Monday, October 17, 2016

Real Talk: Things Are Gonna Get Easier

So - real talk, as my friend would say. There are two things everyone should know about me. I love music, and I love adventure. And yes, in my life, they connect. Music has always been a deep-rooted part of my life. Playing the piano and writing songs were one of my favorite pastimes as a child. My sister and I "led" worship services around our family piano, taking turns leading and singing harmony. My mom played "oldies but goodies" for us, and my love for 50s and 60s rock was formed. We danced around in our handmade poodle skirts to "At the Hop" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" until we could no longer stand. My dad typically had Golden Country playing, and I knew the lyrics to "Hey Good Lookin'" by the time I was six years old. To this day, if you get in his truck, you will hear Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, or another legend from Willie's Roadhouse singing about a woman, the bottle, or the blues. And if I am being completely honest, you might hear the same if you get in my car.

I've been through some rocky times in my 20s. Ironically enough, some of my heartache and struggle came from times when I was adventurous and stepped out of my comfort zone. When I find myself dealing with hurt, anger, sadness, etc., a song always makes its way into my life. A friend might recommend one, or I might stumble across a song on the radio that expresses exactly what I am feeling. It might even be a song I've known for years. However it happens, the music and lyrics help me work through what I am facing. 

Tonight the song "Ooh Child" by The Five Stairsteps came to mind as I was thinking about my next steps. I have been contemplating life lately and what led me to where I am now. I mean, really contemplating. Thinking about past circumstances, events, and decisions that date back further than just a few years. Honestly, if someone had told me five years ago that I would not be living in California but in St. Louis, and it would be my fourth city in five years, I'd probably laugh. Or cry. In theory, I love adventure. I crave adventure. I wish I didn't have student/car loans so that I could travel all over the world and live in far off places. The reality, however, is that there is still a part of me that hates change and longs for consistency. It's an inner battle that I am constantly fighting- my desire for spontaneity and all things new versus my Type A personality of what my life should be at 28. Adventure always wins out eventually, and I am glad that it does. Saying yes to it does not make the transition easier though. Things don't always fall into place the way I think they should, and sometimes I have to wait longer than I want for something to happen. Even now, as much as I want this new adventure, I'm jobless in a new city, trying to figure out what happens next. It scares me a little. Still, deep down, I know that things will get easier. And brighter. I just have to hold onto that and believe it. Time to make a playlist for this adventure.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Once Upon a Time in New York City

Sigh. How has it already been one week since I embarked on one of the most magical and exciting trips of my life? I still feel as if it were all a dream. A lovely, lovely dream. I am happy to report that first of all, New York City was everything I hoped it would be times a trillion. Secondly, I can say with all confidence that I do not have any regrets regarding my New York skyline tattoo which I had done without having been to the city. Whew! I honestly am not even sure where to begin when I talk about my weekend. So many wonderful things transpired, and I feel myself start to gush when I share even a little bit of the adventures I had.

New Yorkers loved to ask the tourists these three questions:

- Are you a first timer in the city?
- What has been the most surprising thing about the city/people?
- What has been your favorite moment (so far)?

It was my first time in the city. I wasn't overly surprised by much except that some
New Yorkers were actually very nice and helpful. My favorite moment happened on Thursday night, the first night I was in New York City. I should start by giving a little background to this moment. I have watched Jimmy Fallon since his SNL days. I watched him on Late Night and continued to tune in when he took over the Tonight Show. If you ask me to name my favorite sketches, I can do so without hesitation (Hot Tub Lov-ahs, Disneyland Breakfast, Tight Pants, and any Lip Sync Battle ever done). In early 2015, my roommate and I decided to make vision boards for ourselves to set goals for the upcoming year. I started going through old magazines and came across a small picture of Jimmy Fallon dressed up as a bumblebee with his daughter. I decided that if I was going to put NYC and Tiffany's on my vision board, I might as well add Jimmy too.

Imagine the excitement and surprise I felt nearly 1.5 years later when I found myself walking up the grand staircase and into the Peacock Lounge at NBC Studios. As I sat waiting to go into Studio 6B, I kept telling myself what Jimmy always says to the audience- "You're here! You made it! This is it! Welcome, welcome, welcome!" The evening only got better. Meg Ryan was there. John Mulaney and Nick Kroll were there. The Roots were amazing. Being part of The Tonight Show set the bar for an unforgettable time in what is now one of my favorite cities.

Aside from The Tonight Show (because honestly, how does one top The Tonight Show?), other favorite moments included touring NBC Studios and visiting the SNL studio, buying something from Tiffany's (and therefore having my name added to their registry), sitting on the actual Central Perk couch from Friends, touring Soho and Little Italy, having a waiter in Little Italy "Joey Tribbiani" me ("How you doin'?"), and going to one of the few remaining original speakeasies and drinking a Ruby Slipper from a teacup. But honestly, who am I kidding? The entire trip was my favorite part- from the moment I drove towards Manhattan until my plane took off five days later.

One evening I was in the Empire State Building looking out over the city, and I realized I felt a connection to this place. I jokingly call myself a Restless Wanderer because I tend to grow tired of where I am living and places never feel like home. I will say people, such as family and friends, can make a place feel like home, but I want to feel that I belong to the city where I am living. As I watched the city lights, my heart felt like a missing piece was sliding into place. I belonged there.

What an amazing and overwhelming feeling to know that you have found your place in this world! It was as if the restlessness in me had quieted and in its stead came the knowledge that I could thrive in this city and be myself, and that is all I have ever wanted. Until we meet again, New York, and may it be someday soon.

"One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years." 
- Tom Wolfe

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Day I Turned 28

Lately, the thought of turning 28 has, quite frankly, left me feeling freaked out and in a state of panic. I asked myself why 28 was different than, say, 27. I'm already in my late twenties, creeping towards my thirties. Why the sudden racing heart and difficulty breathing? Shouldn't I be more concerned about what comes after 28 and savor the feeling of being "not quite 30" yet? 

One would think so, but my mind doesn't work that way. I'm more of a Rachel Green when it comes to life plans and timelines. Owning a house, marriage, kids, traveling, etc. Exhibit A:

I was the child who had a notebook filled with wedding ideas (wedding party, colors, theme, songs, etc.), baby names, and house designs. (I blame the game "MASH" for giving me high expectations- Teacher turned stay at home mom living in a mansion married to Leonardo DiCaprio with 6 kids and a Porsche.) I have a vision board, and I am always adding to it. Exhibit B:

The age 28 never seemed like a big deal or crossed my mind before. I grew up assuming my life goals would be reached between the ages of 22 and 25. 28 was so far down the line, and I just knew my plans would take place way before I ever got to that age. With that mindset, the racing heart and panic sessions I've subjected myself to during the past six months make sense. 

I went to sleep last night, expecting to wake up sad and old today. Instead, I woke up to a feeling of peace and acceptance. I have new perspective on life. Yes, nearly all of my friends own homes, are married, and/or have children. I am 28 years old, and I just started a new chapter in my life...again. That's okay though. Stories have to move forward. Chapters start and end. The year of 28 is a new chapter for me. No planning out my life. Take each day as it comes and focus on the now. That is my only plan. Live in the moment because soon enough, I will be 76 years old, reminiscing about my twenties and the good ol' days.

Friday, November 6, 2015

To My Forever Friends

Over the last week, I have been contemplating the friendships I've maintained/made while living in Kirksville the past three years. As an adult, I realize that I don't have to be friends with everyone (something we are taught as a child and that I have some thoughts regarding- another post, another day). Each friendship I've developed or held onto is my choice and those friends have made me a better person since coming home to Kirksville three years ago, broken and not very trusting. I have known some of my friends for ten years, while others have slipped into my life during the last three years. Regardless, each friend knows me and, as I said, made me a better Nikki- the person I was afraid to be. 

I had a hard time grasping the fact that I was actually leaving these people that I had so carefully chosen to keep in my life, and as one friend pointed out to me, I felt like Rachel Green when she had to tell her friends goodbye and excluded Ross. Of course, Rachel and Ross had a different kind of history than my friends and I, but the sentiment is the same. Rachel says this, and it has been looping in my head: Because it is too damn hard, Ross! I cannot even begin to explain to you how much I am going to miss you! When I think about not seeing you everyday, it makes me not want to go! 

She goes on to tell him that she didn't say goodbye because he means more to her, but I couldn't leave Kirksville without telling my friends I loved them and giving one more hug for now. The goodbyes are hard, and I may have seemed cool as a cucumber and kept myself together as I hugged each of you and promised to visit (which I will do). Inside, however, my heart was breaking, and I was thinking, It is too damn hard

I wanted to tell my friends in a way that I know best, my writing, that this move has been one of the hardest decisions of my life. Not a day has gone by that I haven't seen some of you, thought about you, or made plans with you. I may make friends when I move, but it will be different than the friends I found in Kirksville. You have pushed me to be brave again and believed in me, like getting my first (and second and third) tattoo, singing a cappella karaoke when they didn't have the track we wanted and climbing a waterfall and falling backwards into the little pool of water. Even more, you've taught me to believe in myself. I think you all helped "Nikki get her groove back." 😊 

As I drove out of Kirksville this morning, I cried. Not for the small town that was my home for so long but for the friends that I was leaving there. You are amazing, my forever friends, and I love you all to the moon and back. As Anne Shirley once said,  
"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."

I was blessed to find all of you in one place. 

Arreviderci and au revoir (until we meet again),


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently had a two part revelation. I shared the first part here. The second part of the revelation brings a new chapter in my life. For the past several months, I have struggled with wanting to stay in Kirksville. I wanted to take a step outside of my comfort zone and move forward with my life, but I kept finding reasons that made staying easier. I have a good job, I have a good living arrangement where I get along with my roommate, and I have some of the strongest friendships I’ve ever had in my life. My life looked complete. I didn’t feel that way though. Don’t misunderstand; those things are all good, but I knew that my life was meant to be more than just a good job and a house that I liked. That is when I started to reassess what I wanted out of life and what my reasons were for staying in Kirksville.

Aside from being the place where I grew up, Kirksville has given me three things that make it hard to leave:     
1. A safe place to come back to when needed
2. Solid job experience
3. Long-lasting relationships

My job, while fast-paced and one that keeps me on my toes, has been a blessing. Starting part-time and moving around the building until landing on Assistant to the CEO in less than three years was not something I could have achieved on my own. I have learned a lot by working in the different areas of the building: how a business works, the different aspects of patient care, administrative duties, and that I have the perseverance and ability to accomplish what is set before me. Also, in the words of The Wonder Pets, “What’s gonna work? TEAMWORK!” (I love that show.) I am part of a team. A team that celebrates with you, holds you up when you are barely getting by, and one who supports you. I knew that even if I made one of the hardest decisions to move on somewhere else, I would feel the support and love from my work family. Over half of the long-lasting relationships I mentioned are in that building.

That left number one and number three on my list. Three years ago, which actually feels like another lifetime, I came back broken and drained from California. Kirksville was my safe haven to rebuild the relationship that had been bruised and strained between my family and me, as well as the place that I would recoup emotionally, mentally, and spiritually before moving to the next place. I had no idea where I wanted to go, but I did not plan to stay in Kirksville forever. What I didn’t realize then nor did I later want to accept is that in order to move forward, I had to sort through some things in my heart and mind, revisiting memories that I did not want to remember. Instead, I shut out 16 years of my life, so to speak, and sealed off that part of me. In doing that, I wasn’t free of the brokenness I felt, the pain, the frustration and hurt. That only led to the fear that I would fail again, which is how I saw California. A big fat failure. I was afraid to try something new in case it didn’t work out the way I wanted.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that I saw the truth. I did not fail in California. No, my time there did not end the way I would have liked or chosen for myself. That didn't mean I failed though. In reality, I grew up- a lot- and I became my own person for the first time in my life. I thought for myself. I made a decision that was best for me. We aren’t perfect. I know that I’m not. I accept that. I accept that I make mistakes, but leaving California was not one of them. Moving there was not a mistake either. I needed to go there, for a reason that I don’t quite always understand, except that my relationship with my family depended on it. Since coming back to Kirksville, my family and I are closer than ever before. My sister and brother are my best friends. My niece and soon-to-be born niece are my heart. Most importantly, I understand my parents and what they’ve been through in life and have greater respect for them than I did 9 years ago. I was no longer afraid to move because of my fear of failure.

Next came my friendships. I started mentioning that I was thinking about moving, and my friends were sad. I was too. I had worked so hard to cultivate my relationships, and I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing them on a regular basis. I need my friends, and I like to think they need me too. For some reason, the thought of leaving my friends was the worst part. It kept me in Kirksville much longer than I wanted to be in Kirksville. I kept telling myself that I had to stay because my friendships alone were enough. Don’t get me wrong. I have pretty spectacular friends, and even when I make new friends in the future, they won’t replace what I already have. The problem was that I was using my friendships in Kirksville as another excuse not to leave because making new friends can be hard. I wanted to keep the same friends, and I wanted Kirksville to work out, but I was feeling miserable.

One day, a friend of mine gave me some news about her life, and I had my second revelation. All of my friends’ lives were moving forward. They were sincerely happy with their lives, and I was not happy with mine. My life was not moving in the direction I wanted it to go, and as long as I stayed in Kirksville, it would continue to stay put. I saw my friends paddling by me in the river called life, and I was sitting alone in a canoe, going in circles. I had to make another tough decision. What was best for me? Where am I supposed to be? As much as I wanted to stay with my friends, things were changing. I couldn’t put my life on hold any longer.

Of course, leave it to my favorite Disney movie to inspire me. I’ve said it before, but Belle understands my heart when she sings,

“I want much more than this provincial life
music builds
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
I want it more than I can tell”

I’m ready for my next adventure. As I write this, I am driving to Fort Worth, Texas, where my new adventure awaits. While this trip is just to visit, the next time I make the drive, it will be to start fresh and see what happens. I don’t have all of my ducks in a row, but for the first time that doesn’t matter. I’m excited about life again and the possibilities waiting for me.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

To All the People Pleasers Out There

"We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please." - Lisa Terkeurst

I've had a two-part revelation, and it is one that I am still trying to fully grasp and make sense of in my own life. The first part comes down to two words: People Pleaser.

I've been a people pleaser for nearly twenty years. It was how I grew up. I've learned as an adult that it comes from the need to feel accepted while at the same time, proving myself to others. What I tend to be left with are feelings of anxiety that I am not nor will I ever be good enough...for my friends, my job, even my family at times. Once let in, anxiety wraps itself around your mind, snakes down through your heart and settles in the pit of your stomach. I should know. I've lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It has become such a common feeling that I don't know what it is like not to feel anxiety anymore.

I had never labeled myself as a people pleaser. It actually came about in the form of an innocent bulletin board decoration when I was thirteen years old. Each of my classmates and I were compared to an object that fit our personality, according to a few of our classmates who were in charge of putting it together. Someone was a stapler, I remember. I went up to the board and looked for my name. Another student saw it first and exclaimed that it was a perfect description. It must be something awesome!  I thought as I found my name. There it was- Little Debbie snack cake "because she pleases everyone." Someone else read it and was quick to say that it was true because I was such a people pleaser. At the time, I embraced that label and didn't think twice that maybe being a people pleaser wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Years later, in college, I was sorting through old folders and tubs of school papers, artwork, and notebooks from my childhood. Stuck in my junior high art folder was the small slip of paper that had been stapled to the bulletin board all those years ago. When I read it then, my heart sank to my stomach, and I felt disappointed. I had forgotten about that label, but I saw how it had affected me through the years. I crumpled up the paper and threw it in the trash with old math papers and science notes. Unfortunately, we don't always take those moments to heart. We continue to live with whatever labels we let the world give us. At least that is what happened in my case. More years of trying to please others followed until one day, I found myself in a place where it was not enough. The aftermath of that situation left me broken, and when I realized all my years of people pleasing had been in vain, anxiety drew itself around my heart and mind stronger than before.

In the name of being vulnerable, three years later, I still fight being a people pleaser. It isn't that I am
not sincere in my efforts; I work hard and try to be the best at what I do in all areas of my life- employee, friend, sister, and daughter. The problem is that it is not always enough and never will be. I am accepted by those around me, but I don't see it because I can't accept myself for who I am. I don't have to prove anything to the people in my life, but still I try. And it's never good enough. I mess up. I fail at tasks, at being a good sister or daughter. Then I let the anxiety taunt me and wreak havoc inside. It is time to see that being a people pleaser really is a disease. I have to love the people in my life enough to trust them and not compare them to past relationships. I have to take control of the anxiety that has set up residence inside of me and get rid of it. Just as importantly, I have to learn to know and accept who I am, then love and embrace that person.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Our Hearts Are Very, Very Old Friends

Camping Trip with our Moms' family
In Kindergarten, my cousin Amber and I were best friends. We tricked substitute teachers into letting us put our sleeping mats next to each other at nap, I helped her with spelling words, and she rewrote my answers because she had better handwriting. We even shared a boyfriend. (Remember, this was Kindergarten.) We were inseparable. One day, we had one of our first fights (aside from the normal "bickering", as my grandma called it). She came up to me at my desk, and while we were talking, I sat there opening and closing my scissors (the Fiskars real blade scissors), facing them out towards her. What I didn't realize was that I was actually cutting a hole in her shirt. I remember the panic and guilt that consumed me when I realized what had happened. The fact that she was going to not only tell the teacher, but my Aunt Donna and Mom, made me so scared. It was an accident, but I was at fault, so there really was no way to get out of it. We ended up fighting, Amber thinking I did it on purpose and my response being that I didn't but she shouldn't have been standing so close to me. Our other friends couldn't see how I didn't realize what I was doing. It ended in tears on both sides, and we didn't talk for the rest of the day, even when she came to my house after school. 
At my niece's 1st birthday party 

That was my first friendship "breakup", so to speak. I thought we were never going to be friends again. What I didn't know then is that tomorrow was a new day. My aunt fixed the shirt, Mom had me apologize, and Amber and I were friends again. This would be the first of a few "breakups" between us. Those breakups didn't last though. We are now closer than we were as children and I know that I can tell her anything and she will be there for me, and I am there for her.

Walking through life, we come across many types of friendships. Some friendships are formed as children or are made while navigating the teenage years. Others are based on location, location, location. Where you work at the time, the town you live in, or the college you attend. Even relatives can easily blend between family member and friend. I've come to find that the phrase "Best Friends Forever", used so openly and freely, is not always the case. People move on or away, lives drift in different directions, and communication becomes sparse if anything at all. There's also the breakups when our friendships don't survive but instead die.

Sometimes, however, we are fortuitous enough to find that friend who connects with your soul, and it doesn't matter if you live in the same town or see each other on a regular basis. These are kindred spirits, the companions that will walk life out with you, near or far. I am privileged to have found that in my friend, Serenity. I can pinpoint in my mind when our lives connected and not just over a love for Anne Shirley or the television show Friends. She is one of few in my life that I can truly say has proven to be a lasting friendship, a true soul connection. Our conversation didn't stop when I moved 2000 miles across the country or when she was going through treatment for cancer. Serenity once told me, "Our conversation is what happens when two friends are friends no matter what, unconditionally, because they love each other." That is a kindred soul.
Oscar Noms: Double Movie Date

We are lucky to be in the same town now, meeting weekly for lunches and adding in other fun adventures when possible. I know that when the time comes, and we aren't in the same town again, that won't matter. Our friendship isn't kept alive by eating lunch together or going to the movies. Don't get me wrong. I love those highlights and will miss them greatly, but I know we won't have a "breakup" or drift apart because we aren't in the same town anymore. As Hafiz wrote, "Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends." 

Happy birthday to you, Serenity. Thank you for being my soul connection and the best friend a girl could ask for.