A better story

8. Discuss a spontaneous moment in your life that turned out to be fantastic.

Spontaneity is not something I’m great at. I’ve always thought it’s a great concept, and I love the idea of it. To not be tied down to schedules and plans sounds good in theory, but I have a difficult time actually living that out. While I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a spontaneous person, I do have some spontaneous moments I hold near to my heart.

I have a friend, Leah, who lives in Charleston. Aka one of the best cities on the planet. And she is wonderful. She’s full of life, tells it like it is, and is married to a “Ken look-alike” type of guy. A couple years ago she was in Delaware visiting, and as we were sitting at a corner table in Brew-Haha, she starts to tell me about her plans to get back home. You see, Leah is a photographer, so she was in town shooting a wedding and had to drive to fit all her gear.

IMG_4421Her plan was to take our mutual friend Madison
with her and road trip their way down the east coast and stop at all those cheesy places you hear about, but never actually go to. Giant roller skate, anyone?

The first words out of my mouth were, “I want to go!” And because she’s Leah, she said I absolutely should. They were leaving two days later.

My mind immediately went to not being able to miss work and all the other “planner” type thoughts you could imagine one would have, but I powered through and decided to go. And oh my word- I’m so glad I did!

My favorite stop along the way was an abandoned renaissance fair in no-man’s land Virginia. I’m not kidding- this place was creepy AF. I was just waiting for the village of homeless people to jump out and kill us at any moment. “Do I have my I.D. on me? How will they identify the body? NO ONE knows where we are right now.” All very real thoughts that went through my head.

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After turning what should have been a ten hour car ride into a fifteen hour one, we finally made it to Charleston. We visited plantations with the oldest trees I’ve ever seen, ate some of the most amazing food (shrimp and grits is a real thing!), and wondered the streets of one of the oldest cities we have. It was beautiful and wonderful and everything else you would imagine it to be.

This was one of those opportunities where knowing when to say “yes” was so important. It took some fighting off normal tendencies and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone, but I learned what has proven to be an important lesson for me.

Saying yes tells a better story.

 

Big enough

7. Something that shook your belief system to the core (a big disappointment in your life)

Whether my parents had this intention or not, I grew up in a seemingly perfect family. Mom, dad, daughter son, and of course, a dog. The only thing we were missing was a white picket fence outside our house. We went to church every Sunday. My brother and I were good students- like I almost had a meltdown when I received my first B junior year of high school good. Yes, everything was grand.

As much as it pains me to talk about, growing up in my family was tough for me at times. You see, my brother is bipolar (an illness he wouldn’t be diagnosed with until he was 20 years old). This meant a lot of things for me and my family. It meant the tempers were as strong and unpredictable as a summer storm. It meant a lot of arguments and a lot of yelling behind closed doors and sometimes in open spaces. It meant family meetings in the living room that no one really wanted to be at. It meant tears and anger, but mostly for me- it meant resentment.

I could not, no matter how hard I tried, wrap my head around why this was happening to us. To the family that did everything right. That went to church multiple times a week, served in numerous areas, and did all the things a “good Christian family” was supposed to do. It must mean that God wasn’t really who he says he is, and he doesn’t care as much as he wants us to think. In fact, it’s possible there isn’t even a God at all.

I remember one day in particular, I was so tired and frustrated, I didn’t know what else to do besides cry. I wasn’t quite old enough to drive, which means I was barely old enough to deal with emotions to begin with, but I lost it. And as all good stories go, I didn’t lose it in my room or at my friend’s house. No, I lost it at church. The one place I felt like I was supposed to have it all together. I couldn’t help myself. All of the overwhelming thoughts and emotions I had kept in for so long finally came pouring out of me, and by some miracle, Kathy was there.

SIDE NOTE: I’m going to break for a quick second to tell you a little bit about Kathy. She is joyful and kind, spunky and brave. She was never afraid to ask me the tough questions and push me out of my comfort zone,  yet she was so gentle and encouraging. I left my time with her feeling like I could accomplish those big dreams that didn’t even have words yet. To this day, she is one of the people I hold dear to my heart for the role she has played in my life. 

So Kathy found me crying in the bathroom (can you say low point?) and decided we needed to get together. I had never gotten together with an adult before, but I thought it was a pretty big milestone for me. Since I wasn’t old enough for margaritas (Kathy’s words, not mine), we decided to go for a walk at the park.

I’ll be honest- I don’t remember all the details of our conversation. I remember feeling like it was a safe place to pour out all my doubts, fears, anger, questions, and Kathy seemed good with that. The one detail I do remember is once I was done, she asked me one question: “If someone could prove to you today that God wasn’t real and he doesn’t exist, what would you miss the most?” “Having someone to talk to.” “That’s a good place to start,” she said.

Now I know those words don’t seem that profound, but they blew my preteen mind at the time. I had a good place to start. She was the first person to ever give me permission to doubt all the things I had been taught up to that point, and doubt I did.

I began to ask questions of God every day. I told him how angry I was at him for sitting by and watching my family struggle. Angry at all the hurt in the world that he had the power to make disappear and didn’t. I admitted I wasn’t even sure he was real or if I was just talking to myself.

Looking back, I can see God’s hand in all of this- how he watched out for me and took care of me. The lessons I learned from it could be their own blog.

But the biggest thing for me was I finally learned to be honest with him. I learned that he can handle my questions, my anger, and all the other things I thought I couldn’t bring to him. He is big enough for all of it. 

 

 

Elizabeth Rose

6. Write about your best friend (not significant other) and what makes them special.

Moving around a lot is not the best lifestyle to learn how to develop deep and meaningful friendships. Sure, I had “best friends” growing up, but when you’re eight, all a best friend was was a girl who would come over for sleepovers. You don’t really have baggage when you’re eight and the darkest secret you have to share is you stole a stick of gum out of your mom’s purse.

I learned that friendships come and go and that’s just the way it is. They don’t last a long time and that was okay with me. I never knew any different, and I didn’t really desire to have anything else.

When my family moved to the northeast, I was expecting the same routine: move here, stay for a year or two, and then leave. My parents, however, had a much different idea. Apparently the northeast was where we were going to call home now. For good.

Since moving here, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever come across. People who have challenged me, trusted me, listened to me and help me become a better person. Liz is one of those people. In fact, she’s very near the top.

I’m going to do my best in the next several paragraphs to put words to one of the truest, kindest people I’ve ever been friends with. I have a feeling that no matter what I say, I won’t be able to quite do her justice, but I’m going to try.

Liz is honest. In every sense of the word. She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and ask you questions that cut straight to your soul. She’s the one I go to when I want someone to tell me the things I don’t necessarily want to hear, but need to hear. Not only is this a rare trait in and of itself, but she does it with so much grace, she would make Princess Diana look bad. There’s a beauty to her words that is unparalleled and truth you know only comes from Jesus.

Liz is funny as crap. You can even ask her- she’s the funniest person she knows. She’s the type of funny that makes you cry and your belly ache from laughing so hard. Her wit is a hard one to match and keeps me on my toes, despite the fact the only language I know is sarcasm. There have been multiple occasions in which we’ve talked about putting together a Buzzfeed list of all our thoughts on a particular subject just because we know we can crack other people up as much as we crack ourselves up.

Finally, Liz is brave. She doesn’t let all the junk that comes up in life stop her from doing what she feels like she’s supposed to do. I have seen her wrestle with wanting a husband for herself and finding said husband, then deciding to get married just a few months later. I personally thought she was crazy, but Liz didn’t care. She knew that was what she was supposed to do, and she was brave enough to stick to it. I’ve seen her be brave when she’s had to let go of old friendships, make new ones, and struggle through learning to be vulnerable. She lives her life with a conviction you rarely get to see.

There aren’t many people I’ve met that are quite like Liz. She is one of the good ones.

Big dreams

5. Discuss some of the things on  your bucket list

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a bucket list. Activities I want to do, places I want to see, people I want to meet. I must have started this list in elementary school, and it feels like every time I cross something off, I think of something new to add. While some may think having a never-ending list drives my Type A personality crazy, it actually keeps me grounded.

Keeping this list is a constant reminder that there’s always more to life than what I’m currently going through. It reminds me there’s more places to see and keeps me dreaming. I think it’s so easy to let go of big dreams the older we get. Our logic kicks in more and more with each passing year and tells us it doesn’t make sense to want to see every country or one day meet the president (I plan on taking this off for the next 4-8 years depending on who wins this election.).

In the meantime, here are some of the bucket list items I look forward to the most!

  1. Visit every continent.

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I’ve had the travel bug since I was born. I grew up moving around every year or two, and while some may think that’s a crazy way to live, I loved it. It taught me how to make new friends easily, what it’s like to be the new kid, and how to entertain myself for hours on end.

While all of these are great lessons, I think the most important thing I learned is there’s always more out there to see. The thought of getting to see so many different people and cultures is exhilarating to me. The more places I go, the more I want to. So far, I’ve been to both America’s, Europe, and Africa. I’m basically halfway there, which isn’t too bad for being 24.

2. Visit every state.

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Yes, I’m super excited to visit every country, but the more states I visit, the more I realize how much there is to see right here!

Just last month I went to San Diego for the first time and absolutely fell in love with it. Though I’ll be honest- being on a flight for 6 hours and ending up in the same country did feel a little anticlimactic. Visiting the sea lions totally made up for it though.

IMG_0121I also would love to be able to look at map of the United States and be able to say, “Yep, I’ve been to all those places.”

3. Run a half-marathon.

Okay, so I know this one is completely unrelated to the first two, but I still want to talk about it. I used to love running. I’m talking “would run 8 miles just for the heck of it” type of love. Yet the older I got, the less I loved it. It started to feel like a chore, and anytime I started training for a race, something got in the way. I injured my foot, I ended up going on vacation, etc.

For me, being able to say I ran 13.1 miles is another way for me to say I pushed past all the stuff I don’t like to do something that’s good for me. I don’t want to be the type of person who quits something just because it’s hard, so this one is definitely more of a symbolic bucket list item than actually wanting to run long distance. I’m also hoping that in the process, maybe I’ll start to love it again.

 

 

 

We talkin ’bout practice

4. Something in life that gives you balance

Despite my introvertedness (read more about that here), I am quite the doer. I have a hard time saying not to the people and things that I love. Want to grab dinner? Sure! Need someone to volunteer for a project? I’m there.

I love feeling like I’m contributing to bigger things and to the people around me. I get a ton of joy from being able to help someone out and going on random adventures whenever the chance comes up. In fact, some of my fondest memories are from times I said yes to spontaneous beach trips, road trips, girls’ nights out, whatever.

I enjoy looking at a full calendar on a Sunday night and seeing the name of each person I know I’m going to connect with the following week. Even in high school, my mom would drive me from school, to cheer practice, and then to church- all on a Tuesday night. I’ve always been this way… basically, I like saying “yes.”

“Yes” is a beautiful thing when used in the right context, but I’m learning to practice using another beautiful word. NO.

Saying no is not an easy thing for me. I struggle with feeling selfish with my time, and if I’m being totally honest, sometimes saying no makes me feel a little guilty. I can’t help but secretly wonder if I’m making the people around me happy.

So while I don’t really enjoy saying “no,” I have started to practice it more often. Because like anything we want to start (or stop), it’s going to require practice.

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It’s going to require a willingness to disappoint some people even though that’s the last thing you want to do. It’s going to require the courage to say no to dinner with your friends because you need to stay home and spend some time with Jesus after a long day.

Luckily, I am not the first person to struggle with this, and I certainly won’t be the last. Lysa Terkeurst says it perfectly in her book The Best Yes. “Here’re the reality of our current technique: Other people’s requests dictate the decisions we make. We become slaves to others’ demand when we let our time become dictated by request. We will live reactive lives instead of proactive.

I don’t know about you, but the last word I want to think of when I look back on my life ten years from now is reactive. I don’t want to let other people’s demands and expectations determine the way my life unfolds, but if I say yes to too many things, I think that’s what will happen.

I want to live a proactive life. A life that’s filled with moments where I wasn’t afraid to say no to some things so that I could say yes to what was best.

The power of 4:35pm

3. Something that is part of your routine that you enjoy

Alright, people. I have a confession for those of you who don’t know me really well. I am an introvert. There, I said it.

Here’s the thing though- I’m what I like to call a “closet introvert.”

I know most of you have probably never heard that term, and that’s okay, because a friend of mine made it up years ago to describe herself, and I fell in love with it. Let me explain to you what a closet introvert is.

Closet introvert:

  1. someone who is good with people (usually really good), but doesn’t really like them
  2. a person who can be incredibly friendly when they meet new people and entertain a crowd with the best of them, but then needs to go home and sleep for the next five hours

I think you’re getting the idea. So that’s me. Hi, my name is Alyssa Wilkinson, and I’m a closet introvert.

I love people and spending time with them. I love getting on the phone with a customer I really connect with and letting that eat up 20 minutes of my day. I enjoy going out to dinner with my friends and making new friends. I consider it a personal victory when I’m in a room full of people I just met, and I find ways to make them laugh. I really do love all those things.

At the same time, I love coming home after a long day at work or aforementioned dinner with friends and not having to say or do a single thing. I love being able to sit on the couch and binge watch old episodes of Friends and Gilmore Girls. (Lorelai Gilmore is my spirit animal.) I love getting to take my dog for a walk when I first get home and not have to talk to anyone, and I especially love getting to sit down with a good book and get lost in another world for an hour or so.

It is honestly a conflicting place to be sometimes. Loving people and being around them most of the time, yet still loving the time I get by myself. And not just loving the time by myself, but literally needing it.

If that sounds extreme to you, I’m not joking. If I don’t get a people break at least once a day, I turn into a person I’m not very proud of. I get snippy, easily aggravated, and very quiet. I shut down, and it’s not pretty.

But every day, I get to have this moment. It’s the moment when I get home from work, say hello to my dog, and I get to chill out. I’ll usually make myself a cup of tea and grab a book (right now I’m reading The Best Yes and Daring Greatly) and sit down on the Love Sac in my spare bedroom. *shoutout to my mom and dad for getting an RV this thing doesn’t fit in because it. is. HEAVEN.*

Some days I get an hour or two, and some days I only get ten minutes, but it’s always the best part of my day. When all the distractions are out of my head, when I have time to process everything that happened that day, and when I get to relax and just be.

I know some people swear by doing this in the morning or right before my bed, and I used to beat myself up over the fact that 5am is never a time I enjoy seeing on my clock. But now, my time is right around 4:35pm, and for me, it’s perfect.

These are a few of my favorite things

2. Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.

  1. The smell outside after it rains. (I know there’s a word for this, but I can never remember it.)
  2. PUPPIES. Literally any puppy.
  3. While we’re on the subject, any baby animal. I can’t help it.
  4. Coffee. Preferably iced.
  5. Getting to talk to my dad on the phone.
  6. Catching up with an old friend.
  7. Kayaking.
  8. Seeing my employees reach a goal they’ve been working towards.
  9. Sunflowers.
  10. Listening to someone describe what they’re passionate about.
  11. Ice cream.
  12. Opening the mail and actually getting something good.
  13. Watching friends go from completely sober to a little tipsy after a few glasses of wine.
  14. Finding adorable baby things for my friends who are pregnant while simultaneously not having to have a baby myself.
  15. Climbing to the top of a mountain.
  16. Being near the ocean.
  17. Getting to watch someone “create.” Photography, painting, music- doesn’t matter.
  18. Watching my mom and dad interact with each other. They’re freaking adorable.
  19. Christmas Eve traditions with my brother.
  20. Seeing a rainbow.
  21. Trying out a new recipe and actually liking how it comes out.
  22. Looking through old photos.
  23. Getting notes from people.
  24. Hearing someone talk about a book they really enjoy.
  25. Reading a great book that you just don’t want to put down.
  26. Bonfires.
  27. Waking up in the woods after a night of camping.
  28. Having someone tell you something you can tell makes them feel vulnerable.
  29. A good pun will get me every time.
  30. Being so content in one moment you just can’t help but smile.