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A Season of Possibilities

Something about fall makes me want to curl up by a fireplace and drink hot cocoa. I find myself pining for nights of cozying up with a good show (Revenge, anyone?) and staying warm under the covers. As good as these nights can be, there’s a small problem—it keeps me in my comfort zone.

As nice as it can sound to just stay in and relax, it’s important to keep breaking out of the mold and trying new things. Even though the weather is getting colder, we can’t let our goals go into hibernation. Sure, we’ll be happy staying in but I think we’ll be just as happy, if not happier, when we’re embarking on new adventures.

Even though it’s fall, it doesn’t matter what the season when it comes to the comfort zone.  While we definitely need times of reflection and solitude, it’s also important to find solidarity by reaching out to our friends and continuing to look beyond the horizon.

We can all be talkers. Sure, we’ll travel to Europe. Sure, we’ll try scuba diving. Sure, we’ll go to the gym. But are we actually living up to what we’re saying? It’s so much easier to pacify others and ourselves by saying we’ll get around to our goals someday. What really counts is when we live up to our word and actually make plans. When we buy that plane ticket, take that diving class and hop on that treadmill that’s when we’re getting somewhere.

I think the key is to make these goals ever present. Surround yourself in them. Make them a daily part of your life by putting pictures around your room, writing down smaller goals that will lead to your ultimate one on a daily basis and by getting encouragement from your friends and family. Hold yourself accountable for what you want to achieve.

As nice as those nights of watching TV can be every now and then, in reality, they don’t get us too far. While we all need to be in balance, I think it’s manageable to have the joys of autumn cozying up while still planning ahead for your dreams.

We have to make the most of our time while we’re here at UCLA. It truly is an amazing place and it’s so important that we appreciate it. So many Greeks are involved with Dance Marathon, Campus Tours and SAA among other programs on campus. It’s amazing to watch how your goals are aligning with the campus and making a difference in thousands of students’ lives. At the end of the day, when you know that you’ve contributed to a cause you care about, you know that you’re going beyond the comfort zone.

One of the best side effects of breaking away from the comfort zone is that it brings others closer to us. When we’re reaching new levels of learning and potential, we gain greater and stronger friendships in the process. That is always a worthwhile endeavor.

So use this time to your advantage. Enjoy the hot apple cider, the pumpkin pie (my favorite!), and the special time of with your friends and family. But also take this time to find things to look forward to—it’s a season of possibilities.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Golden Year?

It’s senior year for some of us. Myself included. It’s the quintessential year of epic endings. The football team is supposed to win just because you’re a senior, you get the dream job, and everywhere you go there’s smiles and laughter.

Hold up.

Maybe it works that way for some of us. But it hasn’t for me as of yet. I’m actually having more of the “life-is-about-to-majorly-change-what-do-I-do” syndrome. They make senior year sound so glorious but quite frankly, it’s been a little more of a panic with a heavy dose of anxiety added on to it.

Because with graduation comes careers and moving away and something we’re not quite used to: the unknown plan. What do you mean there’s no more school? (This doesn’t apply to all you expectant graduate students who knew the plan before the plan).

But I write about happiness so let’s bring that back into the mix. It’s sounding a little evasive up until now. Because as a senior, happiness has been evading me to an extent. I’ve gotten so bogged down in what comes after the diploma that I haven’t been enjoying the process as much as I should.

So for all you seniors (and for those that will be, because you will soon enough) here are some Sunny Suggestions for keeping things fresh:

1. Shake it up: It’s easy to get in a rut. Same football stadium, same restaurants, the same events. What may have sounded like a ton of fun freshmen year may not cut it by the time you’re a senior. Redefine your experiences—make every year unique in it’s own way, not a better version of the year past.

2. Reach out to new people: It’s never too late to start making new friends. Make the great ones stronger and let the growing get going. Even though it may be challenging to initiate, put yourself out there. You won’t regret it.

3. Keep talking: I’ve been keeping my stress to myself. The simmer turns into a boil if you’re not careful. Continue talking to friends not just about the small talk, but about the serious issues that face you after graduation. Seeks mentors and ask as many questions as you can. You don’t have to make big decisions alone.

4. Look forward to the future: In moderation. We can’t forget the time that we still have in college. Some say it’s the best time of our lives. I beg to differ (I like to think life can keep getting better) but yes, these are definitely some golden years. Bask in it while you can.

5. Come to terms: Accept that some things didn’t happen the way you thought they would. It’s ok. Chances are something better emerged in a different aspect. Find gratitude even from those tests that you felt have been more tortuous than anything else (and I’m not just referring to exams).

So whether you’re a senior or you’re just starting out, I think we can relate to these ideas no matter where we’re at in life. We’re always adjusting, always changing. Let’s embrace it rather than fear it or miss it. There is happiness to be had in all occasions, all phases of life. Including senior year and yes, graduation.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

In a New York Minute

Flashback to October 2, 2012:

What was waiting for me in New York.

I’ve been on a landmine of happiness lately. I’m off to New York in t-minus two days and I can barely sit still. I’m beyond excited, and I think that’s probably an understatement.

My point: we are SO happy when we have something to look forward to! Just like when we were little at Christmas Eve, the anticipation can almost be better than the experience itself. I love having something to wait for.

I’ve waited two months for this trip. I’ve counted down the days and I’m more than ready to get on that plane (albeit a red-eye). This is only my second time to New York and I think it will be the best yet. (Not to mention, I’m looking forward to getting out of the LA heat—it’s October—no more hot weather, please).

So the takeaway that I’ve learned from this? When we have nothing to set our sights on, we start to settle. It’s so important to make plans for our lives and to follow through with them. It gives us confidence in the process. Unfortunately I’m not the most well traveled person out there so planning a trip to New York on my own is a big deal for me. Knowing that I’m capable of getting myself to another state without much help is a good feeling. It reminds me that anything is possible when I’m prepared and I have intention.

So whether you’re traveling to Argentina or Arizona, keep challenging yourself to find new adventures. Give yourself something to be excited about. It’s such a good feeling.

Flash Forward to October 8, 2012:

I’m back in LA. Just like that, I’ve come and gone. Came, saw, went. But my trip was an incredible one and my anticipated excitement was all worth it. During my time in New York I went to the top of Rockefeller, walked through hundreds of trees in Central Park and ate more than one cupcake in less than 24 hours. I heard the fantastic voices of Broadway at Phantom of the Opera and to counter all that singing, I later stood silently solemn at the 9/11 Memorial. I toured Columbia’s campus late at night and ate at Mel’s Diner—where they make macaroni-bacon-burgers. Yeah. Needless to say, it was truly an incredibly weekend and I’m so much happier for it.

The downside? For as happy as I was to visit, I was twice as unhappy to leave. When we’ve had wonderful journeys it’s so hard to take those next steps onto a new path. The only way I keep the happiness going is by remembering two things: the amazing memories I’ve made and the faith-filled certainty that I will have more to come in the near future. When we tell ourselves that a chapter is OVER, the happiness that we gleaned from it is over as well. I like to keep it alive by believing that I will have new, joy laden adventures again soon, even if I have to leave it temporarily.

I hope as we are in these early weeks of fall you’ll start creating plans for the holiday season and 2013. It’s never too early to start thinking about where you’d like to travel. This is the perfect time in our lives to do it. No more excuses, no more fears—it’s time to just go. Be brave and reap the happy rewards.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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