inquiring. I am a person who needs specificity. I need a focus in order to provide you with an answer that you will actually enjoy reading.

I could tell you about myself in a paragraph. But will that really give you an in-depth insight into the person I am? Will it tell you what ignites the very flame of my existence? Will it tell you what I am afraid of? Probably not.

Coming across this new and refreshing question brought such an energy and excitement into my fingertips as they eagerly typed away at my response. It lead me to question, why don’t more companies or organizations focus on the unique and personal aspects of individuals that shape the type of person they are? As a hiring organization, wouldn’t you want to know who someone is at their core? When you take the time to show you are interested in an individual as someone with passions, dreams, faults, and opportunity, you show are investing in everything that comes along with them, not just the expectation that they will make you more successful. Any job provides dual development for both parties, a chance for each side to be the student and the teacher.

Invest in people, not numbers.

Anyway, since I enjoyed answering this thought-provoking question so much, I thought it would be worthwhile to share it, as well as my response, with the rest of the world. I believe this question is a good one to answer regardless if you are applying for a job or not. Consistent self-reflection will keep your actions grounded and provide intent behind everything that you do.

Enjoy your discovery.

In the one of the questions below, you will be asked to share a copy of your resume as it gives us a picture of your educational & professional experiences. We are also interested in knowing about other aspects of who you are. Please share with us three things that give meaning to your life and why they do.

At this stage in my life, I find myself in a transition period. Being a senior with one semester separating myself from the “real world”, I have found this time to be the epitome of confusion and stress. Everyday seems to bring a new face asking the same question, “So what are your plans after graduation?” The truth is that I don’t have much of a plan. However what I do have are options, and that has always been my strategy when it comes to facing life’s many challenges. In the midst of these many options, there is one that I choose every day. I choose the option to not stress about the fact that I don’t have my life planned out at the age of 21. I willingly choose to take my time in discovering which areas I feel will benefit the most from investing my time and commitment. Unfortunately for most of us, choosing not to stress is somewhat of an idealistic goal. When my weeks do seem to get crazy as I attempt to juggle a job, work, family, and what seems like an endless amount of applications, I seek balance in what seems like unconventional ways. These activities are what bring balance to my life when everything seems out of control. I hold them very close to my heart and can see the tangible ways they bring meaning into my life each day.

The first thing that gives my life meaning is an ability to empathize. 

After losing someone very close to me, I began to value the skill of empathy as highly as I value authenticity, positivity, and integrity. After what seems like a lot of internet researching, conversing with others, and development programs, I refined my own ability to empathize with others and things. This skill allows me to extract meaning out of powerful song lyrics that I sing while playing my guitar after a stressful day. It allows me to have conversations with close friends who are experiencing heartbreak that result in smiles, hugs, and the strong belief that everything will actually be okay. My ability to empathize with pieces of positivity is what brings vibrant emotions, ideas, and touch into my life that keep me going after what seems like the most horrible of days.

The second thing that gives my life meaning is increasing my knowledge and understanding of how the world works for others.

Last semester, I took a social work class that really opened my eyes to the numerous different cultural, social, gender, racial, ect, identities there are in the world. I discovered how passionate I was about increasing my own awareness of these identities, the challenges and triumphs their respective communities have faced, as well as how I could best create cross-cultural bridges that allow for learning and awareness on both sides. To increase my own understanding, I love to attend campus as well as community events such as guest panels, speakers, video screenings, and discussions. Each time I walk away from one of these events I walk away with knowledge that allows me to create cross-cultural bridges between myself and members of these communities. Making connections with others reminds me that I am alive and thriving in this world. The more I know about where and how injustice is occurring, the easier it becomes to confront it. As someone who strives to constantly be creating positive change in every aspect of life, this education is what brings meaning, motivation, and courage in times when I need to confront injustice that I see occurring right in front of me.

The last thing that gives meaning to my life is being able to put on leadership development programs for students.

I know what you are probably thinking, isn’t that your job? Yes, as a Graf Intern at the Illinois Leadership Center I am primarily responsible for coordinating one of our day long leadership programs. There are many times where the lines between my job and my passions are blurred, and that is primary reason this belongs in the list of things that give my life meaning. Through coordinating these programs, I can see how my actions and work have a visible impact on the lives of students. For many of them, it is their first experience in leadership development, and it is what kick-starts their involvement in future leadership programs. At the end of each program I can identify specific times where students have those “aha” moments. These small moments of self-discovery are the foundation of building an individual that goes out into the world and creates positive change. This is what makes every action I make in my position worthwhile, and this is what brings meaning back into my life. Although my position may be small and filled with many thankless tasks, I never cease to feel that I have contributed something of value to this world. My job is what brings the most meaning to my life, and that is because I consistently keep my passions and values intersecting in all the actions and decisions ahead of me. It’s not work when I am doing what I love.