I’m Back

It’s been quite a while since I last blogged…about 5 months actually. It’s a weak excuse to say that I didn’t have time, but frankly, I didn’t. So much has happened this past semester at college and I’m eternally grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had.

Within the past 5 months I have:

  • Traveled to Montreal (Oh Canada)
  • Started my first unpaid (big girl) internship
  • Traveled to Chicago
  • Worked harder on a paper than I ever have in my life
  • Failed a test
  • Attended a number of keynote lectures on foreign relations
  • Made some new best friends

I became very focused on doing what I needed to do for my future career. I’m an over achiever, so of course that meant busying myself, striving to be perfect academically. This need for perfection, however, kind of outshone my need to be a real person.

I’ve missed blogging because it kept my reflective side intact. My passionate, exploratory, innovative side faded out this past semester, and my analytical, knowledgeable, determined side won. Neither side is better than the other, yet I know that I need a balance of the two in my life to be efficiently successful.

This summer I will be back at college, taking a few classes and continuing my big girl internship (except this time with real money!) I’ve long realized that the time for relaxing summers is over, not that I ever spent a summer just chilling. I know I have my work cut out for me in the future, but I’m really happy where I am. I’ve finished two years of college, I have two more to go. I haven’t (completely) failed yet, and I don’t plan on it.

I hope to continue blogging, at least once a week throughout the summer. There will probably be more world news mixed in with things I find curious and inspiring. Sorry not sorry, that’s just my focus nowadays. Maybe I’ll even explain where it is I’m working. Who knows.

More to come, I promise.

Now for some photographic proof I actually was there…

IMG_4046[1]

Throwin' what I know in front of the Chicago Bean.

Throwin’ what I know in front of the Chicago Bean.

I love Montreal.

I love Montreal.

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What in the World?

Ladies and Gentlemen of the blog,

I would like to formally introduce a new segment of this blog called “What in the World?“, in which I talk about some current events that happened in the world this past week. 

*Disclaimer: I am not an expert in anything. These words are not the end all, be all of news. I will include a link (or several) in each event I choose to write about. But also…this is my choice. I pick the stories. I will try to be as inclusive as possible, but I may miss one or two events that you deem important. If that’s the case, write me a comment, drop me a line, send a carrier pigeon! I hope to do this each week, so any advice/critiques/praise you have for this is greatly appreciated! (Or this will just disappear into the abyss of my broken dreams.) 

Biggest Story of the Week: 

France

Everyone is still reeling from the Charlie Hebdo attack from last week. For those of you that only read this blog, the French satirical magazine was sieged by two gunmen and 12 people were killed, including the editor. The two gunmen turned out to be brothers, and they are both dead now. But the terror attacks haven’t stopped. This week, at least 17 people have died in related terrorist attacks in France. People around the world are standing in solidarity with the French as they grieve this national horror that is taking over the thoughts and minds of many today. But grief isn’t the only emotion. Now, more than ever, are citizens of many nations standing together to stop terrorism, in whatever form it comes in. 

But to make matters worse, the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda took responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks and claims, nay, vows more violence to come. These incidents are becoming more and more international each day, and the only way we are going to be able to stop this is by banding together. 

 

On the domestic side…

Virginia is for lovers, and you know we just love our criminals as much as our senators. Heck, sometimes they are even the same thing! Okay, I exaggerate because he isn’t a senator, but Joseph Morrissey is an indicted criminal who will be serving a second term as a Virginia House delegate…in jail. Long scandal short, he had sexual relations with a minor, which led to some other stuff that put him in the big house. Because yes, we know, Virginia is for lovers. 

 

That thing you shouldn’t forget about: 

ISIS is still a very real, a very scary threat to global order. It’s still in Iraq and Syria, and it’s still taking over more towns. And it’s not going to go away soon. Nor are their videos of executions. Click here and here

 

And the cause for celebration:

Cuba released 53 prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, which means that it upheld its side of the bargain made with the US. This means that we are finally on our way to repairing the relationship with Cuba, after some very harsh tensions from the Cold War. It feels almost as good as having Friends on Netflix. 

 

Well, this is it for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the first installment of What in the World? If you think there was a bigger story that I missed, tell me about it and expand my knowledge! Have a fantastic Friday!

The Art of Running

This is the first semester that I haven’t consistently exercised.

I was injured for the first couple months of this semester, which was my excuse not to fit it into my schedule. But even now, I’m noticing the differences between being active and fit and not.

I kind of thought that one day I would be fine eating whatever I wanted and not caring what my body looked like….boy was I wrong. I’ve never been one to “embrace my body” and I’m more of a body shamer than I like to admit. But, rather than change my mindset about my body, I decided to change my lifestyle.

I am going to get fit again!

After coming home from break, I decided that I would wake up early every morning and go for a run. Mind you, I don’t run. I hate running. I probably would die if I had to run a 10K to save myself from the end of the world. I just don’t like to run. So why on earth would I make a goal to run… in the morning… in the freezing cold?!

Well… I still haven’t quite accomplished the first step of that goal- the running part.

Every night, I go to bed and think: “I’ll get up early tomorrow and run.” However, it wasn’t until tonight that I realized I never asked myself the question, “Why?”

To make things more ironic, I love exercising. I absolutely love working out. I love doing circuit training, all kinds of ballet and Pilates, workout videos, even the occasional elliptical. So then, if I didn’t like running and liked doing all of these other things better, then why was I so bent on running?

Did I want to run, or did I want to be able to say that I ran?

Let’s be honest, it sounds a lot better to brag to friends, “I ran 3 miles this morning,” than, “I did a 45 minute ballet workout.” Running is more relatable to people, in terms of difficulty. No one really knows how hard you work when doing ballet. But, it goes deeper than that. I wanted to be able to brag to people that I had the discipline to get up and do that. I was strong enough, mentally and physically, to complete challenges set against myself in less than ideal conditions.

That in itself is a fine goal to have, but it’s no way to decide how to exercise. Or work. Or eat.

If your actions revolve around your ability to tell someone about them, you’re doing it wrong.

You shouldn’t decide things based on how prestigious or ambitious they sound. This will only lead to unhappiness and unnecessary strife. You are more likely to cheat on a goal that you don’t actually want to accomplish than one that you’re excited to do. I’m excited to do a ballet class, not go on a run.

So don’t run the race to get the reward to tell people about it. Run the race to make yourself feel better. If you don’t, then you’ve missed the point of running at all.

If, at some point in my life, I decide I want to run for fun, then I will. But, it will only be because I want to, personally.

If this is something you’re struggling with, the not being able to not brag about things you do (that inadvertently make you unhappy), then I challenge you with this: Make a goal for yourself, but don’t tell anyone what it is. Write down your accomplishment instead.

When the selfish need to seem better than everyone else is gone, then you have truly experienced a goal worth accomplishing.

I can’t wait for the day that I’ll be ready to run.

 

Monday

Mondays are both hard and refreshing. Sometimes it’s just difficult to get out of bed, especially on a cold and rainy day like I’m experiencing. But there is always so much to do on Mondays. In my case, I have a to do list that wouldn’t fit on one index card.

But, Mondays are a start to a new week (at least work week), so you always have the opportunity to do something different than before. 

 

On Mondays (and other days) it’s easy to get wrapped up in doing things for yourself. MY to-do list, MY work, fulfilling MY needs and desires…. The things that you think you’re accomplishing are not for anyone else. They benefit you entirely.

 

And that’s not a terribly bad thing. But it’s necessary to keep in mind that you weren’t meant to live just for yourself.

 

At the Passion Conference, I heard a talk given by Carl Lentz, and he challenged us to wake up on Monday and think:

“Whom can I serve?”

“How can I help?”

 

All throughout high school, I volunteered somewhere at least every week. I mean, I had to…we had required community service hours at my high school. But now, in college, I’m not volunteering anywhere. I’m not serving anyone. It’s easy to go along each day focused on your own goals, but there may be someone out there that needs your help to fulfill their goals.

 

It’s not hard to lend a hand to someone. If you’re still living at home, maybe emptying the dishwasher without being asked. Maybe opening the door for someone at Starbucks (or your favorite coffee shop). Maybe calling a friend and asking if they need anything. There are tons of ways to serve people without really stepping out of your comfort zone. Just don’t be so small minded to forget that this world is not all about you.

 

I have trouble remembering that sometimes. So this Monday, I’m waking up and asking:

Whom can I serve?

 

I challenge you to do the same.

Throwback Thursday: The Digital Edition

Happy Thursday!

In honor of social media’s dubbed, Throwback Thursday, let’s take a trip down memory lane… What was your first computer?

I got my first computer, a Toshiba laptop, as a Christmas present in middle school. My dad found them really cheap during Black Friday, and bought both my mom and I one. Since then, I’ve gone through 4 laptops..I think? Usually a laptop will only last me about two years (a.k.a. I drop everything and never buy protective cases). But, why this sudden splurge into my past? Because I finally got a new laptop! 

If you follow me on instagram (@the_leighpster), you would see that about 6 weeks back, my laptop was holding on to one hinge. I honestly don’t know how it has survived this long (it still works!!), but the wires are coming out from behind and you can’t close it correctly. Suffice to say, I needed a new laptop like Britney Spears needed a new hairstylist in 2007. 

Now, I have to transfer all of my files from my old laptop to my new one. I’m not so certain how I feel about all this “Cloud Storage”, but I think I have to give it a chance… I had zero space left on my old laptop. And then I read this article by the Daily Beast, and it showed me the light…I AM a digital hoarder. 

I love collecting information. I love organizing files in color coded and cleverly named folders. But this problem has really gotten out of hand as of late. I want to save every article I read (which is really hard to do online..), so normally I keep articles in my browser for days at times, never closing them (or shutting down my computer…). 

It’s really funny to think about how quickly information passes in and out of our lives now, due to the internet. In an instant, I can read an article that was published in France. I can communicate with someone in China. Someone in India can read this blog post. Even though there’s so much information and communication happening between the people of the world digitally, we shouldn’t forget to put the laptop down and interact with an actual human. Or read an actual book. 

I believe that there is so much power in knowledge gained outside of the computer. As much as I love those free, online college classes you can partake in (what up Coursera.org), it’s no substitute from learning by experience. 

I know that I’m a digital hoarder and I love every part of it. But, sometimes it’s worth it to put away the computer. That article will be there tomorrow. The experience that I’m missing out while being glued to my computer screen, will not. 

Now stop reading this and go talk to a real living being! 

Do You Really Know Your Friends?

One of my “not resolutions” New Year’s resolutions is to really get to know my friends. Since entering college, I’ve made so many more friends than I ever thought possible. It really is hard to keep track of them all, and at times I feel guilty for leaving people out simply because I don’t have enough time in the day to think about them. So, for 2015, I am pruning my friends, separating the acquaintances from the best friends, letting friendships go for people I’ve grown apart from, and strengthening relationships with people who I yearn to know more about. (Sidenote: If you are my friend and are reading this, please don’t think I’m “dropping” you as a friend. It is 99.99999% likely that I am not and that we will continue to be better friends by each passing day. Never fear, friend Leigh is here.)

 

 I can know the “facts” of their life, their lists of favorites, what they want to do when they grow up, even horrible stories from their youth. But do I know the inner workings of their hearts? What makes them tick? Their deepest fears? If you’re hoping to strengthen relationships in 2015, here are a few uncomfortable questions you should ask your friends to get to know them better.

 

P.S. Don’t forget to share your answers too, so that they can do the same.

 

    1. What is one thing you’re insecure about?
    2. Who inspires you the most?
    3. What is your deepest wish in the world?
    4. Why are we friends?***** This one questions an entire friendship and causes you both to seriously think about whether a friendship is destructive or boosting to both individuals.
    5. Are you happy with your life?
    6. Do you have any regrets?
    7. Where do you see yourself (honestly) in 10 years?
    8. What are you most afraid of?
    9. What is a character trait you wish you had?
    10. What characteristic are you most proud of?
    11. What is your deepest guilty pleasure?
    12. What is one thing that no one knows about you?
    13. What is one thing that’s hard to admit to yourself?
    14. What brings you the most joy?
    15. What’s your favorite part of the day?

 

I love asking questions and being asked questions alike, so use these to guide your next conversation with a friend, whether it’s a friend you wish to be better friends with or if it’s a friend you feel you have drifted apart from. Take the initiative and strengthen that friendship to make 2015 the year of the friends.

 

Recap: the Passion Weekend

The one of two pictures I took throughout this whole trip. Yes, there's a ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta.

The one of two pictures I took throughout this whole trip. Yes, there’s a ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta.

This past weekend, a group of college kids (including myself) from my home church drove to Atlanta, Georgia, where 20,000 other college students filled the Phillips Arena to worship and learn more about God. The Passion 2015 Conference was one of the most amazing events I’ve ever attended. We had the opportunity to listen to amazing speakers such as Louie Giglio, John Piper, Carl Lentz, Ben Stuart, and Francis Chan, and got to rock out to amazing music by Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill Matt Redman, Crowder, and more. It was such an inspirational and motivational weekend. My eyes were opened to so many things and I am so blessed I had the opportunity to go.

 

Here are 5 things I learned this weekend:

 

    1. Matt Redman is British. Did that never occur to you either? His voice doesn’t sound British when he sings! But, in fact, he hails from Brighton, West Sussex, and singing 10,000 Reasons acoustically with 20,000 other college students was one of the most impactful moments. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM
    2. Everything’s bigger in Atlanta. I don’t know how tall the arena was, but we had seats two rows from the very top, and being able to look out among all of the other people standing and singing was amazing. The sheer power created in that moment is enough to quell any doubts I had about God’s existence. (Our hotel rooms were also on the 54th (!!!!!) floor of a hotel with at least 70 floors. That was the highest I’ve ever slept before. What a view. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the view (the first night/morning it was super foggy in Atlanta.)

      This doesn't show perspective very well, but this was my hotel. Very tall and very circular.

      This doesn’t show perspective very well, but this was my hotel. Very tall and very circular.

    3. The power of college students is not to be underestimated. There are ten unreached people groups in Middle East/Southeast Asia, and for one people group to be reached, $85,000 needs to be raised. The goal for all three conferences is to donate $850,000 so that all 10 people groups can be reached. Saturday night, our conference raised one-third of the money necessary, and an added donation allowed us to raise $415,000. In one night. When college students are motivated, nothing is impossible. So if there are at least 20,000 college students in the world motivated to spread Christ’s love to all people, then I believe it’s possible. (I tried to find links to confirm this information and prove that I’m not deceiving you, but alas, I have failed…)
    4. “What you think about is what you care about, and what you care about is what you will chase.” Just some inspirational words from the mouth of Ben Stuart.
    5. The app/game, Trivia Crack, can sustain a whole busload of college students (namely, my friends) for hours. If you don’t have it/never heard of it before, download it now. It’s very fun and free and makes you feel smarter for having played it.

 

I learned so much more than this random assortment of anecdotes, but not all can be put accurately into words and condensed here. I am eternally grateful to have spent my weekend doing something that will inspire me for the rest of my life.

 

Life is short, but God is big.