Who is the real prisoner?


To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.

-Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is a topic I have avoided for a while. It seems too big to tackle. I am heeding my own advice though, taking a leap of faith and trying it on for size. So, here we go.

Forgiveness comes in many forms, yet every form of forgiveness has the ability to influence changes. Some big, some small. However, through this journey of self-discovery I am dedicated to learning how to truly forgive…and I don’t mean the small stuff. I am referring to learning to forgive the stuff that hurts. The stuff that knocks you down and continues to kick you even when you wave the white flag. The stuff that takes a little piece of you with it, ruthlessly. The stuff that causes you to not trust people as much, and causes you to think twice before you open yourself up to someone else. And to do that, I have had to revisit some people, places and memories that aren’t necessarily the happy highlights of life, but highlights they were.

At some point in early life many of us come to the conclusion that some people will hurt us. They will leave us, mistreat us or simply fall away from us, either intentionally or unintentionally. No matter the case, we will get hurt by someone at some point. There will be those times when we ugly cry, get raging mad and/or fall into moments of self pity because of someone else. Those are the moments that cause us to build walls. We begin to build walls all around us, in hopes that if we build them strong enough and high enough nothing will penetrate them. We will never again have to experience the pain that comes from the betrayal or abandonment of someone else. We are safe. Protected. No vulnerability in sight. We have won.

But have we really? Nah.

We have successfully trapped ourselves in a metaphorical prison. We have chained ourselves to those who hurt us. We have allowed them to gain power over our lives; power they don’t deserve. We no longer love the same, trust the same or even interact the same. We change, and we allow those wounds to remain open and painful. However, the beauty is that we are our own personal healers. We have the ability to revisit those wounds, and close them once and for all. We have the ability to knock down those walls and live life freely. Sure, scars may remain…but you can empower yourself to chose what they represent. Do they represent the pain or the strength? That, my friend, is a decision that is yours to make.

Harboring hate or resentment take a toll on the soul. They take a toll on those around us. They trap us in a world that is lacking something. A world that is lacking true love. The catch however is that people will continue to hurt us. They will continue to lie, manipulate, and force us to feel sorry for them. Let them. Let them, because it reminds you that people are human. It reminds you that you are human. It adds humility to your life, and that’s okay.

Some people mistake this allowance for weakness. That’s a wall they have built, that you should not feel obligated to conform to. So many times in life we are told how to live…don’t let your ability to feel anything be controlled. What else do you really have?

So…I guess my main point here is to release yourself from the prison you have built up. Learn to forgive others. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Nobody is perfect. Let go of your ideals of how people should be, and start accepting them for who they are. Let go of your ideals for how you should be, and start accepting yourself for who you are. There are enough standards being placed upon you…don’t do it to yourself. Learn to let go. Learn to start over. Don’t let that anger build itself into resentment and hate. The only person you are hurting is yourself.

 

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Who can you trust?


dont hurt themIt’s strange how many time in life we get screwed over by someone for the sole purpose of just being screwed over. It makes it nearly impossible to know someone until they are put under the pressure of making a decision that will hurt someone else. Is that really what it has come down to? Have we, as a society, reached the point where we believe that we can trust no one? That’s pretty damn sad if you ask me.

Some things have been occurring in my life recently that have led me to think about how well I really know some people. How is my initial judge of character? I’d like to think it’s fair. Then I asked myself these 2 questions: Do people really deserve the chance to make a second impression on me if the first one doesn’t go over so well? Is it really possible to unconditionally trust people once you’ve been screwed over so many times? I came to this conclusion: NO.

Then I thought about it again. On a daily basis, I experience a multitude of interactions that consist of love and friendship. The majority of my time spent with others is positive. My overall interaction with people is great! However, I sometimes allow those “not so great people” to impact my perspective of the overall human race. It’s just unfair.

It’s unfair to have to work so diligently to prove people wrong all the time. Yet, people make other people do it constantly. We have to prove we are worth their love, trust and respect. We have to prove that we are not those “not so great people” all the time. It’s a constant battle that we are not even aware we are fighting in. The most prominent of these battles is the battle within intimate relationships.

So many times, I have heard a girl say that she is waiting for some guy to come along to prove that not all guys are like the asshole she dated before. She’s gonna wait until this god of a man comes and sweeps her off her feet because that’s what she deserves for putting up with that ole’ so and so. Well, keep dreaming honey. Once you set these standards and expectations to Disney levels, it just ain’t gonna happen. Now, don’t get me wrong. Standards are much needed, and often with good intention. However, if you are trying to weed out all of a person’s qualities based on the actions of someone else, you are going to get disappointed.

We all have quirks and personality traits that others aren’t necessarily going to like. However, nobody is perfect and expecting them to be is unfair. It’s unfair to judge the context of your relationships with people based on the outcome of a previous relationships. There’s no advantage. The other person is automatically caught up in this schema you have, and is being force to challenge it unwarranted. At least give a person the chance to make a genuine impression that isn’t so diluted with your personal bias that you never actually give yourself a chance  to see the beauty within them. Everybody’s got some.

With that said, I’ll attempt to answer the original question. Who can you trust? Everyone! Who should you trust? Everyone who hasn’t given you a reason not to. A real reason. Are you going to be disappointed? Sure. Is it going to hurt sometimes? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Guaranteed.

You’d be amazed at the people I have grown to love and value simply because I put my own biases or preconceptions aside to truly get to know the person behind the “Kimbrlei Lens” (as I like to call it). Don’t allow others to be on the receiving end of your impossible standards. Give love as freely as you can, and I can assure you that it will come back. Don’t hold back because of some experience in the past. You are more likely to be holding yourself back from the possibility of allowing someone to truly love and be loved by you. In my opinion, that’s the real tragedy of life.

Find the earthquake in yourself.


“I would be lying if I said there were not times that I am an earthquake contained inside this skin.” – Tyler Knott Gregson

 

Have you ever been reading something, discussing an issue or experienced a situation that just made you want to burst at your seams? There’s no better fight than those fueled by passion. I can’t even begin to describe the experience of recognizing a pursuit that you can become passionate about, allowing it to consume you and getting so overwhelmed with the desire to act that you can feel something within you change. Something will always be different. Your perception. Once something is brought to your attention and no matter how hard you try you can’t ignore it- that is where your true self can be found. It’s a beautiful tragedy. To be so consumed by something that you have no choice but to act is a privilege that I am so thankful to have. 

If you have read any of my other posts or have known me for the past few years, you will not be surprised to learn that I have no problem with confronting injustices. I get empathetic, then I get loud. If you know me, you know that I am a naturally loud person…but I mean to say “I get loud” in a different respect. In my opinion words can speak volumes, but actions leave a resounding echo that can’t be ignored. It isn’t enough to update your status, tweet a #fact or sign your name on a piece of paper. Sure, they are noble gestures that shouldn’t be discounted, but what are you robbing yourself of? The experience of truly engaging in something, that’s what. 

To hear the stories of struggle that people have overcome, to use your voice to right a wrong, to use your awareness to benefit someone else, to preserve something that brings you joy- these are the experiences that can’t be taught in a classroom, felt through an article or truly described by anyone. The reason is that they are so genuine and so unique to each person. They are an experience all your own, and your perception of the birds in the sky or that homeless man sitting on the corner are forever changed based on it. 

The other day, someone asked me to describe a friend to them (in so many words). When I began talking about this person, I ended my description with “he’s someone who could change the world”. The most beautiful part about those words is that they came to me so effortlessly, and I believe them unquestionably. That left me to consider what someone would say to describe me. Could someone find something so genuine and honest to say about me that spoke volumes about my character? I’m afraid I’m not sure.

Here’s a chance at some real growth that relates to those around me! 

Personal growth should not only be focused on yourself, but also your influence and impact on others. So often I undertake endeavors that I find purpose in, and I humble away from recognition. I mean, it’s not like I am facing these challenges alone, or even that I have experienced half of the issues I take such interest in. Don’t we all have a responsibility to promote the betterment of the human experience? Maybe not on a grand scale, but even showing a little respect through our daily actions can go a long way. Holding a door, picking up a piece of trash, making “just seeing how you are” phone calls. Is that our responsibility? Are love, empathy and advocacy a dying art? I dare scream NO! 

I personally believe in challenging my own views and the views of others through my actions. I chose my battles, but it isn’t always easy. Sometimes that earthquake makes me want to grab someone and shake them until they see the importance. However, understanding that perspective is different to everyone has allowed me to understand where my efforts are in vain or when they can actually be used for the betterment of something. 

However, I can tell that I lost momentum in this fight that I once lived so passionately for. I am guilty of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that I strayed away from what really makes me truly, 100%, genuinely happy. I’m back in the groove though, and I am loving every single moment of it. I have gained a renewed sense of the earthquake inside me that can’t be contained any longer. Holy shit, it’s amazing! 

Alexander Hamilton once said, ” Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”

What do you stand for?

Promoting equality? Wildlife conservation? Spreading joy through music or art? Ensuring that your family is loved and provided for?

If you don’t know. Figure it out, and share it with me! 

 

 

Who’s holding your power?


Image

Over the last year (give or take a few months), I have consciously set out on this journey to separate my identity from those around me. I have to say that it has been the most difficult and rewarding journey I have undertaken. Over the last 6 months, it has been borderline overwhelming. Now, you may be thinking that I am crazy. You may be saying, “What? You don’t know who you are? That’s insane!”. However, if you have never truly localized focus on your own personal growth and development then you may be overlooking an invaluable personal journey. I don’t think I ever understood what the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ meant until I began this road. The benefits far outweigh the struggles though. 

Throughout this process, I came to the realization of how much power I allowed people  and situations to have in my life. Some of those people I didn’t even know. It’s really kind of depressing when you really think about it. Although, I have had the opportunity to reevaluate a lot of those relationships and have had the opportunity to build on the ones that truly contribute to my life and happiness. I have most importantly had the opportunity to evaluate my experiences and come to terms with a lot of things I did not even realize were effecting my life in negative ways. That has been the most liberating experience of all. Confronting your past, no matter how charmed, always allows time for sincere and “20/20” insights to be gained. What’s really holding you back? How far have you come? Reflection comes with consequences though. 

Recalling times of pain, pleasure and change can often be accompanied with strong emotions. That’s part of the beauty of memories, yet not always the beauty you expect. The real challenge is working to decipher the emotions that you want to place value in. How do you want your experiences to define you, and does it even matter? Can you really let it go? Or, is it worth holding on to? There’s never been a time when I can remember being so honest with myself. Forgiving yourself is a powerful experience. Forgiving others, even more so. Find out what experiences you give power to that robs you of true happiness and full on, in-your-face, overwhelming love that you deserve. Trust me, there’s something. Find out what it is and decide for yourself what purpose it serves. 

With that being said, how many things do you actually do for yourself in a week? Once, twice, never? What are you allowing to control your life? Your past, your present? Is it worth it? So often we succumb to the pressures of others to change or hide aspects of who we are. Not this girl! I have come to the stark realization that no matter what you do, you just aren’t going to like some people…and some people just aren’t going to like you. Life goes right on. 

Understanding those aspects of your life allow you to not only empower yourself, but empower those around you as well. You’d be surprised at how much more clear the future looks, and how much easier it is to truly love those around you when you have let the past (or present) go. As they say, others can only love you as much as you love yourself. It’s amazing how true I honestly believe in that. Understanding that you are in control of your choices and recognizing how those choices can affect others allows you to gain a significant amount of power to your values and self-perception. 

So, as there is challenge in deciding what experiences are worth holding on to, there is also a challenge in recognizing that only you are in control of your life. Allow yourself to make the decisions you need to make that will contribute to your long term happiness, not the ones that supply comfort to some other need you are trying to fulfill. If you don’t, this journey could get a lot more complicated and have strong consequences (whether good or bad). Do what makes you happy, and be honest with yourself. You will thank yourself, probably sooner than later. 

A Leap of Faith.


a leap of faith Margaret Shepard said, “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.”

That quote always makes me think about the leaps of faith I have taken, should of taken and need to take. We don’t always know if those leaps will result in our advancement, but if we never take them how will we ever know? Part of the beauty of life is ambiguity. That thrill of believing, of having faith. We have to take those chances we aren’t sure of. Otherwise, we are stuck. We are stuck in our comfort zones, twiddling our thumbs and remaining stagnant. We are hoping that someone else’s leap of faith will benefit us and disrupt that homeostasis we have come so used to living in.

Sure, it’s nice to get settled and be content, but being content and being stagnant have two very different meanings to me. We have to remember the spice of life that continues to be just one more responsibility we have in our lives. Shake things up a little bit.

Taking a leap of faith can come in many forms. Trying something new, investing in a relationship, job changes..simply believing in yourself or someone else to do the right thing. We can’t always predict the outcome, but we can be sure that something will happen. What’s wrong with that?

Here’s an example of a leap of faith I have taken: Before starting graduate school at TROY, I was accepted at UGA (my dream program). However, after some extenuating circumstances and evaluating my current financial circumstances I realized that this dream would have to be put on hold, or given up all together. I had already exhausted all my resources and turned down the other programs I had been accepted to because they just didn’t feel right for me. So, there I was only a few months from graduation, and feeling essentially hopeless. So, I took a leap of faith. I started the program at TROY as a last resort, and it has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am that it came down to that, because otherwise I would have missed out on an experience that has completely changed my worldview and my life, down to its very essence.

You may be thinking that I didn’t have a choice, or that it was more of a forced circumstance than a leap of faith. However it wasn’t. I could have moved home…moved anywhere really, and found a job close enough to my field and joined the big kid world. I could have joined the Peace Corps., which I was seriously considering. But I didn’t. I took a leap of faith knowing that I would be one of the only people I knew staying after graduation, that life as I knew it was about to get a huge slap in the face.

Now, I won’t lie. I have taken some leaps of faith that I wholeheartedly wish would have turned out differently. However, I never doubt those experiences. I never have to spend time questioning them. They become part of me, and part of my story. I don’t regret even one of them. However, there are several instances when I could kick myself in the ass for standing in the background and watching as my leap of faith turned into a mountain to move into a brick wall that I would never be able to conquer.

Don’t Defend The Status Quo.


people hate the truthToday, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by author, Danny Abbot. Mr. Abbott told his lifelong battle against the State of Alabama to reform the juvenile justice system. His story was truly inspirational, and I would recommend you read his book, They Had No Voice. In relation to my life, his story pulled at my heart-strings. I’ve always prided myself on being somewhat of a humanitarian, for lack of a better word. I’m devoting my career to working with children and grassroots class advocacy, and being a voice for those in need has always been my passion in life. Today, Mr. Abbott reiterated a fact that I feel like I lost sight of. That fact was that one person, with the passion to make a difference, and a conscience that won’t allow you to choose otherwise, can make a difference in the lives of so many.

So many times we choose to look the other way. So many times we see an injustice and tell ourselves that it isn’t our fight. Well, that’s bullshit. It is our fight, and it always will be. If you see something unsettling, there’s a reason why it’s unsettling: it’s wrong. We should want better for each other and for ourselves. We should fight without ceasing, and say to hell with the consequences. There are always consequences to challenging the status quo, but isn’t that the point? Have we gotten so lazy and consumed by media, sex and technology that we no longer think that inequalities exist? I hope not.

Mr. Abbott’s friend and colleague introduced him (couldn’t catch his name), and then managed to say something that really struck a nerve with me. He said, “You live with the reality of what human beings can do to other human beings merely for the crime of being different.” The crime. I just keep repeating that in my head. Since when did it become a crime to be different? Oh yeah, always. This country was founded, to some degree, because people were being persecuted for their beliefs. Genocide, civil rights, our day-to-day lies… we live based on our differences. We live on the platform of being different and unique, yet we kill the spirits and suck the possibility of life out of people because they don’t dress the same way we do, talk the same way we do, or even have the same skin color as we do. It’s really quite ironic.

Are we not all air-breathing, purpose driven human beings? Even if that purpose is to stay alive, there is a person behind that will to live. So often we forget that. We allow our societal constructs of people to take over, and we validate tearing them down because we no longer see them as human. We begin to see people as mechanisms, and that is just sad. At some point, every person you meet was a child. Helpless, vulnerable, and victims of circumstance. Society built them into who they are today.We are society. We built them up, or broke them down. It just depends on the cards they are dealt. So in my opinion, if you don’t like someone, you need to be looking at what shaped that person and start working your ass off to change it. We are all products of our environments to an extent, and in return we offer those environments to future generations. Therefore, we have a social responsibility to spark a change. And once we spark that change, shouldn’t even feel like we have the choice to not ensure that those sparks engulf our lives and takes over.

Charles Bukowski once wrote this:

“My dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
~ Falsely yours”

No matter how I say it, it doesn’t get any more authentic than that. LET IT KILL YOU! 

If you read this and you are thinking to yourself that this isn’t your fight, then you are the person I hope to impact someday. We all have the right to be respected. We all deserve a chance. Not just the upper/middle class, not just the boys, not just the whites, not just the privately educated…ALL OF US. The delinquent, the mentally ill, the kids who don’t know where their next meal will come from… ALL OF US. And if you don’t agree that we all deserve a chance without the influence of our circumstances, well…maybe we should reconsider our affiliation.

We all have a responsibility to pick each other out of the depths of hell, and breathe new life into those who would otherwise be denied it. We have a responsibility to stand up for what is right; to speak up, even when our voices shake. If we don’t, who will? The answer is easy: Nobody. And if you are one of those people in the depths of hell, then you are my responsibility. You are all of our responsibility. Our responsibility to give you hope. To advocate for your success. Isn’t is ironic that the best things in life, to give or receive, are free? And isn’t it even more ironic that we so adamantly refuse it to those who truly need it?

So, I challenge myself to make more of an effort to the causes I care about so deeply. I challenge myself to look past color, politics, and circumstances. I challenge myself to greet each person as if they were my family. I challenge myself to take a stand, and never back down in the face of adversity. I challenge myself to become immortal through my contributions in the world. I hope you will too.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Confessions of a Cell Phone Addict.


ImageWell ya’ll, it’s been less than 24 hours without my iPhone and my world is already in shambles. I can honestly say that I never realized how addicted to my phone I really am. I mean, no texting, Candy Crush or Snapchatting? Get real, people. I can’t handle this. 

So throughout the day I have come to the stark realization that I am addicted to being connected…and I hate it. I mean, since when does not having access to all my friends, family, entertainment and information become such a problem that I actually feel anxious when I’m denied that convenience? Ridiculous! I am having withdrawals! 

Many of you may be shaking your head right now and thinking, ‘wow, is it that serious?’. The answer is yes. It’s serious for a few reasons. 1: I was in complete denial of how dependent on my phone I am. 2: I need to figure out how to break this vicious reality. 3: Is it even possible to break those habits? 

We live in a world so distracted and so connected that we forget to look around every once in a while. There is like a whole lot going on beyond the tips of our fingers, and we don’t even notice it. We are too busy documenting memories to actually make any (great observation from the wonderful M.B.). We take pictures of our food, our animals, ourselves, our surroundings. Hell, I’ve been the recipient of some pictures that should have never been taken! Where’s the line? Oh yeah, there isn’t one. We want to be connected. We want people to know what’s happening in our lives, and we want to know what they are doing too. I am too guilty of all of these things. Those of you who know my dog know that she’s a freaking superstar, just like me! 

Don’t get me wrong though…I love the convenience, but I am having serious issues with the commitment I have to my phone. And I know a few others who should be too. I mean I can remember being younger and staying on the phone all night with my friends and having so much to talk about that our parents (or jackass siblings) would force us to get off the phone! Now, I can’t remember the last time I spent more than 30 minutes on the phone with someone. It’s kind of sad. Our conversations have been reduced to small talk, and most have really lost their substance. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think it sucks. I want to have more of those conversations that leave you wanting more and inspire you to actually think and feel…not just some words on a screen. 

Some people may not think this is a big issue, but it really is. As a society we are getting worse at social interactions. We are getting impatient. We are losing the ability to converse. We are forgetting that the people right in front of us are more important that those on the other side of a satellite (or however they work…I can’t have all the answers). We are really losing so much more than we are gaining. We are forgetting to live in the moment and let those moments pass us by, which is the worst part in my opinion. We are too connected. And instead of coming to terms with the zeitgeist of the time, I am gonna chose to make a better effort to disconnect more often. We are really selling ourselves short by believing that relationships can be formed and maintained through messages and pictures. I don’t think it’s okay to portray an edited version of myself to anyone. I am so much more than the words I say, and so are you. You can’t read passion, you have to see it and feel it. 

It’s really interesting to me that 24 hours without a cell phone had the potential to form into a growing experience. That’s really just sad at this point. However, I always welcome opportunities to become more self-aware..so I’ll take it! Hopefully I will take today’s disaster and learn to be a bit more conscious of my bad cell phone habits.