Dear College Girl,

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Dear College Girl,

Two years ago I was you. Six years ago I walked around the campus that would become my home and became you. And today I get the privilege of working with you. You truly are some of my very favorite people. I love college and college students. I truly do. Just today I stood on my alma mater’s campus. I cheered for my home team and I thought of you.

Here’s what I want you to know. I get you. I see you. You are loved. You are worthy. You are okay even if you aren’t okay. College is amazing, wonderful, scary and hard all wrapped into one. You are about to have possibly some of the best nights of your life and quite possibly some of the worse. You are going to laugh and cry harder than you ever thought possible. You are going to make it through and if you don’t then you are going to be okay too.

I hope you love college even if you don’t love everything about it. I hope you grow. I hope you give and get grace. I hope you come in a different person than you walk out. I hope you learn about yourself, about others and about the world around you. I hope you learn that it is okay to make mistakes and fail. I hope you learn from your failures. I hope you pick yourself up and try again.

You are going to have some nights where you might sit and cry in your room because you think everyone is having fun without you. And then you are going to have some nights that are going to feel like a dream. I want you to know in the middle of it all you are okay. Instagram lies. Facebook deceives. And Twitter only shows 150 characters about someone’s night. That girl you sit next to is just as lonely as you sometimes. The boy who seems way too cool has no clue what he is doing. They haven’t done it before either and they are learning just like you are.

I want you to know you may walk out of college with some of your best friends and you may not. And both of those are okay. I truly hope you find wonderful friends, even if it takes years to get there. I hope you find your people, your home team, the people who you can call no matter what. I want you to find friends that love going out and having a great time but are just as content to sit at home and watch a movie and eat ice cream. Believe me you need the balance of both. Take lots of pictures, remember those moments, even when it seems like you are doing nothing. I promise those memories matter. Enjoy those people you get to spend these years with, because all too soon you could be scattered around the country.

I know you are going to face lots of pressure to look not only your best but also a certain way. And I am sorry. I am sorry that you will be faced with the constant pressure to conform to an ideal of beauty. I know it is oh so hard. I hope you know you are beautiful inside and out. I want you to know that the mirror lies and your beauty isn’t wrapped up in it. And if you struggle with how to handle all the pressure I hope you talk to someone.

In fact, I hope you find someone who is not your peer that you can talk to.  Whether it be, mentor, your professor, your campus minister, your counselor. Because I want you to know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Whether it be a failed test, a relationship that ended, or an addiction. I want you to know that those people in your life are there for you. They want to help you! They know for all the wonderfulness that is college there is a lot of hardness a lot of darkness and they want to be there and walk through it with you.  They know struggle is inevitable and they want to be there for you in the midst of it.

Whether you join a sorority, a sports team, an academic club, a campus ministry or all of the above, I hope you enjoy it. I want you to find your niche and love it. I hope you become a part of something that you never imagined you could or would and fall in love with it. I hope you know it is never to late to try something new.

I want you to know that if you date that is wonderful and if you don’t that is okay too. I want you to know that the handsome boy you date, may be the most amazing man you have ever met, but he doesn’t own you. Not one single bit of you. Not your heart, not your mind, and not your body. I hope you have so much fun if you go on dates but I hope you know you aren’t committed to any more than a meal, coffee or the concert he asked to take you to. And that ring by spring thing, don’t take it too seriously sister. Because maybe you’ll meet the man of your dreams here (and indeed have that ring) and maybe you won’t but either way I promise you will be okay.

And sweet girl if these four (0r more) years aren’t for you I want you to know that is okay. These years indeed will shape you but they do not have to define you. They are minute in the scheme of life. So if college life isn’t for you I hope you find the stage in life that you love. Even more I hope you learn to love each part and stage in life.

I want you to know that I am sitting here cheering for you. I believe in you. And I could not love you more. Like I said you are some of my favorite people. So I hope you enjoy these years that will fly by and may you alway know you have a friend here. You’ve got this girl!

From your friend,

The Former College Girl

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When Perfection Destroys

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At barely two I looked into the mirror, about to take a photo with my family and new baby brother and I starred back at my reflection. In the video that records this scene, you can hear my mother telling me to come on. I refuse to come take the picture and there I sit in front of the mirror and announce to myself and my family around me, “My hair don’t look pretty”.

Now some may think that little two year old girl was precious for saying that but honestly I think even at two that statement was a huge indicator of my personality. For whatever reason, I “knew” that I couldn’t take a picture because my hair didn’t look, “pretty”…it had to be perfect. And that is how I lived the first twenty years of my life striving for perfection that was unattainable.

Growing up I was the epitome of the “Little Miss Perfect”. And while I claimed to hate the nickname, deep down I loved it, because it meant I was doing something right. It meant that I was achieving what others thought was perfection. Oh how wrong they were, because inside I was dying. Do you know how hard it is to try to do everything right and perfect all the time.  It was exhausting. And that is where my eating disorder helped me out, he told me exactly what I needed to do to achieve the ultimate perfection and that was be the thinnest possible.

ED had a solution for every failed test, bad situation, breakup, loss, and it was, control it, with food. And the more I let ED take control, the farther I moved away from all that made me happy. Of course he told me the thinner I got, the more I was reaching perfection. However, the thinner I became, the more I lost, grades, relationships, friendships, social events, energy, and ultimately happiness. Yet, ED promised just a few more pounds and I would be there. Well, it never happened. No matter how thin I got, it never worked. And then one day I realized, this whole perfection thing wasn’t any fun, and it sure wasn’t getting me anywhere but despair.

That’s where grace came in and that is where the healing began. However, I didn’t learn that grace overnight but it was the  pain and suffering that got me there. Without these circumstances I am not sure grace would be as real to me as it is now. It finally sunk in that the God that I loved, didn’t love me because I was perfect, He loved me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t. And nothing I could do would make Him love me any more or any less than He did right then. As my dear friend says, “It’s okay that we’re not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” It was that message that made the darkness bearable and reminded me that there was light at the end even when I couldn’t see it. And those people who thought I was so perfect, well they loved the not perfect MK even more, because she was real. Unlike, perfect MK they could identify with the real MK (funny how I was convinced they wouldn’t know how to handle not perfect me).

So what about today? Do I still strive for that perfection? Even those questions make me laugh out loud. Because, today I cannot live without grace, because I am one big mess! And the fact that I am not perfect is totally okay. “Perfect MK” lived a really miserable life that led to a really horrible relationship with ED and other destruction. MK today, she messes up about every other minute. However, she is learning to accept the fact that it is okay, because in her imperfect mess she is loved deeply.

Maybe perfection in any aspect is your goal. My guess is on some level it’s tearing you apart. Let me tell you no matter how hard you try it’s not going to get you anywhere but misery and heartache. And even more, I bet the people in your life would love the not so perfect you even more than you could ever imagine. So just remember it’s okay to not be perfect, in fact it is extremely freeing!

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Breaking Up With Ed

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photo credit: Les Newsom

I lived with him for twelve years. He lied, cheated, nearly killed me and still I stayed. He made me lie to my friends, my family, and literally to everyone I knew. I was in elementary school when he moved in, so young, so innocent, yet so very broken. I lived by his rules and let them control my life. He was my best friend, my enemy, my dictator, all rolled into one…  To keep reading, follow along at…

https://houseofhatton.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/breaking-up-with-ed-2/
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Remembering Why

 

When I was a sophomore in college I wrote a book. I never published it, in fact I never wrote it down because truth be told it was all in my head. I worked at a doctor’s office and that summer as I typed up documents, filed patient’s charts, scanned paperwork and worked silently, I “wrote” my book. I thought about everything I would tell young women and men who struggled. I knew even then that your story mattered and was worth telling. Years went by, and I put the book on the shelf, never to be published or read. Because it is tough to tell your story and it is scary but even through the pain and tears it is what we have to do.

Nearly two years ago, I started this blog to tell my story and in doing that I did one of the bravest things I’ve have ever done, I told my story to the world. I thought it stopped there. I thought if I shared my story here I wouldn’t have to keep doing it. I wouldn’t have to continue to be real and vulnerable. I wouldn’t have to continue to open myself up to others but I was wrong. Because my story is about leaving perfection and learning grace. It is about a journey through recovery. It is about saying that some days are extremely hard and tear worthy and some days are filled with sunshine. But even more it is saying that my story in no way, in no manner is about me. It is about a grace so big that it wipes away all my shame and says you are made clean. You are not your eating disorder, you are not your depression, you are not your anxiety, you are not your past mistakes and shame because you were made clean by grace. You are dearly loved and always will be.

So because I know that grace, because I know that love I share my story and I will continue to share no matter what. And my friend I hope you share your story too and know that grace is bigger. And may you always remember…

You matter and you are loved,
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JLO, Smashing Mugs, and Changing the Story

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Truth be told, I like for other people to think that I am basically JLo in the Wedding Planner. In fact, when I mention that I am a Wedding Planner/Coordinator I sometimes throw that little joke in there and other times people just assume that is my life. Don’t get me wrong I love my job but it is a whole lot less glamour and glitter filled that JLo’s in that movie. However, the huge drama factor is still there. I get to deal with people who are focused on the biggest day of their life, which is exciting, happy, joyous and ah yes stressful. Insert the added drama. However, whether people’s dream day goes off without a hitch or whether there are many hitches (one’s they will never know about it, insert my job here) I get to witness the beginning of two lives, two stories coming together.

I have always been captivated by people’s stories. It is one of the many reasons I was an English major. It is probably also one of the reasons I picked my job. I LOVE to hear people’s stories. I love to read people’s stories. I love to listen to them. I love to watch them. I love to hear about them in any way shape, or form. However, oftentimes I feel like I am living the same story. I don’t want to change my story because that is too painful. It is too difficult. It is too much. But I have to and so do you.

When I started recovery nearly a year and half ago i had a decision to make. I could either start rewriting my story or keep living the same one. I could either hold tightly to the cliff or jump into the clear blue water. I of course chose to jump. More times than others I have had to remind myself why I made the decision I did, why I chose the road less traveled. If I am being honest this road has been hard. It been messy. It has been broken but it has been worth it. I could keep living the lies or I could walk in truth, truth that set me free.

There are certain lies that Ed used to tell me minute to minute about how I looked and the way I should feel about myself. Many of them came from experiences with family, boyfriends, friends and so on. Built up, these lies began to tell a story of who I was and what my worth was in. On my worst days, I sometimes think about those lies and start to wonder if they are still true (as if they EVER were!!). And I have to stop and remind myself that I get an opportunity to change the story of who I am, of what my worth is in and in what I am all about. That decision to change the story came when I decided to choose recovery.

Earlier this summer I smashed a mug. It was a mug made for me by a former boy. It was special to our relationship and I used to drink coffee out of it every morning. When that relationship ended my sweet mother hid the mug so I wouldn’t have to see it. Earlier this summer she found it while she was cleaning. I walked into the kitchen and saw the mug on the table and felt a lump in my throat. She explained she was going to pitch it but didn’t want to, she wanted me to do whatever I wanted it. I made a joke about smashing it and my brother concluded that would be a wonderful idea. So we went to the backyard and with the mug safely contained in a Ziploc bag, I began to smash it to pieces with a hammer. My loving brother, knowing this was a big step, filmed it and took pictures as we both laughed and the mug became unrecognizable in tiny pieces. Then I promptly threw the mug in the garbage, happy with my smashing results. Friends, smashing that mug was once of the best decisions I have ever made, because smashing it meant ending that story and starting a new one.

The fact of the matter is it was just a mug, an inanimate object,  and I could have easily thrown it away without the smashing. However, by smashing it, I decided to smash all the bad memories of that relationship. I smashed all the insecurities and lack of self-worth I felt during it.  I smashed the way I was treated. I smashed the idea of ever doing it to myself again. In essence, that smashing represented me changing the story for myself. By symbolically smashing that mug I smashed the idea of ever being treated that way again in a relationship and I smashed my old story and decided to create a new one. I changed the story.

Sometimes changing the story can be easier than others. For me changing the story means changing a story that I lived for over a decade. Just like choosing recovery daily, it is daily choosing everyday to change the story and live a new one. It means being brave and sharing my mess. It means not having it all together. It means asking for help. It means leaving perfection and learning grace.

Friend, you can make the one of the best decision you will ever make, by changing your story (of hurt, pain, trauma)  whatever it is. You can make the decision to smash your old story and start a new one. It takes strength, bravery, and vulnerability but then again every good and beautiful story has all of those. It is not safe but it is worth it. And may you ALWAYS REMEMBER…

YOU are LOVED and YOU are WORTH it!!
<3MK

No Matter What, YOU are BEAUTIFUL

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It happened nearly seventeen years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was on the playground, a young five-year-old. I was in a purple t-shirt esque dress, my hair long hair bouncing as I climbed up the to the top of the slide. Suddenly, she looked at me, a girl whose name I will never remember but whose words were imprinted on my heart. She looked right at me and said, “You’re fat!”. That is all she said and walked away. I honestly have no idea if we were friends, or if I even knew her name but even now nearly seventeen years later I remember my heart breaking. I remember it was all I could do to get home without crying. I remember telling my mom and grandmother. I remember my little heart and head couldn’t understand but even at five I knew that fat meant ugly and she had called me fat, which meant I was ugly…

Fast forward seventeen years later to a week ago, I am with a woman who loves me and knows my struggle, yet as we walk across the parking lot she grabs my arm looks at me and smiles. “I am so glad you dropped all that extra weight because you are just too pretty to not be tiny. I am so glad you are your tiny self again. You are just beautiful like that.” I starred at her not believing the words that just left her mouth and my heart and head took me right back to my five year old self who was broken-hearted because someone called her fat and therefore ugly. It didn’t matter that I knew I hadn’t changed sizes, it didn’t matter that I knew that this woman had an Ed and therefore couldn’t speak truth, it didn’t matter that I knew my beauty wasn’t defined in my size, it didn’t matter that I KNEW that fat and ugly are NOT synonymous, it stung. And for the last few days I have wrestled with that sting and why it hurt so bad and friends I think the truth I remembered in the midst of the sting is worth sharing…

When I was in the deepest darkest days of Ed, beauty meant one thing, it meant being thin. However, no matter how desperately thin I got it, was never enough. I could never see myself as beautiful, only ugly. My view of myself was defined in something temporary, in something that the world tells me is important. My beauty was defined in my physical appearance which is something that will never be perfect. The more I watch TV, flip through magazines, or browse pintrest the more disgusted I am. You see I am a true girly girl at heart. I love anything that sparkles and glitters, I love pretty dresses, I love nail polish, I love lipstick, I love getting all dressed up. But I have learned that none of those define me. And the more I look at the media and the more I hear young girls and older women talk the more my heart breaks, because the overarching message is this: You are beautiful when… you are size x, you have perfect hair, you have a clear face, your nails are manicured, you have beautiful clothes. My friends it is NOT true! As women I believe we have an innate desire to want to feel beautiful but I have learned that beauty in no manner comes from my physical appearance. Beauty is NOT defined in a size!

I know you just read that last sentence and were tempted to stop reading because you don’t believe me. You don’t believe that beauty is not about your physical appearance but I promise your beauty does not depend on your physical appearance and I desperately need you to believe that. Because until you do, you can’t fight the lies of the world that tell you otherwise. The statement from my friend and the girl when I was five stung because it defined me solely by my physical appearance, it defined me as only good enough or beautiful enough if I met certain standards, and it hurt to be put in such a narrow, rigid box of lies. And any time someone tries to define us in one way I believe it hurts because we are soo much more than what are face and body looks like. However, I will be the first to say that it is hard to not believe the lies that the world tells us but it is absolutely so much more fulfilling and life giving to fight the lies.

I truly believe that I have the most beautiful friends and family in the world. However, their beauty has everything to do with their heart, their faith, their love for others, their ability to show grace and has nothing to do with their size, their clothes, their hair or makeup. The truth is my hair will one day turn gray. I will have wrinkles and saggy skin. I will probably shrink. My teeth my fall out. I may have age spots. And yet I will still be beautiful and so will you. If I prescribed to the world’s idea of beauty, I am not sure how I could get out of bed in the morning. Most days I wear yoga pants, shirts that are two sizes two big, and my hair in a messy bun. I get zits, my hair normally needs to be washed, more days than not I don’t wear makeup, so if I spent my time following the world’s idea of beauty, why would I get out of bed. Frankly, I would be terrified I wouldn’t match up. But each day I get up, I fight the temptation to give into the lies of the world and I remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and am absolutely beautiful, no matter what my physical body looks like.

Friends, I wish I could say that everyday, every hour, every minute, I believe this truth but I don’t and frankly some days are just harder than others. Some days I fight the lies of my past life with Ed and the lies of the world. But I remember that I am aiming for grace, not perfection and each time I remember the truth and live in the truth, that is beauty. Beauty surrounds me in the smiling faces of those who love me as my messy broken self, beauty is in the scars of battles won, beauty is living in freedom and not bondage. The world lies and tells us beauty is in the face but I am hear to tell you it is in the heart. Beauty is all around you and I dare you to see it and live in it this week. The second you feel the urge to tell yourself that you are not beautiful, I dare you to put on your grossest t-shirt, your stained yoga pants, throw your hair up in a messy bun, and forget the makeup. Stare at yourself in the mirror, smile and tell yourself how absolutely beautiful you are, because it is the TRUTH! Whether you are wearing sweats, a prom dress, a swim suit, a wedding gown, or pajamas, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!  My prayer is that you will discover how truly beautiful you are this week, because that is freedom, that is living in truth. And in case no one has told you today, you are absolutely beautiful inside and out just the way you are!! Believe that truth this week friend and live in the freedom of discovering real true beauty. And may you ALWAYS REMEMBER…

YOU are LOVED and YOU are WORTH it (and once again, YOU are BEAUTIFUL, INSIDE and OUT!)!!

<3MK

Uncertainty and Control: My Not So Best Friends

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As I sit here my eyes are heavy and my head is running a hundred miles an hour with a million things to do. Truth is I am a list girl and with moving, working, spending time with friends, etc. my lists are piling up.  And when my lists pile up so do my perfectionist tendencies, so do my worries, so do the lies. For the past week I have been worn out emotionally, physically, spiritually, from transition in all areas in my life and when I am worn down bad habits start to creep up. And instead of being honest and open with people, I shut down and I shut up. I don’t say how I am really doing and I put on the Miss Perfect Hat. I let little things get to me and I start to only see things as right and wrong in my life or as black and white. So what am I doing instead of listening to the overwhelming lies in my head? I am sitting down and talking to you dear friends. Because maybe you’ve had a week like mine. Maybe you need to hear this as much as I do…

I am so not good at transition or shall we say change. I fight it with every fiber in my being and the last few months have been all about change. I graduated college, I got a big girl job, I got a lovely house, I got a wonderful boyfriend. All of these are beautiful things. I also had several people leave (or who are about to leave) who are my family, I had friends move away, I had to make real decisions about what I want for the future. There is so much good wrapped up in this change, yet I still fear it like many of us do, because it is uncertain. And frankly the unknown, the uncertain, often drives me over the edge and that is where the problem begins.

When everything in my life seems uncertain, I do the one thing that make life feel more certain to me…I control. I control my relationships, I control my behavior,  my decisions, even my wardrobe. Honestly, it’s not bad to plan or be well prepared but I take it to the max when I feel the need to control. In the past Ed, was the master at this he knew just how to control my life through negative food behaviors. Even being strong in recovery for almost two years, there are days in the midst of uncertainty that I have to sit back and take in the truth and not listen to the lies that start to creep in. Because the fact is, I don’t believe them anymore and I don’t live by them. However, when I am worn down and fragile they have a way of breaking through the steel trap door which I have locked them deep behind.

Maybe you have struggled with Ed, maybe you haven’t but I think we can all understand the desire to control when everything seems out of control. Here is the bad thing though, when I lean into the control I lean into my perfectionist qualities. When I lean into my perfectionist self I don’t like who I become. That MK always has an answer  for everything, she has to constantly have her hair and wardrobe perfect, she has to always say the right things, she is irritable, she can’t mess up, and she certainly cannot share her mess. She becomes more focused on the results and not the relationships and people in her life. That MK, cannot leave the house in yoga pants, she cannot relax when she is with friends, she cannot stand when one thing in the house is out of place, she can’t sit still, she can’t be really present, and she cannot deal with imperfection. Let’s be real, that MK is NO fun to be around!

There are times when my life is just more messy than usual. There are times where the pain and past wounds seem to still sting. There are times where I just cannot catch my breath and the last few weeks have been like that. Don’t get me wrong there has been a lot of joy and wonderful times in the past few weeks. I have always been a glass more than half full girl. I can tell you all about the sunshine and the roses but today I need to tell you about the rainstorm because that is just as real. We don’t talk about the rain and hail, especially in the midst of it, so I am going to take a big leap of faith and do just that. In the midst of the rain, when I cannot see the sun life is hard and my desire is to control and when I control I become the worst version of myself. However, I don’t have to be that controlling person, but that takes major effort.

It is during the rainstorm that I have to take time to rest, to practice self-care, to be still, and to know that taking care of my self, especially when life is hard, is NOT selfish. If we don’t give our bodies time to rest, to feel all the emotions that come with uncertainty and to work through them, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. For me unwinding is reading a favorite book curled up with a cup of coffee, it is watching cheesy ABC family sitcoms, it is a glass of wine and a chat with my best friend, its a nap in the middle of the day, it is praying, it is singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite song. Those are all healing for me, however I will say this healing activity can soon turn into numbing. I know all about numbing from my years with Ed and I never want to go back there. So I build in me time but I also don’t let it take over. Because lets be real, I could sit and read for days, I could lay in bed and watch every episode of every TV show ABC family ever created, but that wouldn’t be helpful and it would certainly check me out to life and I don’t want that. So I rest and take time to heal but I don’t numb out.

This coming week I am striving to be the more balanced MK. The MK that doesn’t freak out when her boxes are packed wrong, the MK that can get ready in ten minutes, the MK who doesn’t focus on what she eats. And here is the secret, I will slip up this week and want to go back to the control and so will you, because we aren’t perfect. Each slip up though reminds me that instead of focusing on what I did wrong there, I have a chance to do it right the next time. And in allowing myself to mess up I give myself grace and with that grace comes rest, and when I rest I loosen my grip on the control and perfection because I don’t need them anymore. That is what I wish for you this week my friend,  that you would show yourself grace and give yourself rest. Rest in whatever way you need to and loosen your grip on the control, because control destroys, rest and grace do not. So slip on your pajamas and curl up on the couch and rest in the manner that is the most helpful for you and watch the need to control slip away. You can do it this week and know that I will be doing it right there with you… and may you ALWAYS REMEMBER…

YOU are LOVED and YOU are WORTH it,

<3MK