The Freshman Fifteen, Part XVI

May 5, 2017: Dear Incoming College Freshmen

Dear incoming college freshmen,

College is the weirdest thing ever.

One moment, you’re jamming out at a free concert with your new best friends. The next, you’re sobbing on FaceTime with your parents, begging them to let you drop out and come home. The next, you’re screaming your lungs out and waving a shaker as hard as you can: Auburn snatches a victory over LSU. The next, you’re gagging as you force-feed yourself overpriced on-campus food with no nutritious value whatsoever. The next, fall weather finally hits, and you can sit on the grass for more than five minutes without becoming a sweaty mess. The next, you feel like you have no friends. The next, you’re hugging the friends you really do have before driving or flying back “home” for Thanksgiving. The next, you’re realizing that home isn’t as much home anymore, because you have two homes now. The next, finals are upon you, and they suck. They suck real bad. The next, you feel like maybe you’ve got your feet under you for second semester; you know where to eat now, you know how to study now, you’ve got it a little more figured out. The next, life hits you over the head with a golf club and knocks you down, hard. The next, you’re being touched by some of the most powerful sermons you’ve ever heard. The next, you get a leadership position in your favorite student organization. The next, you’re nervous, stomach in your feet and brain spinning around, before you go on a retreat for that organization: you don’t know these people, and what if they don’t like you? The next, you’re crying tears of joy for answered prayers. The next, you’re wondering when your other prayers are going to get answered.

And the next, you’re packing up your dorm.

College is wonderful and hard, all at once. It is surreal, new, and terrifying. It’s a bunch of things all mixed together, and this conglomeration of qualities makes it very weird overall.

It is possible.

You might have some days where you wake up wondering if you can make it through this thing. You might spend September thinking about May and asking yourself if you can really get there. Some days will be doubt-filled. You might feel disillusioned. If you’re anything like me, you’ll say something like, “I knew parts of college would be hard, yeah, but I never thought it would be this hard.” (Let’s face it, I’m dramatic.) College is amazing: There are opportunities and adventures waiting here. But, like all good things in life, college isn’t perfect. It’s scary and difficult. Sometimes I think it’s only so hard because it’s so wonderful; maybe you can’t have one without the other.

With that in mind, my biggest freshman year advice to you is this: You will find out life’s possibilities when you do what seems impossible. You will discover God’s abilities when you do what you’re incapable of. 

Do the thing. Wake up, get out of bed, and live your days. Be daring in the mundane mornings. Refuse to live in fear. Choose faith instead. You’ll probably still feel afraid—I know I did—but you’re doing the thing anyway. Courage is more about acting when you’re afraid than not being afraid in the first place. So be brave in walking forward.

Tuck this letter away for if you have a night like I did three weeks in—the tear-filled FaceTime back home, wanting to call the whole thing quits, you hate college, it’s too hard, you can’t do it anymore. Maybe you won’t have a night like that, but I imagine you might have those same feelings at some point or another. It’s my hope and prayer for you to wake up the next day and try again.

I’m not trying to scare you. I don’t want to make you feel like giving up on this whole endeavor before you even start. College is great, I promise. Some of my favorite memories are at Aubs, one of my favorite places on the planet. I love Auburn, I love my new friends, I love UPC, I love so much about this year. But there are parts I haven’t loved, too. I want to be real and honest, and college is honestly tough sometimes. But it is worth it, for the good parts and for its toughness. It is worth it to do the thing that seems impossible, if only because you learn that it’s not impossible.

If you’re a Christian, I pray that when you encounter moments you can’t possibly pull yourself through, you let God carry you. I’m a big believer that God actually gives us stuff we can’t handle because it makes us rely on Him. College has humbled me; I have realized my own humanness and His God-ness. I pray that college teaches you the finite limits of your own strength; it certainly did for me, and it was painful, but it has led me to the Rock that is higher than I. I pray you’ll turn to Him, too. If you’re not a Christian, I hope that the moments when you run out of your own strength make you consider something more. When the tough times of college strike, I hope you’ll try Jesus out. He can help a lot, I promise. Either way, when you encounter stuff you just can’t handle on your own, I hope you’ll realize that you don’t have to handle it on your own. You are not alone, and you will never be alone, not at any point this whole year.

Freshman year will give you fabulous memories, put you in uncomfortable situations, fill you with joy, and set you on challenging paths. In the moments when it’s awesome, be grateful. Tuck those times away to remember forever. In the moments when it’s not so awesome, just put one foot in front of the other. Give yourself lots of grace with each step. And at the end of this weird, winding road, you will look back and see a miracle. It may not be the miracle you were expecting, but it’ll be one nonetheless. God will fill your freshman year with miracles. It’s scary, but it’s worth it: Show up for them.

Cheering you on all the way to the finish line,

Haley

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part XV

April 26, 2017: Summing Up Freshman Year

Boy, were those words weird to type.

I’m almost done with my freshman year of college.

Have no fear: This post is not the finale of Freshman Fifteen. I’ll post again after the year ends, with a letter to incoming college freshmen. Today, though, I’m going to try to put together all my thoughts about this year, what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve hated, what I’ve loved. To be honest, I’m staring at this screen, and I don’t really know where to start. Freshman year is still a work in progress. Even more, I’m still a work in progress.

I wish I could wrap everything I’ve learned this year into one lesson, but I don’t think it’s time to do that, not yet. I don’t want to tell God He’s done when I know He’s not.

So instead, I’m going to make a list. I’m pretty sure more of these posts have been lists than haven’t, but that’s fine. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned this year. They aren’t completely coherent to me, yet. I’m not sure how they tie together. They’re seeds of something bigger, though. I hope they are.

  • Comparison sucks, and social media is not the culprit. We’re too quick to blame Instagram for a much deeper problem. I’ve absolutely cast the blame on social media; one of the first posts in this series was all about it. Sure, social media doesn’t help us stay out of the comparison trap, but if you avoid social media… you still see other people. They’re still there to compare yourself to; they’re not the problem. Comparison stems from a lack of faith. It happens when I don’t believe God made me well, I don’t believe His plan for my life is good enough, and I think He’s better to other people than He is to me. Comparison begins to lose its footing when I trust how God has made me, His plan for my life, and who He is. That’s a deeper, much more lasting change than deleting the Instagram app for a week.
  • Some things just take time, and I struggle with patience. Before this semester, if you had asked me to list some of my weaknesses, patience would not have made the cut. As some external stuff and my own humanness have led me into worry about the future, I’ve realized that waiting is not my strong spot. Some (well, lots of) days, I just want to know every single answer. I just want to know every detail of what my life will look like in ten years. That’s not going to happen, though, and I know God is only keeping all the answers from me for my good. I’m trying to trust the process He has me in.
  • I really like words. The first day of my professional writing class, I flipped, realizing that if I didn’t like this class, I would have no major, no direction for my college career, no career goal. Praise the Lord that it has been my favorite class so far in college. Words are cool to me.
  • Routine is vital. People tend to bash routines. We glamorize unpredictable lives; don’t they sound like more fun? Doesn’t routine sound boring? I’ve learned this year that habits take you from point A to point B. Living the way you want repeatedly will result in the life you want. Routines are good if you make them good. I’m grateful my freshman year taught me the importance of discipline, commitment, and building your life.
  • Resisting the pressure to be busy is a gift you can give yourself. Yes yes yes yes yes to this one. I wrote about this concept in one of the very first Freshman Fifteen posts. I took this idea and ran with it from the get-go, and I will never regret that decision. I’m not overcommitted anymore. I’m not perpetually busy and tired anymore. Recently, I actually said no to a leadership role. Me. I said no to something. Sure, there are days I still feel busy or feel the need to justify why I’m only involved in one or two things instead of twelve. But I’ve built an uncrowded life here. God is using it to address lots inside me that fell onto the back-burner when I was constantly going going going. And it. is. so. worth it.
  • I’ve got a long way to go. Like I said up top, I am a work in progress. It frustrates me sometimes. It demands more faith than I could muster up on my own. It is slowwwwwwwwwww. It involves failure and getting back up again. Sometimes, I’m so tired. I’m honest on this blog, and honestly, growing hurts. But I am hoping that it will all be worth it in the end. I am trusting that God will make it all worth it in the end. I am learning to find joy in the here and now.

There’s not one big takeaway, which also leaves me without a solid ending. That’s okay, though, because freshman year hasn’t been one thing. It’s been a collage of laughter-filled nights and tear-filled ones, of new challenges and rapid adjustments, of football games and getting involved (but not too involved), of calm and panic, of new people and old friends, of a lot of fun. I don’t want to sugarcoat freshman year, which is why I included some of the tough parts, but I also want to remember the good things, too: the Judah & the Lion concert my first Friday in Auburn; falling in love with University Program Council; the girls I live with, who are absolute gems; the posters in my dorm room; group fitness classes at the Rec; Friday FaceTimes with Mom; Auburn. If Auburn were a person, they’d be impossible not to love. You might start out annoyed with the super Southern accent but you’d realize that genuine sweetness was behind it pretty fast. Even on days when gratitude is in short supply, I’m grateful for Aubs.

Through it all, good and bad, there is God. He alone has remained constant. He’s not my one thing of freshman year, because He doesn’t stop there. He goes on and on and on. He’s not leaving, and that’s pretty cool.

If you’ve stuck with these posts the same way God has stuck with me, thank you. It means a lot. I have something pretty exciting coming soon, after my letter to incoming college freshmen. Stay tuned for this work in progress.

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part XIV

April 11, 2017: Satisfied*

*No, this is not about the song from Hamilton. I have never listened to the Hamilton soundtrack. I’ve heard of the song from twitter.**

**Please, don’t yell at me for not listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. I have lots of Hamiltony friends. My grandfather is even named Hamilton. It’s just not my thing, but I have great respect for fans of Hamilton.***

***Hamilton doesn’t even look like a real word anymore.

The past few months have been teaching me what it looks like to be satisfied in Jesus.

I thought I knew what that phrase meant. I thought being satisfied in Jesus meant knowing that cute boys could love me, I could attend a great school, fun friends could surround me, and none of it would be as good as Him. I thought it meant saying, “Lord, if you don’t give me what I want, that’s okay, because I’ll still have you.” I thought knowing ahead of time that nothing in this world would truly fill me was the definition of satisfaction in Jesus.

This advance knowledge is nothing like experiencing the real thing, though. My dad could sit me down and explain how to drive our stick shift, but I wouldn’t know how until I got behind the wheel and stalled the engine four million times.

I got what I wanted, for the most part. I’m at Auburn. I recently got a leadership position in one of my favorite student organizations. The girls I live with couldn’t be more wonderful. My mom and I FaceTime every Friday. NEEDTOBREATHE added a show in Atlanta that I get to see. Sure, I don’t have a car, but I’m doing okay.

I came to the realization a few weeks ago that nothing in my life was wrong… so why was I still feeling uneasy, unsettled, discontent?

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

This is one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes, and I’m finally starting to understand it.

The good things in my life are so good… but they aren’t perfect. And I’ve always struggled with perfectionism. I set impossibly high standards for myself, others, and my circumstances. Inevitably, I fail to live up to the expectations I invented. I’ve recognized this cycle of hope and defeat and beat it back. Stop looking for perfection, Haley. It doesn’t exist. To be content, you must become okay with flaws. 

But lately, as God has graciously blessed my life, I’ve come to realize that perfection does exist. His name is Jesus. Instead of shooing away my deep-rooted desire for perfect, true satisfaction, I’ve shifted its focus. I can’t expect that of myself, my grades, my relationships, anything in this world. But I can expect perfection of God.

I’ve found myself with a desire nothing in this world could satisfy, and I’ve thought that the answer was to stop desiring. But God placed that desire within me to draw me closer to Him. He is teaching me now to truly look to Him for fulfillment. There’s a difference in giving up on fulfillment and finding fulfillment in Jesus. I didn’t know what that difference was, and I’m starting to now. It’s okay to long for something holy, perfect, only good, flawless. That longing finds its resolution in Jesus.

God is teaching me how to be satisfied. And like everything else with Him, it’s turning into one more reason to praise.

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

 

The Freshman Fifteen, Part XIII

March 27, 2017: Today

First of all, happy birthday to my dad AND to Harry Potter’s dad. If you’re wondering if that means I’m Harry Potter, I’ll leave you to figure that one out on your own.

Here’s a list of things I could possibly accomplish in the future:

  • Paraglide
  • Travel to Uruguay
  • Get in a fender-bender
  • Work in a job I love
  • Work in a job I hate
  • Buy a house on a lake
  • Scuba dive
  • Purchase a pet chinchilla

Here’s a list of today:

  • Read Matthew 25-26
  • Go to class
  • Work out
  • Do homework
  • Sleep

Maybe you can see why I sometimes have trouble staying in the now.

It’s easy to worry about the future, and it’s easy to look forward it. It’s hard to wake up and go to French class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning.

The now isn’t all that glamorous. Today looks ordinary, average, uneventful. It’s easier to look ahead and freak out, positively and negatively, about the unknowns. I wonder about all the wonderful things that could happen to me and all the horrible things that could happen to me. Then, I look up, and another week of my only freshman year of college has passed.

The tomorrows I look forward to will turn into todays. What if I’m still so busy looking ahead to tomorrows that I end up not living any of them?

The now may not be glamorous, but I think it can be glorious if we give God the proper attention. Sure, we keep moving forward, but moving forward requires walking today. Time moves at the exact same pace regardless of our attitude. I would rather spend these minutes focusing on what God is calling me to, rather than dreaming of what I hope He’ll call me to someday.

Of course, there’s a time for everything. There may be times in everyone’s life when today is so painful that the only thing to get you through is hope for tomorrow. That’s okay. But sometimes, we fail to find contentment in the now so we only think about then.

Lately, I’ve tried to concentrate on each day as it comes. I don’t know what I’ll want in the future, where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing. But I know that today, I can love people. I can ask God to give me opportunities to treat others kindly. I can pedal my guts out in spin class. I can do my schoolwork well. I can trust the God who turns His daily things for me into His exciting life for me. I can put in the work here and now to build the life I dream of, rather than just dreaming.

Today might not be so boring after all.

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part XII

Hey y’all! I am on spring break this week, and so is the Freshman Fifteen. See y’all soon!

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part XI(B)

February 25, 2017: My Sticky Shelf

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get a tattoo of words, because I love them too much. I get too attached too easily to short phrases, quotes, or Bible verses. I’ll find a new favorite and instantly start thinking of how it would look permanently inked onto my skin in my sister’s handwriting, but then the next week I find another sentence that rocks me even harder. So, instead of covering my back in tattoos of cliches and Bible verses, I write them on sticky notes and place them on my shelf above my desk. I line them up – pink, yellow, orange, blue – one after the other, and then when I’m to the end of the shelf, I start over with new notes on top of the old ones. Today, I wanted to share some of my latest inspiration and encouragement with y’all. Here are some of the current notes from my sticky shelf!

  • Trade in the glamorous for the glorious. Believe the beauty in the blindfold. | If we’re being honest with ourselves, following Jesus is not as trendy or easy as it can look from Instagram. For me right now, it feels like I have a blindfold on, and I’m walking step by step, hand in hand with Jesus, with absolutely no idea what the future holds. This sticky encourages me to find beauty in that blindfold and reminds me that life with Jesus isn’t always glamorous, but it’s always glorious.
  • “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” -Romans 8:18 | While I have this figurative blindfold on, Paul reminds me that glory is coming.
  • “Forth, and fear no darkness!” -Theoden | I have to have a nerdy quote on the shelf, and this one makes me feel just so stoked to charge into a Monday morning French class.
  • Thankful over critical | This sticky reminds me to always be positive when I’m looking at situations or relationships. Though I do think there’s appropriate times and places to offer constructive criticism, I always want to be grateful for the good things first.
  • “Stay in your lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” -Brene Brown | College has taught me a lot about comparison, mainly that it sucks. I have to continually remind myself to stay in my lane, because it’s my lane for a reason.
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8 | At the church I go to in Auburn, we recently did a series centered around this verse. Our identity as sons and daughters of God means that we’re united with Christ, so the pastor translated this verse to say “the way God sees you is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Obviously, it hit me so hard that I cried.

And that’s the latest from my sticky shelf! If you enjoyed this, let me know, because I’m thinking of making the sticky shelf a regular thing on my blog. Thanks so much for reading, blah blah blah, check back again in fifteen days!

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part XI(A)

February 10, 2017: I Will Absolutely Not Be Lame and Lose My Dedication to the Freshman Fifteen This Semester, But It’s 11:31PM and I Don’t Think You Understand How Much I Have to Sleep

A.k.a, when you still need to post every fifteen days of freshman year because you haven’t missed one yet but you had two assignments due at midnight and you’ve been up since 5:45 in the morning and today a girl in your literature class tried to claim that the Keira Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is better than the 1995 BBC adaptation which is just so untrue so you can’t write a real post because you’re too upset from that ordeal and tired from everything else. Part B of this post coming soon. Love y’all!

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. This week it is lame, but it usually is not. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part X

January 26, 2017: The One I Almost Forgot Because School, Wow

Hey! I’m not necessarily drowning in homework at the moment, but I’m also not happily tanning aboard a yacht drifting listlessly through my sea of thorough, completed assignments. And so I bring you a brief list of life updates, because I do not have anything deep this week, and I have to get back to a documentary analysis that’s due at midnight.

  • I cried in church on Sunday. This should surprise absolutely no one. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, and the way God sees those who are in Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Grace is rad.
  • I went to a barre class for the first time this week and really enjoyed it.
  • I’ve started reading for at least six minutes before I go to sleep every night, and it is glorious. Sometimes, though, it’s tough because I’m rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and wanting to punch Umbridge in the face isn’t exactly a calming vibe to help me fall asleep.
  • The Todd Squad came to Aubs on Saturday, and we went to see Hidden Figures. (If you haven’t heard of it, you can check out the trailer here.) It was so good! Highly recommend.
  • I’m realizing how much I’ve lauded the idea of vulnerability without being vulnerable. That’s going to be my struggle for the next little while, I think.
  • Comparison sucks. I’ve taken the phrase “everyone else” out of my vocabulary and started limiting myself to checking social media once a day instead of every eight minutes.

We made it to ten installments of “The Freshman Fifteen,” wow! Thanks for reading, y’all. Have a celebratory gif and a great rest of your Thursday.

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(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part VIII

November 29, 2016: What Was I Thinking Promising to Post Every Fifteen Days

It’s hard to believe that I have less than two weeks until first semester comes to a close. Honestly, it’s still hard to believe that I’m actually in college, doing the college things, attending college classes, working on college homework, living with my college roommate. Basically, existing, but college edition.

I’ve definitely learned and grown a lot so far, but I don’t really have time to process it at the moment, because, well, finals are right around the corner.

So this latest addition to the Freshman Fifteen is going to be short and sweet, featuring some observations and updates:

  • College is a lot like magic in Harry Potter: it’s awesome, but it doesn’t make all of your problems go away.
  • Speaking of Harry Potter, I am still rereading Prisoner of Azkaban. I’m hoping to finish rereading the series over Christmas break.
  • I ran a half-marathon on Thanksgiving! That was fun and also long.
  • College fashion is wonderful in that it is not wonderful at all; the vast majority of people look like slobs the vast majority of the time, which makes everyone’s lives so much easier.
  • Detouring through Griffin to LaGrange, Georgia, makes the drive back to Auburn a heck of a lot longer but is pretty much worth it for some sweet backroads.
  • Country music is not nearly as abundant here as I expected, which is such a blessing.
  • Find friends who will cook according to your dietary restrictions when you get together. Thank Jesus for them often.

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

The Freshman Fifteen, Part VII

November 14, 2016: Becoming Home

I went to Athens for the game this weekend, and even though our football team suffered a heartbreaking loss, I gained a personal victory in a bunch of revelations about this one little word: home.

I realized, sitting in the middle of a section of mostly Georgia fans, cheering with my dad and two friends, halfway participating in the songs we knew the band was playing but could barely hear, insisting on “War Eagle always” as our offense insisted on sucking… I missed Auburn. I missed the boisterous, infectiously energetic student section. I missed going to Waffle House with my friends after the game. I missed the atmosphere, the feeling of pride in my school, the possibility of Toomer’s at the end of the night. Heck, I even missed the mic man.

And when I discovered that I really, truly, deeply missed Auburn, it dawned on me: I think I can start calling Auburn my home.


Later Saturday night, after a tragic loss and a terrific veggie burger, my friend Ashley and I were in her dorm. We started watching 10 Things I Hate About You on Netflix and ordered cookies (to be delivered?! to her dorm?! Auburn, get on that.). We cuddled on her futon for twenty minutes. And another thought dawned on me: this girl feels like home, too. This exhale of relief finally being back by her side, this comfort that we have knowing each other and being known by each other, this friendship that stretches the long three-hour drive between Athens and Auburn. This is part of my home, too.


Saturday night, we drove back to Atlanta. I slept in my own bed and had way too many of my mom’s pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, the ones that signify fall to me.

Sunday morning, we drove back to Auburn. My friend Katelyn gave us the grand tour of Pine Mountain, where she’s from. My friend Sarah tried to convince us to visit her in Alaska this summer. We listened to Taylor Swift’s Fearless album in its entirety and cheered when we crossed the Alabama state line.


I do not have one home.

I have many.

Atlanta, born and raised; Buckhead Church, which gave me the family that comes second only to my biological one; my high school that shaped me into who I am today; Athens, because Athens has Ashley; Elon, because Elon has Brittany; Syracuse, because Syracuse has Elijah; my dad’s 2007 Honda Accord, blasting the Jonas Brothers with my baby sister; Athens again, because Athens has Katie; Germany, because Germany has German Julia; Hogwarts, because Harry Potter; the Dunwoody branch of the library, because let’s be honest with ourselves here.

All the people and places that I’ve mentioned and at least a thousand more are my home.

Now, I get to add Auburn, the Loveliest Village on the Plains, to the list.


I have one home.

That’s God.

When I’m feeling rootless, He roots me in the truth of my identity as His daughter and the security of my position in His family. When I’m worried that no one likes me, His love is constant and unfailing and never to be removed. When I’m panicking about friendships, He’s my best friend. And when I don’t know where my home is, He is always, always, always there. While the pieces of my earthly home shift and add and subtract, my heavenly home is my heavenly Father Himself.

And Auburn and Ashley and Atlanta and all the other people and places I don’t want to name again because they’ll screw up the alliteration are my home, because my heavenly Father is in them. And He is my one true Home after all.

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)