YOU ARE MAGIC.

Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash.

There’s something to be said for humility. Humility makes us approachable, coachable, and adaptable. It tends to focus outward more than inward. Humility says, “I am one drop in a large ocean. I am a work in progress.”

But there’s something to be said for recognizing the positive impact you make on the world around you, too.

I battle impostor syndrome, but I’m also motivated to “leave the campsite better than I found it.” I thrive on helping others, spreading kindness, and being a beacon of light (however small). When I don’t feel like my light is very bright, I reflect the light of others. Especially to those who can’t seem to see or feel their own warmth.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash.

Several years ago, I started keeping notes from others as a way to index my positive effect. I kept a physical file called “Folder of Awesome” in which I’d place thank you cards, emails, etc. That evolved to also include keeping a list of wins and milestones, even if they seemed insignificant at the time. I do this to combat the effects of impostor syndrome—a way to validate, with proof, everything I have accomplished in line with my personal goals (see the campsite quote).

But this catalog of awesome also helps me get through rough patches, dark days, and times when I allow someone else to dim my light. (We all have moments when others cause us to question our worth, despite our best efforts.) Another unexpected by-product of this is an easy way to look back on positive highlights for writing bios, presentation introductions, and job interviews. The most meaningful way to convey the impact we make is through sharing our stories.

It’s easy to forget just how much light we put out into the world—how life-changing it can be. That person you wrote a letter of recommendation for—and they got the job! That student you inspired because you spoke in a class once. The words of encouragement that took you seconds to deliver but made a lasting impact. The mentee you took under your wing at work who is now blazing his or her own path. The kindness you showed when someone needed it most even though you had no idea at the time how alone he or she felt. Volunteering. Investing time. Investing resources. Investing yourself. Leaving the campsite better than you found it.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Sometimes, we do these things because we genuinely care. Sometimes, we do them because we feel fortunate and want to extend grace and mirth. And sometimes, we do them because we know what it feels like to be down or lost—and we don’t want others to experience what we have.

Whatever your motivations, you are light. You are love. And while you’re out there, spreading kindness like confetti, make sure you show yourself a little of kindness, too. Take a moment to celebrate YOU and all that you’ve accomplished.

If this feels like bragging, stop right there. It isn’t bragging if you’re keeping a catalog of your own awesomeness for yourself. But you also deserve to toot your horn every once in a while. To look back on the love you’ve shared, the community you’ve fostered. Sometimes, looking back helps propel us forward.

You aren’t an impostor. You are magic. And don’t you forget it.

APPLESEED LIMERICK

byeloveyoucatIt’s been ages since I’ve penned a limerick. Actually, I think it’s been well over a decade, so forgive me if my skills are a bit rusty. The form seemed a fitting tribute to one of my favorite events each year, Appleseed Comic Con. Thank you to all who made it what it was–for sharing your weekend with me and allowing me to be part of this each year. Much love to you all.

There is a weekend but once a year,
And when it passes, I shed a tear.
So much geekery
In this hand-picked family
Making memories forever held dear.

Connections that span the globe
Paying no mind to age or zip code;
Homophily
+ sapiosexuality:
The atmosphere charged to explode.

In this moment, we belong
Among ink strokes and hummed song.
You idealize,
And I harmonize
Until we are forced to say, “So long.”

Monday arrives empty and cold,
My head full of secrets (un)told.
Just a weekend
Spent among friends
And yet worth any amount of gold.

May the apple tree live forever;
Under its branches we’ll all gather.
Aye, perhaps a dream–
A fleeting sunbeam,
But its warmth will fade never.

HAIKU: SYNAPTEIN

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photo credit: Birth Into Being via photopin cc

To connect makes us
human, with our lives entwined
and not ours alone.

We become neurons
as we spark and stretch the gap,
searching for meaning:

the flash of exchange
a dizzy entanglement
of selves and of truths.

We reach endlessly,
Some seeking fidelity
and homophily;

others simply want
to be reminded that they
exist here at all.

And then the spark dies–
a sudden disconnect from
the frenzied coupling

as if the neurons
became aware all at once
of their exposure.

To connect makes us
naked and vulnerable.
It’s not for the weak.

As we take pieces
of others, we risk losing
pieces of ourselves.

Every transmission
seeks a nerve, laden with the
threat of contusion.

Yet we give off sparks
in the hope of connecting
and reconnecting,

part of the system,
the keepers of memories,
stokers of the fire.

To connect makes us
warm, hungry, hurt, and question.
It makes us human.

MORE THAN WORDS: THOUGHTS ON CITY PRIDE

photo credit: CIMMYT via photopin cc

photo credit: CIMMYT via photopin cc

I’m torn. There are two conversations going on about my city. One is taking Instagram pictures of sunsets from rooftops, writing its love across the sky in the same pen and ink that has been used a thousand times over. The other is tracing its tough-love approach in the dingy windows of humming orange-hued streets, giving shape to critical messages this city hasn’t seen before.

It’s a dichotomy and yet a duality.

Surely there’s a more productive middle ground between critically tearing everything apart and blindly praising the shit out of it all. Before you pick a side, consider creating your own somewhere in the mindful middle. Take a little cheery optimism from column A and combine it with a realistic, thoughtful eye from column B.

A city’s people are the true foundation of its structure. We have the ability to affect great change–or not. It’s your choice. When the ground shakes, it’s the citizens that hold everything together.

Regardless of your preferred consistency of the concrete, don’t forget to pour it. Build something with it. Get your hands dirty. Words can be powerful tools for rousing rabbles, but if the rabbles never rouse –if all they do is recite the same racket and then relax–then all we really have here is some pretty window dressing and fragrant flowers planted around a weak foundation.

Get out there and make a ruckus, Fort Wayne. Not with only your voices but also with your hands.

REMINDER: MAKE LOVE YOUR LEGACY

Let us begin. (Photo credit: Pensive Pilcrow.)

Let us begin. (Photo credit: Pensive Pilcrow.)

Life is short. This cliché has been said countless times in millions of different ways, making it easy to dismiss… until you glimpse it every day.

I started the Pep Tweet Project a little over a month ago. The idea is simple: tweet little messages of encouragement to complete strangers who need it. Since it began on March 10, I’ve reached out to almost 100 people who tweeted various things such as asking for luck on exams, requesting prayers for a sick relative in the hospital, or venting about a bad day. My “pep tweets” aren’t always acknowledged, but that’s ok because that isn’t the point. If even one person a day–a week–gets some wind back in his or her sails from a tweet that took me 60 seconds or less, the project is fulfilling its purpose.

What I didn’t bargain for were some life lessons for myself in all of this. In reaching out to folks, I’ve noticed a recurring theme of life being short–sometimes extremely short. I’ve seen myriad people talking about lives being snuffed out early and abruptly, often when those lives had so much more to give. It’s been a jarring reminder that we don’t know what tomorrow holds. We take minutes, hours, entire lifetimes for granted. We bitch and moan about the smallest of meaningless things. We put off telling a loved one how deeply we care, thinking we have another day and another.

The Pep Tweet Project has forced me to ruminate on the kinds of relationships I’m nurturing in my life and the legacy I am crafting for myself. If I died tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my work in this world thus far? Would there be words regretfully unsaid or acts of kindness remorsefully left undone? Would I take moments back, longing to spend that time in a different way?

What I’m saying has been said before. This is nothing new to you. But the Universe likes to send us little reminders every once in a while; perhaps this is yours. It’s easier to let the hustle/bustle of life push the important-yet-everyday stuff to the back burner than it is to make it a constant priority. But make yourself a note if you have to. Schedule it in your calendar. Tie a string around your finger. Tattoo it on your heart.

Because this is the stuff life is truly made of. Not money, things, or how someone did you wrong. In the end, you’re left with how much you loved and how much you were loved in return. That love is how we live on–even after we are gone.