When I was young, my family nickname was Marshmallow. I was a little clumsy, more of a bookworm than a kickball player, and super duper white. So it was pretty fitting.

But when college rolled around and I got my first job waiting tables, it was time to toughen up. Or so I thought. I spent a decade serving and bartending in everything from bbq joints to fine dining bistros. That tough exterior developed a new layer with each new job. And my spirit animal became a crusty old Waffle House waitress named Wanda who came armed with coffee, over easy eggs, and cynicism.

But then Wanda went to a yoga teacher training. And remembered what she forgot. She remembered how tough you have to be to show kindness. So she started scraping away at the coffee stains and bacon grease that had built up over her shiny, sensitive soul.

I came to Kauai hoping to find a deeper well of compassion for myself, so I could extend it to the world around me. And in so many ways I have. But there are still days when I feel like my compassion "deserves" reciprocity. When my kindness has strings attached. When my grace isn't free. And I feel Wanda (who still isn't as enlightened as me, after all that yoga;) tighten the corners of her mouth and squint her eyes. She's got a few rounds of fight left in her yet.

I've been met with open hearts to mirror my own in almost every sentence of my story. But it's not always like that. Sometimes the clouds roll in over your stars and your constellation gets lost in the stories of people who came before you, or prejudice that has fed on experience, or just a bad day. And it's in those moments that I have to put Wanda in timeout. To remind her that the world owes her nothing and there are infinite possibilities that steer other people's reactions. So inhale compassion, exhale expectation. And embrace the Marshmallow that still shares a duplex with Wanda.

"So shine in the dark places and shine like the day

Because love never had a childhood

Because hate grows up too soon.."

-Shane Koyczan

'Shine'

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