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Finding Middle Ground: Bridging the Gap Between Capable and Breakable

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“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh like that before, Libby. I love it,” David smiles, and looks at me.

It’s early in our road trip. We are somewhere between North Carolina and Louisiana–Kim is driving. David is riding shotgun, and I’m perched up in the backseat, staring out the window—and laughing—no, more precisely, I am giggling. A hearty giggle—the kind where you’ve put aside all of your defenses, your guard is completely down, and you’re completely vulnerable.

I’m happy.

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It’s the first time I remember being this happy in a long time. It’s also the last week of the initial hobby year; the last week of the “giant quest” I had set out to quote, unquote, find myself. The road trip was initially meant to mark the end of The Hobby Hoarder, a kind of non-chalant pat on my own back for the success of making it through the year. What I found was that it actually marked a new beginning; a newfound confidence, a newfound “place” in this world; a newfound feeling of gratification; a newfound belief in the good in this world; a newfound love for life—and for myself.

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It’s been nearly two years since the road trip—and nearly three since I began “The Hobby Hoarder.” In a way, it feels like it’s been a lifetime.

Rachael, an acting teacher and friend of mine, once told me she loves growing up, adding years; because it adds experiences. She also told me she’s had many lives. Three years ago, when she first told me this, I didn’t understand.

But I’m now starting to.

After the initial hobby year, I decided I wasn’t ready to “land” quite yet—or quit the challenges. Besides, now for me, it was all a lifestyle–so when I returned from the road trip, I continued hobbying and trying new things.

Then one day, I stopped. The videos stopped. The blog posts stopped, and the writing stopped. I called it a “hobby hiatus,” a short break. What I refused to call it was, putting the hobby hoarder to rest.

It was April of this past year. I had just gotten doored on my bike. I was in shock and convinced myself I was ok. I went to dance class, and the next day I couldn’t move my neck. Two weeks later I broke my hand; three months later, sprained my ankle; and in October I broke my foot.

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“How could this happen,” I’d ask myself. “I went two years, trying EVERYTHING under the sun—without a single major injury….I haven’t done a hobby in months…how is this possible?”

I lost myself to the injuries. First I was sad—then I was angry. And that giggle my best friend commented on during the road trip two years ago? It was nearly non-existent.

Focusing on the roughness in my own life made me somewhat ignorant to the issues my friends were having. How could I be there for them, when let’s face it, I was doing a piss-poor job of being there for myself?

It’s been just over two months since I broke my foot, and four weeks since the doctor cleared me to lose the boot. Three weeks ago, I went for a walk—a really long one. I cleared my head.

I thought to myself, ‘It would be really easy to write 2014 off like a bike accident—as if the whole year was just one big “doored” accident, a year in which I would walk away from with a sour taste in my mouth but ultimately forget about.’

But the truth is—looking back on it: 2014 really wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. What I came to understand, was that even though the injuries significantly knocked me down: they didn’t complete me—the way The Hobby Hoarder didn’t complete me either.

Getting back up—toughening up—flexing my rebound muscle—that’s what became important. Finding the balance between feeling unstoppable and being breakable became it’s own life lesson—one I could have never learned if I hadn’t taken the hobby hiatus.

This year I also came into my own—became more honest with myself, my friends, and my family about who I am and who I want to be. I made new friends, grew closer to old friends and opened up.

Ultimately, I began to accept myself, something I’m not sure I really did in the Hobby Hoarder years—likely because I was so focused on trying to “find myself.”

The truth is if we focus in on trying to find ourselves, we should be aware that we may not love what we find at first.

Acceptance and love then become their own journeys. That’s what I discovered; that’s the life I lived this year.

In the past few weeks, I’ve gone on more long walks. I’ve sat and taken in some serious fresh air. And I’ve debated if I’ve wanted to make any new years resolutions. I normally don’t.

 But this year I’ve decided it may be a good time to put some out into the world, to plant them, and watch them grow.

There are two.

1. I’d like to find middle ground; between “feeling unstoppable and capable of anything—and feeling completely breakable.” I’d like to find the joy in the difficult moments—as they are happening, rather than in the months after they’ve passed. I’d like to lose retrospect and hindsight. I’d like to smash the rearview mirrors.

2. I’d like to start the hobby hoarder again. But this time around, just as me—regular old Libs. No videos this time around—alright lies—maybe a few. 😉 I’d like to give myself a chance—or perhaps you might call it a second chance, and I’d like to give the hobbies I’ve tried in the past a second chance—and some new ones a first. I’d like to see if there’s things that I’ll see a little bit differently now—that I’ll like a little bit differently, that may not have scared me before—but maybe scare me a little bit now—or things that may have scared me before, but scare me a little bit less now.

When I started the hobby hoarder, I swore life was all about “firsts.” But the truth is life is about more than just firsts–it’s about seconds and thirds too–besides who doesn’t like a second helping? It’s about filling ourselves up with as much as we can until we explode. That’s what I did in the first hobby hoarder year, I filled myself up.

So life isn’t just about firsts. It’s about second chances and new beginnings; and starting over. It’s about finding balance-and middle ground. Ultimately, life is about jumping-flying-embracing potential impact- and taking off again. It’s about looking deep inside yourself and asking what you need – right here- right now, so you can be the better person- the best version of yourself tomorrow. And then doing that again each day- cause we can only attack one day at a time. Baby steps. Stepping stones. Lilly pads. Until we feel rock solid.

This year, whether you’re starting over; attacking a new challenge; or giving a part–or parts of your life a second chance–I wish you luck and I wish you love for 2015. Cause at the end of the day that’s all we’re really searching for… The capacity to love ourselves – and in return to love and be loved by others. Here’s to the new, to the fresh starts, to the new beginnings, and to the second chances.

Happy New Year!!!

My Reaction on the Boston Marathon

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I don’t often write about breaking news on this blog. But after a tragedy like this, it seems hard not to want to reflect. As someone whose hobby before, during, and after the initial hobby year was running–this really got to me.

There are supposed to be fireworks at the end of races like The Boston Marathon–not deadly explosions.

As my coworker read the breaking news to a group of us in the office, I put my head down and continued to write the treatment that I was working on. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be informed–I wasn’t ready to be sad.

Sadness, after tragedy, is often addictive. After Colorado; Newtown; Sandy;  and other large events that have resulted in death, I often find myself refreshing the Twitter stream relentlessly, clicking from news organization to news organization, and texting friends about their thoughts. All I want to do is turn away–but I can’t. So when I finally tuned into what was going on in Boston, an hour after it occurred, my obsession with the story quickly manifested. I wanted answers. I wanted to know who, what, when, where, why, HOW. I wanted to know everything.

And rather than feel sadness, I suddenly found myself feeling angry. This wasn’t an attack on our country, no it couldn’t be. There are over 90 other countries represented in a race like The Boston Marathon. This was senseless–terrifying–and reckless.

As someone who has run a lot of races, my anger too stemmed from the fact that this could have been any race in any city.

On Sunday morning, I ran my first race in nearly 9 months on the JFK runway–a 5k. I even got a few friends to come run it with me–one who hadn’t ran a race before. As we approached the 5k, I told her how excited I was that it was her first–that the community feeling of running a 5k, or any race, is what keeps me coming back.  People are supportive–People feel a sense of community.

And what I love most about running in races is that it’s not a judgmental sport. People of all ages run–people of all run levels run–and people from all over the world run–without being judged. The spectators stand by–cheering, relentless–holding signs that make you laugh as you pass by, giving you high fives, motivating you until you cross the finish line. And unless it’s the Olympics or unless you’re a top runner battling it out for the top time, then no one is cheering against you either. It may not be a team sport but it brings on a team of people who want to see success. It brings people together–if even for a short bit of time. That’s the fun of any sporting event–the community that is drawn in. To see that disrupted, to see our spectators hurt–our runners–our fellow Americans–and even those who travel from near and far to take part in a race that has such magnitude as the Boston Marathon gives me chills and is beyond disheartening.

As more and more information is released, my heart begins to sink more. As I see the photos of the carnage, I am reminded of photos I’ve seen of battle scenes.  People are without legs–three lives have been lost–and hundreds are battling what could be life threatening injuries in multiple hospitals across the city of Boston.

An 8 year old boy lost his life by simply watching a race–a race that perhaps he one day wanted to participate in, or that his family may have been participating in yesterday.

As I try to suppress my anger, I think of what I can do–what we can do in order to support Boston at a time like this.

The answer is to continue loving. To continue loving with all our hearts–showing our neighbor who may not always seem to love us back–so much love that they can’t avoid showing love too.

There is too much good in this world to let the bad rot it out.

To all those with family and friends who ran in the race or who had family and friends watching–my heart goes out to you as you dealt with worry and fear.

And to all those who took the start line yesterday–and who stood by, relentlessly cheering them on to the finish, my heart–my thoughts–and my prayers are with you.

The Art of the Travel Mate(s)

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***As the road trip has come to an end–there will be a series of posts involving hobbies accomplished; places seen; lessons learned; and an over-encompassing post of it all–but for that post–whew, I’ll need a few days to reflect. For now–here’s a little post about choosing the right Travel Companions.**

As my mom clicks through my photos of the trip, she comes across a picture of David in his red Florence hat staring off into the Badlands.

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She sees me smile as I remember that day silently in my head. She continues to scroll and comes across a photo of Kim standing with her back to a giant tree in the redwood forest, her arms out at her sides. I giggle, again, remembering that moment of the trip.

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My mom turns to me and says, “And you are all still talking?”

A cheerful grin spreads across my face, “Yep. Still talking.”

Prior to leaving on the trip, a lot of people asked me who I thought would be the one to throw off the balance of the squad. I couldn’t come up with an answer so most of the time I joked-“Well..I have a feeling by Seattle Kim and David will be best friends–and I’ll be standing on the side of the street under some big gray sky with two duffle bags holding my thumb out.”

Clearly, that didn’t happen. And although, we had our moments of tiny bits of conflict, we all handled it in a mature – simple – way, by retreating to our cell phones or our books for a few moments of silence before blasting out another song to sing and dance along to.

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Travel companions are the most crucial part of any journey.  Sometimes, when you need alone time–you’ll still need to be in some vicinity of them–including the backseat of the car. It’s important to concern yourself with the travel mates you choose before you worry about what path you’ll take, where you’ll stop, and what mountains you hike–or else the entire trip itself will feel like an uphill battle. If you choose the right people to travel with–then the right path will unfold on it’s own–there won’t be a wrong way.

And the truth is, you’ll know very early on in a trip if it’s going to work out or if you are going to have to turn around after you sit down for your first cup of coffee. I can’t tell you what the signs are of this–because I just know that if you gel, then you gel, and if you don’t gel–well then the trip will start off in hell. Some ways to approach travel mates in general? Avoid selfish words: “My plans,” “My trip,” “It’s my decision.” Remember–if you are going to tackle an adventure with other people–then it’s always “our.”

With that being said: I couldn’t be more grateful for my two travel-mates, David and Kim–who didn’t know one another until a month before we took off. Of course, because they didn’t know one another, I knew that there was a risk involved, but I went along with it anyway–because in my heart of all hearts I had good feelings that it would all work out.

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David is one of my best friends in the city–whom I had met on the side of the street while he working on White Collar a year and a half prior. It wasn’t til 8 months later that we really began hanging out and getting to know one another. What developed was a beautiful friendship that involved many weekends filled with laughter, karaoke, serious chats, and dinner parties. I remember one night even telling David, “Please don’t move away–ever.” A few weekends later, we decided to go sky diving together. That weekend, I invited David to join me on the road trip adventure- and a few weeks later, he texted me to say that he definitely was in–that if he didn’t do it now, he wasn’t sure when he would. I knew David would appreciate this trip just as much as me by that simple statement.

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I met Kim during my acting class last spring. At our first class together, Kim told me she worked in publishing, and I told her that I was working on a book–but that I was hesitant about where the book would go because of the lower number of hits on the site (at that point) and because well I really hadn’t started writing the drafts yet. She asked me if I had read the book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I told her I hadn’t–and then she summed it up quickly for me–telling me that what many projects will see is a steady stream of low numbers–and then suddenly–something will tip the scales and numbers will rise exponentially.

She said, “Don’t worry. You’ll see a tipping point.”

We had only known one another a few moments, but I was grateful for this instant sort of belief in my project–even if she didn’t know very much about it.

In contrast to my friendship with David which involved many weekend movie outings, dinners, and game nights, Kim and I had just a few coffee dates–and taken a flying lesson together– before I invited her to join me on the final hobby of the year–the road trip. Our coffee dates had involved some of the best conversations I had in years–about the world, the way people connect, and life.

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The night before Thanksgiving, Kim called me and said she was 100 percent in for the trip.

Again, at this point the two had never met. Like David, I knew Kim would have a great appreciation for whatever we explored on the trip. I crossed my fingers that their ability to appreciate the world around them would created a trio of triumph by the beginning–and end–of the trip.

Then–as earlier mentioned–one month before take off, we all sat down in David’s apartment, and began plotting out a route. When we tell people about that meeting, we describe it in two ways.

1. Serious: Planning meeting.

2. Slightly Joking: Final Judgement

With my fingers crossed, neither of them came to me to say “I can’t travel with the other.” Phew–I wiped the sweat off my forehead.

And thank goodness they both came along.

We hadn’t even stopped for our first coffee break when I knew it would work out. As we drove over the Virginia state line, we all pointed out that the sun would be rising soon and that we should look up a good spot to catch it. As David drove the second leg of the first route, I began Googling based on the city we were approaching: Fredericksburg. Fortunately, a list of locations and images popped up on my search right away. “On to Fredericksburg Battlefield,” I declared. Collectively, we had made our first agreement on the road.

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And from there everything continued to flow effortlessly.

Buy a pack for the top of the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Then agree to never use it after Colorado? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Stop and enjoy all the food we could? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Wake up at the break of dawn in Memphis to catch a stunning sunrise? Duh

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Stop at a field in Carlsbad, NM and breathe in a brilliant sunset? Why wouldn’t we?

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Fed Ex all the books on Tape back to NYC that David and I were so excited about? Probably for the best.

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Pay a little extra for safety in a small town of Arizona? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Spend 6 hours at a place called the Wave and lessen our time at the Grand Canyon? –Of course. To us, it was living in the moment.

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Buy two Bieber CDs and make them two of the most played albums in the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.

And that was just into Los Angeles. We still had half a country (and parts of Canada) to agree on–and for the most part, we did.

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And then– a month and a half into the trip, as we reached Ohio, I came across a 5k that would take place after returning to NYC, that I wanted to sign up for –one in which the racers get to compete on the JFK runway. I tickled with excitement and that excitement carried over as David and Kim decided that they wanted to join as well. With groggy eyes, I smiled. I’m not sure I had the opportunity to really express to them in that moment how happy I was that they wanted to do the run too. I knew up until that point we were all getting along great, but to know that we had already made it through one month and a half of a trip in severely close quarters with one another–and that we were already making plans to spend time together after–well that thrilled me in a little kid kind of way.

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Throughout the journey, Kim and David pushed me to challenge myself–David on the ice at Arches National Park and Kim in her eye opening statements about how the world looks–how home looks; they both challenged their own selves and one another, and they each embraced the trip with as wide of open arms as I did. Our quarrels, though few and far between came only in the moments that I would expect them to: during times of exhaustion; hunger; and too close of quarters for a bit too long. It was very clear along the way that our journey–though, only limited to just under 2 months, could have gone on much longer–and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

Thanks Kim–Thanks David.

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Picture 16

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Body, Breath, Balance: Yoga

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Throughout the hobby year, two hobbies were recommended to me on a regular basis: Trapeze and Yoga. Of the two, I followed through and did trapeze. And although I did give laughing yoga a shot–I never went out of my way to throw on a pair of yoga pants and jump into a sun salutation or dive into a downward dog. And there’s two reasons why:

A. Because it’s so accessible in New York City. I knew that if for ANY reason a hobby fell through, I could just go take a yoga class—heck I bet if half of my hobbies fell through, I could find a way to take 25 different types of yoga. It became my “back-up” hobby.

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B.  Because I am as flexible as a stone statue. As an athlete, I constantly struggled with being too tight–straining muscles here and there–and occasionally pulling a hamstring. For a long time, I was convinced that yoga was simply about stretching and how flexible one was–and that I would be far too embarrassed by my non-flexible nature if I ever took a group class.

I don’t think I am alone in this. Why do any of us feel uncomfortable going to any group classes? Because of the unknown—or discomfort in something, that in the end, only we are judging ourselves for. Prior to the hobby year, Zumba classes terrified me just as much as yoga classes because of my own pre-misconceptions about my coordination. Turns out, I can actually bust a move pretty well.

During our travels, I learned that both of David’s parents teach yoga. Knowing that we were going to meet David’s parents when we visited his hometown of Hudson, Ohio, I asked: “David, could we do a yoga class with one of your parents?”

“Probably,” David responded.

So that was that. It was decided. When we’d finally arrive in Hudson, Ohio, we would take a yoga class.

Yesterday was that day. At 9am, on our 42nd day of travel, we each woke up ready to tackle a yoga class. As the only one in our travel trio who hadn’t tried yoga before, my nerves silently buzzed. “I hope no one is appalled by how non-flexible I truly am.”

But before even getting in the car and driving to the gym, I began to feel more comfortable. As we sat down to breakfast with David’s parents, we started to talk about the art of yoga and several different varieties of classes. I soon discovered that yoga goes beyond flexibility and stretching—and that much of the focus is rather on breathing—something I already know I need to concentrate on much more when I return to New York City next week.

Just an hour later, I was taking off my socks, collecting my yoga necessities and getting ready to partake in my first yoga class ever. As the class commenced, I listened carefully to David’s mom’s instructions. And fifteen minutes in,, I could feel the rhythm of my breaths as I crossed one leg over the other. There were anywhere from 10-20 other participants in the class, but for an hour and fifteen minutes—it felt like just me and my breaths—my inhales—my exhales.

I think we forget what it means to breathe—to inhale—to exhale-inhale—exhale; to concentrate on filling the lungs with air and then releasing. In-Out-In-Out. I know I forget far too often. As I reached my right arm over my head and to the left of my torso, I briefly thought of the last time I took a moment to actually feel myself taking a breath. I realized that it was weeks ago, on the side of a mountain, in Southern Utah—when I was experiencing a great deal of fear. But why was that the last time? I had seen so much — that I was clearly forgetting the most basic part of living–breathing.

During our trip, one of my travel mates often stops and spins in a circle—to take it all in—to breathe it all in—whatever “it” is that day. I continued to stretch, and though I couldn’t at the moment spin in  a circle, I took in the moment:

Inhale. Exhale. I can feel pressure as I reach my left arm over the right side of my body. I note a muscle that I haven’t felt in months—and the breaths I know I take but often forget to be grateful for.

It became very clear as class continued that just as focused as I was on my breathing and my own body—everyone else was on their own bodies and their own breathing. My fear of those judging me for my non-flexible nature was diminishing quickly. No one there cared how far I could—or couldn’t–straighten my legs. We were truly in a no judgment zone.

David’s mom instructed us more:  “Good everyone, now bring up your knees, grab your ankles—and roll a bit—even in happy baby pose if you’d like.”

I repeated the phrase Happy Baby to myself, and I giggled. At this point, I felt like a happy baby—conquering something new—without a care in the world—one breath at a time.

Here’s a happy baby video for your enjoyment:

Hang Gliding

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“I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane, I’m more than some pretty face beside a train.”-Five for Fighting

My mother tells me that the project has turned into a way of outdoing myself each week–which isn’t a problem, but rather an observation. I think that means it’s working. With each activity, each new risk, each new adventure, I gain more confidence in myself–and in the word yes. I’ve taught myself to refuse the word no, when it comes to just going for it. And that is a milestone in itself.

This week I’ve said yes to hang gliding in Middletown, New York for my first hang gliding experience. After signing the paper work that says if I die, I won’t sue, I get into the glider, and prepare for take off. And even though, I’m secure in the aircraft, I feel free–free to soar, free to fly, free to live.

We shoot into the air, and I can feel the brisk cold wind rush past my face. I watch as our altitude continues to climb: 500 feet, 600 feet, 1000 feet, 1500 feet, 2000 feet, and then our peak altitude 2700 feet. . My instructor tells me I can take my hands off the grips, and so I do. I put my arms out as if I am a bird–and I shut my eyes. All my thoughts disappear. I’m floating–left , right, down, and then back up again. My eyes are still closed but I can see clearly that this is where I belong–up in the clouds. I open my eyes back up, and I take in the world around me. I don’t want to lose this feeling–this feeling that nothing can knock me down, this feeling of being able to hold the entire world in my arms and hug her tight–this feeling that I am flying–this feeling that I am living. I continue breathing it in. I smile at the video camera–I wave to the traffic below, as if they can see my little hand way up high–I laugh with my instructor –I admire the beauty of the earth. And as we start our descent, I close my eyes, once more, and hold on tight. I hold on tight to this memory–to this moment–to this feeling.

The truth is that if I had never set out on this quest this year; I wouldn’t be in Middletown, New York in a hang glider harness on a frigid fall day in November– the coldest day they’ve taken the aircraft out yet this season (even the plane engine for our tow didn’t want to start right away!)– But I did set out on this quest year–and I did end up here in this harness on a frigid fall day in November–and I did give myself permission to do all these gravity-defying activities—And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I was also lucky enough to have my friend Naomi along for the ride–check out her hang gliding experience!

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Special Thanks

Hangar3
http://www.hangar3.com

The Hobby Hoarder Interviews Herself

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I thought compiling two of the same interviews in two different styles would be fun–so here goes. Pick your poison:

And style 2:

During the second week of January, I came up with the quest to become a professional amateur. On February 17th, I did the first hobby. Now four months later, I conduct a special edition interview–with myself. 1/3 of the way there…Not too shabby.

If there’s anything people should get from this interview, it’s that we all should stop just sitting around. We all should just get out there and do something–whether it’s finger painting, unicycle riding, or piloting a plane–we need to take advantage of everything this world has to offer. You never know–you may just find something you are extremely passionate about, and there’s no harm in that.

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