10 Awesome Happenings From 2017…So Far

The last 6 months have been a sham. In today’s world it’s pretty easy to write a list of 10 terrible things that happened recently… in fact, you can probably write up 10 terrible things that have happened this week #America. But, in the spirit of being my opposite self (known pessimist) I’m going to encourage us to focus on the positive.

I think it can be really easy to focus on all of the not-so-great things in the world, and while I am not advocating for ignoring those (at all!) I am offering a 5 minute read break of some pretty cool things that have happened, but that can easily be overlooked. But don’t let it stop with me! I want to hear all the beautiful things that have happened in your lives, as well. In the spirit of celebration, share yours in the comments!

1. The apocalypse didn’t happen

Okay, so this one might seem a bit extreme. But, yo. Shit went down in January, and I think we can all agree on that (sorry for the swearing, mom). But can I just say something, really quick? I’m proud of you guys. I’m proud of my allies who post signs in their yards saying that they support people who look different from themselves. I’m proud of the people who don’t stand around ignoring homophobia or xenophobic remarks on public transportation. I’m proud of the women who take their daughters to protests with signs that say, “WE ARE HERE. WE ARE WATCHING. WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” I’m proud of my science friends who march for knowledge. I’m proud of my friends who sat in airports and said, “No. Fear will not rule how we treat our neighbors.” I’m proud of you guys.

2. I found out what I want to be when I grow up

This is the year when I finally figured it out. I know what I want to be when I grow up! And no, it’s not a brain surgeon—sorry mom. I graduated in 2010 with a Degree in Journalism and literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life, other than have people stop asking me what my five year plan was.

I gave myself five years to do whatever the hell I wanted. I traveled the world, lived in another country and in different states. I worked for a non-profit, I took more internships than I can count. I was a nanny. Giving myself time to grow was one of the best gifts I think I could have ever given myself, and it works! I finally figured something out. Stay tuned for more details!

3. I took a trip to Europe 

Every year, since I started solo backpacking, I’ve tried to take a trip back to to Europe. Why Europe? Because it’s my heart. I don’t know how to describe it, really. But when I’m there (almost regardless of the country) I feel like I’m at home. Since 2013 I’m kept my promise to myself and this year I went to Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and Belgium! I’m so excited because I’m actually going to get to go TWICE this year, which I do not take for granted, at all. What an insane and unimaginable gift. I’m so excited.

4. I went to a clothing exchange 

Hands up if you like clothes! As someone who has more than I probably should, and a Degree in Fashion Design, I’m a 100% clothing and shoe lover. This month I got the opportunity to meet up with some other stylish ladies, and we exchanged clothing and stories and laughs. The best part was that all the extra clothes got given to an awesome non-profit that helps out women coming out of domestic abuse situations!

5. I hosted a craft night…and it was f*cking awesome (sorry, mom)

Me and a friend tried to join a knitting group about a month ago and when we got to the damn coffee shop (sorry, mom) we found out that the group wasn’t meeting anymore. We had been waiting to go for weeks, so we were pretty upset to find out we couldn’t get our knit on.

Solution? Host a craft night at my house so we DEFINITELY have a place to create and geek out. AND IT WAS SO FUN. One of my passions in life is bringing together magnificent, strong, creative women and having them all meet and talk to each other. What an awesome event for us to get to craft and laugh and drink wine and just have a great time!

6. I’ve hung out with eight estranged friends

I’ve talked about this on here, before, but my New Years Resolution was to grab coffee with someone every month, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. So far we’re 5/5 and I already have a couple coffee hang times scheduled for June.

This has honestly been one of the coolest resolutions, because it is TOO easy to lose touch with awesome people who may even live close, but are just eternally busy. And I get it, we’re so busy with life that we don’t have time for relationships with people, anymore. But let’s swim against the tide and battle those loneliness statistics (looking at you, Seattle—we’re #5 on the list).

7. I went to an awesome birthday dinner for my Grandpa

My family is borderline insane. And the great part about saying that is that we all agree, so I don’t have to apologize. That being said, we still get together and we still celebrate the occasional event. This April, we had a glorious celebration for my Grandpa’s birthday, and it was the actually a lot of fun! Maybe we’re growing out of some of our crazy?

8. I had a sleepover with my friends

Yep. Like an old-school sleepover. The brainchild of my brilliant roommate, we built a blanket fort out of our living room, watched Knight’s Tale, and ate pizza. Of course we had all types of girl talk and tons of laughs as well. The best part? It was at my house, so I still got to go to sleep in my own bed. #adulting

9. I didn’t adopt a cat…but I did get a cat sitting job

In March I got out of a pretty long term/serious relationship and as all sane recent breakup-ees do, I immediately went on the hunt for a cat to distract me from all of my woes. Thank the universe that nobody let me get one (because practically speaking I am technically allergic to most of them…broken hearts make you do weird things). The GOOD news is that I got a job cat sitting, which is awesome because I get to play with cats, get paid, and I still can breathe at home! Win-win-win.

10. I took a personal finance class…and it was awesome

Call me crazy, but why is personal finance not a required class in college? I mean, no wonder this country has so many financial problems. Ask any millennial and all we know is that if we don’t pay the student loan gods we get in trouble. What about retirement? What about balancing a budget sheet? WHAT ABOUT TAXES!? Okay, so that last one is probably more important to me because I work at an accounting firm, but come on America, where are we supposed to figure this stuff out!?

Luckily there was a free personal finance class that was offered near me, and it was like four hours of empowerment. I highly recommend looking into your local community centers (or this one was at a church—shoutout to Quest) to see if you can take one. Believe me, it’s worth the time investment.

11. I have an art exhibit going up tomorrow! 

Bonus! I have an art exhibit going up at Irwin’s Bakery tomorrow and I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to have an exhibit for a while, and it’s so awesome that the dream bubbling around in my mind is actually becoming real. If you have a chance to stop by definitely do, if you can’t, you can check out more pics (and a video – woot!) on my Facebook page.

Yesterday’s Ceiling Is Today’s Floor

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Totally not my graduation. But entirely the right graduation picture.

This week I received an invitation from my alma mater to attend my five-year reunion. I had to decline the invite, since I live 5,000 miles away from where I went to college (and flying back to watch a basketball game and drink punch doesn’t really seem worth the $1500 plane ticket), but getting the email made me think. This is year five. When people asked me in college what my five-year plan was, this is where they were asking about.

The same as most twenty-somethings, I remember people frequently asking me where I saw myself in 5 years. I never really had an answer. I knew I wanted to be happy. I knew I wanted to feel like my life was moving, and not static. But beyond those two things, I honestly had no idea.

Going to a small conservative university where “ring by spring” was more the ideal, than a catch phrase, a lot of people had marriage, kids and white picket fences on their list of five year objectives. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, I never felt right saying any of them as an answer (at least not within my 5 year span of time).

Was “having an adventure” an option?

I always want to be in a place where I’m moving forward. I think my biggest fear in life is waking up one morning and realizing that I’ve wasted years of my life hating what I do and who I’ve become. But when I look over the past five years I don’t see that. Did I become the person people thought I would become, while I was in college? Who knows. But I do know that there were dreams, so deeply buried in my heart, that I didn’t even know they were there until they were realized.

The mere fact that I can’t attend my reunion because I live in EUROPE is amazing. I never would have even dreamed that this would be an opportunity for me.

And as I’ve looked back over the past five years I can safely say I’ve had quite a few awesome moments that I’m so proud of.
And, in the spirit of five, here are my top highlights:

  1. I became an artist: I’ve been creating art since I could move my hands, but over the past five years I finally learned to embrace it as who I am. I am an artist. And no matter how much I want to be a doctor, lawyer or astronaut, that’s who I am. Art is what I dream about. What gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what I think about when I’m riding the metro, it’s what I look at when I’m walking down the street. I never before felt comfortable declaring myself as an artist. But over the past years I’ve been able to make some incredible friends who have helped me embrace that this is my identity.
  1. I became a writer: My whole life I’ve written stories. I used to force my siblings to have story writing competitions with me and we would cut up cereal boxes to “bind” out books together. Libraries were always my second home, so it makes sense that stories became my second language. While I did get my BA in journalism, I never had any idea what I would do with it. I had no interest in brooding news stories. And I used to shock my journalism professor by telling him that the only journalism I was interested in was writing for a tabloid (what no journalism prof. ever wants to hear).
    I always felt like everyone else was always just better than me at being a journalist. From editor to fellow writer, they were a beautiful brooding bunch that stayed up late watching CNN and talking about world events and politics. That wasn’t me. And no matter how much I wished I could be like my stylish editors or the praised writers in my classes, I couldn’t change that.
    I was pretty lost for direction until the past couple of years when I discovered that writing doesn’t always have to be about reporting world events (although that’s important too!). It can be fun and colorful, it can mean going on adventures and writing about them! And then the best part ever happened: me. Little ‘ole non-journalistically inclined me, became an editor…and I love every minute of it.
  1. I travelled the world: I don’t think I would have ever guessed how much travel would be involved in my future, when I was in college. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved to travel and learn about/experience other cultures, but I never thought I would have the opportunities to go out and experience so many of them. I’ve gone with groups, I’ve gone solo, I’ve lived in other states and another country (on another continent!) and I’ve been able to learn so much about myself by looking through the eyes of people around the world.
  1. I worked for organizations that made a global impact: Societal change and sustainable business is SO important to me! And regardless of where I work or what point in my life I’m at, I want to always find a way to give back to the communities around me. Being able to work with non-profits and with small businesses over the past five years has forever changed my outlook on the world and on the way that I interact with it.
  1. I made friends for life: Something great happens when you’re dirt poor and forced to live with three other people in an apartment that should probably only hold two people. I think American society teaches us to fear those growing points in our life; the parts where we have no money and have to work weird jobs to be able to pay our utility bill. But my best memories in my life have come out of times when I had no money, weird jobs and had no idea where my life was going. Was it comfortable? No. Did I cry a lot and ask God why the hell he had put me there. Maybe Yes. But now, looking back, I understand why. I get why in seasons where I thought money was the object, the actual title of the chapter was “Friendship” and I could not be more grateful for the relationships that were molded during these times.

Note. None of these things have made me filthy rich, Instagram famous or listed on “America’s most influential 30 under 30.” But if I was asked if I accomplished my five year goal I would say “Yes.”

Because I am happy. And I am free to do the things that make me happy. Over the past five years I’ve gone on too many adventures to count. I have so many stories I could write a novel. I’ve met some of the coolest people I think I could find on this planet, and I have never felt more loved or supported in my life.

I am me. Uninhibited, nonconforming and entirely me. And I think that’s something to celebrate.

And now, it’s time to dream EVEN BIGGER., and to add some new goals for my next “five year list!” I have no idea how I’m supposed to top this one, but here’s to brighter tomorrows and bigger dreams.
What are some of your guys’ dreams from the past or for the future?

It’s A Wonderful Life

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Wax seals. That I got to break open. I felt like Elizabeth Bennet and I LOVED IT.

This morning started off with the words, “Emilee is today your birthday?” The reply, of course, was, “No…” but when I went downstairs, I started to question whether or not I was right. While I was upstairs showering I had heard the doorbell ding three separate times. I had also heard the classic “Oooh la la” expression as the mother for the kids I au pair ran back and forth between the painting she was working on in the basement, and the front door.

When I finally did come down stairs. I understood why her first question had been asked. At the bottom of the stairs there was a pile of packages. My first thought was to sift through the mail and look to see if anything had my name on it. Some did. And by ‘some’ I mean all. It’s a funny feeling getting a stack full of mail, having no idea it had been on it’s way, but when I saw the familiar names written across each one my heart melted.

This week has been a week that has tried its very best to go wrong. Between running late, forgetting things, having unexpected expenses pop up and extra long workdays, I can honestly say, “Thank God Tomorrow Is Friday.”

This morning I woke up feeling exhausted from a restless sleep and dreading the day ahead. Mainly because on Thursdays I have French lessons, which are mind melting (although good). I didn’t really want to start my day, so I hopped in the shower feeling like a complete grump.

Then came the doorbell.

If you asked me, I would probably say that I’m closer to my friends than I am to my family. I actually consider my closest circle of friends my family in so many ways. Maybe it’s because we’re all strong women who have had to work our asses off to get where we are, maybe it’s because we all have a fire that propels us to challenge each other; iron sharpens iron. But when I think of my five best friends I think of warriors…and world domination – that too. If we’re passionate about something: Watch out.

Needless to say, being away from these powerhouses has made me feel like I’m running extremely low on fuel; like I’m a part of the Avengers team gone accidently rogue.

[Cut scene to this morning]

The packages were amazing and from some of said friends. Somehow they had all arrived on the same day, even though they were sent from different parts of the world. I laughed and cried as I read through letters, munched on American candy and marveled at the wax seals that had been beautifully enclosed on some of the letters.

The mom for the kids I au pair COULD NOT believe that I was loved this much for ‘no special reason’. And neither could I.

How lucky am I to have such friends?

It is really hard to be away from home and friends and family. And even though I’m making new friends and having lots of fun, it’s very different from being away from my main support group. A lot of stress has been building up over the last couple of weeks, specifically financially, because (let’s be honest) healthy bank accounts don’t come from au pair salaries.

But today I realized how insanely rich I am. I honestly felt like I was having a “It’s a wonderful life” moment. When it comes down to it, I have wealth beyond measure, because I have people thinking about me who live THOUSANDS of miles away and who send me love just for the heck of it.

I am so blessed. And I am so thankful.

Thank you to those of you who send me letters, packages, Skype, FB message or any other ways of communication. They might seem little, but to me, they are SO HUGE, especially when I’m feeling alone in my little big city life.

Days like today make me feel so full I could burst. Thank you, more than I could ever express.

❤ Emilee

 

I Don’t Care: I LOUVRE It!

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Wow! It has been a WH-ILE! Sorry for the silence on the blog front, but I’ve been trying to settle into the Paris life, and it’s taken me the past few weeks to even feel remotely partially through the process. Moving across the world is hard. Moving a second time, to live with a different family is (even though it seems like it should be easier) harder.

But I’ve finally started to feel like I’m ready to step off the wagon and start exploring my new home. And after unpacking, and getting into the rhythm of things, the dust is finally starting to settle.

So, here are the updates of my life!

  1. Let’s talk spiders. No matter where you go in France there are Lord Of The Rings sized spiders crawling up the walls. That might be a slight exaggeration, but they are HUGE. I can’t even tell you how many of them I’ve killed, but I know that when I go back to the US I will most definitely be the braver for it.
  1. I got promoted! I’m super excited about the ability to work with the website I’ve been a contributing writer with for the past year, except now I’m a *drumroll EDITOR! I’m so excited to start new projects and really be able to pour myself into writing, photographing, editing and traveling. There are some super cool projects coming up, so stay tuuuuuuuuned @TheExploress!
  1. Church: The last couple of weeks I have loved being able to attend Hillsong Paris, which is absolutely amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to go to church, but it has been such an awesome way to meet other people who are living in Paris and from all parts of the world. My favorite thing, though, is that the sermons are in English AND French simultaneously. It really is just the most beautiful thing.10678667_819611111422254_5419823618893278652_n 1797967_10152746031020505_2671417041007696703_n10704138_702182236530113_4894031641390018656_n
  1. I’ve been illustrating! I’ve never really considered myself someone who likes to draw, in fact I used to tell people I hated drawing. There are a few reasons for this, including feeling like I’ve always lived with someone who was better at it than me, but now that my next closest artistic rivals are 5 and 8 I started following a path I’ve wanted to for a bit, with a combination of paint and pencil, which I’ve absolutely loved.Hobbit Illustration
  1. I’m going to Berlin next week and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve wanted to visit Germany for so long and I can’t wait to visit such a beautiful city while on holiday. I’m lucky because for most of the holidays that the kids will have off from school, I will also have off to travel, so I plan on taking several more trips throughout the next year, trying to see as much of Europe as I can while I’m living here! If you have any suggestions for Berlin sightseeing, shoot them my way!
  1. Every week I’ve decided to visit a museum, tourist spot or historically significant place. I have a lot more “every week” goals I’m going to be implementing now that I actually live in a place where I’m able to create an active schedule (aka a city that actually has a population under the age of 60) but I’m going to be adding them little by little. This week me and two of my friends decided to follow in Beyonce’s footsteps and visited the Louvre, which was amazing. Our adventure included singing (“Prince of Egpyt” in the Egyptian part, trying to sing “Hercules” in the Grecian part and “Les Miserables” in some French parts), getting temporarily lost in the museum and having in depth conversations about the inaccurate proportions of male figures both in painting and sculpture representations. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better time, or for better friends to adventure out with.

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Ten things I thought I knew about Bangalore, India

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It’s easy not to know what to expect when you travel internationally. When I went to India I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And, despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself (I listened to a lot of MIA before flying out), culture shock would be a minimal way of saying I was a “deer in headlights” when I got there. There were some things I learned while I was there, though. And, in the end, I left with so much more knowledge and experience than I ever thought I could gather in one place. So here they are, 10 things I thought I knew about India (specifically Bangalore, where I stayed).  7727_1211892690863_2734341_n

1. Language: A majority of people in major cities speak English. I tried to learn Hindi for months before going to India, which was completely unnecessary (although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy learning it).

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2. Dancing: Bollywood dancing is damn. hard. It looks easy in the  movies, but it will kick the butt of even the most in shape person. I would highly suggest trying to find a class if you travel to India. It was so much fun and a memory I’ll never forget.

3. Sickness: You actually CAN get sick from street food. It’s no joke. Several of my travel buddies got “Bangalore Belly” from eating the street food that looked/smelled so good. I’m not going to go into detail, but we’ll just say… you get sick in EVERY way. Indian street vendors do not hold to the same requirements when preparing their food as most do in the US, and tourist’s immune systems aren’t built to be able to withstand the same things as natives. Be really careful if you decide to try some.

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4.  Music/Hollywood: Kelly Clarkson and Lindsey Lohan were names I heard EVERY TIME someone found out I was American. I really think it’s funny that those are the two people who get associated with the United States. While I’m ok with the Kelly obsession, it mildly broke my heart that our international rep lies on the shoulders of Lindsey Lohan.

5. Social System: The caste system is real, and people abide by it. This really shocked me, because I thought that stories about castes had always been exaggerated. It was such an eye opening experience to actually sit down with people and hear their perspectives about what it means to be Indian and live in whichever caste they were born into.

6. Food: Indians take EXTREME pride in their traditional food. Once I sent back a barely eaten plate of food and the chef himself came out and asked me what was wrong with it. Nothing had been wrong with it, except that my mouth was on fire from how many spices were added. He was so upset. I finished my plate of food from that day out – spicy or not.

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7. Hang out spots: Hookah bars are like Starbuck coffees in Bangalore. When someone first casually asked me to hang out at one I thought, ” Wait. Can’t we just get coffee or something?” Little did I know they hold a completely different meaning and atmosphere than they do in the US. There were so many on every street that I got used to the idea. But, I’m still a fan of coffee shops.

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8. Animals: One of my first thoughts when I got to India was, “Why the hell is there a cow in the street?!” The traffic in Bangalore was pretty on par with a big city in Seattle during rush hour (except more rickshaws) and, yet, there she was. Not caring who was around, there was a cow crossing the street. Dogs were another animal that roamed freely in the streets, belonging to no one in particular. It was kind of fun to make friends with some of the dogs, but there was also always this thought in the back of my mind to call and report a missing animal.

9. Affection: Ok, so this one I HAD been “warned” about. It was fairly common to see men walking holding hands or with their arms around each other. In the US this would probably suggest some kind of romantic relationship, but in India? Just good (good good good) friends.

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10. Our Impact: I couldn’t help feeling like the whole time I was traveling I needed to apologize for the US. We have so much more of an impact than we can imagine in countries like India. People dream about running away to where we live. People know our music, our movies, our tabloids. The US has so much more of a global voice than I ever had realized. What are we doing with it?  I think traveling to India really made me become more aware of how I live and what I support. Just think of it this way – over a billion people are watching.

Do you guys have any good culture shock stories out there!?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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Rickshaw rides AKA rides of constant near death experiences.

 

Five Ways Traveling Has Changed Me

My favorite thing about traveling is how much it challenges me to grow as a person. It’s nearly impossible for me to leave a place and not be changed by it in some way – a characteristic, which convinces me that, in order to fully discover myself, I need to continue to travel and see the world. There are several ways that I’ve already seen my outlook on the world change from traveling! Here are my top 5!

 1.     THE FOOD I EAT

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One of the first things people discover about me is that I have a dictionary/list of allergies. Most of them have to do with food, so growing up I never experimented with different kinds of food (in case I accidently killed myself). It was such a huge surprise to me when I traveled to India and found out I can eat 98% of the food there! Before then, I figured if it wasn’t “All American” AKA steak and potatoes, I probably couldn’t eat it.  Now Indian food is my absolute favorite, and I’m so much more open to trying new types of food (Haggis, anyone!?), no matter how weird they sound!

2.     HOW I DRESS 

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When I bought my first tartan skirt in Scotland, it was a proud moment in my life. I love traditional anything, and being of Scottish decent, I love connecting with my roots. A little Tartan power isn’t something I usually rock, but now that I’ve worn it, I love it so much.

In India I also picked up another FAVORITE trend: henna. I’d seen it before, being from the hippie town of Seattle, but there was something so much more appealing about getting henna done in the country where it was born. Henna is one of my favorite adornments and something I “put on” every chance I get.

3.     HOW I VIEW HOLIDAYS

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When I was traveling through the UK, Veterans Day occurred. As an American, there are certain rituals I’m used to in recognition of the holiday, but being in the UK really made, what is a mediocre holiday here, into something so much more impactful for me.

4.     HOW I VIEW MYSELF AS AN ARTIST 

 November 11th 2013 (Journaling on a train from Glasgow to London)

 “Today I saw 3 Van Gogh paintings, which was absolutely breathtaking. How can paint and canvas cause you to feel so many emotions and experience so many stories? I guess it’s true that a picture is, “worth a thousand words.” I think yesterday was the first time I ever felt like, seeing something done, my heart said, “ That’s what I want to do!” I want people to experience the narrative of their own lives through the paintings I create. I want to write a story about social justice, war and conflict without ever having to type a word…. Photography is great, but there’s something uniquely beautiful about paint and canvas speaking of the greater issues of our world.”

5.     HOW I INTERACT WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

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There’s something eye opening, heart breaking and completely revitalizing about being in a place where you can’t understand a word anyone is saying. It’s confusing and frustrating and you have to realize, perhaps for the first time, that you (AMERICA) are not the center of the universe.

Being vulnerable and uncomfortable is so incredibly humbling, and so entirely necessary to gaining compassion for those around you in your every day life.

Before I left for India I felt like God really kept pushing the verse 2 Samuel 6:22. In it, David, being ridiculed for obediently praising God, says, “Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!”

Be a little uncomfortable. It’s amazing how empowering the experience will make you, and those you encounter in similar situations, from there out.