sometimes it’s hard

Well hey there friends, it’s been a while. And by a while, I mean over a year. This last year has been… interesting. So buckle up and let’s jump in.

My last post was right after I got my job offer in August 2017. I promise I had full intention to continue blogging, as writing was my side hobby/de-stressor. But life hit me, and hit me hard, and I never felt like I had the right words to address it. But not addressing it felt wrong too, so instead I just didn’t write.

I kept wanting to… but I couldn’t find the words. So, I didn’t.

I still don’t have the words, but now… a full year later… I’m giving myself permission to not have the words. And it’s going to be alright.

Less than three weeks into my new job, my sister in love was sent to the hospital. She was there for a few days when we got the “Hope for a miracle, but don’t plan on it” update. On Sunday, September 24, 2017, just two days after her 28th birthday, Stephanie passed.

How was I supposed to put into words how I felt?

There was a lot that came along with Stephanie’s death. A lot of sadness and shock. A search for peace and acceptance. An eery feeling of deep sorrow but love when all the family and friends gathered for her funeral and no one could talk, but just gave each other “that look” followed by a deep and tight hug. Those hugs that somehow, if we held each other tight enough, all the pain would disappear. The battle of feeling oddly guilty when sharing funny stories (because let’s be real, Stephanie was hysterical) and giggling and laughing about Stephanie, but her infamous laugh not being part of the harmonious laughter. The adjustment of “is” to “was”. The search for a new normal that came with the weeks and months following, when I still saw her on my speed dial in my car every day to and from work. The hard, heavy, wet, full-body sobs when some days the only thing I could do was cry. The self-condemnation that someone was hurting worse than me so I wasn’t allowed to hurt (none of us like to admit it, but you know we all go through this with grief). The fear of my life continuing without getting to share it with Stephanie.

I couldn’t put it into words. I couldn’t write about it. It was hard to talk about it. But it was even harder to go into a world every day, where I was new, and act like my world inside wasn’t crumbling.

In late fall, I went to grief therapy. I wasn’t handling my grief well internally, and it was affecting both work and my personal life. Although I won’t and probably couldn’t describe to you most of what we talked about during our sessions, there was one factor that really stood out to me. One quick conversation of many that really stuck: I was sharing about how angry and frustrated I felt about losing Stephanie – how it made me angry that this happened to my brother and that my niece now had to grow up without her mom – how it made me upset that something like this would happen to a family with such strong faith – how it made me frustrated that Stephanie would miss out on so many aspects of my life and moments that we had talked about sharing. The list went on and on, and at one point (when I probably finally took a breath) she cut in and asked me why I felt so angry. Well, because she wasn’t supposed to die! It wasn’t supposed to be this way! To which she replied… “Says who? Who says she wasn’t supposed to leave now? Who says that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be?” I. Was. Speechless. Uhm… because I said? Because of my brother? Because people shouldn’t die that young, especially when they have a wonderful husband and a beautiful child and so many friends and family to love them? Because.. well I don’t know why. But she wasn’t. I’m not going to lie, I was blown away but also wanted to smack this woman in the face. She kept asking the same question and I kept trying to defend, until I realized that I didn’t have an answer. And she admitted she didn’t either. None of us do. But, it did happen. So since Stephanie isn’t here, what can I do to continue without her? How can I live my life in honor of her? How would she want me to live my life? If she could have told us how to continue on without her, would it have been with anger and frustration? Stephanie was the woman who could crack jokes while battling “an evil tenant in her brain” – she certainly wasn’t the woman that would want us continuing on in life out of frustration and anger. What a disloyalty that would be to a woman who always found the beauty in life, no matter the battles.

So the conversation didn’t totally go like that, but you get the gist. So now my daily mission is to live each day like Stephanie would live. To love deeper and harder in her memory. To document as much as possible, whether physically through photos or writing or by absorbing in moments, because memories last longer than moments.

It’s been almost a year since Stephanie passed. One year ago I flew home to Tampa to visit her in the hospital for a couple days, bracing myself that it may be the last time I ever saw her, but praying and hoping it wouldn’t be. It’s been a year, and sometimes it’s hard. Some days are easier and some are harder. I’m still working through my feelings. I’m still processing through them. I’m still learning how to celebrate the moments in my life without feeling the sadness or bitterness that Stephanie isn’t sharing them with me, but also being happy knowing that she’s still with me.

So, I am going to start writing again. I am going to share about how my first year of being an SA Pro was extremely freaking hard. I’m going to share about how I got engaged to my best friend and adventure partner (!!!) and about how insane (yet fun) this wedding planing process is. I am going to continue to share the real and raw of life, because sometimes it is hard. But sometimes it’s beautiful. And thanks to Stephanie, I’m able to see the beauty of every moment, and I will forever live that out in her memory.

the #SAsearch is over!!

Seven months.

It has been seven months since my #SApro search began.

I remember sitting in a Which Wich in early January, writing about the journey that is “job searching”. That was 200 days ago.

200 days of job searching.

200 days.

This job search has been the most complicated, interesting, suspenseful, stressful, confusing, exciting, anxious, weird adventure. And now that it’s officially over, I feel like I can properly discuss this process that I have tried to keep vague and private until now.

But before we board the roller coaster for one last ride, let me share my big news!

I accepted the offer of Coordinator for Programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Ways to know you’re adulting besides getting married



I started my graduate assistantship two years ago.


731 days ago (leap year surprise!), I bought myself another two years of fake adulting before the real world.




Sometimes I forget how many different paths of life are available. I have three degrees, moved to a new state with my boyfriend, and just adopted a dog (!!!). I have no ring. I have no children. And right now, I have no job.

Some people my age have rings. Or they’re married. Or they have children. Or they still live in our hometown. Or they’re still in school. Or they never went to school.

Our generation really likes to milk the whole “adulting” phase (example, example two, and example three, for your enjoyment). Although we borderline mock it, I think we are so obsessed with the concept of “adulting” due to the great pressure we have from others on proving that we can be independent and make it in the real world. From some set of expectations that everyone agrees on but no one knows who set them, we believe the following:

In order to become an adult, you must:

Find “the one”

Get married

Have children

Pay bills

Earn the title of “adult”

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 4.05.27 PM
Our expectations of adulting

This can be cool. This is traditional. (Trust me, I’m a sucker for tradition). But welcome to 2017, folks, where we can have a million ways to earn the same result: happiness.

A lot of these experiences (getting married, having children, okay maybe not paying bills but you get the point) are so sensationalized that we forget the real reason we should do them isn’t for others, but for ourselves.

I don’t care how you adult. I don’t care if you never adult. I don’t care how you measure it. I just want you to be happy.

“Adulting” isn’t a thing. It’s not adulting. It’s just living.

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24 things to do while 24, featuring the evil blue square

Disclaimer: This blog post really includes three posts in one!
Click here to jump to “23 Things To Do While 23”
Click here to jump to the blog about the evil blue square
Click here to jump down to “24 Things to Do When 24”

I had another birthday, and I’m late on my next birthday bucket list again!

Last September, I posted a blog about 23 things that I wanted to do while I was 23. Last June, my “friend” (aka my boyfriend) suggested that I do this list. Well, if you’ve kept up with my blog posts, you’ll know how chaotic 23 was for me! I’m excited for 24 since I’m a lot more settled in my life– but that doesn’t mean I’m slowing down! First, I want to do a review of my 23 list, and then I’ll share my 24 list!

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Expectations Are Fancy (and usually wrong) Guesses

Thank you to Erica Noll for this great idea, from my Blog Idea Contest.

Topic:  Dealing with the expectations of everyone (including yourself)

plural noun: expectations
  • a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
    “reality had not lived up to expectations”
  • a belief that someone will or should achieve something.
    “students had high expectations for their future”

I’m not going to lie– I wrote my first draft of this blog yesterday*, and it was complete crap. Okay, maybe a little harsh, but it certainly wasn’t good. My personal editor (aka my boyfriend…) always reads over my posts before I post them to check for clarity, grammar, spelling, repeated words, made up words, etc. I had him read this last night because I felt that it was just “meh.” He agreed. It was just “meh.” Not like it was bad, but, well let me just quote him (sorta because not like I actually wrote down what he said):

“Amanda in writing is usually funny. She’s usually sassy and funny and real. This post didn’t have any of that Amanda in it. It just, was a normal post. Unless I knew you wrote it, it didn’t even sound like your writing, because it was just, meh.”  – Boyfriend

Okay, you get the point. I was meh.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have coffee. Maybe it’s because I didn’t feel great yesterday.

Or maybe, I was writing what I expected to write, so the more I tried the more disheartened I became.

Did ya catch it? Expected, get it? Because this post is about expectations?!

*Giggles at self while writing* Well, normal Amanda writing is back!

Here’s the thing about expectations: none of us are That’s So Raven, so no one really knows what to expect (and even she was usually wrong, seeing something out of context!) We have expectations to try to prepare us for something, or pump us up, or excite us, or calm us down, but really, I think we usually use expectations more as a crutch than to admit that we don’t know something.

When I was first brainstorming for this blog, I thought it was going to be so cool to share my expectations and the reality of each situation. But maybe the reason my blog was so “meh” was because, well, I basically just kept saying “expectation was wrong, expectation was wrong, expectation was wrong….” and, well, that’s not very exciting to read about. And that really got me reflecting on expectations, and then I realized that I actually share them all the time.

Look at my past posts: I talked about my expectations for TPE and NASPA and then the reality of the situation. I talked about my expectations of post-undergraduate life, and then the reality of going to graduate school when I swore I never would. I even talked about the reality when life started kicking my butt in my second year of graduate school, when I thought that my hard work would keep everything else in my life in place (spoiler alert: A LOT OF IT ISN’T IN MY CONTROL). Are you seeing a pattern yet?

So what’s the point of expectations anyway?

That’s where the real debate comes in.

In a way, expectations are fancy (and usually wrong) guesses. We can’t predict the future. While I’m all for preparation (especially for things like job interviews, meeting the parents, studying for a test, etc), a lot of times I have expectations for things that 1) really don’t matter, or 2) are going to change anyway.  It is interesting, however, to see how much expectations and reality match up, or how far off they are!

Let me give you some examples, shall I?


I’ll never go to grad school

Grad school will be like undergrad

I’m going to save money and meal prep

Long distance is going to be so hard and straining

I am going to pay attention and work hard

I will not be “friends” with my students

I am going to graduate with a job

I’m not moving in with my boyfriend

I will not get Chipotle. I will not get Chipotle.

I am going to finally start getting into a workout routine

I’m going to stay BFFs with all my sisters

I’m going to work 20 hours a week in my assistantship


I got my Masters in April

Just 80 pages of reading and three papers!

Chipotle… again…

When you care about something, putting in work isn’t difficult

Hard work doesn’t always prevent mistakes

Sends snapchats because I miss them

Summer is actually kind of nice!

Hey babe, when is rent due?

*dips chip in guacamole*

Does dipping my pizza in ranch count as burning calories?

Barely talks to more than family

32 hours later…

Okay, so what IS the point?

I know for me, it provides a sense of comfort. It allows us to begin thinking proactively about what we might encounter– like benefits, challenges, happiness, etc. It gives us a sense of security and ability to prepare for a situation. The problem with expectations is when a result differs, and we are unable to be flexible with the outcome. This is disappointing when it’s something like your food at a restaurant not tasting as good as you hoped, but it’s problematic when you end up hating a job or experience when you were really excited about it. Although it could be positive, if you take a chance and end up being thrilled with the result. But once we have several confirmed or denied expectations, we begin assuming that each scenario will be like the previous, and it begins to shape the way we think.

Think about food. If you keep going out to restaurants (or one particular restaurant) and expect the food to taste great and then, well, it doesn’t, you start to really dislike the restaurant. After a while, you probably won’t go back because, well why pay for a “eh” meal when you can get Chipotle? But the reverse is true. I LOVE Chipotle, and almost always have a great experience. So even if a few times it doesn’t meet my expectations, overall they are met, and I hold on to that knowledge for the future.

This is where we bring in self-fulfilling prophecy.

“A selffulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.” – Thanks Wikipedia

Ex 1– If you expect food at a restaurant to be good, and it isn’t then you’ll start to predict it won’t taste as good. Then, even if it does, you’ll probably think it doesn’t.

Ex 2– If you start a job that you expect will be amazing, then it isn’t, so you quit and find something new. Then that one, which you expected to be better, isn’t, so you quit and find something new again. Then you start to predict the job won’t be as good either, because you have bad luck with jobs, so even if it is pretty good, you think it’s not great.

Ex 3– If you have a strong friend that you talk to a lot, you expect to stay close. You call, text, FaceTime, and snapchat often. Since you expect to stay close, even when you don’t talk to them for brief periods, you know it’s about to change. So while you may not actually talk that often, you predict that you’ll stay close, which urges you to text them and check in.

See, expectations don’t have to always be bad. Even self-fulfilling prophecies aren’t bad– they can convince you of good things, even if that’s not the case.

The problem with expectations is when they are negative, and we turn those expectations into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We eventually just see the pattern, and stop giving each individual circumstance a chance.

But contradictory statement– negative expectations can be a good thing, like when you’re in a lot of bad relationships. You start to expect he’ll be a “jerk” boy, so you already have your guard up. Bad example, but you get the point.

So yeah.


They’re weird.

Maybe you expected this post to be shorter, or to make sense. Well, sorry if I let your expectations down.

Point being: I never thought I would get into such a deep, personal reflection on expectations. But they’re definitely weird, and I will definitely be more cognizant of it now. I guess what I’ve really learned from it, is that you can expect whatever you want, but only some things are in your control.

Like for work, and grad school, and everything, I am going to expect more out of myself than everyone else does from me. My supervisor’s expectations of me were to work hard, and grow. She didn’t expect me to be perfect. She didn’t expect me to never make mistakes. She did expect me to own up to my mistakes. I realized that we often set the highest expectations for things we cannot control, or for ourselves. Which is silly, because then we will just be disappointed if they aren’t met.

But you know what? Don’t expect perfection. Expect your best. And strive to work for that every day.

And that’s how I deal with expectations.


XOXOXO, amandarae

quote of the day: “Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” – Marilu Henner

*Yesterday — I wrote this blog Monday, then again on Tuesday. Meant to revise it and post it Wednesday, until I noticed it was the one-year anniversary of my blog to which I wanted to post in honor of that. So by “yesterday” I mean Monday, but it really was the yesterday of when I wrote it!


It’s been a year! A whole year!

24 posts published. 2 currently sitting in my drafts that I’m writing/editing. (Guess I’m posting the next one tomorrow!)

The earth has completed a full orbit around the sun, and we are back in the same physical location as we were 365 days ago.

My oh my, how much things have changed!

*starts thanking important people in her life as if she won an Oscar or Tony or something cool* 

But really. A year ago I was spending my summer in Tennessee at my internship. I had no idea how much I would grow in my second year of graduate school, or know that I would basically be the sole advisor to my organization after my supervisor left in the spring. I had no idea I would have so much success at TPE, but also turn down every opportunity so I could be with my boyfriend again. Heck, at this time last year, I didn’t even think we were going to last through the summer, but here we are! So yes, a lot can change in a year.

In fact, let’s talk about some of those changes, and my reflections on each scenario. This goes a little hand-in-hand with my expectations blog I’m posting tomorrow, but I’ll try to keep it separate enough that you won’t get bored if you read them both!

First off, let’s go back to that whole turning down job things so I could be with my boyfriend. I talked a lot about this struggle and my justification in one of my last posts, but I was reading the other day and found a section that really resonated with me about it as well.

“I looked at these friends and realized: Well, duh, work is gratifying, but it isn’t everything, and it’s not fun to sleep with at night.” – Lauren Graham, Talking As Fast As I Can, page 90-91

What an interesting quote, Lorelai Gilmore! But honestly, I wish I would have had this quote a while ago. Work is gratifying, especially if you get to do what I do, but it’s not as gratifying when I go home to stare at my phone screen every night.

So my entire living situation with my boyfriend has changed. But what else?


NowI’mlivinginNorthCarolinahwhenIthoughtImaybelivingsomewhereelseespeciallyaftergettingajobafterTPEandayearagoIwasinTennesseeandwasn’tevensureifIknewwhatfunctionalareasIwantedtogointowithmycareerandIwasrunningbeforeIbrokemyfootandIwasstrugglingtofindselfcareandreallyfindsatisficationinthequietandthatiswhyIstartedthisjobinthefirstplacebutthenIrealizedIactuallyreallyloveditandIgotintoagreatroutineofbloggingandreadingatnightwithaglassofwineallcurledupinmybed. *starts huffing and puffing* Then…  *deep breath* IwentbacktoschoolandmovedintoahousewithsomegirlsinmyprogramandonefriendofmineandIbecamereallycloseandwehadafulltimestaffmemberleavesoworkgotalotharderbutIwasproudofmyselffordoingsowellbutLawclasswaskickingmybuttandmakingmecryalotandtherewasjustalotgoingoninmylifebutthentheholidayswereanicebreakbeforethejobsearchbaganinthespringandtheneverythinggotreallycrazybuthenIgraduatedandImovedandI’mhappyandjustabouteverythingisdifferentthanitwasayearagobuteverythingisdefinitelybetteranditsdefinitelycrazyhowquickthingscanchange. Ineverpredictedmyselftobehere,butIwouldn’tradeitforanythingelse!


Moral of the story: I never predicted my life to be where it is now, but I also couldn’t imagine if it wasn’t this way. I am just so genuinely happy, so excited for the future, and still in slight disbelief that this is actually MY life.

Sean laughs at me because sometimes I’ll just break out into hysterical laughter, and say “Whose life IS this that I’m living?!” Because it just feels so surreal, like it’s something I hear about from friends or on Facebook but isn’t actually mine.

But wrong.

This is my life.

Because I worked for it.

I worked for my happiness. I worked for where I am.

Grad school wasn’t easy. A long distance relationship wasn’t easy. A big move by myself, without a job, wasn’t easy.

But when I care about something enough, you find the will power and motivation to make it easy-ER. (Get it? I was going to say easy, but then said easier? Yeah? No? Okay.)

Like I said in my one month birthday postI will focus more time and energy on growing myself and pushing myself than pretending my problems don’t exist. You can’t solve a problem until you’re willing to overcome it. And you can’t overcome a problem if you’re not real about it.

And I did just that.

Good job, past Amanda.

Now go have a glass of wine and toast to the next 365 days.

XOXOXO, amandarae

quote of the day: “Write to teach about a topic you know something about… not to sell” – a quote I stole from Cindy Millet’s tweet 


Well hey, it’s been a while.


TL;DR (which is the cool, hip, social-media way of saying too long; didn’t read AKA here is the short story):

Graduation – CHECK

Moving truck – CHECK

Apartment – CHECK

New car – CHECK

Next adventure – SURPRISE, I’M NANNYING


Full Story: 

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How lucky am I

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

I’m feeling emotional.

To be honest, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind.

I definitely thought I was going to blog about my job search more, but it’s hard to publicize it. I am extremely cautious about my word choice because I want to be respectful of all the schools I apply for and interview with. I’ve had to say no, and that’s not fun to talk about. I don’t know who reads my blog, and I don’t want any current/past/potential employers reading into any information wrong because I keep it so vague. But I will say this: waiting for the right job is hard, and being location bound / doing a partner search is even harder.  B U T – I am thankful I am able to prioritize myself and my personal life and know that I will find a great job to follow, even if patience isn’t my strong suit. I will be moving to North Carolina to be with my boyfriend, but I will be sure to update once I accept an offer and can focus on the next chapter of my life.

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Don’t live through your countdowns

29 days.

15 more one-on-ones.

9 classes.

4 more weeks.

3 more exec meetings.

2 more projects.

1 more month.

Everything is assigned a number.

With the end in sight, I’m focused on how I am going to get there. How many steps are left until I reach the finish line.

But the truth is, I have the same amount of time left. It doesn’t matter if I measure it in meetings or classes or silly conversations with my students, or measure it in love (teehee)– it’s going to be the same number of minutes until I cross that stage.

So how am I going to spend it?

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