inspire

If I learned anything in 2015 it was to learn.

Find someone who inspires you. As I embark on a new adventure in the coming days I feel myself coming alive. Sleepless with excitement.

Watching this video brought me to tears.
The realization of a dream is the most powerful feeling in the world.
Its anticipation is the most profound.

Mimi inspires me.
Venture. Exert. Love.

My heart throbs with thankfulness to God. What have I done to deserve this feeling of wonder? It is truly in myself that I find the greatest proof of His existence. He has crafted in me a spirit of wonder. I marvel at the excellence of His creation of ME. To be given the ability to feel is surely the greatest treasure to be blessed with.

MMXV

“My new more realistic goals include getting a solid double axel, finding more friends,
losing weight, and in the future hopefully getting a business degree,
become a wedding coordinator and furthermore be in the wedding….the bride!

–Jana 17 years old, December 31, 2005

A decade later, only one of those things happened.
Ever since I was a teenager I take time on the last day of the year to reflect and plan.
I never got a solid double axel; I weigh more now than I did when I was 17; I didn’t go to business school; I’m not interested in wedding planning; and I’m not married!

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 8.50.26 AMTo this day I’m incredibly disappointed that I never got my double axel consistently. However, I look back with a new appreciation for how good I was at skating even without a sweet jump like that.

I was so skinny when I was in high school. I spent so much time worrying about how much I ate and what I weighed. It was oppressive. I’m thankful that I have a healthy attitude towards my body today.

Graduating from journalism school opened up an imaginarium of possibilities for me. Who knows what would have happened if I had majored in business, but I don’t really care!

Wedding planning didn’t work out, but I have a new opportunity that is the perfect marriage of my love of fairytales, weddings and writing. I can’t wait to share more about it with you!

I’m not married but I am so thankful for my relationship with James. I am blown away by all that I’ve learned about myself as I’ve learned how to love him better every day.

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Today I do have so many more incredible friends than I could ever have hoped for when I was seventeen. I’ve kept up a couple friendships over the last 10 years. Those relationships are so precious to me. It is sad how difficult it is to stay in touch with people, both near and far. Other friendships have developed in the last few years! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have so many inspiring, beautiful people in my life.

“Bet my life on it
Made my bed, gonna lie on it
Made up my mind that I won’t get just by or get lost in it
I won’t listen to your rumors, I won’t listen to your doubts…
I want it all.”
Cam “Want It All”

My favorite album of the year “Untamed” plays through the bluetooth speaker on the counter. Christmas lights line my bedroom door and cast a cheerful glow in my new apartment. My lifelong dream of living in downtown Denver came true this year. I said goodbye to my roommates, packed my little sister’s blue truck, and drove down to the city.

Saying that ‘my dream came true’ is misleading. That phrase might lead you to believe that I was lucky and I had a great opportunity open up. Granted, I was very lucky, but I put in the effort to make it happen. I found a super affordable one-bedroom apartment in the most ideal neighborhood I could have dreamed of. Denver is one of the hottest, craziest housing markets in the country. Finding the situation I’m in should have been impossible. It only happened because I made my mind up and then I searched tirelessly. I weighed hundreds of different options, and then made the impossible happen.uptown
Lesson: decide what you want, set your budget and go. You have this thing that no one before in the history of humanity has ever had, the Internet. Make the most of it.

This year at work there was more than one Monday that I showed up a minute or two late with a sour attitude. I’m sure there were also a couple times that I jetted out the door at 4:59:38 on Friday to get the weekend started.
But something happed to me this year. I became more responsible. Seems like something that should happen on a birthday, or when you graduate from college or some special date like that. My change happed so gradually; it wasn’t until I woke up for work at 6:45 on a Tuesday morning in October with an excited attitude for work that I realized I had changed. Or maybe it was one random summer Thursday night when I stayed an hour late to get something done, without having to be asked or told, that I realized something in me had changed. That sense of dread walking up the red brick steps to work and that feeling of loathing upon seeing my grey swivel chair was gone. It has been replaced by a sense of ownership.
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Nothing materially changed in my situation to bring about this change. I’m not even sure what to attribute it to. Maybe maturity is just an age thing finally catching up to me, or maybe I have gained it from the wisdom I have gleaned form the 600 plus hours of podcast listening I logged on Stitcher this year. All I know is that I’m excited to see where my new attitude is going to take in 2016. Even if I don’t make any huge new accomplishments, this attitude will make whatever I do and wherever I go a heck of a lot more fun.

I’m not going to review every detail of this year. You’ve seen my Facebook, kids. Things happened. I capture so many great moments and share them on the interwebs. I’ve spent a lot of this year recognizing that so many of the best moments cannot be ‘hearted’, and some of the most liked moments were just manufactured for the camera.

Two non-Instagrammed 2015 moments especially give me pause.

There is one trip I took that is incredibly special to me.
It was a secret. I booked my ticket. I packed my backpack hours before going to the airport at midnight on Friday and then flew to the future all by myself.

The first revenue-generating passenger jet, United Airlines flight 1474, arrives at Denver International Airport from Colorado Springs, Colo., early Feb. 28, 1995, the first day of operations at the new airport. The airport that was supposed to keep America's flights on time in any kind of weather failed the test during its first blizzard late Sunday night Oct. 22, 1995. A storm that dumped a half-foot of snow crippled the new Denver International Airport. Water leaked through the tower roof andfell on computer equipment. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

I will always remember the feeling of the humid air sticking to my skin while standing on the curb of my destination airport terminal. It was 5:34 Saturday morning. I had slept for one hour on my redeye cross-country flight and my Uber was pulling up to take me to the beach.
The next 36 hours were illusory. I used my backpack as a pillow to sleep on the beach, rode my rental bike 2 miles in the driving rain to return it in time and I paid more for a drink at a bar than I paid for my entire flight.

When, in the history of ever, could a girl like me get on an airplane after work on Friday and end up in a different world the next morning?

I learned two things about travel on this trip:

  1. Travel is so much easier to do than we make it. It is cheap, it is fast and it is simple. If you want to go, stop saying no. Every time a new excuse pops into your head as to why you can’t or shouldn’t CATCH IT and put it in the trash. Turn your no’s into yes’s. Its 100% up to you. It has nothing to do with how much time, money or responsibility you have. If you really want something you will find a way to make it happen. Stop letting yourself off so easy.
  2. Traveling is not about the new places you get to see. It is about the way it changes your soul. This is something that I cannot write about. It is inexplicable. If you’ve experienced this, you’re nodding your head right now in understanding. If you haven’t, see point number one.

I also had a couple close calls this year.
The other morning I was driving to work and hit some black ice while getting on the interstate. I wasn’t texting, driving too fast or being irresponsible in any way. There is no reason I should have done a 180 turn like that. Even more sobering, there is no reason that the truck behind me didn’t smack into the back of my car. The moment your car is sliding towards a wall and there’s nothing you can do is petrifying. You don’t have time to think about praying and asking God to save you from certain catastrophe. I’m waiting for the crunch of metal when my car slows to a stop and the oncoming traffic I’m now facing has stopped. There is nothing you can say to convince me that God is not always looking out for me.

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I leave this year of MMXV:

Thankful for my family. 
Amazed by my friends.
Overwhelmed by God’s provision.
Excited for the next…

FIGHTING RESISTANCE

WRITING RESISTANCE –

brMy problem with writing is that I care too much about what other people think. For years I’ve wanted to write a book. I’ve even started a few but I’ve never gotten past the first chapter. A lot of people start something great, but most never finish. I confronted this idea in Jess Walter’s book “Beautiful Ruins.” There is a character who makes a special trip to Italy every summer to write a book. He does this for years and all he writes is one chapter.

I don’t write because I’m scared that I’ll run out of things to say. I’m afraid that people won’t like my book, and that all my efforts will be for nothing. I look at the masses of books that are published every year and think, ‘Why would anyone read a book that I wrote when they could read one of these 10,000 books?”

I listen to a lot of podcasts and interviews of great writers and they always say the same thing: to be a writer you have to write. So what did I do when I heard that? I read more books and listened to more podcasts…

Before I could start on the path to my dreams I thought I had to dig into my soul. And I did, for a while. But you can only read so many books and spend so many hours thinking before its time to do something.

waSteven Pressfield talks in depth about the hurdle we face when trying to do something important. He calls it RESISTANCE.

Resistance was winning. Knowing that didn’t stop me from succumbing into its claws. My form of submission was trying to figure out why I was resisting.

“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance” – Steven Pressfield “The War of Art”

4wwMy resistance continued and I read more books.

These books are life-changing and everyone should read them:
The Four Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss

 

 

vbVagabonding – Rolf Potts 

 

 

 

The Art of Non Conformity – Chris Guillebeau

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Since reading these books, I have not been the same. My outlook on life has transformed. Not in the sense that I’ve changed my desires, but that in that my dreams now seem achievable.

After finishing each book, my mind would go crazy thinking of all the things I wanted to do. More importantly I had ideas about how to get those things. Then after a day or so of brainstorming, the flame would fizzle. Before I knew it, a couple weeks had gone by and my life hadn’t changed for the better. Why was I reading these great books if I was going to just sit around and think about stuff?

Actually it isn’t true that I was doing nothing. That was resistance taking on another form: discouragement. I had started taking steps toward my goals. For example, I was being more careful about my spending so I could save money for big trips and I had applied for a passport.

When you read a book about someone transforming their life from being a cubicle-sitter to a world-traveller you watch their transformation unfold in a period of a few hours. My real-time life experiences were moving at a glacial pace in comparison. I stopped myself and counted all of the positive steps I was taking and realized that progress was being made. Sometimes the apparent lack of progress can be debilitating. Make sure you give yourself the credit and encouragement you deserve when you are taking steps forward.

Knowledge CAN be the preventer of achievement. Gathering data is super important. You have to know what you’re getting into and determine if its something you really want.

BUT At some point you have to start doing. Even if you’re not 100% prepared you will learn as you go. The mistakes you make will be the most important lessons that shape your character and give grit to your success. And I don’t mean stop reading! Learning from others is always less costly than learning things in the school of hard knocks. Just make sure that you’re reading AND working.

So I’m writing! I don’t know where this is going but I’m doing it. Even if it’s just a blog a day, I’m putting in work and THAT is what matters.

Clearly this idea of breaking down resistance extends beyond wanting to be a writer to whatever discipline you’re interested in. As Pressfield says,

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.” -Steven Pressfield

Don’t give in! Successful people are not excuse makers. Some struggle less than others, but there is no formula.

Start and don’t stop.

 

 

Top 5 – Instagram

@MimiIkonn
@MimiIkonn

If you read my last post about wasting time on your smart phone you might wonder why today I’m writing about Instagram, one of the top time-wasting apps.
If you enjoy spending time on your phone cruising certain apps, you don’t have to eliminate it! Just be more conscious about what you’re looking at and why.
Instagram is one of my favorite apps to tap when I have a down moment during the day. On it I find beauty, encouragement and inspiration for my life. Making sure that I’m not wasting my time looking at pictures that I don’t care about is really important to me, so here’s a list of my favorite accounts. I’m always looking for new ‘grammers’ to follow so let me know your favorites in the comment section!

Top 5 Instagram-ers:
@SheReadsTruth – devotional / inspirational / Bible verses
@MimiIkonn –  style / fashion / travel
@LesleyAnneMurphy – travel / photography / inspiration
@HeyHails – photography / family
@BeautifulDestinations – travel / photography

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 9.22.57 AM@SheReadsTruth is the Instagram account for the devotional website shereadstruth.com. This is such a wonderful resource that I found because of a long lost acquaintance. That’s something I love about social media: connecting with people from my past! I somehow reconnected with a girl, Ashley (@newdiolsen), from my figure skating childhood on Instagram. Ashley re-posts @shereadstruth photos all the time which I finally checked out one day. It’s a treasure of beautifully crafted images with sweet little captions. She Reads Truth is not just an Instagram with great photos. They have an app, a devotional book, and a daily devotional reading plan geared toward women. Every little gem they post is always a encouragement and a reminder for me to take time out for some Bible reading and prayer.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 9.27.11 AM@MimiIkonn is super fun. All of her posts are a visual treat. Each photo is full of light, life and color. She posts great outfit ideas, fresh and healthy snacks and great office décor concepts. Whether she’s working in her London office or traveling the world, she always brightens up my Instagram feed. Part of why I find her work inspiring is because I know her incredible entrepreneurial story. She and husband Alex started Luxy Hair, hair extension company, years ago and have worked hard to grow it into the successful business it is today! Seeing someone work hard and achieve their dreams gives me the encouragement to pursue my own.

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Thailand

@LesleyAnnMurphy is a world-renowned traveller. You never know what part of the world her next post is going to come from but each and every picture is flawless. I initially found her because she was a contestant on ABC’s the Bachelor. She never posts a poor quality photo. Its a great reminder to me to do everything well. There is never a good reason to do things poorly, even if its just posting grainy, out of focus picture. Seeing all of the amazing places Les travels to excites me to save money when I can and plan my next trip to see the world for myself!


Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 9.34.32 AM@heyhails happens to be my cousin’s lovely wife so I am definitely biased to like her Instagram. The daily pictures of her and my cousin’s sweet family of two little boys never get old. Having ridiculously cute kids helps, but her mastery of light is her true super-power. The great angles, expressions and moods that she catches with her camera offer a glimpse into the human soul. The cute, no-nonsense comments she Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 9.35.44 AMadds enhance your understanding of what’s really going on in the picture but more importantly also offer some real insight into the struggles of being a mother today. This is a great time to mention that when optimizing or cleansing your social media you don’t have to only follow the most popular Instagram-ers. Sometimes your own family and friends are the most creative and insightful. You should always follow family and friends that are close to your heart.

 

 

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Mcway Falls

@beautifuldestinations is a top Instagram staple for me. They are one of the most prolific travel Instagrams with over 4 million followers. Sometimes their photos feel a little over-produced and commercial, but I stick with them because of the variety of places they highlight every day. Whether its Uttar Pradesh, India, Albuquerque, New Mexico or Mont Saint Michele, France I’m intrigued by the crazy places in the photos. I also really appreciate the information they post in the caption about where the photo was taken and by whom. The dreams I have of seeing the world are refreshed and renewed every time I see one of their photos.

I’ve crafted my Insta-experience to give me the inspiration, encouragement and visual refreshment I desire. When I tap that brown lens on my phone screen I want to know that I’ll see something that will encourage, inspire and uplift my spirits.
Don’t be afraid to un-follow someone whose not adding to the experience you want to have and always search for new posters that can inspire and teach you about something you never knew!

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Oh and hey, follow me!!! @janakates_ (don’t forget that dang underscore at the end! Whoever stole @janakates, why did you take it if you’re not going to do anything with it… )

SOCIAL MEDIA OPTIMIZATION – aka STOP WASTING TIME

2015-09-08 23.05.28The idea of going on a social media fast is about as appealing as going on a food fast. However, just as fasting from eating for a short time can have benefits, limiting social media can help you refocus on what’s important. Having the interests and career that I do, there isn’t really a feasible way for me to unplug from social media totally. For me, limiting and optimizing it to be efficient is not only possible but necessary.

With that in mind I am transforming my social media habits to increase my effectiveness and productivity throughout the day. The next time you go to look at your phone for something other than to answer a call or a text, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Maybe you’re bored, you want to find something, or you’re doing it out of habit. Break that habit now. If that means you have to delete all your social media apps for a week then do it! There are 100 better ways to spend your time than looking at every post on your feed.

Don’t just trust yourself to not open an app you’re addicted to. Delete it. This doesn’t do anything to your account or data. It just gives you the accountability of having a barrier. If you get really desperate you can always re-download the app or log in from your phone’s Internet browser.

sc“But I just look at it in my down time!” you cry in defense! I’m not really wasting any time.
I beg to differ. If you open Snapchat 10 times a day and spend 30 seconds on it each time, you’re spending over two hours a month looking at and sending pictures that disappear after a few seconds. Multiply the number of other social media outlets you use and the amount of time you spend on each of them per day and you’re wasting hours of time every month.

You know there are better ways you could spend that time. For example, how many books have you read this year? President Teddy Roosevelt read tens of thousands of books in his lifetime. How could someone as important and busy as the President of the United States have the time to read that many books?
Simple, he didn’t have a smart phone or a Facebook account.

kaI, like many of you, have the bad habit of opening my phone during down time. What I did recently to improve my smart phone experience is install Amazon’s Kindle app. That way, if I have an extra minute or two during the day I can open up the book I’m reading and make a couple pages progress learning something important.

Another app I installed on my phone is Stitcher. This is an app that is used to stream podcasts. The beauty of Stitcher is that it can give you anything you want. You can learn a new language in just a few minutes per day with a foreign language learning app. You can listen to the news in condensed segments with NPR, and you can learn about all of the random things you should have already learned about in the popular “Stuff You Should Know” podcast. st
Listen while you’re driving, working out, cleaning or working, if your job allows. In fact, if you get really desperate you can listen to a podcast while your browsing Instagram. At least you’ll be learning something while you look at girls doing yoga on stand up paddle boards! (I’ll review my top 5 favorite podcasts in a later post.)

We all like watching funny videos of cute animals or our silly friends on Facebook but there’s no need to waste so much of our valuable time on them. Spend every minute of your day smarter and think about what you can do to optimize your social media to have a more productive and efficient life.

Tell me about your social media / smart phone hacks in the comment section below!

 

 

 

slave gods

Matani ShakyaAs with the rest of the world I’ve been hearing a lot about Nepal lately. I’m fascinated by the economics, culture and religion of other cultures. My Christian, American, middle upper class upbringing has given me advantages that I am grateful for. I know my birth and upbringing makes me one of the most advantaged people in the world. That became even more clear upon finding the Kumari.

The Kumari are Nepalese girls who are made into goddesses. These children, babies, are not allowed in many cases to leave their homes, save a few annual exceptions. Their feet are too holy to touch the ground, therefore they are not allowed to walk. Once they reach puberty they are deemed mortal and are allowed to join their peers in school, work and play. Of course by the time this retired Kumari girl is 12 years old she is unable to run, among other physical activities, and is not socially adjusted.

I look back on my pre-pubescent years with incredible fondness. I was an ice skater, ballet dancer, and hide-and-go-seeker. Shouldn’t every child be a diving board jumper, tag-in-the-back-yard sprinter and toes-in-the-water splasher? I respect that each parent makes the decision of how to raise their children regarding religious practices and beliefs. There are two questions I ask:
What are basic human…rather…childhood rights? Is physical activity one of them?

This is not a raging worldwide human rights crisis. The number of girls affected by the honor of being chosen to be a goddess is very small. It just makes me sad to think of any child being denied the right to…childhood.

Read more about Kumari on the Huffington Post…or just google it.

 

 

striking stars and learning lessons

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.37.30 PMIn my work I’ve been blessed to meet more than a handful of famous people. Some are names that everyone knows like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NFL legend John Elway. Some of my most favorite star encounters are with the less well known like Ambassador Husain Haqqani or CEO Keryn James.

On the first week of my internship I was thrown into a world of famous people. We were in Colorado at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival. Speakers gather from around the world to discuss their ideas about current social and economic issues and debate the merits of solutions they conceive.

Before we got there my boss opened the conference schedule online started listing the names of who we wanted to interview. I grabbed a pen and started putting notes by each name he mentioned.
“Okay,” he said, “start making some phone calls now.”

What? I must have missed something. He didn’t give me any of their phone numbers. Who has the CEO of Starbucks or the President of Pakistan’s phone number anyways?

What I’ve learned is that not only can these untouchable people be found and contacted, but most of them will say ‘hi’ to you if you pass them on the sidewalk.

My boss’s gregarious demeanor, his vast knowledge and his resume of former show guests encourage people to listen and respond when we invite them to be on the show. He taught me what number to call first and what to say to the gatekeepers to quickly show your competence and get their interest. Mostly what I’ve learned from Aaron is the importance of being nice to everyone. Whether he is greeting a member of the President’s cabinet on the sidewalk or thanking the girl filling the fruit tray at the buffet table, he treats everyone with respect.

At first I was so afraid and intimidated by the people we were interviewing. I think it took me a few trips of being ‘star struck’ before I became more comfortable.

When you walk into a situation feeling less than someone else, it doesn’t matter if that’s true or not. Your impression is what you will act upon.

There were a few factors that helped me to be more comfortable. My knowledge of my work and the show helped a lot. Also, the more I was in intimidating situations the more confident I became. But as usual, Aaron made the biggest impression on me.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.36.44 PMWe walked down the path in Aspen one day and spotted a couple people chatting in the shade. I didn’t know either of them but assumed that Aaron did, he knew everyone there. We shook hands, exchanged business cards and Aaron talked with them about some humanitarian project. As we walked away, Aaron said, “Do you know who that was?”
No, I replied.
“It was actor Stanley Tucci and his fiancée Felicity Blunt.“

 

They didn’t know either Aaron or I at all. By being friendly we were able to have a nice conversation with them. I learned later that not only did Aaron not know them, but he didn’t know half of the people he had been talking to the entire trip.

Famous people stand around in regular pants and shoes and talk to people about the news while drinking their coffee. If you’re well informed, confident and friendly you can have intelligent conversations with anyone.

 

 

musings of a young girl with a career.

I’ve been searching for my writer’s voice for a long time now. I’ve been a wedding blogger, a faith blogger, a motivational blogger, a movie review blogger. Anything that captivates my thoughts and interests I have written about.

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The only significant thing in my life that I’ve never said anything about is my career. This struck me as especially peculiar. I spend all day, all week doing my job. Some days it challenges me to learn new things, and from it I generate enough money to provide for myself and have quite a bit of fun.

It’s really satisfying to talk to people at parties or when I’m getting my hair done at the salon, because when they ask where I work I get to say, “I’m a TV producer.“

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I’m very proud of what I do. I work hard at it and take a lot of responsibility for the product that I produce. Even so, there are days I feel like my job sounds a thousand times better than it is. I even occasionally feel a pang of envy when I log into Facebook and see old college classmates anchoring evening newscasts.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” she talks about how the work force is no longer a ladder but a jungle gym. Sometimes I see myself swinging along with my peers on the monkey bars. Other times I’m afraid I’ve been laying around in the sandbox by myself for too long.

I’m never sure how to describe what it is that I do. Its odd, after a couple years of answering the “what do you do” question you would think that I would have narrowed it down to the most fascinating power-punch answer. Every time I reply I find myself racking my brain for the coolest possible thing to say.

Why do I feel the need to impress? I guess we all want to be accepted. Impressing people is a part of that acceptance process. If we have something interesting that people want then they’re more likely to include us in their lives. So for now, my job is the thing that I use to try to impress people and be accepted.

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I’ve made some pretty hairy mistakes and I’ve met some pretty cool people so far. Its been an incredible learning experience to stand by and listen to my boss converse with leaders in every imaginable industry for the last three years. Even more powerful has been my more recent experience of gaining confidence in my voice and ability to have conversations of my own. The morning I got to chat with a female lawyer at a breakfast event was so encouraging.  She is the only female partner in her office. “People say you have to choose family or career, as if its a one time choice. But for me I choose each day. One day I choose to spend time with my children after school and the next day I decide to take an extra meeting and work a little late. Each day. That’s how I find balance.” she explained to me.

The hours I spend sitting at my desk hammering away at my keyboard all run together. If you look at one particular day or keystroke, it seems insignificant. Once you compile all of those days and all of those keystrokes, they become the story of a girl finding her voice and finding her dreams. Yes, finding dreams. Not just chasing them, because…

Dreams are not stationary things that we can set our eyes upon.
Rather they are evolving impressions of the things we want.