Invincible Me

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Memories are funny things. Childhood memories can be filled with imagined wonder, or overwhelming pain. And, looking back at my crazy bookworm artist braided hair younger self; I see so much more insight into who I am, and who I am becoming, as an adult.

Looking back, I see all of the laughter, the imagination, the beauty, the pain, the curiosity, the anger and confusion – and I sometimes think I was so much more intact when I was a child. Because, back then, I didn’t worry about being filtered. I laughed and danced because it was time to laugh and it was time to dance, not because I had been told by society to do, or not to do, one or the other.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I was 11 years old.

My grandma, who I had only met once, had died and I was laying on my bed, curled in a crescent shape. Alone. And wondering if I should cry. At the time, I suppose it would have been the right thing to do. But all I could do was sit there, curled up, wondering whether I was supposed to do it.

That was the beginning of a pretty unhealthy relationship with tears.

You see, I was raised in a very non-emotional family. We didn’t cry, hug, say ‘I love you’ or talk about emotions in pretty much any other way. We were strong. We were invincible. Or, at least, in my naivety, that’s what I thought.

Over the next decade I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at sad movies, funerals, when pets died, or when sad things happened in the world. I was invincible. I was strong. Or that’s what I told myself.

I still can count the number of people who have seen me cry on one hand. It’s a pretty rare occasion, and like any natural phenomena it’s usually brief and then gone, like it never happened in the first place. Crying just wasn’t ever an acceptable means of communication in my life.

Then I moved to France.

Americans make fun of the French, a lot, for how emotional they are. And, to a certain extent, those jokes aren’t always wholly unfounded. In my one year in Paris, I saw more tantrums, and crying fits than I had in my entire existence. And I’m not talking about from the kids.

Maybe it was the culture that was surrounding me, or maybe it was the trauma of being alone in a country 5,000 miles away from your next closest friend. But, when I lived in France I cried – quite a lot. In fact, I wouldn’t even say ‘cry’ is a solid enough word. I wept. A lot.

And while it still wasn’t in front of people, and there still weren’t tantrums involved, I think I have to thank France for giving me back my tears.

You see, something I’ve realized, since being back in the US, is how much more emotional I am. When shit is sad, I cry (sorry, for the swearword, mom). When I’m upset, I cry. When I see something heartbreaking in the news, I care…and sometimes I cry.

And while I may not be single-handedly supporting the Kleenex industry (yet), that’s a really big deal for me. But what’s more substantial, in my opinion, is the realization that for so long, I believed a lie.

Crying and caring hasn’t made me weaker.

It has made me so much stronger. I’m able to invest so much more in the people and relationships around me. It has pushed me forward, and allowed me to focus on creating a solution, rather than trying to control the problem.

I hear a lot about people who don’t cry: they’re tough, they’re cool, they’re manly, they’re invincible. But the truth is that we are broken. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – brokenness builds beauty all the time.

But, speaking from the other side, I’ve learned so much more about my own ability to rise higher, dig deeper and pursue and dream more. There’s something empowering about the ability to cry. In a way, I like to think of it like a phoenix burning. It can hurt to feel pain, and to allow your body to process it. But, in the end, it creates something even more beautiful; something renewed.

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12 Favorite Moments

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This year has been full of so many crazy amazing experiences, that I thought it would be appropriate to look back over the last year and  show you all some of my favorites. As this chapter comes to a close I’ve really been trying to take a few moments to reflect before I hop on the plane back to the U.S. The whole last week has seemed so surreal, and I can’t even believe that in only 3 days I’ll be back in Seattle!

While I am (of course!) so excited to be coming back to the U.S., it still is a bitter-sweet experience to be packing my bags and leaving Europe. I have definitely not taken the ability to hop on planes and visit places I had only ever read about in books. During this experience I’ve learned SO MUCH about myself, and no matter what my was happening in the smaller picture, I can now look back and say “That was a great adventure.” I feel so amazingly blessed to have been able to travel the world, meet amazing people and live a life some spend their lives dreaming about living. So without further adieu, here are my top 10 beautiful memories (in no particular order)!

1. I got to see the Berlin Wall!Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 10.51.52 PM

2. I got to visit a 14th century REAL castle (with its original moat!!!)! DSC_0837

 

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3. I saw the Mona Lisa (and, like, all the original art I could ever wish for) and probably should have just moved into The Louvre.DSC_0008

4. I went to 3 scifi/manga conventions and met the real life (okay, Cosplay, but damn awesome) TinTin!1424510_10204495246754590_986803764695503958_n

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5. I became part of, and viewed, original Miyazaki sketches from all of my favorite movies! 10850296_10204622487375526_4532807605400135729_n

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6. I made beautiful friends and we made beautiful memories all over Paris.1528591_10204755801748302_6677248749756096313_n

 

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7. I WENT TO THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM, and almost died from an art love overdose!! Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.04.52 AM

8. Galway, Ireland stole my heart and Ireland won the “Most Visited” award for the year!DSC_0683

9. I went to Normandy and saw history in real life (also biked 22 km)!DSC_0082

 

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10. I spent Easter weekend in Rome and went to the Colosseum! DSC_0234

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11. I went to the Cliffs of Moher and unintentionally spent my Spring Break falling in love with Ireland.DSC_0526

12. I went to Versailles gardens/Palace and became the little Marie Antoinette fangirl I always wanted to be.10421139_10205851538021024_2635329984024940649_n (1)

Thanks to all who have made this such a crazy wild experience. Cheers to next time!

Ten Things Nannying Taught Me

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Tomorrow will be my last Thursday as a nanny to the family I’ve been working with for over TWO YEARS. Next week will be my last week. Crazy, I never thought I could “commit” to a job that long, but it’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I’ve grown so much over these past years. And while I’ve taught the kids I work with, they’ve taught me so much about myself, communicating with others, relationships, friendship, siblingship, love and selflessness. Here are some of my favorite lessons:

1. In every job that must be done, there is an element of funab2d309c23174c13e6ad5165dbcad3de3389eb77Something that I didn’t realize before becoming a nanny is that NO ONE LIKES CHORES. It’s not like you grow into an adult and *snap* you love washing dishes and cleaning your room/messes. No one likes it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an opportunity for fun. I’ve learned to embrace the fun aspects of getting things done, such as getting kids to race with getting their pajamas on, “fish toss” their laundry away, and Disney music dance the dishes clean.

2. What you’re passionate about MATTERSsound-of-music-maria-and-guitarHave you ever stopped for a minute and realized how much we encourage children, as a society? We encourage them to do their best, work hard, dream, imagine, and run after things they love. Somehow, these are all lessons that we (often) lose when we grow up. Being a nanny encouraged me to start loving sports again, pursue being an artist as a profession, instead of just a pastime and be unafraid to plan for the future.  It’s absolutely amazing the rebounding ability of children. We all fail sometimes, but we all have to get up again and keep dreaming.

3. It’s ok to be a little kid, again

24nanny-600  Who said adults aren’t allowed to have fun, anymore. There’s something wholesome and amazingly refreshing about remembering how to have fun before it had to include going to clubs, drinking, smoking or trying to look “cool.” We all have that little part of us that likes the silly, the imaginative and the crazy. It’s ok to stop being serious and be a little weird sometimes.

4. Never underestimate the power of your wordsyou-is-kind-ymhjvrThe way we speak to others is something I know I took for granted before becoming a nanny. I had more of a “if you don’t like what I say, too bad” approach, and I think over time that hurt more than ever helped me. Being around kids, you can’t do that. You can’t cut down, demean or be “brutally honest” (although, they definitely will be to you). Instead you have to encourage, uplift and inspire with your words. Even if you’re saying something negative, you have to go about doing it in a way which is positive. Learning this skill has taught me more than four years of college and a communications degree. The way we talk matter, don’t let your words be aimless.

5. How to be a big sister

uktv-doctor-who-xmas-2012-10Some of the “kids” I nanny are in high school and that makes the whole process of “nannying” quite different than working with elementary age kids. They don’t need me to remind them to go to the bathroom, or to feed them. What they do need is someone to talk to, share clothes with, and watch trash TV with (just a little bit). Two of my girls really have become like little sisters to me. We watch the same TV shows, read the same books, talk about fashion, talk about boys, sex, tampons and every other embarrassing thing you can think about in high school. I get to encourage and uplift them, but more importantly I get to speak truth into their lives. I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of life experience. Whether your past is good or bad, you have something valuable to offer to the next generation.

6.  Gentle words can have just as much powersupernanny-pic-sm-348146256Learning how to “work with kids” meant something different to the past generations of my family. To put it nicely, it involved spankings and soap. But I’ve learned, after two years of working with kids that I have no option to discipline in that way, that there are so many other ways of connecting with children and teaching them how to communicate, respect others and take ownership for their actions. Of course, with every child there are different ways of discipline, but I SO love expanding my knowledge.

7. Sometimes you’re going to have to do embarrassing shit007TND_Scarlett_Johansson_013It’s true – you’re working with kids. What does this mean? Well, you’re going to probably be doing some embarrassing things like dressing up in weird costumes, letting them paint your face and dragging them on your legs as you walk in public. But, here’s the thing – who cares? Learning to chill out has been my biggest lesson from nannying. Because, the truth is, the only person whose opinion matters is your own and the kids (who are loving it – guaranteed).

8. Cherish the little things

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I’m pretty standoffish by nature. I don’t run up and give people hugs (in fact, I don’t really like hugs) and I’m not the type to call people sweetheart, or sit for three hours to listen about their day. But, over the past two years, I’ve learned that those little things like calling a kid “love” or giving them a huge hug when they come home from losing their soccer game ARE IMPORTANT. Despite my scandinavian background, I’ve learned so much more about valuing other people and really taking the time to cherish.

9. It’s not about you

jane-eyre-movie-jane-and-adele                              I’m a generation Y twenty-something. Every NY Times article and scientific research study tells me that I value instant gratification, self interest and ME ME ME. Which I think would have been a lot more accurate before I became a pseudo mother of five. When you have children running around you constantly, you have to start thinking about more than yourself. You have to have snacks always in your purse (NOT FOR YOU), extra water in your water bottle (ALSO, NOT FOR YOU), A GPS in your head (“Are we there, yet?”), a memory that holds all their birthdays (Forget one, and you’ve made “favorites”) and a mind that is completely not your own. You don’t think about you at the grocery store – you think about which kid likes spaghetti sauce, who hates blueberries, who’s allergic to eggs and who only eats tofu this month.

10. “When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.” grad.17333Being a nanny is so fulfilling, and at the same time heartbreaking because you know that it won’t be forever. You pour your everything into a family that, after you quit, you may never see again. But that’s the way it works. That’s what we’ve signed up for. Nothing is permanent except the love we leave behind, the memories we’ve made and the lives we’ve changed.