What is Love?

How do we know what love is?

I mean, we have all heard of love, have we not?  We have heard different accounts of what love feels like, looks like, and should be like.  However, how do we REALLY know?  Love isn’t a tangible thing; it cannot be physically seen or touched.  Does love even feel the same to each person who experiences it?  How will we ever really know?

Love is one of those amazing mysteries that one cannot completely explain.  I think everyone experiences different levels of love throughout their life, although I can only speak solely for myself.  During my lifetime, I have encountered many levels and variations of love.  Each type of love I have come across in my life is a blessing that I never take for granted.  But I know love is the best thing there is in life.  Period.

First, I experienced my family’s love.  This, as with many types of love, is sometimes like a roller coaster as we sometimes become angry with each other,  Sometimes it’s over little things like the time my sister stole my brand-new dress to wear before I could and then lied to me about it.  And then there are the big things that make the family love hard to feel such as something we see as a betrayal by our closest loved ones and turmoil stirs in the home life.  But, at the end of the day, in my family I always know there is comfort in those who know me best; at my youngest, during my teenage trouble causing days, when I was sick, and when I was silly.  Nothing compares to family love.  After all, momma knows best.

Then, there is friendship love.  This is an amazing feeling I get from my closest friends who are by my side no matter what I am going through in my life.  They never fail to surprise me by their support and words-of-wisdom during the toughest of times.  Friendship love means they have my back as I have theirs.  That type of love is me making fun of the way my best friend laughs, but if anyone else so much us looks at her the wrong way, they will have me to deal with!  I can always count on the friend love to bring out the teasing and the laughs but also that perfect understanding and alliance.

Next comes the puppy, first-crush love.  Or maybe even the second love or third…. it’s that guy in high school that gave me butterflies by waiting for me in the morning by my locker.  I was young, he made me happy, and I had teenage hormones.  Not that the love didn’t mean something, because it meant a lot.  The young love is what made me realize the prospect of deep love and opened my eyes to how I should (and in some cases in my life, how I shouldn’t) be treated.  Without those experiences, I wouldn’t have been opened up emotionally in a way I hadn’t before known to be possible.

There are other forms of love that I know are out there that I have not yet had the ability to experience.  For example, that love you have for your child.  I can only look forward to and wonder what it’s like to have the love for my own child.  Someday hopefully I will get to write about those feelings as I know it will be incredible, undying, and deep.  One day, I too will get to feel and try to describe this special love.

Then comes what I refer to as true love, from my soul mate.  This is unlike anything I have ever felt for anyone but him.  The love I feel both for and from him is earth altering to me.  I don’t think will the earth altering part will ever change as it hasn’t even let up slightly in all the time we have been together; there are still butterflies and every deep kiss feels like our first.  Now I am not saying certain people cannot have more than one true love or soul mate, and as a matter of fact I believe that to be the case for many people who lose their loved ones.  However, for me, I am just basking in the happiness and glow of the true love we have for each other and don’t see that fading for us.  Here’s what sets the true love apart:  He knows me best and can make me melt with one small glance.  When we are in a room full of people, I am so attuned to him and how he is feeling.  He is my family, my best friend. and my true love.  And that is a truly amazing thing to have in life.

But then, this is all just my experience.

© 2016 Jacquelyn Staggs

 

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Culture Shock

cul·ture shock
noun
  1. the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

….. my experience, in a nutshell, when I think of how to best describe the feelings I had upon moving to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have done my fair share of traveling throughout my life.  I have lived in six different states all on opposite sides of the US coast, and been to all but a few states in-between.  So no, this area is not especially “foreign” to me nor is the act of picking up and moving to a new and different territory without knowing many people who reside there.  Why then, was the move here so incredibly disparate to me?  That was the question I asked myself countless times until recently stumbling upon my realization.

I decided to move here with a friend after randomly choosing the area because my friend knew one person that lived in the city.  My friend and I were excited to move anywhere with less than four months of the winter season because we were breaking out of the North and bitter cold.  I was just coming out of a particularly ferocious winter in New York and she was residing in Maine at that time where there was always plenty of frost and snowfall.  The two of us decided that knowing one person in the area was better than knowing zero people and took a leap of faith, just visiting once to meet others, explore the area, and find a proper apartment to live.

When we visited the city of Charlotte just a mere two months before our permanent move (since we are crazy and already set in our plans), I fell in love.  I was in love with city as soon as we landed, loving the weather which was sunny and in the 70s in March (meanwhile we had a 10″ snowfall in Syracuse), loved the people who were so welcoming and fun, and it just so happened that I met my future husband the very day that I flew in.  Moving to Charlotte was my fate and I realized that from day one.  Well…. truth be told I may not have realized it immediately as I was bent over the toilet that night, after being a little too caught up in the festivities and the welcoming nature of the people in Charlotte and accepting all of their free shots of Fireball at the bars.  I hadn’t previously had the experience of Fireball and after that first day in Charlotte, I can honestly say I will never again accept even a single shot of it.  Memories of cinnamon burning my throat all evening and into the morning is a clear reminder for me to steer clear.  For all of you readers who have not had exposure to countless shots of this death juice, consider yourselves lucky.

Of course, my future husband, being the gentleman he is drove me home that night, held my hair back as my bad decisions were flushed down, tucked me in bed, and left.  He even returned the next day to check on me, and the next to show me and my friend the best parts of the city.  I suppose I should have seen instantly that he was a keeper after putting up with a new northern girl who seemed to be unable to control her liquor.  He was amazing from the very first moment I laid eyes on him, but that’s a whole other story that I will write about another time.  Charlotte was different to me for sure, in all these aspects.  I moved here a fresh graduate with my Master’s degree and a plan in mind to become a therapist and to become very successful in my career and life.  I suppose you could look at it as though I was young and naive to think everything would work out perfectly according to my plans, but I like to think that I was more dedicated, determined, and positive.

I didn’t count on the struggle to find a job right out of school in my field (even though I’d heard many horror stories), didn’t count on not passing my licensing exam, didn’t count on money struggles, and I had no idea what it was like to be out of school without the friendship circle that it brings directly to you.  This was new and different territory to me on so many levels; I felt stress and pressure and only had my friend/roommate as my sounding board for awhile as she was going through the very same struggles.  Without family and some of my closest friends here for those challenges, I was out of my comfort zone.  Previously, when I didn’t have them near me I was able to still connect with my peers in school and pour my all into my education and stay hopeful for my future after my degree.  When I moved after graduation, I realized things were definitely not going to be as easy for myself as I’d hoped.

As depressing as this is starting to sound, I promise it gets better.  I realized that my career wasn’t going through for me for a reason that was unclear at first and that maybe it wasn’t the perfect fit for me.  I loved the experience I had in school as I learned so much and my clients in therapy taught me a lot personally as well as gave me the wonderful opportunity to provide them with both hope and insight.  In studying to be a therapist, clients and the training changed my life and I like to think I had a positive affect on their lives too.  The nanny job I took to hold me over after moving here turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me as I connected with the family immensely and they grew to become so close to me and helped me through very difficult times.  My money struggles have only taught me to become stronger and appreciative of the things I do have in life whether they be material items, the people who have blessed my life, or the opportunities I get to travel.  I’ve learned to let go a little of my money and career stress of figuring it all out, and have started to focus more on the here and now and in taking everyday like it could be my last.  Yes, I still am looking to succeed more in a career but I no longer over-think and stress when I see things aren’t going according to plan.

After all, if things had gone according to plan I wouldn’t have met the amazing family I was a nanny for and they wouldn’t have become such a huge part of my life.  I wouldn’t have grown to appreciate things as much in my life as I do currently.  I might not be the same individual I am now, and may not even be married to my amazing husband.  I allowed myself to become open, trusting, positive, and carefree to be with him and I’m not so sure I’d have those same qualities if life went according to my “plan”.  I am constantly a work in progress and am far from perfect (aren’t we all?).  Everyday I have to work hard to let go of worries and stress as it is still unfamiliar to me, but it is important to me to live each day with a little less anxiety of much future and with a little more happiness and contentment.

© 2016 Jacquelyn Staggs

 

Calling Us All Out

So, it’s a new year.  Hello 2016…. New year, new me.  That’s what everyone says, right?

Thanks to New Year’s Resolutions we are suddenly able to start life again with a fresh slate, positivity, and high hopes for it to be the “best year yet”.  I am only human so it excites me as much as the next person to be able to have faith in the coming year and to feel the refreshing feeling of starting out anew.  Many people create a list of resolutions and post them on social media for all to see while insisting that this is the year where they will be dedicated and follow through on all their resolves and dreams.  More people crowd into the gym during January and February desperately hoping to work off that Holiday weight and to finally get that in-shape body they’ve always craved, healthy eating increases, and individuals strive toward their goals with dedication.

However, I can’t help but notice those resolutions eventually (and rather rapidly) fade into the background.  The traffic in the gym thins significantly, people slip in their diets more often, eat healthily much less, and become less dedicated to the goals they originally had planned to make happen with such conviction.  What happens for us to let our hopes, goals, and dreams take a backseat in our lives?  We tend to blame it on the lack of time we have to make it to the gym,  the lack of funds to eat healthy, and the excuses go on and on.  By the time half the year is through, most of us have either given up on many of our resolutions or forgotten about them completely.

To this, I am calling all of us out.  I ask you, what is more important in life than to accomplish our goals and acheive happiness?  NOTHING is more important, that’s what.  I don’t care what excuses we summon up to give ourselves peace of mind for giving up on ourselves, not a single one is good enough.  At the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of our lives, what matters the most?  The most monumental things are those that we are proud of in our lives and have worked hard to obtain.  Make this year, and every one to come, matter.  After all, to merely exist is not to live at all.

© 2016 Jacquelyn Staggs

The Million Dollar Question

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Isn’t that the question we hear countless times, over and over throughout our lives?  We spend our entire childhood hearing the question as we search avidly for answers and, as our graduation from high school nears, the overwhelming pressure begins to really set in for us to hurry up and choose our career path.  Most of us choose quickly, randomly, feeling as if we are running out of time to consider it further.  My career path has altered countless times, just as I know many of my friends have.  I’ve always thought that my first response in Kindergarten the most brilliant one.  I got on stage and announced to all the parents and children in the assembly that when I grew up, I wanted to be a baby that played with toys.  After all, isn’t that essentially what we all want in life; to be happy and have no worries?  That is the epitome of happiness and satisfaction, to simply enjoy our careers.  No one wants to dread going to work every day.  It takes a major toll on us and on our personal lives.  But I can be sure of one thing already, and that is almost 100% of the individuals reading this article have worked at least one job that they were unhappy at.  I am almost willing to bet 100% have.

I recall all the adults chuckling at the Kindergarten ceremony at my response.  After that I decided to be a veterinarian (until I realized you had to do surgeries on the poor animals), a pop-singer (until I was told I couldn’t carry a tune), a professional cheerleader, an interior designer, a marriage and family therapist…. The list goes on and on.  So here I sit, at age 26 after having started college for Interior Design, taking the next semester off, switching schools and majors to then graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy currently.  Impressive to some as having a Master’s Degree may be, however, since I have not gone further to utilize that degree, I often question that assumption.  They neglect to inform us during our childhood just how difficult it can be to choose a career path and stick with it.  There are many reasons to change and become unhappy with the choice.  Most commonly it is lack of employment opportunities within the field, or the salary, or the licensing process and cost of education to move toward it, or sometimes we just don’t fully understand what the career entails and that it may not bring us the happiness we once thought.  We were lead to believe it would be easy; teachers, adults, professionals say just pick a career path and go to school and find a job.  Period.  Easy peasy, right?

But yet here I sit writing this, still trying to find my place in my mid-twenties and here you sit, reading this so you can find your place.  So we must ask ourselves, what makes us happy?  How do we find joy in our careers?  How do we do what we love to live more stress free and satisfying lives?  I think I just found my answer as I write this, words flowing from me and happiness growing as I share it with all of you.  After all, didn’t the saying once go something like the answer is right in front of you?  Maybe slowing down and taking your time to choose a career is not such a bad thing.  If I could choose taking a risk and a leap into a career that is unknown to me compared to settling for one that did not bring me the same happiness and more stress, which would I choose?

I think you’ll see.

© 2016 Jacquelyn Staggs