Blogging on The Brightside

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." -The Little Engine That Could

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”

– Jackie Robinson

This post was submitted by our friend Joelle Wisnieski, a graduate of Akron University whose laughter lights up the room.

Robinson

As a first basemen myself, Jackie is one of my role models. A wonderful ball player and a passionate civil rights activist, he continued to play his hand when anyone would have understood if he folded, but more than that he really PLAYED. Not only was he the first African-American to play in major league baseball, but he was then named rookie of the year. I mean who has the courage to steal home 19 times! And I’m not talking about 19 attempts… that is 19 runs that Robinson scored by stealing home base during his baseball career. I think that this quote by Jackie pretty much sums up his attitude toward baseball and toward life. Life is NOT a spectator sport. Unfortunately, still sometimes find myself living as if it is one… letting my life pass before my eyes with minimal involvement, challenge, passion.  I don’t want to live that way – and I’m guessing neither do you.  Recently I found that I had all these dreams and aspirations for my life. I want to help people. I want to teach, and travel, and love. I want to enjoy the little things but experience the big things… but most importantly I want to make a difference. But then I took stock of my life and I was very upset at what I found. I’ve been wasting time, precious time. When I could have been making an effort to help someone, be a friend to someone, or maybe even to learn something new – what was I doing instead? – watching the latest episode of “The Bachelor” or rereading “The Hobbit.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some TV drama and I enjoy an excellent literary story, but what else was I doing.  At that moment I realized that I was sitting in the grandstand with my feet resting on the railing in front of me, but I also looked at the field and realized that they had been calling for a first basemen to come play.  I refuse to take a seat when there is one amazing life to be lived! We all have moments in life when we look around and don’t understand how we fell into a ditch. But don’t forget it is never too late to get your hands dirty and climb out.  Don’t live your life as a spectator (because I agree with Jackie on this topic) – it would be a waste. Instead, go out and play. Learn something new, go somewhere you have never been, challenge yourself and the people around you. I promise you won’t regret grabbing your glove and taking the field.

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“Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

Mary Schmich

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Life Lessons One Year Later

I read this and thought I should share with everyone.  Have a great weekend, all!

BY GRETCHEN BLEILER

A year ago, I was working on double backflips with my coach and I had a very bad accident. While getting ready for the double, I threw my warm-up trick too hard and made a split decision in the air to keep rotating into the double, even though I hadn’t thrown for it. When I landed back onto the trampoline, my knees were still tightly tucked and the force and angle of my body caused my knee to come crushing into my face, shattering my eye socket, breaking my nose, splitting open my eyebrow and giving myself the worst concussion that I’ve ever experienced.

I’ll spare you the complicated and gruesome details of the next week leading up to my surgery, but it was hell. For anyone that’s ever had surgery, you know that everyone heals at a different pace and in different ways depending on who they are and what happened to them. Based on my competitive and pinpoint nature, I expected the fast track to recovery after surgery and it turned out to be a very humbling experience.

After a few post-op visits and debates with different care providers, the prognosis was that I had come a long way since my accident and the quality of my vision was good. It was possible and likely that my vision would continue to get better, but at the same time it was insinuated that if it didn’t, I was in a pretty good place. Thinking back on where my vision actually was at that point now is disturbing because I remember having an extremely short range of motion in almost every direction. Meaning that if I just looked up slightly, I would have double vision. And this was good? They did know that I was a professional snowboarder and that because of this I would need more range than the “average” person…right? In my opinion, though, the “average” person probably wants to look up at the stars at night just as much as I want to look up at that lip that is 22 feet above me and see one lip not two! So, as you can see, not having tangible solutions just didn’t work for me. And after a period of being extremely pissed, frustrated, angry and scared, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and work with my “A” team (the people who have helped me accomplish my goals in snowboarding and life) to collaborate on a plan to find some solutions and recover.

If I had learned nothing else from this entire experience, then just understanding that doctors are human and most of them are very specialized in very specific areas would have been enough. That’s something a lot of us fail to remember; for some reason we all grow up thinking that doctors know the answers to EVERYTHING in all subjects because they are doctors. Let me tell you my doctor was a super hero in what he did for me. He saved my eye, my appearance and my vision. People tell me all the time that I must have had a really good doctor because they would never have known what had happened to me based on aesthetics. But when the super hero has rescued you, and you’re ready to continue on with your life, you don’t turn around and ask the super hero what you should do with your life now!

And that’s why it’s important for YOU (or someone you trust) to take control over the entire big picture plan of your recovery, no matter how big or small your injury may be. Because at the end of the day this is your life and you get to live it to the best of your abilities. That means if you hear a comment directed towards you like: “this is the best it’s gonna get, so start getting used to it,” then you respond in one way or another with: “I understand that is what you believe based on your experiences and knowledge, and I respect you and your belief, but I’m going to choose to disagree and find someone who believes that they can help me.” It’s taking the initiative and finding a solution. It’s the hard road; it’s the road less traveled. And you may spend a lot of time looking and never find what you’re looking for, but I know that I would sure as hell rather try!

My one-year anniversary of this day has just recently passed and now that I’ve almost recovered, and am back on my snowboard and almost back to my full potential, it seems like this experience is almost behind me and I’m in a place where I can reflect and share the valuable things that I’ve learned. So here goes:

-Don’t let anyone tell you “this is the best it’s going to get” and put limitations on you, whether it’s an injury or life in general.

-S*!t happens. I had just come off a breakthrough season where I truly felt I was on the verge of grasping my full potential, and then I was knocked down to zero. I’ve asked the question, “why?” and tried to look for hidden or not so hidden meanings, but sometimes in life it’s as easy as “stuff just happens.”

-You can’t always muscle through challenges, obstacles and life. Once I got back on snow, I figured that because my vision was back that the level of riding I had been at before the accident would come right back. That just wasn’t the case, and the harder I tried on snow to get back to where I was, the worse it got. Only when I let go of the past and rode just purely for the enjoyment of what it was, without expectations or ulterior motives, did I begin to soften and naturally fall back into stride … which leads me to the next lesson:

-Let go of expectations because they will only hold you back. Being gently and easy on yourself may seem like taking the scenic route when you’re in a hurry, but it’s the only way to truly process and move forward in a true and healthy way.

-Do live in this moment. Comparing yourself to where you were is living in the past. You are a different version of yourself now than you were and living for then will surely rob you of who and what you are now.

-Be grateful for where you are right now. For me, having my vision back was the biggest victory that I could have escaped this experience with, but it took a long time for me to truly understand that concept. In the beginning I could only see what I wasn’t doing and where I was lacking. I just wanted to be back at my highest level of snowboarding. Then I found that beating myself up was actually draining my passion and love for what I was actually doing, which directly affected the way I would perform. Gratitude brings you back to being that witnessing awareness that is whole and unwavering.

-Don’t focus on time or a cookie cutter schedule.  Focus on what your body is telling you.  Your body knows best and intuitively knows how to heal, if you listen and are presently aware.

-Do the rehab every day; even a year after surgery you have the potential to break through any scar tissue or limitations. Just as in life, once you have found what is working for you, you want to apply that routine every day to break through old habits and patterns that are holding you back.

A lot of these lessons are similar concepts but just said or experienced in different ways. But what I’ve found is that we learn the same lessons in different ways throughout life based on where we are in our process. And where I am in my process is heading into summertime riding with a lot of goals that I’m eager to accomplish. And if I’ve learned anything at all from my own experiences, I’m going to go up to Mount Hood and, while I will be aware of those goals, I’m going to detach from their end results and enjoy sliding around on the snow in warm weather and that beautiful environment. I’m going to be grateful for my healthy body that lets me push myself physically and mentally to ride with style and meaning every day because that’s why I love to snowboard, but at the same time being presently aware and listening to my body as I do, and I’m going to laugh and I’m going to soak in being with some of my best friends and husband and dog all the while!

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“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.”

–Joshua 1:9

This post was brought to you by a close friend, Katie Trenney. There are moments in life where the “bright side” is more difficult to find. This post reflects about on that kind of moment. In an instant, your world can be shaken to the point of complete and total disorientation. You don’t know which way is up, your faith is shaken. Believing in the good and finding what you can hold onto during those dark times is what keeps us going. We hope that Kevin and his friends are able to find the strength to make it through this extremely difficult times. Our thoughts and prayers go out to each of you.


Two nights ago, I attended the Taylor Swift concert in Pittsburgh with a couple friends.  After tailgating for a few hours and then listening to Taylor sing about her feelings, we piled back into the car to make the drive home.  About 20 minutes into our trip, tragedy struck.  My friend Kevin, who was sitting in the back seat with me, began to have a seizure.  At first we thought he was kidding, but quickly realized that it was real.

Sarah, our driver, pulled over immediately.  The girl sitting in the passenger seat, Rebecca, jumped out of the car and called 911 while Sarah and I quickly tried to get Kevin lay down onto his side.  As Kevin laid on the backseat of the car becoming sick, Rebecca struggled to give the 911 operator our location, and Sarah and I yelled at Kevin trying to get him to respond.  When the police arrived, they tried asking Kevin simple questions.

“What’s your name?”

“What year is it?”

“Where are you?”

Growing more and more frustrated, Kevin tried to answer the questions but he was unable to respond. The ambulance arrived shortly after and decided that he needed to be transported to a hospital.  They took him up the road to St. Margaret’s for preliminary testing, and Sarah, Rebecca, and I continued our drive home – drained and shaken from the events of that night.  At about 4 a.m. I got a text from Kevin’s mother telling me that there were abnormalities on his brain and he was being sent to UPMC for more intense testing.  Later, I got the news of the bleeding in Kevin’s brain.  While his motor skills remained strong, his speech and memory had been affected.
Yesterday, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook were flooded with posts about Kevin.  Positive thoughts and prayers were sent to him throughout the day from his loving family and friends.  Kevin is still in the ICU at UPMC and is being monitored by doctors.  They’re not sure if his speech and memory will come back 100%, but have confidence that he will improve during speech therapy.

 
The words of Joshua 1:9 comfort me.  This verse has become life verse. Over the past 36(ish) hours, I have said it to myself over and over again.  It’s a constant reminder that God is in control.  Kevin is in good hands and will (hopefully) come out of this stronger and better than ever.
If you have a minute to spare today, say a prayer for my friend Kevin. Ask God to help him be strong.

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Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life

By David Ferguson, the Onion

I have always been a big proponent of following your heart and doing exactly what you want to do. It sounds so simple, right? But there are people who spend years—decades, even—trying to find a true sense of purpose for themselves. My advice? Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.

It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life.

Is there any other way to live?

I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.

Before you get started, though, you need to find the one interest or activity that truly fulfills you in ways nothing else can. Then, really immerse yourself in it for a few fleeting moments after an exhausting 10-hour day at a desk job and an excruciating 65-minute commute home. During nights when all you really want to do is lie down and shut your eyes for a few precious hours before you have to drag yourself out of bed for work the next morning, or on weekends when your friends want to hang out and you’re dying to just lie on your couch and watch TV because you’re too fatigued to even think straight—these are the times when you need to do what you enjoy most in life.

Because when you get right down to it, everyone has dreams, and you deserve the chance—hell, you owe it to yourself—to pursue those dreams when you only have enough energy to change out of your work clothes and make yourself a half-assed dinner before passing out.

Say, for example, that your passion is painting. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy a canvas and some painting supplies! Go sign up for art classes! And when you get so overwhelmed with your job and your personal life that you barely have enough time to see your girlfriend or boyfriend or husband or wife, let alone do anything else, go ahead and skip classes for a few weeks. Then let those paint brushes sit in your room untouched for six months because a major work project came up and you had a bunch of weddings to go to and your kid got sick and money is tighter than you thought it would be and you have to work overtime. And then finally pick those brushes back up again only to realize you’re so rusty that you begin to question whether this was all a giant waste of time, whether you even want to paint anymore, and whether this was just some sort of immature little fantasy you had as a kid and that maybe it’s finally time to grow the fuck up, let painting go, and join the real world because, let’s face it, not everyone gets to live out their dreams.

Not only does that sound fulfilling, but it also sounds pretty fun.

Really, the biggest obstacle to overcome here—aside from every single obligation you have to your friends, family, job, and financial future—is you. And I’ll tell you this much: You don’t want to wake up in 10 years and think to yourself, “What if I had just gone after my dreams during those brief 30-minute lunch breaks when I was younger?” Because even if it doesn’t work out, don’t you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror and confidently say, “You know what, I gave it my best half-hearted shot”?

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A Case of the Mondays

I’m going to leave today’s inspiration to a great friend and AMAZING writer, Jess. She has written guest posts for us in the past, but I felt the need to share her most recent post with all of you. In case you’ve got a case of the Mondays (or perhaps a week or two worth of “Mondays” that seem to keep piling up), this one is for you.

It’s Alright to Cry in Your Car. I Hope.

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The Opposite of Loneliness

The piece below was written by Marina Keegan ’12 for a special edition of the News distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

Many thanks to Emily Trenney for sharing this with me.

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“You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

This post was submitted by my mother, Janis Edwards, a retired english teacher residing in Pennsylvania.

Write a post for us! Send your idea to bloggingonthebrightside@gmail.com.  

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Here’s some tips I will give to people starting a career, especially those moving far away to do it:

1. Stay positive – even in your lowest moments, think about how lucky you are to have a steady paycheck, a roof over your head, and food on the table. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have any of that, and I’m sure that there are a lot of people who would love to be in your shoes

2. Forget about what you HAD, it’s about what you HAVE – I spent so much time dwelling on what I HAD when I lived in PA that it made me ignorant of all of the amazing things I HAVE out here in Kansas City. Once you learn to let go, life just gets so much easier

3. Accept it – This one was a tough one to swallow for me, but once I accepted my current life situation and embraced it, moving away and starting a job has become so much easier.

4. Find a hobby – A hobby is something I kind of neglected to find once I got down here, and it has been one of my biggest downfalls. However, I have joined a few clubs, got involved in some local events, and have been picking up new things. It’s amazing how easy it is to get involved and how easily doing this will help you transition. It allows you to explore new places, meet new people, and step out of your comfort zone – all very positive things.

5. Don’t be shy – making new friends is the best way to cope with growing up – especially if you find people in a similar situation to you. It’s amazing how much it helps your transition, and even may help to keep you young.

6. Talk about it – stay in touch with your old friends and let them honestly know how things are going – it’s never good to bottle up all of your emotions and I’m sure your friends of the past would love to catch up and hear how it is in a (probably) foreign land to them

7. Lean on family – my parents have been incredible in helping me transition. Not only have they helped me financially, but they are always there on the other side of the phone to tell me to keep my head up or to hear me talk about my life, and for that, I love them.

This is an excerpt from a blogpost written by Steve Wainwright who graciously shared with us.  Steve studied management information systems at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP ’11).  He is now an analyst at Cerner Corporation in Kansas City Missouri.

Write a post for us! Send your idea to bloggingonthebrightside@gmail.com.  

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Lose Your Focus

I am about to ruin the movie “500 Days of Summer” for you. If this is going to upset or anger you, I’m going to ask you to stop reading. Stop reading and go watch “500 Days of Summer,” then begin reading again. I make no apologies for this, as I promise to use this spoiler alert for good and not evil.

The movie “500 Days of Summer” is about the ups and downs of a 20-something relationship that teeters between friends-with-benefits, true love, and bitter hatred. Throughout the movie, the main character, Tom, befriends, falls for, and ultimately loses the girl he thought was “the one,” Summer. But by the final scene in the movie, Tom has pulled his life together and is slowly beginning to move on. He is interviewing for a position at an architecture firm when he meets his competition, a sweet young thing named Autumn. (If you ask me, the whole Summer/Autumn thing is cute in a not-really-at-all-creative way, but I love this movie none-the-less.)

The following exchange happens between Tom and Autumn as they discuss one of Tom’s favorite places in Los Angeles. It was this place in which he took Summer and later became the place where he finally got his closure from her:

Autumn: Have I seen you before?

Tom: Me? I don’t think so.

Autumn: Do you ever go to Angela’s Plaza?

Tom: Yes… That’s like my favorite spot in the city.

Autumn: Yeah, except for the parking lots.

Tom: Yeah, yeah I agree.

Autumn: Yeah, yeah I think I’ve seen you there.

Tom: Really?

Autumn: Yeah…

Tom: I haven’t seen you?

Autumn: You must not have been looking…

Part of being young and driven is the idea that we should make goals and focus on them. Perhaps ONLY them. That we should know what we want and what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to get it. But sometimes we need to step back and look at the bigger picture: What great things are we missing because we are focusing so hard on the good things?

“Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one.”

This is one of my favorite quotes, and lately it has been inspiring me to lose some of my focus on things that I shouldn’t be wasting too much time on.  All of us spend so much time trying to make things happen – which is great – but you have to admit that sometimes life’s best moments are those happy accidents you weren’t really planning on.

You’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for. You just might need to stop looking so hard.

Spoiler alert over.

Another wonderful Guest Blog Post from Jess Brown. She is a seasoned guest blogger, and we are thrilled to have her share her gift of optimism with us.  If you would like to write from us, we’d love to hear from you. Please email your posts to bloggingonthebrightside@gmail.com.

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