A Review – Part 1: Books

I’ve been thinking about this series for a long time. I’ve spoken about starting it several times, i’ve thought about publishing different versions, but it just didn’t feel authentic or right. Plus, nowadays everyone has a blog, and I recognize mine is just one of the many, but what makes it worth it are the awesome messages of support from readers I’ve never met but who seem to get why I started this blog in the first place.

So here it goes, an attempt to end the hiatus for real this time.

A Review of What’s Been Happenin’: Books

When I moved to Carrboro. I was scared out of my absolute-freaking mind. The support and encouragement from my mentors, family, and friends, was the security blanket I clung to for what felt like weeks. The bubble of comfort and “safety” I had in Asheville? Was popped without my permission (Or so it felt) and I was in a totally new place, without a clue of how to feel about my least favorite thing in the world – change.

But i’ll get into that later…. this post is going to recap for you all my academic experience for the past year. Which can arguably be summed up in a loud audible sigh.

First, a round of applause for my professors who challenged the mess out of me at UNC Asheville.

Second, a round of applause for my bosses/coworkers who taught me everything I know about professionalism and developed me as a leader, and employee.

Third, for my parents who taught me to be stubborn and raised me with a work ethic that makes me want to roll my eyes at my own self sometimes, but I digress.

What has Graduate School taught you so far?

one year

This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s hard to sum up the amount of notes taken or lectures and classes that I sat through because the learning process changed so much for me in grad school. And to be honest that I don’t think you realize how much you learn in that first year until you’re at work and spit out vocabulary words from your organizational theory course or cite case from public administration law as if it is the most natural thing of life. However, since the post is titled books, here is a quick list that I think sums up the year.

Stop ignoring your local governments like they are antiquated and don’t do anything. They do everything.

I came into my MPA program, not wanting to really go into local government, but rather understand it’s role in whatever career related to housing that I would end up choosing, and what I got instead of guidance on the housing piece was a whole lot of knowledge and understanding about how crucial local government is to everyday life.

And the sad thing is? We ignore them. We ignore it and take for granted what local government’s contribute to everyday life. We don’t understand what public servants really do. We rush to look at the state level (oh NC….ohhhhhh NC….) and the federal level like that’s where it ALL happens when that’s where A LOT happens but not ALL things happen.

From housing, to roads being paved, to public transportation. Safety, making the community look nice, programs for the young, old, and in between. Things are really really happening at the local level, and despite my resistance at first, meeting what’s felt like hundreds of county and town managers (really just dozens) across NC, has really put the role of local government into perspective. So I challenge you, look up your town or city’s official website/twitter, look at what they’re doing. Even if you don’t get involved. You’d really be surprised as to how much is going on.

I can’t run away from math anymore.

Ya’ll. I took budgeting this past semester. Had a phenomenal professor who was patient in every single way you could be patient, and I learned so much about math I didn’t understand before. And maybe it was just the practicality of the course and how I realized I had to actually understand the math she was describing and educating us about, but truth is, I just can’t run from it anymore. It’s been a good streak though. #RIPmathavoidance2012-2016

There are more and more acronyms being created everyday and ya’ll might as well start tracking them.

I’ve been hearing acronyms for things I didn’t realize had acronyms from day one of graduate school. Eventually most if not all were explained to me, but my goodness it was so daunting for the first few weeks. My most salient example however is from my first day of work this summer. I learned a total of 11 acronyms on my first day. ELEVEN. Come on housing world…. do better….

Procrastination is the devil.

All I have to say about this is that my worst nights (and some of the funniest) came from times I procrastinated and I never want to do it again, and am fully aware that come October (that’s my goal) that’ll probably not be realistic but hey… i’m trying.

A lot more goes into your environment than you realize.

This is kind of like the “stop ignoring your local government” lesson, but the planning version. This past year I decided to apply for the City & Regional Planning program, was accepted and will be officially joining in the fall as a dual degree student. However, I had the opportunity to take a workshop in the Spring, and it blew my mind on a weekly basis. Despite it being housing focused, it consistently explored the intersectionality between other policy areas and over time, I realized how interconnected the players that construct the towns and places we live and enjoy on a daily basis truly are.

Sleep. Please do it.

I can’t really talk about getting sleep because I started writing a part of this at 1:30 in the morning  BUT, the first year of graduate school has really taught me to value sleep. Partially because it would happen anyways, and partially because I didn’t like how my body was reacting without it. Sleep matters. Do you best to get it. #tipofthecentury


Of course there is more….

struggle story

So 6 items is not an accurate depiction of ALL that I learned, but these six I’ve listed above really capture the year in a nutshell.

My hope is that over time i’ll be able to change and grow from all of it, but for now I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

So, that’s why i’ve broken up this series into four sections: Books, Pugs, Stresses, and Joys.

We’ve covered books! So be on the lookout for Part 2: on Pugs coming soon.


As always, Much love!



But what if I fall? Oh darling, but what if you fly ? : Choosing not to crumble.

If someone told me that senior year would have been the way it has been for me, I would have only partially believed them. I say this because the past eight months have been eight of the most ridiculous roller coaster rides I would have ever expected. I’m not talking the duo-toned roller coasters where it’s just up and down, good and bad. I’m talking the up, down, in the middle, half up – half down, super down, lower than low, higher than high, middle-high, middle-low, you name it… sometimes in a week.. hell let’s be real, sometimes just in 24 hours.

I’m stubborn though ya’ll, this post isn’t exactly like me…

I’m not the type to show my emotions to everybody, or even if I do show my emotions, show the depth to which they are affecting me.

But it’s time for some honesty, because honestly, I now know for a fact after talking to a handful of seniors, and even some juniors waiting in line for the senior year ride, that I cannot be the only one on this campus, nor in this world that hasn’t felt like this at some point, or right now.

Truth is..

I have been in a constant state of fear, anxiety, depression, happiness, and emotion for the past 8 months. Nights are especially hard, because that’s when all the meetings, classes, and talking stops, and the only talking, the only sounds I hear are swirling all around me in my head, my heart, in and out of my ears, overwhelming me even more. And many might say “Pssh, how can that be? You have it all together”, and to that I say LOL , a huge laugh out loud. I don’t think there has ever been a period for more than a few hours where even i’ve felt completely together, and although I don’t think that is a bad thing, I do want to say that not having it all together all the time is definitely a part of humanity, and I don’t try and be perfect and act like it’s not a part of my reality.

There’s this large fat ball of anxiety (my friends have heard me describe it as a fat guy) on my chest at all times. The size fluctuates, somedays it’s tiny, somedays it’s huge and the smallest of things, positive or negative can 15528391258_8c107335cd_otriple or double its weight and size. Somedays its a lump in my throat. Somedays it sucks all the energy out of me and feels like a million bricks.

I have trouble wanting to get out of bed in the morning.

Among my friends and colleagues they know that I am a heavy sleeper. In times of humor I pride myself on it. Oh yeah I could sleep through anything, if Jesus came back tomorrow morning he’d have to poke me and tell me to get up cause he knows how hard I fall asleep. But it’s not that part that is the tough part, not the opening of my eyes, but the willing my body out of bed part. Willing my mind to slow down and just take the first step of the day, the step onto the floor. No, oh no, my body and mind, and heart would rather just curl up and stay in bed all day long… and avoid the roller coaster ride for just one more day.


I am constantly surrounded, consistently supported, and yet I feel alone.

In the past year I have seen my inner circle grow tinier and tinier. And the results are some pretty amazing, ambitious, hilarious, and wonderful people.

In the past year I have to deal with this weird soap opera like love life that I know is bound to teach me so much but I’m still waiting for some of those lessons to begin, but I guess they only start once the pain ends.

In the past year, my mind has grown and opened its horizons, grown stronger and better at defending my dreams from doubt and sadness… all the while my heart has been lagging behind.

And so I come to my inspiration for this post. A decision I made that completely tore me apart in ways i never expected it to.

Less than three weeks ago I let go of a person who presented their heart to me in a box. Who’d filled my last few months with laughter, care, emotion, attention, intensity, and faith. All the while, I’m struggling with everything mentioned above, and with some things dealing with this person as well. And my fear, anxiety, and emotion won. In addition to practical reasons that led me to let this person go, the fear-anxiety-emotional combo is what truly sealed the deal. And what’s worse is that making the decision to do so revokes all my rights to the laughter, care, emotion, attention, intensity, and faith. What is worse, is that I did to this person, what just a year ago, was done to me. And so I know exactly what the receiving end of my reasoning feels like.

And the first quote that came to mind when I verbalized my decision, was
” What if I fall? Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”

There are days when I regret the decisions I make that are inspired in any way-shape-or form by fear-anxiety-and emotion. And then there are days when I have a glimmer of confidence that it was the right thing to do. And the only advice I can give to people searching for the key to not crumbling after making a hard decision… is to think it through.

Thinking may not always help, but it can calm you down.

When thinking of reversing any hard decision. I think of how. After I figure out how, I think of why. Why is the Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.45.07 PMhardest part. Is the why the why you truly see or the why that everyone is telling you to see? Is the why how you truly feel? Or is the why the why that people are inspiring you to feel? Then after that mess is semi-figured out, I return back to how. How to reverse or not reverse. How to crumble and stand back up, or not crumble and grow stronger.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about my choices every night when the words are flying all over my head. And I’d be lying if I said that I will never change my mind, because I know that is a possibility. But if that truly ends up being the case, I can only hope for the best… and prepare for the worst.

Crumbling just CAN’T be an option right now.

This is what i tell myself every morning to get out of bed. Ultimately I admit this not to gain pity, nor worry…but to make others with their own options, with their own pep talks…realize all of this mess is not a singular thing.

What’s that saying? Keep on keepin’ on?


Keep on Keepin’ on

And if we fall? We fall…. But what if, what if…we do fly?

Besides… Who ever said chasing your dreams was easy?

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.33.06 PM

Much love,


Dreaming up dreams is hard, and so is following them

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you reach the peak of a roller coaster and it’s about to go zooming down this steep decline and its way too late to even stop or get off? That’s how I feel. That is how I’ve been feeling for the past two weeks.

When I was little, I day dreamed a lot. I mean I had the whole day dreaming – imaginary friend thing down pat. My dreams were so plentiful sometimes I had no idea what reality was really like. And that saved me throughout the years, from heartache and from a hard heart even after life slung some foul pitches at me.

I always knew Dreams came at a cost.

Dreaming was always lined with that little bit of doubt, they’re scary, and the uncertainty you get when you dream and dream and dream, and invest all your time and effort and hard work into these dreams for years and years…. that’s supposed to be the hard part… or so I thought.

Recently I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to continue my education at the graduate level. I’m also up for the opportunity to learn and grow in the field I want to study in a program worth dreaming about. And although I am thrilled and grateful beyond belief, the same feeling I felt when dreaming about all of this is encroaching on me now… that doubt and that fear… and the realization that pursuing my dreams now that they’re semi realized is going to be a challenge too. The decision-making (oh lord this pro and con list will be epic), the financial commitments, the re-location costs, saying goodbye to friends and family, saying goodbye to comfort and security….

And so…

The tips I’ve gotten are plenty.

“Go with your heart Stephanie”

“Go where the money is!”

“Make a pro & con list”

“Do what YOU want to do”

“Go to the best program for YOU”

And the list goes on and on and on. Through it all I remain grateful and thankful to even have the issue of deciding… but I can’t ignore the facts.

Turns out following your dreams is just as hard as dreaming them. And so when in doubt, I find these quotes slapping me in the face with their realness.

dreamcitieslove         daretobegin         couragetopursue

And so all I ask are prayers and good vibes… that I may have the courage to pursue, to begin, and to work through the difficult parts… and find peace with the decisions I have to make this month.

In light of this vent-post, I must also share that i’ve started a gofund me campaign in hopes that anyone who is able and willing can contribute to this wonderful (But costly) undertaking. Any and everything is appreciated. This dreamer thanks you for it.

Much Love,


Running to & away from the Future

FEELTHEFEARThe feeling in the pit of my stomach...

Monday night, I submitted my first graduate school application. Hours before then, at noon, I submitted my first fellowship application. Earlier this evening, I submitted my second fellowship application. Monday night, there was nausea and tears. Tonight, jitters. And I have a feeling all three are not going anywhere anytime soon. And the feeling I have in the pit of my stomach, is beyond fear of rejection, it is rather the combination of recognition and terror. Recognition that I am graduating from college in 4 months. Terror at the fact that no amount of planning mixed with dreaming can truly measure up and prepare me fully for whatever the future has in store.

Excuse my melodramatic tone, but I think today I just realized that this phase of my life…the college phase… is coming to an end. The phase that seemed oh so scary four years ago, is on this weird conveyor belt-like stage until the next phase begins…

Plans can only do so much.

You can plan and plan and plan for everything. You can work hard and be patient. It pays off, it does, but there will always be phases in which you realize you cannot run away. Ironically, we praise the future. We talk about how great it’s going to be. If I had a dollar for all the confidence people have in the future, for themselves, for myself… well I’d have enough money to cover some of these application fees coming up…

We run to the future, thinking that being grown means something easier, fancier, shiny, and bright. We want to make a difference, and yet when those graduate school applications ask us, we tend to draw a blank… Pouting, we fill out how we want to save the world and begin to try to give our hopes and dreams justice in just 500 words, or for the real stressful occasions 1 minute, 250 words, or an elevator ride. And so we find ourselves stuck, applying, studying, waiting, pursuing, stressing, applying, and rinse and repeat… we are strung up in this weird limbo, running away and towards the future at the same time.

Run me back through time.

Writing a dozen essays about your plans for the future will make you reflect a lot about the past. And for the past few weeks of my restful/not so restful winter break, I keep thinking of 10 year old me, and 15 year old me, and 17 year old me. I think of 10 year old me, awkward and growing out of a tomboy phase and into the early stages of womanhood, with no idea of what was going on, and I wish I could appear as myself to my younger self and talk her down from feeling so low and awkward and out of sync with her own spirit. To 15 year old me, I would to her to protect her heart with ferocity. I would tell her to love herself sooner, because the 21 year old would be grateful for it later on…I would tell her to keep her head up… and to rethink the whole bangs idea. To the 17 year old me, I would tell her to talk to her dad more… it would’ve saved her a lot of awkward talks in college.

Running back through time almost feels surreal. You’re running back through the movie that is your life, and then all the sudden you feel like you’re at the credits because you can’t see into the future you don’t know what’s next so it feels so so so so much like the end… and it’s just the beginning… but we don’t get that until after we’ve crossed that line.

But I’m rambling now…sorry….

My point is, whenever a huge transition in our lives is upon us, we get stuck in this limbo.



And I wish that here I could type to solution to solving that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you want to run away and towards the future at the same time…but alas I’ve got nothing.. Only the thought that I think it happens a lot more than people would care to admit.

And maybe if we were more honest with how terrified we all are, it’d be more bearable to get through.

Or maybe if we stopped running for a second, and took a moment to reflect, no word or time limit, on everything that has happened to get us to this very moment and place in time… we would come to have a little more faith in the idea that we’ll make it through.

So to all my readers, whether you’re in my boat applying for future jobs, schools, or new opportunities… hold steady, as steady as you can be. The struggle is real, but we all ultimately have to, and will get through it.

Much love,


P.S : For my college seniors out there, here’s a really cool bucket list from Thought Catalog “13 things to do your last semester of college…”