With Uncertainty Comes Opportunity

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This post is part of ThinkKit by Smallbox.

Prompt: The calendar still says 2014, but let’s push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you’re counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it’s the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you.

Changing Rooms, sky view

2014 was a year in perpetual transition. January hit and all of a sudden there was this sweeping momentum for change, most of it good. I started a new job in a new field. I moved to the heart of downtown Indianapolis with one of my best friends. I took on some creative side projects, and through it all, had a lot of fun.

Other transitions weren’t as easy. My family moved away from Indianapolis, to a new home in Washington, D.C. Relationships ended and started, and ended again. I experienced misjudgments and disappointments, but through it all, learned a lot.

The year threw a lot of uncertainties in my direction, but what I gained in the process is the realization that things often feel crazier, messier, and more out-of-control than what they really are. In fact, what’s happening is probably just … normal.

Uncertainties are simply part of life. A big part of life. They can be scary and intimidating and overwhelming, but only if you let them. The deeper I get into my twenties, the more I realize that I’m not only just okay with uncertainties, I’m excited by them. In uncertainties lie future possibilities and for me, there’s nothing more reassuring or optimistic than that.

So as 2015 approaches, I’m looking forward to turning uncertainties into opportunities. Whether it’s a new place to go, a new person to meet, or a new venture to chase, I say, bring it on. Because without uncertainties, there would never be any risk. And where’s the fun in that?

 

image source: Anirvan on flickr

The Scar That Left A Mark

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Don’t all scars leave a mark? By definition, yes. But if you’re like me (read: clumsy, unaware of your flailing limbs, not afraid to jump off of things, etc.), you probably have more scars than you can count, but only remember how a select few of them actually happened. There’s a big difference in a nasty cut from that razor you should have already thrown out, than a busted elbow after making a conscious decision to go rollerblading in the rain. (Ask me about that one later.)

The scar story I remember best is the first one I got. I was really small, maybe five years old. Almost every night in the summer, my parents and I would take a walk around our neighborhood. The beautiful thing about this routine was that they did all the walking, while I enjoyed the luxury of getting pulled around by my dad in a red Radio Flyer wagon. I’ve always placed a pretty high value on traveling in style.

To keep something like pulling your daughter in a wagon exciting, my dad had attached a rope to the handle of the wagon. This gave him a little more length and made pulling me more comfortable, but mostly, it just allowed him to run really fast with the wagon behind him. This scared my mom quite a bit, but that of course only made us want to run up and down the streets even more.

The evening of the scar, my dad decided it would be good idea to run up the big hill right in front of our house. Sounds good. How could I object? These are the benefits of having an Army Ranger as your dad. Running up a hill, pulling a small human behind you, and making a game of it is not only really easy, but makes perfect sense.

We took off up the hill. I clinched the sides of the wagon with my hands and started smiling and squealing as usual. It was thrilling and terrifying, all at the same time. I wish I had the physics background to explain what happened next, but all I know is one second I was flying full steam ahead, and the next I was flipping backwards out of the wagon, scraping my back and rolling down the pavement.

My mom gets to me first, running up from behind. She whisks me back down to the house and as you might imagine, is less than thrilled this accident even occurred in the first place. I’m crying and moaning like a five-year-old would, more because I’m scared and less because what happened actually hurts. My dad runs into the bathroom right behind us and feels horrible, but knows I’m okay and that it could have been worse. My mom will feel that way too, eventually.

The end result of the accident is an ugly cut on my upper back and the scar left behind is just a little mark, you can barely even see it now. The reason I remember this scar so well and think of it often, is because I’ve watched the mark work its way down my back for the past twenty years. It’s weird. Like I said, the scar formed on my upper back, close to my right shoulder-blade. But now, the mark is more in the middle of my back, just to the right of my spine. I wonder when it landed there for good.

If you’re curious, this little scar didn’t stop my dad and me from running around in the wagon. In fact, I can probably think of a few more scars I’ve collected with him as my partner-in-crime and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’ve got a few good scars, chances are you’ve got a few good stories to tell, too.

 

 

 

 

Some Stuff I’ve Learned

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1. Social media is a blessing and a curse. Try not to become too attached or you’ll end up torturing yourself.

2. Good friends aren’t all that hard to find, but they are hard to keep. Stay in touch with the people you care about.

3. Sometimes, you don’t have it all together and that’s okay. You’re allowed some time (as much as you need) to catch your breath and slow down.

4. Sometimes, you do have it all together, probably more often than not. So remember that and be confident.

5. Mom is still, usually, always right about everything.

6. Worry is inevitable, but it’s never done anyone much good. Try to crush it as fast as you possibly can.

7. Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy and when you do, good things and good people tend to flock your way.

8. Don’t stop reading books. It’ll help you stay sharp and 9 times out of 10, will give you more things to talk about.

9. You’re never, ever too old to start something new or do something else.

10. When you know, you know. Go with your gut and don’t regret it.

11. Ask for what you want. There’s several reasons for this. One, you probably have nothing to lose in the first place. Two, people like to say yes. And three, if you don’t, you’ll never know. And that sucks a lot more than being told no.

12. Actions speak louder than words, but the right words are always nice to hear.

13. If you feel like going out, go out. If you feel like staying in, stay in. Either way, you’re not missing anything.

14. Compromise is usually healthy, but there are times when it’s not. Recognize when it’s not and hold on tight.

15. Be kind to people everyday and don’t forget to stop and accept the kindness that is offered back to you.

 

Peace and love, homies.

 

 

An Act of Kindness at Lollapalooza 2014

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Lollapalooza 2014

A month ago, my good friend and I decided to spend our Saturday romping around at one of the more popular music festivals in the country: Lollapalooza.

I’ve wanted to go to Lollapalooza for as long as I can remember, but for whatever reason, it’s just never worked out for me. Either I don’t have money for passes, I wait too long to get tickets, my second cousin is getting married … you know how it goes. So this year, I finally I decided that no matter what, I’m going. Even if only for one day.

I got so amped up about finally going that I even wrote this post for Elite Daily about preparations to take and what to do the day of the festival to make sure you have the most fun possible. Like some seasoned festival veteran (I’m not), I advised people to do things like drink water, not forget to eat, not lose your friends, go with the flow, and force yourself to have fun whilst navigating through a sea of thousands of people. A large portion of whom are not in the right state of mind … you can see where this is going.

It happened at Calvin Harris. It was our last set of the night, the one we’d been looking forward to all day long. Like every other person in the crowd, I raised my phone when Calvin Harris took the stage around 9:00 P.M. My mistake. Because not three seconds after pressing the record button on my camera, my phone was knocked out of my excited little hands, never to be seen again. Oh, the tears. You can imagine my despair as I stood there, phone-less, trying to enjoy myself as when I met you in the summer vibrated across the crowd.

Calvin Harris

The only picture of Calvin Harris I could snap

Needless to say, I spent the next three hours having a major freak out. Which was exacerbated by the fact that I literally couldn’t move, or else risk getting trampled, elbowed in the face, totally lost, or all of the above. I was forced to stand there and at least pretend to have fun at Calvin Harris.

When the show ended, I did all the things you’re supposed to do when you lose a phone. I checked lost and found, I set up Find my iPhone, but I knew I was probably out of luck. When I got back to Indianapolis the next day, I filed an insurance claim online and my new replacement iPhone arrived at my office two days later. Pretty painless in the whole scheme of things, but still a total inconvenience and a burden of guilt on my mind.

I was no longer thinking about the incident (aka I had moved on from the fact that all my pictures were forever lost), when I received a strange phone call from an Apple store in Louisville, Kentucky. The guy on the other line said he believed he had my phone in the store, that someone had turned it in, and could I please confirm my passcode?

Ummmm… yes, yes I can. What?! The Apple folks kindly shipped me my phone a few days later and I was pleasantly surprised to find the following video stored in my camera roll:

 

Nice is an understatement here, am I right?

And I have so many questions for this guy! How did he realize, after he recorded this video, that turning my phone into an Apple store was a smarter move than turning it in to the infinite abyss that is (as I can only imagine) the Lollapalooza lost & found? There are some missing pieces here and out of curiosity, I want to know the full story.

I’m putting this out here on my blog because I really want to find this guy and tell him thank you! Kindness like this is genuine and rare — especially at an event like Lollapalooza where people are losing phones left and right. Help me track him down so I can pay it forward and not let his kind deed go unnoticed. Share this post and let’s see what happens!

 

 

 

Music Monday

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Happy Monday.

Here are the songs I’m obsessing over lately. Enjoy.

1. Phantogram – Fall in Love

2. The Lumineers – Ain’t Nobody’s Problem

3. Brandi Carlile – NPR Tiny Desk Concert

4. Kings of Leon – Rock City

5. Jack White – High Ball Stepper

7. Andrew Bird – Here’s What Happened

8. Delta Spirit – People C’mon

9. Misterwives – Imagination Infatuation

10. Brick + Mortar – Locked In A Cage

The Morning Drive

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You’ll notice I avoided calling this post something like, “My Morning Commute.” Something about the word commute just turns me off. It sounds middle-aged. Zapped of all life and creativity. Not what I’m going for for. Probably not what anyone is going for, actually.

Let me back track a bit. With my new job (which is great) comes a lengthy drive to and from Greenwood every morning. Now sure, this drive will shorten itself drastically once I move downtown this summer. But until I get to live the hip, urban, twenty-something apartment life I deserve, the drive from Hamilton County down to the South Side remains a fixture in my day.

I don’t know about you, but driving in rush hour traffic (really, any traffic… it’s a problem) freaks the crap out of me. Talk about high blood pressure. Shooting the gap* between two oversized load trucks is not exactly a relaxing start to the day. Not at all. It took me a few weeks of holding my breath and death-gripping my steering wheel to realize, wow, there is probably something I can do to make this better.

And low and behold, there is something. And that, is podcasts. Yes, podcasts. There are so many of them! And they’re all pretty much free. Maybe I’m late to the game on this (I usually am), but I feel like I’ve made some miraculous discovery. I actually look forward to my drive now because I get to listen to something fresh, interesting, and in my opinion, worth my time.

If my awe and wonder is not enough to convince you, here are a few more reasons why podcasts are awesome:

- You can always learn something new if you want to.

- It’s a mental escape, almost more so than listening to music.

- It gets your creative brain thinking about new ideas, stories, people, places, relationships, everything.

- They are only a minor commitment. Thirty minutes, an hour, boom – you’re done. If nothing else, you’ve completed something today.

Because I know you’re curious, here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:

This American Life

This American Life

I think everyone probably knows about This American Life at this point. But if you don’t, it’s not too late for you. Every week, this show focuses on a particular theme. This week’s, for example, was “There’s No Place Like Home,” in which the producers delved into stories of people who are working to preserve or create a comforting, meaningful sense of place in the towns and cities where they live. In each episode, there’s always great variety, and the stories are usually very poignant and unique. If nothing else, they get you thinking. Plus, something about Ira Glass’s voice (the Executive Producer) just sucks you right in. It’s magnetic. Subscribe.

All Songs Considered

All Songs Considered

I hope you didn’t think I could write a blog post on podcasts without mentioning NPR once or twice (…it’ll happen twice, just so we’re clear). I like this podcast because it mixes commentary with both clips and full-length versions of songs, so it’s a nice variety  of stuff, especially coming home in the evenings when I feel more like blaring some music. Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been totally out of the music scene. Not really following any new bands, and not really caring. This show, however, makes tracking new artists relatively easy. Of course, not all of the selections will be to your liking. But a lot of it, if not most, is really good and likely stuff you’ve (or at least that I’ve) never heard before. A few favorites I’ve found - Dog Trumpet, Lowell, and Royal Teeth.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Another NPR selection. This one, however, is less about music and more about TV, movies, celebrities, trends … things like that. I’ve only listened to two of these so I can’t say too much about it yet. One of the details I do enjoy about the show is that at the conclusion of every episode, the producers go around and say one thing that’s making them happy this week, which always functions as some sort of suggestion for fun things to go see or do.

Anatomy of a Movie

Anatomy of a Movie

Not for the weak of heart. This podcast can be long. Almost two hours long, actually. So yeah, there’s a lot you can probably skip over, but there’s also a lot you’ll want to listen to, carefully. If you’re into movies like I am, you’ll be frustrated that you can’t actually join in on this Socratic-like dissection of different movies, their actors, writers, sets, anything and everything else you can think of. I really enjoyed the discussion on Her and am looking forward to listening to one of their old episodes on Gravity. Browse all episodes here.

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio

This is another I’ve only just started listening to, but so far, it’s great. It’s a nice break for me, because I definitely don’t think like an economist ever. Like, at all. And it shows me an analytical side of things that I often overlook too quickly. I’m a total faker though, because I haven’t read this book yet and it’s been out forever. Maybe I’ll get the audiobook, and that will just feel like one giant podcast? In the meantime, I’ll keep listening to episodes like “Are We Ready to Legalize Drugs” and “Reasons to Not Be Ugly”.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which ones? Share your thoughts and thanks for reading!

*This, however, is a great start to any day.

My 2014 Oscar Predictions

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I can hardly contain myself. The Oscars are HERE! Every year, I look forward to the awards and the red carpet fashion, but for whatever reason, this year’s Academy Awards feel particularly exciting. I made it a goal this year to see as many of the nominated films as I could. Here’s what I saw:

  • American Hustle
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • August: Osage County
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Despicable Me 2
  • The Great Gatsby
  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • Lone Survivor
  • Iron Man 3
  • Blue Jasmine

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. My biggest regret in the list is not yet seeing 12 Years a Slave. Confession: I was nervous to see it in theaters because I know I will cry like a baby. I’ll wait until it’s available On Demand and watch it in the comfort of my own basement. That being said, from what I’ve heard it has good chances of snagging Best Picture, and for very good reason.

Below I’ll list who/what I think will actually win (#1) and who/what I really want to win (#2). I’ll only make predictions for the categories in which I’ve seen one or more of the films and feel I can make an educated (or at least somewhat educated) assumption. Alright then, without further ado…

Best Picture

  1. 12 Years A Slave
  2. Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actor

  1. Matthew McConaughey
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress

  1. Cate Blanchett
  2. Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Jared Leto
  2. Jared Leto or Jonah Hill

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Jennifer Lawrence
  2. Jennifer Lawrence or Julia Roberts

Best Animated Feature

  1. Frozen
  2. Despicable Me 2

Best Cinematography

  1. Gravity
  2. Gravity

Best Costume Design

  1. The Great Gatsby
  2. American Hustle

Best Directing

  1. Alfonso Cuarón
  2. Martin Scorcese

Best Film Editing

  1. 12 Years A Slave
  2. Gravity

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. Dallas Buyers Club
  2. Dallas Buyers Club

Fun fact: The makeup budget for this film was only $250!

Best Original Score

  1. Gravity
  2. Her

Best Production Design

  1. The Great Gatsby
  2. Her

Best Sound Editing

  1. Gravity (or Lone Survivor… I have faith)
  2. Lone Survivor

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Gravity
  2. Lone Survivor

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. 12 Years A Slave
  2. The Wolf of Wall Street

 Best Original Screenplay

  1. Her
  2. Her

Other items worth noting – Jennifer Lawrence has already tripped on the red carpet, Ellen DeGeneres is going to be amazing and as usual, Lupita nailed it. 

Share your own predictions in the comments or let me know via Twitter (@AllyDenton), I’ll be tweeting all night!

 

 

Travel is the best, but also the worst…

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Every year, I get the travel bug. Everyone must, right? It’s normal to crave a change of scenery, a break from your typical routine and new encounters with friends and people. Normally, I love the journey. In other words, the process it takes to get from point A to point B. Stick me in an airport for a few hours with a notebook and I’m a happy camper. When you’re in transit, you’re in this weird state of limbo where time dictates everything, like when you’re supposed to depart, but your normal sense of time is totally disrupted. Your personal schedule becomes basically irrelevant. It’s kind of cool. You’re pretty much at the mercy of the travel gods (aka airline booking agents) to make sure you’re good to go, leaving you with nothing to do but be still and pass the time.

This, of course, is easier said than done. I was reminded this past weekend how the very soothing thing I just described can become the most frustrating, exhausting task in the entire world. Travel can suck, big time. Especially when Operation Freeze Indiana Forever takes over just as you’re boarding your plane. Here are some reasons traveling is great and miserable all at once.

 

vintage United Airlines ad - Pinterest

vintage United ad, Pinterest

1. You want to feel glamorous, and sometimes you do (usually when you bring matching luggage and the inside of your purse could look like one of those “What’s In Your Carry On?” spreads the celebrities do in Vogue with oils and spritzers and shiz.. so yeah, it’s rare). But most of the time you just feel icky and smell like recycled air.

2. Everything is out of your control, which can be relaxing… until it’s not anymore. It’s amazing how the airport can go from calm, quiet oasis to that scene from Mean Girls when “the girls go wild”. That’s sort of what happened to me last Friday. I boarded the tiniest plane ever to connect in Chicago. I got on, no snow happening. I sit down in my seat, oh crap, it’s snowing. We pretend like we’re going to take off. Oops, bad idea. We turn around and head back to the gate. I kid you not I walked into a different airport than the one I had been in just moments before. Sides were taken, no one was smiling, it was loud, babies were crying, people were scared. Wild, I tell you.

3. Napping is appropriate. Where else (except for college) can you just fall asleep in the middle of the day and no one even thinks twice?

4. If you’re like me and have trouble napping, there are plenty of coffee shops, bars, markets, whatevers to keep you occupied, caffeinated and entertained.

5. The problem with #4: so. damn. expensive. And I’ve noticed the longer you have to sit and wait for your flight/train/bus the more you’re willing to spend and the less you care. I was at the airport for nearly 10 hours on Friday. By about hour seven, my budget plan hit the fan and died. $4 SmartWater? Sure. $6 magazine? Worth it. $3 bag of gummy bears? But I need this… It is a vortex people and it will suck you in.

6. People watching at transportation hubs is superb. If you’re solely an observer, usually no one will bother you. If you’re more forward, you can almost always strike up an interesting (or at least time-consuming) conversation with a fellow traveler. Of course there are moments when you might not feel like chatting. Flying home on Monday was one of those days for me. I was exhausted, I had a bad cold and had just about had it with anything airline-related. The 68-year-old doctor from Nigeria sitting next to me, however, felt quite the opposite and looking back, I’m glad I took the time to learn a little bit about his life. Be nice to everyone, it’s what makes the world go ’round, as they say.

image from Pinterest

image from Pinterest

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about travel?

In my opinion, the annoyances are always worth enduring in the end. By the time you arrive at your destination, any snags you ran into previously have faded away into the backdrop and you’re eager and ready for a new adventure.

 

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