Thursday, December 19, 2019

Boxing Ring

You know, it's funny. I took a Spiritual Gifts Test at school a while back? Well, mine's mercy.
Ironically, I show ZERO mercy to MYSELF.
Everyone says you're your own worst critic, right? And everyone says "Love yourself!" But it's not until recently I realized just HOW much I UTTERLY BERATE myself.
Maybe somewhere along the way I didn't allow myself to make mistakes. I was brutally gaslighted and taken advantage of. Part of this was my naivety. I can be friendly to a point it makes people uncomfortable, and I like to assume benefit of the doubt.
But let's face it. Being a scrawny, short, nerdy, somewhat awkward disabled female didn't help. I was almost begging to be targeted. I often wasn't savvy enough to know when I was being used. One time a boy pointed me, purposefully, down the wrong path at a sixth grade field trip. I walked in the rain for twenty minutes and emerged at my cabin sopping wet, cold and shoes brown with mud. I had gotten there by myself. Eventually.
I guess with this and other incidents -- minor and major -- I assumed the world was a dangerous place. If I didn't shape up, I was opening myself up for attack. I wouldn't make it unless I overcompensated, gave people a reason to not reject me.
Rejection sucks. It really, really sucks. Try to keep a brave face when a guy you confess attraction to in middle school calls you "psycho" and "dropped on the head as a child" for doing so. In his diary. Which is also his math spiral, for some strange reason.
Having suffered a stroke and a brain bleed in NICU, and that being the reason I was... me, those particular choices of insult hurt on more levels I can say.
Full disclosure, all the people referenced in this post are much different now, and at least one I know is actually pretty cool. He played the flute in band.
For all I complain, I can name just as many if not more people who supported me and didn't care about my differences at that time in my life. Lesson being, take stock of not just IF you have sky-high expectations, but what false premise they might be based on.
Life isn't a boxing ring where it's you versus the world. Not everyone will like you, but it's a mistake to tell yourself that everyone is against you. Don't be your own crazy sports parent. You know the ones.
I'm a full hypocrite in this regard, but make it a habit to correct your "I'm stupid," "I'm an idiot," and gradually, it will change. I give all this preface to show you all beliefs come from somewhere, and often you're one of many. Maybe challenge yourself and a friend to correct your self-talk for a week.
Less cool than the Rocky training montage, but with equal value.
Knock em' dead, champ.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


You know, for all people say about speaking out for what you believe, they fail to mention that NOT doing it sucks.
When you fail, because fear stops you cold, then what? Actually, when you fail to follow dreams, to be consistent, to meet goals, then what?
They say to start again. But failing is to me, a bit like grieving. To move on is scary. To move on is HARD. It's not "start again," because for a while you just... can't.
For once, I don't quite know the answer to my own question. All I can say from my experience is it's okay to grieve a failure, as long as you don't grieve so long it becomes bitterness or an excuse.

Seek out support when you fail. Support of God and of people. But seek it out. People don't know you're hurt unless you tell them. Trust me when I say that nothing good comes assuming people can read your mind.

As for God, well, He's got a thing about waiting for your first move.

In time, you'll know when you're ready. You will be ready to try again.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Control Pt. 2: We're All Idiots

So, you've realized you control things. Welcome to the club. Other people, events, or outcomes, usually by planning and overthinking, or freaking out.
What now?

Delegation, my friends. Delegation. And asking for help.

A lot of you have probably clicked off. Or you're at least thinking about it, right?
Hear me out.

I know everyone SAYS you should ask for help, but they never dig into WHY. Most think it's self explanatory. And so many (I.E, me,) began to dismiss the advice all together.

If you're like me on a typical school night, you're freaking out, right? You're stressed. There is no way you will get all your homework done tonight. You can't do it.

Realizing you can't do something alone sucks. It's a massive blow to your ego and sense of control.

There's a reason I ask my mom to help with my school projects. Or why I have a math tutor.

If I distribute work to another, or I get help, I can stop the cycle of freaking out.

It's hard to trust another person with a task that's important to you. Or ask a question or seek help when it makes you feel like an idiot.
But here's the thing: At some point, ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE will feel like an idiot, or be completely lost. Nobody can have the skill set of Julia Child, Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking, Robin Williams and James Bond simultaneously, although that would be AWESOME.

At some point, we all suck, and we all know what it feels like to suck. So no, you won't lose the love of your friends and family because trigonometry hurts your brain. In fact, they'll love you a little more, because you allowed THEM to show what THEY were good at. Heck, my brother made hash browns for me while I edited his Biology paper, and we both felt great afterwards.

Ask for help. We all love to show off. Plus, less work doesn't hurt.

Friday, November 1, 2019

World of Weird

World of Weird

I have a confession: I just yesterday started my 25th notebook.
I have filled twenty four notebooks since June of 2018. Twenty four journals, usually one hundred and fifty pages or more, in fifteen and a half months.
I think I have a problem.
It's not just me, though. It seems like everyone I know has a problem. But a problem in a good way, because no one else can do what they can and call it "fun."
My mother organizes our house on weekends, and the mere thought makes me want to hurl. My brother practices golf daily, but the girls in the family are bored silly. And my dad thinks fixing cars he bought dirt cheap online is "fun." I can't even legally drive with my vision, and he wants to dismantle the engine in a hunk of junk convertible to fix a coolant tank leak. 

And all of them only pick up a pen if they absolutely have to. So we're all a little weird. 

Part two of control comes soon, I promise. But on a whim I was inspired by one Mark Manson, and his article, 'Screw Finding Your Passion.'

I recommend the full (although profanity heavy) article. For purposes of this, here's what caught my eye:

"If you're passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it's not normal, that other people aren't like that.
It didn't occur to me that writing 2,000 word posts on forums was something nobody else considered fun. It never occurred to my friend that designing a logo is something that most people don't find easy or fun. To him, it's so natural that he can't even imagine it being otherwise. And that's why it's probably what he really should be doing."

We live in a world of weird. Weird in a good way, because we all do weird things. We just do them naturally. We find out we're weird when our friends compliment us, wish they had what we had.

But the naturally weird is still weird, right?

You might even try to hide it. Only your closest friends will see your weird.

But your weird is the key to your future. Or maybe a fun hobby where you'll meet some really cool people. Or a way to bring joy to others in your spare time.

Ask yourself: What do you do that your friends think is weird?

Be okay with the answer. And use it.
We live in a world of weird.

Monday, October 21, 2019


No one likes a control freak.

But it's weird, isn't it? Control freaks never really think of themselves the way others do. Organized? Yes. Control freak? Never.

Hi, I'm Meredith. I was a control freak.
(Hi, Meredith)

I've gotten better. But now most of my control takes place in my own head. I worry constantly, and sometimes I worry about other people's lives as if they were my own. I hyperfocus on problems. Because a problem equals a loss of control.

Maybe you see yourself in this. I think everyone at least knows someone like this. Control fears manifest in a lot of ways. Maybe you organize everything. Maybe you micromanage or overthink or strive for perfect every time. They're in my experience more common among Soldiers.

I'm not going to tell you to just "let go." It's harder than that. When you feel out of control of yourself, you try to control other things, and vice versa. Being physically or mentally fighting for independence can sometimes feel you're not in control of anything. You feel powerless.

I've been there too.

Next week, I'm giving you action steps. This is a gradual process of acceptance and empowerment. But there are steps.

There is hope. I promise.
In the words of one of my childhood heroes, Winnie the Pooh, "You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Telling A Story

Telling A Story

You may be wondering why I skipped a few weeks. A month.
Yeah, I've been wondering that myself.
Why is it when people create things, they feel the need to be wisdom incarnate? Is it because we're afraid to be drowned out in all the other people trying to be wisdom incarnate?
Part of it is my focus on wanting to promote. Put myself out there. There's no use creating something if you don't share it. Of course, for some reason, I haven't gotten far.
Here's my lessons for today: Please don't try to be wise and sagacious. The point of creating is to be real, and to be authentic, to tell a good story. And that will look different for different people.
Once you make something real, your differences don't mean you can't put yourself out there. In fact, many people are drawn to understand what they don't know. The trouble is, they don't know what they don't know. So, tell them!
Be real. And share it.
Easier said than done, but once you start, it gets easier.
That being said, unlike me, you have to start.
So if you excuse me, I'm going to get on that.
Wish me luck!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Stress Glorifying

Hard work is a virtue.

Yep, right up there with your Sunday offering and not talking in the movie theater, there's working your butt off.

Except when it's not.

I talk a lot about not working yourself to exhaustion. Heck, last week I talked about not overriding limitations that you'd rather not have, when you risk killing yourself in the process.

The weird thing? It seems like people REWARD becoming a human corpse.

Think about it:

"I'm so busy."

"I never have any time!"

"I'm so stressed."

"I haven't slept in three days!"

To which we all reply, "I understand! Keep going! You can do it! You work so hard! You're so inspiring!"

Guys, what the heck?!

 Since when is exhaustion and NOT SLEEPING inspiring? The answer is it's not.
People validate imbalance. Yeah, you're inspiring for neglecting happiness to move up in work. And I'm Jessica Alba.

Snark aside, don't fall into that trap. Especially Soldiers, because (myself included,) we work ourselves to the bone just to prove ourselves worthy of respect.

You don't need to prove yourself or validate yourself to anyone. Soldier or not.

The truth is, people stay in the busy cycle because they don't know what will happen if they get out. Will people reject them? What about their salary? And they become embittered when they see how much fun their friends are having on the weekends.

Don't find validation in what will cause you harm. Don't let false jealousy eat you alive.
Besides, you know while you're reading this you have that show or movie you want to watch this weekend.

Go watch it.

Yes, really.

Don't fall into the trap.

Your work will still be there.

Friday, September 6, 2019


Ever tried to do more than you knew you could?
Yeah, I'm right there with you. Guilty as charged. Sometimes any limitation I have feels like something to just ignore. It's like when you were a kid, and the definition of "cleaning your room" was taking all of your possessions and shoving them under the bed.
A recent observation of mine is that I as a Soldier am very prone to the thing I like to call I-wish-I-were-normal-itis. Seventh grade track, learning theater choreography, or even wearing glasses, I wished I was normal.
Sorry to burst your normal bubble, but I've got a newsflash. Exhibit A, who said normal existed anyway? My parents may not be traditionally disabled, and yet my mom takes thyroid medication and my dad complains of a herniated disc. Even outside physical health this is apparent. To be normal is to have a few quirks. Heck, I rock out to Shania Twain in my bedroom, and I still have my stuffed teddy bear I received back in the ICU. Out. Clearly visible in my room. Not shoved in the corner of my closet.
See? We're all weird.
Exhibit B: I don't think when you say "normal," you mean normal. What you actually mean is "I wish I had what they had."
Full disclosure, this is not putting down feelings of being different. Not being able to go out for sports in the traditional sense because you're wheelchair-bound sucks. Period.
But sometimes in my experience I would say I wished I were normal when I was missing the value in my own talents. The cool gymnastics girl, people more advanced than me in equestrian sports, people with really nice handwriting, those are all examples.
Sometimes you just have to accept you for you. My life coach calls it "radical acceptance." You accept the reality you're in, and that's the way it is. You adapt instead of getting caught up in your own musings.
Yes, I wish I could get my math homework done in fifteen minutes, but let's face it, my ADD means it'll take me an hour. So I prepare for that, I make allotments in my schedule, and life goes on. And what everyone else can do in math, well, that's not my strength. But I can CRUSH in debate.
Remember your strengths when you're out of your element. Adapt to your weaknesses, and your strong points will show all the more.
The first step is acceptance over wishing and comparison.
To be a little more frank: You are you. Deal with it.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Hamster Wheel Pt. 2: Goals

So, you've made progress with making life more interesting. Maybe you've got a Scrabble Tournament going on your coffee break, or you've joined a pottery class, or just tried a new type of apple today. Hurrah! But your life still doesn't feel quite right.
Well, when was the last time you decided to do something and did it?
In other words, when was the last time you set a goal and just TRIED? Success is not always an attribute of a good goal. And having something to work toward can spice up your life immensely.
An example: I'm terrified of acting. I enjoy singing and I was in my school's musical last year. Acting? Nah. I go for singing solos.
Lo and behold, I decided to try out for the Fall Play yesterday. It's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. If I'm cast as Owl Number 180, what could go wrong, right?
It helps to have goal supporters. Maybe even have someone do the goal with you. Start small, build up. But Soldiers, don't disqualify yourselves. See my past post on that. It's important. You get disqualified even without your input — that's not your fault or bad. It's just something to work with. You need to be empowering yourself. Not limiting yourself.
Most importantly, make it fun! Don't start art classes if you hate art. You'd be surprised how many people ignore this. Yes, you could run or lift weights if you want to exercise, but don't do it just because other people do it that way. Try running with the dog or playing tennis or rock climbing.
Get creative and make some small goals. You'll go from a hamster wheel to hamster ball, stagnant and stuck to progressing and free.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hamster Wheel

You know, sometimes you just get in a rut.
Being a student, stress seems to worm its way in when you start school again. More than that, you suddenly get back into a routine. Sometimes that's a good and bad thing.
Okay, I know this sounds like my breaks, West Point, and pick-me-ups posts. This is yet another facet in a balanced Soldier life. Bear with me.
Routine is essential. Many Soldiers thrive on routine. Otherwise life has TOO much change in it, and we go crazy. Your chronic pain, ADD, autism, whatever, pretty much any Soldier thing requires a specific routine. If you stick to that routine, things are great! Yay! You manage your challenges and you thrive.

The danger, as in most anything, lies in going to extreme...
well, except for devotion to God. And Little Debbie snacks. But those are my opinion.

There are two extremes of routine: lack of it, or the more common. I call it Groundhog Day, or hamster wheel. Most people just call it a rut.

The trouble is, too much routine, and you seem to live the same day over and over. All too common when, taking longer to do pretty much any work, Soldiers' hobbies fall by the wayside.

There are two ways, usually together, to combat this. I'll cover them in the next two weeks.

The first is this: Find little ways to make days more distinct. Have something to look forward to. Book outings, read a book a week, trying new food — any tiny thing can spice up your life and give you reason to get out of bed. You don't need much time or money, either. I'm a big believer in using what you have. Only have your lunch period? Bring a pack of cards and teach your friends crazy eights. Me? I recap my day in my journal, with lots of color and flare. And I read. One time I read The Tell-Tale Heart on a Sunday afternoon, just for kicks.

Man, I'm a nerd. ANYWAY, point two.

Skills and your "thing" can be immensely valuable here. Keep in mind, though, you can have MANY "things," and not all of them need to be used in this rut breaking way. Many can't, or even shouldn't, be used this way, because of the relearning curve, your schedule, your Soldier Things, or your finances. What you use as your "spice" in life does not have to be the thing you're good at or do for work. In fact, I discourage the latter. It just has to been something fun you want to do more of that would make life less like a hamster wheel.

That being said, has your "thing" been neglected recently? Do you want it back? No? Cool! Drop it, find something awesome! Yes? Brilliant! Go for it, and while you're at it, do something new with it. I had to write a historical narrative for my English class today, and it totally got me thinking that I should write historical stuff every once in a while. I never do acrostics, and I did one for each of my parents this week. And a few weeks ago my friend and I were making up stories using emoji. This kind of experimentation? Can apply to any "thing," if you're not sick of it.

In summary: Life does not have to be the same day, every day. Pick up old interests, or try new things. Use the time and money you have, with the limits you have. Small attempts to switch things up can have a big impact. You'll be off your hamster wheel in no time. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


We all know that kid who’s in a hurry to grow up, right? Maybe you were that kid. I was. 
And we all know that co-worker who never takes a break. Likewise, we probably know that friend who never seems to get anything done.
I am a busybody. I hate to be idle. I must always be doing something, like that old myth that said if sharks stopped moving they would die.
I never seemed to be doing enough, and I was plagued with the feeling that I was wasting my life.
At seventeen? Wasting my life? You’re kidding me, right? I know. I knew I was irrational, but I couldn’t shake it.
Finally, over dinner one evening I confided in my mom. She’s got a few decades on me, after all.
Her two cents?
Waiting isn’t idle.
Mini-lesson for today: Sometimes you just keep trucking. You have things you’re doing, not a lot goes on. That’s okay. Being in a rhythm doesn’t mean you’re idle, lazy, wasting your life.
Now, if you want something, you don’t wait. You go after it. That’s bad waiting. But sometimes you want something but you don’t quite know what yet. Of course as a Protestant I’d already taken the Jesus route, but I felt I had something I needed to do that I couldn’t define.
That’s okay. That begets a time of exploring options. That’s good waiting. Otherwise you get into the mindset you’ve missed something, and you swim in circles trying to figure it out.
I mean, please actually look. Don't just literally wait in your mom's basement. But in the process of looking, It’s okay not to know.
Don’t be a shark. Those freak me out anyway.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Short Story Experiment!

As an experiment, here's a personal favorite short story I've written recently. I feel it's in a different style than my blogs but still conveys a lot of the same applicable themes. Expect normal posts to return next week, but maybe now I'll throw in a story every now and then!
Enjoy this! -Meredith

Dear Alien Exchange Student,

The world is a complex place, my interstellar friend. I suppose you may have had things thoroughly explained to you by another party. However, I want to to take the liberty just in case.
I'm just a girl, a humble one at that. I pass rows of brick homes, leave. I am educated, I come home. This is the bulk of humanity's existence. The ones that live (many don't and die at birth or as children) have a life of cycles. Many feel they live the same day, ad nauseam.

All humans are different. We are also the same. Unfortunately, many of us fail to recognize the latter point. It makes me sad, as if all the hope is being sucked out of me.

The world is a selfish place. Most humans are not only bored and queer things, but also terribly ignorant of other people. We act on emotions and whims. We push, we shove, we steal, we lie. Some are so consumed with their own problems that they rashly attack others of their kind.

I say this to prepare you for what the world is like. It's a scary place out there. I don't know how fearless you or your tribe are, but I know you came here for a reason.

My advice?: As much as I warn you, not everything on Earth is worthy of such a warning. Although I FEEL hope being sucked out of me, that's very different from hope actually all but disappearing.

There is always hope. Everywhere. Be wary not of us doing what makes us feel hopeless, but the feeling of hopelessness itself. Every day a child does die, many, but many healthy and laughing children are also born. Every day a house burns, but one is also built. We lose and we find. We cry and we laugh. We hate and we love.

This is the most important cycle of Earth. The cycle of hope. Because although millions of humans commit heinous and selfish acts with every rise and set of the sun, millions also fight against the selfishness inside. They fight so hard they wound it almost to death inside their hearts. It will never truly die, but it can be injured enough that it's hardly even noticed.
Please remember this about Earth. It's imperative you don't forget it.
From, Meredith (your human pen pal.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Sometimes I think we lose faith in it being a good day and just throw in the towel.
I’ve had a string of days like that recently. My travel by necessity has meant I’ve been doing lots of walking.
Walking excessively makes me feel like a living puddle. There comes a point where I can barely think and stare blankly into space, moving on autopilot. As I’ve said to my mother in the past, it’s like a Kohl’s sale — It’s the summer holiday sale! Now with twenty percent more FatigueCash!
My recent holiday forced me to question my initial approach. I have a habit of resigning myself to a bad situation instead of looking at it from a different angle. If you start looking for reasons to be grateful, or ways to be a fixer and not maker of problems, your outlook changes almost instantly.
Give yourself some hope, Soldiers. There’s no reason to not change what you can. Change can be external, your situation. More often it’s internal. You become a sort of heart Macguiver — you make something of what you’ve got lying around.
Sometimes what you make, inside yourself or out, can be pretty awesome.
Might as well ring out the towel instead.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

TIPs From TIP: Grown Up

Paraphrasing my TA I mentioned earlier in the week, "Don't be so hard on yourself. You're a shining star."
I've always had a high bar for myself. But this post isn't about that. This post isn't about expectations for yourself being loftier than the ISS. It's not about perfectionism looming like a shadow that takes up the whole bedroom wall, though I struggled with those, too.

This post is about my personal definition of self-esteem, and how I began discovering it was terribly, terribly wrong.

A lot of Soldiers grow up in a fixed world, where they're called "smart," "kind," "amazing," or, my two least favorite words in the English language, "special" and "inspiring." Those words alone deserve posts all their own. I'm even considering a TEDx Talk about them.

But the question is this: When these words wash over you your whole life, what's the result? The result is that esteem is measured on what you always have been, and will be, at least in your mind. You see yourself as stiff as the Tin Man, and it's crushing. In psychology this is a fixed mindset -- believing that your skills are set in stone with no malleable qualities whatsoever.

The result of that fixed thinking, then, is comparison. There's no room for healthy comparison to past you. Growth is at best ignored like your middle school yearbook photo, at worst avoided like the one-sided middle school crush. They're so liable to be an embarrassment. Just don't associate. It's not growth, it's luck, or practice, or happenstance. Heaven forbid people call you a braggart. You're abysmal at art. You're excellent with words. You can't comprehend anything about sports. You're just okay at debate, and it will stay that way.

This was me at TIP. I compared myself relentlessly to everyone with either a sense of arrogance or inferiority. It wasn't just my self-described Chocolate-Chip Girl. Oh, no. Everyone in my path was a measuring stick.

Until, that is, my final speech.

I did it. I finally decided to own up to my accomplishments. Yes, I was a debater, an apologist, an encourager. I did it all. Because I went through some stuff, and I was doggedly determined.
It was like finally settling gold and white or blue and black. Well, unless The Dress is still up for debate. I felt a swell of pride and relief. I could finally stop arguing with myself.
It was that day I took a first step to realizing the true definition of self-esteem. Self-esteem is not trust in your accomplishments. It is trust in your current perseverance, faith, purpose, initiative, growth, strength. It is acknowledgement the current you is better. The current you changed and can do it again.

Tell yourself "good job" for your growth. Otherwise you'd still be in sixth grade. No one wants to be in sixth grade again.

Good thing, then, that we all grew up.

Friday, July 12, 2019

TIPs From TIP: Oatmeal Raisin

We've all had that person that seems to be one step ahead of us in life. Whatever you do, they turn around and do it leagues better. Maybe it's that one coworker, or kid in class, or our sibling. They get the better pay, better grade, better Christmas toy.

I had a classmate like that at TIP. We're both writers at heart, both wear glasses, both have auburn hair. Oh boy, she had changed in a year. Not in look, or personality. But she was an editor for one of the leading student literature mags in the country. And we wrote answers to a prompt one evening that were of the same main idea. But hers was just miles from mine. She had jumped eight buildings in a single bound, it seemed, in terms of her skill. Oh, and she was ALWAYS writing something. I can barely get my muse in the same state that I am, and her's shows up at her beck and call. No big deal.

You could say I felt like she was the chocolate chip to my oatmeal raisin. Basically the same cookie, right? But one is awesome, and the other is a stale copycat.

Here's the deal: I had to realize I'm not a copycat. Think about it. Oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip are just different cookies. Some crazy people probably prefer oatmeal raisin to chocolate chip, though I haven't found one of those people yet.

Over those three weeks, I realized we weren't the same person. I'm far more of an extrovert, a speaker, an encourager. Not that she wasn't those things entirely, but she was also an observer, a storyteller, a poet. I am those things too, but I had put those behind my blog, my relationship, my diary, my apologetics. I had my priorities in a different order, and so she thrived in what she loved and I found twelve different jars.

Once I figured that out, it was really no big deal. There's never a bakery with only one type of cookie. Sometimes they'll sell ones that are sort of similar, but they'll both sell out.
It's okay to be oatmeal raisin. Imagine a world where we ONLY had chocolate chip, or macadamia nut, or sugar cookies.
I hate sugar cookies. I'd be heartbroken.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Tips From TIP: Hospital Letters

One of the hallmarks of my particular nerd camp is the concept of Mandatory Fun. Simply put, it's an hour a day in which we are mandated to do some activity and socialize. Introverts must be forced into this if they are to have friends. The activities vary -- coloring, dodgeball, trivia -- but all have the same purpose.
One of these activities changed me for good. It created in me a commitment I am now determined to keep.
In Chicago there is a charity, Cards for Hospital Kids. Exactly what it says on the tin. We made letters for an evening activity.
You know what? That struck a chord. Having been in the hospital for extended periods to recover from surgery, I can tell you it's beyond boring. I watched Disney Channel, ate, drank, and wallowed. The most exciting thing that occurred was a visit from a service dog.
So I felt strongly about these letters. I worked with vigor, because I knew had I received one six years ago it would probably still be on my wall, a cherished artifact.
At the end of it all, I looked at our colored envelopes in a disparate pile. I almost cried. Because this was a cause that meant something.
I write a letter every week now. I urge Soldiers who feel useless to find a cause they really care about, and make a commitment. Service leads to purpose.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tips From TIP: Floater

Let's face it: Loneliness sucks.
I was sometimes very lonely during camp. Two weeks in I'd gone through a breakup of a four year relationship, my first, and it hit me like a truck. Even before that, in my first week, I was at a new campus. The vast majority of attendees were repeat offenders to Duke, so they already had established friends.
But you know what? Sometimes it pays to be a floater. I got to be on friendly terms with a lot of people, even if they weren't my best friend. Groups happen everywhere, and sometimes breaking from them can open you up a bit.
That breakup still sucked. But I had floated around, so I had acquaintances to lean on. People don't like to see others in pain. The helpful spirit comes out that way.
It was the day before our anniversary. I know. Yikes. The day after was a field day. Literally. Actual field day. I was on blue team. You wouldn't think nerd camp would be the place for this, but I guess I was wrong.
I sat down on the curb, dejected. Plus, the hubbub of the crowd was so not helping.
A girl in a baseball cap with my same auburn locks and wry aura finds a spot next to me.
"Man, our team sucks," I say offhandedly. I'm still wallowing, so my gaze is somewhat averted.
"I'm on red," replies Baseball Cap Girl. "I'm Sydney."
I introduce myself, and suddenly the conversation is ten minutes, half an hour, and then a full two hours long, until field day is over. We both had the same single event (limbo, at which I was not the star.) It worked out in our favor, and at the end of it all I had an awesome partner in crime for the rest of camp. Plus, I got an extra contact in my phone.
Being a floater is fun, but sometimes it's good to not be one forever.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Tips from TIP: Encourage

We all know that one person that's super positive regardless of circumstance, right? Well, I met a person like that at camp. Let's talk about it. Or, I'll write about it. You read.
This is an important one. Maybe my most important to date.

My TA at camp was nothing if not an encourager. "No self deprecation!" she would relentlessly beat into our anxious, scrambling little heads.  She was a true advocate of everyone, like a glittery megaphone was on her at all times. Not only in word, but in deed. She bought us all trinkets to fidget with out of her own pocket, complimented us, escorted us, conversed with us, laughed and sometimes cried with us. All of this she did with the protectiveness of a mother bear and a heart of Fort Knox gold. She ran out of energy sometimes, but she always had the courage to lean on people. She did so much for the class we were more than happy to help her.

Encouragement is more than just idle words on the street. It's encouraging dreams, encouraging fun, encouraging openness. All of us should be an encourager of love.

As my TA said of nearly everyone's good works, "Share this with the world." Fill in "this" with whatever your thing is. Anything you love personally can be used to encourage.
Encourage is to put someone in the mind of courage. That takes guts. Tact. Heart. Love.
When someone is In-Courage, they can do almost anything.
You can empower with your thing anyone, and persuade them to do almost any good in the world.
Yes, even you, soldier.
Share with the world. We need it.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Tips from TIP: Role Models

You know, I think part of the reason Soldiers beat themselves up has a lot to do with example.
As in, we feel as if we are the only one in our predicament, and we have no precedent for success as far as our group is concerned. Most have never seen someone like us do well in life with their own eyes, so we assume we can't do well at all.

At camp, I learned role models for success make a big impact on your approach to life. My professor is sharp like a honed blade. She's one of the youngest staff on campus and began teaching at twenty one years. And as a black female she's a double minority, but she's also one of the most astute, honest, and encouraging people I know. She's authentic and has a rapier wit, and that's what people notice first about her. Not her gender or her skin.

I guarantee most people you regularly interact with do not remember you for your category. You see your category as a far larger part of you than any of your close circle. Those that do remember you for what box you're in don't know you well enough or don't care to know you in the first place.

Your box doesn't matter if you don't want it too. That's what my role model gradually burned into my brain. I encourage everyone in my shoes: get a role model, a true mentor. You have lots to learn, too.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Life Isn’t West Point

Life Isn't West Point

The following was a draft from, hilariously, June 8th (WOAH.)

I accidentally left this beauty collecting digital dust for a month. Can't win em' all! But please, enjoy it while I get Tips from TIP ready. I think this one's a good one.

You know, at some points in life I've noticed adults can be irrevocably boring.
Take the airport, for example. I see adults standing around the baggage claim, tight lipped and straight backed, when just a couple minutes earlier I spied a five or six year old boy hopping on one foot down the moving walkway.
Y'all, what happened in our lives that makes us think we're walking through West Point every hour of every day?
I'm not advocating for total anarchy, and I'm certainly not advocating for the selfishness that children sometimes have. I'm really just advocating to keep the free spirit, while still maturing into selfless and smart adults.
Of course, some of the things kids do get them hurt. And there's a time and a place for the free spirit. But that's the point. There SHOULD be a time and a place for the free spirit in all of us. Especially Soldiers, because a lot of us grow up thinking the only way to win at life is to take it as seriously as we possibly can.
I've talked about breaks, and pick me ups. This falls in the same vein. You need a break, you need recreation, and you need opportunities for play and freedom in adulthood.
Go outside and play tag. Draw with crayons. Hop on one foot done a moving walkway. There's infinite ways to play.
Just remember that life isn't West Point.

Introducing Tips From TIP!

"Where have you BEEN?" you scream indignantly at your device.
Short answer: Around. Everywhere, it seems.
Long Answer: Destin, North Carolina for three weeks, San Antonio, and St. Louis tomorrow. Phew! Exhausting as it sounds, trust me.
Have no fear! I'll be celebrating my return to this hobby I adore with a full week of daily uploads. YAY! See, I wouldn't let you down.
Remember when I said I had been to North Carolina? Well, I went to Duke University, and I took a rhetoric class in a college setting. And boy, did I learn a lot. Book smarts, like about Cicero, but also some personal insight that I'm hyper stoked to share with you guys. I think I've gathered a lot of new material to say the least.
So, this is my introduction to Tips from TiP -- Talent Identification Program. But let's call a spade a spade -- it's camp for nerds. But it was an AWESOME camp for nerds, and an awesome learning experience.
Hold on tight! Big things to come.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

After Success

I think some of us hit a wall in life out of nowhere.
We have faith, we have love, we have everything we could want. And we serve and work and play. We are blessed beyond belief, and then we wonder, well, what now?
Many Soldiers like me win their battles and flourish. They have accomplishments and esteem and purpose. They are, in fewer words, successful. They made it.
The thing about the world is, many people tell you what to do before success. Few tell you what to do after. The peak gets lonely.
I think what I've realized is success isn't something you just reach. It's not a destination. It's a tool.
See, one of the reasons this blog exists is to be a guide. To say to other people like me, "Hey, yes, I've been there. Let me guide you."
When you reach the peak of success, remember others want to be there too. Use your influence, your contacts, your talent, to help other people succeed.
It took me a long time to realize that life isn't like school or work. Industry is competitive, sure, but even with people of the same occupation, success will often look completely different person to person.
Looking out for others' success doesn't jeopardize you. It strengthens you, because everyone's success is different.
Go forth, sherpa. Do your work. Help people up. We all need success, especially Soldiers, who oft feel they're fighting for any scrap of it.
Success is good for everyone. Period.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Changing Change

I am definitely not the same person I was one summer ago. I hated all manner of performance, I had almost no close friends, I was relentlessly taken advantage of and gaslighted, and I had no purpose in life.
And you know what? I won't be the same person next summer either. But that's okay. Normal. Even encouraged.
Change is a natural and innate human fear. I know what it feels like. Schools change, friends change. Looks, boy, do they change.

Even dreams change.
I've always wanted to write, ever since I was a child. With CP (read: terrible fine motor skills) I could barely hold a pencil, but I so badly wanted to write I practically taught myself.
Now, I still want to write, but not what I wanted to write in middle school. Back then I was dead set on YA fiction, fantasy, and anything with a dragon in it. Now? Well, those are still fun, but I also now have different influences. I went from Carolyn Keene to C.S Lewis. Magic Tree House to Hitchhiker's Guide. J.K Rowling and Rick Riordian to...
Okay, those are exceptions.
Now, I want to branch out to biographies and journalism, apologetics and parables. Maybe even historical fiction. I respect different authors and have broader taste.
I wouldn't have even considered any of the above even a year ago. I also would not have considered being a professor, starting a blog, or going into religion or divinity studies. My freshman self would think I'd had a lobotomy.
And yet, here we are.
Soldiers, dreams change. You're allowed to have dreams. Being different doesn't disqualify you from essential parts of the human experience.
And you're allowed to change. All people do. It's not a loss of passion or sudden rut if what you once loved has made way for other opportunities.
Nope. That's life.
That's growing up. That's finding yourself.
No one should be disqualified from that. No one should be afraid of that. It should be celebrated.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Up For Air

If you've ever managed to get to the bottom of a pool, you know you can't stay down there forever. At some point, you have to come up for air.
I think my mind is like my pool some days. I dive down looking for some answer. Usually it's "Why am I so anxious?" or "Why can't I be normal?" or "Why am I so different?"
The thing is, not only are those questions subjective, sometimes with changing answers, but they're not productive. The deeper you dive, the longer it takes to come back up. And I wonder why I sometimes get overwhelmed by pressure until my ears pop.
I know you'd expect for me to say that faith can pull you up, right? I'm a Christian. The answer is always God, Jesus, Bible, or Church, maybe some combination, or all of the above.
Look, I believe those have a divine and repairing quality, but hear me when I say don't underestimate the importance of an earthly, human support system. Not a therapy group in this case, but a group of encouraging friends. I know Christ is a person of peace, the Prince of Peace, but I also know that God said, "It is not good for man to be alone."
Okay, and that woman led Adam away from literal Paradise. Bad example.
"Iron sharpens iron" might be better. Even better, it's completely true.
Find a support system to count on. You need laughter, advice, encouragement, and togetherness. That goes double for believers, triple for Soldiers. You need people going on the same journey and path as you. Suddenly you realize when you have a struggle, you're far from the only one being tempted. You can find those people anywhere — school, work, sports, church, the local Kroger. Just keep an open mind. Not all of your friends will be your twin.
The important thing is to enjoy the company, to build each other up. No one can pretend they're not drowning.
Reach out a hand. Get some air. Be honest with your friends about what you're facing.
Don't walk — or swim — alone.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Lens of Suck

I think there are two types of people: Those who ignore, and those who despair. Both approaches to pain are bad. One is naive and the other is depressed. Today, however, is about the latter.

Because oh boy, am I the latter. I despair in my trials with a raincloud over my head. And I sulk, religiously, because what else is there to do?

A lot of my fellow Soldiers are likewise. We look at our wheelchairs, or our walkers, or our medications, and we shake our fists at the sky. We throw our cards off the table, because what a horrible hand we have. We see the entire world through that lens. A lens of "Why is it always like this?" "Why is this worth doing at all?"

In order words, everything is through a lens of suck. You're twelve again.

Want soda?
Want to see a movie?
Okay, well... Want to go to DISNEY WORLD?
...Mickey is creepy.

Ugh. Everything sucks. Woe is me and my terrible, horrible, inescapable life.

I look back on it after one of those days, and I laugh at myself, because I tend to look a tiny bit overdramatic. Just a little ridiculous. Despite my knowledge of the insanity, however, I could never seem to escape the cycle. That is, until I drove to the airport.

Okay, that's a jump, but stay with me, I promise. Recently, I was visiting relatives, and that necessitated a long drive to IAH. I'm stuck in a gray Honda, which smells of mostly fast food and anxiety, and I stare at the scenery. Not that there's much. Worn down asphalt and the occasional F-150. I inwardly sigh in defeat.
Thrilling. Settle in, Mere, it's gonna be a long day. The despair cycle begins.
We roll to a stop at a red light, and I look out at the road. It looks a little worn and sad. If it were a person, I'd probably give the road a hug.

Then I look a little closer, and it all evaporates. Because, aw, there's a tiny cluster of squat, purple wildflowers near the curb.
...but that's amazing. Hardly anything grows in The Lone Star State, and yet things still pop up on there own accord. Tiny things, and yet still not withered or dried out in the Texas sun. Which, natives will tell you, is like living in a George Foreman.

And, suddenly, I feel a tiny glimmer of hope.
Why don't I treat life like this more often and look for things like this? After all, despair doesn't just feel terrible, it's also very draining. It's often the little things, all collectively, that make life worth it. Our suffering suddenly becomes bearable in the pinhole of light.

Look for the little things. Get your lens checked. Maybe change them out.

And for goodness sake, drink some water. Because it's only going to get hotter from here.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


"I can't do sports with my scissor gait."
"I'd never join debate with my stutter."
"How could I do X with -X physical or mental difference-?"

I note these thoughts cropping up almost every day, both in myself and fellow Soldier brethren. ADHD, walker, speech impediment. Doesn't matter -- any difference can make you exclude yourself from things you might have tried otherwise.

But it's not the activity so much as it is the people, now is it? Different is judged. C'est la vie. The different compare themselves in light of their limits, and those without them feel elevated for it. "Oh, well, I'm faster than the wheelchair kid, at least."

If anyone without a difference happens to read this, I encourage them to show a spirit of accommodation toward those who I consider fighting a battle, oft completely hidden, or if not, surprisingly internalized since birth. The battle that we're in our own bubble. The battle that we're oh-so-special, be gentle, don't overwhelm them, the poor simpletons (Not true. We're just as smart, often smarter.) The battle that we're a low bar for people to hang on to elitize themselves.
No, elitize is not a word. Yet.
Hey, Shakespeare made new words all the time, right?
Point being, we with our differences, however noticeable to the eye, all fight a battle, which is, sadly, usually bottled up out of shame. Hence my personal collective term for the community of different. Soldiers.

Soldiers, try new things. Don't disqualify yourself. I say from experience if something is worthwhile, SOMEONE will accommodate you.

Finally, to those not in the trenches: Be that person who accommodates. We don't live in a bubble. We're human. Insecure. Always.
Tell us we can. It means the world to us because we don't hear it often, even if it's very, very true.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Power of Pick-Me-Ups

This weekend has been... well, a test of my longsuffering, as I like to call it. An introvert by nature, yesterday I was dragged from here to there and back. People and things everywhere. My brain was about to collapse in on itself.
Today? The opposite. Lots of studying. Being holed up in my room like a hermit or a monk. I usually relish in those times of study. However, it's not as fun when that study is forced upon you. Then again, who realistically expects high school to be the prime of their life anyway? The only group of people for which high school should be the prime of life is bullies in coming of age movies.
I think we all bite off more than we can chew at times. Heck, sometimes we have no choice. My mother, bless her, has been filing taxes at our kitchen table for the past three hours. That being said, I've seen a lot of my ADHD tribe, and those with other conditions, try to unrealistically push past fatigue via their own willpower. Me? Oh, boy, I'm not immune either. I like to pretend sometimes it's an old t-shirt I never wear -- shove it in a dresser and willingly forget it exists. 'I'm not tired,' I say empathetically. Even though I can literally feel the dark circles forming under my eyes. Go figure.
Sometimes, you have that one thing on a hard day that is the single thread you hold on to. The one thing keeping you sane and pushing you forward. For me, that thing is a few things. Writing, my dogs, sparkling water, music, a walk to a lake near to my house. For my dad, it's fixing old cars. For my mom, it's watching Friends and Queer Eye on Netflix. For my brother, trick shot videos. To each his own, but the point remains. We all have a pick-me-up.
Especially for my Different-Abled brethren, but for anyone who happens to read this, I encourage you to find a pick-me-up or lean into the ones you have. You may think yours weird, but they certainly can't be as strange as mine. (Name one person you know who finds personal solace in sparkling water.) Trust me. Those pick-me-ups are vital to your well being. We're all human. Humans need rest. In fact, your work will be better for the rest as well.
Sharpen the saw, or it gets dull.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Wait Can Be A Blessing

I have found one of my biggest flaws as a person is my reckless spirit of impatience.
It seems to come out everywhere — airports, checkout number seven, the local dentist. You name a wait, and I guarantee it makes my red hot spirit bang against the walls of my skull.
Maybe it's rooted in my deep-seated desire to get things done. I have a mental checklist every day, items to mentally cross off, and more items to mentally add. Every day. This is a particular problem for the ADHD bracket. I myself am in that bracket, and I can tell you from experience we paradoxically want to get everything finished, yet constantly succumb to procrastination anyhow.
I see a problem in today's society — I'm not the only one with a mental checklist. ADHD and non-ADHD have a checklist. If you're type A, or even type B, you have a mental checklist. You have things to get done. It's part of being a human. Humans work.
So, where am I today? Far from home. I'm in a cozy, window-lit eatery in Colorado. It's like someone took your average British pub and covered it in American decor. And I'm being forced to wait. Wait. Wait. Sitting in my chair with the resting yet angry face you wear when you're concentrating on the conjurings of your own head.
But what I have realized this wait is?
Friends, it is an opportunity. Because I'll admit blogging was not on my checklist today, but it's better than being irked.
Sometimes, it's the things you do in moments of wait that are the most important to your growth or restoration.
And sometimes the things not on your checklist matter more than what's on it.
Combining the two: maybe sometimes in wait or in a lull, it's best to put away the checklist (which sometimes, like me, you're unable to start doing anyway!) and experiment with opportunities.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Life Is Not A Tab

Who am I?
Well, I'm sixteen, I've caught the writing bug, and I have mild Cerebral Palsy and ADHD. I like to speak my mind, and I intend to be a mediator between the physically normal among us and those who have to face disability challenges every day. 
I think a lot in my daily routine, and I hope I can be a voice of insight and inspiration -- maybe I can give language to feelings some aren't even conscious of. 
I hope I inspire you with my writing, today and beyond.

Life Is Not A Tab: A New Spin On Emotional Debt

Debt is something I’ve never had to experience at my age. My family has never been in debt. I have yet to even own a single credit card.
What I can say is that I wholeheartedly know what it feels like to be indebted.
Not indebted fiscally. Emotionally. 
It feels different to everyone. To me, it’s suffocating. It feels like a wave the size of a townhouse crashing down on a tiny canoe. It can feel at times not only overwhelming, however, but also very limiting and threatening. It’s as if my emotional debt has become my master. I am enslaved to my debt.
That may sound hyperbolic. It’s really an attempt to be frank and honest.
I feel the only way to express myself is to do so authentically. That is how I will communicate my message most clearly.
Another honest statement: Everyone has emotional debt, disabled or not.  Maybe they feel they ought to make their parents proud. Maybe they feel they ought to impress their friends.
I see in myself that a debt is a result of an opportunity. Not only do the disabled feel they ought to make up for their shortcomings, but also do something more with them. Something very very big that not only makes up but surpasses.
Me? I feel lucky to be alive. My situation that caused my disability could have also been deadly. I’m sure I’m not the only one. So living here today, sixteen and counting, I feel indebted. It’s as if I must do something extraordinary every day I wake up still breathing, or else, the opportunity of my miraculous life was wasted.
That isn’t meant to be heavy truth. It’s meant to show the absurdity of it all.
Those in debt, and even me, maybe we fail to ask who said a debt existed at all.
It was only recently, in the last few years, I asked myself this. I realized, finally, that life doesn’t put you on a tab. Life isn’t a ritzy country club or a low-lit bar. 
Life gives you a gift. Life is a gift in itself.
That was some time ago I learned that. The problem was, I left the gift unwrapped on a metaphorical counter somewhere gathering dust. I had NO idea what to do with it. I was stuck.
It was only now, this moment when I realized what the real opportunity I had missed was. Perhaps other indebted ones, other disabled that feel they must justify themselves and pay their tab. 
Let me tell you what I am doing right now. I have just come from a warm shower after a long day. I am typing this with a refreshed mood, a purposeful focus. I am lying on my floral pillow, barefoot. Just writing.
You know? I enjoy this, I have thought to myself empathically. 
And in that second -- snap. 
It has all clicked.  
I had missed the opportunity to enjoy.
That is the lesson for today. For disabled and for all. Life is not a tab, especially if you narrowly received it, or almost lost it, physically or in circumstance. 
Life is a gift. And the way one lives life is the thank you note.
Writing a thank you note in life is simple.
Joy. And thanks. This is how one says thank you, every day. You don’t lose anything by not being joyful or thankful all the time. That’s unrealistic. But you add every day. Every day, you have the power to say thank you for your life. You probably do without realizing it. 
Again being honest, this empowers me perhaps more than you. But maybe I can be a messenger and spread this word. 
Life is not a tab. Life is a thank you note. 
Go and start writing!