Author Archives: Courtney Koester

'On The Move

On The Move

I missed New Jersey before I even left it. Like a breakup that you see coming and though you know it’s for the best you start to miss what you love before the moment it’s officially gone. I wasn’t breaking up with New Jersey per se, I was moving forward, opening a new chapter, stepping into the vast unknown. Okay, so it sounds like a break up, but truly Jersey, no hard feelings. You will always be my first love and a huge part of who I’ve come to be.

I traveled across the country for more than two months to get to my new city. And, as breakups tend to go, once I was in this new place, I missed the familiar.

A great friend told me, right before I left, the best advice she received in her cross-country move was in times of transition it is okay to grieve. Let yourself grieve. Man is that a liberating piece of advice.

I tell you now, I cried. I cried a lot. I allowed myself to feel – even when I would have rather shut my feelings off. I cried out of fear. I cried out of insecurity. I cried out of vulnerability. I cried out of nervousness. I grieved the life I left behind until I was all cried out.

Life starts when you allow it to.

Once this city became my new reality, I was fearful of what it would actually look like to create a life here. I questioned decisions made leading up to this point that I had felt so sure about before. Was I out of my mind? What made me fall for this place? Why did I pick up and move away from nearly everyone I love?

Fear is a powerful devil.
The truth is, those questions end up being the best reminders of why I embarked upon this journey to begin with. I was ready.

Moving is enlightening. It presents us with an opportunity to sift through things, figuratively and literally. We physically and internally sort through “stuff” to best help us move in a forward direction. It’s a chance to open boxes and take a careful assessment of memories to decide which ones to keep and which ones need a said goodbye. We make our lives lighter, in healthy ways — recognizing what we truly need and what we may have been unknowingly holding onto.


It’s quite a process. When I started preparing for my move cross-country, I found myself sorting through a great deal. The move surfaced everything from old photos and keepsakes to retired relationships and personal weaknesses that tested my character. Moving can do that; it shakes things up. I started to discover some things had remained in my life that I wasn’t aware were still there.

It’s funny; when we say a word a million times it tends to lose its individual value. “I’m moving” just sounds to me like a common phrase for an action I decided to take and I pay little mind to the root of the word, “move.”  It’s called moving because we are physically transferring ourselves from one place to another, but think about that; to move is to take action, to start doing something, to make progression, to change, to improve, to open our view.

Moving, in its inherent definition, is meant to shake things up for us, and in us, to help us forward.

In the last month before my big move out west, the realness of it all slowly set in more with each day. It was a gradual roll over the past year, but that concluding month was my final dose of reality. I had been working through things in my life, many times with blurred, puffed eyes and a sore, but healing heart. I felt as though I was participating in a final exam of sorts for that season in my life. No grade would be given for its completion; just amplified gratitude and strengthened endurance if I made it through.

It’s not easy relearning lessons that you hoped you’d only have to absorb once or ones you thought you had skated by in the past. Maybe that’s the point though. Maybe it’s not about “getting by” or “pushing through.” Maybe it’s all about enduring until it no longer becomes a lesson for you, but rather an experience to be shared and, perhaps, a possible lesson to help someone else later in life.

Moving, if you allow it, lets you see your life, yourself, at bare bones. No ego. No shame. No guilt. No regret. At bare bones, you are what you are. If you can look at yourself and your life that way, no-frills, then you can begin to build upon it as a base to create and allow for the life that was meant for you.

“You’re building a foundation,” she said to me. “Ever notice how quickly a building goes up after years of witnessing construction that looked like it had little to show for it?”

I nodded my head visualizing her analogy.

“They spend years working on buildings. All you see, for the bulk of those years, are orange cones everywhere and all you hear are loud drilling and bulldozing noises. Then one day, seemingly all of a sudden, the building is up and it’s beautiful and sturdy and stunning. You see, what takes the most time is in building and securing the foundation.

I continued to nod, in awe of this incredible compare-and-contrast example she was playing out in front of me. It was spot on.

“This is where you’re at,” she continued. “There’s some digging that needs to be done. This is what God is doing in your life – digging, steadying and working hard on your foundation to eventually build you up – sturdy and beautiful.”

She paused, “You’re feeling it and while you may not see what it will ultimately look like just yet, it’s on its way.”

So there I was, in my first adult apartment – bulldozing and being bulldozed. With a few weeks left, I sat presently in front of well-taped U-Haul boxes, immersing myself in all of it. I tossed out old receipts while saving captured moments and penned words that to this day make me smile more than I could ever fully communicate to another human being. I continued to face some real moments of pushed down tension all the while becoming present and grateful for where I’d come from.

I was moving. I was transitioning. I was evolving.
I was ready.

'Music Speaks

Music Speaks


“Where words fail, music speaks” – Hans Christian Andersen


If there is common ground to be found in this world, I truly believe it is through music.

It highlights conversations. It illuminates two souls on the same page. It stirs us up and makes us emote in ways only beautiful melodies and heart-grabbing lyrics can. Music transcends time. It’s a memory creator. A healer. A clarifier.

Music is a time capsule.

We fall in love with harmonized words and they are forever stored in our minds. I can’t remember what I did two days ago, yet ask me to sing the entirety of NSYNC’s first album, in track order, and I will have started before the question was fully formed.

Songs bring back moments in time – like Journey for me.

Full disclosure: I am secretly super pumped and frustrated all at once whenever they play “Don’t Stop Believin’” at weddings. Amped because I’ve known every word since I was five and because it reminds me of car rides with my dad and sister. Frustrated because I’ve known every word since I was five and it reminds me of car rides with my dad and sister.

Journey’s Greatest Hits was our jam. If I’m caught singing it now, I am just a frequent bar goer or an avid Glee fan; but the beautiful truth is, that song – that band, goes much deeper in my mind. It sends me back to my dad’s black thunderbird – windows down; a black-handled, salmon rubber denim brush melodically keeping time on the drum-kit-steering wheel; and Journey on the tape deck as a middle aged man and his two adolescent daughters rock out like nobody’s business down the Garden State Parkway.

Music. It brings people together.

See the Glee fans and I may have different memories that get our shoulders shaking and our hands clenched, like the amplifying mics they are, to remind us to “hold on to that feeling.” But, no matter what the memory tied to the song, the fact remains that it brings us all in unison – in harmony, if even for a moment.

Music is beautiful like that.

Sometimes it can say the things we cannot muster. It formulates words we have unknowingly been trying to find – about the adventure of life, the heartache of love – or the corollary, about the soul filling beauty of loving well.

It’s a storyteller – straight to the heart.

That being said, I’m going to let it speak for me from this point on. Below are a few songs currently resonating with me. Their way with words astounds me. It’s a true art.

Let’s hear what they have to say…

Best That I Can | Vance Joy

Favorite Lyrics:

“I am trying the best that I can”

“Sick of leaving things half done, leaving things half said”

“This weather’s no good for growing things”

Pioneers | The Lighthouse and The Whaler

Favorite Lyrics:

“I was wishing we could go back to how it was before age impaired our speech
I was wishing we could go back to the house, our hands pressed in the concrete”

“Hold on, I feel like you’re a little bit too far away”

Sister | Andrew Belle

ALL the lyrics. All of ‘em.

Favorite Lyrics:

“So tell me what happens when the waves break
And you’re surround,
He tries to kill you
And you allow it”

“Sister I remember
The morning light on evergreen,
What seemed like forever
Was just my mind escaping me
Imitation leather,
The smell of blood left on the seat,
Was that your way of proving
We look the same from underneath”

“Over and over he says
I will surround you
I will surround you
I’ll never leave, my beloved, I’ve found you”

You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional | The Lone Bellow

Favorite Lyrics:

“Oh, we can dance around what happened
Play the music soft and low
And you can be all kinds of emotional”

Shake, Shake, Shake | Bronze Radio Return

Favorite Lyrics:

“Line the room
You find a drink and drain the glass as fast as you can think to

The cheap perfume
In a room of people watching it intoxicate you”

“It stings your ears, but this is what we trade our hearing for
The crowd stands still
No one’s moving, they’d just rather stand and wait until
Someone starts to move”

“You know your only mistake is if you stand still
It’s only up to you”

“I’ll dance with you,
We’ll dance together until everybody’s moving too”

One Day | Kodaline

Favorite Lyrics:

“You always try to see yourself
Through the eyes of someone else”

“Too shy to say that you need help
You and everybody else”

“Oh, life passes you by
Don’t waste your time
On your own”

“As your heart gets bigger
As you try to figure out
What’s it all about”

Suitcase Full of Sparks | Gregory Alan Isakov

Favorite Lyrics:

“Traveling through the graveyard with a suitcase full of sparks
Honey, I’m just trying to find my way to you

“I quit counting stars that night in the cold by the satellite field
And I quit panning gold,
Digging holes
Yeah, I’m just trying to find my way to you”

“Opened up my guitar case and all the songs were blue
I haunted all the alleys
Lord, I drifted down the valleys
Honey, I’m just trying to find my way to you”

Antichrist | The 1975

Favorite Lyrics:

“She said ‘How can I relate to somebody who doesn’t speak?
I feel like I’m just treading water
Is it the same for you?’”

“Well I love the house that we live in.
I love you all too much.
Is it the same for you?”

Word By Word | Bombay Bicycle Club

Favorite Lyrics:

“If I could tell you gradually
word by word, you’d take it from me”

Guns Out | Young the Giant

Favorite Lyrics:

“You’ll drive in my car
Just tell me we are going somewhere
Where the stars meet the sky
And all these people with small dreams
Are looking up at the big screen
Well am I wrong or am I right?”

Can’t Stop | OneRepublic

Favorite Lyrics:

“I know I can live without you
I can live without you everyday
I know I can live without you
And put life off for another day”

“No I never get used to silence
But I don’t hear, no I don’t hear
I don’t hear you anymore.
I know I had to look hard to find it

“I don’t want to live without you
And put life off for another day”

All I Want | Dawn Golden

Favorite Lyrics:

“While I try to forget
I used to be something great”

Paris | Magic Man

Favorite Lyrics:

“No I’m not ready to lose everything I know
I’m letting go of
You know I held on too much

I left you at the station
I put you in my past”

Drop the Game | Flume, Chet Faker

Favorite Lyrics:

“I’ve been seeing all, I’ve been seeing your soul
Give me things that I’ve wanted to know
Tell me things that you’ve done
I’ve been feeling old, I’ve been feeling cold
You’re the heat that I know
Listen, you are my sun”

“Hush, I said there’s more to life than rush”

Settle | Two Door Cinema Club

Favorite Lyrics:

“Learn to fly,
Learn to fly,
Show the world
How you try”

“Cause I see the world
In different colors
To someone like you”

No Diggity | Chet Faker

And this one, because, well, who doesn’t love a FANTASTIC cover – especially of a 90s classic.


'Just Sit In It

Just Sit In It

“I care,” I said. “I care about how they feel and what they think. I care a whole lot.”

“Okay, you care.” she said nodding her head slowly and calmly, acknowledging that she received the information I surged in her general direction. “It’s good to recognize that and own it.”

“Well where do I go from here?”

“You don’t. You just sit in it. This is the step for right now.”

“Well that doesn’t make me feel any better.”

She laughed. She loves to laugh. It took her a long while to love her laugh. It’s hearty and heart felt. It’s infectious and feel-good. It’s insanely honest and will tell you, straight from the hip, how it came into existence. She shares it like a language — one that she is fluent in.

She knew I was looking for an answer – something to pacify my worry and self-doubt. Something to hold onto — tight, like you would a bungee jumping partner as you free fall; but not this time. I was solidly free falling solo with my hands grasping at the air for something — anything, to hold for comfort. And my best friend was allowing it.

It didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel hopeful. It didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere or ever would with no action steps going forward from where the conversation started.

“Just sit in it” translates in my ears most times as a fast road to sadness and to inaction and inertia.

Why though? Why the extreme negative?

For some reason I just find it scary – sitting in wherever I find myself to be, not receiving any actionable feedback. Figuring things out on my own sort of terrifies me. It’s not that I am alone, but it can feel that way in these moments. No matter what is said, I have to make a choice going forward and no one else can make it for me.

While there is an obvious beauty in finding what I really believe to be true, trepidation tends to rise to the surface quicker these days and I find myself wrestling with this simple question – what if I’m wrong?

I’ve come to discover that decision-making is what life is all about. I’ve grown up close to people who have had a very difficult time with this particular process. I firsthand witnessed individuals I love literally struggle to make a verdict on everything from material effects to personal relationships. Not knowing what to say goodbye to and what was healthy to keep.

I catch myself falling into learned behaviors like these sometimes. Even as I type this out, I am reminded of how I just spoke to a friend of mine regarding how hard it is for me to say goodbye or to end conversations with people. If it were up to me, most times, I would never do it.

I Love conversing – with a capital L. It is practically my oxygen flow.

I never want a good conversation to end – and in the same vein, I never want to have to say goodbye to great moments that I don’t know if I’ll ever experience again.

But in the end, I do. I end conversations even if I’m uncomfortable or awkwardly doing so. I say goodbye to things even if it’s a challenge in the moment. And, for the record, while it varies in degrees, it remains a challenge every single time.

Perhaps that’s all each decision ever is when it comes down to it. Trust.

The key for me has been staying grateful for the experience had and hopeful for the experiences to come. It’s enjoying the moment and trusting in the future. Perhaps that’s all each decision ever is when it comes down to it. Trust.

Life is full of choices. I think what we all need to work on making more well known is the simple truth that most of our decisions in life will fall into grey-areas – where the choices we make are both good and bad.

Life isn’t always so definitively right or wrong – in fact, it’s hardly ever so stark.

I know, trust me, I wish it were. I want there to be some sort of checklist going forward. One that I could find peace in intuitively knowing what is always “correct” and tick the boxes of the steps I am meant to take to progress from where I began.

As much as I wish for that, I also am thankful life doesn’t work that way. I think if it did we would never really come to know who we truly are because our decisions would forever be pre-made for us. I think we would rely heavily on always “getting it right” and less about embracing individual growth through mistakes made.

I’ll shoot it straight with you – I cannot stand making mistakes.

I literally cringe at the thought of letting someone down and if I slip-up, even in a small way, I typically will not let myself off the hook for quite some time.

My friend put it well the other day; she said we all need a personal trainer/motivator in our lives. Some need the ones who will get in your face and yell you into better outcomes. Some need positive encouragement and feedback each step of the way. She reminded me how well she knew me by saying that both her and I need the latter and would utterly breakdown in tears if subjected to the former. She then posed the question, “If we know that is true, why are we allowing the voices that motivate us internally to act like drill sergeants?”

“You’re not good enough.”

“It’s all your fault.”

“You messed up again – what made you think this time would be any different?”

“You’re lazy”

“You’re unwanted.”

“You’re not worth it.”

It’s not even about letting anyone down at a point; it’s about being my own worst enemy.

Her analogy made me realize that I need to make choices internally as well as externally. To know myself well enough to make a decision to recognize the type of encouragement and motivation I need for personal betterment.

I need to be kinder to myself.

I do also believe the pressure of always making the “right” decision ends up encouraging us all to people please. Like I said, I cringe at the thought of letting someone I care about down. This is something I’ve struggled with persistently. I find myself, these days, challenging my old people pleasing default through my faith. Which, to be honest, mostly looks like vast, unknown territory, but a pretty epic excursion in itself.

My faith journey has been a highly personal one for me – one that I’ve always been a little nervous to share too much about. I kept thinking it was more respectful to leave out that part of my life, but I’m starting to realize it’s more just a deficit of confidence in myself.

I guess, like with anything, I am always afraid that sharing such a personal decision will automatically put me in a box and allow for others to prejudge me without getting to know the heart behind the choices I’ve made for myself. I also truly never want to make anyone uncomfortable or feel disrespected.

The truth of the matter is, it all comes down to intention.

If I take a moment and honestly evaluate the intent behind my decisions, I wouldn’t doubt myself for a second and therefore, wouldn’t be as concerned about the possible perception of others. I want to love people well and allow them to feel heard and respected.

Ultimately I cannot control the reactions that others have to the decision I choose to make. I can only stay true to my good-hearted intentions and come back to that foundation with every choice I decide on my own.

I want to love people, not find my value in them.

I want to love people, not find my value in them. I want to find peace in the lack of a checklist going forward and embrace the idea that I may not always get it right. I want to breathe easier knowing my intentions are always to strive to be noble even though I may make decisions that could naturally bring out both good and bad. I want to let go of any ounce of me that longs for something to hold onto to feel safe – my false grasp of control.

Sitting in it. That’s where I was – still free falling.

My face was staring at the ground – what looked like mere inches away in comparison from the distance at which I had started. The metaphorically cord stretched to its furthest limit and to my whole body’s surprise, it didn’t break. I didn’t break. Instead, I was launched back upward.

“We are walking on the same path, side by side,” she came back and said. “And tonight, with this one thing, I just happened to have my foot in the air a split second before yours. I see what’s on the other side of this for you and I’m so excited for you to get there.”

'Shake It Out

Shake It Out

Nerves are crazy.

I recent met up with a friend of mine to have a conversation of significant magnitude and my body was extremely aware of what it was about to get itself into.

I was confident in what I knew I needed to express and ready to listen to his end with both ears wide open, but nerves don’t really take any of that into consideration. They tend to have a mind of their own. Seemingly, one that makes little to no sense at all.

Case in point: My dominant hand decided to malfunction as it listened to the nerves speaking inside of me rather than just acting like a normal part of my body. It was so shaky — out of commission shaky — when I went to use it for anything at all. This was terribly embarrassing in the moment, but sort of wholeheartedly hilarious in retrospect.

I found my friend and sat down at the bar next to him. Shortly into the conversation I ordered a beer. At these moments, I think life likes to be extra witty.

As luck would have it, this particular bar gives you a taste-tester to start; so now I was challenged with trying a swig – in front of my friend and the waitress — before actually ordering. I held my glass with both hands. TWO HANDS. Like a child holds a sippy cup. And, without having really accomplished tasting anything, I quickly okayed my first choice hoping for the best. I just knew my one hand was too weak on its own and it needed support for a little bit.

Between the negative thoughts we all struggle to silence and the palpable fear of an imagined outcome, we can so easily shut down.

What’s interesting though is how easily we allow our nerves to take over — our small, but fierce anxieties – even subconsciously. Between the negative thoughts we all struggle to silence and the palpable fear of an imagined outcome, we can so easily shut down. I had dove so hard into my nerves leading up to this moment, that even when I was mentally past them, my body physically still needed to shake them out.

The truth was, allowing the conversation to flow naturally, there was no reason at all to shake. To waver. To be anything, but myself.

Witty life strikes again when I think back to how our conversation played out.

We talked confidence and insecurity. We looked directly at one another and rarely allowed our eyes to stray. That’s the thing though about real communication – it’s too beautiful to look away from.

That’s the thing though about real communication – it’s too beautiful to look away from.

I wish this upon every person that walks this insanely gorgeous, imperfect world. Being wholehearted and real is such a gift in itself. And having someone respond in kind — well that’s true freedom right there.

It’s incredible to me how every real conversation is a captured moment in time. It’s an instant polaroid, a beautifully written letter, a slow dance that those involved get to keep. Things going forward can falter, but that moment is solidified as an authentic width of time.

And for that moment, it was undeniably what it was.

Just beautiful.

This Letter Is For You

I write the letters to myself,” he said. “I write what I need to hear that day – then I give it away to someone who may need those words too.

It’s incredible to me how serendipitous life can be. Amazing moments that happen little by little and then all at once until it’s beyond question.

I am a huge More Love Letters enthusiast. I remember learning about it a few years back from an Instagram I saw posted of a tree covered with love letters for the picking one Valentine’s Day.

I remember then thinking how unbelievably beautiful and brilliant the idea was and vowed I would start writing and leaving letters myself. It took a little bit longer than I would like to admit to finally get my first letter out the door and into someone’s hands that needed it more than me.

Enter serendipitous moment number one as of late: About a month ago, I helped produce a webisode for an incredibly encouraging series called A Future Worth Having, with the amazing Chad Brown and Josh Solar. Josh spoke specifically on his admiration for the love letters movement. He even creates handmade cards for others to motivate as many people as possible to love in this manner. It was so inspiring to me and got me writing again.

It has been the most rewarding experience with every word written on each letter composed and then quietly given away. I’m currently working on a personal challenge to write 28 love letters by my 28th birthday next month.

I took a photo of that first letter — like a time capsule or some sort of reference point to remind me of where I was when I started. To encourage me to keep writing and never stop.

I’m unsure of whose hands my very first letter fell into. I have dreamt about it a time or two. I figured there was no better way to begin this blog, this site, than to share this particular starting point.

This letter is to the person who picked it up that day from the coffeeshop table where I left it.
It is to every person I have ever loved and ever will grow affection for.
It is speaking to the heart of me and to the heart of you — the one who is reading this blog and needs to hear that you are, more than anything, not alone.
This letter is for you…

Dear Friend,

Don’t take yourself so seriously. You have the right to laugh, to love, to be silly, to be honest, to be raw with anyone and everyone you meet. You are courageous even though your fears may try to convince you otherwise. You are full of hope — real hope. The kind that shines light in the darkest places and refuses to dim. The kind that keeps choosing love — even when it’s the hard, tough road. Always love, my friend, always. People may not go about life in the same way you do, but that is okay. That is where their story has taken them so far, but you can choose to love them even if they currently cannot choose to love you. You can be the part of their story, and yours, where they learned a little piece of what love, real love, actually looks like. Hope spreads like that. When you see something in its truest form it’s undeniable. It will always affect people in one way or another. That is just life. So, go on. Love well. Be courageous. Smile at yourself in the mirror and at a stranger on the street. Be you in the company of others. Allow rejection to fall on you like the lightest snow; while cold, it is not enough to freeze you out or make you pack up and go home. No, allow it. Know that it is not you that caused it and there is a beauty in letting it happen. It is accepting who you are with no excuses. It is knowing that your worth doesn’t stem from anyone. Your worth comes from who you were made to be. I am praying for you — the one who found this letter. I am hoping that your life unfolds in the adventurous ways you have always imagined. So take that risk. Pursue your passions. Call, or better yet, visit the person that is on your mind right now. Life is made of love and people. That’s it. Now go live it!

A Friend