The Soul Year: Confronting Expectations, Redefining Success, and Laughing in Failure’s Face

Hello everyone! It’s been a hot minute.

I’m intentionally taking a step back from my blog right now, to refocus my life on what’s truly important and what I want this space to look like moving forward.

That being said, I’ve been talking to other young twenty-somethings from around the world over the past few months, and I’ve made some maybe-conclusions (???) about a few things.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking a break from college right now, for at least a year. Before I made this decision, I spoke with professors, classmates, friends, family members, and other mentors for guidance. Many cautioned against taking a year (or more) off, warning that I wouldn’t return. That I wouldn’t “reach my potential”. That I wouldn’t be happy.

Ultimately, however, the decision was mine alone, and I knew it was necessary.

Calling this a “gap year” doesn’t really seem right, so I’m opting to call it a soul year. A year (or more) where I can truly listen to my heart, without feeling like everything I do should be resume-worthy, grad-school-application-worthy, or interview-worthy.  Instead, I just want my life to feel worthy. 

Finding a new home can be difficult. It doesn't have to be.

There are so many expectations placed upon us at such a young age. Our lives are essentially laid out for us from birth: SchoolCollegeJobMarriageKidsDeath. With some other stuff in there, maybe.

Instead, I just want my life to feel worthy. 

I thought about taking a year off before I began college. I thought about it again after my freshman year. After my sophomore year of college, I knew I had to just take the leap and do it.

I was drained.



Wrestling with feelings of unworthiness, sadness, and failure.

As someone who always performed well academically, I was incredibly weighed down by expectations of greatness. I placed expectations on myself that were influenced by society and adults I admired, both of which spoke goodness and failure into my life.

I wrestled with questions like Does an accomplishment matter if it isn’t grand enough for my resume? If I can’t write a twenty-page research paper about it with twelve APA sources and six points to prove my argument? and The major I’ve chosen won’t result in a high paycheck…. is there still a point in majoring in it if it’s not impressive? It got to a point where I was constantly comparing my accomplishments to others’. I was deeply unhappy at school, and I felt as though I could never do enough.

I was deeply unhappy at school, and I felt as though I could never do enough.

On the flip side, if I took some time off, it’s statistically unlikely that I would return to school. This meant that I was signing up for a lower salary, less scholarship money when I did return, graduating later than my peers, and being labeled as a “college dropout”.

Both sides seemed dreadfully undesirable.

Eventually, I knew I had to make a decision. I chose by mentally placing myself in both arenas. The first: remaining a full-time social work student, overwhelmed by comparison and questions. The second: working full-time, traveling, and making intentional time for the pursuit of new hobbies and self-development.

The choice became clear.

I am choosing to make this year about personal development. I want to stare the questions, the comparisons, the doubts that constantly plague my mind right in the face. I want to develop new hobbies and invest time in the things I already know I love. I want to learn to let go of both material and emotional baggage. I want to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

I want to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Then came a bigger question: how will I define personal success, if not through academic accomplishments?

My entire life has been categorized and defined by awards, scholarships, roles in theatre, titles in after-school clubs, and report cards. How would I feel successful without such a definitive measurement of it?

I’m still figuring out the answer to this question.

Here’s what I have learned so far, though, and a bit of advice for those who also feel stuck.

We all have expectations, both internal and external.

It’s not wrong to have expectations. I think they’re a good thing, actually. Another word for this is goals, which we all know I’m a huge fan of (hehehe). Before I went to India in August, I made a list of goals for this fall that I wanted to work toward. I refined the list when I returned, and added a list of hobbies I wanted to pursue, some personal development questions I wanted to answer, and a sort of bucket list for these few months.

The key is to recognize when expectations become unhealthy. I expected myself to graduate with a degree in International Studies from the University of Denver in the spring of 2019, and y’all, that is not what happened (PTL, amiright?). When I transferred and was still unhappy, I realized that perhaps it was not solely the school environment that I was uncomfortable with. So, I adjusted my personal expectations, and I’m ignoring societal expectations, for now.

Be gentle with yourself.

I was brokenhearted when I realized by big dream of living in Denver was not going to be realized. I was confused when I transferred and still hated school. I was in love when I traveled, and that’s all I knew. I’ve fallen in love with many more things over the past few months, and I’m still falling.

I think the most jarring thing about this whole process was realizing that the plan I’d made for myself a little over two years ago was so, completely, wholly wrong. And it’s taken me a long, long, long time to come to terms with this. At first, I bullied myself into staying in school, because I felt as though I wouldn’t be successful without a degree. After a while, I learned that having a mean spirit won’t get you anywhere either. Recognize when you are pushing yourself too hard.

Follow your heart.

Fam, I’m not trying to be cliche. At all. But had I stuck with my original plan, I would be dreadfully unhappy.

So, instead, I listened to my heart. I spoke to my soul. I responded to the whispers from the universe. I now work in the customer service industry, which I love. I get to meet new people and have interesting conversations and talk all day at work and honestly, the energy from other people fuels my happiness more than the energy from textbooks.

I am endlessly thankful for the opportunities I am provided every day to improve myself, even if I am uncomfortable and stretched and awkward in the process. There isn’t really a way to do this thing smoothly, is there? (If you know how, hmu pls.)

And finally, the biggest thing I’ve learned: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Literally, everyone is comparing their accomplishments to everyone else’s. There are SO. MANY. PEOPLE. who are unhappily running through life at a million-mile-an-hour pace because that’s how we operate here in America.



Find joy in small moments.

We’re all having this crazy experience of life together, and we need to support each other. Know that there are other paths and opportunities for you, if you allow them to come into your life. Hear this: You will never be alone in any of this. Your heart will not lead you astray–let’s listen in together.

How to Adjust to Moving Back Home + Other Unexpected College Failures

How do you come to terms with the fact that what you’d been working for your whole life doesn’t live up to expectations? That you aren’t thriving, like everyone else seems to be? That the person you are becoming isn’t who you wanted to be?

This is one of those posts I’ve had in the making for a looooong time. It’s been sitting in my “for later” folder, and every time I start a new post I am taunted by this one, smirking at me from my drafts. I’m gonna get really raw and real in this post, so bear with me as i try to navigate my thoughts about moving back home, as well as some other unexpected failures I’ve experienced over the past two years.

How to Adjust to moving back home

I started college searching sophomore year of high school. I think really started to feel the pressure when one of my teachers told my parents that I would probably end up attending an Ivy League school, and seeing the beams on my parents’ faces was so rewarding, after years of working my butt off.

Flash back to a little over two years ago. I was in the thick of college tours, admissions emails, and college letter after college letter in the mail, universities’ mass mailings basically falling out of the mailbox, it was so stuffed. I never threw away one letter a college sent me, and I would periodically sort through them. I opened every single one. I took “find your major” quizzes online and I used the Naviance college finder. I went on seventeen college tours over two different states, and I met with countless admissions officers and department heads and current students.

To say the least, I was obsessed with finding the exact. right. college. 

Here’s what I didn’t know: I had no (???) idea what I wanted out of a college. Like at all. All I knew was that I wanted to choose one and graduate from the same school I’d entered into four years previous.

First, I wanted a huuuuge out of state school. I looked at schools in California and Colorado, and I looked at Texas Christian University, one of the largest schools in the nation.

Then, I wanted a tiny Christian school where I could major in Worship Leading. I toured four of said “tiny Christian” schools, and I changed my plan. Lol.

I landed on a medium-sized, private university in suburban Denver, Colorado. For my Minnesota peeps, think very St. Thomas-esque. Not exactly Ivy League, but it was an adventure, something different than what I thought my classmates were planning. I really felt as though God confirmed my decision again and again, and I was confident in my commitment to this university. I selected a major in International Studies with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance (say that five times fast, lol).

I was so pumped to be moving almost 1000 miles away from home. I was so excited for this new adventure, and it really felt like I was beginning a new chapter in my life.

My first quarter at this university was incredible. It was everything I had hoped and dreamed for. I could not have asked for a better ten weeks: I had amazing friends, a gorgeous boyfriend, and I was academically challenged.

The next two quarters? Not so much. (You can read about my experiences here. I could definitely go more in depth, but this is an overview of my life in April 2016.)

I dropped out of my dream school. I regressed enormously mentally and emotionally. I had no idea what to do.

I wanted to transfer, but I always said I wanted to go to one school and just thrive there. I wanted a solid group of friends, which I didn’t really have. I wanted to be confident in my major, and I hated my classes. I went through the worst few months of my life, and I honestly don’t know how I survived (literally). Everything I’d ever wanted and dreamed about was falling apart before my eyes, and I was unable to stop it. I felt completely powerless. Discouraged does not even begin to describe what I was feeling.

Discouraged does not even begin to describe what I was feeling.

So, I turned to alcohol. I turned to self harm. I turned to sleeping, crying, and daydreaming about just buying a plane ticket and reinventing myself.

I think the biggest disappointment was the failed expectations I’d had of myself for eighteen years, let alone the perceived expectations I thought my family, friends, and educators had of me. College was NOT what I’d thought it would be, and I didn’t know how to come to terms with that.

How do you come to terms with the fact that what you’d been working for your whole life doesn’t live up to expectations? That you aren’t thriving, like everyone else seems to be? That the person you are becoming isn’t who you wanted to be?

I’ve been wrestling with these questions for over a year, and I still don’t have the answers. But I’ve learned a lot, and that’s what I’m here to share.

As I mentioned above, I switched what I wanted in a college a number of times. I was eighteen, I had no idea what I wanted from life, and I was scared to shit. I knew I wanted to take cute instas and meet cute boys (the only two important things in life, amiright?) I didn’t know what extracurriculars I was interested in. I didn’t know what I wanted from a degree…. To be honest, I didn’t even know that I really cared to get a degree.

Everything I did, I did because I thought I was supposed to do it. I rushed Greek life and hated the thought of it (and the price tag, tbh). I selected a major that I thought would be interesting and make me a lot of money. I tried to look ultra-cool on social media.

Nothing I was doing was in line with what I truly wanted, deep down in my core.

This past January, I subbed as a leader for a 7th and 8th grade girls’ church retreat in Alexandria, MN. The speaker said something Saturday night I’ll never forget.

What if God called you to work at a Starbucks in Roseville full-time? Would you listen?

Would I? Would I listen if the calling on my life wasn’t to be this amazing, brave, incredible world traveler who everyone else seems to be jealous of?

That was what I wanted (and still kind of want) for my life. I wanted to be cool, to have adventure after adventure, to have an amazing group of friends, to have all the greatest immaterial things life has to offer.

And it’s been a hard reality check to realize that even if these things are coming for me, they aren’t here right now.

Because now, I am a student at a small, all-female college 30 minutes from my hometown.

To me, that doesn’t sound like an adventure. That sounds incredibly boring. Like everything I’ve ever worked for didn’t matter in the end. 

It feels like a letdown. Like I’ve fallen incredibly short of the expectations I had for myself. Like the person I always envisioned myself to be was left in my first quarter at the University of Denver. It feels like the big adventure that was supposed to be the Start to all the Other Adventures didn’t live up to expectations… so does that mean all the plans I have for the rest of my life will be like this, too?

Looking back, however, I have learned more about myself than I ever would have imagined. I completed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a form of PTSD therapy. I found an interest in Buddhist and Hindu art. I fell in love with slam poetry. I strengthened my passion for a Capella music. I deepened my love for students, and discovered a special place in my heart for middle school students.

These are all things I would not have discovered about myself, had I not tried and failed at another university. And this just begs the question: what else will I discover about myself?

Moving back home has been the biggest, weirdest part of this whole adventure. Sometimes, I’ll be driving in an unfamiliar part of the Twin Cities, and suddenly feel like I’m back in Denver. I start to panic because I’m confused and would dread to live there again, but then I just have to gently remind myself that I am home, safe, and loved.

I’ve been walking through a long and confusing healing process. I’m mourning the person I wanted to be, and the person I didn’t get to be. I’m mourning the place I once loved. I’m mourning the confusing heartache. I’m feeling this. I’m allowing the healing to come through.

And this is the most important part: recognizing that it is hard. This is hard stuff. Don’t lighten the feeling. It’s a kind of death, realizing that the person and place you wanted to be aren’t in line with reality.

Remember that this is a part of growing up. Our expectations and our reality won’t always match….but that’s where you need to have grace with yourself. It might take time, and that’s okay. It might take a loooooot longer than you expected, but you’ll get there.

These years are incredibly weird and formative and require a lot of soul-searching.

As for me? I’m trying to remember that just because the crazy plan I had two years ago didn’t work out, doesn’t mean all the rest of my plans won’t work out. I’d still love to go to all seven continents, get married, join the Peace Corps, and adopt a kid or two. I would absolutely love to live all over the world. I still plan on backpacking around Europe.

If it takes me a little longer to get there, that’s okay. And I’m learning to be okay with that.

How I Knew it was Time to Make the Chop

I’ve always been adventurous with my hair. In elementary school, my mom used to take my sister and I to get highlights or lowlights before the start of a new school year. I loved the idea of changing up my typical look!

I wasn’t always so tame with my hair coloring though, as you’ll read below! I’ve also included some tips at the bottom to help you decide if it’s time for you to make the cut too. Keep on reading!

Box Dyes Through the Years….

The first time I box-dyed my hair, I was in seventh grade. I purchased a blonde kit, friend and I dyed our hair together. My hair didn’t change much, since my natural color is pretty blonde.

One of my senior photos that features my natural hair color.

After that first time, I learned my lesson (which apparently was “don’t dye your hair the same color”), and started doing more extreme colors. In the effort of saving some personal dignity, I won’t post the photos….but I did some pretty extreme colors. Bright red, dark red, black, blue-black, and bleach blonde. I loved having different wild all through middle school. In high school, I did some more typical colors, but I liked the dark red the best.

This photo is from college, but it’s the same box dye dark red color!

In college, I stuck with the dark red for the first part of the year, and then decided to do something I’d never done before: I (dun dun dun) got my hair dyed professionally.

I tried a red ombre, which I loved! I kept it for about fourish months, but it just got expensive.

You can’t see it very well in this photo, but it’s dark red on the top and fades into blonde!

Finally, I just dyed it a solid dark brown, a color I’d never been. I still have this color right now!

Day two of rushing at the University of Denver.

Deciding to Make the Cut

Freshman year of high school, I had a pixie cut. I decided to grow it out after about six months, but I’ve never had an actual haircut since then. I’ve had an inch off here and there, but I’ve pretty much been growing it out for five years. I’ve thought about cutting it into a short, above the shoulder bob, but I always thought it looked better long. It’s easier to find cute, fun updos. I thought guys liked long hair better *cue MASSIVE eye roll*.

My mom and I at my sophomore year homecoming,with my pixie cut!

I have superfine hair, and not a lot of it. I often feel as though my hair looks flat or frizzy, because it is kind of curly in the humidity and just looks bad. I thought that having long hair might make it look nicer, but it ended up getting really hard to manage. I never wanted to style it, and I ended up throwing it all up into a bun every day before class.

Eventually, I read a post on Pintrest about fine hair and the best haircuts for this type of hair. There were a lot about pixie cuts that I skimmed past, because I know myself well enough not to cut it all off again.

Then, I came across a something called a “blunt bob”. It’s a bob of any length, without any kind of layering. As it just so happens, I have never had an affinity for layers–they don’t look very good on me, in my opinion. So I did a little more searching through the depths of Pintrest, found a groupon, and scheduled an appointment at an Aveda training salon. No turning back.

And it was that quick. That decision came that quickly! The next morning, I had a blunt bob about an inch above my shoulders.


At first, I was a little shocked. I mean, I had long hair for years! I was so used to playing with the ends while watching Netflix, or being able to just toss it up before class if I was running late. Now, I can barely get it back in a low ponytail. But, I LOVE IT!

Y’all, I’ve never felt so free! I love that I have my own style. I love that my hair doesn’t look like everyone else’s. I love that there are so many styles that I can STILL do with my hair.

So, if you are thinking about making the chop yourself, here are some things to think about!

  1. If you’ve been doing an ombre for a while now with lightened ends, it’s a great way to completely cut off all the damaged ends and begin again with healthy ends.
  2. There are still SO MANY styles you can do! Check out my Pintrest page, especially the board called “//babe”.
  3. Shortened hair adds some sass to your look. Add some edge, some quirkiness!
  4. If you’ve recently had a major life change, like moving to college or scoring a new job, it might be nice to change up your beauty routine as well! I love doing this.
  5. Finally, remember that hair grows back! If you hate it, it will grow back.

If you’re even thinking about it, ask around! I haven’t regretted my decision once. You never know–it could be one of the best decisions you make this year. 🙂

Auditioning for Disney World: What’s it Really Like?


Many of us grew up ogling at the beauty of Disney princesses, in their gorgeous dresses and long, flowing locks with the dashing prince coming to rescue them from the various dangers of life. It’s the classic, beautiful love story that transcends time. It’s #relatable, it’s timeless, it’s the classic heart-warming story that we love to picture our grandparents telling us in a circle next to the fire, sighing about the good times from their age-old rocking chair.

Some of us (such as myself) didn’t grow up dying to be a princess, and found that love later in life. It kind of comes with the territory if you have a profession centered around children. I think I have seen Frozen and had serious conversations about Elsa’s powers more than a hundred times: I’ve helped hide a four-year-old’s hands from her mother, so she won’t be hurt by her daughter’s incredible ice powers. I’ve played the marshmallow monster from Ice Mountain more than I can count, chasing children across the playground and reveling in their shrieks of excitement. I fashioned my own Anna costume from thrift store dresses and wore it to collect non-perishable food items in high school, and most recently to volunteer at the Denver Children’s Museum. (Can you tell I love Frozen?)


I didn’t grow up loving Disney movies, but I grew up wanting to be someone little girls can look up to. I adore the idea of beautiful princesses, descending the castle steps with their grand dress trailing behind them. There’s just something about the demure of princesses–their calm confidence, their ability to laugh at themselves, their silliness–that draws people in.


And in Disney World, this all comes to life. 


There are young women from all over the world who bring to life these timeless characters. Little girls travel from afar to meet their idol in person, and the actresses must bring this dream to fruition.


I mean, okay. Look at the photos above.  Are those not the cutest things you’ve ever seen?!

So, I was on the Internet two weeks ago, and I saw an advertisement on the side of the page for parade princess auditions in Denver. I’ve had my eye on the Disney audition page off and on for a few years, but they’re almost always held in Florida or California. Occasionally they’re in Paris or Hong Kong, for the international theme parks.

But. The audition location was in Denver, fifteen minutes from my dorm. I fit the height requirement for the roles they were seeking. I mean, why not, right?! For the next two weeks, I Googled tips, tricks, and advice from the “princess pros”, as I like to call them. I had my roommate take a headshot of me, and I crafted my actor’s resume. I prepared a song, just in case.


On Tuesday morning, I skipped my classes and headed to the dance studio where the auditions were being held.

As I headed back to the studio where everyone was waiting, I expected to see a room full of pros, girls who had done this a million times, casting directors who wouldn’t give me a second glace. But I was so wrong!

Waiting for the audition to begin!

There were about forty young adults in the dance studio, and everyone seemed to be in the best mood. I’ve never seen such big smiles before! Most people looked to be about my age, and there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Of course, there were some girls in superfancy yogas and professional dance shoes, leaning into a full-on splits as they stretched out, their faces a calm oasis that just oozed confidence. I sat down next to a group of girls who looked my age and we began talking. I was thrilled to discover that we were all concerned about our lack of professional dance experience, we were all intimidated, and we all kind of just said “what the heck” and showed up at the audition. One girl I sat next to had done this many times before, because she lived in Florida for a while. She had some really helpful tips, and some insider knowledge of what the audition would look like.

A few minutes after 10 am, a young man and woman walked into the room and introduced themselves as a Disney World casting director and choreographer. Their confident and joking attitude eased a lot of the nerves that were charging the room. They had us all sign up for our audition on a website (very #millennial, as the casting director said), and everyone received a number on a sticker that we were to display on the front of our shirts. We also filled out paperwork with our piercings, tattoos, and other important information.

First things first: our height was measured on a tape measure that was mounted to the wall. Disney is very specific about the heights they are seeking for specific roles (thankfully, I’m a pretty average height, so the only role I’m not eligible for is a fairy–they’re usually less than five feet tall!). Then our photo was taken. After the basics were taken care of, the rehearsal began.

The choreographer had us spread out across the studio, with enough space to extend all of our limbs. She explained the importance of using our whole bodies to express an emotion. As a large group, we started with simple exercises. “Show me what it happiness looks like,” or “What does anger look like?” shouted the choreographer. It really took stretching the mind to think about how I would use my entire body to display the various emotions that were asked of us. Besides sporting a huge smile and spreading my arms wide as if hugging the entirety of mankind, how can I show happiness? Besides angrily stomping around and slouching over with a scowl, what does anger look like?

After experimenting with emotions, she had us act out a specific scenario in a lot of detail. We had to devise a beginning, a middle, and an end to our story, all in about a minute, and in great detail with a lot of whole-body movements. We split the group into two, and observed the other group while we caught our breath–animation is a workout in itself! One thing I learned from this portion of the rehearsal: don’t look at yourself in the mirror! It’s so awkward and embarrassing to watch your body contort itself into wild displays of emotion and exploration. Believe me, you will succeed so. much. more. if you just focus on your body movements and not on how you look. Isn’t that kind of a good life rule anyway? Ignore your awkward body in the mirror (#OfLife??), and allow yourself to do your best, regardless of the stares.

Then came the dance portion. This audition was specifically for face characters (meet-and-greet princesses) and parade dancers. That’s why we had an animation portion and a dance portion. However, my dance experience includes elementary school ballet and musical theatre. Like, I can do a mean jazz square and grapevine. Maybe even a sassy strut. But anything beyond that? I will trip and fall and become the biggest embarrassment ever (but hey, that’s what Anna would do, right?). But the choreography wasn’t too difficult. It was obvious who had dance experience in the room, but I tried to overcompensate for my lack of dance experience by having huge facial expressions. We danced to a sassy song about respect and women. It was such fun to laugh along with my new friends and mess up with a huge smile on my face! Having been recently diagnosed with mono, I was out of breath after the first run, and became increasingly dizzy after a couple more runs. I was not about to let that hold me back, though! I stayed hydrated and prayed that I would be able to stick it out–and ya girl made it through. #BOSSBABE (maybe???)

Can ya see the red faces??

Then, the actual audition started. After about two hours of straight animation and dancing, they had us congregate into the neighboring studio and called us in by fives, based on the number we had been given at the start of the audition. I was number 26, so I had a while to wait. About twenty minutes later, my group was called in. We did the dance twice and our animation once. It was over in less than ten minutes.


Some important takeaways:

1.) Keep a smile on your face the whole time! Can you imagine being a guest at Disney World (be our guest, be our guest….) and watching a parade dancer that looks like they don’t want to be there? No! That would just be ridiculous. If they see that you’re excited about it at the audition, they know you’ll be excited about it at Disney.

2.) Wear dance shoes. I wore converse (I know, probably not the best choice!), but my sock-like Nikes were dirty and I don’t own any dance shoes. I should probably invest in some soon, but it was difficult to do spins and other dance moves with shoes that were sticking to the floor.

3.) A lot of websites said to bring a headshot and acting resume. Of course, this is never a bad thing! You can never be too prepared. But I stressed a lot about having a good headshot (that I took myself, edited on, and printed at Walgreens….) and resume. Honestly, I probably prepared this part more than anything else! The casting director and choreographer never collected headshots or resumes, even when I asked if they wanted copies. So. Not. Important!

4.) Be ready for a three-hour process. Honestly, I was ready for a short, fifteen-minute, “Hi I’m Tess here’s a little about me and please like me!!!!” I thought I was going to be able to make it to my 11 am class. Hahahahah! Bring WATER and if you know you’ll get hungry, bring food! Be prepared for three hours of smiling and goinggoinggoing.

5.) Always, always push yourself father than you think you can go. This has kind of become my life’s motto over the past year, but it was especially relevant at this audition! I wanted to pass out or at least leave the humid, humid studio we were rehearsing in a million times. I wished they would give us even a three minute break. I wanted to pee, for dang’s sakes! But now, the audition is over, and I’m glad I pushed myself. Of course, there comes a point where you literally can’t keep going, but I didn’t reach that point (thank God!). Listen to your body, and know the difference between Man, I’m really tired and my body aches and Okay if I keep going I will pass out. Big difference, people! Always do one more than you think you can, because you can.

What an experience! We were told we wouldn’t be contacted until the end of December if we were selected for one of these roles, but they keep our audition info open for a while, so we might be contacted for a different role that fit our skill set and height/weight parameters. I am so glad I took the chance and did something I’ve always wanted to do–and now I know what to expect in the future, when I audition again!

What about you? Do you have any amazzzzzing audition tips and tricks? What are your favorite ways to prepare for auditions?

4 Things I’ve Learned in College… & Things You Should Know Too

I’ve spent over a year in college in a state 1000 miles from home, and I have learned SO MUCH. I’ve cried all night and I’ve done embarrassing things I told myself I’d never do. I changed my major and my minor, I wear clothes I never would’ve been caught dead in a year ago, I still buy journals that I force myself to write in as much as I don’t want to. And through it all, there are a few important things that stick out to me as universals. READ ON….

1. No one is thriving. This is so so important. I’ve had countless conversations with friends at my school and friends at other schools and everyone is so stressed that they aren’t thriving like their friends are.

Newsflash: people choose what they put on social media.

No one posts photos on Instagram of a teary selfie at two am or the empty peanut butter jar they just totally binged on (which I am so not guilty of…). People snap photos of their friend group doing shots at the bar. People post photos on Instagram at the apple orchard with their sorority sisters. People tweet about how happy they are, because that’s what we want people to see. It’s uncomfortable to be open and raw and honest (god forbid the dreaded oversharing *gasp heard ’round the world*). We love it when other people love us, so of course we post the highlights! We want the best life with the best friends and the best boyfriend and therefore, the best photos to document it all.

But here’s what no one talks about: EVERYONE has shitty days that are not Insta-worthy. Sometimes, you have a shitty semester where pretty much nothing you do is Insta-worthy. Have you ever heard that saying where we get to see everyone else’s highlight reel, but we have to experience our behind-the-scenes? It’s like that with college. No one has it completely figured out and everyone has cried at four am because they’re overwhelmed with homework and stress and comparisons. No biggie.

2. Your fundamentals might change, and that’s okay. What do I mean by fundamentals? Things that you believe wholeheartedly are central to who you are and will never change no matter what life throws your way. Examples might be religious views, morals about drugs/alcohol, work ethic, glass-half-full-or-half-empty-type views, etc etc etc.

In my case, it’s all of the above and then some. I have two religious tattoos that I thought would mean the same thing to me for the rest of my life, but my understanding of myself and my world have shifted and I’ve found ways to adapt the meanings behind my tattoos to who I am now, as well as who I am becoming. However, they also symbolize a huge, important part of my life and who I am, so I think they’ll always mean something to me. That’s one example of something that I was one hundred percent convinced would not change about me, and I am living proof that you just never know.

People grow and people change, and no amount of prayer or mediation or journaling or research can prepare you for the change that is here and the change that is coming (trust me on this one). But isn’t that just a part of life–being kind of blown over and blown away by how awesome change is?

3. Heartbreak happens. Heartbreak is bound to happen, in all senses of the word. I have been heartbroken by pretty much everything that is able to break a heart, but I think that eventually heartbreak can be molded into something good (I say I think because sometimes I feel like I’m always in some stage of heartbreak??).

Last year, I experienced the worst heartbreak I’ve ever gone through to date. It coincided with a lot of other negative events with my friends, and I ended up withdrawing from my university (read about it here). This kind of heartbreak was the kind that sort of makes you feel like you’ll never love anyone else ever again because the risk of getting hurt is too great. It’s the kind that makes you question literally everything that happened in the relationship and what you could’ve done differently and why weren’t you good enough?!!! I spent a lot of time in a type of therapy called EDMR (read about that here) for the treatment of PTSD-like symptoms. I’ve learned SO much from that relationship and that time in my life, I feel like I could write five blog posts about that alone. But I’ll say this: heartbreaks suck and therapy helps and so does binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy. You will love again and you’ll find someone who makes you realize why it never worked out with anyone else.

Heartbreak isn’t just for romantic relationships, though.

Friend heartbreaks are definitely a thing. There are so many people in my life that have come and gone, and here’s what I’ve learned from those experiences: sometimes, people are only in your life for a season. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason (yes, everything). Maybe you had something to teach the other person, and maybe they had something to teach you. Maybe it was just for the joy of having a friend that the universe knew you needed in that season of your life. Maybe we’ll never know.

I also totally think that there’s other forms of heartbreak. I know that I miss Minnesota so much sometimes I can almost see my heart bleeding. I know that sometimes I hear a song that makes me remember something that makes my chest hurt. I know that sometimes I am so overjoyed with love for something that I almost can’t stand how tight my body feels at that moment. Heartbreak exists in a thousand forms, good and bad.

To sum it all up: heartbreaks are good and bad and everything in between. Use it as a learning experience and take as long as you need. (Sidenote: that thing people say about allotting only half the length the relationship was to “get over” the person? UNTRUE.)

4. Invest your money well. Identify that which makes you happiest. Is it concert tickets? Travel? Clothing? Starbucks? Find your thing(s) and allow yourself to spend money on it/them. We make money and have created the concept of money for a reason–to spend it. Ultimately, that is the purpose of having and saving and working. Isn’t that why we’re all hustling away in college right now anyway? We’re dropping literally thousands of dollars for a piece of paper that will allow us to make money. Yay for uplifting thoughts!!!

I splurge on a few things:

  • Coffee shops. I know that if I actually make the effort to go to a coffee shop off campus, I will sit and work for anywhere between two and six hours with my trusty black tea latte by my side. (Or laptop. Same thing.) It’s worth the $5 four times a week, in my mind. It’s the only way I know how to #college.
  • Fitness thingys. This one is definitely something I have to watch myself on… I JUST WANT ALL THE NICE YOGA PANTS!!! But I splurge on fitness plans that I know I will love (check out my faves here), protein powder, and B12/iron supplements, because I don’t eat meat and if I wanna get the #gainz, I gotta splurge on these items. Also, gad to get to the gym, lol.
  • Clean foods. I’ll probably be making a post about “clean” foods within the coming weeks, but essentially, I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. I also try to make it a priority to eat organic and locally-grown foods. These foods tend to be more expensive for a range of reasons, but I think it’s worth the extra money.
  • Clothes that I’ve been wanting for more than, like, a week. An example of this that comes to mind is a maroon jacket. I have wanted a maroon jacket for over a year now, and I finally found the #dream #jacket at Ragstock in August. You can bet I made that purchase! I love it and I wear it all the time because I knew I wanted it for a really long time.

Don’t feel guilty about spending money on the items that make you happy! I always ask myself if having something will actually improve my quality of life, and if I *genuinely* believe that it will (I don’t want momentary, fleeting happiness from material items), I make the purchase. Don’t second-guess yourself. You know yourself best!


We are on this crazy weird and incredibly emotional ride together. We all feel like we’re failing miserably and flailing in superdeep water that’s constantly dragging us down by the second. But hey, at least we are all having this human experience together, right? Life is weird but we don’t really have an option to not partake, so we might as well make mistakes and learn what we can from them.

In my First Year of College….

In my first year of college, I moved 908 miles away from my home, where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. Burnsville and Savage were all I had ever known, and moving to Denver all by myself was hands down the scariest thing I had ever done. I knew my aunt and uncle, but I did not know anyone my age in all of Denver and that was absolutely terrifying. I had to be more outgoing and willing to try new things than I ever had been before.

In my first year of college, I learned that some friends from high school will stay and some will not. It takes massive effort, planned Facetiming, and sharing your life with them even if they don’t know who’s in it anymore. It means letting go of people you have known for a very long time in some cases, and learning to be okay with that. It means moving on and realizing that this is life, happening before your eyes. Everything you have been planning for, waiting on, and hoping for is here now.

In my first year of college, I set goals and created resolutions that were not kept, and I learned to be okay with that. The identity that I had created for myself was no longer true and I did not know how to handle something so central to who I was as a person changing so drastically. Through the help of friends and family, I have become increasingly okay with my changing self.

In my first year of college, I experienced incredible heartbreak for the first time in my life. I thought that I had experienced heartache before, but I had not–not like this. I felt like everything I was comfortable with and happy about suddenly disappeared, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Something I definitely learned from this relationship was to never sacrifice my values because someone else holds different ones. And I am still working through this but I know that one day, I will learn so many things from this.

In my first year of college, I found truths. I learned how to stand up more fully for what I believe in. Some people thought I was silly and made me ashamed of what I believe. Through a mix of therapy and distance from those people I am coming to understand that the way I see the world is completely valid, regardless of if people don’t always agree.

In my first year of college, I had incredible friendships and horrible loss of friendships. I learned that people come and go, and sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. But I believe with my whole heart that everything has a purpose, and I am glad to have shared part of my life with these people.

In my first year of college, I learned that it is okay to not be the best. I watched my peers become presidents of their groups and senators in USG and receive As on essays. I listened to my friends worry about receiving high scores on their exams and I realized that schoolwork is not number one on my list of priorities, but that is okay. I don’t need to be the president of every student group I participate in, I don’t need to be in five extracurriculars and work and do schoolwork and have a good experience all at the same time.

In my first year of college, I learned that not everyone has a fantastic first year. There are definitely secrets about college that I was not prepared for–I spent many nights crying and living with extreme frustration, fear, and anxiety. I saw photos online of friends from home out having incredible fun with their new friends as I sat in my dorm room, but I have come to know that (1) what you see online is not always the truth, and (2) everyone has those scary 2 am thoughts.

In my first year of college, I learned that it’s okay to begin again. February and March were very, very difficult months for me and I ended up taking the spring quarter off. People encouraged me to “not give up” and “push through”, but sometimes that is not enough. I need(ed) lots of time to recuperate from mental health issues as well as many other things. Sometimes “staying strong” is not something that can be done, and it is okay to fall apart. Sometimes we need to fall apart to be rebuilt.

And as I write this in Denver, Colorado–the Mile High City, the Rocky Mountains only a short drive away, my new life rooted here, my memories from the last eight months, 908 miles away from the comfort of “home”–I wonder where home is now. My whole life is one big question mark, and I am learning to be okay with this truth. The biggest lesson I learned in my first year of college is to follow your own heart. Only you know where you can find your heart, and it’s up to you to listen to it. Other people’s advice may help, but in the end, only you are able to sense where your heart lies.

I will leave you with one of the quotes that helped me through so, so much in high school:

“Courage, dear heart.” -C.S. Lewis.

Five Things My Freshman Year Taught Me

I am sitting in larkburger on 16th Street in downtown Denver and as I look back on the past eight months of my life, I am blown away. I am blown away by the unimaginable highs–the people and places and experiences that I never thought I would be even close to having. I am blown away by the incredible lows–disappointments and falls. I am still in a place of confusion and relative dark, but as I reflect on this absolutely crazy year, I am grateful for my experiences in Denver. I have met incredible people, I have been challenged, and I have completely changed, to the core of who I am. I am by no means the same person I was eight months ago–I am not the same person I was even two months ago. And there are some (very important and also very minor) things I’ve learned along the way, so I suppose I am writing this for my friends who are about to start this incredible journey. Here is my unadulterated list of things I learned.

  1. I think my biggest regret from this year is getting into a relationship right away. I was not looking for a serious relationship so soon, but I did it anyway, and I wish that I had not. In my experience, it really did not help me grow into the person I wanted to be. He already had a life here, with friends and a routine, and I built my life here with him. So when we broke up, I felt kind of lost because I didn’t know how to even live here without him. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him and I am glad that I met him, but I wish that I had waited a little before jumping headfirst into a committed relationship.
  2. Be willing to stretch your morals. I came into college thinking I wasn’t going to drink or experiment with anything, because I didn’t in high school. And if you don’t want to, that is so perfectly okay. But I felt very guilty every time I wanted to try something new, because I wanted to stick to my preset list of morals, and I kind off ended up just feeling bad all the time. But as soon as I decided it was okay for me to try new things or break my perfect morals, I stopped feeling bad and started having more fun.
  3. By that line of thought, don’t get too caught up in the thought that college is supposed to be the best few years of your life. I was so concerned with having FUN ALL THE TIME that I wasn’t having fun anymore. Don’t listen to shit about “finding yourself” or “stretching yourself” or whatever people say. Of course those things are important, but it comes while you are just doing you. Don’t get caught up in asking yourself if you are finding yourself or if you are growing or changing or anything like that. Just live your life, and those things come.
  4. I was constantly feeling like I was missing out. On parties or events downtown or camping trips or anything. Being happy in the moment and accepting that I was enjoying myself was really difficult for me, because I felt like there was always something more exciting happening somewhere else. And I am still working on this. But accepting that I am happy right where I am has been so good, and sure, there probably are cooler things happening elsewhere, but I am here, and I am happy.
  5. If your friends start to get involved with things that you are uncomfortable with and it starts to affect you, it’s okay to leave. A little uncomfortability is okay, but if it begins to affect you in a negative way, it is so okay to leave the situation or even the friendship. For me, I got very uncomfortable when people close to me got into drugs I wasn’t familiar with or started getting blackout drunk night after night, because I felt responsible for taking care of them. It’s okay to put distance between you and someone else. Love from a distance is okay.

I have learned so much more this year but these themes are so evident, especially right now, when I am on a leave of absence. I still don’t know where I will be next year I am learning to be okay with the questions.