Anything could happen: What I’ve learned in 2014

Two years ago, I set out on an online epic journey to blog about travel, adventure and the great unknown that was my future. I had high hopes, tall aspirations, huge dreams, and only a small inkling of reality. After many potholes, bends in the road, ditches and even chasms, I’ve learned some things this year that I wish my 2012 self had known.

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2014 was a year of mistakes and pain. But it was also a year of growth and lessons learned. Here are five things I’ve learned this year.

1. Perfection is overrated and unattainable.
Strive for excellence instead

I was one of those. You know, high achievers who believe perfection is something they must achieve in order to impress others. Those people who go around saying, “I’m a perfectionist. I have to execute this perfectly.” Back in August, I learned very quickly that I am human, and to be human is to make mistakes. After a brief moment of mortification at myself, I learned that it’s indeed okay, and quite normal, to forget things, to miscommunicate and to misunderstand. But it’s not okay to lock myself in a tower (figuratively) and punish myself for only being human.

2. It’s okay to not be okay.
But then you pick yourself up and move on

Back in September, two time Dove Award nominee singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb came to talk at Lipscomb’s The Gathering. “Sometimes, it’s okay to not be okay,” she said to hundreds of bored college students just trying to go through the motions of another day of classes and chapel. At the time, I perked up at what she said, not because it meant anything to me just yet, but because it sounded odd and contradictory (and fun to say). Fast forward a couple months and it hit me like a sack of potatoes. Only it had nothing to do with potatoes. Sometimes, things go wrong and people get hurt. That’s life. And that’s okay.

3. Don’t be a nice person. Be a good person.
Be genuine

Being nice is different from being a good person. I learned to genuinely see and care for people around me. I learned to listen when people talked to me. The followup questions I asked were not out of duty, but because I really cared about what that person had to say. Building solid relationships with people starts with you.

4. Do something!
Anything.

Feeling stuck in a rut? Feeling like no one understands how you’re feeling? Get up and do something! A few months ago, I was feeling completely broken and directionless. I had passions, but I just didn’t know what direction to take in life. In my despair, I got a wake up call from a well-meaning friend. “So get up and DO something!” he said, after a tearful explosion on my end. I realized that whining and crying wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Start somewhere. No matter how small, it’s still a step and it counts.

5. Anything could happen.
Be flexible

I am 20 years young. I have passions. I’m pursuing those passions. But things aren’t always going to go as planned. Doors of opportunity are going to open up all around me, but if I’m so focused on what I think is the plan for my life, I will most likely miss out on the greatness right in front of me. 2014 was a great year, but I’ve been feeling for a while now that something is coming just around the river bend, and I’m excited to take it head on.

What are some things you’ve learned this year?

 

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How to fool your friends into thinking you can cook

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Ah. Food.

Whether or not you choose to admit, food plays a larger part in your life than you think. We eat it at least three times a day (sometimes more like eight times a day, yeah I’m looking at you), and every holiday or big notable occasion is always centered around it.

Food is what brings people together. It is the essence of our very survival. Without it, we are nothing.

So it’s extremely unfortunate that you can’t cook to save your life. You can’t even toast bread, that’s how much you suck at cooking.

By following these few tips, your food will not only taste better, but your friends won’t scream, “Duck and cover!” when you use the words “I” and “cooked” consecutively in the same sentence.

It’s all about presentation
This may be a massive surprise for you, but the way you present your food actually does have an impact on how it tastes. If you, say, toasted some bread, you can’t just throw it on a plate and slap it down in front of your friends. “Mmm! A dry, hard plain piece of slightly burnt bread!” said no one ever.¬†

Try to incorporate color onto your plate. Think of your plate as a blank canvas that is ready for your touch. Top your toast with some fresh blueberries, and swirl some strawberry jam at the side of your toast. Your friends will “Ooo” and “ahhh,” (and it will also take away from the dryness of your toast).

If you don’t have any blueberries or fresh fruit on hand, go out to your yard and pick some grass. The bright, fresh green is an extremely affordable (it’s free) and lovely substitute for fruit. Just don’t tell your friends it’s grass.

Genius? Of course.

Choose your words wisely
When you whisk out your beautifully garnished toast, it’s very important to present your plates with a wordy flourish.

Don’t say, “I accidentally dropped this piece on the floor, and my dog peed on this grass, I mean, “vegetation,” but doesn’t it look amazing?”

Do say, “Some lightly toasted whole wheat bread topped with fresh, homegrown grass, I mean, lemongrass¬†and a drizzle of sweet and tangy strawberry jam.”

Pretend you are narrating a cooking show
When toasting your bread, it is perfectly normal and even encouraged to pretend you are narrating a cooking show. In fact, talking it out will ensure that you don’t make any mistakes at all.

“And now we’re just going to pop it in the toaster for about two to three minutes. The toaster will lightly brown the bread and give it that beautiful golden-brown color, as well as that fresh, warm breakfast-y taste you’re looking for.”

For the optimum wow-ing effect, do this in front of your friends. It will simply knock their socks off.

If you follow these three tips and your friends still refuse to come over for cocktails and “food,” then the problem is deeper than I thought.

Oh well.

Good luck in the kitchen!

 

 

Do you have any real cooking tips to share?

A continuum of feelings during travel

What is that smell?
It’s so hot!
Now it’s cold.
I’m so incredibly thirsty!

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These are just some thoughts flowing through the synapses in our brains as we step out of the plane, train or car that takes us into a whole new world.

It’s amazing how all our senses immediately pick up on new, different things. It’s as if the very air and atmosphere we are breathing is from another planet.

When in reality, we are only a few hundred or so miles from home.

No big deal, right?

It is a big deal. Our bodies have to adjust to the change. Our bodies know that we aren’t in the same time zone; these smells aren’t familiar; these sounds are foreign.

The culture is foreign.

I am on a travel hiatus right now.

I want to feel again. I want to smell and hear and taste the foreignness of a different place.

What are some of your feelings when you travel somewhere new?