To say the last month has been a bit crazy would be an understatement. I accepted an incredible new job opportunity, turned 24 and booked a move to the Midwest within five days.
In the two weeks that followed, I celebrated in Dallas with my girlfriends, won my first awards for my reporting, said goodbye to the sweet southern faces and places I've called home for the past nearly three years, surrounded myself with more girlfriends for drinks and laughs in New Orleans then officially moved to the wonderful city of St. Louis.
It's been a lot. The best kind of a lot.
I'm finishing up my first week of work in my new city, and I cannot help but to be overwhelmingly grateful for what my 2 years and 10 months in Montgomery, Alabama, at my first job, taught me. I learned a lot about sweet tea, southern hospitality, college football and surviving crazy heat. But I also learned a lot of heart, faith and life stuff that I think is really important in this whole discussion about adulthood and blooming where you're planted.
Here are some of those things.
HOME IS WHEREVER YOU LIVE.
I put up my first Christmas tree in my Montgomery apartment in December 2018. I let two Christmases go by without a tree. I figured, since my family wasn't there, and I got to go home after the second one, there was no point.
In fact, I hadn't really made an effort to decorate my apartment at all.
In my last few months before leaving, I hung twinkly lights and bought new picture frames and candles. I spent more time watching movies on my couch in my living room, instead of on my laptop in my bed. I made more of an effort to not just cook for meal prep for the week ahead, but to also make meals I could eat that day at home.
I waited until my last few months to make my apartment feel like a home.
I think that was a mistake.
If you are paying rent, sleeping there every night and/or returning there after every day of work, you owe it to yourself to make that place a home. You owe it to your safe place to make it actually feel safe, give it a chance and let it be a place of solace and comfort.
It'll make a difference when you make your home a place where you actively want to be.
I've heard the word community a zillion times, and I've always thought of it as something that just exists. Something we SHOULD opt to be a part of so people will think we care.
My time in Montgomery taught me that community isn't something you stumble upon. Real community, the kind that makes you feel full and covered, is something you create.
It's inviting people over for bible study or wine (or both). It's trying a new recipe to share. It's sending the text to someone you want to know better cause you both probably like pizza and could definitely share one. It's reaching out, inviting in, talking about real things and building bridges.
You'd be shocked by how thrilled and jazzed people get about a sincere invitation.
Send the text, and turn your oven on.
PLAN THE GIRLS' TRIPS.
Along with falling in love with building new bonds, I also gained a deeper appreciation for the bonds that have persisted through time and distance.
I have a handful of best girl friends who have walked with me through various seasons of life, and I am a better, kinder, stronger, smarter woman because of them.
Being around them empowers me. I glow different when they're around.
Each spring, for the last three years, we've taken a trip. Something about a bunch of my favorite ladies in a fun city with lots of drinks, tons of good outfits and laughter is just too good.
Reach out to your friends, start a group text, pick a city and some dates. Do it. Your heart will thank you.
Your people are your people, and they will be your people no matter where you go or what you're doing. Do the work to keep those bonds strong. Few things are more worth it, more important or more fun.
Living in the deep south taught me the value of a smile, a "hello" and holding the door open. Everyone does it. Always. And it matters. Every single time.
Being kind has opened more doors, scored me more interviews and blessed me with more opportunity than plotting and manipulating ever could. I work in a business where I fully depend on peoples' willingness to open up about tough stuff. We live in a world that's hard to handle alone, where no one really owes us anything. You can't possibly think it's a waste to see people.
See people, okay? Go out of your way to see people and let them know you see them. It's always worth it to remind someone of their gravity and presence. You never know who needs it.
Going out of your way to be kind and grateful is never a waste of time.
FORGET ABOUT IT.
My first three years in this business taught me the importance of having a short memory. It's so tempting to go home and beat yourself up after a bad day, a mistake or tough interactions. I actually think the hours we spend stewing, instead of sleeping, after a tough day are actually worse than whatever happened.
Something I love about news is that it changes every day. Even when you're continuing coverage of the same story, every day has a different angle, a different character and ultimately a new story. That means whether you blew your live shot or completely killed a bomb stand-up the night before, all that matters the next day is what you're delivering and adding to the world that day.
I love that.
It's a constant reminder to check your ego and not get too wrapped up in each day, whether good or bad. Celebrate your wins, learn from your losses and then keep going.
When you live and work that way, it's pretty much impossible to place your value in affirmation and titles because it's all constantly changing.
Y'all, I think the most important thing I left my first job with is the understanding that I am valuable. I am worthy. I am a good journalist. I have a powerful voice. I'm a beautiful woman. I have a kind heart. I have magic to share.
The second most important thing I took with me is the understanding that none of that changes. Ever.
When my stories fall through. When I stutter in a live shot. When my bank account isn't as full as I'd like. When my hair isn't even. When I lock my keys in my car.
I am still worthy. I am still bomb. Period. Das it.
Wrapping my head around that and believing it in my heart has been one of the longest, hardest battles of my life. It's one I still fight on a weekly basis. If you have to repeat it every day, write it down or pray through it every few hours, do it.
Do not wrap any part of your value in things that people can take away. Don't wrap any part of your value in circumstances or words or opinions.
You have to know your value, and you have to do it actively. We have a very real enemy who is constantly doing everything in his power to make you forget what you're worth. He rejoices every single time you allow yourself to believe you are not good enough.
Our God is a good God. He always shows up when we call Him, and He is constantly waiting for us to boss up. He's got the tools, He's already made the way and He's anxiously waiting for our request and willingness to move forward.
From state-to-state and, now, job-to-job, God's never left me. He's never stopped convicting me, speaking to me, blessing me and granting me grace.
Even when I wasn't looking for Him. Even when I was actively trying to fill my life with everything BUT Him.
I truly believe He brought me to Montgomery for my first job so I could get to know Him better and hear His voice more clearly. I knew that when I moved there. I felt it. I also knew when He wanted me to move on, and I know that there's a reason He has me in St. Louis.
Grateful. Overwhelmingly grateful. That's the best way I can sum up this season. Grateful and hoping all of this will remind you that God cares about every little thing you face. He cares about your dreams, passions, career, relationships and goals. If you let Him in, He will do things so precisely and perfectly that your life will ultimately become a blessing bigger and better than what you dreamed.
I'm a fresh 24, and I know there's so much more life I have to live. But I can honestly say there will always be a special place in my heart for the community that first welcomed me into their homes, the co-workers who first let me call them family and the city where I first learned to live on my own.
I truly believe this life thing is a constant process of absorbing, learning and using it all you collect to be better.
Montgomery made me better. I am so grateful. I am so excited.
Know this: God is forever faithful and on time.
With Love & Glitter,