I Used To See Birthdays As Burdens

Yesterday was my birthday. I swear this is not a blog post with the not-so-hidden intent of soliciting more birthday wishes. I almost didn’t write this because I’m lazy, but thanks to the power of chocolate covered espresso beans and Holy Spirit nudges, I am typing.

On birthdays, I’ve noticed people tend to say they’re “blessed with another year” or “grateful to be this old.” They choose a peppy phrase to communicate their appreciation of still being on this earth.

It’s never made sense to me.

While I love the texts and Facebook posts, the cake and cocktails (as of this year), that’s all June 20 usually is to me. After the celebrations have been stretched out for as long as society deems acceptable, I drag my feet into the next year. This life is not easy, and sure, there are good parts, but wouldn’t you rather be in Heaven?

Yes, depression + anxiety have clouded my understanding of being grateful for life, but there’s another issue underneath — a lack of understanding of my purpose.

Disclaimer: I’m not about to turn into Joy from Inside Out – that’s just not me. (I’m a safety pin, remember?) But I don’t think trudging through each birthday as if it’s a burden is the way I’m supposed to live either.

I won’t claim to fully grasp it, but over the past few years, God has been slowly explaining my purpose to me. And what better time to verbalize it than around my *own* birthday?

I believe I’m on this earth to point people to the Savior of the world.

My job is to be that dancing, sign-waving person on the side of the street with the big arrow and goofy moves pointing onlookers to an offer I think they should see… except maybe (hopefully) in a slightly less obnoxious way.

I also believe that as part of my sanctification process (aka God’s transformative work inside of me to prepare me for the other side of Glory), He’s changing my heart to love what He loves.

He loves it when others are pointed to Him, and I am being molded to love pointing others to Him.

I want my greatest joy to come from doing exactly what God created me to do.

Just like the dancing sign guy can’t entice customers by sitting in a corporate office tower, I can only be an arrow if I’m standing on this earth. I can’t do my job from Heaven.

If A = B, and B = C, then A… you get the point.

Another year on this earth means another year to do exactly what I was created to do. And if doing what I was created to do gives me joy, then bring on the birthday candles.

Reaching 21 or 36 or 59 means having a measurable blessing, a concrete representation of God’s faithfulness. It’s my Ebenezer – my stone of help. Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by your help I’ve come!

I’ve been given another year here to be an arrow. That’s a blessing, not a burden.

Lord, continue to change me into a person who sees years on your earth as greater and greater blessings with every birthday you give. Turn me into an effective and inviting arrow until the day when the rest of my birthday parties will be held in Your kingdom.

I’m a Safety Pin and Proud of It

This past semester, I took a class in entrepreneurial journalism where we learned about the startup journey and even created & pitched our own business plans. At the end of the course, we wrote a reflections essay. I knew from the moment it was assigned exactly what I would write about: safety pins.

This is what came out. I hope it provides insight into the less publicized side of entrepreneurship but more importantly (& more realistically) a few laughs for your day. Maybe you’ll even align with one of the characters and find your place in the startup script. (If you’re a safety pin like me, welcome, friend. Let’s try not to stick each other.)

My mom is a cynical pessimist, a self-described safety pin popping the balloons of life.

My dad is a creative optimist with an unending supply of balloon art ideas. Growing up, the phrase “I have an idea for a new business” was heard in every room of the house. I saw the balloon take shape and then pop courtesy of reality’s sharp touch. Somehow, my dad never let that keep him from blowing up more balloons. While the prick of a safety pin may be loud, I’ve seen it protect my family and drive ideas into more realistic realms.

Naturally, I’m a safety pin.

I can blow up a balloon or two, but I run out of breath relatively quickly (thanks, asthma). While the role of head entrepreneur is one I have no desire to play, the sidekick role was made for me. This semester has shown me how a startup company needs both Big Idea Bob and Reality Check Rita, and it’s proven to me how I can fit into the entrepreneurial script.

Bob Pinckney (director of UGA’s entrepreneurship program) taught us that entrepreneurship equals vision plus leadership. I have no problem constructing a clear vision, but it’s always questioned, analyzed and deconstructed shortly after birth. Then, it morphs into a new, powerful vision of how the idea will crumble. I’m pretty sure that’s not the type of vision to which Pinckney was referring.

While I feel right at home in positions of leadership, the equation suggests that leadership alone is not enough. How can I lead a team to a place I believe will be extinct by the time we get there? The answer is simple: I can’t.

Other adjectives for an entrepreneur include confident, resilient, adaptable, skillful and optimistic. If the list stopped after word four, I would be an entrepreneur. That final word is what separates my dad from my mom and some of my classmates from me.

While society has deemed the optimistic personality the “right” one, there is, however, a place for pessimism.

Our breed is needed, especially in entrepreneurship.

At the Entrepreneurial Journalism Symposium, Dan Maccarone and Nsenga Burton emphasized entrepreneurship as a collaborative effort. Maccarone said he has “gut check people” on his team, and I’d bet an angel investment that they have at least a dash of pessimism in their personalities.

There’s no denying that Big Idea Bob needs to be an optimist to successfully pivot a thousand times before reaching success.

Since Reality Check Rita isn’t leading the charge, however, her pessimism can be an important asset to Bob’s team. She can provide the necessary evaluation of weaknesses and threats in a SWOT analysis (as long as another team member assists with the strengths and opportunities). When we performed our own SWOT analyses, I found myself following in Rita’s footsteps as I naturally created a chart heavy on the danger side.

In almost every class and guest lecture, the word “risk” was mentioned. The true entrepreneurial spirit includes a willingness to take risks or else the business will never leave the ground.

I’ve taken far too many personality tests to ignore the fact that I’m not a risk-taker. My idea of a risk is going to a restaurant that received a B on its health score.

Maybe calculated, small risks are acceptable, but significant ones give me more anxiety than I already have.

In Marc Gorlin’s keynote address, he told Grady grads, “Don’t be afraid to write obituaries.” It’s easy to assume that non-entrepreneurs are afraid of failure, but I disagree. I’m not afraid to write obituaries. In fact, I could write them all day. That’s the problem.

I am too quick to call time of death.

I see the holes in the plan and how they will overcome the unifying material that barely connects them. In foodie terms, I see Swiss cheese where others see cheddar.

Gorlin’s advice also included, “Ask questions.” I can ask the tough questions because I don’t have the rose-colored view, making me invaluable to a serial entrepreneur. My perspective can shed light on uncharted territory and subsequently lead to a better, more refined product.

While I enjoyed pitching my business plan, I viewed it as a performance. I had to pull on my years of acting training to transform into a person who actually believed this company was a good idea. After my dad read my business plan, he asked if I wanted to follow through with it.

I quickly responded, “It would never work.”

He, of course, tried to convince me otherwise, but I held my skeptical ground. Based on that interaction alone, I know I would be miserable leading an entrepreneurial charge.

Thanks to my dad (and the fact that my sister is practically his clone), I am well-versed in working with that type of personality.

Thanks to my mom, I know how to effectively use my little safety pin spear to push those people closer to a profitable business.

I have the utmost respect for people like my dad who can create balloon after balloon without passing out, but I know that the fibers of my being just weren’t designed with that task in mind.

So, put me on a team with balloon artists and fellow safety pins, and I’ll thrive. Just don’t let me tackle a new business venture alone – I’ll prick myself.

I lost, I won and I’m learning how to fight.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I can’t say it’s because I “had a lot on my mind” or I’m “overtired” or (the biggest lie of all) “I don’t know.” Because I do know. I know exactly why I couldn’t sleep.

I was fixated. I couldn’t stop thinking about my actions (or the lack thereof) and what I could’ve done differently throughout the day.

I could’ve struck up a casual conversation.

I could’ve answered the question correctly.

I could’ve said something smarter.

I could’ve made eye contact.

I could’ve kept my mouth shut.

I could’ve been friendlier.

These “could’ves” turned into “what ifs” and birthed a world of fantasies. I couldn’t stop dreaming up what would’ve happened if only I’d made one small step in a different direction.

What if I didn’t freeze around people I don’t know?

What if I carefully constructed jokes to make more people laugh & think I’m funny?

What if I spoke up?

I kept jumping from elaborate fantasies back to the reality of my deadpanned eyes staring unfocused at my covers.

It was 12:36 a.m. It’d been 2 hours since I’d switched from the outer escape of Netflix to the inner escape of “what if.” From what aspect of my charmed life am I escaping, you ask? Depression and anxiety. They will always be swords pointed at me. That’s why I take Zoloft every morning. Maybe one day I’ll be able to wean myself off, but for right now, it’s a necessity. I need the chemical assistance.

Being on medication doesn’t mean the swords stop pointing at you, but it does help you to see them as swords instead of security blankets. And that’s how you fight the battles at 12:36 a.m. Last night I lost, but this morning I won.

I’m sitting in what I call my “morning nook.” It consists of a clay-colored chair that is comfier than a sea of pillows and a blanket that is softer than puppy fur. A coffee cup, breakfast spread, morning devotional, bible and journal are regular attendees. I don’t always spend time in my morning nook because I know it’s a one-way ticket into my thoughts – a terrifying thought in and of itself. I don’t want to deal with the reasons I couldn’t sleep last night. I don’t want to write them out in my journal because then they’ll seem silly & I’ll seem silly & the shame will multiply faster than rabbits.

But this morning, thanks to this little thing called the Holy Spirit, I spent time in my morning nook. Actually, I’m still here. I’m writing this from the aforementioned sea of pillows and puppy fur.

That’s why I won this morning.

I wrote out every thought I could remember from last night: the ones that scare me to even entertain and the ones that make me want to stop writing them down. By the grace of God, I filled 6 pages. Those pages are a direct “screw you” to the devil.

I don’t know what you think about the devil or if you’ve even given him a thought at all in your lifetime. I believe that there is this thing called satan (who I refuse to capitalize because he doesn’t have the power he claims to have). He knows I struggle with mental health so he likes to make my thoughts spin out of control. Isn’t that sweet?

And then, to make matters worse, he tries to convince me that unraveling them is a bad idea because it will only lead to shame. Like I said, such a sweet guy.

He’s wrong. Unraveling the thoughts is exactly what I need to do to fight the depression. I’ve been playing piano for 15 years and my fingers still can’t write out my thoughts as fast as my brain can create them. So, writing slows the process. It picks the exhausted hamster up off the wheel and says, “Take it easy, little guy.”

But unraveling is hard. There’s a reason no one likes to untangle a thin-chained necklace. When there seem to be more knots than not, it’s easy to give up and buy a new one. But, chances are, no matter how hard you try, it’s going to get tangled eventually, too.

You don’t have to go out and find something new every time you feel tangled. You’ll be spent (bank account + emotional energy) if you do that.

This morning I won because I reminded myself that I don’t have to keep burrowing. I’ve been doing that for so long that in my messed up brain, it makes more sense to keep doing it than to change now. I can say all I want that it’s “too late in the game,” but that actually doesn’t make sense. If I claim to be a logical person, then I need to apply logic here, too.

If I believe that I don’t know how long my life will be, how can I claim that too much of my life has gone by for me to change now? That’s not logical.

Let’s say I only have 24 hours left. If that’s true, then it’s clearly pointless to change now.

Wrong again. Who knows who will be a witness? If I believe that people can impact people in a matter of seconds, how can I claim that that couldn’t happen in those hours? If one minute out of my whole life were used to impact someone else, then that would be worth it. And if I believe that I won’t know when that minute will be, how can I claim that it’s too late for me to get ready for it?

If your head is spinning & your go-to logic just crumbled: (1) you’re welcome (2) the next sentence will make sense.

It’s easy to say that your own life isn’t worth it, but it’s a lot harder to say the same about someone else’s life.

Try it: There’s no point in my putting effort into today because making someone laugh that needs a few seconds of relief isn’t worth it.

I don’t believe that sentence I just wrote. Not one bit. So, the “it’s not worth it” myth is officially debunked. It has zero legs to stand on when depression calls its name.

I have to change the way I use “what if.”

What if there’s a minute today where the way I act impacts someone?

What if someone else will benefit from me getting out of bed today?

What if she needs to be asked how her day is going?

What if he needs to hear a joke?

This morning I won because I turned “what if” against the devil. I’m using his weapon on him for a change. I’m learning how to fight.

Why I Stopped Believing God Has Someone for Me

A wedding isn’t everything… but neither is marriage.

Girl likes guy.

Guy doesn’t like girl.

Guy likes girl.

Girl doesn’t like guy.

No, that’s not the plot line of a new rom-com. That’s the story of my life. So far in my time on this earth, I haven’t had a boyfriend.

Yes, I’m okay with that.

No, I’m not lying.

Of course, I’m only human so I do throw the occasional pity party with ripped up hearts and pounds of chocolate. On those days when I feel the need to complain about my lack of a significant other, I almost always get the same response.

“God has someone for you. Just wait – you’ll see.”
“Your future husband is out there – you just haven’t met him yet.”
“God handpicked the perfect guy for you ages ago, but it’s just not the right time.”

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those phrases. In fact, I think they could be true for me and have been true for other people. God’s timing is so different from ours that our sheep-like brains can’t even comprehend it. [Two words: total depravity.]

I also believe that God picks out significant others for His children long before the creation of a Pinterest wedding board. He writes all love stories before the books are even released.

I know those responses are meant to encourage, and they often do.

I just don’t like them.

When I’m feeling down in the dumps about the latest batch of unrequited feelings, I want to hear that my knight in shining armor is on his way. But is that what I need to hear?

When I hear that God has someone for me, my laser focus stays locked on the “someone” part of the equation. While it may help my heart to stop pining for the face attached to my current crush, it doesn’t make me stop pining for the love of another human being. I’m still holding onto the thought of prince charming – he doesn’t need a name or face to be an idol.

“One day you’ll meet ‘the one’ and have the most incredible love story.”

That doesn’t wake me up from my dream of a movie screen-worthy love. It actually makes me want it more. You know what’s not dominating my daydreams? The mission God has planned for my time on this earth.

If that mission includes a tall, blue-eyed, instrument-playing, dog-loving man who thinks I’m drop-dead gorgeous & laughs at every one of my puns, then sign me up. But all that loveliness should be the icing on the cake – not the cake itself. God can make a killer cake without adding my perfect man as an ingredient.

As Christian women, we are fed the idea that our lives should and will include a Godly man who will lead us spiritually and run the race next to us. We’ll get matching tattoos of our life verses, turn Hillsong concerts into date nights, and lead discipleship groups. One day, he’ll grow a beard to match the ones at our trendy church, and we’ll be seen as a Jesus-loving & Kingdom-focused power couple.

But what if that doesn’t happen?

Okay, I know I could survive without the tattoos, concerts, and beard – those are just details. The Godly man, however, is the staple. It’s a basic need… it’s a given!

Wrong.

I could survive without the man. It’s not a staple, it’s not a basic need, and it’s not a given. My life will not be lacking without it. It won’t be lonely, boring or empty. It won’t be less than anyone else’s. Man or no man, my life will be full simply because of Jesus.

So, that’s why my preferred response to my love life drama [or lack thereof] takes the form of a question.

“Is that why you’re here?”

It’s easy for me to say that getting married or falling in love isn’t my goal in life, but is that the truth? Maybe it’s not the only goal, but is it one of the goals? When I say I don’t care if I get married or not, am I letting my pride takeover so I can brag about how much I depend on and trust God?

The answer to that question is almost always a big, fat yes.

The truth is, I need that heart check. I need to look at my thoughts and see if I’m letting myself believe that a relationship [or any other idol] is the reason why I’m here. I need to tune my heart to sing only of His grace – that’s what matters.

“I can’t wait until you meet the man of your dreams and live a real-life fairytale.”

Option 1: I feed myself the idea that God has someone for me each time a relationship prospect falls apart, and I keep searching for the next object of my affection [and songwriting].

After a [very] short while, I get impatient. The words “why” and “when” start infiltrating my prayers, and the harmless bits of annoyance morph into a deep-seated bitterness. If the fruits of the spirit were hate, sadness, conflict, impatience, hostility, evil, disloyalty, roughness, and rashness, then I’d be the best Christian out there.

But I’m pretty sure that’s not the example Jesus set for us.

Option 2: I ask myself for the 937th time… is that why you’re here?

God may or may not have someone for me. Maybe Mr. Dreamboat is just around the corner or maybe he’s never coming. Either way, I don’t want it to matter to me. An earthly marriage is never promised. The only sure marriage is the one between Christ and His bride – us.

When He returns, the bridegroom [Christ] and the bride [the church] will be united in a ceremony that will put all other ceremonies to shame. That’s not an “if” or “maybe” or “hopefully” thing – it’s a “when” thing. It will happen.

A dress made of His righteousness is a dress I know I’ll wear.
A wedding march of trumpet sounds is a wedding march I know I’ll hear.
An aisle paved with gold and lined with pearls is an aisle I know I’ll walk down.

No matter what happens on this earth, I will be a bride one day.

How To Manage Your Hanger (Anger + Hunger)

This post goes out to all my fellow college kids. If you’re not one of us, you’ll still like this post and should 100% keep reading. It will probably be helpful to you, too. BUT. I’m specifically dedicating these words to my 18-25 year-old sleep deprived night owls residing in over-priced college apartments.

School is almost back in session.

Oh joy. Some of you may have already decorated your room and gotten cozy while others are still in the double-digit countdown. Regardless, you need to read this post.

Food is important, okay? I’m not talking about hot pockets and ramen and macaroni & cheese. I’m talking about the stuff that’s actually good for you and pays off when you pull that all-nighter. What you put in your body MATTERS. It matters A LOT.

I know, I know… it’s just tooooooooo tempting when you pass by that donut in the dining hall. Or, maybe it’s the ice cream machine that’s always calling your name. Plus, who has time to actually cook?! Fast is essential, and no one really has the brain cells to make a healthy decision let alone follow through with it.

Friends: there ‘s a way to combat this stress-eating sugar-loving instant gratification culture we live in.

I call it ‘Hanger Management.’

I get hangry (angry + hungry = hangry). But it’s about time we deal with our hanger. No more stuffing it down with some French fries and a piece of cake.

I’ve created a template for us. Each category is a meal (breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert) with sub-categories depending on how much time you have. Some can be make-ahead or microwavable while others can be for the days when you have a few extra minutes and actually feel like  putting all those hours spent on Pinterest to use. At the end, you’ll find “Shopping Cart Staples.” These are the necessities – the coffee, milk, bread, and protein bars of the world.

The concept: If you have a list planned out ahead of time with a range of food options, chances are you’ll pick something on there instead of grabbing a McDonald’s not-so-happy meal.

Download this PDF, get on Pinterest, and take a few minutes to write down meal ideas. I’ve also added the one I created for myself (it even has a few links to recipes). Feel free to copy & paste & bookmark & pin to your little heart’s desire.

Let’s end world hanger.

Hanger Management – TEMPLATE

Hanger Management – Lex

 

The Day I Found Clutter That Didn’t Need to Be Organized

I’ve been on an organizing kick lately. Actually, that’s not true, I’ve been on an organizing kick since I was born. Believe it or not, going through a bookcase or drawer is exhilarating to me.

I, Lexi Kelson, am addicted to organizing.

Yesterday, I tasked myself with going through a few shelves of one of my closets. There were things in there that I hadn’t thought about (let alone picked up) in years. Dust mite by dust mite, I wrangled the billions of pieces out of their boxes and bags and went through every bit.

I found so many things in those piles. Keychains, rocks, coins, bracelets. Toys that are way too amusing no matter what your age. Postcards from places I never visited. Others from places I did visit. Ribbons from my days of swim team glory. Old T-shirts that are so attached to their musty smell that no amount of detergent or perfume could break their bond.

I found a lot of things… a lot of stuff.

The Monica Geller/clean freak in me screamed to throw it all in the trash just to feel a sense of progress & productivity. The whole “fresh start” concept was pretty tempting. But then again, with every token I picked up, I picked up a memory. I touched a place in my brain/heart/soul that I’d forgotten about until that moment. That feeling? It 100% overrides the need to “clean up.”

When I was younger, I acquired this sort of box. I felt pretty legit since my fancy new box had a lock and a nifty & comfortable handle. I decked it out with glittery but tasteful stickers to add a bit of personalization. I called it my treasure box. Events (special or ordinary) would pass, and I would find myself placing tiny trinkets in my box.

My brain stored the memory, & my box stored the trigger.

Finding it during my organization session was truly like discovering a hidden treasure. Turns out I gave it a fitting name.

I stared at it for a minute or two. Over the years, I’d changed, but my box hadn’t. It still looked the same. How comforting to see something you’ve held so dear for so long simply stay as it has always been. It’s like smelling your home’s distinct scent or wrapping yourself in a burrito made of the softest comforter.

Even though every bone in my body & pathway in my brain is programmed to organize, I didn’t want to organize my box. I went through each token I’d carefully stored away, but I always put it right back in its unofficial but very official place before picking up the next item.

I didn’t want to jostle the memories.

I was MORE than okay leaving that box unorganized. To me, it didn’t need to be organized (NOT a phrase I thought would ever come from yours truly). Some things are meant to be left the way they are. Rearranging isn’t always necessary. Sometimes the clutter is utterly perfect.

I like to call it “clutterly perfect.” (Mashing up random words is my favorite pastime… don’t judge.)

We can’t always organize memories because they don’t always fit in the boxes we make for them. We force them inside, and they just sit there awkwardly & uncomfortably like a middle schooler placed at a new lunch table. They just don’t fit in.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that memories have minds of their own. Sometimes they alter & readjust themselves leaving us more than a bit confused – at least that’s what happens in my brain. They like to be free. Free to pop up whenever & wherever. At the sight of a color or animal. After catching a whiff of a candle. At the taste of a sandwich.

At the sight of a box.

Memories like to be left unorganized. In fact, even if you do organize them, chances are they won’t stay where they’re supposed to stay. Free spirits will be free spirits. Trying to lock them down is pointless – you’ll be the one inside the cage without the key.

I like my treasure box just the way it is. Why would I try to change a treasure?

It’s already beautiful.

 

Will Crawl for Coffee

cof·fee crawl

ˈkôfē,ˈkäfē/ krôl/

noun

  1. Similar to a pub crawl but consisting of coffee instead of alcohol
  2. Going to 7 coffee shops in 5 days and trying drinks one wouldn’t normally order
  3. Sitting in as many comfy coffeehouse chairs as possible
  4. The way Lexi Kelson spent #SpringBreak2015

That’s right. While some people flew to see family members and others challenged themselves to consume as much alcohol as possible on a beach with a thousand other like-minded souls, I went on a coffee crawl. I took the weekend before to pick my spots, buy a couple new books (which I’ll fill you in on below), and plan my routes.

It was time to crawl.

Day 1

Coffee Bianco

Newly opened, coffee shop #1 is located in Roswell off Holcomb Bridge. Sticking to the promise I’d made myself to ask for recommendations at each spot, the first drink of my week was appropriately titled the Bianco Latte. With the first sip, my taste buds and lips were dominated by cinnamon, greeted by caramel, and left with a subtle punch of orange.

If this drink had a Facebook fan page, I’d definitely like it.

Right as I arrived, someone walked out leaving me with what one of the baristas claims is THE MOST COMFY CHAIR in the place. I was definitely in agreement. In other news, I didn’t try their food, but they did have a pretty good selection if you’re into that kind of thing (who isn’t).

Day 2

Sip the Experience

I actually don’t mind driving, so the trek to the Lindbergh Marta station on my second day wasn’t bad at all. There was a lovely Asian flare which led me to my Thai tea latte. I LOVE Thai tea, but this was extraordinarily rich. And sweet. (I prefer black coffee so this was a stretch for me.)

At this spot, there were plenty of tables suitable for business meetings in addition to some comfy resting places for people like yours truly.

***Big plus: they sell King of Pops. (!!!)

Day 3

Urban Grind

Located in a buzzing area of Westside, the limited parking at this spot freaked me out (yes, I have parking anxiety). Spoiler alert: I survived. As soon as I opened the door, I was sold. It was eclectic, unique, and artistic. Good vibes. Apparently, they have spoken word nights which automatically tacked on major brownie points in my book.

After explaining my aversion to super sweet drinks to the baristas, we settled on a less sweet version of their black forest latte. Definitely not something I’ve ever had before, but it was pretty good! I even snagged one of their tropical trail mix cups to accompany my drink.

Day 3 (part two)

Chattahoochee Coffee Company: Westside

You know the original Land of a Thousand Hills that overlooks the Chattahoochee River? This is the new Westside location. As opposed to the artsy/chill scene at day 3’s first stop, this place had a more professional and studious feel. Different vibes but still good vibes.

I went with the barista’s recommendation of a light & almost tea-like coffee called something that I honestly don’t remember and couldn’t pronounce. Hands down the best coffee of the week. Although there were several comfy chairs placed throughout, all of them were taken so I settled for a spot at one of their spacious conference tables.

I did notice that there were plenty of nooks and crannies to feel safe & cozy & get lost in your own thoughts while still maintaining a healthy bit of access to the real world. The coffeehouse world is a nice middle ground to stand upon. [Lost in the clouds/planted on the ground/filled with caffeine.]

Day 4

45 South Café

Turns out coffee shop number five was a familiar face. As you might’ve guessed, I asked for a caffeinated recommendation. Before I knew it, a tasty honey/vanilla/cinnamon latte was in front of me. (Pretty similar to the latte at Coffee Bianco that kicked off the coffee crawl.)

Down side of this spot? No comfy chairs. But what it lacks in plush seating, it definitely makes up for in location – historic downtown Norcross. Such charm there.

Day 5

The Cupbearer

I’d never been over to the Vickery Village area of Cumming, but day five took me there. Although this place seems tiny when you first walk in, just take a left at the counter and a colorful/spacious room will appear. I picked up a slight mountain lodgey feel (certainly not a bad thing), and the size of their tables lends itself to spreading out numerous books making this spot perfect for studying.

I’d heard of their famous peanut butter latte so I decided to give it a go. Honestly, not my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, peanut butter & I are in a loving & committed relationship, but in my opinion, cups of coffee don’t need to get involved.

I must warn you, though… there’s a middle school right down the street from coffee shop #6. Do everything in your power to head out before they’re released from school or else you might as well have gone to a Starbucks in Johns Creek.

Day 5 (part two)

Espresso’s Coffee

Situated in a small strip off Atlanta Highway, the final coffeehouse of my week had a spacious inside with several available comfy chairs. (They must’ve known I was coming.) Plus, it wasn’t nearly as busy as my previous stop, thank goodness.

This place has a record player. Hello. Do you even KNOW how many points they get just for that?! Deciding to be adventurous, I created my own latte with peach & gingerbread flavor pumps. Even though the baristas doubted my (apparently strange) choices, I was deeply satisfied with the result.

And with that, the coffee crawl came to an end.

I tasted 7 extraordinarily different cups of coffee out of 7 extraordinarily different mugs in 7 extraordinarily different settings. I poured two new books into my brain. I read, underlined, reread, thought, wrote, and read some more. I worked my brain just for the sake of working it which I don’t do much these days. Instead, I’ve found myself much more likely to plop down on my bed to rewatch an episode of Friends or Gilmore Girls for the 14th time. I wanted to change that.

My coffee crawl changed that. It taught me how to turn my brain back on.

It also taught me that I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter lattes and that peach is actually good in coffee. It taught me about new coffee shops that I can always go to when I need to get away from the Starbucks frenzy. It taught me how to find fragments of a caffeinated community through each one of those doors. With every chair (comfy or wooden) I sat in, with every mug I sipped from, and with every barista I chatted with, I added another address to my home.

I drank a lot of coffee. But I also drank creativity, inspiration, knowledge, and Truth. The best thing that this week taught me was how to truly walk utilizing every single one of those.

I learned how to walk again. Really walk. But first, I had to learn how to crawl.

Go back to the beginning. Go back and learn how to crawl. It’s the first step to taking a first step.

***BEFORE YOU LEAVE! I have to tell you about the books I consumed!!

Proust Was A Neuroscientist (by Jonah Lehrer)

Even after the first chapter, I was hooked. Taking 8 famous artists (chefs, musicians, writers), this book talks about the truths each person discovered about the brain that have since been proven by science. This book is my soul mate. Our relationship began with online dating sponsored by Amazon, and we’ve already grabbed coffee (several times) together.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (by Henry Nouwen)

This is the first book I’ve taken notes on in a long time. There’s just so much good truth in those pages. Plus, I love how it’s intertwined with art- it makes it easier to digest & grab ahold of. Even though I’ve heard the story of the prodigal son a million and one times, Nouwen’s presentation of it makes it feel fresh and new.

From the Moment I Met You

Who are you?

Which bubbles do you color in on a test? What were the results of your latest BuzzFeed quiz? Were you Elsa, Anna, or Olaf? Is Chandler, Joey, or Ross your soul mate? We love those quizzes. I love those quizzes. We take them to learn more about ourselves. I’m Elsa, Monica, Rory, Alice, and Luna… so far.

Naturally, we are self-focused people. For the sake of introspection, it’s okay. Actually, it’s good. Get to know yourself. Since I can’t get to know you right now, let me help you get to know me.

Hi, I’m Alexis.

If you were to meet me for the first time, I think I can guess a few words that might pop into your head. Shy, quiet, and nice may come to mind. If you continue talking to me, I commend you because I’m not the most fantastic conversationalist. Give me a pen and I’ll quickly fill up a page, but force me to open my mouth and I’m stuck.

While I may come across even-tempered and relatively calm, I can guarantee you that a million and one thoughts are dashing through my mind. People who know me extremely well wouldn’t dare put my name within three paragraphs of the word calm. If the conversation miraculously continues to go off without a hitch, the words friendly and sweet will probably be added to your adjectives to describe me.

If you happen to be quite the Chatty Cathy, well, you’re in luck. I’ve been told by numerous reputable sources that I have some high quality listening skills. So go ahead; talk away. I’ll be all ears and very engaged.

Inside I might be dying a little.

I mean, I just met you and small talk doesn’t thrill me, but not to worry, I won’t let any of those thoughts show. If I excuse myself for a drink or suddenly find the tablecloth fascinating, chances are you’ve overwhelmed me with your extroverted nature, and I need to recharge before resuming your monologue, excuse me, our “conversation.”

Although I’m generally perceived in the way I’ve described above, sometimes people have a different reaction. I will admit that based on the situation and my mood at the time, my first impression expressions can and probably will vary.

In a rather large group, if I’m intimidated, I may instruct my walls to shoot up before even opening the door. In this case, I will most likely appear unapproachable. My resting face will be less than pleasant, and I could get out a compass to show you how far I am from the words sweet and nice.

Yes, this angelic, lovely, sweet-as-pie human being has been perceived as stuck up.

Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me. Because I prefer not to wear my heart on my sleeve (not really my style), I can come across as uninterested. I’m a tough nut to crack and not easily readable. Luckily for me, there are some people in this world who specialize in nut cracking. These are the humans who will walk up to strangers, flash a smile you just can’t ignore, and strike up a natural conversation.

I like those people. They will tell you that even though it takes a while to get to know me, the walls do come down every once in a while revealing quite a different person than expected.

Just by looking in the mirror at yourself, you can’t truly objectively see who you are. You’ll always be biased. Even though I can paint a picture of how I probably come across to others, I have no way of being 100% accurate. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall and observe myself. I’d learn, cringe, and most likely change a lot.

What I do know is how I perceive myself. In high school, I had to make an acrostic out of M&M’s using words that describe myself. The center of the chocolate masterpiece was the word introspective.

Introspection: “a reflective looking inward; an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.”

Partly by choice and partly by genetics, I spend much of my time inside my own head. I walk around, explore caves, and make note of every treasure (pretty or ugly) I find. So that is why I can say with full confidence that I am a wolf.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m a wolf. According to BuzzFeed my Myers Briggs personality test results match up to what happens to be my all-time favorite animal – a wolf.

My four-letter personality type consists of the words introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. Not to brag, but only one percent of the population can be labeled an INFJ, making me the most rare of all the types. (I’ll sign autographs later.) After taking the test and reading my personality type description, I knew instantaneously that I was looking in the mirror.

Recharging my battery can only be done with me, myself, and I. While I do appreciate a few close friends and enjoy spending time with them, I need my alone time. Without it, my level of sanity just might plummet. Considering its resting point is already dangerously low, this would not be good.

I never take things simply at face value. Instead, I use my intuition and gut to add my own thoughts and meanings. Some may call it being cynical, skeptical, or pessimistic, but I call it being smart. Even though I do use a lot of logic and reasoning, emotions have the ability to trump all of it when it comes to making decisions. Finally, the J in my label means I prefer to be structured and organized.

In case you haven’t had the “aha” moment regarding my relation to wolves, let me help you out. Wolves have a reputation of being mysterious, right? Well, so do I. Remember when you first met me way back on page one? Chances are you got to know the surface-level me, but going deeper was nearly impossible.

Don’t take it personally. I’m like that with everyone.

We’re all onions, but chopping through with a knife doesn’t work on me.

Instead, you have to peel back the many layers one by one which takes quite a bit of time, effort, and tears. It’s not until I truly trust someone that they are privy to the depths of my soul. Until then, I shall remain mysterious.

Wolves are also protectors of those they care about, just like yours truly over here. Actually, my name “Alexis” means “defender of man.” Turns out my parents picked the perfect name.

If we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we’ll admit that we make lasting judgments based on first impressions that last a mere three seconds or so. In the first scenario, when I came across friendly and nice, you’d probably be open to getting to know me more.

But in the second scenario, the one where I seemed stuck up, running into each other at the next gathering and exchanging simple pleasantries with a side of fake smiling would be the extent of our relationship.

Let’s say the second scenario was the one that actually occurred. A possible friendship was lost.

Whose fault was it?

Was it yours for judging this mystery book by its cover and writing me off? Or was it mine for not letting my guard down enough to convey at least a touch of friendliness? I think we both messed up.

Letting our natural tendency to label someone after a few seconds isn’t fair to the other person or us. In the same way, making an effort to be nice, even if it means stepping out of our comfort zone, always pays off in the end. I’ll do my part if you’ll do yours.

Agreed?

Great. Now let’s start over.

Hi, I’m Alexis. What’s your name?

 

I Didn’t Know How Thankful I Was for People

I have a tradition. (And by tradition I mean I started this last year.)

In one of my many journals, I make my own Thanksgiving ABC list. Because of my irritating indecisiveness, I allow myself to put more than one word for each letter just as long as it all fits on one line.

My thankfulness covers a few food items, a couple of TV shows, and one or two locations. But the most common category?

Human beings.

Well, this is awkward.

I don’t really like people. I’m an introvert (not all introverts hate people – please don’t stereotype based on my flaws) and a self-proclaimed hermit. I tend to avoid human interaction/contact and have shied away from my fair share of hugs. I’m definitely NOT one of those people who can walk into a room and instantly make 578 friends.

While I do have a few close friends, my Instagram & Twitter followers are less than impressive. If I’m in a big group, I’m not going to be the loudest one. I don’t love being the center of attention, and parties aren’t exactly my scenes.

The importance of community was one of the most difficult concepts for me to grasp. I’m not trusting – in fact, I walk around with walls so thick and tall I often get lost behind them. Sometimes Many times I dodge plans with a friend because I need to sit in my bed, watch Netflix, pet my dog, and recharge my battery.

Yet, when I look at my lists from last year and this year, most of the blessings are people.

Um… what?!

Maybe somewhere between the group texts and coffee dates and bonfires and high fives I made connections. Maybe it was the excessive emojis or the way I actually answered the phone. Maybe it was when I pulled myself out of bed and got in my car.

Maybe I fell in love with the human race. And maybe, just maybe, it fell in love with me.

Reciprocated love.

That’s good stuff. It takes some huntin’ and searchin’, but it’s pretty sweet. Usually, it requires a dash of putting yourself out there and a one-way ticket away from your comfort zone. Throw on a smile, breathe, and you’re off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But hey, it was worth a shot.

When I look back at all the names on my list, I can’t help but think, you were worth the shot. Even though some names swirling around in my head do more than make me cringe, I know that someday I’ll think of that name and say, you were worth the shot.

People change, feelings change – everything changes. Yes, things can be written in stone, but don’t forget that stones can be broken. (I know, I know…that was painfully cliché. Please accept my apology and accept this fresh batch of words.)

Imagine how drastically different my ABC’s would be if I would’ve indulged in a few more Netflix marathons and a few less human conversations.

Maybe if I’d backed out I wouldn’t have reached out to her …she wouldn’t be on my list. Or, maybe if I had spoken up I would have made a connection …he would be on my list.

He’s worth the shot.

She’s worth the shot.

Who? Who’s worth the shot? Don’t tell me someone didn’t come to mind. There’s always a human being lurking in the shadows behind your rib cage. Whoever it is, that person is worth the freaking shot.

Even though it may not work out exactly the way you want, it will be worth it in the end. I won’t say it can’t hurt, because in all honesty, a couple of heart-shaped bruises and deep scratches are probably included free of charge.

But you can’t deny the friendship or relationship (or whatever it is) the gift of existence. Chances are, it already exists and is just waiting for you to sign off on the whole acceptance part.

Make your own Thanksgiving ABC list.

Start the tradition for yourself. See what category dominates your list. Are you happy with the results? Or did you spend a few too many hours on the couch and not enough in front of a face that you can’t pause? What would you change about your list? What/who would you add?

Text someone. Text another someone. Tell them you’re grateful for their births and survival. Make plans to make eye contact. Make a promise to yourself that you’ll give extra hugs next time you see them. (If you’re an introvert, it’s totally okay to bribe yourself. It works.) Pick a human being or two, and start moving.

Maybe he or she will be on your list next year.