2016

2016 – Video

2016 has been… a year.

As 2017 approaches, I feel like I’m just barely crawling out of this year – alive but pretty broken down.  Not quite victorious or triumphant, but far from giving up or quitting.

I really wish I had a lot of beautiful words to spew about what this year has been like and what it’s taught me and what I’m hoping for next year, but honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this year.

But in the meantime, here’s what I do know for sure:

A lot of stuff happened in 2016.  A lot of firsts and a lot of lasts.  A lot of new experiences and a lot of challenges I didn’t see coming.

I made a lot of beautiful memories this year with a lot of beautiful people, and I know I’m going to hold onto those moments for a very long time.

I did some pretty big things this year that I’m really proud of.  I went to Sundance, graduated high school, worked at CNN, climbed 5 mountains in 48 hours, hiked up Pikes Peak, and section-hiked the entire Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail.
I did some smaller things this year, too.  I got my first tattoo(s).  I dyed and shaved and cut my hair a bunch of different ways.  I pierced my nose.  I got a job at a rock-climbing gym and started rock-climbing more than ever.  I opened up to my friends and family about things I’ve been struggling with and started getting real help to address issues I’ve tried to ignore for the past several years.  I’m just as proud of the small things as I am the big things.

I made a lot of plans this year that didn’t work out.  My plans for college have changed almost every 3 months or so, and I still don’t know for sure where I’ll end up.
I made some goals for my gap year that I’ve chosen to put on hold, and I’m still trying to accept that they’re not going to happen.
But I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made, even if they’ve put me in a place of uncertainty.  I know I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be, even on the days when I’m stubborn and I want to know right now what’s going to happen and I’m terrified by the fact that some things are just very simply out of my control.

So yes: 2016 has been quite the year.  I’m sure 2017 will be, too.  I don’t really know what’s going to happen and I’m learning to accept that it is okay for me not to know sometimes.

But for now, I know that I am safe and I am loved and I have many more adventures ahead of me, and today, right now, that is enough.

 

 

 

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When You Try Really Hard (But You Still Come Up Short)

It’s been a bit of a challenging week.  Yesterday, I learned I wouldn’t be able to go to Georgia Tech, a college I’ve had my heart set on since first touring the campus last fall.  My mom also had a brief incident with her back yesterday that’s left her in a good bit of pain and resulted in us cutting our Colorado trip down to just 2 weeks, something she’s really disappointed about.

To be completely honest, things feel pretty rough right now.  I’m still able to take a step back and see that none of this will lead to the end of the world, and my family is still immeasurably blessed in so many ways, but it still feels rough.  And maybe it would be a better idea to take a week and think of some better, more eloquent things to say about how I’ve failed but I’m not worried because I know there’s a plan for me and I just have to wait for it to reveal itself… but that doesn’t feel genuine.  So hold onto your butts – it’s about to get personal.

School has always been a bit of a confusing topic for me, considering I’ve been homeschooled since middle school and my curriculum has always been pieced together by online classes, in-person schools, and whatever extracurricular programs I found interesting that semester.  I’ve always enjoyed school and put a lot of work and time into it because I find it fun and challenging.  I also feel incredibly blessed because my parents have always supported me to do my best and work my hardest, but they’ve never pressured me to get certain grades or be a specific type of student.  I’ve grown up knowing that I can accomplish anything if I work hard enough at it and have faith that it’s in God’s plan for me.

Over the years, I’ve always known I wanted to go to college, and I’ve always aimed high.  In middle school, I dreamed of Oxford University, and at the beginning of high school, I became obsessed with Harvard.  Once I realized I wanted to study international affairs in college, I began researching schools in-state that would allow me to save money while still challenging myself academically and giving me opportunities to travel and seek internships.  Georgia Tech seemed like the perfect fit – I loved the location and the campus and hearing of all their study abroad and internship opportunities made me swoon.

Things were complicated by the fact I was graduating 2 years early and planning to take a gap year, but after months of communication, I finished my application and sent it in.  And I did not get accepted.  Well, not as a regular first-year freshman, at least.  Instead, they offered me admission through a new arts and sciences pathway program, essentially meaning I would take my gap year, go to another college for a year, and then transfer to Georgia Tech to finish college.

The only catch was I would have to take a calculus class at that first college in order to transfer to Tech, and I never took precalculus in high school.  So my options were: study precalculus over my gap year and attempt to pass an exam that would award me college credit so I could go to Tech, or find another college to go to altogether.  I chose to study precalculus, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 5 months.  I took the precalculus exam twice, once in May and again yesterday, and I failed both times.  I got the exact same score on both tests, and I missed the minimum score I needed by 4 points.

Math has always been a big source of stress in my life, and it’s always been the subject I score lowest in.  After failing the precalculus exam the first time, I started tutoring and committing more time each week to studying on my own so I could come back with a better chance of passing.  The past few months have been really stressful as a result of all the studying and the knowledge that if I didn’t pass the exam the second time around, Tech would very likely not be a possibility for me anymore.  I had panic attacks if I studied for too long or thought about the exam too much, and I struggled to keep track of all my commitments and balance my time between work, studying, and family.

I prayed really hard throughout this entire process – not for me to pass the exam, but for God’s will to be done, and for me to be able to accept the outcome, even if it wasn’t what I thought should happen.  I always found peace in turning the situation over to God, but once the day of the test came, I had a feeling I wouldn’t pass.  I can’t say I was surprised when I didn’t, but it still really hurt.  I feel like I wasted all the time and money my parents put into helping me.  I feel like I failed the people who tried to help me succeed.  I feel like I disappointed everyone who thought I could do it, and I feel like I disappointed myself.  I feel so dumb for not being able to go to the only college I really love because I failed one math exam.

I wish at this point I could turn around and say: “BUT, I know it’s all going to work out!”  And at the end of the day, I do know it’s going to work out.  I know God has a plan for me, and that this is just a painful part of it.  I know I shouldn’t stress myself out over the future because God’s got my back, and I just have to work hard and trust He’ll reveal His plans to me.  I believe all of that with all of my heart, but part of me does still feel like a failure and a disappointment, and I don’t think it would be fair of me to lie and say that I feel totally fine and at peace when I really feel like I have no idea what to do or where to go, and I don’t understand why things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to.

It’s hard for me to have perspective on this whole situation, especially because it’s happening at a time when a lot of my friends are moving out and starting journeys at their dream colleges.  I’m so very happy for and proud of each and every one of them, but there’s a part of me that feels a little bitter I’m not sharing the same exciting experiences as them.  And though things certainly didn’t work out how I hoped or planned they would, I wish I had more hindsight before I graduated high school to come up with a backup plan or at least put more research into other colleges before I threw all of my plans and expectations into going to Tech.

At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I don’t know where I’m going to go to college.  I’m torn between trying to go to the best college I can and stretching myself too thin by aiming for another school that may be out of reach.  I’m terrified of settling for a college just because it’s easy to get into or it’s close to home or all my friends are going there.  I want to make the most of my time in college, but I’m trying to understand that where I graduate from will not determine the trajectory or success of my future career.  I’m learning to accept the love and support that I’ve been so lucky to receive from my family and friends, even when it’s hard for me to believe any of it.  I’m trying to become aware of the fact that this experience is not life or death and I will end up where I’m supposed to be and as long as I pray and work hard and try my best, God will put me at the right school.

And now, I’m going to get out of bed, make myself some food, watch some episodes of The Office, and enjoy today for what it is: a fresh start, a moment to recover, a time to spend with loved ones, and an opportunity to see how blessed I am to have such a crazy, confusing, painful, exciting, thrilling, beautiful, messy life.

I’m Still Alive (But Barely)

Hi everyone – it’s been quite a while since we last talked… sorry about that.

This summer has absolutely flown by for me.  Between a full-time internship at CNN, studying for a looming college precalculus test, training for my upcoming thru-hike of the AT with several day/weekend-long backpacking trips, and trying to stitch together something resembling a social life, it’s been a busy 2 months.

As the summer comes to a close, I feel so incredibly blessed by all the opportunities, experiences, challenges, and unexpected surprises that emerged throughout the past few months.  Despite all the stress and running around, I’ve had a crazy fantastic time.

And from here on out, it’s only going to get cooler.

In a few weeks my family is headed to Colorado for 24 days of backpacking, exploring, and family time.  We’ve got a full agenda of activities and goals we plan to accomplish on our training trip/vacation, and I’m really excited to share all the adventures that will inevitably arise.

Before our big Colorado trip, I’m taking a weekend to work on a challenge I created for myself: hike Georgia’s 5 tallest mountains in 2 days.  3 mountains in one day and 2 the next.  Bonus: one of the mountains has no designated trail leading to the summit, which means I’ll get to try my hand at bushwhacking (hiking off-trail).

After that, I’m planning on dedicating more time to planning and prepping for my AT thru-hike next spring by gathering the rest of my gear and taking a few more solo backpacking trips.

One part of me thinks it would be nice to just take a week or two off and sit around in my pajamas watching movies all day.  But I’ve come to learn my brain and my body just aren’t programmed to sit around and do nothing.  Sometimes it gets exhausting and frustrating running around all the time, but I don’t regret any second of it.  If anything, all of the craziness only makes me appreciate the random peaceful moments I get even more.

So here’s to the end of a great summer and the beginning of an even better fall.  I wish you all the best of luck with your job and/or school responsibilities, and I encourage you to make time for your loved ones and for yourself.

I can’t wait to share all my upcoming adventures with you all!

Until then,
Lizzie

Gap Year Goals

Last weekend, I graduated high school.

My gap year has now officially begun and I’ve created some goals to work towards throughout the year before I begin college.  Check them out below!

Atlanta Botanical Gardens: After Dark

Last weekend, in celebration of Mother’s Day, my family ventured to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to experience their “Chihuly in the Garden” exhibition at night.
My family actually first saw the Chihuly exhibition years ago at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, but seeing it a second time after dark was an even cooler experience.
All of the pieces were created by Dale Chihuly, who has been a glassblower since the 1960’s.  Chihuly’s pieces have been shown all over the world, and they don’t disappoint.  Each piece is so whimsy and colorful, and each part is so intricately crafted.
The fact that the exhibition was hosted at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens only made it more beautiful: the gardens are so extensive and well-manicured that they were the perfect setting for Chihuly’s unique pieces of art.
All in all, we had a fantastic, relaxing evening of strolling around the gardens at night.  After exploring the gardens, we rushed over to the nearest Whole Foods where we grabbed some vegan desserts (chocolate coffee cake and vegan brownie, you have my heart) and some surprisingly delicious non-dairy milk (Califia Farms Vanilla Protein Almond Milk is where it’s at!)

Take a look at some of my pictures from the night in the photo gallery below.

 

 

The Nitty Gritty: My Favorite Adventures with Mom

Over the years, my mom and I have done some pretty cool things together.  We’ve explored New York City, competed together at a national competition for archery, attended numerous film festivals, partied at concerts, and road tripped all over.  If I wanted to tell you about each and every incredible adventure we’ve been on, you’d better wish you have a nice, padded seat and a hot cup of tea, because you’d be reading for a while.  So today, I’ll restrict myself to telling you about some of the coolest hiking adventures we’ve been on.  From local hidden treasures to distant, otherworldly summits, we’ve conquered a lot of trails and peaks, and we can’t wait to do more.

Canyon Climbers Club Challenge

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Last summer, my mom and I set out to climb into Georgia’s 4 canyons: Tallulah Gorge, Amicalola Falls, Providence Canyon, and Cloudland Canyon (read more about our adventures here!).  We ended up completing the challenge in just over 48 hours.  It’s one of my favorite memories from 2015 because of all the beautiful spots we got to explore – some of which we never even knew existed.  Looking back, it’s one of my favorite memories from 2015, and an accomplishment I’m definitely proud of!

Bear Butte, South Dakota

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This hike was so special in so many ways: not only were we revisiting one of the hikes we used to take when I was a kid, but we also got to take my nephew on his very first proper hike!  The highlight of this hike was getting to accomplish it as a family, and hopefully we sparked a sense of adventure in my nephew that he’ll get to pursue later in life after he’s done being the cutest baby in the world.

Appalachian Approach Trail

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Man oh man, was this hike an adventure.  To get a recap all of the craziness that went down, check out this post.  Despite various threats of murderous hobos, bloodthirsty bears, and possible hypothermia, this trip was fun from beginning to end.  As my first overnight camping trip, this was certainly an experience I’ll never forget (although not one I’d like to repeat).  After getting a few more serious hikes under my belt, I can see some of the mistakes we made on this trip (like going camping last-minute in November, for instance), but I’m so thankful I got to share this experience with my family.  At the end of the day, it really cemented my desire to continue hiking and camping, and it made me proud to see how determined and positive my mom is in the even the most unpleasant situations.

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My mom is one of the coolest, funniest, toughest, most determined, and kick-butt people I know.  She has never let her circumstances or setbacks define who she is or what she is capable of, and she has always pushed me to become the best person I can be.  Today, I thank her for all the moments we’ve shared together: all the weekend trips, the donut and coffee dates, the hours spent stuck in traffic, the college tours, the movie viewings, the late-night kitchen conversations, the half-asleep Catfish watchings, and the out-of-breath trail talks.  Thank you, mom, for being my biggest supporter, my friend, my confidante, my role model, my source of wisdom, and my best friend.  You really do have Grit.  I love you!

Plan Your Own Galentine’s Day Gathering!

Valentine’s Day: for some, it is a day of celebration and romance with that special someone in your life, but for others, it is nothing more than just another day in the life of a single Pringle.  This year, I propose we cast aside our relationship statuses and gather to celebrate Galentine’s Day.  What is Galentine’s Day, you might ask?  I’ll let my friend and role model, Leslie Knope, answer:

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To better answer your question, Galentine’s Day is a special day created by the ever wonderful, uplifting, magical (but sadly fictional) being that is Leslie Knope of the TV show “Parks and Recreation”.  You see, Leslie Knope is all about girl power, and celebrating your fellow woman, and showing the people you love just how much you love them, and Galentine’s Day is all about doing those things!  It’s a day for gathering with your best gal pals, doing something fun, exchanging some heartfelt words and/or gifts, and having a super fun day of positivity.  The best part about Galentine’s Day is that everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not!
Last year, I got to celebrate Galentine’s Day with some of my awesome friends, so I have a couple tips for organizing your own celebration:

  1. Do something fun and casual
    Whether you decide to go for a group hike, see a movie and grab dinner, or just meet up at a coffee shop and talk, pick a place and an activity that the whole group will enjoy! Keep it casual and fun, but get creative: try a new activity or take a mini, group road trip and see what happens!
  2. Gather a group of uplifting friends
    Maybe you plan your day with a big group of friends, or maybe you just meet up with one close confidante: either way, celebrate the day with good friends that you know will make the day awesome. Don’t feel an obligation to invite every single girl you know, but don’t be exclusive!  Reach out to some friends you haven’t talked to in a while, or some you’re just starting to get to know.
  3. Take a moment to commend each other
    One of my favorite parts of my Galentine’s Day celebration was taking a moment to give a little shoutout to everyone there and let me know some of the things I love about them. This can be a really special moment, or a fun opportunity to remember hilarious moments from your friendship – just keep it sincere!
  4. (Optional) Give a small, thoughtful gift
    At my Galentine’s Day celebration, I gave each attendee a different plant that I felt reflected a specific quality about them. It was really fun seeing my friends’ excitement and getting to share with them why I chose specific plants for specific people.  Don’t feel obligated to spend loads of money on these gifts – and don’t give any at all if you don’t feel compelled to!  It may sound cliché, but it really is the thought that counts: even a simple, handmade card with a little note inside is a really sweet gesture that your friends are sure to appreciate.

And there you have it!  I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day this year, and I hope you take the opportunity to plan your very own Galentine’s Day!

Tips for Relaxation

Listen – I am in no way claiming to be a chill person.  In fact, I have very little chill.  But throughout high school, I’ve come to realize that one of the most important things you can do is take time for yourself to just hit the pause button and relax.  I think it’s time we start introducing mindfulness to our lives and creating time within our schedules to get comfy and de-stress, whether that means scheduling a full day of relaxation or carving out a quick hour or two in between tasks.  To get the most out of your relaxation time, here are some of my favorite tips to just chill out:

Write it Out

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A lot of times when I get stressed throughout the day it’s because my mind is racing with everything I have to do and when it needs to get done.  Before you dive into your relaxation time, take a moment to actually write out what you need to get done throughout the next day or week, whether that means making a quick list or committing some time to scheduling out your tasks.  After you’ve written out your to-do list, let it go and completely forget about it (at least for the next couple hours as you relax).  Anytime your mind starts to wander back to everything you have to do, simple remind yourself that you know what you need to do, and you’re going to get it done, and then return to the moment.

Dress to De-Stress

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Aside from leaving the house for school, work, and other errands, I pretty much live out of pajamas and sweatpants.  To me, there is nothing more relaxing than changing into a T-shirt and a comfy pair of pants after a day of jeans and assigned shirts.  I encourage you to put on your comfiest pair of pants to get into a relaxation mindset, whether those are funky yoga pants, a reliable pair of sweatpants you’ve had for years, or some downright awesome pajama bottoms that combine your love of food and comfiness.

Snack On, But Snack Smart

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Let’s be honest: if you’re spending some time lazing around the house, it’s really easy to just snack on anything that’s quick and tasty (I’m talking chips, cookies, trail mixes, and all other kinds of food that I am definitely guilty of stuffing my face with).  But during your relaxation time, I encourage you to be mindful of what you eat, and why you’re eating.  Don’t just snack around because you’re bored or you want something to do: eat when you’re actually hungry, and only eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re uncomfortable or stuffed.  And try to keep your snacks and meals balanced: commit to eating more fruits and veggies as snacks, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a delicious vegan espresso chocolate chip cookie.  Most importantly: stay hydrated throughout the day and keep a water bottle handy.  You’ll end the day with a refreshed body and an especially happy tummy.

Tend to Your Scentsitivity

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If you’re like me, you might be an especially scentsitive person, meaning you may have strong reactions to certain smells, and even get bad headaches or have other physical side effects if a bad smell lingers too long.  So take a moment to make yourself and your house smell good: burn a little incense, rub some lightly-scented lotion on your hands, knees, and elbows, or go for the gold and break out those essential oils.  I love putting a drop of orange essential oil in my water bottle for a refreshing twist, or you can take your favorite scent and rub it on your wrists and temple.  Sometimes it’s also nice to put a few drops of lavender or peppermint oil on a tissue and carry it with you throughout the day.

Stretch it Out

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Doing yoga is one of the most relaxing things for me, personally.  I get to really notice how I’m feeling (both mentally and physically) and focus on being present in the moment and stretching out any sore or tense areas in my body.  Check out Yoga With Adriene’s channel for some awesome yoga videos: I love her “Yoga for Stress Relief” and 30 Days of Yoga videos, and if you’re interested in starting a regular yoga routine, I encourage you to dive into her Yoga Camp, which started January 1st of this year (although you can join whenever you like – it’s totally flexible and totally free!).  Her “Quick Stress Fix” video is also a great resource for anyone who just wants to take a quick stretch break before moving on with their day.

Cozy Up

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It can be really beneficial to take a chunk of time and dedicate it to a calm and engaging activity, so I encourage you to cozy up with a blanket and do just that.  You can watch that movie that’s been on your Netflix list for ages or catch up on whatever you’ve been reading.  This is really an opportunity to settle in and treat yourself to some quiet time doing something that you enjoy.  If you end up feeling sleepy, embrace it and take a nap – your body may need the rest.  If you watch your movie or read for a good half hour and then feel ready to move on: get up, stretch it out, and find another calm activity to do.

Create Something

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Whenever I have a couple of hours to relax, I love to spend part of that time creating some art or doing another constructive activity along those lines.  I always find it rewarding to invest some time in creating something, whether it be a quick drawing, a piece of origami, or a much-needed journal entry.  This is also a great time to write letters to family or friends or make some homemade cards or thank-you notes.  If you’re not a particularly artsy person, I still encourage you to do something creative and constructive: you can always go online for tutorials on quick, fun projects (like how to make an origami swan or use cool patterns to cut intricate paper snowflakes).

I hope you are able to implement and benefit from these tips and that you are able to create plenty of relaxing moments throughout the year.  Stay chill, my friends.

A Note on New Year’s

Christmas is (sadly) over and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner which means we’re right in the thick of that exciting, scary, “how did the year go by so fast” season.  On one hand, the prospect of a new year and a fresh start is exhilarating and promising; on the other hand, the thought of the upcoming year and all the twists and turns that may unfold can become unsettling.
Another trademark of this “in-between-season” is the mounting pressure to create a set of resolutions for the year: activities you want to begin, changes you want to make, and dreams you want to realize.  Although I appreciate the general idea of New Year’s resolutions, I think the mindset of becoming a new person overnight and pressuring yourself to be a certain way or do certain things can become very dangerous.  Instead, I think we need to realize the importance of setting healthy, challenging goals, and making practical changes that we can actually maintain throughout the whole year.  So this year, let’s promise ourselves to:

Remember it all – whenever something fun, crazy, or exciting happens, grab any nearby paper and write a quick note about the event, including the date.  Gather the scraps of paper in a jar or bowl and go through them all at the end of the year.

Listen to our bodies – eat food that tastes good and makes you feel good.  Push yourself to get active; experiment until you find something that makes you want to stay active.  Sleep in when you need it.

Create quiet moments – read in bed until you fall asleep.  Burn incense and practice yoga.  Take a walk (or a hike).  Bake cookies and watch a movie.

Get uncomfortable – go to that party you’re unsure about.  Host your own event.  Talk to someone new.  Try an activity that secretly interests you.  Embrace embarrassment and laugh it off.

Adventure – explore a new, local area.  Take a mini road trip to a nearby town.  Travel out of the state, or out of the country.

Take care of yourself – get in tune with what you need, physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Open up to someone you love and trust about how you’ve been feeling.  Spend time with people that make you excited about life.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Explore your interests and find what you love: don’t just dream about it, figure out how to make it happen.  Organize your life once in a while: clean the house and do the laundry, even if you don’t want to.  Love yourself, especially when it seems impossible.  Be mindful of what you say, and the impact of your words.  Acknowledge your imperfections: identify and strive to improve those that you can influence, and move on from those that are beyond your control.  Laugh as often as you can.  Cry and scream until you’re exhausted and then pick yourself up and move forward.  Become the kind of person that you looked up to as a kid.  Try to accept that life is messy and terrifying and thrilling and rewarding and ultimately an opportunity to create and fail and experience and accomplish and learn and adventure.

Seize your opportunity, and have a beautiful year.