Growth, Constants, and Uncomfortability: An Exercise in Listening to Ourselves

PrefaceAs I wrote this post, I was unsure where to begin. I began and rewrote and scratched out and deleted over and over again. The final post is much longer than typical posts, so stick with me to see my thoughts on these last two years of my life, some things I’ve learned, and where I’m going next.

First: hello! It’s been a few (intentional) months. I took some time away from this space to both reevaluate its place in my life and create a new vision for where I want it to go.

When I began this blog, I was about to make the biggest change in my life to date: I was moving from Minneapolis to Denver, a 900+ mile move, for college. I was going alone, with no real idea of what my life would look like in the coming months. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I would be forced to grow. To evolve. To question, to dream, to fight.

Growth, Constants, and Uncomfortability_

I am writing this piece at one of my favorite coffee shops in Denver, Backstage Coffee. I used to study here solo and with friends a few times a week–it’s on 14th Street, just two blocks off of the famous 16th Street, and it’s located at the heart of the Theatre District. I thought it poetic, almost, that I write about how much I have grown since moving here two and a half years ago in this treasured, old space of mine.

Growth has always been an important part of my life. I try to stare doubts in the face and laugh–without growth, we rot. We stay stagnant.

I refuse to rot.

I refuse to rot.

And of course, growth is hard.

We like to believe that our lives have constants: whether that be relationships, places, routines, jobs, beliefs…. Essentially, we assume that our lives are constant, unless we make the conscious choice to change those constants.

But our constants can always fall away. One of the foundational beliefs of Buddhism is that suffering exists because we assume our lives to be constant–we get our happiness from these constants, but in reality, these things can all change in a matter of seconds.

Accidents happen. We get laid off. Relationships end. These things happen unexpectedly, and our world is absolutely rocked to the core.

And that’s when the growth happens.

I experienced that kind of soul-shaking a number of times when I lived in Denver, and it caught me completely off-guard every time. It was an intensely difficult time of growth for me, and it brought me to a very uncomfortable conclusion, and consequently, a question:

Everything I assume is constant, truly, is not. This brought me to Are there any true constants we can rely on?

I still don’t know the answer to that question.

It is a dreadfully uncomfortable realization, isn’t it? Routines, beliefs, relationships, hobbies, jobs, habits, and similar comforts are so easy to rely on. The things we hold true might not always be that way for us. Even things such as the choices we make for our wardrobes are comforting, let alone practices such as a religion.

So then, what defines us, if not for these things? How do we find value in ourselves, in others? 

I don’t have these answers. But I have learned to find comfort in being a wandering soul, if you will. I have grown to find comfort in the knowledge that I am not a constant being. I am a fluid, sacred, nomadic soul, as are you.

I am a fluid, sacred, nomadic soul, as are you.

Take me, for example. Two and a half years ago, I moved to Denver with the intent to graduate in the spring of 2019 with a degree in International Studies. Live in Denver. Get married, have kids, and work a job that makes me (hopefully) happy.

Last year, I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, with the intent to graduate in the spring of 2019 from a different university with a degree in Social Work. Get married. Travel. Maybe have kids. Work a job that will make me happy.

Six months ago, I finally realized that maybe I am not meant to live a typical life with a four-year Bachelor’s degree, a 9-5 job, two kids, and a yard for our dog. In fact, I shudder when I think of these things. I have wondered for many years if there might be another path for me, but it’s so fucking scary to take those steps and actually do something different.

We are so quick to assign life paths for ourselves, aren’t we? We are not taught to challenge the progression of K-12, college, work, marriage, and kids. Have you ever wondered if there are parts of this that shouldn’t apply to you? I remember the first time I realized I could choose to not have kids during my freshman year of college–which is an obvious notion, but it was not until college that it actually occurred to me I could just… not be a mother someday.

And it’s all nice to talk about and say, yes! I agree with that! Not everyone must attain a college degree and have children! but how do we react when people actually choose other routes? Oftentimes, there’s the idea that they won’t reach their full potential. That they maybe weren’t academically successful. They probably won’t make a lot of money, and will probably be unhappy and regret their young decisions.

When I completed my second year of college at my second university, I didn’t recognize myself. I was kind of a shell of a person, just kind of going through the motions that were expected of me. I was, at the most basic level, unhappy with my life.

So, I decided to do what I knew in my heart of hearts I should do:

I took a gap year (or more?) to reevaluate. To travel. To search for myself again.

And I have done these things. I am still doing these things! I traveled to India and taught in a slum school. I swam in the ocean on the southern California coast with a friend from Denver. I attended the homecoming football game at Stanford with a friend from India. I drove to Iowa and Wisconsin. I visited Denver for the first time since moving away. Next month, I am spending two days with my mom in New York City before embarking on my three-month solo backpacking trip through Europe. This fall, I found a love of yoga (yes, really). I embraced a fully vegan lifestyle. I purchased a new D-SLR camera that I’m learning how to use. I did not settle for a job I felt stuck in, and instead switched to a fulfilling job with coworkers I love. I spent a lot of time alone.

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watching the sunset on carlsbad beach in california
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at the staford homecoming football game with hamzeh
from the rooftop of a cafe in jaipur, india
grace, mary grace, & i with vegan pastries in denver, colorado
the banks of the st. croix river, wisconsin

As for this blog, I will be writing twice a week, on topics that I’ve found a passion for. I am focusing specifically on ethical/conscious living, including topics such as minimalism, intentional eating, conscious fashion choices, emotional and mental health, spiritual fulfillment, and the like.

I don’t know what I will be doing in the fall. Perhaps I will return to school. Maybe I’ll just stay in Europe. Maybe I’ll audition for Disneyland in Paris or Anaheim, or maybe I’ll become a certified doula. There are a million possibilities, and my encouragement to you is to take a moment and listen to your body. I did that, and I have not regretted it for one second.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are you surrounded by people who make a positive influence in your life?

Are you where you want to be? Are you where you’d thought you’d be?

Are you where you want to be physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually?

Are you happy?

If not, why?

As cliche as it is, we really do only have this one life (that we know of). We have a sacred obligation to serve ourselves and others in the truest, best way we know how.


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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.

AUGUST. and the end of summer. and stuff.

IT’S AUGUST. Meaning it’s almost autumn. MY FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR.

My summer ends this week, because when I return from India, it will almost be September! So, I figured I’d do my annual “monster end of summer post” now.

I spent a lot of time in the water. Like, more than any other summer.

At the beginning of the summer, I got to see the Minimalists speak, which was incredible! I loved seeing two of the men who changed my life in person. They recorded a live podcast in Minneapolis at the Cedar Cultural Center. They also hosted a third guest, a practicing minimalist who lives in Minneapolis.


Pride weekend was a BLAST! I went with some friends and ate good food and took lots of photos.

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two katies, amanda and haley!
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lovely marisa!

Finally, here are some miscellaneous photos from my adventures this summer.

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went to somerset, wisconsin before zack and his girlfriend, emily, moved to florida
at the uptown food truck festival with lauren
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played with fire at the end of pilot knob road in mendota heights, minnesota with lauren and andrew
eating a bourbon-chocolate-brownie donut at the northeast location of glam doll
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lauren and i spent a lot of time at sunset pond this summer
the blackbear concert at the myth
my mom and i with minnesota senator amy klobuchar at the stop the trafficking 5k in eden prairie, minnesota. we were featured on her facebook page!
photo with a kangaroo at adults night out at the minnesota zoo

I will be writing while I am in India, so continue to check back! I hope y’all are having an amazing summer. Let’s speak life into this coming autumn!

december updates

All right, it’s been a hot second since I’ve made a blog post! Here are a few quick updates:

  • I moved home! I’m living at home with my parents until the end of January, and then I’ll be living in St. Paul for school.
  • My mono isn’t contagious anymore! I’m still sleeping anywhere between 10-14 hours a day and I’m nauseous, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. I’ve been working a few shifts at Lifetime, but other than that, I pretty much sleep and watch Grey’s Anatomy. I got the all-clear to begin (veerrrrryyyyy slowly…..) working out again, though! So beginning tomorrow morning, I’ll be back in the gym.
  • I’m going to Chicago this week for my birthday and to see some friends! One of my favorite bloggers posted this about her recent Chicago trip last week, and I was so pumped to see it–I’ll totally take some of her advice! I was supposed to go last week, and my train was delayed like nine hours and it was a big ~thing~ so I just postponed it to this week. I think I’m most excited to see the original American Girl store, I can’t lie….

Check back soon for some more new stuff I’m excited about!

India and College and #Updates

Hello, end of week 10?? Where did this quarter go? I swear it felt like the longest ten weeks of my life while we were in the thick of it, but now that it’s over, I feel like it went by so fast. This quarter, some superawesome things happened! I do have a few #lifeupdates to share with y’all, though! Read on….

This quarter, I started taking anxiety medication, for what turned out to be not anxiety, lol. I was supersupersuper tired all the time, and I was pretty dizzy throughout the day. I had intermittent headaches, constant nausea, and decreased appetite. I also had a cold this whole quarter, which I just thought was annoying and maybe had something to do with allergies…? Anyway, last weekend I went home and the cough and exhaustion got a million times worse, so I figured I might as well go to the health center on campus. They first tested me for strep, the flu, and mono….Turns out I had MONO. I asked where on earth I could’ve contracted mono, because I’m very careful about sharing drinks and lip products, and my boyfriend doesn’t have mono, so…?? But the doctor said it can also be passed through phlegm, and that since I work with tiny humans (as Arizona Robbins would call them) very often, it’s likely I contracted mono from blowing their tiny, cute, mono-infected noses. Then he goes, “Better prepare yourself for a life of sickness if you wanna work with kids.” Okay, thanks?? Lol.

But that does affect my India trip. The nausea and decreased appetite is a sign of an infected liver and spleen, and I sleep approximately 14-15 hours a day right now. There is no way to know if those symptoms will be better in three weeks, as they can last up to six months. Anyway, my doctor and family urged me to postpone the trip. I was really adamant about keeping the trip in December, but the risk of infection is too great. The pollution in Delhi right now is the worst in the world. In addition, since we don’t know when I contracted the disease, there’s no way to tell if I am contagious, and the last thing I want in the entire world is to accidentally pass it onto a child living in the slums in Delhi. That was the thing that finally convinced me to postpone the trip–the risk of infecting others in India. I don’t want to selfishly go in December because it works best for me, and then end up getting a bunch of innocent kids sick.

So, with all of that in mind, I postponed the India trip to August 7th, 2017. It was the next available time for me to travel outside of the country for three weeks. I am incredibly sad about moving the trip, but I know it’s the best thing I could do for me and for the kids right now.

Instead of traveling to India in December, I’ll be throwing my attention into the needy in the Twin Cities. I went to a church service in downtown Denver on Thursday night, the day I postponed India, and I was very down about it. During the (INCREDIBLE) worship, I felt the weight of disappointment lifted off my shoulders and instead felt a weight of love for the Twin Cities. I have the resources to reach those who need help in St. Paul and Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs, and I’m going to use those resources in the weeks I would’ve been away. I’ve already been in touch with some volunteer organizations in the area, and although I am still wishing about and thinking of India, I know that this is where I am needed right now.

In addition to these things, I have something else to share. I came back to my college this year in hopes of starting over with new friends and a new major and new challenges, and those things did happen. I have an AMAZING best friend/roomie/sister, and I love my religious studies classes. I still adore the Denver community, and I am relatively happy here. But I knew within the first two weeks of being back that this is not where my heart is anymore.

To start off, I am learning things in my music classes that are not relevant whatsoever to the things I want to be learning. I don’t have a passion for classical music at all; I don’t care one bit about figured bass or counterpoint or anything like that at all. I love musical theater. I want to take theater classes as a part of my music minor. I want to study musical theater history, and learn the best techniques for musical theater singing. I don’t want to study Italian arias. They’re fun sometimes, but that’s not where my passion lies at all.

In addition, in talking with older adults in my life and doing some personal soul-searching, I have come to realize that social work is the degree that I want to seek. I looked at my resume and examined the volunteer positions and summer jobs I’ve always gravitated towards. What do I love to do? I also thought about taking some time off and working while I sort of ~find myself~, but all of the jobs I wanted to apply for needed a degree in social work. However, my school does not offer an undergraduate degree in social work. We have an amazing graduate school about a block away from my dorm, but I can’t study there unless I wanted to do the joint undergrad-grad degree program. I did consider that for about a day but I knew that it wasn’t for me.

Finally, I know in my heart that I have never felt like I am a part of the campus community here. I have been involved with various groups, I have friends in a lot of different majors, and I try to go to a lot of events (when I’m not sleeping away mono, lol), but I still somehow don’t feel completely included. This is not me saying anything like I don’t get invited to things and I’m sad and FOMO!!!!! This is saying I haven’t felt a love for my university the way others do since last fall. I don’t want to spend the next three years of my life here–the thought of that honestly makes me sad. I don’t feel like a true community member at my school.

And that was something I wrestled with. I loved it so much fall quarter last year–so much. I truly felt as though I’d found my home! But I think I’ve evolved so much as a person that my values don’t align with my university’s anymore. I still have incredible friends, and I’m making new ones every day. But ultimately, I know I can’t stay in Denver because of my friends here. I am in college solely to get a degree in something practical, something that I love. For me, that means social work and musical theater, neither of which I can study here.

So, I will be transferring to a school in St. Paul, Minnesota. One that has an amazing social work program, where I can minor in musical theater. But I will be back in Denver as often as possible. And who knows–maybe I will return permanently again someday. But that day is not today.

That’s all I have for now. Here’s to new adventures.


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?

India in t-minus THIRTY DAYS!!

I am going to India in THIRTY DAYS. Thirty days, people! There’s still so much left to do, but I’m trying to focus on all of the incredible things I’m going to do while I’m there!


For those who don’t know, I am going to Delhi, India for three weeks beginning on December 5th with International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). IVHQ is super popular and trustworthy when it comes to volunteering internationally. Another thing that was important to me was “voluntourism”, a term that pretty much means volunteering, typically on an international scale, without leaving some kind of long-term impact. It often means going for all the wrong reasons. IVHQ does an awesome job of making sure that there is permanent change from the work their volunteers do, and I’m proud to be representing this awesome organization!

I’m staying in a homestay, meaning I’ll be living with a family in Delhi (don’t worry, they’ve been background-checked and given the all-clear!), eating their food, and basically becoming a member of their family while I’m there. One of the positives of this is that vegetarianism is popular in India because of the religious preference of a lot of Indians. So no worries there! I am slightly worried about the spicy foods though…. ANYWAY.

I will be volunteering in a slum school in Delhi with some other volunteers. I believe the age group that I’ll be working with is younger elementary school age, around 5-10. The program focuses on things like math, reading, and reaching important developmental stages. We’ll also be putting a focus on other things, such as art, that these kids might not typically be able to learn.

On the weekends, I’ll be exploring Delhi as well as touring some amazing places, such as the Taj Mahal and Varanasi. I studied the Taj Mahal last year in my Sacred Art of Asia class, and I’ll have to read up about it while I’m on the FOURTEEN HOUR plane ride. Varanasi is a holy city to the east of Delhi, and it requires a plane ride. It’s along the banks of the Ganges River, and is said to be one of the holiest cities in the world. Hindus believe that if you die in Varanasi, your soul is released from samsara (pronounced sahm-sah-rah and means reincarnation) and achieves moksa (pronounced mohk-sha and means the release from samsara). It’s an incredibly important city, and I can’t wait to go visit one of the cities I’ve been studying this quarter!

Another reason I’m excited for this trip is that I’ve been studying India and Hinduism this quarter, in a course called Modern Hinduism. This week we’re reading about caste. In particular, its relation to Indian politics, societal structure, and spiritual realm, as well as how it’s changed over time. Outsiders are quick to judge the caste system, and it is often all people know of Hinduism and India as an entire nation. Originally, the caste system wasn’t even intended for an actual society, it was more of a Utopian ideal. Spiritually, the caste system is said to represent God’s body: the Brahman caste comes from the most pure area of the body, the mouth, while the lowest caste comes from the feet. The other castes come from other varying areas of the body, the higher the better. Although there are governmental actions set in place to help lower-caste individuals receive jobs (a form of affirmative action), they aren’t always enforced. I am so excited to go love on children from the lowest castes, to show them that they can be loved.

There are still so many things to do to prepare for my departure! I’m freaking out just a little, but I’m kind of a last-minute person, so I know it’ll all be okay.

Left to purchase:

  • Travel insurance ($89)
  • Visa (Somewhere between $60-$100? I’ve read different things regarding the price)
  • Flight (I have a flight voucher for $970, and I’m flying out of Chicago so it’ll be cheaper. Flight = $500-700ish)
  • Vaccinations, medications (no cost–insurance ROCKS)
  • Tour of Taj Mahal ($100)
  • Flight to Varanasi ($300)
  • Spending money (????)

The number one thing I’m afraid of is the flight, of all things. I’ve never flown over the ocean before! I’ve never even been on a flight longer than three hours, and the flight from New Jersey will be fourteen hours. I’m not afraid to fly alone, because I’ve done that before, but I’m terrified to fly over the ocean. I’m embarrassed to say it, but earlier in my planning, I thought more than once about cancelling the trip altogether because I’m so petrified of the ocean. I don’t even like looking at photos of the ocean on Google Maps. It just freaks me out, all that deep water and scary things. The Titanic is a horror movie, in my books. What keeps me going is knowing that I am at my absolute happiest when I’m volunteering in another country. The world is so exciting to me, and I can’t wait to get out and explore it, over and over again.

If you’re looking for things I would like prayer/good thoughts/good vibes about:

  • My paychecks come sooner than later (long story….)
  • The children in Delhi! I’d love for their hearts to be open to me, what I have to teach about school, and what I have to teach about life.

And most of all:

  • For my heart to be opened. I want to take everything in without any judgement. I know that it is human nature to judge and think we know best, but I want to be completely open to this incredible experience that is just around the corner. I know that I will learn so much more from them than they will learn from me. I am not the most flexible person in the world, but I want this to be an uncomfortable, growing experience for me. I want to be changed in the best of ways, the way that Guatemala changed me time and time again in high school.

If you’d like to read a little more about India or donate to my fund, click here! Every little bit helps, and I am overwhelmingly grateful for all of the support I’ve received so far, through text messages, emails, monetary donations, and all the people who’ve been praying for me. I could not be more nervous/excited for this trip, and I’m counting down the days until I leave! Keep checking back here for periodic updates, and if I get good wifi in Delhi, I’ll definitely be posting updates here while I’m there for everyone to read!

Thanks for reading, and I’m sending all my love.