Swimming In Grace Again

c-glowacki
Image by C. Glowacki.

After a long day at work last week, I drove to Rollins College (an old, romantic campus near my office) and I sat by myself on a bench near a lake.

I’d been restless all day.

Recently, I’ve gotten into the funny habit of speaking peace over my own heart. There’s no shortage of things in this world (and within our own thoughts) eager to steal it so reminding myself of God’s truths and the true nature of things propelled into His care has been a good habit.

This particular day, my best efforts were futile. My mind had settled into a discomfort I couldn’t quite put into words.

I’m reading a book about trees these days and learning a lot about the nature of their growth. Pruning a young tree, or cutting the branches back, helps them grow in the right direction and removes diseased wounds. They are cut so they are healed. The process forces them to grow strong enough to weather storms. I get why Jesus drew a parallel between this process and certain seasons He fosters into our lives.

I’ve also been reading the Bible again after a long time outside the church. Outside the church is a light way to put it. I spent almost two years scoffing at American Christian culture, resenting the simplicity and struggle of it. I didn’t want to struggle. I didn’t want to be authentic or trust or live with unseen faith. I just wanted to live.

But my definition of “living” was distorted by things putting more value on, well, everything, above Christ. And there’s always collateral damage to that. It’s a sad story but it’s not a new one.

Trees are cut so they are healed. And so are we.

I used to think when Scripture referenced the nature of creation as one of conflict, it only meant the world outside of our bodies. It made sense to me that wrestling tectonic plates and rising seas were crying to be freed from decay and unrest, ushered into the restoring presence of God once and for all. I now realize that, much like his thoughts on the vine and the branches, this truth speaks not only to creation beyond us but also creation within us.

I was frustrated that day on the lake. I was frustrated and wearied under the eager expectation for the restoration of all my wandering had wrought.

I prayed for faces I loved and sat there, silently waiting for the soil within me to quit moving when I noticed a girl swimming in the water I sat across.

She had walked to the end of the pier and jumped in while I had been in my own thoughts. A longing to return to dirt and earth and belong to something simpler woke up in me. I walked to the end of the pier and jumped in wearing my gym clothes.

Suddenly, it was just me and the lake and the smiling stranger in the lake who cheered me on with a ‘hang loose’ shake of her hand. I smiled back in a way that said, “I’m trying” and floated back. We each had a sense of our own rebellion in that moment—leaving the pressures of schedules and traffic and iPhone notifications to return to life itself. And on a Thursday afternoon no less, while the rest of the world pressed on without us.

I sank into the scandal and disappeared, tangling my feet through moss as I looked up at the sky and prayed to be untangled from my fears. The restlessness never disappeared and I admit I thought a jump in a lake would do it. Instead, it floated along with me. As I swam further out, the Winter Park estates felt smaller under the expanse I looked out onto. And so did I and all the concerns I carry within me in this life.

In that moment, my own being in this world made sense.

In the darkness of the lake, in the parallels of my fear for the future and what was swimming along below me, in the face of a God I realized I can’t control or distance or surprise, I grasped that I’ve always made sense. He made both light and darkness out of nothing and said, “good.”

He’s not scared of the wilderness within me or anyone else.

At least that’s what He spoke over me as He continued painting the skies while I watched, changing colors every few minutes, reminding me that each time I think He’s completed, He longs to show me glories I don’t have names for yet.

I disappeared under the water and thought of the people I missed, praying they knew God was with them in the wilderness too.

A City Cat Moves South

When I first moved to New York City, I wish I had done a few things. The first is I wish I had kept a journal of all the details that felt new upon moving to the city for the first time. I remember thinking I had grown up in multi-cultural areas like Miami and Orlando but nothing compared to the exposure I had to other languages and cultures simply through riding the subway to and from work. I also wish I had kept an obsessive log of all the restaurants I dined in throughout my 5 years in the city. If anyone asks, I have all of 5 fail-safe restaurants off the top of my mind to recommend.

I’ve been back in Orlando 17 days.

I moved down here on somewhat of a sabbatical under the assumption that I’d just stay with a friend, with no real plans other than to hit the springs, rejuvenate and give myself a month to apply to jobs. Since then, it looks like I’m starting a job opportunity I could not pass up on the 26th, making my time in Florida much longer than originally planned. I suppose I knew there was a chance of that when I bought a one-way ticket for $78 bucks.

Moving back to Florida has not been without it’s own series of culture shock. Here’s a look at a few of the #justsouthernthings (or #justsuburbanthings?) I’m still grappling to get used to again.

1. The sheer size of everything.
New York City is super compact. Like, I once had a friend whose kitchen you had to shuffle into sideways. Needless to say, the kitchen occupied one person at a time. Can you just imagine? That’s like building a kitchenette in one of those closets that hold ironing boards. Well, it happened. On the Upper West Side.

Meanwhile in Florida, I saw an outdoor shopping mall with a sign for Planet Smoothie so I pulled in, parked, got out of the car and just stared at the sheer size of the shopping mall. Where was this place? I saw a sign for it. Now, getting to it was it’s own challenge. It turned out to be behind the strip of businesses I had parked in front of, some 200 yards away. The open sky bearing down over the asphalt where Planet Smoothie remained in the distance made me feel so insignificantly small. Maybe that’s why New Yorkers feel so important, because everything is at hand and we feel like giants in the intimate corners of our restaurants and bars. Or the dorm-room size apartments we pay $1600/month for.

2. If you don’t have a car, you’re out of luck.
I have not owned a car in 7 years. Before moving to New York City, my life was compactly organized within a 5-mile radius of Winter Park. That’s when I paid $200/month in rent and had a front porch, a backyard full of rose bushes and a full-size garage. That we used for storage. I’m currently using my 17-year-old brother’s 2003 Honda Civic until I get my own but after doing some research on public transportation in Orlando, it would take you nearly 2 hours of transfers and waiting (in the Florida sun or rain, mind you) to get all of 5 miles North. The public transportation system here is atrocious. Even with a system as broken as the one in this city, 29 million passengers used public transportation services last year. The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, or LYNX as it’s more commonly known, has an operating budget of $127,045,444. Compare that to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority budget of 14.6 billion, servicing 1.7 billion New York commuters in 2015 alone.

3. Everything is so clean.
This point may only be magnified by the fact that New York City is famous for being so dirty. Between the subway stations that haven’t been power-washed since the 1940’s and the growing rat population, suffice it to say that you get used to living with a certain level of grime in New York City. It doesn’t matter how hot the water in your shower is, you’re just going to leave your apartment and get dirty again.

In Florida however, decency and order is rule. The stores are impeccably organized and the streets are pretty clean, too. Between going from the AC in the apartment to the AC in a newly washed car, I feel like I’m in a bubble of cleanliness and comfort. I have no criticism against this except that I feel like it heightens one’s disconnection from humanity at some level. What happens when we encounter circumstances, or even people, that threaten these comforts? There’s a disconnect between the have and have-nots in New York City, certainly, but in Florida, or in the suburbs let’s say, it feels like that disconnect is all the more grievous. You don’t have to think of kids that don’t have clean running water because you can just avoid that area of town. You don’t have to face things that make you uncomfortable because well, the windows in your car are tinted and you don’t have to make eye contact.

You don’t have that privilege in New York City.

4. Southern hospitality can be weird.
Shopping for groceries in Manhattan at rush hour resembles a dystopian Lord of the Flies experiment sponsored by Trader Joe’s. It’s every man for himself. Shopping carts are smaller for optimal aisle navigation, everyone has their headphones in and elbows out. I went to Publix the other day (if you don’t know what Publix is, imagine a grocery store experience in heaven) and I was in your average suburban-sized aisle (see point one) when two different men said “excuse me, ma’am” as they walked past me in the cereal aisle. I do not own the cereal aisle. Why do they need me to excuse them? They were at least two feet away from me when they passed by. How absurdly polite.

During this same Publix experience, two different produce attendants asked if I needed anything. Do you know how much eye contact these exchanges required? Do you realize how much eye contact they make in the South? What is everyone staring at all the time?

Which leads me to my next point…

5. It’s a village.
I feel observed all of the time in Florida. I’ve now begun to observe others, if only because I ran into two different people from high school in the Metro Orlando area of town. I went to high school 20 miles away from this region. The Cheesecake Factory is not safe, the gigantic Target in Millenia plaza is not safe. You will see people you know and will have to account to why you are in town and have not called them.

I went to Epcot earlier this week, you know, the Disney theme park that averages 31,000 visitors a day, and saw an old teacher and another couple I knew from the church I used to belong to. Greater Orlando may have a population of 2 million people but it’s actually a provincial town at heart.

The townspeople do not use turn signals.

From Unhappy to Hired

writing

On Monday, I was offered the position of Assistant Managing Editor at one of the quickest growing social content platforms available.

I’m excited to share that I accepted this new role supporting the development and promotion of diverse, compelling content from writers and thought-leaders across the country!

Searching for a job is such an ambiguous, often tedious, endeavor and I like the idea of building transparency and knowledge in order to demystify the process. I’ll share what I learned in upcoming posts but for now, I have to get to work.

About Those Leftovers

Ahhh, Thanksgiving.

A time when I am reminded how proficient other people are at cooking and muse once again about a domestic future for myself far in the distance.

At the moment, the reality of that future goes about as far as my reading this roasted cauliflower recipe.

Luckily, I will be going home for Thanksgiving this year where my parents will have selflessly cooked everything in exchange for the brief return of their only daughter and the entertainment my brothers and I provide whenever we are reunited. And our love, probably. I have a flight headed home to Florida this afternoon and my to-do list for the long weekend includes “eat chick-fil-a, visit the beach, text Gerty a photo of an alligator” but not much else.

Last year, my youngest brother visited me in New York City and we enjoyed a very hectic morning preparing to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. I totally recommend doing this if you ever get the chance to but make sure you line up to wait in a spot with maximum balloon visibility. See, we did not do this because my research towards these sorts of things is forgotten when I have to wake up at 5am in the morning and I only realized my mistake after the parade began. This prompted my brother and I to run along multiple avenues in search of a better spot along with all the other suckers that did the same thing.

littlebro

We looked like the pack of wildebeests in The Lion King, you know, in that scene where the plot takes a turn for the worst (NO SPOILERS) but alas, we were determined to watch a televised parade of large balloons pass us by in celebration of a holiday that preserves a fictitious historical narrative surrounding our country’s history. New Yorkers enjoying Thanksgiving from the comfort of their expensive mid-town apartments probably watched and laughed from the comfort of their heated homes.

And then I wondered… Are we their parade?

(I didn’t really, I just saw an opportunity for a Carrie Bradshaw impression and I took it.)

I also took this photo.

thanksgiving

Our hands and noses froze in the 30 degree weather.

The balloons look much smaller in person.

And we had the greatest time ever.

What are you and your family doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any traditions? If you don’t, I have a suggestion for a new one where you save me a piece of pie.

In A State of Emergency: Why Trump 2016 Isn’t A Laughing Matter Anymore

RS1

RS2

RS3

Dystopian plots have interested me since I was a kid.

I like thinking through the social issues presented and considering their impact on humanity as it is explored through character story-lines. Contemplating how humans might respond to one another when confronted with a lack of resources is an endlessly fascinating subject. Just consider that the last movie of The Hunger Games installment is projected to make $121.5 million in box-office revenue this opening weekend. The Twilight Zone, a show I’d often watch growing up, explored dystopian communities and cultural norms in many of their episodes and in high school, I dog-eared the pages of 1984 and Lord of the Flies. Most recently, I’ve followed The Walking Dead series week to week because their attention to character development within the dystopian narrative is extremely compelling.

Lately however, I don’t have to watch tv or pick up a book for this kind of entertainment. I can just observe our current political atmosphere and reflect on Donald Trump’s increasing popularity in the polls. I’ve hesitated to write or share any content referring to Trump’s run for presidency because I know contributing to his visibility ultimately benefits his campaign and I didn’t want to give Trump the value of being taken seriously.

After reading the xenophobic comments he made in a Yahoo News interview published yesterday however, I’ve begun to take him seriously.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures, including warrantless searches and identification registries, in his plans to increase surveillance on Muslim Americans and mosques. His comments cited that “we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.” When he was later asked to clarify his interview comments and distinguish how Muslim databases (a system he “would certainly implement” upon election) would be different from requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany, he evaded the question by repeatedly saying “you tell me” several times before finally walking away.

Prior to this moment, Trump’s hate-speeches against Latino communities and his obscenely reductive platform on immigration issues were guised as a patriotic call for nationalism and called good sense by Conservatives. His recent comments surrounding how the US should respond to Muslim communities in light of the recent terrorist attacks committed by Daesh, however, are so blindingly racist and xenophobic that any semblance of a nationalist or patriotic guise no longer exists for Trump or his incendiary statements. Trump is a grim example of someone using a combination of their privilege, ignorance, and wealth to postulate hate speech and encourage white supremacist ideology. Hate crimes across the US have been directly attributed to Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric with increasing frequency.

Conservatives can’t cling to Donald Trump as a pillar of American values when he rejects the protection of individual liberties and rights that all Americans – Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, or otherwise – are entitled to. He rejects basic foundational principles the US was founded upon; principles the Constitution is purposed to uphold today.

History is going to look back on this time and ask why we didn’t hold Donald Trump, a widely popular figure within American culture at this time, more accountable. How did we allow presidential campaigns to get this surreal? And why did we, the American public and media, remain complacent in addressing and silencing hate?

Will this be our shame?

What People Don’t Tell You About Following Your Dreams

This is part 2 of a series sharing my journey to land my dream job. I look forward to sharing this process with you as the days unfold it, thanks for reading!

anxietyImage Taken by Tess Mayer

Currently, I’m sitting at a Gregory’s Coffee in the Financial District awaiting my final series of interviews this afternoon. The cold brew is great, I was complimented by the ladies behind the counter on how polished I look (yaaasss), and I had a great chat with my mama this morning so I’m feelin’ 100.

That was NOT the case earlier this week.

Given that this interview was scheduled for later in the week, I had a wealth of time between Monday – Wednesday to think of reasons why this opportunity might not work out. I began asking myself, who am I to deserve it? Who am I to believe my talents should be recognized in this way? To be completely transparent, anxiety has kept me in ill company this week as my thoughts have run through a gamut of professional and personal insecurities. In light of this, I called my mom a lot. I put on my favorite songs and forced myself to dance (in my bedroom, by myself – it’s a thing) to get endorphins going. And I reflected on a few things I learned that people don’t tell you you’ll experience once you decide to go for your dreams –

1. How uncomfortable you’ll become in the process:
Earlier this week, I was struck by how publicly I’ve been showcasing this journey and efforts. Hello there. You’re reading about it. On a public blog. And that’s been the whole point, you know, to invite others on this journey and share what works while learning from what doesn’t. But it didn’t hit me until recently how painful it will be if these opportunities don’t work out.

Out of all the articles I’ve read about the merit of following your dreams, none have mentioned the point when your voice will falter as you tell others about what you’re doing. Or how you’ll have to remain your own biggest encourager because if you don’t believe you can do it, other people will be hard-pressed to convince. However uncomfortable you may get, return to the reasons you took the leap in the first place and look to your prior accomplishments to remind yourself of your abilities. Anyway, it’s only when you’re outside of your comfort zone that the stuff of life can present itself.

2. The support of others may surprise you:
Alternately, you may be surprised by who shows up to cheer you on. I’ve had several friends check in with me each day for updates. Their day by day encouragement and presence in my life has reminded me that others believe my success is possible and that’s a pretty great counter to insecurity.

Surround yourself with your biggest encouragers. When you need a pick-me-up, text your best friend and ask for their vote of confidence. There’s nothing wrong with needing others to remind you of your talents. They most likely see talents in you that you aren’t even aware of yet.

3. You’ll surprise yourself:
As you guys know, I applied for several jobs that I may have seemed under-qualified for at first glance. By writing a proficient cover letter and making connections between my prior work experience and future opportunities of interest, I made the narrative of my professional career one that hiring managers could understand. In doing so, I was called in for a management opportunity I’m superrrr excited about. One I am interviewing for this very afternoon!

Everyone has a starting point.

One of my personal heroes in the media industry, Nancy Gibbs, began at Time magazine as a part-time fact checker in 1985. She’s now the Managing Editor of Time which reaches 50 million readers worldwide. Imagine new milestones for yourself. Challenge your dreams to widen. And then, put in the work necessary to reach them.

4. How hard the work is:
And work it is.

Y’all, I’m gonna get real with you for 2 seconds and say this has been an exhausting week. Although my schedule is flexible and I’m not reporting to an office, being my OWN manager and industrious each day has been an investment of energy in and of itself. In addition to that, I’d be lying if I said there isn’t an emotional component impacted. It can be taxing to be “on” for interviews and put your best foot forward in a series of meetings with professionals you admire and respect.

If you’re considering taking on a new project or going for your dream job opportunity, make sure your schedule is set up for it. Life will never be put on hold for the sake of your timeline but if you’re volunteering, going through personal challenges, and working 70 hours a week, you may be setting yourself up for failure by taking on a new venture. Think critically about what is demanding your attention and eliminate the items that aren’t wise investments. Be resourceful, be ruthless with protecting your resource of time and energy, and beyond that, be ready pick yourself up in the face of rejection.

Resilience is work.

5. Your access to opportunity is largely based on the generosity of others:
Make yourself available to opportunity long enough and some incredible things are bound to happen. I love this article by Bruce Kasanoff which impresses the value of telling people what you WANT to do rather than what you’re currently doing. I love this because he has a point; telling people what you want to do gives them the opportunity to contribute to your story. I’ve learned that nobody reaches their dreams by operating as an independent unit. In contrast, the value of your professional network is incomparable. In her book The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay stresses the importance of “weak-tie” connections.

“Weak-ties are the people we have met, or are connected to somehow, but do not currently know well. Weak ties are also our former employers or professors and other associations not promoted to close friends … Weak ties give us access to something fresh … like bridges you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead.”

Who’s in your network? Think through it. Ask friends, co-workers, family who they know that might help you get where you’re going. And most importantly, respect any access you gain to these connections by communicating effectively, being punctual, and takin’ all the notes. Read The Defining Decade if you haven’t yet.

6. How stubbornly you’ll have to stand beside your work:
JK Rowling was rejected 12 times and told not to quit her day job before the Harry Potter series was picked up by a publisher. I ha-ha-hardly think my musings on this blog or any article I may pitch is in comparison to Harry Potter BUT Rowling’s journey was a comfort to reflect on when I received “no’s” or silence from editors.

Honestly, I don’t think my writing is particularly exceptional. It’s okay. I enjoy the process of it. I do my research. And quite frankly, it’s an area in my life I am willing to be a student to for the rest of my life. My commitment to learning and improving is what distinguishes what I have to offer. A large part of being excellent is showing up consistently and putting in the work. So, work, improve, and stand by your work when others don’t see the value in it (yet).

7. You’ll survive if it doesn’t work out:
Whatever the outcome of this next interview or the ones from earlier this week, the truth is I’ll survive if they move forward with someone else. My ego might bruise but luckily, my ego isn’t what’s carrying me forward. This won’t be the last professional opportunity I have and the fact that I’ve made it this far is an extremely positive reflection of my talents and candidacy.

Similarly, whatever project you’re working on, whatever place on the team you’re hoping for, know that it won’t be the last opportunity or shot at success. Opportunities are boundless if you’re committed to crafting them.

Now, go on and create your own.

1 2 3 4 5