What do your tattoos mean?

Oh how I just love getting asked this on a weekly basis…

Well – for those of you who have wondered (and those who don’t give a rat’s ass) – below I’ve laid out each tattoo and its special meaning to me. All three of my tattoos are on my right arm and belong to a theme: places I’ve lived that have impacted me in inexplicable ways.

Tattoo #1 – the key

Oh my beloved key. This one is a tribute to my second homeland: Germany. I first stepped foot in Germany when I was 13 years old. My family and I made the trip across the pond for the 2006 World Cup and I was absolutely in LOVE with the place. People were friendly, but not over-the-top, food was yummy and fresh and the weather was phenomenal – even in the summer, which was a major plus to this southern girl.

My junior year at KU, I studied abroad for a semester in Regensburg. I minored in German Studies in college and had planned on studying in Germany for a semester since I was in high school.

The six months I spent in Regensburg changed me in more ways than one. It was the first time I lived alone, and if you know me, you know I used to hate being alone. I did everything I could to stay busy and be surrounded by people to block out the damaging thoughts going on in my mind. I also first injured my back when I was living in Germany. There was no accident, no fall, just woke up one day with insufferable back pain and a searing burning feeling going all the way down my leg to my toes.

Great. Here I am, in this beautiful country, and I’m immobile. After three trips to the ER, two ambulance rides, three days in the hospital, a creepy male nurse who hit on me while changing my IV (and then proceeded to LOOK ME UP on Facebook from my patient file and BRING IT UP in conversation as if it was NORMAL), tests, MRI, etc. etc., I found out I had two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine. The doctor told me he wanted to operate on it but I said hellllll no! My family is 5,000+ miles away I am not having major surgery all alone.

Alone. Thats what I was – a 21-year-old American girl in a German hospital with no A/C, no hospital gown, just my three-day old clothes and a book: Eat, Pray, Love. (Shoutout to Elizabeth Gilbert  because her book kept me inspired when I really wanted to crawl into a black hole and never come out.)

Fast forward to pain managed by drugs and several awesome weekends traveling Europe and I still had the most incredible six months of my life that year. Aside from my foreign hospital experience, I learned how to live alone and enjoy it. I learned how to converse with locals in German. I learned how to navigate cities where I didn’t speak the local language. I learned what it meant to truly o p e n  your eyes and take in each and every moment; experiencing foreign cultures wholeheartedly. Once you immerse yourself in a new place, where you know nobody and have no connections, you find out how large our world is and how small you are.

So, why the key? 

Well, Regensburg’s flag is this:

source: wiki commons

But, I knew I wanted mine on the outside of my forearm, so I opted to have just the one key. Here’s mine:
My first tattoo. My tribute to Germany. My reminder that I can get through anything and come out stronger on the other side.

Tattoo #2 – the diamond

The smallest of my three tattoos, but the one nearest my heart. In case you didn’t know, I was born and raised in Arkansas. My grandparents, parents, three of my four siblings and all my nieces and nephews still live in Arkansas. In fact, they’re all within a 3-mile radius of each other. I know…we’re almost annoyingly close as a family. But I LOVE us Barlings for it. 🙂

Arkansas is where I had my first school dance, my first kiss, my first hike, my first soccer game. Putting it shortly: I experienced a lot of life’s big “firsts” in Arkansas. Family means more to me than anything  and my fondest memories reside in the Natural State. My diamond tattoo is a tribute to my childhood, my family, my home.

Tattoo #3 – the sunflower 

“Despite knowing they won’t be here for long, they still choose to live their brightest lives.” – the sunflower, by Rupi Kaur

Wow. What a beautiful thought and one I like to apply to real life. Most people are here on this planet for 100 years or less and in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a very long time.

Sunflowers have always been my favorite flower. I hate how over-used roses are and would rather receive a sunflower any day. I’ve always been drawn to them; their bright colors, big “faces”, long stems. They stand tall and regal – proud.

The wild sunflower is also the state flower of Kansas, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Those four years were a magical time. So many exciting and new endeavors. New friends, new hurdles, new accomplishments. My journalism career exploded at KU and I owe it all to my work at the University Daily Kansan.

Goals were made and reached. My life is forever changed after living in the beautiful hippie town of Lawrence, KS. My sunflower tattoo is my tribute to that stage in my life of constant learning and growing.

Well – there you have it: the meaning of my tattoos. Ultimately, these are for me and nobody else and if you have negative opinions about them I honestly couldn’t care less. 🙂

xoxo,

HB

 

Why is it so hard to love myself? 

Most of you who are reading this are probably thinking to yourself, “but she exudes confidence” or “she’s always so bubbly and happy to be here.” And most of the time I am happy to be where I am – I’ve always chosen to take the optimistic approach and try to find the silver linings in life. But realistically speaking, even the more sunshine-y people out there have bad days and question their worth.

Growing up the baby of a huge family, I’ve always tried to be louder (let’s be real, I didn’t have to try too hard to be loud) and get the most attention by nature. Working hard to be the best of whatever my latest venture was has always been my goal. Determined to succeed, I’ve held dozens of leadership roles in various student and non-student organizations since I was 15. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class, excelled in the Journalism School at KU, moved to Dallas to work at an international marketing agency, moved back to Arkansas to work at an agency closer to home, and now am once again residing in Dallas and employed by the University of Texas at Dallas, doing what I love.

I’m 25 years old. I have my own apartment, the world’s sweetest dog (not up for debate), live with my amazing boyfriend and have had dozens more experiences than your average 25-year-old.

BUT. For some reason, more often than not I criticize myself, my work and my place in life. The majority of these self-doubting thoughts are along the lines of “why am I not more successful” or “why don’t I have the perfect body” or “why can’t I figure my shit out!?”

And you know what I think is a large contributing factor to my self doubt in this day and age? The brutal culture and expectations modern day America has on people, especially women. Growing up I looked up to all the supermodels and A-list celebs who are all size 0 and wear designer everything. How ridiculous is that? Even when I was in my fitness prime, I still wore a size 9-10, knowing damn well I’d never look like the entertainers on TV.

But instead of looking at my accomplishments and giving myself that much-needed pat-on-the-back, self-criticism trumped all. Comparing oneself to another’s accomplishments or body or life in general is only going to do damage and harm to the soul.

Thankfully, a friend very near and dear to my heart reminded me of my self-worth today and inspired me to write this post. I know I’m not the only one out here who feels like their appearance and demeanor on the outside doesn’t match what’s truly going on inside and felt I needed to share these thoughts with my readers.

Anxiety plays a role in this dilemma for me, but even the women out there not living with mental illnesses struggle with loving themselves daily. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and instead learn to relish in our accomplishments and be proud of them in a positive way.

After reflecting on this, here is my mantra for the week:

I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am worthy.

xoxo,
HB

Does anyone think in black and white?

Less than 5 hours from now, I’ll be getting ready for another day in the world of Hannah. So naturally, my brain is going a mile a minute and I’m sitting here having lost a debate with sleep.

With too many things on my mind to simply list out, I’ll start with the one weighing heaviest: what the hell am I doing with my life? I know this may seem like a blanketed thought – and it is to a certain degree – but right now it’s more direct than usual. As I’ve shared with you all, I recently made a decision to step back from the corporate world, let my mind decompress and start a new part-time job as a barista.

This may sound like a fabulous beginning to an empowering drama, but sadly, my life is not a film and there’s no winning lottery ticket in sight. The immediate questions that pop into my mind tonight are: Is this going to work out? Am I going to have enough money to make ends meet comfortably and have fun? Did I make the right decision to move without a job lined up?

Different questions, all obtaining the same answer: I don’t know.

Now I’m judging myself for not knowing, because I’m 24 years old and should have a better idea in which direction to go, but then I remind myself I’m not a future teller and need to chill the fuck out. This 30-second thought train (anxiety is fun and may or may not include thinking 12 thoughts at once) has led me to a grander question: Does anyone think in black and white?

I truly want to know, because I’m not sure I’ve ever made a decision I was 100 percent sure of. Envious of those who seem to have a simpler way of decision making, I’m curious to know if anyone else has a dozen questions for each statement or thought that crosses their minds.

Of course, nobody knows what lies ahead because life happens and we can never be fully in control. We must simply ride the wave. But do some of you out there think more in terms of black and white, yes or no, instead of constantly lingering in the grey area? Because if so – teach me your witch-crafting ways.

I realize this blog is far different from my last one, which proudly disclosed my new life adventures. However, I promised myself I would be as transparent as possible, because I am so SICK of people on social media only portraying their good side and making their followers think life is purely happy all the time. So, here I am at midnight writing about my insecurities and second guesses.

What I have to remind myself is that time never stops and even if I never truly grasp this big ole meaning of life, the most important thing is to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy, living life with a purpose. And that is what I promise to continue to strive for.

 

The summer I fell in love…

with the world.

7.5 billion people on this beautiful planet. Can you even fathom knowing that many souls? Maybe you wouldn’t want to know everyone on Earth, but I do. Yes, I’m aware that may sound a bit crazy, but hear me out.

Would I want to meet every single person on this planet? Yes. Not because I’m trying to win Miss Popular over here (although that would help my awkward teenage self feel a little more validated), but because I want to know each individual story. Geeze, Hannah, crank up the cheese factor a little more, will ya!

I digress.

bay_bridge

2014 was a magical year for my adult self. A year filled with adventures, new beginnings, lessons, struggles, and accomplishments. It began with major excitement – I visited my brother in California for the first time and found my first true love: San Francisco. Sunny skies and a light breeze were the norm. You’d unknowingly walk past millionaire techies on the street because they dressed like your average joe. Food, music, and art filled this effervescent city. I’ve always been a huge fan of travel, but this trip kicked off my deep, everlasting case of wanderlust.

bedroom_view

Fast forward a couple months and I’m living in the city center of Regensburg, Germany. It’s a truly picturesque town where the cobblestone streets intersect with the Danube River and traditional German culture seeps out of centuries-old buildings. I lived above a cafe, which later became the namesake of my sweet pup, Ritz. Street bands were audible each afternoon and the corner ice cream shops were open seven days a week – a rarity in Bavaria.

I was studying there for a semester to help complete my German studies minor (yes, I can speak German; no, I’m not going to “say something” for you). This storybook city of roughly 190,000 residents stole my heart in less than a week. But that was only the beginning.

vienna_castle

München, Frankfurt, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Mallorca, Strasbourg – even Split, Croatia! I visited more countries in those six months than thousands of people do in their lifetimes, and trust me, I know how lucky that makes me.

Throwing yourself into unfamiliar situations makes you grow; navigating a foreign place sans internet and the native tongue can put some wear and tear on a person. Living overseas on a foreign continent opened my eyes more than I can put into words. They say challenges lead to growth and I sure see why! Travel can change your perspective; not only on certain places, but on people and cultures, too. You learn to wander with a sparkle in your eye and an open ear, just waiting for the next memorable moment to occur.

split_croatia

Terms like “wanderlust” and “the travel bug” fill thousands of blogs, social posts, websites, you name it. More often than not, I wonder if those using the terms truly encompass what they represent. To me, wanderlust is a way of life, not a phase where you’re obsessed with going new places and seeing new things. Once you’ve experienced even a fraction of this world, you can’t stop.

Experiencing several European countries on my own, in my early twenties, with half a college degree and some (un)forgettable nights under my belt, I found myself more accepting than ever before. Everyone is different. Each place in this world means something, for another reason than you may initially think. I encourage you to listen and observe. Stepping back, making yourself feel like a tiny fish in a large pond molds your sense of self and sheds a whole new light on just how big, or small, our wonderful world truly is.

Cheers to new adventures!

cheers_germany