Extraordinary Machine

I wrote the following a few months ago. I figured I would share it with you all, because it is even more relevant to my life right now.


I have always subscribed to Ernest Hemingway’s pessimistic view of the world, that “happiness in intelligent people is one of the rarest things I know.” I have always believed that the more you learn about the world and humanity, the less beauty and positivity there is to have faith in.

But now I see how wrong I have been. Now I see that I have been viewing the world and humanity through the lens of my own insecurity. My own shortcomings about myself have prevented me from seeing the potential in the world and the people around me. Instead of focusing on the beauty in the world, I have been focusing on the pain, because that is all I have felt comfortable with. I was the “opponent” in Fiona Apple’s song Extraordinary Machine; I was too scared of change although I always trying to “hitch a ride with any guide as long it they [went] fast from whence [I] came.” I wanted change so badly, yet I stuck with what I knew: pain and pessimism.

Ah, but I’m learning.

I’m learning that even though the world is full of people doing awful things, it is the beauty that lingers. Now “I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.” Now I know what you’re talking about, Lester Burnham. (That’s from American Beauty).

I’m learning that I am an extraordinary machine. I’m learning to appreciate myself, to cherish myself, to love myself. And that’s the best lesson I could ever learn.

“If there was a better way to go then it would find me. I can’t help it, the road just rolls out behind me. Be kind to me, or treat me mean; I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine. – Fiona Apple


Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving, I have so much to be thankful for.

I truly am blessed. I am studying abroad in Spain and have met many people I love here. I am a college student, relatively economically stable, working towards a job I want dearly. I have loving friends, loving family and a loving community within the world of Turbo Kick. I am lucky enough to have discovered at a young age my passion for helping others and the skill sets that I have that make it possible to achieve it. Basically, there is a lot going right in my life right now.

But what am I most thankful for? The fact that I am thankful at all.

Let’s rewind the clock. Growing up, I was always a tad insecure. I was friends with the “popular” girls when I was young, but I never quite fit in, with my nerdy personality and my slightly overweight figure. But I was a happy child, spoiled with the love that only an only child of a woman with fertility issues can understand.

Then 7th/8th grade came around. That’s the time in our lives when we all start to face something within ourselves or our exterior world that we hadn’t seen before. For me, it was my homosexuality, and the negative response I recieved daily through subtle messages made me feel like a disappointment. I sank into a depression that I didn’t escape until about a year ago.

During those 4-6 years of darkness, it was hard for me to be grateful for anything. If I ever did feel thankful for something, that moment was quickly dashed by the voice in my head that made me feel guilty for my depression when I had so much to be thankful for. This was the cycle I found myself in, and it took a lot of time, suffering and self-inspection to rise above it. I had a few extremely dark moments, and I truly am a lucky person to have survived them.

In the past few months – starting with Camp Do More adn going into a month of travel and almost four months of studying abroad – I have grown immensely. There is an absolute abundance of things that I am thankful for, but today, since I was uncapable of recognizing any of this for so long, I am going to say why I am thankful that I am me.

  • I am thankful that I am introspective. Through this, I feel I am better able to understand the world around me.
  • I am thankful that I have a gift for empathy and being a source of support for others.
  • I am thankful that I am a hard worker. It allows me to experience thigns that I would never experience otherwise, and it allows me to truly appreciate the meaning of something after I earn it.
  • I am thankful for my sense of humor. The fact that I laugh openly and often means that I am open to joy in life.
  • I am thankful that I am an “old soul.” Connecting with people older than me gives me maturity, joy and quite possibly protects me from many stupid mistakes that many of my peers make. On top of that, some of the most amazing friends and relationships that I have made have been with people older than me.
  • I am thankful that I am so talkative. How else would I connect with others?
  • I am thankful that I can sometimes be a kiss-ass. It has never failed to help me make connections and to help me find situations that benefit me.

Most of all, I am thankful that I am so brave. I honestly believe I am one of the bravest people I know. Look at all of these examples:

  1. I came out to my mother while still in high school, knowing full well how unsupportive she would be.
  2. I reached for help when in my darkest moment.
  3. I fought through that darkness to be in the positivity I am in today.
  4. I shared my depression story with many, many people and helped myself while helping others.
  5. I auditioned to teach Turbo Kick just over a month after my certification.
  6. I studied abroad in Spain with little to no Spanish knowledge.
  7. I filmed myself doing Turbo Kick in extremely crowded, popular locations and put it on YouTube for the world to see.
  8. I have performed on stage many times, in concerts and plays alike.
  9. I sang “Who Will Love Me As I Am” in a concert just days after coming out.
  10. I went ziplining despite a terrible fear of heights.
  11. I held pigeons despite a terrible fear of birds.
  12. I shared my romantic feelings with someone, which was conquering one of my biggest fears of all.

There is more, but I am just writing out what comes to mind first.

All in all, this rambling post is just to say that I am thankful for myself, which I think is the most beautiful thing I could possibly say.

Same Ol’ Cannonball

One of my favorite songs of all time is Cannonball by Brandi Carlile. The lyrics at one part are:

“Someone told me a lie
Someone looked me in the eye
And said time will ease your pain
But behold, when you fall
It’s that same old cannonball
Coming back for your heart again”

Now, I’ve found this applicable to my own experience in many different times in my life. However right now, it applies to my fear of rejection.

I have never been in a relationship. I’m very insecure about this, because it makes me feel like I’m not loveable. Obviously this is not true, and it is something that I am working on.

So that’s where I’m at. That same old cannonball of fear is coming back for me. I’m sure many of you are in similar situations. Perhaps it isn’t the same fear of rejection, but there is some kind of fear, some kind of pain, something impeding you from living your best life.

What do we do? We work past that obstacle.

For example, I have a major crush right now. My instinct is to run and hide, to keep this completely secret, to not let myself become vulnerable in any situation related to romance. But instead, I am going to force myself to let my feelings known and see what comes of it. It’s an especially terrifying situation, because I know that nothing will come of it. The recipient of my romantic feelings has a girlfriend and considers me a sister. Nonetheless, it is important for me to jump this hurdle and prove to myself that making myself romantically vulnerable will not kill me.


Wish me luck! I will need it! And I hope you take me up on this challenge to face something in your life that scares you, push past it, and prove to yourself that you are stronger than whatever is holding you back.

What To Do When You Get Off Track

In the past few months, I have eaten more chocolate and fried foods and less vegetables and fruits than I have in a long time. I find myself choosing a lazy day in bed over going out and exercising. And for those of you who know me at all (the “me” that has developed in the past 2-3 years), you know that this is completely out of character.

I have fallen off of the wagon – not just a simple slide but an all-out crash.

The most important question I have for myself is “why?” Obviously there’s some inner issue that’s making me turn towards candy and Facebook instead of exercise. After a good amount of looking inside, I think a major factor is the fact that I feel helplessly out of control in terms of my lifestyle choices in a homestay setting in a foreign country. Now logically, if I feel out of control with my food choices and activity level within the household, you would think I would choose healthier options that fit to my preferences when I’m otu of the house. But instead, I find myself buying Chips Ahoy McFlurries when at the mall studying with friends. I think that I feel so out of control that I might as well go all out since I’m sabotaged anyways.

What a terrible mindset I find myself in! Although I’m at a slight advantage, because at least I recognize where I’m at. Now it’s time to reverse it.

But how?

Well, that’s the hard part. I’m still in that homestay. I’m still away from home. I’m sitll unable to follow the sleep schedule I prefer. There are still aspects that are out of my control. But instead of reacting in self-sabatoge, I’m going to try another approach. It’s time to do what I can when I can to make things right.

For instance, I may not be able to (or be quite as motivated to) Turbo right now due to spacial and social limitations, but there is a park around the corner from my homestay with a 2km running loop. I’ve adjusted, and there’s my cardio. And from now on,when I’m hungry outside of the house, I will pick up a fruit or a veggie instead of chocolate filled mini croissants (don’t judge me!). I may be eating french fries every day at home, but I don’t need to supplement that with further bad decisions.

So what do you do when you fall of track?

You take a step back and reflect on the “why?”

You focus on future decisions rather than beating yourself up for past mistakes.

You stop making excuses.

And you get right back on track again.

Lessons Learnt on the Road

“It is only when you are ripped away from the familiar and the comfortable and forced into something challenging and new that you are able to learn who you really are” – Belgian man who just finished el Camino de Santiago

I just spent three days in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. This is a beautiful city, yes, but the real reason that it is a tourist estination is because it is the culmination of a famous Catholic pilgrimage. The most famous route is from France, which is approximately 750km. This pilgrimage began in 815 AD when the Catholic church confirmed that the remains of St. John had been discovered in northern Spain. It faded into history for a while but experienced a revival in the 20th century and remains extraordinarly popular today among the faithful, as well as among adventurers and soul-searchers.

Although I myself have not (yet!) completed this pilgrimage, I spoke with many pilgrims at the end of their journey, and here are some things that they had to tell me:

“I’m excited to see my friends and family back home, but I don’t think it feels quite like home anymore. Everything is different now. I’m different.” – Belgian pilgram, Brussels to Santiago de Compostela, 4 months


“I spent the last month walking alone. Or, well, I was never really alone. Even when I didn’t run into other travelers, I had the company of my thoughts and emotions.” – Canadian pilgram, Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela, 39 days


“The Camino is rewarding even if you don’t find what you were searching for. After all, do any of us really know what to search for? What we need to discover will be revealed to us if we make ourselves vulnerable and open to it.” – Belgian pilgram, Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela, 30 days

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I love Tut’s Notes from the Universe for a myriad of reasons. For one, it keeps me groudned by reminding me of the beautiful things in life. It also has wise things to say, ways of looking at the world that I had never contemplated. But what affects me the most about these morning emails is that they almost always apply directly to my life. Since these emails are relatively popular and a large number of people recieve them and connect to them, this to me is a daily reminder of the universality of the human experience.

Now our individual experiences, problems, dreams, worries, interests may be wildly different from the stranger sitting next to you on the bus, but you share one infinitely important thing – you both have experiences, problems, dreams, worries, interests…

And where you connect is the human emotional or philosophical reactions that you have. At some point or another in our lives, we will all experience doubt, fear, pride, loneliness, joy, sadness and all other emotions under the sun. In that, we connect. In that, we are one.

And that, to me, is beautiful.

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Love Your Body Day

Today’s a very short post, which I’m planning on elaborating on tomorrow when I have more time.

Today is Love  Your Body Day, but in reality, we should all strive to love and accept our bodies every day.

When I opened my email this morning, I saw my daily “Note From The Universe” email. Today, fittingly, it said:


“Please tell your friends, Emily, to never look into a mirror without smiling!”

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