Archive for September, 2012

Dear 16-year-old, 20-year-old, 40-year-old you

I came across a blog the other day, Chatting at the Sky, where a woman had posted a letter to her 16-year-old self, and she invited readers to share their own letters.

As I thought about what my life was like 9 years ago, I remembered a phrase that occasionally took my self-conscious teenage mind hostage: I’m not OK.

I never uttered these words aloud. They just snuck in sometimes, set up camp and made it hard to soak up the sunshine.

That’s not to say that I was perpetually unhappy or unsatisfied with life. I knew I was lucky to have a wonderful family and unique opportunities. But, when I neglected to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, my I’m-not-OK feelings spread like weeds:

I’m not talented.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin.

I’m not meeting the expectations people have of me.

I’m not enough.

Now, looking back, I feel sad for having wasted so much time attending my own pity parties. Yes, moving across the globe and leaving behind friends and all things American was difficult. But my teen years in Tokyo were filled with educational opportunities, loyal friends and faith-building experiences. I couldn’t see them then, but miracles were happening, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

So, if I were to run into that bleached-blonde version of me on the subway in Shinjuku (I’d be easy to spot amid the sea of black hair), I would give her a hug and declare, “You are OK!”

You are strong.

You are kind.

You are doing your best.

You are safe.

You are enough.

I recently had an empty night when I needed to give myself that pep talk again. I had curled up on the couch to watch “Tangled” and have a good cry because my I’m-not-OK monster was poking his head around the corner. I began to wonder if I’ve chosen the right career, if I have any talents, if someone will love me even though I can’t cook — if, in this moment, I am enough.

I wish I could slay that monster for good, but I think regardless of age and accomplishments, we will all have moments when we wonder.

So, to the 16-year-old you and me who wished she was a cheerleader or longed for a boyfriend, I say, “You are OK.”

To the 20-year-old you and me who prays for marriage, or children or skinnier thighs, I say, “You are OK.”

To the 40-year-old you and me who has dishes piled in the sink, young children screaming and teenagers shouting, I say, “You are OK.”

When you’re having a moment, remember the advice from Jeffrey R. Holland at the top of this post.

“Don’t you give up.”

You are OK.

Still Just Me, Emily

Notice something different?

Excuse me while I go into flight-attendant mode and explain the changes you’re (fingers crossed) seeing:

My cute friend Meliss and I would like to welcome you aboard, the new home of Just Me, Emily.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for choosing Just Me, Emily. As we prepare to take off on a new reading experience, let me direct your attention to a few features. (I didn’t have time to put this info. on a card in the seat pocket in front of you. Sorry.)

First, you’ll notice that the address of this blog has changed. Instead of the old, cumbersome, you are now joining us at (Flight attendants usually don’t request applause, but would you mind fastening your seatbelt and humoring me with a clap or two … or three? I own! Wahoo! I feel fairly official now. I think I will celebrate with a package of peanuts.)

A wonderfully tech-savvy friend helped me redirect all of the content from our starting point ( to our final destination (, so you shouldn’t have to worry at all if you’ve linked to my content or bookmarked this blog.

Second, you will notice the snazzy new site design. It has more leg-room for all of the widgets, links, lists, gizmos, sprockets and Internet-age technology I’ve been dreaming of. I need to make a gazillion tweaks, updates and improvements, but I’ve determined that enough of the pieces are in place to make reading safe. (However, I can’t make any guarantees. If you notice wings falling off or propellers stalling, leave a comment and let me know.)

This blog is still under construction. We haven’t reached a comfortable cruising altitude yet, so please remain seated. I promise to make up for any turbulence in Ginger Ale and Biscoff cookies.

If you’re feeling confused or motion sick, please remember that the content of this blog won’t be throwing you for any (intentional) loops. I will continue to post my random, silly, thoughtful, heartfelt stories and insights.

The scenery is changing, but I remain Just Me, Emily.

Just listen

Do you remember grabbing your mother’s face as a child — between hands plastered with Elmer’s Glue and graham cracker crumbs — and demanding that she listen?

If you weren’t gutsy enough to grab her face, maybe you poked her or chanted “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom” until she tilted the phone away from her mouth and directed a finger-on-lips, hand-on-hip shhhh! your way.

If you were lucky enough to have a mom like mine, the obnoxious chanting and sticky pleading eventually won you something you couldn’t fully appreciate then and you crave now: someone who will listen.

Being a working, single-twenty-something girl means I accumulate a significant number of random, hilarious, frustrating stories — all in one day. Perhaps this baffling mix of emotional events has more to do with my gender than my age, come to think of it.

Anyway, I often drag trials and triumphs home with me. Were I a 5-year-old toting home embarrassment and excitement in my Lisa Frank backpack, my mom would meet me at the bustop, shoo the worries away with a juicebox and revel in my joy. But, now, as an adult, I carry a laptop bag stuffed with the day’s events back to a often-empty home.

When I open the door, no one is waiting with a snack and an embrace that says, “I’m your devoted listener. I will spend the next 30 minutes soaking up everything you say. Crunch on those Ritz Crackers and spill your guts.”

My lack of a full-time listener has made me incredibly aware of just how much I value anyone who offers an interested ear: “How are you doing?” “What happened last night?” “How did that go?”

These questions melt my heart. They may induce inexplicable crying. But to the person who is kind enough to brave the salty rapids, fear not. These are tears of joy.

I believe we all long for someone who will make eye-contact with us while we share our stories. We want to know that we don’t have to be the sole keepers of aches, dreams, stumbles and accomplishments. The simple utterance of an event, emotion or fear can put everything back into perspective.

By simply being present, the listener has the ability to validate, comfort and inspire.

So here’s the moral of today’s cracker-covered post (Graham and Ritz, in case you missed them): Take a minute to listen to someone today — even if you can’t do it face-to-face. Make a phone call, send a text or walk across the street and offer your undivided attention to someone. Anyone.

What you hear probably won’t change your life, but it may change theirs.

‘Everything is Incredible’

The media industry can be a tricky place to hang your career hat.

Too often, my Flipboard feeds are filled with stories of despair and disappointment — and I have to read them. It’s my job.

Sometimes, though, I get to share triumphs and tales of optimistic persistence, and, lucky me, today was one of those days.

This Vimeo video of a man with an impossible dream has gone viral, and for good reason. Something about the courage of someone who has nothing but believes he can accomplish anything is undeniably appealing.

Tyler Bastian, who produced the film, met Agustin in Honduras while he was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Agustin has spent the past 54 years building a helicopter out of trash.

This is his dream, and, despite the ridicule and raised eyebrows, he continues to dust off discarded soda cans and string and make something spectacular.

As I watched this video, I felt rebuked for my own hesitancy when it comes to pursuing my dreams.

“I don’t have enough money.”

“I don’t have the right skills.”

“What if no one appreciates my work?”

Agustin taught me that those excuses just don’t fly (pun intended). The problem is not lack of money or talents — or even success by anyone else’s standards, according to Agustin.

“The problem is that everything is incredible and people don’t accept it,” he says.

Amen, Agustin. Nothing is impossible if you believe everything is incredible.