the year of becoming.

the year of becoming.
of letting go of the let go, of loving myself
into an existence i can finally understand.
when they tell you that you feel too much, let them.
believe it.
you do.
you always will.
it’s not easy carrying all this weight; set it down, armor and all.
humans are not meant to love with an agenda.
arranging words like important dates: birthdays, anniversaries, deaths;
it’s a practice with which we are cutting out the best parts of ourselves for
people who will not understand how to stay.

the year of being where my feet are — every step, honest, real, with sincere love.
the year of technicolor sounds, a memory of people we once knew
who, now, we would cross the street to pass
but would regret it later.
the year of not regretting it later.
the year of saying hello, of asking them how they are
no matter the hurt we feel.
because healing is messy.
we humans, we are messy.

the year of bruising for people who aren’t around to see it.
the year of soul growing, of removing scar tissue
for skin and loving every second of it.


The scary part about exploring the parts of yourself that aren’t necessarily uncovered is that you’re bound to find something that scrapes the image you have of yourself.

At least that’s how it’s been for me.

There are parts of me I’m proud of and there are other parts that I’ve never had a desire to look at. I don’t know what I’m looking for. It’s kind of a shot in the dark, but I’m familiar with the room I’m in. My memory should serve me as well as I allow it to. Whatever I find will be a surprise: shame, guilt, beauty, love, maybe something in between.

Lately I’ve been wondering what it takes to love without needing a reason why. A friend retweeted this picture (see left) and I thought to myself, “This makes sense to me.”

Because why shouldn’t we love people for the sole purpose of loving them? I subscribe to this:

Love people. Yep, all of ’em. Even the people who want to see you fail.

Love them unapologetically and without restrictions. I don’t have all of the answers, but one thing that I feel too be true in my core is that I need to be better about setting the bar too high when it comes to loving others.

Know that we are worth it all: every last ounce of energy and sweat and hustle inside of us, we are worth the love that comes before, after, and in-between.

We have to practice our worthiness in the way we treat ourselves and others. We set that standard; if we love ourselves too little, we will love others too little.

If we go the rest of our lives being afraid to love someone because maybe they won’t love us back, we’ll never see our love grow.

Don’t hold it in.

There are people who are growing old and wishing they had loved a little harder, that they had opened up a little more, that they took every opportunity to match guilt and shame and despair with heaps and piles of love.

There are people who will never know what it means to be loved. That breaks my heart. It bruises me to know how people in every corner of this world won’t know how to love or be loved. Those people deserve the love you have to give away. Give it.

If we spent half as much time loving ourselves and others as we do finding ways to tear each other down, this world might just be 1% better. That 1% may not change the world. But it may change someone’s world. Imaging that being you. Imagine what you could do if someone told you every single day just how much you are loved.

All of this is a long way of saying I just want to wake up every day of my life and have more love in my heart for myself and the world around me than I did the day before. I want to know what it’s like to love others radically, without question. I want people to never have to wonder whether or not I loved them.

It’s all too short. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Let’s spend more time piling up all the love we have in our hearts and give it all away.

A few thoughts on learning:

  • It’s scary. There. I said it. It’s terrifying. As new information turns into skill, we add responsibility and a sense of moral obligation to teach others this information. We become teachers by default. Others will call upon us to evoke a sense of understanding among those who are not privileged enough to know the same information or to know what to do with the information.
  • Knowingly or unknowingly, someone looks at me as an educator. Am I embracing that or running away from it?
  • It’s exhausting. We search for this, right? The opportunity to learn; to add things to our muscles or memories that allow us to bring value to people or places or things. But when we are constantly adding things without a reflection or deconstruction of each piece of information, learning becomes a practice of exhausting our mental capacity.
  • Still, I knock. I rattle. I shake things in hopes that I will be able to take something away from it and be a better person because of it. As exhausting as it can be, the practice of learning only stops when we let it. More on this soon.

Transitioning is a steep climb. It means leaving behind parts of yourself in order to move towards new understandings of the world around you. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t know how to ask for help when I need it the most. I don’t know how to tell someone that I’m struggling or that I need guidance. I’m not good at it because I’ve never thought it was necessary.

I don’t always ask questions when I should. If someone is teaching me something, I don’t know how to say, “I don’t understand” when they ask me if I get it. Maybe it’s a sort of insecurity with my own understanding of the world; I process things in solitude so that I can know what it means to experience it fully on my own before trying to experience it fully with others. This often leads to a sense of helplessness because I’ve decided in my mind that asking for help isn’t an option, and that even if it were, it’s too late. If I don’t get it at this point, I’ll never get it.

It’s a vicious circle I fall into. But entirely human of me.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Ashley C. Ford talk about her story. She brought with her anecdotes of who she used to be, what growing looks like, and how she gave up something comfortable to do something she’s always dreamed of doing: writing.

“Writing is like sculpting. You don’t create the marble. But you’re given a chunk of it and you find your voice in creating something with it.” -Ford

I knew that when she took the stage, she had something to say. As a friend put it, “[she’s] richly attuned to the world.” She was a beautiful reminder that there are great big things that I have the opportunity and privilege to create on my own. As Ford weaved through story after story, I thought to myself how grounded in grace she really was. And important part of her story is how she chose to give up “safe” for “scary.”

It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that’s what I should do, too.

By the end of her talk, I had pages of notes, quotes, and strings of thought that she helped churn out of me. A few that stood out:

  • “I’ve spent a lot of years half-doing things. It’s kind of my forte.” -Ford
  • “It’s not helpful to stay in the place you’ve already figured out.” -Ford
  • Being happy with something is not a reason to stay or become stagnant.
  • “It was scary. And so I went anyway.” -Ford
  • If I really want to help people, I have to be willing to let go of the idea that I need to be with them every step of the way. They’ll be able to do things without me. That’s important. And okay.
  • “There is no hero or villain in real life; nobody is completely good and nobody is completely bad.” -Ford

I feel closer to the person I can become because of the words another has given away freely. And I ask myself, “what kind of life do I want to live?”

I’m still figuring that part out.

A few pictures from July to August:

My wonderful, authentic, full-of-life students that I have the pleasure of working next to in the coming months.
My professional cohort of insightful and motivated peers. We came in together. Let’s see how much of an impact we can make.

Hello, September. It’s nice to see you again.



That’s exactly what I’m doing with this monthly posting/article/blog/somethingorother.

I’m throwing out all of the rules I’ve set for myself.

There will still be pictures. There will still be words on a white screen. But no more links at the bottom to previous posts. If you wanted to read more, you’d find a way.

No more jargon to try and get you to bite. No more trying to reel you in with catchy words or sentences I don’t really know the meaning of.

If you want to read, you can read. This is a space to do that. It’s a space for my perspective, for you to agree or disagree, and for you to respond accordingly.

I want this to be enjoyable for you as much as it is for me, but I don’t want to force it. It should be natural. I have to let the words come as they are and I have to be kind to them. A few of them will only be visitors and aren’t meant to stay. Their journey is important to me, too. They deserve a good ride.

What a whirlwind this life has been these last four weeks. Packing up. Saying goodbye. Letting go of a place I called home and the people that mean so much to me. Driving away. Trying not to look back. Arriving. Arriving. I haven’t understood what that means until this time around.



Unfolding myself into a new space. Trying to find the words that can fill the spaces inside of me that I’ve become hyper-aware of. Something about moving to a new place with new people and a different community can change the way you look at yourself.

I’ve realized that overwhelm has taken over my life. More often than not, it’s a feeling that fills me. Recently it’s been the intake of information that is causing me to expand while having very little structure or time to reflect on the experience. This isn’t bad news; it means I’m in the middle of growing and won’t truly realize it until I take a step away.

I’m inviting the overwhelm in for a cup of coffee. S/he can stay. Learning to live with the things that are a part of me is an important practice in being myself.

What I’m listening to right now:

“Where You’re At” by Allen Stone

“I keep my dirt on the surface so you don’t gotta dig,
The people that make me nervous tried to hide all their sins.
And I’ve got no reason to cover my tracks
The best part of learning is just loving where you’re at.”

“Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart

“Been talking ‘bout the way things change,
And my family lives in a different state.
And if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate”

“A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke

“There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on.
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come”

In talking with a new friend, he asked me, “What has Ball State meant for you so far?” My answer: “Opportunity. A chance to become.”

I often ask myself questions to figure it all out: the knots, the kinks, the tangled mess that can sometimes describe my life. How do I be the best version of myself somewhere new where my identity hasn’t been fully explored? How do I choose in every moment to be myself and to be grateful for who I am? How do I add value to the people around me?

In everything I do, I ask, “What am I looking to feel?”

The answer is always, “fully alive.”

A few pictures about the last month of my life.

My beautiful niece, Charlotte Rose, whom of which I was asked to serve as the Godfather to. When I met her, my heart grew too big for my chest.
A message from Spice Hall where I spent the last two years becoming who I’ve become.
A new place to call home.
I’m a sucker for a beautiful sky. It reminds me to take in the moment. Not every day will be sunny; appreciating the days that are is an exercise in gratitude.
I, too, am creating myself. What a beautiful way to practice self-love.
A poem from Rupi Kaur’s “Milk and Honey.” Relevant today and every day.

Something to note: I cannot stand by and remain silent when there are people who are hurting and need love. The #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement should not be dismissed. To my friends who support #ALLLIVESMATTER, please work to unlearn the idea that the BLM movement is anti-police. It’s simply a movement that recognizes what has become an epidemic for African-American bodies throughout history; an opportunity to believe that black lives do matter. It does not work to minimize all other lives, but does work to call attention to what others are looking over. Black lives are not an afterthought. To state that All Lives Matter is greater than the BLM movement is to erase the work that is necessary for eventual healing.

If we want to be better, we all have to scan ourselves for the things that we are not cognizant of. As a white heterosexual male, I’m aware of a few apparent privileges that I carry with me on a daily basis. It is not my job to be silent and let others do the work. Just because I can hear the news and not have to worry about the things I carry with me doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. My whiteness doesn’t exempt me from being a change-agent for the work that is necessary. If I stay silent, I am a part of the problem. I didn’t choose the privileges that I carry. But I can choose to use my privileges to leverage equality for others.

This is a discussion that needs to keep happening. It’s going to take a lot of work. Empathy and general kindness for those who are hurt and in the middle of the mud trying to heal is so important. Have the courage to move past guilt and into a space of love for one another.

I don’t have all of the answers. Not even half. But what I do know is this: if you are hurting, if you are struggling to understand how people are treated differently due to the color of their skin, I am here. I will listen. I will support you.

And if you are still coming to understand what role you play and how you can help, I’m here for you too. Our enlightenment as humans is an ongoing experience. We are evolving. We are transforming. Let’s do it together.

This next month, I want to explore the parts of me that I have yet to uncover. I want to explore people and ideas I’m not familiar with. I want to organize myself in such a way that I have the space to explore the vulnerability that comes with being a human.

The reality of where I’m at in life is that I will have opportunities every single day of my life to learn, grow, and find personal peace. I will have the chance to serve others and to be myself with every step, every new experience, every ounce of love given to others. I want to recognize it as it’s happening and allow new discoveries to change me for the better.

This is what it means to be an observer of the human experience. That’s what I’m all about, change and all.


What does it mean to let go?

Comment on this piece, email me, send me a text of your response, or leave your thoughts in the Facebook/Twitter comments. Go ahead, take a minute or two. Really think about it.

It’s up to your interpretation. It can be physical or emotional, spiritual or mental, or all of the above; “letting go” is a broad prompt. I realize that. But it’s something I’ve always explored and I want to know what you think.

“Consider becoming the type of energy that no matter where you go, or where you are, you always add value to the spaces and the lives of those around you.” -Anonymous

I’ve thought about this quote for the past couple of years as I’ve moved away from home and started to build a legacy with the work that I’m doing. I’ve thought about it a little bit extra this month as I’m wrapping up my time in graduate school and have been reflecting on the journey.

Some of my favorite moments spent in Akron, Ohio have come on the hardest days: the day that hundreds of people were laid off on campus; the day that my heart kept breaking for students who just want to belong but still haven’t figured out how; the days that I’ve realized I’m wrong, that I still have a long journey ahead and I don’t know as much as I think I do; the day that I moved to Ohio nearly two years ago and realized the vulnerability of my alone-ness, and so on.

These moments have a common denominator: growth. I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel of some of these moments to find the transformation. Sometimes, for a couple of moments stitched together, we have to really struggle in order to realize who we are, what we’re made of, and what we’re meant to be doing with our lives.

These are moments that I am letting go of. I’m accepting them as they are today, both on the surface and even deeper. They have allowed me to become who I am constantly becoming. I imagine each moment will continue to have an impact, positive or negative, on who I am. Regardless of which, I hope that I’ll always have the courage to accept it and move forward, for better or worse.

It’s not always immediately after an experience that we’re able to draw something that is beneficial to our wellbeing. A healthy amount of reflecting will bring it in enough time. It can take months — years — to truly realize how much a certain struggle has forced you to spill a little bit of yourself but to gain so much more in return.

I often overlook how important it is to stop trying to make myself fit into a group of people or a certain set of beliefs because someone else wants me to. I’m a square block in a sometimes very big, dark, round opening and I’m not always carrying a flashlight. I’ve tried for too long to shape-shift into something as large and as heavy as the room I’m in; I always end up feeling exhausted and out of magic.

Even more, I’ve forgotten to exercise one of the values that I’ve looked to guide me in my growing moments, the mantra:

“Taking time for personal peace is not wasted time.”

Writing and reading. I haven’t done nearly enough of it. I’ve carved out time here and there but not enough to call myself a writer. But I’ll let it go.

Reflecting. I haven’t practiced taking a moment to myself to look at the bigger picture, to meditate, to heal. As a result, I’ve done more harm than good. But I’ll let it go.

Listening. My heart is always pulling me in a few different directions. I haven’t given myself the time to listen to it. I’ve gone down paths that I truly wasn’t passionate about and I’ve spent an unbelievable amount of time giving attention to people who don’t encourage, challenge, uplift, or support me. But I’ll let it go.

Being as present as possible. It’s almost as if I’ve forgotten what it means to focus on what’s right in front of me. Most of the time I’m thinking about what’s going to happen next — meetings, events, an empty space in my always-evolving calendar— and I forget about being wholeheartedly where my feet are. But I’ll let it go.

People. I’ve neglected some of the most important people in my life and haven’t put much effort into maintaining old relationships. Pieces of my heart live in corners of the country and are still waiting for a text back. But I’ll let it go.

I must let it go.

Being kind to myself means accepting that I’ve failed more times than not and still resolve to move forward. It means taking responsibility for my shortcomings and making a better effort to improve.

As far as my time in Akron, there is much still left to do. I’ve experienced joy and heartache and excitement and whatever the feeling is when you wake up and can’t wait until the end of the day comes is (is there a word for it?).

But for now, I must pack up my belongings, get into my car, and drive to someplace new. Feeling what I feel in this moment is important. I must plant myself and start an exciting journey. I know that when December rolls around, I’ll be thankful for the adventure.

Moving forward, I’ll focus on seeing the world as it is, not as I’d like it to be in this moment.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

And let it go.

Buddy Wakefield
wrote this poem about Orlando and I vibe with it.

Here are a few snapshots of what’s been going on in my life in the last month. Enjoy.

Spent some time in Georgia with my best friend and his family. Was able to see how beautiful of a state it really is.
Something about flying above the clouds and lights puts things into perspective. I realize how truly small and insignificant we can really be in the grand scheme of life. There are things bigger than us that we may or may not see.
Akron will always be home.
A look forward.

In June, I will focus on change.

In a handful of days, I’ll be moving to Muncie, Indiana to start my professional career at Ball State University where I’ll be working as a Residence Hall Director. Much like my journey these last two years, I’ll be able to work with students in a capacity that allows me to make an impact on their journey. It’s an opportunity that I’m grateful to have and I’m looking forward to the months to come.

Inevitably, though, there will be change. My sphere of understanding will widen. I’ll be s t r e t c h i n g as I learn new names and street signs, new favorite restaurants and places on campus to reflect, new coffeeshops and offices and meetings to attend. New, new, new, at least to me. It’s a transition that nobody can really prepare me for. I’ll learn more about myself than I ever have before and have the chance to help others do the same.

It’s all heavy and big and exciting, but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t anxious or afraid. There’s a certain vulnerability that comes with moving away from all that you know and entering what feels like a completely different world.

Here goes nothing (everything).

Part six of a monthly series on observing the human experience in all of us. Every month, I’ll reflect on the past, observe the present, and cast a vision for the future with a word that guides me in all that I do. Here are past months:

January: Build
February: Feel
March: Listen
April: Express
May: Let go

My Project Wednesday article that inspired this small project, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.


The last 30 days treated me well. In comparison to the previous month, more moments were captured that can show you how much I am able to express my feelings or thoughts to the people who matter the most to me.

I’ll be honest, expressing some of the inner-most truths and vulnerabilities to other humans is much more difficult than I imagined. The thought of doing something is entirely simple; actually doing it takes compromise. I had to decide that the reward of opening myself up is greater than not letting anyone in at all.

I set myself back in a small way by putting this in the forefront of my thoughts. It made me hyper-aware of what it is I am actually thinking in realtime about people, places, ideas, and who I am becoming. At times, this was such an intense month because it left me with very few words to say. I put so much focus on expressing that I forgot altogether how to express on some of the most basic levels. I put this pressure on myself to be able to tell people how much they mean to me. And as a result, I’ve struggled to embrace the abruptness that the end of the semester brings with people leaving, sometimes without being able to say goodbye.

I’m hoping the pictures below can express how grateful I am for the life I’m able to live with these people in it.

Michaela and Megan at the Sigma Lambda initiation where I became an honorary member of the organization. I couldn’t have asked for better people to share an office (and life) with.
The view from the Bulger Hall Penthouse where all of our departmental meetings occur. I will miss this place.
The last event that I served as the Advisor to Residence Hall Program Board at The University of Akron. There aren’t many feelings greater than empowering a group of people every single day. I’m so grateful for this moment.
Every time I see these smiling faces, I become a little more thankful. It’s true what they say: humans need other humans. I’m fortunate enough to be a small part of their journey in this life. Little do they know they’ve been a huge part of mine.
Are you ever just in awe of every beautiful thing around you?
It’s so wild I saw this on campus. I’ve been listening to Chance the Rapper’s album “Coloring Book” from beginning to end every single day. He reminds me that another person’s form of expression can have an impact on my own.
A candid moment of happiness.
How could I ever repay these wonderful humans for the impact they’ve made on my life?
I was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Assistant award for the Department of Residence Life and Housing at The University of Akron. Even better, a personal mentor (pictured above) presented the award to me. To be recognized by those who I respect the most is nothing short of spectacular.
A subtle reminder of what it means to work towards a bigger goal together.
Only a few of the classmates that supported me through graduate school. Sharing this moment with another mentor of mine was a true honor. Some of these people may never know how much I admire them.
I’m proud of you.” -Hearing those words come from two of my biggest supporters in this life brought me to tears.

And so there you have it: quite possibly one of the most beautiful months of my life summed up in pictures with a few short words. I am continually grateful for how much this life unfolds every single month, how I am able to unlearn all of my mistakes in order to become who I am becoming.

I’m grateful for the ability to be myself and to be accepted in that adventure; grateful to be able to fail and still move forward; grateful to not always have the best of days, but to know that tomorrow will be different and new and as spectacular as I’m able to make it.

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to express to others — human to human, heart to heart — how much I need them in this life. I’ve said before and I’ll say again: without them, there is no me. So thank you to each and every person that has allowed me to hitch a ride, even for a brief moment, on all of the moments of astonishment, growth, crisis, and beauty. I am changed because of you.

In May, I will let go.

There is something poetic in taking apart all of the things that we’ve built in order to get to where we need to go. It isn’t always pretty. It’s definitely not easy. But it’s in these moments that we begin to learn what we’re made of.

Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing anyways? Constantly finding ways to be better versions of ourselves? Trudging through all of the mud to get to a place that fosters our true identity? Searching for what it is that makes our world right again? Getting closer to ourselves than we’ve ever been and doing the things that put us in a position to be better?

That’s what I want out of this life. And I won’t stop until I get there, wherever “there” may be.

Part five of a monthly series on observing the human experience in all of us. Every month, I’ll reflect on the past, observe the present, and cast a vision for the future with a word that guides me in all that I do. Here are past months:

January: Build
February: Feel
March: Listen
April: Express

My Project Wednesday article that inspired this small project, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, love along some distant day into the answer.”

-Ranier Maria Rilke

There are times when I sit with myself and listen. Just listen. No strings attached. Not pitch, no catch. Listening to the sounds that my mind makes, the sounds that my body makes: blood flowing through my limbs, my heart thump thump thumping away to the beat of my life, and a voice inside telling me to keep listening.

Keep breathing.

Keep moving towards whatever it is that this life gives me and nothing it leaves behind.

I begin to realize that there are so many questions I’m searching for the answer to. Like how is it that we can love something or someone so deeply and still struggle to keep it/him/her close to us? Or why do we worry more about teaching someone else and not learning ourselves first?

Listening isn’t the easiest action. It’s certainly not the smoothest. My mind wants to respond. It wants to find the answers that my heart keeps asking. It wants to figure this life out.

This month, I focused my energy on using anything but my tongue to understand the world around me better.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Listening is the active choice to sacrifice your own voice in order to take in, comprehend, and understand the voice of another. It means giving up a response to every question, every answer, every in-between, every silent moment in a conversation, and all urges to add your two cents. Not everybody wants your money anyways.
  • “I’m not okay.” It’s as simple as that. Relinquishing the idea that you have to keep it together for the people around you means that you’re liberated from the invisible walls you put up. It means vulnerability. It means being your true self. If I’ve learned anything this month, it’s how to be honest with myself; to feel something so deeply and to allow others to do that, too.
  • There’s a voice inside of you that is telling you how you really feel. Don’t neglect that voice. It’s telling you something for a reason. No matter how irrational or wild of a tremble this voice is giving to you, give yourself the time and space to take that message in. When you stop listening to that voice, you begin to give up your ability to be a human being. You give up your ability to have a clear voice altogether.
  • There are multiple students I work with who really struggled this past month. Tests and exams and heartbreak and the feeling of intense overwhelm took their lives over. Helping them sift through these feelings is what it means to be a mentor and advisor. Listening to them tell me a small part of their story is truly rewarding. Listening without an agenda of your own has a way of helping old wounds close up. It has a way of helping new wounds begin to heal.
  • Listening will center you. When you’re always doing the talking, you’re never doing the learning.
Photo by: Michaela Tuesburg, Graduate Assistant of the Emerging Leaders program at The University of Akron and an all around cool cat.
  • You only have one body. You get to decide on how to treat it. For me, listening to the way my body reacts to me looks a lot like getting up early to exercise and also to fill my body only with things that are going to nourish it. This isn’t a perfect process. Yes, sometimes I have ice cream. No, I’m not a body builder. But what I do know is this: my ideal self has ample energy throughout the day to tackle the biggest activities in my life. If I don’t get enough sleep and if I don’t eat right, my ideal self is not attainable every single day. I want to put myself in the position to love everything about me in a way that shows the world who I truly am.
  • Listening looks a lot like soul-searching on a Saturday afternoon:
Artisan Coffee Shop. Akron, OH.


  • It also looks a lot like a pillowy sky with the sun peeking through.
Akron, OH.


  • “How is your heart?” I have a mentor who asks me this question every couple of months when we finally get to catch up. It’s jarring to think critically about where my heart is in that moment. The only way I know how to respond is with as much honesty I can muster. “It’s in a constant state of awe when it comes to life and all of the beautiful things in it.”
  • Shawn Achor wrote a book called “The Happiness Advantage” where he talks about some key principles to living a happy life. Interestingly enough, it’s never about seeking it out explicitly. But he does mention that happiness can be attained through the small, everyday actions that you take to change your circumstances. This bulletin board is a reminder of how grounded we can be in relentlessly seeking happiness that we forget our purpose altogether.
  • Photo by: Kouryn Stromsky. She reminds me of how listening happens with more than just your ears.
  • I have a friend from my undergrad years who I worked with on-campus and also studied English/Creative Writing with. During my first year of graduate school, we became pen pals and would periodically update each other on life happenings via snail mail. One day I received one of her larger-than-life envelopes in my work mailbox. Inside of it, a painting that said, “Be an explorer of the world.” It resonated so much with my soul that I had to put it on my wall as a constant reminder to seek out every opportunity to bring myself closer to my purpose.
  • I recently came across this graphic and it showed me that I, too, need a few reminders to listen more, and that being an explorer of the world means committing myself to wholeheartedly listening to what the world is telling me:

For April, I will express.

On the other side of listening is articulating my thoughts and feelings in a positive manner. For me, it means being able to express my gratitude to the people in my life that mean the most to me. I am constantly surrounded by students, mentors, loved ones, etc. who bring so many good things to my life. This next month is going to bring so much change (I anticipate there will be much of that in 2016. Maybe a word for down the road?). These people need to know that I love them, that I’m rooting for them, and that I’m in their corners.

At the end of the semester, when everyone finishes up their finals and moves home for the summer, I will likely have spent the last of my time at The University of Akron and in the Department of Residence Life and Housing doing my very best to simply help people. I will have given everything I have to the students I get to work with on a daily basis. I will have guided these students in life decisions. I will have done my best to help these students build something great — for themselves and for the community — and that’s something that can’t be bought. It’s not something that can be trained. It’s something that can’t be replaced.

I must express my deepest gratitude to the individuals who have given me so much. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for their encouragement, challenges, and moments of growth.

In April, I will express.

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Part three of a monthly series on observing the human experience in all of us. Every month, I’ll reflect on the past, observe the present, and cast a vision for the future with a word that guides me in all that I do. Here are past months:

January: Build
February: Feel
March: Listen

My Project Wednesday article that inspired this small project, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.


Part three of a monthly series on observing the human experience in all of us. Every month, I’ll reflect on the past, observe the present, and cast a vision for the future with a word that guides me in all that I do. Here are past months:

January: Build
February: Feel

My Project Wednesday article that inspired this small project, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.

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God, this is what I was talking about
for like 37 years,
a true story,
of oceanthroat,
of grace,
the holy goodness glory
I was praying to your face,
My Man,
is what I meant
and this is what I’m meant to do
so sit me down inside us now
and let me praise the greatest good in you
by laying down my weapons
including the shield
in rest,

on cue, my friend,
you came
your name
well lit,
stenciled on the walls of Fremont County
years before we even met
in landscape,
in scope
and so,
wing tipped,
I wrote it
down to the ground you walk on
with the heels of my helium shoes,
“Put your ear to the sky
and listen my darling,
everything whispers I love you.”

Buddy Wakefield
(Click to hear it for yourself.)

A quick note on the poem above: feeling what I feel as a reader and a lover of poetry means reading or hearing something that resonates with me, even if I don’t know why yet. It’s a journey of becoming; an observation of emotion that is learning how to live and breathe inside of me. I’ll keep reading until I’ve arrived at the point of understanding what this poem means to me.

I’m still trying to process this idea of feeling what I feel. So much of my identity has been built in being a role model for others that sometimes I forget what it means to feel something so full, so consuming, so genuine.

February was unfiltered. It handed me a number of things that gave me the opportunity to be a human. I took a few of them.

  • One-on-ones with the students I work with gave me the opportunity to connect. I facilitated a workshop in early February that allowed this group go a few layers deeper with one another. It was two-fold: first, they were to write down all of the things that they identified with a past self, a present self, and a future self. The goal was to help them reflect individually, but together, about who they were, who they are, and who they still have time to be. Second, they were to share 2–3 moments of impact in their lives that helped them become who they are today. The goal was to open up. To be vulnerable. To feel a little bit deeper. From this meeting came one-on-one meetings with each student to talk more about it. I was able to feel what they felt about who they thought they were, how they perceived themselves, and what they want to accomplish moving forward. This journey — short in the grand scheme of things —of my time with them is meant to be powerful. It’s meant to change us for the better. I probably won’t realize the impact made until years from now.
  • I had the opportunity to attend the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The feeling of conference trips can sometimes be exhausting. For me, this NACA could very well be my last. My graduate student experience has given me the opportunity to continue working in activities as I did as a young student leader. Having this opportunity again after graduating from my undergraduate institution believing I’d never see an artist showcase or attend a marketplace again was exciting for me. And now, with this last trip to Louisville with three young student leaders and my advisor, I’ve come to terms that I may never be able to go again. To feel the end of something in the middle of the ending is something that can’t be explained. Not with words. Not right now.
Louisville with students was the best way to spend my time.
  • Leadership speaker Jon Vroman came to campus and talked to students about living life in the “front row”. His message revolves around this idea of becoming a leader through being your authentic self, committing fully to your life, and the create your future. Prior to Jon speaking, the picture below was on the screen. It struck me that “coming alive” means being the person I tell people I am. It means not sugarcoating it anymore; I am an individual with values, with goals, with needs and wants, with a yearning to make life better for people in this world. It’s amazing, isn’t it? This idea that we can make a difference in the lives of those around us simply by committing to making ourselves better. Coming alive is a constant process. I’m still learning what it means to feel those words so much, to take them in, to own them.
Still learning what it means to come alive.
  • My Master’s-level comprehensive exam was this month. Studying for it meant eliminating distractions (Facebook, Twitter, most of the rest of my life) so I could commit myself to knowing what I needed to know to do well. Getting rid of all unnecessary distraction can be tricky. FOMO (fear of missing out) is so real! But at the end of the day, it meant more to me to do well on this exam than to be connected and up-to-date with things happening in the world. Disconnecting meant feeling less cloudy. It meant being able to feel in the moment, even if “in the moment” meant studying budgeting techniques in higher education or how student development theory impacts my role as an administrator on campus. It was entirely overwhelming but absolutely rewarding.
My graduate school coursework summed up in one snapshot.
  • Sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed needs to be addressed by getting out of the environment you’re in and to reset your perspective. Spending a few mid-afternoons with a friend and colleague amidst so much studying really helped me process my life and feel confident about the future. It’s fascinating how some of the most impromptu moments can leaving such a lasting impact on someone.
  • Attending a job placement conference was entirely overwhelming. As a self-identified introvert, I do better when I’m able to spend some time with myself to recharge my batteries and assess where my energy is at. While that may be an ideal situation for me, it doesn’t always happen. Feeling that lack of energy start to take a toll. But learning how to manage the process will help me be a better version of myself.
Being with my best friend through the experience means a lot to me.
  • Much of what I do in my daily work is help students realize their development. Essentially what this means is to help students feel what they feel, when the feel it, and how to navigate those feelings, good or bad, in a positive way. Feeling anxiety over a test or feeling burnt out as a result of over-commitment to obligations is common for students who are still learning what it means to be alive. Being the reason why they want to do better, why they want to do more with their life, is one of the true gifts of working in higher education and student affairs. I will never really know the impact I’m making each and every day with every interaction. Questions as simple as, “How is school? How’s your writing? Are you eating enough?” can go a long way. Noticing in others what they sometimes don’t notice in themselves is a humbling experience for them and for you. Genuine care doesn’t always look big. Sometimes it’s small.
  • As a friend begins her writing journey and another friend learns to focus more on finding a voice in his writing, I’ve found myself feeling the effects of practicing a craft. Writing hasn’t always been easy. Most of the time it feels awkward, like a square peg trying to fit into a trapezoid hole. It hasn’t always been happy writing. In fact, historically speaking, most of my best writing has come from a place of doubt or anxiety. More feelings can be generated from the things lacking in life or the negative outcomes than the things to be grateful about. Feeling that weight is heavy. But helping others navigate that journey brings clarity to my own journey.
  • For the last few weeks, I’ve been committed to waking up earlier to get to the gym earlier. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I feel as if I’m locking in more with my workouts and I’m more willing to go the extra mile, to dig a little deeper, to try a little harder. Whatever the case may be, the feeling of getting up before most of the world around me and getting a jump start on the day is a satisfying feeling.
  • As expected, feeling what I feel isn’t always a smooth process. Sometimes it’s tearing apart the parts of my life that I’m still learning how to own. Sometimes it’s developing an identity of broken-but-getting-better. Sometimes it’s feeling on top of the world, but only for a few seconds. Feeling what I feel means being vulnerable. It’s trusting that my next step will be the right one, even when it’s not. So for me, this past month has felt awkward and jagged. It’s clear that there’s not enough observance of what I feel when I’m feeling it. In retrospect, I’ve got a lot of growing to do. We all do.

For March, my word is listen.

I’ve always believed that the most important part of communicating is not the talking. It’s the type of listening where you’re not looking to respond to someone. It’s the ability to take in and to process wholly. It’s paying attention when another person is expressing themselves to you or articulating their thoughts.

The truth can sometimes (most of the time, if not all the time) be contextual. What I see from where I’m standing is likely different from what you see from where you’re standing. What I hear is likely different from what you hear. So on and so forth.

In March, I will be guided by the idea that listening can help me become a better person. Sometimes that means taking the time to process what someone has confided in me to hear. Sometimes it’s not responding at all with words, but with non-verbal gestures that say, “I’m here.”

March, I will listen.


Part two of a monthly series on observing the human experience in all of us. Every month, I’ll reflect on the past, observe the present, and cast a vision for the future with a word that guides me in all that I do. The first word for January can be found here.

My Project Wednesday article that inspired this small project, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.

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“I am not a strong boy. But I am trying to learn what it means to build.” –Phil Kaye, Poet

January served me well. The word that guided me was build. As it was the first month of the year, my mindset revolved around building — physically, emotionally, figuratively — the areas of my life that needed to be strengthened. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite metaphors of life is this idea that we get to build great big things with people around us. This is something that I subscribe to every single day.

Here are some ways that January helped me understand what it means to build:

  • Multiple important people in my life experienced some sort of heartbreak. Relationships lost. The breaking up of two people in a love that is shared. Sometimes we just don’t really know at all what tomorrow brings. But if we build a love that inspires us every single day, we’ll be on our way.
  • January 15 was my birthday. I was reminded of how many wonderful people I am surrounded by. Each person submitted a picture and a note with words of encouragement, hope, and love as they wished me a happy birthday. Building means relationships. (See below.)
Grateful for those who took the time to tell me how much I mean to them.
  • Presenting (and secretly nominating colleagues for awards) at a conference is always a building experience. I was able to build networks, presentation skills, and my knowledge base as I listened to others and gave others something to listen to. (See below.)
The University of Akron’s team of presenters, award winners, and professional developers. (OCPA, 2016)
Someone who challenges me and supports me in all that I do.
  • It’s the beginning of my last semester of graduate school. Nobody ever tells you how short these two years go by. Building comes in the form of students I get to work with, projects assigned (or not assigned), and experience in different functional areas. More on this to come in a later post.
  • Building my portfolio of experience has become important in 2016. Job searching is a challenging and rewarding process. The more I put into it, the more I seem to get out of it.
  • My comprehensive examination is less than a month away. Building my study materials hasn’t been much of a challenge; I keep everything from every class. Identifying what is useful to know for the exam is the challenging part. I’m actively building my materials with pieces of information that will help me stay prepared. (See below.)
Policy, Student Development, Finance, Curriculum, Student Services, Administration, Law, and History.
  • These last two years have been hit or miss with my writing; some months I’ve really put forth effort, other months I’ve missed the boat completely. There’s something, though, about waking up early on a Saturday morning, grabbing my writing materials, and heading up to Denny’s to people-watch, write, and reflect. A poem or two may have found its way out of me that morning. Potentially more to come there soon.
  • People. My whole life revolves around people. Family, friends, a significant other, and finally, myself. So when my lifelong best friend says, “I’m coming to Akron,” you move some things around to welcome him. (See below.)
We didn’t take too many pictures while he was here, but here’s the goodbye.
In case you needed evidence of what a real smile looks like.

January has been bursting at the seams with opportunities to build. Sometimes we don’t realize that we are building until we take a step back and reflect on the day-to-day moments of our lives.

For February, my word is feel.

Part of being a human being is experiencing some of life’s most intense, jarring, unfiltered emotions. What I have come to realize in my (short) time on Earth is that feeling so many things can be a blessing and a curse. Knowing what you feel is so deep and complex and vivid, but not feeling as if there is anyone that can understand or relate to us, we are sometimes stuck in this box that we place ourselves in. We limit ourselves. We put parameters on the things other people see in us. We cover ourselves with pretty wallpaper, a mask of confidence, something heavy that hinders any light from warming us at all. And there we are. Stuck in this cycle of what we are and what we allow others to perceive us as.

In February, I will be guided by the idea that feeling what I feel is important. Good, bad, or ugly: I will feel whatever it is that is inside of me and is trying to withdraw itself from my heart. I will observe it and I will move forward.

February, I will feel.


Earlier this year, I wrote an article for a weekly email series called Project Wednesday. The premise of this project is to motivate and inspire people across the world through an email sent out every Wednesday. People from all walks of life contribute to this project, which is run by a woman named Holly Pilcavage. Her TED talk can be found here. My article, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.

It’s important that you read that 2-minute article before moving forward; it serves as the foundation for what is next.

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Every new year, people make resolutions to eat better, lose weight, go to the gym, or begin a new habit. What I’ve found about resolutions is that they rarely last through January. By February 1, most people are worried about other things. Life gets in the way. Perspectives change. Resolutions take a back seat to work obligations or family matters. By April, most resolutions have gone disappeared from our lives altogether.

It’s not that I have a problem with resolutions. People who make resolutions are the best kinds of people; they want to be better and do more with their lives. I admire that.

It’s just that resolutions aren’t as effective — in theory and in practice — as people think.

For 2016, I’m not creating any resolutions. Instead I’m going to do a monthly word that guides me in everything that I do.

My goal with this is to find a word that resonates with my life on the 15th of each month. This word can change or it can stay the same. Most of all, whatever word I select to guide my life and work will be one that is designed to challenge me, to move me out of my comfort zone, to stretch me in ways I’ve not stretched before.

The goal is to embrace this life we all live. If we aren’t careful, it becomes elusive. It winds and shifts and turns in ways that we can’t keep up with. People change. You move out of the state. Loved ones pass. Relationships end. Your inbox fills up and you become overwhelmed. You forget your passwords. And so on.

I want to be intentional with living each day with a growth-mindset. I want to learn from myself and from the world around me. I want to make more of an impact on the lives of others. This comes from being mindful of the life that I live, and being present with the activities I fill my life with.

I will fail. Undoubtedly, I will make mistakes, choose a wrong path along the way, or make bonehead decisions. But with that, I’ll learn. I’ll adjust. I’ll become what I’m supposed to become, broken parts and all. I’ll carry heavy things that I never expected to carry. I’ll work harder than necessary. I’ll let people down. And I’ll embrace it.

January’s word: build.

Building things has always been in the back of my mind: lego structures, pieces of art, the people around me, my self-image, and so on.

There’s many miles to go before I get to where I want to be. But along the way, I plan to make the most of every day before they turn into weeks, months, and years.

Who know’s where I’ll end up? I suppose that’s the beautiful part of this journey I’m on, that we’re all on. There’s a whole lot that I don’t know. I won’t know until I get there.

Until then, I build.

On being.

This article was originally published in Project Wednesday’s weekly email on January 6th, 2016.

“It takes guts to tremble, it takes so much tremble to love.” –Andrea Gibson, Poet

Well, here we are. 2016. A new year. Fresh mind. Different perspective. And yet, it still feels like 2015. It doesn’t feel like a new year. Yesterday was summer and the day before that was February and the day before that was 2012. Isn’t it funny? Time keeps moving on and here we are — broken and beautiful — trying to convince ourselves that we’re still the humans we thought we were yesterday. But we’re not.

We’re different. Changed. Transformed on a daily basis by the things that surround us: people, ideas, the Earth spinning as it does, and ourselves. We don’t necessarily see it happening and then it happens. One day we look back and realize how far we’ve come.

Maybe 2015 held so much pain for you. Maybe you felt like you took up too much space. Maybe you thought that you weren’t enough. Maybe you felt like you were stuck in some kind of recycled nightmare or that you had too many flaws to ever be accepted by others in this world.

That’s what today is about. It’s about accepting who you are today: every victory lap, every broken bone, every bruised heart, every moment that we thought we weren’t going to be okay, every song that made us feel alive.

That’s what today is.

It’s a journey through mindfulness of being. Just being. It’s a constant reflection of who you used to be and who you want to be.

It’s an opportunity to take breaths deep into your lungs, to realize where you’re at, to center yourself. It’s an ongoing adventure of coming home to yourself.

This life is going to pass you by, day by day, week by week, until the months become years and you’re still stuck in 2011 and you realize that you’re not the you that you used to be.

But this is your moment. This is meant for you.

Let 2016 be the year that you commit to thinking a little deeper, to loving a little harder, and to growing a little closer to yourself in every moment. Allow yourself to outgrow the people and places and ideas that no longer serve the root of who you are. Allow yourself the safe space to be authentic and vulnerable and brave. You were not meant to fit so neatly into other people’s boxes.

Let 2016 be the building of a foundation with which you construct your life. Let it be the year that you forgive yourself for every mistake you made; every standard you never upheld; every expectation you never met. Buddy Wakefield once said, “Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.” He’s right.

Most of all, let 2016 just be. Everything that happens will happen just as it should, good or bad. And when 2017 comes, maybe letting the light in won’t hurt so much. Maybe you won’t feel like the problem or the solution.

Let 2016 be. Just be. And you, too.