2018: A Year of Change and Growth

I told myself so many times before that I didn’t want to do a New Year’s recap on the blog, because honestly, they are a little played out….I’ve always been the kind of person to say, “forget the New Year, start right now!” and I am still a firm believer in that! But I can’t deny that this year of my life has been an extremely significant one that will set me up for the rest of my life. LITERALLY! So I wanted to take the time to reflect on the challenges and changes that 2018 has brought into my life and how grateful I am that it did just that.

If you have stuck around long enough to reach the end of this little recap, then I very much appreciate you! I know everyone faces change and growth in their day-to-day lives, and I hope my story encourages you to let go of those opinions that hold you back from doing what makes you happy. I had to do that to truly allow my dreams to become reality! If I didn’t do that, then I probably would have never started this blog and put so much effort into a hobby that brings me joy with every word I write. So happy New Years to all my readers, and I wish you the best of luck in 2019! 🙂

Always,

learnandbewithme

Everyday Brings A New Season

The holiday season is just around the corner and shoppers are getting in the full swing of things. From Christmas gift shopping, to deciding upon what side dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner; the holiday spirit is undoubtedly in the air. Jared and I have finally settled into his mother’s house where we will nestle ourselves for the winter while we save money for our first home. It’s so exciting I find myself becoming too eager and wanting it to happen now! I know these things take time, patience, and persistence and we are truly blessed that we have family in our lives that willingly open their doors to us and encourage our goals. But with these drastic changes to our lives, first with a passing of a loved one, then with unfortunate evens with our living situation, I was finding it hard to get excited about the holidays. In a way, I just wanted them to be over so I could move on with my life. Especially because the part I looked forward to the most was putting up a tree with my husband for our first ever Christmas as husband and wife is now severed. We are packed to the brim with all of our household items in boxes and furniture piled on top of more furniture. I was, for lack of a better word, in a funk. This morning while out with my mom shopping I expressed my sorrow on the subject about how all the ornaments and garland will never be hung this year, that’s when she stopped down the aisle in front a cute, tiny Christmas tree. One so small it could fit on a night side table. Next the to tree hung all the ornaments, toppers, and even adorable tree skirts to tie it all together. My mom said, “Tori, you can make the best of what you have. Just remember why you’re there and imagine what you’ll be doing this time next year. You’ll be decorating your very own house.” With all the business of the move and the holidays approaching faster each year with age, I lost myself and became bitter. Bitter that it wasn’t all working out according to my plan. But the truth is, no matter how many plans we make God truly knows the way for us. This season in my life is going to be one for the books where I looked back years from now and laugh about how silly I was acting. Jared and I are blessed each and everyday that we are alive and have supporting friends and family around us. That we have a job to attend to and make money. Food on the table and a little extra to spend. A roof over our heads to still gather and give thanks. And today I am extremely blessed to have a mother to remind me of the bigger picture and to be a better person. Just a little food for thought to remind all of us, including myself, that we are all going through different seasons of our lives. Some are longer and harder than others, but they are just seasons and they too shall pass. Like the summer and spring season bring sunshine and flowers, those seasons in your life you will blossom more than ever. And the winter and fall seasons of your life you will find cold and long days. So today this little tree with all its tiny decor will represent us proud and remind me every time I look at it that this season is for thanks and gratitude. 

Always,

learnandbewithme

What Four Years of College Has Taught Me

I’m in complete awe at the fact that I am sitting here, as a college graduate, writing about what the last four years has thought me, even though it was nearly impossible to see the end. Last Saturday I had the privilege to walk across the stage (that was technically just the front of a church) to receive my diploma of completion in school and it essentially started the beginning of my forever. W H A T   T H E   H E L L! I remember plain as day being an eighteen year old walking onto the campus of a community college and registering for classes, having no idea what to expect. It was only one year later that I worked up the courage to stop settling and apply to a four year college attending Virginia Commonwealth University. I originally attended community college to save money and figure out what I wanted to do with myself, but I also knew that I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to succeed. One month later I found myself turning in VCU’s application and I received my acceptance letter in the mail of April 2015. VCU is where I made my home for the next four years and where my heart will forever live even long after I am gone.

My constant remark made about college is, “I’ve learned more in college than I have the entirety of my life” but when that question is followed by “well, what did you learn?” my immediate response is, “I have no idea.” This sums up my college experience to a T.  Within this post I will try my hardest to express what four years of studying, writing papers, reading hundreds of books, late night group projects, and crying over literally everything has taught me and made me the woman I am today.

No One Knows What the Heck They Are Doing

Or I should say, I don’t know what the heck I am doing, and that’s okay! My senior year of high school the question of what I wanted to go to school for was very prominent in my life and became a very scary topic to talk about. When I spoke of being a journalist for National Geographic or moving to California to start my own fashion magazine, my dreams were shot down so quick I couldn’t even finish the sentence. I look back at that now and I think, yeah I was shooting a little too high, but damn, If I had the encouragement I could have been there by now. In all seriousness though, I pursued the path of becoming a high school English teacher from the beginning of my college journey. I was always told I would be a good teacher and people always said they could see me conducting a classroom, although I was not too fond of the thought that I would be in a school my whole life, I was sure the more I worked towards it the more I would be excited about it.

I continued on with the English and writing path and found myself to be very good at what I was doing. I struggled in so many classes due to lack of interest, but my English classes never failed to amaze me. I was receiving mostly A’s in all of my major courses and knew I was exactly where I needed to be. When it came to my education classes, I couldn’t really say the same. Fast forward to my first semester of my senior year, and I was completely done with the thought of teaching high school students or being anywhere near a school for that matter. I starting hating my education class and dreaded filling out the graduate school application. I was terrified I was letting myself and my family down. My fiance had always been so proud of me for knowing exactly what I wanted to do and sticking to it. Especially with how common it is for undergraduates to change their major every five months. But with much thought and a lot of tears, I had decided against grad school and will pursue the path of an English major, and I’ve never been so happy about it. I finally feel free to express my true passion of reading and writing without the assumption that you have to be a teacher to do it. So, the first lesson, and it is one that came much later in school, is that it is completely, 100% okay if you have no idea what you are going to do with the degree you have. You should just be proud of yourself for completing the degree in one piece.

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Just a couple of English majors reading in a pumpkin patch

You Can Be Drunk and Still Get an A

You can’t be considered an alcoholic if you’re still in college! 

College is a stressful time in someone’s life, especially if you’re juggling relationships, jobs, and a social life all at the same time. School is more expensive and a lot harder than when our parents were in school, so remember that when they say you’re just complaining and they went to school uphill, both ways, with no shoes on. But something that I have learned with this stress is that it is okay to let lose every now and then and have a couple of drinks. There have been many times that I take a break from studying to enjoy a margarita with my friends, or finished my homework just in time for wine Wednesday’s and thirsty Thursday’s. And we can’t forget those nights you’ve had one too many Miller Lights and you remember that assignment is due at midnight. You just simply places yourself in a quite corner and knock that assignment out like a boss. When you get the assignment back with a fat ‘A’ stamped on the front with a note from your professor saying, “I love the creativity!” you know you’ve made it. College has truly thought me the juggling act of partying and getting work done efficiently, and not being judged for drinking a little too much; because remember, college is the only time in your life where it is acceptable to be hungover the next day in class.

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Champagne to celebrate my graduation

You’re No Better Than Anyone Else

Once you move on to the continuation of your education, you start to notice those who didn’t make that same decision as you. You’ll notice the same students you went to high school with are working a full time job without taking classes on the side, some got married and started their families, and some are chilling at their parent’s house trying to decide what their next move is. Being at a university can create condescending personalities, and I’ve found myself  being guilty of this negative trait a time or two. It’s hard not to when everyone around you is judging those who aren’t going to college to better themselves. They say that they’ll never get a real job without a degree and they messed up not going to school. But I am here to tell you that just because you attend a four year college does not make you better than anyone else.

College cost money; money that most students aren’t even paying themselves without the help of loans or their parent’s savings accounts. Not everyone has the privilege to attend a college and not everyone is inspired enough to go. I am the first child out of four kids to graduate with a degree, and the first one in my family entirely. My parents are the two wisest people I know, and they didn’t need college to achieve that. Even with my degree I will always look for their guidance and knowledge in life to help me succeed and to be a better person. You might be working hard in a classroom everyday to create better opportunities for yourself, but someone is doing the same out in the workforce getting a completely different experience and knowledge than yourself. Working hard is important and don’t sell yourself short of an opportunity, but open your eyes to learning from others no matter where they come from, their background, or what degrees they hold. I will never encourage someone to skip out of going to college, because the knowledge I have gained in those classrooms has been life changing, and I believe everyone has the ability to succeed in school. But that doesn’t mean that I would ever judge someone for not going to a university because my degree will never make me superior to anyone else. It simply just makes me different than others. I appreciate the diversity in my family and in my peers and I take time to learn as much from them as I can. I can only hope that others would take time to learn from me.

 

Obviously these aren’t the only lessons I have learned after spending thousands of dollars in school, but I like the think they are the most important ones. Yes, even the lesson on being drunk and getting an ‘A’. The fact of the matter is, I have learned so much at my time at VCU that it would be impossible to list them all. I have experienced paying bills, how to work through issues, and built relationships and let go of old ones. All in all I have become the woman I want to be; educated, understanding, and loving. Also, I never, NEVER would have made it this far without my family’s encouragement. So don’t forget to thank whoever has pushed you to be your greatest self; they deserve it as much as you do.

Always,

learnandbewithme

Keeping Your Goals a Secret

There’s an important life lesson that I have slowly stumbled upon in my last few years of college, and that is if I want to succeed in something; something being a goal, a hobby, life changes etc., keeping them a secret is the key to accomplishing those goals with flying colors.

This has been a life experience for myself while in school because college is most certainly a time to discover yourself and understand your true interests. I’ve often changed my attitude about healthy life choices, discovered activities that I enjoy doing and want to continue doing, and the struggle with these life changes is that I always find myself giving up on the challenge, not devoting enough time, or feel discouraged from continuing. I’ve always heard that if you have a group of people behind you to encourage your new interests that you are more likely to succeed. I don’t entirely agree or disagree with this statement…

I have great friends in my life, and we share many of the same interests. Sadly, I find that sharing my hobbies or goals with my friends became an on going competition. So many of my peers want to be the best at everything, get into avocations that aren’t necessarily their style (everyone wants to be a part of the latest trends), and they want to be noticed as the person who is the most passionate for that specific thing. I get that. Especially because I have found myself doing the same on occasion. But the older I get, the more I realize that my passions and goals are for myself, not for everyone else. I am a firm believer in expressing yourself and showing the world of your true colors, but I just want to help my readers achieve that end goal of being a true “yoga guru,” “insta fit model,” or “foodie” without the competitions of your peers or the discouragement of those around you.

I first discovered this motto about three years ago with my fitness goals. One day I woke up and decided I was sick of how my body looked and I wanted to change that. I wanted to make healthier life choices and feel my strongest and best self. When I told my friends about my goals and aspirations, they couldn’t be more supportive. It wasn’t until I actually started losing weight and showing results that they became a little less ecstatic about my journey. They would make comments about how silly it was that I watched what I ate, and they definitely didn’t agree with how often I went to the gym. The way that I train isn’t for everyone, but I started to realize that my peers were just angry at themselves for not making those changes in their lives. I would sometimes get discouraged with the way they reacted over my results, but I soon learned to keep my mouth shut and to stop informing them on where I was at in my journey. Fast forward two years and I can’t even count on one hand of how many of my friends have requested my assistance in helping them change their fitness goals to succeed, so they look the way that I do. If I didn’t stop informing my friends of my goals, I would have probably given up on myself a long time ago. But I found that keeping it to myself and just letting my actions do the talking, that I have created my best self who is stronger than she has ever been and has the body she has always wanted.

I don’t want you (my readers) to think that I don’t believe in encouragement of others or think that support isn’t the way to go. A lot of the times it is the only way. If you have a goal to change in your life because of a serious health issue, than support groups and close friends and families are terrific ways to accomplish those goals. All I am saying is to make sure that your friends and family are truly supportive of what your are doing and want to see you succeed. My fiance Jared is that person for me. I would have never made it this far in any of my hobbies or goals if I didn’t have his support. In the end, your goals and hobbies are about making you happy and successful and at the end of the day, if you are truly passionate about something, people will take notice!

Always,

learnandbewithme