One Fortunate Cookie

I have three fortunes from fortune cookies taped above my bed at home. They are my dreamcatcher; a part of me truly believes that by keeping them just above my sleeping body, they will ward off  treacherous nightmares and instead fill my brain with serendipity.

The first one says, “The really great man is the man who makes everyone feel great.” I found this one my freshman year. I keep it above my head for two reasons: 1) because I felt that it was very true of my personality; I really feel best when I can help others around me feel happy too, and 2) to remind myself on those off days to treat others with the same unconditional love and respect that I crave.

The second one says, “You are about to embark on a most delightful journey!” I got this fortune the night before I left to study abroad in London during the spring semester of my sophomore year. Crazy right? I’ve never had a fortune necessarily come true (most can’t because they are vague and easily applicable; see above), but this one definitely did. Seeing this tiny piece of paper every morning throws my heart into an impenetrable whirlwind of happiness and nostalgia while simultaneously reminding me of all the delightful journeys yet to come that neither I nor that tiny piece of paper could possibly predict.

The third one says, “Nevermind tomorrow, TODAY is the day!” I got this one during my junior year, right after I moved off campus and into a house with my best friends. I keep this one to remind myself that the present day is one of the best times to be alive—and how lucky I am to see it each morning when I wake up (both the new day and the fortune!). I find this especially helpful when I am feeling so worried or anxious that I let myself forget how to start, instead succumbing to irrationality and putting off all that troubles me and even things that I love. I might not get a tomorrow, so I must remind myself to make the most of today.

A few weeks ago, I found another fortune, this time on the floor of my living room. It reads, “Fear can keep us up all night, but faith makes one fine pillow.” With this year having been the most emotionally trying of my college career, it felt a bit too real to ignore. There were nights when I lay wide awake despite the dark and following days I wanted to sleep away just to escape fear—a particular kind of fear that comes with leaving behind everything you know only to return what you have left behind (read: I’m moving back in with my parents). But, my fortune said it all: the one thing that kept me going was faith. Not a religious faith, not even necessarily a spiritual one—just a faith in myself and in the people (my roommates/best friends/fellow coven witches, boyfriend, family, cat, professors, writing team!) that love and support me.

All that I learned this year, and every other year of my college career, I learned with the help of a fortune cookie.

What I’ve Learned This Year, Through the Words of Tina Belcher

I like to think that no matter how eloquently I put something, Tina Belcher (from Bob’s Burgers) says it better. Therefore, the lessons I’ve learned this year can be summed up in a few carefully chosen Tina Belcher quotes. These lovely gems came from Buzz Feed’s article “22 Life Lessons From Tina Belcher.” While they may be silly, I think humor is one of the most important things to embody when times are tough—or just in general. So, please enjoy the following list of lessons:

  1. “I’m a smart, strong, sensual woman.” As hilarious as this is coming out of Tina Belcher’s mouth, it’s something I’ve learned this past year. I have learned to be intentional about loving myself, including the various identities and characteristics I inhabit by embracing my queerness, practicing body positivity, and allowing myself to indulge in Netflix binges when I needed recharging. I have found that it is incredibly easy to fall into destructive patterns of ignoring my own needs, or letting other people’s opinions about me affect my confidence. But as long as I stay in line with Tina’s sentiment, it always ends up ok.
  2. “Is it possible to be in love with 25 people at once?” Tina may be referring to a team of attractive baseball players, but for me this quote is all about spreading compassion and love. It took me a while to find my place here at JMU, but when I did, I was so warmly welcomed by so many organizations and groups of people (to whom I am forever indebted to). I try to live in such a way that I can be a warm and welcome presence in the lives of others as well. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by incredibly smart and passionate people, such as my fellow TAD friends, the members of Campus Assault Response (CARE), and Madison Equality, and I can only hope to return the favor.
  3. “Dad, if you believe you’re beautiful, you will be. I did.” Positivity and determination are two skills I have worked particularly hard on perfecting this year. This has been both the hardest and most rewarding year of my life. Some days were extremely hard to stay positive during, but it all came back to my willingness to just keep working at everything I had going on. And as cliché as it is, I know I’m better for it.
  4. “Ugh, my heart just pooped its pants.” It’s not surprising that Tina said this, is it? I’m not sure exactly how to apply this quote to my personal life lessons; the possibilities seem endless. I think it ultimately takes me back to the importance of keeping a sense of humor and being flexible when things don’t work out. This year has taught me to be ok with things not going as planned. And as someone who is a little bit of a control freak, this has been huge.

I hope that some of my Tina Belcher lessons have been helpful to you too. If you’re ever feeling low, channel Tina and repeat the following quote in your head: “Time for the charm bomb to explode.” You’re fabulous!

All about Finding Perspective

By Elaina Taylor

While this blog post is supposed to be about the most important thing we’ve learned this year, I’ve found that the growth I’ve experienced cannot be examined, confined, or defined by a single event or lesson.  So I choose to touch on multiple moments and experiences because they all have shaped the person I am now.

In the realm of self-realizations, I have found I decidedly hate change, which happens to be a serious problem, since our lives are forever changing, our spirits and souls forever evolving.

As someone who has always struggled to fit in, I clung to my close friends with a tenacity some did not deserve.  Certain friends often failed to treat me with the same respect and kindness as I did them, and while that hurt, I still struggled on to make the friendships work.  To be terrified of change in this case was to be petrified of letting anyone go, even those who did not deserve my friendship. Through the friends I’ve made during my time thus far in college, I’ve found a wellspring of support for the person I am, and learned my own self-worth. And in that, I realized that I deserved better than those false friends and was finally able to let them go.

I also learned the hard way that first impressions can make or break you, and that a resume and writing samples can only go so far. How blunders in mannerisms or word and clothing choice in an interview can destroy your initial chances of leaving behind the most positive impression of yourself. I left my first interview feeling like I’d missed a step on the stair, doubting if I was treading on solid ground; so shaken was my confidence. In my case, I got very, very lucky. My passion, fearlessness, and dedication to pursue writing for TAD are what landed me the job, and only by the narrowest of margins.

And as cliché as it will sound, I’ve learned to recognize and reflect on how my first-world problems are not the end of the universe, nor are they even the end my own little universe, as I often have to remind myself. I have found the perfect remedy for whenever I feel grumpy or begin to lament my worldly woes: the Humans of New York Facebook page. Photographer Brandon Stanton goes around New York City interviewing his subjects, who give him the most interesting, and often thought-provoking answers. These little snapshots of humanity never fail to put me back in my little college white girl, middle class place with equal doses of laughter and tears alike. It also enables me to see the best of my situation after reading the heartfelt words of people who have survived infinitely more trying experiences than I have.

Though I may bemoan a poor result on a test, I know that my own work ethic will push me to achieve more next time because I myself demand better. So what if it is raining and my shoes are ruined? Maybe that’s Mother Nature’s way of saying I need a pair of rain boots! A summer job opportunity closed up before you could apply? It wasn’t meant to be this time, but there’s always next summer. And if a relationship didn’t work out the way I wished it would have, well then there are clearly more worthwhile fish in the sea! The perspective you gain simply from reading the sorrows, or even joys, of others will more often than not cause you to reanalyze your own problems and priorities. I hope you find your own perspective, your own snapshots of humanity as I did with HONY, and I hope you grow from it as I continually do.

Doing What I Love – Writing Poems

Our topic this month was to write about the most important thing we’ve learned this year in college. I’ve learned many
things, from trivial facts to life-defining truths, and I wanted to share what I do most instead of just telling you about it. So I wrote a poem, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Among the numerous lessons of the year, that is one I take to heart: invest time in doing what you love.

Of ‘Wasting’ Time  Continue reading Doing What I Love – Writing Poems

Learning Curve

Puddle-filled walks, budding blooms, fuzzy yellow ducklings—it’s finally spring.   My version of springtime elicits fond pastel memories, my birthday and the end of another school year. As a silly human who enjoys reflecting upon and tying personal experiences with critical analysis, I can’t deny having considered my growth from last September to this spring.

I don’t entirely recognize the me I see when I look seven months into the past, but I can’t give the exact time coordinates of when I changed. Continue reading Learning Curve

Make All Green with Envy for This Guacamole Recipe

By Elaina Taylor

Hiya folks! It’s time to embrace summer again and all it entails: barbecues, beach trips, hiking excursions, stargazing, vacations, roller coaster outings, poolside potlucks, road trips, and so much more. Break out the reggae music, high-waisted shorts, sunscreen, and some surfside guitar strummin’. But stop! You’re not ready to go just yet. You need the perfect snack to go with your summer lovin’ and I know just what you need: the fan favorite guacamole recipe.

Continue reading Make All Green with Envy for This Guacamole Recipe

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University

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