A Patient Start

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The keeper of time,

the setter of the sun;

Keep smiling, stay patient,

it’s only just begun.

A seedling in the dirt,

awaits its time to grow,

sprouting when it may;

Good things take time, you know.

In my happy head,

with my happy heart,

I’ll wait & wait & wait some more;

Love grows with a patient start.

Lately, life has given me some not-so-subtle reminders of the joy that patience can bring. There is a quote that says, “It was sunsets that taught me that beauty sometimes only lasts for a couple of moments, and it was sunrises that showed me that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again.” I think that the power of mindfulness is the ability it gives us to trust patient timing, and not try to force life to fit within the schedules that we so often are governed by. So many of us settle for the things that we think we should have by now, because they are within our reach. But I believe that it is the things that we have to stretch for, and practice patience in order to attain, are the things that make life so beautiful.

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Which Way is Up?

There are 7.4 billion people in this world, and each of us are experiencing life in our own way. On our own journey. On our own path.

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Sometimes these paths cross. In fact, they cross many times, with many different people, at times when paths are smooth, and times when they are rocky.

When I was younger, I looked for guidance along my path through religion. Maybe God is responsible for my path, but how do I know what God wants? Or who God is?

I was told that God is that Father, but I didn’t really have much faith in those.

If God is the one who created me, why did he make my path so dark? I often thought God was mad at me. That maybe I had done something in a past life that present day Lauren was paying the price for. That’s why my path was steep, rocky, and had no light at the end of it.

My path was peppered with hurdles, as all of ours are. But my hurdles seemed disproportionate to my size. It had seemed that God had collected hurdles from quite a few others, and stacked them on my path, one by one.

But, this only taught me how to climb. I stayed valiant on my quest for answers, for who God was, and what He wanted from me. I eventually grew curious about the teachings of Eastern religions, and God began to feel a bit more familiar. A bit more compassionate.

I felt a sense of God in the trees. In the dirt. In the fresh spring air. God wasn’t this almighty plan-maker who dictates the shit storms that blow you off course. God wasn’t the path at all, but instead, was the compass.

The more in touch I felt with this notion, the clearer my direction became.

The paths that each of us are on, that’s called life, and we only get one of those. The only thing that we’re promised in life is that it will end, at some undisclosed point, for each and every one of us.

So, which way is up?

How do we strut down our paths confident that we’re headed in the right direction?

Awareness. 

Awareness, first and foremost, that we are on a path. Awareness that your path is not my path, and it is not meant to be.

It is often in good practice to tap back into the imaginative mind of your younger self. if you can still do this, that’s great news! For it means that you have not strayed too far off your intended path.

My younger self was inquisitive, which is a trait I fear will die out as questions are so swiftly answered by Siri and Alexa. But I don’t think either of them would be able to answer the questions that little Lauren had.

Hey Siri… why am I here?” 

I look back on my path, and I feel grateful for the darkness I have trekked through, for it has made me aware. Those whose paths were quite similar to their neighbor’s never really had much thought to question them. Their paths were pretty straight forward. Neither light nor dark, a few bumps, a few curves. So they carry on in whatever direction, lacking awareness of their inner compass that may be screaming, “don’t go THIS way, go THAT way!”

These folks typically end up sideways, surrounded by other sideways beings, who are all convinced that their way is up. Because they are unaware otherwise.

Then, there are some individuals who end up down. These are the ones whose paths were filled with obstacles, but rather than looking for answers, became buried in their darkness. Consumed by it. They internalized their hurdles, rather than seeking creative ways to jump over them. They don’t even question which way is up, because they have stopped caring.

Finally, there are those who are the up-most uppiest individuals. Those whose paths have been woven by the very fabric of their being. Whether their journey has taken them through the mud or through the clouds, they have been open-eyed to how each string of moments dictates the next, and so one and so forth, into all of eternity. They know that their path is uniquely their own, guided by their inner compass, leading them to exactly where they need to be.

“Awareness is therapy, per say.”  -Fritz Perls 

We as a society have been conditioned to not give ourselves enough credit. We’re told what we should want, and when we should want it. We’re told what will make us happy, and how much it will cost. With all of this streaming through our consciousness, it is not surprising that so many of us stray so far from our intended paths.

We end up in jobs that we hate, or in relationships where we are miserable, because of the facade that this is how it should go.

Now, with social media, we’re constantly being shown the likes of the paths of others, that makes us think, “Hey! I want that!”

But how many of these paths that we’re seeing are the ones that know which way is up? Not just those tricky tricksters who are sideways and saying, “Look! This is up! I guarantee it!”

A mindful eye changes everything. Begin to think of those moments you’ve experienced that seem rather inexplainable. Call it fate, call it God, but I’ll call it a timely notification from your inner compass saying, “Keep on heading in this direction! THIS way is up!”

The way up may be dark or it may be light. It could be sharp and filled with twists and turns, or it could be fluid with a couple of bumps in the road. But as long as you follow your own path, it will get you to where you need to be, when you need to be there.

It will make you your youest you. 

10 Things I Learned From 10 Cities in 2017

In 2014, I made my first New Years Resolution – to travel to five cities I’ve never visited before, and to fly solo on at least one of these trips. Since 2014, I’ve visited over 35 new cities and 10 countries, with more than a handful of these being solo adventures. There’s something about traveling that makes me feel like I’m not just living— but that I am truly alive. I’ve pushed further beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone than I could have ever imagined, which has given me a sense of confidence that has trickled down to every aspect of my life.

Each year, I reflect on my trips and the pearls of wisdom they have brought me. This has become my favorite post to write, for it forces me to mull over the moments that have been marinating in my mind as the months have gone by.

  1. Savannah, GA. | I’m my Mother’s Daughter

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This year I realized that I am one bob haircut away from turning into my mother. We’re two ENFJ’s in a pod, who have walked through fire to live a life of sunshine. Savannah was the first time my mom and I traveled together— no Tammy, no Grammy, just us. On the first weekend of January, my sister attends a theater conference in Upstate New York. My mom and I seized this window of opportunity to do something we’ve never done before: go on an adventure. The combination of a short flight, open containers, and River Street made Savannah the perfect destination.

My Mom has not been bitten by the travel bug as I have, however, we have both been plagued with a different beast: anxiety. Sharing my love of travel with my Mom goes so much further than showing her some of my favorite destinations. I am deeply indebted to travel for allowing me to realize that I can tame my own anxious mind. Our weekend in Savannah was spent going with the flow of what River Street had to offer. Not everything in life needs a plan— which sounds blasphemous when you’re as type A as we are. We didn’t have an itinerary telling us to take syringe jello shots at the dueling piano bar… those things just happen.

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2. Boston, MA. | Embrace change

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I don’t feel completely ready to say goodbye to 2017. My baby sister is a senior in high school, and will be going off to Emerson College in the fall. I’m not completely sure how that’s even possible, because I feel like I graduated high school 20 minutes ago. Going away to college is the experience that transitions you into adulthood. It’s the years that you’ll build relationships that will bring you into your next phase of life.

We visited Boston this summer, and it was such an obvious fit for my sister’s college experience. This trip allowed me to face reality. The truth is that I’ll never be ready to let my sister go (ammi right parents?!), but I have faith in Boston, and the happiness this city will bring my sister. 

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3. Montréal, QC  | Fly solo (and do some pull ups)

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Sometimes you gotta go, where nobody knows your name. ☝🏻🎶 Montréal is my first Canadian adventure, eh, and certainly did not lack in poutine, friendliness, and maple syrup. Once you travel by yourself, it becomes something that you crave. I love to immerse myself in a new location, and flying solo forces you to dive in differently. One of my favorite things to do is take classes at different gyms, so I can learn from different trainers, and trainees wherever I am! On this trip, I visited Studio Epix for their HIIT morning workout. This was the first class that pushed me to try pull ups… and life has never been the same.

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4. Austin, TX | Be Genuinely Curious

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A professor once told me that the key to being a good listener is in being genuinely curious. That was a tip that has always stuck with me, and has been brought to life during my time in Austin. This year on my solo adventures, I grew quite fond of hostel life. During my time at the Firehouse Hostel, I went on daily adventures with interesting others, traveling from as far as Australia. It wasn’t hard to be genuinely curious about the paths that my new traveling posse have taken, that led us to the same place, at the same time. It makes me think of all the people we cross paths with on a daily basis, that we may be inspired by if it were for just a little bit of curiosity. We’re not cats, after all…

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5. Pilanesberg, South Africa | Life extends beyond ourselves

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This year I took the trip of my dreams, and went on safari in South Africa. Being smack dab in the middle of the animal kingdom was a consistent reminder that the universe does not revolve around us. We humans get caught up in our own lives, and don’t often sit and ponder about the lioness that is hunting to feed her cubs. This trip was a refreshing culture shock, that allowed me to disconnect from the human world. Albert Einstein once said, look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albie, you weren’t kidding buddy.

[Read more: Lessons learned on an African Safari]

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6. Cape Town, South Africa | Don’t talk about it, be about it.

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Many of our dreams are reserved for laters and tomorrows. I prefer to-do lists to bucket lists, because as much as I’m a dreamer, I’m also a doer. South Africa was a destination that I always considered a “someday” trip. One of those majestic places that I’ll visit “one day.” Until my best friend said- I’m going, you coming?

We should all dream big, but don’t be afraid to jump up and make things happen. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have travel buddies with travel dreams similar to your own! This trip will hold a special place in my heart, with each moment affirming my love for planet Earth.

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7. Atlanta, GA | You can always count on Waffle House

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This year, two of my trips were rooted in the nuptial love of my college friends. In September, my prom date, his girlfriend and I traveled as sister wives to Atlanta, where we celebrated the wedding of my cat’s namesake, (human) Jordan. Did we lose you, yet?

There a couple of things in life you can depend on. You can depend on the New Yorkers to be the loudest ones in the room.  You can depend on your best friends to travel as far as it takes to watch you walk down the aisle. You can depend on your road trip buddies to keep you belly laughing the whole drive. You can depend on Turbulence by Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke to get you pumped up. And, most importantly, you can depend on Waffle House to make sure you will fall asleep with a full belly.

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8. New Orleans, LA| Don’t jump in the Mississippi

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New Orleans was the scene for another nuptial adventure, that was fueled by Hurricanes and sleep deprivation. But oh, I’m sorry… I thought we were here to party.

This trip wins the award for most fun had in 2017. It has been four years since my friends and I graduated college, so this celebration also served as an epic reunion. There is nothing quite like a New Orleans hotel doubling as your old dorm. Our strong bonds was made stronger with the topsy turvy times that Bourbon Street introduced us to. If you look deep down to the bottom of the Mississippi, you may find some memories that were meant to be forgotten. But, take it from the itchy skin of my friends… you may not want to take that plunge.

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9. Miami, FL | If they don’t tell you how much, it’s probably $300

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South Beach has officially made its way to the top of the leaderboard on my list of cities visited. This year, I visited on my own in February, and as a birthday celebration for one of my best friends in November. We are a crew who would not snub our noses to the likes of a happy hour, and are a group of gals who don’t back down from a challenge.

On one South Beach Saturday night… we got got. If the hot waiter looks too good to be true, he probably is trying to sell you something. Heed our advice and ask how much, and how big, one Coronita is before ordering four of them. But, my friends, if you do order four of them… you don’t stop until the last one is empty. Remember, your body can do this, don’t let your mind stop you!

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10. Denver, CO |  Get high

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I get by with a little help from my friends, and I get high with a little help from my friends. Denver was one of the last cities I visited this year. It was one of those Google Flights cheap rate induced decisions that I’ll never regret. The Rocky Mountains were calling my name, and I was like, u up?

We visited Estes Park on the last day the road to highest peak of the mountains was open for the season. In less than an hour, we were in a completely different climate. There was a ridiculous sense of tranquility that came with the altitude. I felt like an astronaut that was exploring a totally different planet (ok, maybe that was the edibles talking).

My faith is something that I often struggle with, but I always seem to find answers in nature. This year, I have been coping with the reality of the progression of time. My sister is growing up and going off to college. My grandparents are aging and have been ailing. We’re born, we grow up, we do some things between A to Z, and then life ends. Depressing way to end such an uplifting blog, huh?

Sometimes I feel stupidly optimistic, clinging to silver linings. But, my mindset so often comes from considering darkness, forcing me to exude light. I believe that the role I play in this world is dictated by my ability to be present, be appreciative, and be mindful. Sometimes it takes standing at the highest peak of a mountain to remember that you’re braver than you think. Take this time as we begin the new year to really reflect on the world and your place in it. Try to give more than you take, feel as much as you think, and smile at as many humans as you cross paths with.

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10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2016

10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2015

Hot Mess Express

Some people say that social media has made us all narcissists. Others argue that we’ve been narcissists all along, and social media is just a mere tool that we use to flaunt our narcissism. In either argument, the point has been made that there is a link between social media and superficiality.

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Social media makes us want to highlight the best parts of ourselves. Why would we want to share our flaws and imperfections with the world? We post the photos that we look nice in, and the moments of our day that we are proud of. We’ll post our most delicious meals, because no one really wants to see the meal that you burned because you left it in the oven too long.

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But, it is those meals that we’ve destroyed that make us human. It is the pimples that we cover with snapchat filters that give us something in common. No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws.

This morning, a friend of mine (& fellow blogger) tagged me in a post with the tag #gloriousmess, where she talked about the parts of herself that she has embraced as her glorious mess-ness. This is related to a global campaign of individuals sharing their flaws, promoting self love for every aspect of who they are. Campaigns like this one force us out of our comfort zone, bringing us face to face with the aspects of who we are that we would rather brush under the rug than scream from the rooftop.

With that being said, here are mine…

My mind is always filled with a million thoughts. I’ll talk so fast that I’ll stumble on my words, because my brain is moving a mile a minute… and that’s without coffee. I’ve got an overabundance of energy, and while that may sound wonderful, it can also cause me to come crashing down. I consciously have to manage where I exert my energy, which usually causes me to feel like I’m letting some aspect of my life falter. I am a Type-A perfectionist who is her own biggest critic. I can be wound so tight that I wear my shoulders up to my earlobes, and have to take zzzquil to get out of my head and off into dreamland (non-habit forming… yeah right). My addictive personality begs to differ.

Mindfulness and awareness are my tools in embracing what makes me a glorious mess. It’s one thing to acknowledge our flaws, but we must take one step further in becoming the best version of ourselves. For me, something that has helped me immensely has been practicing yoga once a week. It allows me to set aside time for myself to give my brain a break from the consistent flow of thoughts swimming though it. It’s teaching me new tools to carry around throughout the week to help clean up my messy mind… starting with the simple reminder to just breathe.

What makes you a glorious mess? Dig deep into your soul until you have reached a point of uncomfortable. Take those parts of yourself that you have tucked under your bed, and display them on your shelf. Embrace who you are— every damn aspect of you.

5 Things I’ve Learning From Teaching Fitness Classes (that have nothing to do with fitness)

Last year around this time, I decided to register with the National Academy of Sports Medicine to become a personal trainer. I entered the world of fitness classes when I was in college; after a lifetime of taking dance classes, I transitioned into the role of a dance teacher. From there, my post-college fitness path took me into a kickboxing studio, where I developed a true love for helping people change their lives, one roundhouse kick at a time.

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The decision to pursue a certification in the field means gaining a deeper understanding of the science that goes behind exercise. It was a journey that was not only fueled by the desire to help others, but to change my own body in the process.

Here are 5 things I have learned from my experience with fitness, beyond just how to squat properly…

1. Practice What You Preach

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Who would have any respect for a trainer that tells you to do a minute of burpees, that can’t get through 30 seconds on their own? The “do as I say, but not as I do” is not an effective approach to inspire others to learn, grow, and succeed. When studying for my NASM exam, I selected a self-study plan… which for them means that I receive a textbook, and have 1 year to learn the material, and then pass my exam. For me, a self-study plan means that I am going to internalize the material in a way that not only allows me to regurgitate facts for a test, but in a way where I can live and breathe what I have learned. In the year that I had to take my exam, I applied the principles of functional movement to my workouts, and an understanding of basic nutrition to my diet. I not only passed my exam, but lost 10 pounds in the process.

2. Life is about balance

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Yes, I love exercise. Yes, I love pizza. Why not enjoy both? But this principle goes beyond that of nutrition. My love of exercise has stemmed from the fact that both my education and my professional role in the world of social media takes place online. A typical, productive day consists with me sitting on the computer for a very, very long time. To me, that doesn’t scream “balance.” So, I began working out as a way to even out my scale of physical activity. The gym doesn’t have to be a place that is such a task to get to. Instead, it can be your place of equilibrium, where you balance out your mind and body versus the trajectory of your typical day.

3. Team work makes the dream work

 

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As Bill Withers famously sang, we all need somebody to lean on. Working at F45 has opened my eyes to a whole new form of team work. I’ve taken plenty of fitness classes before, but have always preferred to work out on my own. To me, there’s nothing better than being in my own zone. But F45 allows you to be in your zone, surrounded by others who are in their zone, supported and encouraged by a team who has set the bar of what “the zone” is. Speaking for myself, I’ve got a very “I can do this on my own” attitude… which can propel me forwards in some ways, but in others, can hold me back. Intrinsic motivation is important, that’s what gets you started. But, the motivation that comes from a team is what helps you reach new heights.

4. If you want it, go get it

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Despite what the industry of diet pills, tummy tea, and cleanses want to sell us, there is no shortcut to a healthy, fit life. In fact, there is no shortcut to any type of great success. If you want something, you have to give it everything you’ve got. If you want that promotion, work your ass off for it. If you want that A in your class, fully immerse yourself in the material. If you to be able to run a marathon, get off the couch and start training for it. There is nothing more satisfying than looking back on how far you’ve come and thinking, “I earned this.”

5. Everyone has a story

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You learn a lot about people from working at a gym. Everyone’s starting point is different, whether it is on their fitness journey, or their journey in life. Keep an open mind and you can be inspired by, and learn from people who you would have never crossed paths with otherwise. Sharing a common interest, such as working out, is something that unites us. You may be surprised what else you have in common with people who can be so seemingly different from you. As a trainer, it’s a privilege when members trust you enough to give you a glimpse into their lives outside of the gym. It’s truly an incredible thing to see the benefits exercise has on people’s mind, body and soul. It’s what keeps me inspired, enthusiastic, and proud to be part of such a badass community.

Intellectual Intercourse: The Battle Between the Heart & the Brain

“Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep fighting. Keep loving.” 

We as human beings harbor an internal battlefield. We have two (sometimes three) organs in our body that are vying for our attention and submission. Sometimes we let the heart take the lead, making decisions based on overwhelming passion. Other times we listen to our brains, carefully considering consequence. In either instance, the entirety of the individual is held accountable for the sum of its parts.

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In case you are part the population of those who greet me with furrowed brows when I say that I watch the Bachelor (…and play in a fantasy league…), let me give you a brief recap. Each season, contestants have two months to find out if they could potentially be set up with the love of their life. On the outside looking in, it seems laughable. Can you really fall in love in two short months, where your attention is being split amongst many? Isn’t that a lot of pressure?

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When it came down to the final two last night, it was a battle of Heart vs. Brain. Bryan, the heart, gave Rachel the passionate confidence that he was ready to be her husband. Peter, the brain, was in love enough to speak the honest truth: that he wasn’t ready to speak for forever. Rachel, wanting a ring at the end of this thing, was not happy with that response. This was the first time that a Bachelorette didn’t have to make the ultimate decision, it was made for her.

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There are bouts of time when you’re acting with your brain, yet speak from your heart. Peter told Rachel, if she wants to rush into a proposal, she can go find someone to have a mediocre life with. Her and Peter broke up, and she accepted a proposal from Bryan. Although this break up was fueled by the brain, it was more emotional than the proposal, which was led by a passionately pumping heart.

Rachel and Bryan’s relationship will never be mediocre. The love is certainly there, but there takes much more to know if a relationship will stand the test of time. How much of a relationship can we physically process in just two months?

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Who knows what circumstances would have let Peter let his heart take the reins? Maybe what they say is true, that the brain is the most outstanding organ, that works for 24 hours, 365 days, right from birth until you fall in love. That’s when the heart starts pumping, and never looks back. When this happens, you better hope you’ve prepared well enough, back in the day when your brain was in the driver’s seat.

As someone who leads with their brain, I feel you Peter. But, we can’t let our hearts get rusty. If you don’t use it you lose it, and us mindful decision makers are in danger of missing out of those free-falling emotions associated with leading with your heart. Life is a balance, and if the give isn’t equal to the take, then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

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Freedom

 

The internet has brought light to many different holidays, from National Donut Day to World Penguin Day and everything in between. Today, we’re honoring a holiday that has a far reaching significance to both groups and individuals.

April 27th is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa, commemorating the first post-apartheid elections in 1994. On the first anniversary of this holiday, Nelson Mandela stated,

“Few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us.”

The term freedom can mean different things to different people. For those who have never felt trapped, “freedom” is a broad word. To be free, unrestrained, unbound, allowed. But, for anyone who has lived under a grand sense of restraint, the meaning of the word freedom digs deeper. 

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Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.

When we are denied freedom, our growth as human beings is being stifled. Suppressed. Denied. For South Africans under the apartheid regime, freedom was determined by the color of your skin. In other instances around the globe, individuals are being denied their freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom to marry the person they love. Bound by rules, laws, and judgements; there is a hell on earth that exists, and it is a life without freedom.

But freedom isn’t strictly systematic. Freedom, or lack there of, can exist in relationships. Abusive partners, denying their supposed loved one the freedom to enjoy life. To enjoy love. Preoccupations with materialistic wealth, or visions of success, rob an individual of the freedom to live their life in a way that is altruistic. Mental illness, denying their host-body the freedom of a clear mind.

Freedom isn’t free.

If you believe in something, you fight like hell for it. Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred, and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison.” Freedom begins within. You cannot conquer the outer world until you are free within the world that you have created for yourself. Your mindset. Your attitude.

As I sit here, and proudly practice my right to the freedom of speech, I think back on a life I once lived that wasn’t so free. It was a life of being controlled and manipulated, with freedom being the light at the end of the tunnel- but it always seemed too far to reach. But I fought, and I trekked, further and further, until I escaped the cage in which I was once held prisoner.

Today I celebrate my own freedom. I celebrate the freedom of my Mom, and my Sister. I celebrate the freedom of South Africans in their equality of voting rights. But mostly, I am celebrating the freedom of every single individual who knows what it feels like to fight like hell for what they know is right. What is just. What is free.