How do we know what we want to be?

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be...

Happy.

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"When I was younger I want to be…"

"A lawyer"

"A doctor"

"A teacher"

"A mom"

"Happy"

Notice how the titles all include an "A" before the career. Yes, it is for grammatical reasons, but it is also because by becoming one of these, we are becoming another one. There are hundreds of lawyers, doctors, parents, teachers, but how often do you see a child vocalize their need to be happy?

Now skip a few years into high school. This is where teachers overflow homework so students can adapt to heavy workloads and constantly mutter the words, "You will thank me when you get to college." You always see them specifying the need for success in the classroom, on the field, on the court, through social media, but when do they open the opportunities for internal happiness? When do they challenge you to bring your emotions to light and understand why you are the way you are?

Psychology classes are not required, but a fine art is. It is more important to a school district that I understand how to draw a circle and correctly define a shade of color than it is a necessity to understand the inner-workings of my mind. Sure, there is a 1-week course in biology discussing neuroscience. The kids who actually paid attention to the brief review may remember the hypothalamus and frontal lobe. But what after that?

Why do our bodies hurt, why do we laugh, what nerve is lighting up when we have a thought and why? How do self-fulfilling prophecies affect our everyday life? How is it when we angry, there is negativity surrounding us, but when we are happy, the world is rainbows and unicorns? These are very real questions that we have the answers to, so why are they less important than the Pythagorean theory?

It is because humans have a talent and knack to neglect that build up in our minds which defines our emotions. We will bury down the hurt and pain because something is more important. People will self-medicate, self-diagnose, and evaluate others without actually stopping to understand how it works. It is like having a broken car and pouring gasoline stating, "I know it needs this, so I will just use more of it and it will fix itself". It might sound idiotic on a screen but put in into perspective and think about its effects for a minute. Why would you take depression medication when you don't know the internal works which are leading to your depression? Nothing will get fixed then, it will get bandaged, and in case you haven't noticed, a bandage is a temporary fix.

Music artists will appeal to the needs of their audience. So, is that why so many songs signify heartache? Is that how people cloud themselves away from the shallow volcano of love? You begin by dipping in a signal toe and next thing you know you are hurdling through thousands of miles of warmth and comfort and enjoying every minute of it until you realize how hard the drop hurts. Do we call it "falling in love" because we always get hurt? No, we don't. We use the term falling to symbolize getting up. If you fall and hurt your knee, it is unlikely that you will never walk again, same goes for finding love. When you get your heart broken, you get back up, look at your battle scars, and grow stronger and happier than ever before. You realize your own worth which you would not have seen if it weren't for that individual in your life.

We fall in love so that one day instead of dropping to the ground and scraping our knees, someone will catch us, and that is when you know it is pure and real and something worth fighting to keep.

Just because the world is a scary place doesn't mean we have to let it intimidate us. Smile more, laugh often, and pray to God, to Buddha, to the Sun and Stars, to a chair for all it matters. Pray for eternal happiness and gratitude, because human life has meaning. Whether it be using your hypothalamus to understand everyday tasks, or exploring the endless possibilities, life has meaning. And I can assure you, every tear you shed will bring you another moment of endless smiles, laughing, and joy in the future, so just keep pushing forward and understand why you are the way you are.

When I grow up I will be… Me.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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