Highlights of Senior Year

As my final blog post for Branding of Me, I thought I would share a few pictures from my best memories of senior year:

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YoungLife Leader Retreat

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Fall Bid Day

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Day Trip to Colorado

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January birthday girls

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Roommate’s engagement

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Youtuber Influencer Event

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YoungLife Leader Placement

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Win over DOOK!

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Senior Spring Break

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Formal 2k17

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!

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Graduation Advice from Gary

With graduation being two weeks away, I thought I would relay some advice that my Branding of Me professor, Gary Kayye, gave us on the last day of class. Here are his seven lasting bits of advice for post-graduation and my thoughts on each:

    1. You must blog — Whether you blog or journal or don’t write at all, I believe this is such an important piece of advice. I think writing allows you to get your most honest thoughts down and allows you to be vulnerable with yourself and with others. Write about what you feel, see and believe. Even if it’s jotting down a few thoughts, try to write every day.
    2. You must volunteer — Why wait to serve? Volunteer with an organization you’re passionate about or for a cause you’re interested in. Give your time away to something other than yourself. Not only will you be humbled, but you’ll get to do something you’re passionate about on the side.
    3. You must repair — Learn how to rebuild relationships. Learn how to forgive others and forgive yourself. Holding grudges doesn’t help anybody. It just builds negativity and anger and it’s honestly not worth it. Move forward and be in the mode of repairing mistakes.
    4. You must meditate — Be still. In the midst of busyness and the craziness of everyday life, learn how to just take ten minutes our of your day and be. Don’t stress, don’t think about anything. Just be.
    5. You must care — Care about what’s going on around you. In your community, in your state, in your country, in your world. You will be able to solve problems individually and collectively if you just care and educate yourself on what’s happening around you.
    6. You must find love — Gary said that for those of us who have kids in the future, we will know love. I have already seen this in how my parents love me and how my God loves me. If you don’t have kids or don’t want kids, find something that’s worth loving.
    7. You must connect — Connecting electronically is a lot different than connecting in real life. Put down that device. Close your laptop. Learn how to make your personal relationships meaningful and connect with others face-to-face.

Why You Should Read “The Circle” First

It’s LDOC here at Carolina and I just got back from watching “The Circle” at Silverspot with my MEJO 474 class (thanks to Gary Kayye) and I have to say, I was very disappointed. With an all-star cast and supposedly great plot line (I read the book and absolutely loved it), I was ready to be thoroughly impressed with the movie. Granted, I know most movies rarely live up to the expectation that the book offers, but I thought this would be different.

I found myself kind of lost throughout the movie, even though I read the book just one month ago. I was confused as to why the plot left out major events in the book and why major characters had virtually minor roles in the movie. With big stars like Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and John Boyega, I was anticipating each one to own their roles. Unfortunately, I think Tom Hanks, specifically, did a stellar job of playing his part while Watson didn’t necessarily fit her role and Boyega had such a minor role that I question why he was even brought into production.

After the movie, my professor said he thought that people who hadn’t seen the movie would get what it was about even more than we do. I politely disagreed, but I do believe people would think the movie posed an interesting concept: total transparency in society. The Circle is a powerful technology and social media company with the goal of removing any barriers to privacy among people and nations. This action would make everybody and everything transparent and accessible to the whole entire world. While this absolutely could have its benefits (little to zero crime rate, prevention of wars, knowledge of where your tax dollars are going, etc.), it could, and would, have its negative effects. Nothing is private or safe. People have access to all of your data and lives, which to me seems a bit much.

The main reason why you should read the book before going to watch the movie because you miss the actual thrilling probability of this actually happening in society. We already get a glimpse of living transparent lives through Facebook Live stories and platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where we get to show the world our lives and what we’re doing every second of the day. You get to see this in the book and read every detailed page of the Circle’s programs and how characters like Mae and Ty process all of it. The movie, however, never lives up to its thriller/dystopian potential and leaves you hungry for more.

Additionally, the character development in the movie is extremely poor. I think technology has the power to depersonalize individuals and that may have been what the producers tried to do with Mae Holland, played by Watson, over the course of the movie. However, I think her character was pretty much bland from the start and even though she rose higher up in the company, her confidence and strength still dwindled. The romance between Watson’s character and Boyega’s character was also nonexistent. A big part of the plot development in the book was the growth of the relationship, but in the movie the emotional connection between the two was lacking and one could say, didn’t even exist.

So, while I think the movie had the potential to accurately depict what our society could turn into, and while I think Watson’s character had the potential to be a protagonist that everybody loved to hate, the whole thing just ended up failing to be anything but exciting. In fact, the best depiction I can give of the movie is plain and uneventful. Read the book — it’s better.

It’s always Sonny in Chapel Hill

If there is one thing I could go back and change at my time at Carolina it would be getting to know my professors better. It can be intimidating — especially in 300+ person classes — to go up to the professor and ask for help let alone try and get to know them better. I always struggled coming up with things to talk to them about, especially if I didn’t have any questions about what I was learning in class.

Should I ask questions about school or perhaps how to get a job? Should I ask them questions about their lives? I didn’t know, so I never asked.

When I started taking classes in the MJ-School and the class size became smaller, I naturally began to know the professors better because we would work on a lot of real-world projects together. Most of the work was collaborative and my professors truly wanted to see us succeed and do our best, so they were always available if we needed help. But in the GenEd classes I took during my first couple of years at UNC, I was stuck in big lectures or classes that I wasn’t that interested in. Because of this, the desire to go to office hours and talk to my professors was extremely low. They seemed unapproachable and again, I just didn’t know what to talk about and was scared to even start a conversation.

But then I met Sonny — a TA in my COMM 325 Organizational Communication class. If any of you go to UNC, I hope you get to meet this man. He is such a light (literally, he’s always smiling) to so many students and easily one of the coolest people to be around. He cares about his students and is dedicated to making everybody he meets feel inspired, empowered and known.

Last semester, all of the TAs in COMM 325 were required to teach one class during the semester and when it was Sonny’s turn, he gave a heartfelt spoken word performance on his roots and what it was like to be a black man in America. He spoke from the lens of being in the car while taking his son to school. The performance not only made class a lot more engaging, but it personalized a real issue going on in America right now, bringing the issue to life and educating each student in the room.

After class, I mustered up the courage to go up to Sonny and talk to him a little more about his life and background. He not only answered all of the questions I had, but became genuinely interested in my life and what I wanted to do with it. He asked about what I was passionate about and what I wanted to do with those passions. This was the first time I felt invested in by somebody who really wanted to help me succeed.

The friendship has continued past last semester and it is easily one of the greatest things I can take with me after I leave this place. Just last week, my friends and I got the chance to sit with Sonny over some Alpine coffee and talk about post-graduation plans and what we wanted to do in the future. It’s been so sweet to get wisdom and life advice from somebody who truly cares about the students he teaches and gain a friend who shares similar interests and passions with me. And to think, I never would have met Sonny if I stayed quiet and hadn’t broken through the fear of getting up and talking to him. So just some encouragement for all of you that are too scared to meet your professors/TAs/etc. — sometimes, all we need is to just start a conversation. Because 10 times out of 10, you won’t be disappointed.

Let’s Get Real

With less than a month before graduation, I’ve had time to look back on the last four years of college and take in everything that has happened. I think it’s safe to say that I am a completely different person now than when I started and have grown in so many ways. I have had some of the best experiences in college, from winning the natty to going to Sutton’s every Tuesday to enjoying a drink at TRU with housemates. But with the good also comes the bad, and even though I’ve had some amazing experiences at this place, I have also gone through some pretty tough and painful times.

I think we tend to overlook the bad in our lives and jump straight to the good stuff. I know I do this a lot. I believe part of this is due to a contrived image of perfection that we feel like we have to offer people. But another reason could be we don’t want to believe we don’t have our crap together. We think that by showing others our weaknesses and struggles, we don’t seem to look as perfect or put-together or as good as the next person. We don’t live up to this so-called potential that society has sanctioned for us so we make sure our Instagram feed is absolutely perfect and show our glorified highlight reel to friends, family and total strangers —because some of us want even the people that don’t know us to think we go through life effortlessly.

What would happen if we challenged that notion? What would happen if we posted raw, emotional pictures on social media? Would we be judged because we’re being too vulnerable? Would we be overlooked because what we post isn’t important, pretty, or cool enough, let alone aesthetically-pleasing? Would we be loved by our so-called friends if they knew that we weren’t perfect?

A couple blogs ago, I said I would be as vulnerable as possible with my writing and my thoughts – these aren’t made-up fantasies that I live, think or believe. All of the experiences I’ve shared have been super honest and personal. I think any writing needs to be this way in order to tell a story. And because of this I think it’s time that I share one of the hardest times in college for me and tell more of my story.

Junior year — the year right before things start getting “real.” It started off like any other year would: super busy, jam packed with school, work, YoungLife, friends and sorority functions. I started dating one of my best friends, did extremely well in school and was on fire for The Lord and life in general.

Then, spring semester started.

All of a sudden, I felt empty. I felt my world crashing down and didn’t know why or what to do. I felt apathetic about everything. I never wanted to do anything, I didn’t want to be around people and I thought so many horrible things about myself. Insecurities creeped into my mind and consumed my every thought. I no longer believed that I was a beautiful, confident child of God. I believed I was never good enough, worthless, and the farthest from God I had ever been. I was depressed — or at least that was the conclusion I had come to. I didn’t have any other explanation for it.

It was hard for me to get up each morning and try to “do life.” It was hard for me to put a smile on my face every morning and act like everything was okay. And some days, the smile never appeared simply because I was too tired of faking it. Relationships were strained, nothing seemed important and I felt like my life was spiraling out of control. The worst part was that I had no idea how it got to this point or why any of this was happening. And on top of that, I felt so selfish for feeling all of these things. There were people so close to me that were going through things ten times worse and who had problems that seemed infinitely more important than mine. I felt like a nuisance. It was horrible and I just wanted things to end.

I questioned a lot of things during this time period — my faith, my future, myself. I had so much time to think and try to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you have a lot of alone time. But as much as I tried to fix myself and figure out what was going on, I slowly started to accept that sometimes, it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes, it’s okay to not have things all together and be happy and love life. Sometimes, it takes some pretty low periods like these to mold a weak person into a stronger one.

Thanks to a few wonderful people (and an unbelievable Healer and Redeemer), I’ve slowly began to bounce back from where I was a year ago. It’s been difficult and part of me thinks I’ll always struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt and insecurities. Even today, I think back to who I was last year at this time and those thoughts of unworthiness start creeping back in. I think about shutting the world out and shutting myself in.

It’s not easy — to speak about a time when my physical, emotional and mental health was at an all time low, especially because I’ve been that perfect person to so many people for so long. But I think it’s necessary to speak out and speak up. I think it’s necessary because it’s an experience that has shaped me and made me a stronger person. It’s necessary because I don’t want people to think I have it all together all the time. Because I don’t. I am more than just my social media, more than the things I do and more than what this world has labeled me as. It’s necessary to talk about the hard things because there are other people going through the same exact thing and don’t know what’s going on and don’t have anybody to turn to. It’s necessary because before this happened to me, I thought those feelings were abnormal and there was something wrong with people who felt those things — the reality is that belief is simply not true.

Throughout this whole process, I kept asking, “Why?” Why did I have to go through that? And the truth is I don’t know why and I may never know the reason. But I do know that sometimes we go through things without warning. We deal with things unexpectedly and don’t know the how, what or why of anything.

But I think it’s how we confront these things, learn from these things and build from these things that really matter. I could’ve let this dark period consume my life and take over everything. And despite how easy that could’ve been, I didn’t.

“Most of us think of paradise as a place where nothing has ever gone wrong. I disagree.” — Maria Goff

“We’ve all experienced volcanoes; not everyone has the ability to see how they become islands of beauty later. Emotional burns, scars and brokenness don’t just go away by themselves. They need some time to cool. While they do, we need to find a way through them and eventually they need to be built upon…We don’t need to run from the lava anymore, but instead imagine what it might become in time.”

Don’t let the lava in your life burn you up and swallow you whole. We can go through some real crap in our lives and choose to let that crap define us. The great news is that when we don’t have the strength to deal with the crap, Jesus helps us turn our lives back on again and show us who we are despite the crap. If I’ve learned anything from my struggle, it’s that beauty can come out of pain, hardships and darkness, even when it seems utterly impossible. There will be eruptions and the lava will flow —but the lava will eventually cool. And when it does, you have the chance to heal, rebuild and start over.

 

Hark the Daggum Sound

Four years. Two Final Fours. One championship.

I figured that I would wait a week before writing this to let one final Tar Heel win at the greatest school in the world sink in. And not just any other win, but the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship win. A win that was a culmination of tears, dedication and redemption — one that was well deserved after a year of endless hard work and unbelievable heart from a team who bounced back from last year’s championship loss. A win that proved that UNC absolutely is the University of National Champions.

To try to even begin to explain the utter excitement I felt the second I realized we were going to be the 2017 National Champions is indescribable. Donning my UNC basketball jersey, I rushed Franklin Street alongside 50,000 other people for one last time. In between the crying, laughing and screaming, I became overwhelmed by the explicit joy this school — and this basketball team — has brought me over the past four years.

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Many people don’t understand. They say, “So what? UNC won a national championship. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a game.”

But it’s not just a game.

It’s the feeling you get just being in the Dean Dome. Or the feeling you get when we beat Duke and rush with tons of other random strangers who start hugging you and celebrating like there’s no tomorrow. It’s being a part of something so much bigger than yourself and coming together with so many people and all of our differences to celebrate a common passion for the sport and this team. It’s wearing Carolina blue seven days in a row after winning the natty because you are just so dang proud to be a Tar Heel. It’s letting the tears fall and not caring what anybody else thinks because you are happy, relieved, exhausted and all kinds of emotional. It’s Roy Williams’ constant encouragement in the locker room after games that make you believe he’s talking to you. It’s Theo Pinson dancing to Jump Around right before games start. It’s what gives this school its spirit. It’s all of these things together that make the sport more than just a sport.

“This is what it’s all about. This right here. It’s on the floor, it’s on your shirt, and it’s in your heart.” — Stuart Scott

Stuart, your words could not be more true. This is Carolina Basketball — and I am forever grateful for the memories and experiences it has given me, and for the love it will continue to give me for this sport, for this team and for this school.

Short, CRISP and Sweet

Recently, I got the chance to dive a little more into poetry and create a poem as a creative submission for an agency I’m applying to. I’ll let you guess which one it is ;). Whilst writing, I didn’t realize that I’d learn more about myself and confirm my passion for storytelling in the process. Hope y’all enjoy!

Why Me?

Why me? Because before I could even walk I was reading.
And not just Dick and Jane, but the big girl stuff like Charlotte’s Web.
I read under the glass kitchen table.
I read during pre-school naptime.
I read at my own surprise birthday party when I was five years old,
But, of course, put the book down for cake.
Books allowed me to learn, to feel, to be enveloped in a story. They still do.
They have challenged me to look at myself — and the world — differently.
Why me? Because in fourth grade, I became the first girl hall monitor ever.
Knowing nothing about social justice,
I saw an opportunity to do something I had never done before.
I wore that bright neon orange belt proudly. And totally rocked it, I might add.
Why me? Because in middle school I was diagnosed with intermittent pancreatitis.
Who even knows the what, how or why of all of it.
While my parents were upset and confused, I channeled my diagnosed weakness into strength.
I turned the negative “why” into a positive catalyst to fight and overcome.
And overcome I did.
I defeated pimples, puberty and pancreatitis flare-ups.
Why me? Because I turned down a full-ride tennis scholarship to have a normal education.
After seven years of practices, tournaments and workouts, I discovered my true passions.
I was done with the sport. My parents weren’t. But that’s okay.
I was going to go to a college that allowed me to further my passion of
Learning
Writing
Storytelling.
“There aren’t jobs.”
“You won’t make money.”
“You’re making a mistake.”
Maybe I am. But I don’t think so.
Why me? Because my faith is the foundation that has shaped me.
It has changed the way I view my relationships, work and future dreams.
I don’t just live for myself and that’s a tough, but humbling, realization.
Why me? Because I’m not just some robot who goes through the daily motions of life.
I cry every time I see a Nicholas Sparks movie.
I cheer my heart out whenever the Tar Heels are playing (and winning nattys).
I am inspired by people like Sophia Bush and Emma Watson who motivate me to do more.
I get giddy inside whenever I write because I experience a sense of freedom when I do.
Why me? Because I wasn’t born like this. I was made like this.
So, now that you know a little bit more about me,
CRISP, please tell me, why you?

Galway Girls Take on Spring Break

Last week was my last spring break ever and while I’m still trying to cope with the fact that I probably won’t have a long break for a while, I can’t help but love how my last break in college went. A couple of friends and I got to go to Charleston and Savannah with a couple of pit stops here and there and despite the cold weather, abrupt sickness and sudden change of plans, the break turned out to be an awesome road trip filled with lots of food and lots of Ed Sheeran.

Here are just a couple of highlights from the trip:

parkcafeslide41Best brunch spot: Park Cafe in Charleston, SC

This was the perfect place to go on a rainy day. The cafe had a full-service coffee bar and allowed us to order drinks while we waited for our table. The food was absolutely amazing (the Ricotta Gnocchi is to DIE for) – all of the ingredients are fresh and sourced from Charleston purveyors so the food definitely speaks for itself. You definitely feel like you’re “living simply” when dining here.

black tap coffeeBest coffee shop: Black Tap Coffee in Charleston, SC

We ventured to this coffee shop on yet another rainy day and stayed here for a couple hours while the rain passed. Like Park Cafe, the place espoused a simple feel and I felt like I was in my own home while I enjoyed the coffee and company. The shop’s craftsmanship is beautiful and was evident in its long wooden tables and beautiful artwork. Succulents and modern art pieces decorated the room. In addition to the beautiful atmosphere, the shop sources, roasts and crafts some of the best coffee in the world. They make it their mission to make every conversation around coffee approachable, whether that conversation is with a first time coffee drinker or a coffee connoisseur.

Best dinner spot: Leon’s Oyster Shop in Charleston, SC

Leon's Oyster Shop - outdoor patioRecommended by a friend, Leon’s is located at the end of the infamous King Street in Charleston. We had a party of eight and got there right before the dinner rush. The staff seated us very quickly in the middle of the restaurant at a round, wooden table with water jugs on it. The place had a modern, nautical feel that made you feel like you were in a dining room on a boat. Since Leon’s is known for its seafood, I got a batch of fried oysters that beat any other oysters I’ve had before, a fish dip and some soup. I highly recommend splurging on food here because it’s well worth it.

Best lunch spot: Starland Cafe in Savannah, GA

starland-cafe-3Another sweet recommendation, Starland Cafe is located in a quaint house near the Starland District in Savannah. The cozy cafe offers paninis, salads and soups at a great price. Think of Panera Bread but 10 times better. We came right in the middle of lunch rush, so we had to wait a while for our food, but it was definitely worth the wait. I had a panini similar to a Cuban sandwich and a Side Sink salad that had a tomato-infused buttermilk dressing, dates, golden raisins, red grapes, crunchy rice noodles, tomatoes and red onions. Safe to say, I left one happy and content gal.

Best attraction: St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, GA

IMG_9801If you get the chance to spend St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, please do it. The city hosts one of the largest and longest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world and has an accompanying festival to go along with it. The parade lasted over four hours and boasted beautiful floats, tons of Irish clans and traditional Irish dancing. My friends and I danced on the river front and celebrated until the sun went down. It was by far one of the best experiences!

Needless to say, this spring break was wonderful. I got to travel, try new food and spend some time with sweet friends. It was the absolute perfect way to spend my last break.

The Art of Storytelling

Isn’t it cool to know that everybody’s life is different? Everybody has their own history, experiences, memories. Everybody has a story.

In my Branding of Me class, we focus a lot on developing our personal brand. When I first heard that we would be doing this throughout the semester, part of me became super uncomfortable. I don’t like talking about myself nor do I like showing off all that I’ve done or all that I hope to do. Part of that is personal to me, and I sometimes don’t like to be vulnerable and share my life with just anybody.

What I’ve learned though is that by developing and understanding my personal brand, I’ve been able to learn so much more about myself and truly understand what I want to do with my life. A couple classes ago, my class had the pleasure of hearing three very different, very riveting stories from people confident in their personal brand.

First, we got to hear the story of Joshua Prager. When Joshua Prager was 19, a devastating bus accident in Israel left him a hemiplegic. He returned to Israel twenty years later to find the driver who turned his world upside down and confront him about the last twenty years. In his mesmerizing tale, Prager illustrates a heart-wrenching story of hurt and introduces themes of mindfulness, empathy and forgiveness.

Next, we got to hear from our professor, Gary Kayye, and listen to his story about his life and the life-altering moments he faced. He talked about being present, strengthening our emotional intelligence and being okay with where we are in life.

“Be okay with the present moment and be okay with not having plans.”

As a college senior with a little more than a month of school left, this hit home with me. I find myself worrying about finding a job and stressed that I don’t have a job right now. I also find myself just wanting to be done with school — done with classes, done with professors, just done. But, Gary’s words made me realize that I’m never going to be in this exact moment ever again. So, why would I spend my days worrying and wishing that I could just get to the next best thing? I miss all that’s happening right in front of me.

Finally, we got to hear from special guest, Apollos Hester. You might know him as the guy who gave the most inspirational speech ever after winning his high school football game. I know him as the guy who dreams of helping people. His authenticity when speaking to my class was tangible — he was so passionate about what he was saying that you couldn’t help but believe him. When talking about his own passions, he explained that all he wanted to do was help people.

“If I can help someone, that’s better than no one.”

For somebody who has a ridiculous amount of social media followers, Apollos does what he does not to further his fame. For him, it’s God and his parents. That’s why he does what he does.

I think we often try to live our lives based on others — what society thinks is right, what our parents think is right. Hearing from these three made me realize that I need to do things I’m super passionate about and do things with authenticity and transparency. Their stories have inspired me to tell my story with more vulnerability — to be completely honest with myself and with others. With that being said, from now on I will do my very best to lay it all out in my blog posts. Now, more than ever, will I be writing for myself — not for others. I will be writing about what I’m passionate about and be content with where I am at this very moment.

As Apollos said, “Sometimes in life you’re going to start slow. That’s okay.” There might be a beautiful, wonderful story along the way.

Image Courtesy of TED.com.

Diners and Down Time

Parents, although very overbearing at times, can be great. I think we take our parents for granted more than we think we do. I know I did. When I was in high school, I remember rolling my eyes every time they would tell me the same things over and over again because I thought whatever they had to say couldn’t possibly be that important. I remember leaving the house to be with friends as much as I could because the last place. For the longest time, I just wanted to be on my own, away from my parents. I don’t think I appreciated them as much as I should have until I was having an emotional breakdown during my freshman year at 2 in the morning and knew that they were the only ones who would know what to say.

I recently went home this past weekend for the first time since Christmas. It was only for a day and a half, but it was good to just relax and spend time with my parents. Sometimes, relaxation isn’t always a given because my family is constantly on the go and talks about my future are always discussed and I feel stressed more often than relaxed. But this time it was different.

My family never eats breakfast together, so it was a nice surprise when my dad asked if we wanted to eat at a local diner on Saturday. We spent that morning at Frye Daddy’s Diner and talked for two hours. This may not seem like a big deal, but when most of our meals are rushed or interrupted by phone calls or TV specials, it’s a pretty big deal. The place was slammed, but the food was amazing and the staff were all so polite. If I had to pick a place that embodied southern hospitality, it would be this place.

The rest of the day, my parents were true servants and did so much for me. My dad got my car washed, my mom went shopping with me and helped me pick out some work clothes and we ended up getting groceries to top everything off. We went out to a local Italian restaurant later that night and again enjoyed conversations that were more than just “how’s school, how’s the job hunt, etc.” We talked about politics and mortgages and my relationship and traveling and just about everything, even school. Getting to hear their opinions made me appreciate them that much more and made me that much more thankful that I have parents who are willing to give me free advice to help me through life.

Never underestimate your parents or their wisdom. Also, as much as you may not want to go home while in college, never underestimate how rejuvenating home can be. While I occasionally want to drive right back to school the first 10 seconds after I come home because my parents are driving me insane, I always seem to look past that and remember why I came home in the first place. It’s home. A break from all the craziness that is school. It’s a source of comfort, familiarity and (most of the time) peace. Not to mention, a place for comfort and life advice — two things we all could use a little bit more of.