What is the purpose?

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We all have our favorite places… You know, the place you visit when everything seems to be going wrong, when you need to relax, or when you just need to concentrate. Some people retreat to a cushy spot under a shady, big oak tree while others escape to the home of a relative or close friend; however, my favorite place doesn’t involve nature or loved ones.

My favorite place is the coffee shop.

There’s something comforting about grasping the metal handle and pulling the door towards your body, opening yourself up to what this environment can give.

There’s something vulnerable about allowing the rich, strong smell of coffee beans to invade your nostrils without your permission.

There’s something luxurious about ordering a complicated caffeinated beverage that you could never make yourself in the comfort of your own home.

There’s something exciting about being surrounded by others who share the common circumstance of being at the exact same place, at the exact same time time, with you.

But above all, I come to the coffee shop because I like to think.

When I sit down at that table, I unload both my mind and my physical belongings. I place my jacket or sweater over the back of my cold chair. I set my laptop onto the table top and gingerly lift the lid. I plug myself into the wall and into my own escape.

I clear my mind, my head, my life and I concentrate on the now.
Nothing matters but this location, this building, this coffee shop.

I’m here.

I drown out the conversation fluttering around me and I turn my phone on silent. With my ear plugs in, I let music become the only thing I hear, as if it’s a soundtrack carefully chosen for this moment.

I inhale the sweet scent of baked goods and I allow the ebb and flow of customers to mesmerize me.

I give in to my environment and surroundings.
I think about people other than myself and situations other than my own.
I lose myself in everything that I’m not directly connected to.
I retreat from my own life, my own stress, my own worry.
I think about everything and anything.

I ask myself why the young girl with tears in her eyes is tugging on her mothers coat sleeve while the woman is yelling into her cell phone. I ask myself what the smitten-looking teenage couple in the corner is whispering about. I ask myself where the elderly man reading a newspaper in the corner came from before he found himself sitting inside of this coffee shop.

I like to think because life is about more than just myself, my dreams, and my worries.

I like to think because everybody here has a past and a future ahead of them.

How amazing it is just to look around at these strangers and know that they are mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, friends, lovers, and soul mates.

Everyone has their own story and their own reason for sitting down in that coffee shop.

Listening to my soundtrack, I look around and I wonder…

Who is nervously waiting to catch up with an old romance and did they ever get over over the heartbreak they felt when their love just wasn’t enough? Did the invite to reconnect catch the other person off-guard or have they been waiting years for that phone call?

Who is sharing a conversation and heartwarming laughter with their brother, sister, mother, father, or best friend? Do they make it a point to sit down once a week so that weeks, months, and years don’t fly by without connecting just to say hello?

And who is using this very coffee shop as an their office, immersing themselvesin their espresso and spreadsheets? Are they working themselves to the point of exhaustion, determined not to let another promotion pass them by?

Nobody is forced to go to a coffee shop…
We choose to drive or walk to this location.
We choose to pay money for an unnecessary beverage.
We choose to sit down and drink that unnecessary beverage.

We all have a story. We all have a reason.
We all have a purpose for doing the things we do.

Now Isn’t That a Loaded Question?

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Who am I? – Now, isn’t that a loaded question?

Well, first thing in the morning… I’m a lackluster, zombie-like shell of a human being.

I sleep in far too late (excuse me while I hit the snooze button approximately 4 more times) and I refuse to schedule meetings before 11am because of this.

Once I finally drag my groggy, tired ass out of bed and down the stairs, I’m a caffeine seeking missile.

Forget opening my laptop to begin work for the day and forget feeding my fat feline (sorry Twigs), I beeline towards my overworked coffee maker.

I patiently wait for the hissing and chugging of the machine to infiltrate my ear drums before I’m satisfied enough to let it out of my sight – convinced the dripping of brown, liquid goodness will soon follow.

Sitting at my desk, I become a social media rockstar (my words, not my company’s) and if we’re being honest, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist who insists on making, “just a few edits” to most copy.

Caffeinated brown liquid in hand, I’m ready to “like,” “tweet,” and “direct message” like it’s my job… Mainly because it is.

After work, I’m a nearly domesticated woman who tries desperately to finagle a healthy, hearty meal out of refrigerator scraps.

A pinch of salt here, a block of ramen there… It’ll be edible. I’m sure of it and Hell, if not… well then, I have the local pizza parlor on speeddial. No fuzz off my Goodwill sweater-ed shoulder.

Full of $.10 noodles, I transform into a boozy best friend, a shoulder to cry on, and/or a television-watching girlfriend… Depends on the night.

At the end of the night, when I’m lying in bed and wrestling with the covers,I’m a 26-year old girl who is just trying to figure it all out. Anoveranalyzing worrier yet big-dream seeking girl with a heart that’s currently yearning for travel.

This is who I am today, right in the moment; however, tomorrow my answer might be different.

** Photography by t.bell photography **

Adventure – Guest Blogger!

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At some point in life we are all ready to make a change.  Be it a change in attitude or a change of pace, we all grasp for something that is flashy and new.  Sometimes it’s as simple as turning left instead of going right and other times it involves jetting across the country to start a new life.  Which is exactly what I have decided to do.

There are few things more terrifying than moving.  Packing your life into any number of salvaged-from-the-dump cardboard boxes forces your attention to all of your obsessions, indulgences, and shortcomings.  Among junk drawers and unpacked boxes from prior moves, you’re left with any number of unanswerable questions that leave you deeply concerned for your sanity.

Six months ago I had no intentions of moving.  I was unhappy, but I had resigned myself to a life of mediocrity.  In a society that seems to resent youth,  I was a functioning adult and at the time that seemed like a success.  I had spent my years just out of high school traveling, I had lived in a foreign country, and I had just started to convince myself that those years would be the pinnacle of my life time achievement when a powerful force barreled into my life.  I was headbutted with chaos, tackled with unpredictability, and force-fed my contentment.  I was left emotionally bleeding on the floor of my self-doubt and I felt good.  What had I been doing with my life?  Where was I going?  These questions kept me conscious, but I needed to pick myself up off the floor, grab an ice pack, and prep myself for Round 2.

All the mental Tae Bo training in the world could not have prepared me for what came next.  Instead of being thrust in front of a series of funhouse mirrors to confront every version of me, I was instead asked a simple question: Want to go on an adventure?

Yes, I answered at the speed of the Flash.  The word was out before my mind had time to even figure out what sort of strange adventure I had signed on for.  There was no fear or doubt, just a single syllable word that carried my ambitions with it.

Which brings us to now.  A month before the move.  Up until this point, whenever someone asked how I was feeling about the move I answered with doubtless optimism, but ever since I’ve been transferring my life’s culmination of stuff and things into new bags and boxes, I can’t help but feel horrified by what’s to come.  This adventure I am about to partake in does not include my friends and family.  I have no place yet to live, no job, and no clue as to what I should expect in the new city I will soon call home.  I am scared, I am anxious, I am panicked.

I am excited.

Perhaps moving will ultimately be my downfall. In six months I could very well come crawling back, my stomach muddied by the tears of my defeat, but it would be my choice.  In a year, I may have to hobble from bus stop to bus stop, begging for tuppence as I try to make it home, but it would be my choice.  In two years maybe, just maybe, I will be happy.  I don’t know what to expect, if I did there would be no thrill.  What I do know is that it will not be the end.  One failed adventure can lead to a multitude of successes.

That is what ultimately sold it for me and what I hope will inspire all of you.  This adventure is MINE.  It may not always lead to happiness, but what can ever truly be gained by playing it safe?  Welcome change.  Take risks.  Go on an adventure.  You will never truly know what it’s like to live until you’re scared witless by the uncertainty of the future.

EDITORS NOTE: Rachel Closson is currently a resident of Grand Rapids but is soon on her way to Texas. While she’s a lover of all things video games related, she somehow finds time to read and write. Her favorite writing/reading genre is Science-Fiction and she hopes to continue honing her skills in the weeks and months to come.

Positive People’s Project – Renee K.

 

Name: Renee Kendall
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

I first met Renee at a local Grand Rapids coffee shop. Liz, Renee, and myself gathered to not only put a face with a name but to get an idea of who Renee really is. Needless to say,
Liz and I were both blown away by her confidence, her enthusiasm, and her general sincerity.

When Renee was first nominated for the Positive People’s Project, we asked her to write up _MG_7510her story for us.

This is what she sent:

I have always been a happy and positive person. Everyone always thought of me as the happy girl who is always laughing. At school and at summer camps I would always win the “Miss giggles” or “positivity” mock awards. Throughout my childhood I had many obstacles such as my parents divorce, my diagnosis with epilepsy, and my brother’s diagnosis with Leukemia. However, I never seemed to lose sight of the positive side of life. I always remained the same “Renee” that everyone knew and loved! There was one tragedy in my life though, that made me forget how beautiful life is.

On January 1, 2011 my dad committed suicide.

I didn’t see it coming. I knew my Dad had some demons inside him, but I had no idea it was enough to cause him to end his life. I spent almost a year feeling so much sorrow and asking so many questions. Why would he do this? Does he not love me enough? Could I have done anything to prevent this? The sorrow turned to anger and I started to hate not only my dad, but everyone in my life. I had lost faith in the good of people and I thought everyone was selfish.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 6.35.20 PMNear the end of 2011 I started an internship with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. During this internship I was working at the Light the Night walk and I saw so many generous and inspiring people. They were donating their time and money for a cause that is so much bigger than them.

It had restored my faith in the good of people. 

I have worked for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since. Volunteering at their Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Light the Night walks for the past two years. I have completed two half marathons and one full marathon raising over $6,000 for blood cancer research and patient services through their Team in Training program. I have also gotten my friends and family involved and together my friends and I raised over $4,500. It has been through my service and giving back that I have restored my faith in the good of people.

My happiness is back!

If you’d like more information of if you’d like to donate to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, please visit http://www.lls.org/

To see more photos taken by Happy Hat LLC for Renee’s Positive People’s Project photo shoot, please click HERE

Editors Note: We’d also like to extend a VERY special thank you to our wonderful Makeup Artist, Morgan S., for all of her help on the day of the photo shoot!

Shaping my Unexpected Dream – Guest Blogger!

Liz Merriman on Set 2

As I go to bed each night I try to picture what I will dream about. I lay out the story in my head, I pick the place, the setting, people and then what we each will do. I guess you can say I produce my dreams as if they were films. This is second nature to me because that is what I am achieving to do in my life.

I am a Producer in the film industry.

Ever hear the saying ” If you can shape in your mind you will find it in your life”? Well, I started shaping my future life while I dreamt when I was a teenager. Although back then my plans didn’t quite involve films past watching them in my room. I was gearing to enter a career as a welder, and I REALLY loved it.

Welding as a passion was sort of a fluke, I only got into it because there was no room in wood shop. I was the only girl and I had a really great teacher who didn’t think of me as a fragile female. After I tried it once I became hooked. Soon I was this powerful woman welder, On Fire! OK, I wasn’t on fire but I did burn myself drastically once. Welding gave me something I could be proud of because it was something I was good at and it was all my own. Before welding, I really struggled to find my place. I guess we all do in high school.

Welding carried me into College. I was going to get a degree, study scuba and train to be an Under Water Welder. I know what you are thinking but it is totally a real job, look it up. My father was thrilled, with this career path I’d be set for life. Life as we know it, is not always Set!

I took a mid- college detour after really getting into theater and then due to illness. I was hospitalized with what they thought at the time was a stroke, caused by an eating disorder. I did not dream anything close to that situation.

I was completely taken off the course I was certain was THE path for me.

While recovering from the stroke, I didn’t have much I could do. So I turned back to my old happy place, watching films. Anytime I had a bad day, or just needed something to do, I turned to watching movies. I would get lost in stories, adventures, painful endings and bright beginnings.

During my time of solace, one film was on the TV most often. It was the Muppet Movie and one scene stood out to me the most. The film is a movie within a movie, story within a story. Kermit the Frog is encouraged to pursue a career in show business. Inspired by the idea of making millions of people happy, Kermit sets off on his journey to hollywood. Along the way he makes friends and enemies, has triumphs and set backs.

Finally against many odds he makes it into a hollywood executives office and is offered everything he has journeyed so far to get. Dream come true. The scene has stayed with me to this day. I pictured myself in that office but not has Kermit getting all I have dreamed of. In fact it was the role of the hollywood executive, the producer that I placed myself in.

Film has a magical power unlike so many other mediums. It can change the world, it can lift us up or bring our world to crash down upon us. We can be awakened or closed off even more. To have that kind of power takes responsibility, grace, and immense care.

I plan to dream and shape in my mind the dreams of others, may they be my dreams. May I lift as I climb, make compelling stories and may they come before you all. Someday.

If you’d like to know more about Liz and her business, click HERE to visit the Happy Hat LLC Facebook page!

Embrace the Unknown and Enjoy It

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I’ve found that regardless of age, many people are worried or stressed out about their future. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a 20-something young professional or if you’re a 45 year old mother of 3 because life is stressful. You may worry about whether you’re on the right track professionally, whether you’re making smart financial decisions, or if you’re living up to your full potential.

But you know what? It’s okay not to know what lies ahead of you because of these reasons:

1.) Nobody else knows: Simple yet true. Nobody knows what their future holds so take solace in knowing that you’re definitely not alone. We’re all in this together – Muddling through the confusion and waiting to get to the point in our lives where we find that we’re okay with the unknown.

Secret: The sooner you discover that you can’t control or plan your future, the sooner you’ll be able to embrace what’s to come with open arms…

2.) Life would be boring if we knew: Sometimes the greatest moments in life are those
moments that are completely and totally unexpected. If you knew EXACTLY what your future held, would you still wake up every day with enthusiasm and excitement? I mean, really… You’d know when you’re going to meet important people, when you were going to find a soulmate, when you were going to get a job promotions, etc.

You wouldn’t be excited for the day at all… In fact, you’d probably wake up and think “Alright, today I’m going to meet someone who is going to become my best friend. Better put on some perfume even though it doesn’t matter… We’re destined to be friends regardless of how I smell.” Boooooooringggggggg.

3.) You wouldn’t learn: If you always knew the outcome of situations, you’d probably avoid those that would cause you pain. Now, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing right away but think about it for a second. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned have come from jobs I shouldn’t have taken, boys I shouldn’t have dated, and friends I shouldn’t have hung out with. If I knew that all of those situations wouldn’t have worked out in the long run, I probably would’ve avoided them.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Take a deep breath and smile because you’re doing alright kiddo. Enjoy each day to the fullest rather than riddling it with worry and stress over things you simply can’t control. All you need to do is do your best, follow your heart, and try to make smart decisions (Note: I didn’t say RIGHT decisions because even the wrong ones are okay).

My Time on the Stage

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Whew!!

It has been a while since I’ve updated Live Inspired with a real blog post. It’s not that I’ve forgotten about you… quite the contrary actually. However, my life has been a bit hectic since 2013 began.

To give you a quick and dirty update before I get to the good stuff:

– I packed up and moved across town

– Not even a week later, somebody hit my car in the middle of the night and didn’t leave any information. So I had to deal with insurance stuff and I was carless for about 2 weeks – Yuck.

– I played a lead character in my first (and maybe last haha) stage show!

Yep. I always tell you all that you should go outside of your comfort zone every now and then for the sake of experiencing new things and well, this past month I took my own advice.

One of my friends is an extremely talented director and she asked if I’d be interested in being in a theatre production she was directing. Because I assumed she knew I had zero experience on stage, I figured that she just wanted me to hum in the background while standing behind a fake tree. You know, basically providing a warm body to take up space.

The day after I agreed, she sent me the script and honestly… My mouth dropped.

There were only 3 characters – 2 males and 1 female.

The female was definitely a lead role and to my dismay, that character had lines. Nope, she was not a mime and she didn’t just hum. I read the script, fell in love with it, and then immediately emailed her my concerns.

It went a little something like this:

A.)  This script is hilarious. I love it.

B.)  You do know that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to memorizing lines, acting, or even being on a stage, right? As much as I’d love to branch out and do something like this, I have zero experience and if you wanted to ditch me, I’d completely understand. This script is hilarious and deserves someone who can really rock it.

Surprisingly – She didn’t want to ditch me; therefore, I became Arin in the production of “I Went Searching for the Meaning of Life and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”

I’m fairly confident in my abilities but I had no idea what I was getting myself into…

Turns out – Acting is REALLY hard!

After my first read through, I felt discouraged. I knew how the character was supposed to feel but I had a hard time expressing it. I know what being happy sounds like, I know what being dejected sounds like, and I know what being skeptical sounds like but for the life of me, I couldn’t make myself sound genuine in expressing these things.

After weeks of encouragement, extra help from my cast and the director, and countless
hours of trying to memorize lines… Opening night had arrived.

I can’t even explain how I felt in the few moments before I walked out in front of the audience. I was the first one they saw and heard.

It was up to me to not screw it all up before it even began.

Backstage, I jumped up and down, I did a little booty-shaking dance, and I tried to calm the gaggle of butterflies that were flying around inside of my stomach.

Then, the lights dimmed and my entrance music began to play. It was then in that moment I realized it’s time to face my fears, put all of my nervousness behind me, and give the audience the show they paid for.

I took a deep breath, stepped out on stage, and delivered my first line without fainting or dying.

The show began and I did’t skip over a chunk of dialogue, I moved everywhere I was supposed to move, I didn’t screw up my monologue and guess what? The audience loved it!

Now, I can’t say that I was the greatest actor on stage that night (far from it) and I can’t say that I have a future in acting but ya know what?

I did it! I did something COMPLETELY and TOTALLY outside of my comfort zone.

It was insane, nerve-wracking, and crazy but I did it.

This experience taught me that it pays to do something out of the ordinary every now and then just to remind yourself of what you’re capable of. 

I have a feeling 2013 will be full of new, exciting, and even nerve wracking experiences. However, after starting the year off in this way, I feel like I’ll be ready to take on all of these challenges/opportunities with open arms because, well… Life is too short not to take chances and crazy opportunities, right? 🙂