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2011 (or the year Melissa got her groove back)

2011.  Oh, what a year you were.  You provided some great times and some not so great times.  A lot of people hated you and can’t wait to move ahead to the next year.  My feelings towards you are a bit more complex and live quite firmly in the gray area between hate and love.  While I could likely write a book recapping my thoughts on this year, I’m just going to hit on a few key moments.


2011 is the year I lost a dear friend.  Kent Berg, I miss you and always will.  I miss your humor, your sass, your fiercness, and your love for late-night Sonic runs.  I am thankful to have been assigned to the staging location in the middle of nowhere southern Minnesota at the house with the AMAZING bathroom wallpaper.  You were such a great support to me during 2007 and as I transitioned into my new job, and I hope I offered some support as you moved ahead with your career.  I am sorry if I never told you directly how much you meant to me, what an inspiration and amazing person.  You brought laughter to a room, and knew how to connect with people to make them comfortable.


When I heard of your passing, I didn’t believe it. It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I couldn’t believe you were gone.  I still have moments where I think I see you walking down Selby towards Nina’s or want to text you about something funny that I saw or read.  I am thankful for the time we ran into each other outside of Nina’s, which ended up being the last time we saw each other.  I must have known that something was going to happen, because I felt compelled to give you a huge hug to try to tell you how much I valued you and our friendship.  A few weeks before you died, I sent you a gchat telling you I missed you.  Again, I must have known deep down and needed to send you that message.  I only wish that it might have changed the outcome of what happened, but know that I will never know why you did what you did.  I just know that you know longer are in pain and are at peace now.


For anyone that may be reading this that needs some help, or knows someone that is struggling, please don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.  It can and will get better.  It may be hard.  It may hurt a lot.  It may take time, but in the end you can get through just about anything.


There are a number of resources out there for folks, and I’m listing a few below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)


The Trevor Project


2011 will also be the year that a lot of things became much clearer to me.  I started to realize a lot of things about myself and who I am, what I want to do and who I want to be.  Much of this I’ve written about here, so I won’t do a full recap in this post, but it it is truly an amazing experience to listen to yourself and make decisions based on what makes you happy and content.


Throughout this year I have also met a number of amazing people and also strengthened friendships with people I already knew.  Although I may not say it nearly enough, I am truly thankful for your friendship, support, kind words, doses of reality, laughter, suggestions of things to read, watch or listen to, inspiration, kindness, awkward shoulder pats (or hugs when appropriate), feedback, kindness, and for you being you.


I also reconnected with a lot of passions in my life that had somewhat taken a backseat while I was working on campaigns and getting settled into life in Minnesota – photography, music, Harry Potter, TV, movies, fangirling (and not ashamed to admit it. . most of the time), traveling.  I also discovered some new passions as well – this whole writing thing I do here, quiet time, and cooking more stuff from scratch.  These are things that help make me a more fulfilled person and allow me to feed the different parts of my personality and quite honestly make me happy.


This year also included me getting my first ink.  Now, this is something I debated for awhile, both the merits of doing it, along with the question of what to get and location.  However, my trip to Nepal helped end this debate and a few weeks ago I found myself at a studio in St. Paul getting not one, but two (!) tattoos.  The first one is a koru on my foot.  The koru is a Maori symbol that means rebirth, new beginnings and spirituality.  The second is a white ink tattoo of a star on my wrist.  When I learned about this technique I was excited and knew it would solve one of my problems with where I wanted to get a tattoo.  If/When you see me, you probably won’t notice it, but it is there to be a constant reminder of a number of things.  No one (other than me) knows the full inspiration behind it but I am really pleased with my decision to get it.


The best part of 2011, hands down, was my trip to Nepal.  It changed my life in some pretty amazing ways and helped me realize a number of things.  I wasn’t expecting it to be more than 2 weeks away from work and my first trip to Asia, but it ended up being so much more than that.  I have some amazing memories – me dancing around to the Glee version of “Firework” overlooking Mt. Everest, paragliding, and EL GATOOOO – that really just left an impact.  I was also reminded of my love of traveling and how much I need to to feed my soul and renew my spirit.  Long story short – I suffer from a strong case of the wanderlust, and it’s something I need to make sure I indulge in whenever possible.


After spending some time reflecting on the past year, I’m going to say that for the most part the good out weighed the bad during 2011.  I’m excited about what 2012 will bring and some new endeavors I have planned.  As I said on my facebook earlier this week, I feel as if I’m entering 2012 as a better, stronger, more confident person. I’ve experienced and grown a lot, and I’m looking forward to what the future brings.


I end with this:

Be thankful. Be happy. Be in the moment. Don’t be afraid to do, be afraid of not doing. Embrace change and the unknown. Learn and share. Take care of you. Give yourself to others. Dream. Be the brightest star you can. Live.


Happy New Year to all of you.  Be safe.  Stay safe.  And I look forward to sharing 2012 with you.


Something’s coming. . . .and it’s gonna be great?!?

I came across another post on Thought Catalog today that just kind of hit me – not in a bad way, but more in the “this is an interesting thing to think about. . .”.  To be honest, at first I was drawn in mainly because of the title, because who doesn’t want wisdom from someone who has their life figured out.  Granted, I’m not sure that such a person exists because no matter how much control you have over yourself or how much you think you know yourself, there is always one thing we can’t predict or control – the wild crazy world around us and the people in it.


One part of the post that really struck me was this:


“One day I’ll be someone who has band-aids in their medicine cabinet and has a dog and bakes bread for fun and LOLs. But that day isn’t today. I guess the one good thing about being someone who doesn’t have it all figured out is that you’re able to see real growth. The changes are palpable. You see yourself evolving, which can often be a beautiful process. I don’t have it figured out but I know more than I did yesterday. It must be boring to always know.”

As someone that has spent a great deal of time over the past few years trying to figure things out and getting settled into “adulthood” – you know, that time in your life when you make big decisions about where your career path is going to go, buying a house, setting up a retirement account, etc.  At times this was hard, other times it was simple, but as time passed, I found myself growing and changing in ways that I was – and still am for the most part – proud of.  There is something profound and beautiful about discovering things about yourself that you didn’t know were there and maximizing your potential.  However, as much as I find myself growing and moving forward with my life, there seem to be new questions, situations, issues, and the like that I am faced with.  I agree with the original post – as much as I would love to truly figure things about who I am and what I am meant to be doing, it would be boring to not have to face anything new in your life.   

I am a believer that the things we do in our life, the people we meet, the successes and failures all add up to teach us a lot about who we are and about the world around us.  It may be something simple like knowing what flavor of Izzy is our favorite (tangerine) or something complex like what makes us happy, but it is an opportunity to learn.  As I’ve said before, if you ever stop learning, you’ve stopped living. 

Often times this learning is hard.  It challenges you in ways you aren’t sure you can handle or truly understand.  You may find yourself stepping into the unknown, eyes closed, breath held, nerves out en fuego, knowing that you have to take this step in order to truly understand who you are.  It’s hard.  It’s scary.  But in reality it is something that we all have to do.  I can take some solace in knowing that even though a situation may be unique to me, we are all the same in the sense that we are all trying to figure out our place in the world. 

As we wrap up this month of thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the chances I have given my self to challenge myself, to learn, to grow and become the person I am today.  It hasn’t been easy, and it’s by no means a complete process, but it something I am proud of.  For those that know me in real life, I’m sure you’ve seen the results of of some of this, whether you know it or not.  I’m not a “new” Melissa – at least not in the sense that I am completely changed.  I’m a better Melissa, a stronger Melissa, a more complete Melissa, which allows me to be more for the people around me.  In spite of – or as a result of all of this – I am still (re)building. 

I’m about to embark on the next step of my (re)building process, something I am referring to as my 2 year plan.  I have a rough idea of what this will include, but I know that even if I try to plan each day, each moment, each experience there are some things that are just out of my control.  But I am excited.  I am excited about some decisions I am making for me, for my life, for my happiness and growth.  Nothing personal – I just gotta be me and work it out.  🙂  It doesn’t mean that I am going to ignore the things I am already involved with, I’m simply reorganizing things and trying some new things. 

I may have the band-aids in my medicine cabinet, and the dog, and make other things (not bread, yet) from scratch for fun and LOLs, but it doesn’t mean I have figured out my life.  It just means I have figured it out parts of my life and am working to figure out more.  It’s been a wild ride, and I’m excited to see where I’m headed to next. 🙂 

Be thankful. Be happy. Be in the moment. Don’t be afraid to do, be afraid of not doing. Embrace change and the unknown. Learn and share. Take care of you. Give yourself to others. Dream. Be the brightest star you can. Live.

Something to think about during this long holiday weekend. . . .

From the post “How to Stop Caring So Much” at Thought Catalog:


“But there are ways to care less and to just be who you are. Being who you are doesn’t mean suddenly becoming a giant jerk to everyone you know but it does mean surrounding yourself with people who love you and weeding out the parasites.”


There is a lesson here for all of us about why it is important to balance caring for ourselves and caring for others.  As I’ve said before, saying no or focusing on yourself does not make you selfish – in fact there are times, believe it or not, where this is a selfless act.  You can’t help others effectively if you’re not taking care of yourself.


I think it is also important to keep in mind that sometimes you can care too much about something.  Putting all your energy into one thing, relationship, or situation isn’t sustainable.  Don’t care just because you feel you have to.  Care about the things you want to.  Care about what is important to you.  And most importantly, care about yourself and don’t be afraid to be yourself.


During this holiday weekend, make sure to pause and do something for you.  It may be a nice glass of wine, sitting in front of a fire with a good book, or taking a walk with family, but take the time to do it during what is often a hectic weekend of traveling, family, shopping, and eating.


Also, make sure to thank those in your life that love you and care for you.  It is something that isn’t done nearly enough and is good for the soul.


For this long weekend, I’m driving to Chicago for the weekend to spend time with family and friends.  I have a 7 hour drive with my dog ahead of me, but am looking forward to some time back to my hometown.  I don’t get back that often, but it’s nice to have a few days to reconnect with my roots and also eat some tasty Chicago food.  🙂


I hope everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving and that no one gets trampled at any stores on Black Friday.  Safe travels for those taking to the roads or the skies.


Be thankful. Take time for you. Share happiness.