Archives for category: friendship

So this week I’m making the move to the midwest. St. Louis, Missouri. Home to the best sports fans in the country, the arch, Anheuser-Busch, countless casinos, and about 65 of my relatives. I’ll be living downtown in my very own artist loft. Yes, the place where people potentially throw paint up on the walls, drink a bunch of wine and talk about how fascinating and expressive it is. And I say ‘potentially’ not because that… doesn’t really happen… I say it because I’m not quite sure about the rules and limitations of the apartment complex yet :)

Regardless, I am nothing less than ecstatic to soon be living in a new city, and can’t wait for all the exciting adventures ahead.

But with that said, it is also kind of bittersweet to be leaving Virginia, where I have spent the last 17 years of my life. I’ll be leaving the city that is home to many of my nearest and dearest friends…. aka all those childhood friends and parents who stood by me through ALL the awkward hair styles and through all of my ridiculous fashion decisions (a 1st grader in tims and a huge Tigger sweatshirt, seriously guys?).

Richmond is where I learned all of the important stuff. Like, that turkey sandwiches taste way better with Doritos in-between the bread. Or that getting dropped off by your mom in HS was wayyyyy cooler than having to ride that dreadful yellow bus (But if you did have to take the bus for some reason, that you made sure to stand, not sit, in the back of the bus). Richmond is where I learned how to play kick the can, manhunt, and Last Chance. Richmond is where I co-founded a club called the Kreative Kids Klub and put on magic shows, circus routines, and guinea pig races for the neighborhood kids. And Richmond is where I preceded to co-adopt a manatee with all the money we raised at such fairs. For the short time I could actually touch my toes, I decided to take on karate, where I experienced my first regret: quitting a belt before black (*SMH). Virginia is where I was dubbed the name Shay, Shay Shay, Shanaynay, Shaydiz, Shanny, and everyone’s favorite… ‘Jeff’s little sister.’ Richmond is where I often passed the time by playing pool in our bonus room while blasting a mix CD of the Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees, Nsync, and Hanson. It was here that I also learned, much later, that such an activity was not a cool thing to do.

I had my fair share of themed bday parties, art projects, and collectibles (beanie babies, poggs, and the Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ series to name a few). I participated in about every after school activity, sport, community service project, and spirit competition growing up to bore a stranger for about a week. I learned how it felt to lose at an early age thanks to the hundreds of ping pong matches, basketball one-on-one’s, and.. let’s face it.. ANY sort of game I played against my brother. (Thanks Jeff!). And most recently, I learned how… entertaining it is to have your parents for roommates :)

Richmond will always be home to me because of all of the above, and much more. Most of my immediate family is here, and most of my childhood is here. No matter what St. Louis brings me, or whichever city after that, I will always remember all that Richmond has given and taught me over the years. Because after all, it’s here in Richmond that I gained one of the most important assets of all: the courage and confidence to move away and know I can make it on my own.

*shaking my head

I came across this video on Twitter (shout out to Courtney Simons for posting it!) the other day, and thought it deserved to be recognized once more.


Meet Johnny Barnes. Johnny Barnes dedicates 6 hours of his day to greet the people of Bermuda. SIX hours. EVERY day. He stands on the corner of a street and simply waves, blows kisses, and tells each person to enjoy their day and that he loves them.

Some were worried Johnny’s actions would cause controversy. Others would try to avoid him because they were having a bad day and wanted to hold on to their angry moment for a few more minutes. And a few Bermudians admit to assuming at first that Johnny would ask them for money if they slowed down, or happened to stop their car near him. But all of them would soon have to eat their words when Johnny would instead pass on positive words of encouragement and love, ask for nothing in return, and as a result brighten their day.

The video speaks for itself, but here are a couple of quotes and thoughts I took from it:

  • “He reminds me that everyday we have a choice on how we want to start our day”
  • “One of the greatest joys that can come to an individual is when you’re doing something and helping someone, and see the reaction on their face” -Johnny
  • It’s yet another example of how a small gesture can make a big impact on someone else

Some would say his actions are a little excessive or that he comes off a tad creepy with his comments, but what it really boils down to is Johnny Barnes’ actions  remind people to not take every little thing so seriously and hopefully will bring smiles back to people’s faces.

MY hope is that this video spreads to as many people as possible, and that friendly gestures (ie. waving, smiling, making eye contact, etc) start becoming the next #trend.

I woke up to the first foggy and dull day in my entire trip. Welp, guess it’s time to leave. But I had a few hours to kill, and I was not about to head to the airport without getting breakfast! :)

 
 
Left: A fellow clown trying to bring back a little sunshine to everyone.  Right: There are about 6 of these fresh markets at Pike’s Market. But that’s A-OK with me because they hand out free samples of the most delicious fruit ever. That’s one way to get a girl some breakfast.

 
Ahh… Piroshky Piroshky. This is another, more traditional way of getting a girl some breakfast. Highly recommended.

But after breakfast, it was time to hit the road. My spontaneous, solo-travel trip was over. After 8 hours of travel I’d be back on the East Coast, and back to the daily grind. So here are the ten main things I took from my excursion:

  1. I can do this. I can go somewhere new, by myself, figure out how to get places, and make new friends. This trip was a big confidence booster for me. I realized I’m capable of being independent… capable of putting myself out there, out of my comfort zone, and still able to have a great time.
  2. I’m still afraid of heights. But I’m brave enough to face them. With the number of bridges, cliffs, and log jams I had to cross, I would say I  embraced the experience and tried my best to overcome these challenges. I definitely “drank the sauce” if you will.
  3. Drink good beer. And drink it slowly. Because it’s expensive out here. I advanced from my Natty light days to the lovely world of microbrews and… nicer beer. (Still working on the vocab, obvi) I also learned that a brewery is often the best and easiest place to not only meet people, but to also learn about a city.
  4. Being in a new city makes you way more observant. I probably know the city of Portland and Seattle better than Richmond or Raleigh. And it’s embarrassing. When I was learning about each city from some of the locals, I kept thinking to myself…geez I hope they don’t come to Richmond because I don’t have the slightest idea about where to take a visitor. But on the plus side, I improved my directionally-challenged mind and have become a lot more observant of people, places, and…street signs.
  5. People still get kicked out of bars out here. It was often refreshing to overhear the drunken conversations at the bar, the annoying complaints of a perturbed customer, and the overly dramatic conversations from teenage girls and/or homeless people. Yeah, it seems like a whole other world out here, and people are super nice, but people are still people. And that was a comforting feeling for sure.
  6. Fashion doesn’t matter when you’re traveling. Especially when you’re walking miles and miles a day. Suck it up, and wear your ugly tennis shoes. Oh, and don’t pack so much. (I learned this, but then again I ‘learn’ this every time I pack. It just never really sinks in.. I guess)
  7. Put yourself out there. I already touched on this in number one, but it was really the biggest takeaway from the trip. No matter how stupid you feel, how ridiculous the situation or the question is, or how much your “cool factor” might decline… put yourself out there. You never know what will come of it, who you’ll meet, or what you’ll learn. And if you want an easy place to test out this adventurous attitude, come to Portland. You’ll fit in just fine :)
  8. Bring water on hikes. Come on Shannon, you got this.
  9. It’s a freaking small world. Whether it was meeting up with Amy in Portland, figuring out the bartender went to Godwin HS, or realizing a new friend was about to work with one of my best friends from softball… I couldn’t help but think of how small the world really is.
  10. No matter where you go, you will always have a support system back home. I couldn’t have racked up the courage to travel by myself, much less go through with it without my friends and family’s support back home. Every step of the way (taking me and/or picking me up from the airport, letting me crash at their house, treating me to dinner, giving me a pep talk when I was down, paying for some of my hotel nights, driving across town and through rush hour to visit with me for an hour, reading my blog :), and just simply being interested in hearing about my trip), I’ve realized how great I have it, and how many people really do care about me. Being in such a new and different place made me very thankful for all the friendships and relationships I have made along the way (and even the new ones from the trip). So thank you, you know who you are. I couldn’t have done any of this without you!

I could go on and on, but I know I might have already lost you due to the length of this post. This technically marks the ‘end’ of the trip-blogging, but I can’t guarantee that I won’t mention it or remember something else about the trip down the road. Thank you thank you thank you for reading my blog and following me on my trip. It was definitely worth it, and it happened at the perfect time.

And to those of you who have never taken a trip like this, or have never studied abroad, I highly recommend doing it. You learn a lot. About people, the world, and yourself.

Picking up from the EMP museum, I headed over to Japonessa for some more sushi. Sushi 3 times in Seattle. No biggie. I don’t feel bad about it, because sushi is da bomb (sha taaa! -right Jill?! :)). And third times a charm was definitely the case here, since they had happy hour all day and served by far the best edamame I’ve ever had.


I was pretty tired from all the walking I’d been doing the past few days, so I decided to kick it with my homies at Pike’s Market again. And then what do ya know, I ended up at yet another brewery soon after. Pikes Brewery – Cool environment, delicious beers, flying bottles, a personal hook for my backpack, I was in heaven. And to top it off, I met some pretty cool people from California and Nevada, who were also into the traveling scene, but surprisingly not big fans of the downtown Seattle scene (they lived in Bremerton). Regardless, we hung out for a while, and then headed over to Ivar’s for some local seafood and more beers, I mean… water. The way the night went was very similar to my first night of my trip in Portland, so it had seemed that everything had come full circle.

I saw a lot of different things in both Portland and Seattle, but what I’ll remember most is the different people I met along the way. Ranging from 18 to 70 years old, it was a cool experience to meet and chat with so many diverse individuals. They all had different backgrounds, different reasons for being in Seattle, different interests and passions, different personalities, and definitely different preferences in beer and fashion. But one thing they all had in common, was that they all took the time to learn about me and treat me with respect. Their kindness and genuine interest in me and my trip really made an impression on me. I doubt they have any idea how appreciative I am of their company, but I really couldn’t have had as great of an experience without them, whether it was just for ten minutes, or several hours.

They reminded me that it never hurts to take a few minutes out of your day and talk to someone new. That you never know how much those few minutes can make an impact on them, and brighten their day. It’s a simple gesture that can go a long way, and fortunately I was able to experience this firsthand.

My last night was a great cap to the entire trip. Great weather, great food, great beer, great city, and great people. I couldn’t help but go to bed with a smile on my face.



 
Up next: The flight home and the final wrap-up

On Thursday, I headed east to the Columbia River to visit the Gorge and all the falls. For those of you interested in geography, the Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon, and the mountain ranges and waterfalls that surround the river make up “the gorge.”

Let’s list the things that went well to start off the trip:

  1. Everything
  2. More specifically, I was upgraded to a sweet 2012 Ford Escape for no extra charge, and included XM Radio (wassup T-swift?!)
  3. It was yet another beautiful 80 degree, clear sky, no humidity day, and the ride along the river was absolutely gorgeous

Let’s list the things that didn’t go as well:

  1. Nothing. Except picking the wrong exit for a lunch break, that resulted in a 4 mile detour. Story of my life

I was headed to the Columbia River Gorge Guest House, aka the home of Steve and Elsie. (And this is where I give a plug about how everyone should visit and stay at Steve and Elsie’s Guest House.) Just picture a Shadowood-like house in Oregon. And if you’ve never been to Shadowood, picture an awesome cabin on 44-acres of land, surrounding woods, horses (not at Shadowood), a bonfire paired with s’mores and great conversation. Steve, a retired 69 year old maintenance manager and lifelong cowboy, and Elsie, a 55 year old Special Ed teacher, decided to open up their 5 bedroom house as a B&B, a wedding venue, and even a makeshift garage sale. Steve said at first it was there way of making use of the empty-nested house and make a little extra money. But later, he admitted he keeps doing it because he lives for meeting new people and hearing about their life stories.

When I got there, Steve showed me the ropes, and sent me off on a hiking trail that would lead me to the most beautiful views of the gorge. He was right. It was unreal. Just wait for the pictures. Then after dinner (at a restaurant on a marina I won’t recommend b/c it wasn’t that great), Steve and I made a bonfire and shared stories over s’mores and Diet Cokes. (helloooo perfect night)

It was a low-key night, but it was exactly what I needed. There’s nothing better than taking a day to chill out, recharge, and take in the surroundings. I’m not necessarily a ‘nature girl,’ either. I mean.. I hate spiders. I’m afraid of ticks (who isn’t?) I’m not the best hiker (but geez, after 4 hikes in 6 days, I’m getting there), and I’m a terrible packer and don’t think I could ever “back-pack” somewhere. But I do like what nature and a break from society can do for the ol’ soul. I enjoyed talking to Steve and listening to some of his stories. I enjoyed being able to open up to someone who is essentially a complete stranger. And I enjoyed getting the opportunity to see such amazing scenery, which literally at times, made me stop and say to myself, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing here.”

This day has been my favorite part of the trip so far, hands down. It was amazing. It was refreshing. It reinforced my reasoning for coming out to the West Coast. And it was exactly what I needed.

Columbia River Gorge Guest House. Check them out on FB, and visit them whenever you’re in the area.

 
 
The Guest House. Maggie. And some of the things Steve has found along some of his hikes. What an eye!

 
Green Stanley Thermoses. When Steve first started out with no money, he kept using these thermoses that kept breaking on him. So once he finally got some money, a nice green Stanley Thermos was his first purchase. You can say the green icon is more than just a sturdy liquid container to him.

 
 
So here we have myself, trying to capture how dang windy it was at this particular viewpoint. Not pictured: a very steep cliff. But I mean come on, the view was worth it, wouldn’t you say?

 
 
Views along the way of the hike. Mt Hood is in the background, but she’s a little camera shy.


So this area used to have a house on it. But the gorge bought the land, cleared it, restored it to its natural setting, and now has this cool circular seating area in its place, with an even cooler view. I see a Phase 29b at Shadowood in the future :)

 
 
Some artsy pics on the tail-end of the hike.


So yea, hungry horses are scary. I didn’t get the “make sure to feed them outside the fence” memo, and I was definitely cornered a few times by some rather large horse-friends. All a part of the experience, though……right?


Sub-par meal, but delicious beverages and a cool photo to make up for it!

  
Ohhh the stories that come out from just sitting around a bonfire. One of my favorite past times for sure.


Until we meet again my friends!

I’m not going to lie, when I stepped off the plane in Portland, I had a 2 minute freak out. I was actually on the west coast, by myself, with no real itinerary. What did I get myself into? The 2 minutes seemed like forever, but they passed nonetheless, and I continued on to baggage claim. After getting my bags and hopping on the Max train, (public transportation in Portland is dabomb) I look out the window, and what do I see on the window ledge? 4 paper cranes. You have got to be kidding me. (For those of you just tuning in, the HSD staff were the ones that encouraged me and more or less pushed me onto the plane for this trip, so seeing the Japanese paper cranes was just a little reminder of the support system I have back home :)) It was also a sign that I was in the right place, that this trip was meant to be, and that everything would be OK.

It was about 1pm by the time I checked into my room, and I was already a bit jet-lagged and super hungry. Airplane peanuts only go so far :) So I headed out into downtown for lunch at one of the infamous food trucks, and thus began the trip.

Now, when you’re traveling alone, three things are very helpful:

1. Nice people – If you ever go to Portland, have been to Portland, or have just heard about Portland, you might have picked up on the notion that Portland people are really nice. Well, ‘really nice’ is an understatement. ‘Overly helpful,’ ‘extremely welcoming,’ and ‘super friendly’ are more like it. Yea, maybe the 3 maps and suitcase triggered a lot of it, but still.. everyone I met was easy to talk to and happy to help. Whether it was figuring out the streetcar system, giving suggestions on where to eat or what to see, or just striking up a conversation to pass the time, I never felt alone. So if you want to get your feet wet on the solo-travelling, Portland would be a great starting point.

2. A map – yes, GoogleMaps is nice, and having an iPhone was lifesaving at times, but I’m talking about an old-fashion, hard copy map. There’s nothing like whipping out a map that covers your entire placemat and the person next to you at a bar, and figuring out your next move. Yea I looked ridiculous and automatically labeled myself as a tourist, but it actually ended up acting like my own little wing-man. Not only did it start interesting conversations, but it also seemed to be quite the friend-magnet. After the first day, I didn’t use it as much since I was getting more acclimated with the area, but I still never left home without it :)

And 3. Coincidentally being in the same city as your BFF from middle school, who you haven’t seen in who-knows-how-long. There’s nothing like traveling 3000 miles to reunite with an old friend. Thanks to FB, we found out there might be a chance we’d be in Portland around the same time. So without hesitation, I texted Amy as soon as I landed, which happened to be about the exact same moment she was pulling into the city. We met up at a local brewery, and caught up on the past few years. We’ve tried several times to get together while we were both living in VA, but I guess there’s something about being in a completely new city that makes everything work out. It was the perfect start to my Portland trip, and it was just like old times. Not to mention, her boyfriend Will happened to meet up with a friend from his study abroad program, who ALSO happens to work for Portlandia. NBD people. (All you non-believers, see below for proof!)


Not only did I eat on the street with a pigeon, but I also tried a burger with spam on it. Drinking the sauce as we HSDers like to call it.


Bailey’s Taproom. Local beers, low price, and the most awesome digital diagram. Shows you the name of the beer, where it’s from, what color it is, how much alcohol percentage each beer has, and how much is left in each keg. Technology these days.


Amy and I reminiscing about my middle school haircut and how insane it was to meet up under such crazy circumstances. Check her out on Instagram to see all the pics from her 5-week roadtrip!


New friends, old friends, and Portlandia employees. Not pictured: our older friend David, who is a successful shrink in the Portland area, and may or may not have given me a peptalk about where I am in life, and what to do next. His going-rate is about $3/minute, so we paid our dues for his 45 minutes of time with a $3 beer. He didn’t even finish his beer.

Ha! Proof!

 
And here’s the infamous map. With photo proof that it brought along a new friend.

OK, so Raleigh isn’t a new city, I get it. But it was nice to regroup before my big trip to the west coast with some of my favorite people. It’s been just about two months since I’ve been to Raleigh, and in Shannon-post-grad-time, this is a long time. So the weekend kicked off with me finding out I didn’t have to work a wedding, giving me an extra day to hang out, relax, and tie up some loose ends.

Friday took me back to the good ol’ days with dinner and drinks at the ol’ Natty Greene’s, followed by a girl’s night out with Emily and Kristi at the Hibernian. Despite choosing a booth with a leak in the roof and realizing that the reason we were the only ones at the bar at first was because it was only 7pm, it was really great to catch up with each other.

Saturday started off with lunch at Slammin’ Sammy’s to watch the NC State game where we won’t talk about how we barely squeaked out a W against UConn, how Kristi only got 9 buffalo bites instead of 10, and how again…we were the only people at the bar at first…ordering a pitcher of beer before noon. Scratch that, we aren’t ashamed of the last part! After a solid mid-afternoon nap, it was time for a cookout and game night. And I’d have to say, the combination of Cranium and Mad Gab has got to be the best recipe for embarrassing moments, ridiculous cases of the giggles, and coming to the conclusion that a station wagon and a PEZ dispenser are the hardest things to draw, not to mention with your eyes closed.

And then Sunday rounded out the weekend with a delicious brunch and a ton of football. I wanted to especially thank Chase Massey for welcoming me into the world of fantasy football with such open arms and beating me by 70 pts. But I wanted to give an even bigger shout out to the best roommate around, Emily, for not only driving me to the airport at 5:15am on Monday, but cooking a gourmet dinner the night before.


From freshman Wolf Camp to awkward, blurry pictures at a bar… these guys are the best.


Potentially the worst group pic we’ve taken ever, but we have learned from it and moved on. Steven’s just pissed he’s not in Disney World yet.


Cranium: it’s a lot funnier than it looks


True life: I have a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design (2pts for a correct guess)


Let’s pause for a Kodak moment. Having the honor to stand next to Kristi when she gets married next August. So happy for you girl!


The gourmet meal I was telling you about. Yea, let’s talk about it.

Raleigh, you’ve always been good to me. I’ll be back soon enough!

Next stop: Portland, OR

           

This weekend I travelled south to Greenville, SC and Atlanta, GA. As the weekend went along, I decided I would let my iPhone pictures narrate the trip, but I soon realized that I was pretty terrible about taking pictures, and taking very captivating pictures at that. On my next leg of my trip I promise to be a tad more conscious about it and snap better shots. But for now, here are the highlights of the trip:

1. The 7 hr trip to Greenville wasn’t bad at all. Started off with the most-perfectly-proportioned-topping sandwich (that phrase makes sense to me) from Subway, and ended with spotting a decked-out NC State van at the most random gas station outside of SC. The only hiccups on the trip were the vending machine eating one of my quarters, and a short and sunny rain shower in which I couldn’t decide if I should wear my sunglasses or not.

2. I got to see my sister Jill (who is currently 22 weeks preggo!) and brother-in-law Jon, along with the precious pup Rip. While Jon and I bonded over NC State and Clemson fball games, Jill kept me grounded with marathons of The Hills and Honey Boo Boo. The weekend had its thrills with a golf cart ride from Jill and Jon’s 10-year-old niece, and to top it off, I found out they’re going to name their little girl Sarah Marie Tompkins!!

3. I reunited with Nicole Foo, who went to Japan with me in 2006 for HSD. We literally hadn’t seen each other in 6 years. Definitely arranging reunion part II very soon!

4. I reunited with Kensey LaReau, a good friend and vball teammate from high school. Although she was rooting for the wrong tiger, it was still great to see her!

5. Lastly, I tailgated in a food court for the first time, witnessed people dressed up for Dragon-con (spelling?), I finally brought some luck to the Clemson Tigers, I ate St. Louis-style pizza in SC, and I got to visit with my favorite sister and brother in law. Life is good!

Next stop: Raleigh for a night, St. Louis in the morning

“All great things must come to an end.”

This quote sucks. Seriously. Who ever wants this to be true?

But unfortunately, it is reality, and it happens to all of us. And it happened to me this month.

This year marks the end of my work with High School Diplomats (aka HSD or “the Japan program” as many of you are probably more familiar with). Although it is somewhat a relief to not have people look at me like I have 3 heads when I try to explain to them what I do, or to have some friends back home who are probably still confused about what I’ve been doing these past eight years, it is and was the furthest thing from easy for me to say good-bye. My involvement in this amazing program… this “great thing” that has become a part of who I am and that has introduced me to the most amazing people, has finally come to an end.

And just like the quote, it sucked.

It sucked real bad.

What was the worst part? Hmm.. let’s see. Leaving my staff, who has become family to me and has supported me through the thick and thin. But there’s also the part about no longer getting the chance to immerse myself in another culture, and help to build relationships between two different countries (well at least not as often :)). Oh yea, andddd the part about no longer being a counselor for kids, and getting to witness them experience this life-changing program. There’s also the fact that I’ll be leaving a program that has undoubtedly made me a more worldly, compassionate, and all around better person. But really, the worst part is this feeling of emptiness in my stomach, like a part of me has left.

Dramatic? Maybe. Honest? Absolutely.

But through these few days of being removed from the program, I’ve realized a few things. First, that this hollow feeling is a result of putting 100% of myself into the program. It confirms how much the program has really meant to me, and that joining the program was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Second, I’ve realized that even though my “time” with HSD is over, that the memories, the lessons, and the friendships will forever be a part of me. And I for one am looking forward to seeing how the past eight years will shape my future, and always being reminded of all the great times as I go. And lastly, I’ve realized that feeling like this is vital for moving forward and taking the next step. It is important that in life, we have these up and down moments, to force us to sit back and realize how good we really have it. It makes you appreciative of what you’ve been given, what you’ve earned, and what you’ve learned along the way. Everything happens for a reason, and every experience prepares you for the next one.

I’m sad to leave HSD, but I’m thankful for the opportunities and the memories it has given me. I can’t imagine where my life would be, or the type of person I would be, if it wasn’t for this program, but I am more grateful for all the tools it has provided me with as I look onward.

It’s the end of a personal era, but it’s the start of a new beginning. All great things must come to an end, so even greater things can come of them. Not as fluid as the first quote, but it works for me.

So thank you to my HSD staff both in the states and in Japan, for being a part of my life and helping to shape my next adventure. I couldn’t have done this without you.

The other day this tweet came across my Twitter feed:

LivingForMonday (@LivingforMonday)
4/17/12 2:40 PM
RT @leadtoday: Stop whatever it is you’re doing right now and reach out to someone who needs a bit of encouragement.

Pause for a little shout out… everyone should check out the Living for Monday website. This start-up company works to help college students and young professionals find their passion and align their core values with their dream job. If anything, sign up for their MONDAY::Drop, a weekly email post of inspiration and motivation. It’s awesome!

Now back to the program..

The above tweet really made me think. These days everyone is busy. Everyone has a million things going on, everyone is multi-tasking, everyone is often distracted. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, you name it, it’s hard to think of actual moments in time where we were focused on one thing, and one thing only. I’m not saying in certain situations it’s needed, especially since at the workplace people are needing to take on several projects at once to just keep up with the competing market. However, there are also those moments.. those certain situations.. that we need to stop whatever we’re doing, drop everything, and reach out to someone.

Example 1:
On the way back from my internship with the Police Department, I stopped at the gas station because I had approx. 3 miles left in my tank (whoops). I went in to grab a quick snack because I was in a bit of a rush to get back home to meet a project deadline. At the checkout line, however, I couldn’t help but notice a distressed woman asking several people for help with directions. Visibly upset, with tears running down her face, I witnessed two separate individuals brush her off and claim they weren’t from around here and couldn’t help. (This is where I’ll add in that I saw both of them use their smart phones while waiting in line.) While I was paying, we made eye contact from afar, and I decided to linger around a bit on purpose to give her time to approach me. Long story short, after about 20 minutes of drawing a map, trying to speak in Spanish, and actually going outside to help her visualize how to get from Lauderdale all the way down to Staples Mill, she seemed confident enough to give it a try.

Now who knows if she actually made it to her destination, (gosh, I really hope she did) especially since the only Spanish words I could remember were “Habla espanol?” “izquierda” “cuatro” and “buena suerte.” But nonetheless I felt good about the experience. Yeah, I could have kept my head down and joined the other two people, but I knew if I was in her position, I would really appreciate a helping hand and some encouragement.

Example 2: (less emotional and dramatic, I promise)

Recently a few of my college friends went to Oak Island for our annual beach weekend. While we’re used to having at least 15 people show up, we were more than happy to have the seven of us make it out.

Even though we didn’t make this announcement flat out, all of us kind of made the decision to pack our phones up for the weekend. (I know, more than 2 hours without our phones..gasp) But it was worth it. Why? Because all of us are going in different directions in our careers, (some are already in different countries), and the chances that we’re going to be able to get together as often as we’d like in the future, are pretty slim. The farther we get from graduation, we’ve realized that every year is going to be harder and harder to get all of us out to the beach, or even in one city for one weekend. So we took advantage of the weekend, gave up the need to be connected to people back in Raleigh, or know what was trending on Twitter, and we just hung out. Because no matter how advanced technology gets, how competitive the economy becomes, how many new TV shows premiere during the week, peopleyour friends, your family, your community….people are the most precious things we have in life.

So once in a while, put the phone down and look up. Look people in the eye, talk to someone new, and live in the moment. Because you never know how much a simple gesture can make someone’s day.

It’s been several months since my last post, and I apologize for that. I could blame it on lack of time, or not having anything interesting to talk about, but who wants to hear excuses? But I will say, the best way to come out of a slump is to be inspired by something, or someone. And that folks, is what brings me to this post.

I’m sure a lot of you have seen or heard on the news about the “layaway angels” from K-mart. In West Michigan, a lady was standing in line to pay off her layaway bill in order to bring home a few Christmas presents for her children. As she was digging for some change, the lady behind her in line stepped up and laid down the money needed for the toys. This same lady proceeded to pay off the bills for 7 other layaway customers, spending over $1000. When questioned why the generous acts of giving, she just said to “Remember Ben,” (her husband who had recently passed away).

This anonymous act of Christmas spirit spread like wildfire. In as little as one week, “layaway angels” were popping up in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, and California. People were spending anywhere from $40 to $1500. An 8 year boy brought in 8 weeks of allowance ($40) to pay off the layaway bills for several strangers that he didn’t know, and would never know. Another man in California gave $15,000 to a Kmart, paying off several layaway customer’s bills.

Watching the videos of customers coming up to the layaway desk, only to see a handwritten note on their receipt reading “Merry Christmas,” and to hear that a complete stranger had paid off the rest of their bill, was truly an eye-opening experience. One layaway angel said that the reason he was doing this is because he has been blessed all his life, and wanted to share his blessings with others.

I, too, feel very blessed with all that I have been given in my life. Good health, great friends, but most importantly, the best family a girl could ask for. I’ve always lived by the saying, “surround yourself with people who believe in you,” and everyday I am surrounded by my family who has always been there for me, supported me, and believed in me.

So as Christmas day approaches, let us all remember how fortunate we are, and how a simple act of kindness, and a little layaway angel spirit, can make a big difference in someone else’s life.

 

This video is the 3rd and final video in the series of HSD promotional videos. It is geared more towards parents and teachers, rather than students. In this video, the staff members reveal what HSD really means to them, and why they find themselves coming back to the program every year. I’ll go ahead and let the video tell the rest.

And thank you in advance for watching these videos. Your support means the world to me!

“HSD sticks with you forever, and the family that you get, the values that you learn from that family stay with you forever.” -Max Griffith, HSD 2005 student

 

 

High School Diplomats** is a program very near and dear to my heart. I was a student in the program back in 2005, and ever since then I’ve worked as a staff member. The program has sent me to Japan twice, and has introduced me to the most amazing and talented group of individuals who have become my second family. One of the most difficult parts about being so invested in this type of program, is that it is incredibly difficult to explain exactly how this experience has impacted me. But on the other hand, for that same reason is why HSD is so unique. You have to experience it yourself to really understand what it’s all about.

After seven summers with the program, I’ve learned a lot, not only about another country and another culture, but also about myself. And after seven summers, I still struggle to find the words to describe my appreciation for the program and all that it’s given me.

But despite the difficulty, HSD is too important to go unnoticed and to not spread the word to everyone I know. So a few weeks ago, I interviewed a few former and current staff members. I asked them a series of questions mainly about how they got involved in the program, how they think HSD is unlike any other summer program, and why they think it’s important for other’s to experience. After about 120 minutes of solid footage, I narrowed it down to about 11 minutes, split into 3 videos. I interspersed some footage from the program this past summer to add to the experience and give you a taste of what life at Princeton in July is like.

The staff members spoke from the heart, and none of this was rehearsed. What you see is what you get, and hopefully by hearing them talk you can see and maybe even feel the passion they have for the program.

Here are two of the three videos. I hope you can take a little break in your day to listen to these guys talk about a program that has played a big role in who I am today.

 

“It is that first year when you do HSD as a student, that is one of the most eye-opening experiences any high school student can have anywhere.” -Rachel Easter, HSD 2004 student

 

“This is just a small stepping stone for many people’s lives, but it’s the strongest foundation for me that I’ve ever had in my life.” -Machel Ross, HSD 2008 student

 

**High School Diplomats is a cultural exchange program between Japanese and American high school students that takes place at Princeton University. If you know me, it’s the “Japan program” that I’ve been talking about for the past 7 years. If you don’t know me, it’s a great opportunity for all sophomore and junior HS students, and you should go to www.highschooldiplomats.com to learn more about it!