One incredibly hot southern summer day, on break from college, my mom and I stepped into a Kirkland’s shop. Home decor shopping was her new favorite thing and I just enjoyed being out of the house for a bit. We flipped through pictures and touched knick knacks. When I reached the aisle of wall art, I happened upon a long, white canvas full of black words in different sizes and fonts. It started with the words, “This is your life, find your passion and pursue it.” It goes into detail about beautiful ways to live a full and happy life. The canvas has hung on my wall in my college apartment and then again in my first adult apartment. It appeared again when I moved back home and then again in my apartment today. It will have a place somewhere in my new house. It has followed me through many chapters and destinations; it has been a constant for me. It has been a steady reminder to always chase the life that you want to live and never settle. To find the thing that sets your soul on fire and that you can’t stop thinking about. The thing that fills a void within you and brings you energy that renews you even if it expends energy. Because it is worth it.
It has been several months since I’ve checked in on my blog. Starting this project was something I was so excited about because the thing I did for fun and found joy in was writing poetry in colored notebooks, stories of fantasy, and free journaling. I wanted to put some of those musings out into the world. I’m not a creative person, I’m not trained as a writer, but I can find beauty in words. I can paint a picture with colors in the shapes of squiggly letters. Quarantine was supposed to be this time for creativity that I had desperately craved. Yet, it was a time of survival, of trying to keep our business afloat and hoping to keep my loved ones safe. It took a toll on me mentally more than I was even aware of, the day in and day out of stress and chaos and worry. I thought it was short term, we all did, but here we are 5 months later. We had a moment of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and that was ripped away again. I honestly don’t know if life will ever feel normal again, if we’ll ever live in a time where it doesn’t feel like the world is ending constantly. I’ve found myself distracted and restless and anxious. All these feelings are emotional and normal but this has not been a conducive state to writing. So now I am setting out and putting words down. Good, bad, or indifferent, I need a reminder that this is a passion of mine, it brings me so much joy. It is not scary to hit publish on something that is imperfect because we are all a rough draft that we are constantly editing and improving upon. And more importantly, I write this blog for my future daughter and I want her to know that she doesn’t have to give the world the most perfect version of herself. That she is worthy no matter what she brings to the table and that she should always show up with a willingness to learn and grow. How can I tell her she is all of these things when I won’t even tell myself that?
So here it is, a quickly penned post and a commitment to myself. Sloppy and imperfect and not highly edited. Not rewritten over several days and then posted and then revisited again because I wanted it to be just right. Focusing so much on the details makes it a job and not something I do for fun, which was why I kept telling myself it was okay not to post as often because it was casual and fun. But that was honestly an excuse to not be consistent and that choice has consequences. This blog is fun, but it also shouldn’t be something that I brush off when I get busy or weighed down with life. It is important, as important as the things I do instead of this. This is my life, this is my passion and I must pursue it.
7 Years. 364 Weeks. 2,555 Days. If you really think about it, a lot can happen in 7 years. You might grow taller, have worn out a car, have experienced nearly two Olympic games. In 7 years, nearly every cell in your body has been replaced with a new cell and you’re a completely “different person.” To me, 7 years has a very specific meaning because it has been 7 years since my mother lost her battle with multiple myeloma. May 4th, 2013, my best friend in the whole wide world left this life for the next. In all these years, I’ve sat down to write this out, to tell my story through my eyes a thousand times. I kept getting hung up. You see, the words had to be perfect. I was only going to tell this part once, at least one time that people would listen. People know I’ve lost my parents. But they don’t know. They don’t know the dark, scary details and the things that I’ve never shared. And honestly, after awhile, people stop caring. I don’t mean that callously, but it’s true. You stop caring when it’s not your life and not your story. So this time that I finally put the words together, it really has to matter and it has to be memorable. But how? Is it really possible to measure who someone was and the impact that they had on your life both while alive and after they’re gone in only 26 letters strung together in a few sentences? I don’t know that I know the answer to that question, but I have to try. I’m ready to walk through my journey with you, but first I have to take you back to the beginning.
In October of 2012, I was headed home from college for the weekend. For several months, my mom had been complaining of severe back pain. She had been to multiple doctors, was told that she needed to strengthen her core or maybe try physical therapy. My mom had struggled with her health my whole life, but she had made great efforts to get healthy. She went through gastric bypass surgery, was learning how to exercise and eat properly, and she had lost over a hundred pounds. She finally had the energy to go places and do things. She was starting to find a new normal after losing my dad just 2 years earlier. She was more confident in herself than I had ever seen; she was vibrant. But the back pain had been a nagging thorn in her side and it had gotten so bad one night that she finally ended up in the emergency room. When I called to get an update, she said that she would fill me in when I got home since I was headed home that weekend anyways. I could tell in her voice that something was wrong, we could never hide anything from each other. When I arrived at my childhood home, my grandma was there and so was my brother. Why was everyone at my house? I remember walking in the door and it felt like the air was sucked out of the room. Everyone’s eyes were hollow. My brother wouldn’t look at me. No one said a word but no one had to. My mom’s voice shook as she said that she had cancer. The back pain was due to literal holes in her vertebrae and her next step was to see an oncologist. I remember my grandmother crossing the room and hugging me. I wasn’t the one who had been diagnosed with cancer, yet everyone was trying to comfort me. In that moment we were all in shock and desperate for this to be fixed. I looked at my mom and I said, “You can’t leave me, I need you. I lost Dad and I can’t lose you too.” She smiled at me, a half smile, and said, “Sweetie, I’m not going anywhere.” The first lesson I learned from this experience, I learned that very day. It’s funny the details that you remember. After our conversation that day, my mom asked me to go to Target and I walked through the aisles in a daze. I wavered between feeling like things were going to be fine and like my world was crumbling around me. I’m pretty sure I lost my patience with the cashier. I didn’t mean to, but it taught me a valuable lesson; you never know what someone is going through. They may be rude to you in line at the store, but their life may have just been turned upside down. If you are on the receiving end, always choose to be kind, even when it’s hard. They’ll remember that kindness.
The following week was filled with appointments and tests. We learned big words that everyone looked to me to interpret because I had taken a few anatomy and science courses at college. The truth was I thought that if I could interpret these words then they wouldn’t mean they were bad news. We learned that my mom had multiple myeloma, a rare cancer of the plasma cells. It likes to attack the bones and the kidneys specifically, but at this point her prognosis was fairly good. She would start chemo right away. Except what we didn’t know is that this type of chemo that is supposed to attack the cancer also attacks the kidneys. My mom had unfortunately had kidney issues over the years and this chemo caused permanent damage that led her to dialysis. And so started the slow spiral of dialysis visits, of being too sick to move, of her not wanting anything to eat because the nausea was too intense, of doctors telling us we hope it will get better, of shorter stays at the hospital that felt like taking one step forward and three steps back. All the while, I was trying to stay focused and get through school. My grandmother stayed with my mom at all times and she had constant care, but I was home nearly every weekend and would help wherever I could. I would drop my mom off for dialysis and would come back 4 hours later and she would be so exhausted. My mom started to become more dark. She didn’t want people to be around her, she was angry and depressed. I reminded her that her mental state could impact her treatment, that even though it was hard, she needed to stay positive. But honestly, it’s insulting to tell someone battling cancer that they should be positive. It’s different when you don’t have to live it.
February 8th, 2013, my Mom started vomiting blood while at home. She went to the hospital, they said they wanted to keep her for overnight observation. It was just supposed to be another short stay, but we would get through this too. But then one night turned into another and another. The nearly three months that followed were a blur of confusion, of not really understanding what was wrong but just that my mom was sick and getting sicker, yet it seemed to have nothing to do with her cancer. It was a cacophony of medical machines beeping, blood pressure readings, overhead pages, and TVs that were too loud. It was cramped chairs and waiting rooms, thin blankets and hard pillows. It was sleeping in two chairs that I pulled together to face each other because my grandma needed a night to sleep in a bed and a real shower, but she didn’t want my mom to be alone. It was cafeteria food and stale coffee, but the cafeteria staff would remember you and let you know when the best stuff was going to be on the menu. It was studying for exams in waiting rooms and trying to write papers by fluorescent lights. It was knowing which elevators to take and which was the short or the long way to the gift shop. It was kind nurses that you got to know and that cared about you and your family and it was nurses that were cold when you were looking for some reassurance that things would be okay. Maybe they were overworked or tired or understaffed. Maybe they just didn’t like their job. But we relied on them and we needed them and I needed them to care because they were the people taking care of my mom when I couldn’t. I needed them to fix it and to keep track because I lost count of how many doctors were on her case. And honestly, it’s the nurses that were human to us time and time again. The doctors we would wait for all day long to get information, to make some sense of what was happening. Some days the information would never come and if it did, it didn’t make sense. It was realizing that if a patient doesn’t have an advocate that they easily get lost in the system as their chart grows thicker. And I don’t say these things to incite anger or negativity, this was the ugliness of the healthcare system that I wish I had never had to witness, but it’s true. We’d all like to pretend that it doesn’t exist. It does.
May 3rd, 2013, I got an urgent call from my grandma, my mom was asking to see me. At this point, I had gone back to Greenville to try and finish up my impending final exams. My mom had been moved to a facility in Greensboro, which was 2.5 hours away. It was 8:00 PM. I was exhausted. All I really wanted to do was try to get some sleep. Why was she so insistent that I come? I was drinking energy drinks just to stay awake as I made the drive by myself. What I didn’t know then was that my mom knew the time had come. You see, my mom was the type of mom that always worried and she wouldn’t have wanted me to drive that far that late at night. I will never regret making that drive and I would do it again a thousand times if I had to. When I got there, it was so late. Visiting hours were technically over, but the nurses allowed me to step in the room and see her. At this point in her care, she was on a ventilator and had been for almost a month. I hadn’t heard her voice in all that time. She asked for me to hand her the picture of her and my dad on their wedding day that we kept on the windowsill, she was trying to mouth to me that she was 35 in that picture. I reminded her that she was 30 on her wedding day. I held her hand. She mouthed to me that there was an angel in the room. I know that it was my dad. The nurse tried to shift something near her bed and she wanted them to stop because she was worried there would be an explosion. Nothing she was saying made sense. Her body was so swollen at this point that she could barely open her eyes and the nurse said it was time to go as other patients were trying to sleep. I said, “Mom, they’re telling me I have to go. I love you.” Then she mouthed to me, “I love you, too.” I was confused as to what had just happened. I knew I was facing a long drive back home. I left with my brother and my grandfather and drove the hour and a half to get home and finally fell into bed at my grandparents’ house after midnight. I couldn’t make it the extra hour back to school. The following morning we got a call from the nursing staff, they said the time was close. My grandfather and I got in the car and headed back to Greensboro. Over and over again, I talked to my dad in my head. I begged him to please be there, to please be the one to greet her on the other side. Before we arrived, my mom passed away. We knew when we were halfway there. We wondered if we had left 30 min sooner if we would have made it. We knew my grandma was there alone. We held our pain in our laps because what else could we do.
The rest of that day only comes to me in flashbacks and bits and pieces. It’s like being inside a dream and wondering if any of it was actually real. To the nurse that saw me sink to the floor in the hallway and held my hand with tears in her own eyes, I’ll never be able to repay you the humility you showed me in that moment. You reminded me that I was strong enough to get off that floor that day and I have never forgotten that. To the cafeteria staff that let my grandmother eat on a running tab because they only took cash until we could get her enough money to pay the bill, I can’t ever thank you for the kindness and trust that you extended to us. You didn’t have to do what you did, but you made sure my grandma could eat when she felt able to do so. To the staff that witnessed me have an anxiety attack when we had to go back because my grandmother forgot her purse and I had to witness them wheeling my mom’s empty hospital bed into the hallway, I’m sorry that you had to see me that way but thank you for understanding. To the friends and family that were waiting for us with food and kindness when we got home, as hard as it was in that moment to have to face each of you with our grief so raw, thank you for making sure we were cared for when we couldn’t care for ourselves. To my dog, Amelia, who wouldn’t leave my side and sat awake in bed with me with her head pressed against mine as I sobbed uncontrollably, inconsolably, for 2 hours straight, please know that humans don’t deserve the love and loyalty showed to us by dogs. To the college professors who allowed me to forego my final exams so that I could properly grieve, thank you for your support that you didn’t have to show me, but you did anyways. And to you who is reading this right now, thank you for letting me tell this part of my story through my eyes, as long and detailed as it may be. Now comes the lesson.
When you first lose someone that you love, you’re not really that different of a person. I mean you miss them and you are grieving, but you’re essentially the same. But as days fade to weeks and then months, your path begins to deviate. You begin to become the “after” version of yourself and then all of a sudden, you’re not sure if your loved one would even recognize anything about you if they were standing right in front of you. No matter what you believe about the afterlife, the raw truth is that the influence that that person had on your life is so completely different and you’re now more influenced by their absence than their presence. A day will come when I’ve lived more of my life without my parents than I did with them, if I’m lucky, and it’s really not that far off. I’ve grappled a lot over the years with this question: would I still be the person I am today if I hadn’t lost my mom at such a young age? I was a month shy of my 21st birthday when my mom passed away. I didn’t even know who I was yet. If I had been a younger child or maybe an older adult, I would have either not started to become someone or I would already know who I was. But what about when you’re in the middle of becoming? Would I be a completely different person right now, would I be engaged to someone else or even engaged at all? Would I have the career that I do and feel like I’m fulfilling a destiny I didn’t even know that I had? And how incredibly guilty I have felt at saying that I like my life that I have built, that I’m not sure I would trade any of this away to have my mom back if I could. You see, that’s the thing. The hard answer. The ugly truth. The philosophical question that I find myself pondering and it eats away at me because I’ll never know. I’ll never know if there is an “and.” If I could still have my mom AND have Kyle. Because Kyle loves me for the woman that I am and have become since losing my mom. If my mom were still here, would I even be someone that Kyle would fall in love with? But you’re not supposed to ask that. You’re supposed to say that you would trade everything away for 5 more minutes. Which is true, but only if everything else could stay the same.
The lesson that I’ve learned about grief is that it is not uniform. It is not the same for each person and it’s is no one’s. damn. business. how you choose to grieve. It is personal and it is not a smooth or straight path to navigate. There is no such thing as grieving the right way. It is not open for discussion or judgment from anyone else, because trust me, someone will tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Grief is not something you move through and get over. It takes up residence in your heart and it will always be with you. But you do learn to not let it define you or to weigh you down. It becomes a familiar friend. Over the years, I’ve been asked what someone should say to someone when they lose a loved one. Like there is a club that you’re a part of now and you should know the answer to that question because you’ve lived it. But if you’ve really lived it, then you will understand that the only thing people should say is that they are there for you, that they care about you. Don’t say “everything happens for a reason.” Because to the person grieving, there can’t possibly be a reason that makes any sense. I heard, “God always has a plan” so many times that it created so much anger and hatred in my heart and it altered my faith and spiritual journey. Saying things because they sound good only serves to make you feel better, but truthfully it does more harm than you realize. Choose the words you use in these moments very carefully.
When people ask me how I’ve survived or say that they couldn’t imagine losing their parents, you’re right. You can’t. You can’t imagine that 7 years later, you still think that you need to pick up the phone to call and tell them something. You can’t fathom that voice message recordings and photographs will be all that you have to remember them by. You can’t understand the feeling of waking up in a cold sweat realizing all over again that you will never see them again in this lifetime. You can’t know what it’s like to dream about them and wonder if she was trying to communicate with you and you spend the next day analyzing it over and over again. You can’t know that every time you meet someone new and they ask about your parents, you have to deal with the pained, awkward look on their face and you’re more worried about their discomfort than your own. You can’t understand that you almost stop and question if your memories of them were even real because it feels like you’re watching the movie of someone else’s life. You can’t picture that there will ever come a day where you can continue to exist without them. I still don’t know how I’m supposed to answer this question when it arises, but I can say that most people never imagine how strong they are until being strong is the only choice that they have.
If love were enough. If love were enough, my mom would still be here. She would be excited as we start planning our wedding. She would be by my side as I try to pick out a wedding dress. She would love being a grandmother to my nephew, she would be the best grandma ever. She would have seen me walk across the stage at my college graduation. She would have helped guide me through those first few awkward years of adulthood. If love were enough, she would have been able to keep her promise that she wasn’t going anywhere. The only reason that my mom kept fighting over and over again was out of love for my brother and I. A love that intense would have been enough to keep her here. To the daughter I hope to have someday, I will never stop telling you about the absolute warrior of a woman she was and how much you look like her. The solemn truth is that love may not have been enough to cure her cancer or keep her on this Earth. But it was enough to show me that she is always with me. Every time I’ve faced a hard decision or an insurmountable challenge, she’s guided me. Over the years, I have been extremely blessed to be surrounded and loved by women who are like mothers to me and I truly believe that is her doing. She knew she couldn’t physically be here for me anymore, but she loved me enough to make sure I can still feel a mother’s love. Love is enough to get you out of bed on really hard days and to keep you pushing forward because there are people depending on you. Love is enough to help you find a reason to smile or laugh again when it feels like the darkness is closing in. Love is enough to make you believe that you are worthy of a happy life even when bad things happen. Love is enough to make you keep believing there is good in the world. Love is enough to make you keep being the good in the world.
Before the month of March, the words “coronavirus” and “pandemic” meant nothing to us, they were a distant problem with no real bearing on our lives. Now these words mean everything. We have quickly become consumed by social distancing, uncertainty, and one big question: when will this end? When can our lives resume some semblance of normalcy? While we have a lot of questions and even fewer answers, I have found myself pondering a different question; is it possible that quarantine, the great pause button of the world, could actually be a beautiful gift?
I’ve struggled with my emotions, as I know many people have. I’ve wavered between bouts of anxiety, of fear, of disappointment. I’ve had moments where I’ve cried and moments where I didn’t want to move from my couch. I’ve had times where I’ve looked at my fiancé as we’re entering a beautiful season of our life together, only to worry if that will ever come to be or what our world will look like in the after. As a business owner, the uncertainty adds a new dimension of worries and responsibilities. The concern for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of your employees, as well as the fact that they are looking to you for guidance and decision-making in a time where nothing makes sense can be all too consuming. Through all of this though, I am choosing to focus on one truth; while there are so many uncomfortable things during this time, growth only comes from a place of discomfort. I can wax philosophical on all the areas of the world that are growing, but I’m choosing to talk from the lens of my own life and experience. Here are five areas that I’ve witnessed growth or an opportunity for growth during quarantine.
1) Connection: With the absence of regular date nights and time spent with friends, I’ve had to get creative and think outside of the box when it comes to staying connected with the people that matter most to me. This has included virtual happy hours, quarantine date nights at home, and video calls with family. I can’t wait until I can see my favorite humans in person again and wrap them up in a big bear hug. But what I’ve learned is that in having to be more intentional with the means, I’ve been more communicative and connected than I was pre-quarantine. It’s easy to take for granted that you’ll just see your friends at the next regularly scheduled hang out session or you can just go out to eat with your partner and call that a date. Having to spend all your free time with only one person has taught me that you have to intentionally set boundaries on “work time” and be diligent in creating special time together. Which brings me to my next point…
2) Overcommunication is Key: Adjusting to new working patterns, routines, and shared space has required new levels of communicating with my partner in order to navigate this new time. Kyle is working from home, which is an adjustment in and of itself, but we originally did not have a home office space for him in our apartment. This meant he was working from our couch, which is both uncomfortable and mentally draining. I have been working at my office, safely, but often the end of my workday and time normally spent by myself to unwind now overlaps with time that he is still in meetings and working. We are in each other’s space and we definitely have had some moments of frustration, but this has also taught me that overcommunicating your work schedule and personal needs for alone time can prevent unnecessary tension. As an introvert, I desperately need independent time to recharge. In the pre-corona days, we naturally had different work schedules and commutes, so alone time was built into my schedule and I never had to think about it. Now intentionality is required, but it has opened doors for me to learn to communicate my needs in new ways I’ve never had to before.
3) Productivity Can Mean Many Things: During my regularly scheduled programming, what I considered to be a “productive day” looked a lot different that it does right now. I would call it a week well spent if I accomplished everything I needed to during most of my work days and I was able to keep my apartment in a general state of order. But now, being productive also includes filtering out some of the content on social media and the news, investing time in self care, and yes, even sitting on the couch watching Netflix. The key concept of productivity to focus on in this season is “will this make me feel like the best version of me right now?” Don’t get me wrong, it has felt really great to finally reorganize my closet and clean out some clothes for donation. But if doing busy work just for the sake of doing it doesn’t feel like it’s filling my cup right now, then what’s the point? That’s not serving me and my mental health which is not in turn serving others who need me at my best. I also think there is a concept floating around that if you don’t have something grand and shiny to show for your time in quarantine then you were unproductive and I don’t think that’s true or fair. Because realistically, no one’s going to check to see if you actually cleaned out the closets and did the things. What does matter is if you come out of all of this happy, healthy, and feeling accomplished in a way that is meaningful to you and only you.
4) “Normal” is a Loose Definition: I’ve said it myself multiple times; “I just can’t wait to get back to normal.” This concept of normal is something worth analyzing. How many times in our lives have we experienced change and found a “new normal?” How many things have happened that have caused upheaval in such a way that there is no going back to normal? We encounter periods of our life where things change so drastically that they’ll never be the same again, yet in each of those moments, we persist. We flex our resiliency muscles. We adapt. Yes, we will come through this storm at some point. We can go back to seeing our friends and family and doing all the things we used to do. But what if this is a spring cleaning of sorts? What if this allows us to reorganize our priorities and to shed some things that have been holding us back? What relationships with people, food, alcohol, jobs, insert item here have we been giving our time to that is no longer worthy of that time? I recognize that this is an extremely challenging and drastic change from our daily lives. All of a sudden, everything feels like it’s been ripped away. But wow, what a gift to be able to take a mass inventory of myself and my life. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that all things from the before time are bad, but rather we now are able to gain the clarity we may not have otherwise had a chance to have.
5) Happiness Can Be Found in the Darkest of Times: Yes, I did just include a Harry Potter reference. If you know me, you know Harry Potter is my favorite series and I often revert to this quote because it is a simple, yet powerful reminder. I remember growing up, I would observe others and identify them as happy people. I thought this was an inherent quality of theirs, they were naturally gifted a happy personality. It took me until adulthood to understand that happiness is something that you can actively choose. You can work on your mindset, you can put deposits in your happiness bank, and you can contribute to this feeling daily. I’ve learned so much from personal growth work about how to generate happiness. I think corona has given us a unique lesson in choosing joy in a whole new set of circumstances. What I would have done 3 weeks ago may not apply right now, but if I can learn to be happy during this pandemic then I can learn to be happy in other difficult seasons too. With all the chaos and uncertainty and any and every other emotion we as humans are experiencing at this time, happiness can and should also be one of them. The darkness doesn’t have to settle in and stay there, because the sun always shines after the rain.
I started this post at the beginning of January. The start of 2020 brought me so many new thoughts and ideas when it came to blogging. But as I sat down to write on this particular topic, I simply could not find the words. This topic was important, I was so very passionate about it and I had to get it right. I strictly try to prevent myself from overthinking and getting stuck on a topic because then I’m not really moving the needle forward on this blog project. But what I now know is that the reason I was struggling so much with writing this post was that I needed to have a certain experience before I could put these thoughts out there and I am thankful that I can now share with you the words I was meant to.
Let me take you back in time. On October 20th, 2017, I had my first date with Kyle. We talked and we laughed and dinner quickly turned into a trip to play pool (yes, he beat me, even with him trying to help me win), which then turned into drinks and talking for hours. What I thought would be a short first date turned into a 4 hour adventure. We were instantly inseparable. Six months in to our relationship, we made the decision to move into an apartment together and we learned so much about each other. But then we hit the span of being a year into our relationship and then 2 years in. We were happy and thriving as a couple, yet we were constantly bombarded with questions about when we were getting engaged, married, buying a house, having babies. While all questions that were asked with good intentions, at times it felt like everyone around us was constantly trying to rush our relationship forward, like it wasn’t valid unless we hit certain milestones.
I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t struggle or feel anxious at times when asked these harmless questions. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way and I’m ashamed to say that at times I projected these anxious thoughts onto Kyle. Why did this bother me so much? I always fumbled when asked when we would be engaged and my answer always changed. I ultimately felt awkward, like there was something wrong with our relationship because we hadn’t made the decision to take this step together yet. I came home crying to Kyle a couple of times, wondering why he was never asked these questions. Over time, I would reply with something snarky or a sarcastic quip because I was annoyed. We were happy! Our relationship had high moments and lower ones, but dammit we were happy and thriving and setting goals and we were GREAT. But no one ever asked me if we were happy or great.
I’m not the first woman who has ever experienced this. In fact every single one of my friends expresses that they have been asked similar questions or once they do take a big step in their relationship, they’re immediately rushed to the next milestone. Why? Why do we as a society do this? I’m guilty of it too, but I didn’t realize how much it’s a pattern and how acceptable it is when in reality, it’s NONE OF ANYONE’S BUSINESS. It’s not anyone’s business when a couple chooses whether or not they want to get married and when that time will be. It’s not anyone’s business if someone does or does not want to have children. It is not anyone’s business when any of these moments are right for a couple to step into, that is their decision and theirs alone. We all have this arbitrary timeline where we think things are supposed to happen and when they don’t, we feel entitled to ask these deeply personal questions.
There is no such thing as a perfect timeline. Life is not linear, we are not all meant to walk the same path. If we did, how epically boring would that be? I’ve spent the last few years chasing some big dreams and accomplishing some awesome goals. While I am lucky to have had a partner supporting me, none of those things I’ve accomplished have anything to do with my relationship. And I am so very proud of what I have achieved and helped create and build. But yet I was rarely asked to talk about those moments. It took a lot of personal growth and learning to feel confident in myself, to find peace in the course that my life was taking, and to know that everything I wanted would happen for me in the exact perfect season that it was supposed to. And this allowed me to accept these questions with grace and confidence instead of anxiety.
The reason I was meant to wait to write this post was because on January 21st, 2020, Kyle got on one knee and asked me to spend forever with him. It was perfect, it was a dream come true, it was everything I had hoped it would be. And it wasn’t meant to happen a single second sooner than it did. Okay, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Hannah, it’s easy for you to say. You’re engaged and you have someone to love.” You’re right, it’s easy for people who have reached the goal to look back and say that it was worth the wait. But I wasn’t meant to be engaged to Kyle any sooner because I needed time to grow and to become the version of myself that was ready to be a wife. I was meant to have certain life experiences and we were meant to face challenges as a couple that would help us prepare for the next chapter of our lives. Each person has a timeline that is right for them and when things don’t work out or fall apart, it’s not because you’re being punished. It is not because something is wrong with you. You have to trust that what is meant for you will be and things will happen for you in the absolute perfect timing. It wasn’t until I learned how to relax and view things through a different lens that I truly found joy in the day to day moments that were leading me towards the next step I would take in life. Everything will happen the way it is supposed to. All in good time.
In a mere 27.5 hours, the entire world will turn over the page to a new year AND a new decade. A new year always brings with it promise, hope, excitement to set new goals and the motivation to step outside our comfort zones. The New Year always inspires me to realign myself with my priorities, to get organized, and to begin to create a vision for how I want to approach the next year. With the comeback of the roaring 20s, I want to embrace the fun moniker of having “2020 Vision” and damn, do I have some big dreams for this coming year.
If you know me well, you’ll know that if you ask me what my New Years’ resolutions are, I will likely reply with some version of, “I don’t set New Years’ Resolutions.” Now please don’t be mistaken, I am not vehemently against resolutioners, I welcome people who want to set goals and try new things. I am all for people who are aiming for personal growth and I will be right here cheering you on. But I don’t believe that the calendar has to read January 1st for you to be inspired to take action towards a goal that you set for yourself. However, I do love to use this time of year to pause and reflect. I like to take note of what I’ve achieved in the year, how I have grown, and set forth with identifying my dreams for what’s to come. Because this is the ending of a decade, I want to share with you 10 things I learned during the 2010s, as well as a few things I want to carry with me into 2020.
1) Who you are at 17 will not define you for the rest of your life
It seems so silly typing these words as a 27 year old woman because it is so obviously true. I look back on the 17 year old girl who entered 2010 thinking that the biggest thing that would happen that year was graduating high school and starting college. I would FINALLY shed the dorky persona I had carried with me throughout my 12 years of school and become the cool, sexy, confident woman I was meant to be as soon as I stepped foot on my college campus. But as I entered my college years, I often struggled with still seeing myself as the timid, undesirable girl that I thought that I was as a child. It’s funny because your perception of yourself forms during these years and some people never move past it. They fail to see how much they have grown and changed because they are absolutely trapped in this short stage of their life. I am thankful for that 17 year old girl, just as much as I am thankful for the 22 year old who became the 27 year old woman writing this blog. Every single moment along the way helped shape who I am today and for the first time in my life, I can actually say that I love myself. I did not love myself at 17, but I am immensely thankful that I learned how to.
2) You are going to get your heart broken. You will find love again.
My first real boyfriend whom I met at the age of 19 broke my heart 3 and 1/2 years later at the age of 22. But from that relationship, I learned to not let myself be a doormat to be walked all over. I could and should stand up for myself and be my own advocate. The second major heartbreak came at the age of 25 when the person I thought I would spend forever with told me that our whole relationship wasn’t what I thought it was. This one taught me so much about myself that I will pour into a future post, but I learned that I am whole and complete all on my own and I am in control of my own happiness. There were smaller heartbreaks along the way, but every single one of them led me to where I am today: sitting on the couch, next to the man I love in the apartment that we share together, chasing my dream of writing all because it brings me joy. We just spent the evening walking around our apartment complex talking about our goals and dreams for the future and how we were going to chase them together. And for every heartbreak I ever experienced, I can honestly say that it was worth every single tear I shed for the beautiful moments I have now.
3) What you want to do for the rest of your life may not work out exactly how you pictured it. But it’ll turn out better than you ever imagined.
When I walked into freshman orientation at college, a counselor asked me, “What do you want to major in?” I immediately had an answer: physical therapy. “Ok. But you have to start with studying exercise physiology and then go on to get your Doctorate in Physical Therapy in grad school.” And from that moment on, I studied exercise physiology. I never changed my major during my 4 years of college, I knew exactly what I was going to do. Until my junior year of college. During this year, I experienced a pivotal point in my life and I decided that medical school was my calling. After working tirelessly to graduate with a 4.0 GPA, I failed to get the score that I needed on my MCAT exam to be accepted into medical school. In a moment, the image of who I thought I would become was shattered. I was devastated. It had all been a waste. What was I going to do now? I spent a few years pursuing a career in the fitness industry, the closest I could get to what I had actually studied. I was determined that I had not spent 4 years of my life getting this degree for nothing. Until I reached my second or third job out of college and realized I was deviating further and further from the path I had set out on, but not gaining skills that were truly applicable to building a career. Most importantly, I just wasn’t happy. I was lost and confused and had no idea what my career was going to become. Until the opportunity presented itself to return to the family business, the very future I had gone to college to avoid. And in returning to this business, I have found my true passion, my calling. It has definitely not been all rainbows and butterflies, but it has taught me so much more than I ever imagined was possible and I’m more fulfilled than I’ve ever been in any job. Did it work out the way I thought? Hell no. It’s even better.
4) Setting a timeline for your life is simply a waste of time
If you asked my freshly graduated college self what my late twenties would look like, I would have told you that I would be sitting pretty in my medical residency with an adorable husband and a couple of kids. I would have the house with the picket fence and the nice car to drive and I would be the walking embodiment of the American Dream. See number 3 about things not working out as planned, but to a further point, having some strict timeline about how your life is going to unfold is quite frankly robbing yourself of becoming who you are supposed to be. While I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have goals and things that you aspire towards, being rigidly strict about when they happen will only steal your joy. This one is really tough because, especially as a woman, society puts pressure on you to hit milestones by a certain point and if you haven’t, it makes you feel like you failed (another topic I will dive into deeper in another post because it is something I am truly passionate about). You are not a failure if you are not married at 25. You are not behind if you don’t have kids by 30. Each person is on their own path and your focus should be on your growth and becoming the best version of yourself, not on checking off boxes on your list of things to do. Because guess what, you can have all of those things and STILL not be happy. Which brings me to my next point…
5) Happiness is not a destination, it is a mindset
If you asked me during these years if I was happy, I would probably say “well, I will be when I get a boyfriend.” Or “as soon as I have my own place.” What it took me nearly 10 years to learn is that happiness is not something that is acquired because of some outside thing or accomplishment or person. I don’t mean that if you’re in a hard season of life that you can just plaster on a fake smile and pretend everything is okay and call that happiness. That’s just not being genuine and honest to the human experience. But you CAN find things to be grateful for. You can find joy in the mundane moments. You can choose to look at things more positively. And nothing or no one is responsible for your own happiness. Everything you need to be a happy person is already within you, you just have to learn how to tap into it.
6) You don’t have to have all of the answers. You do have to take action.
Most people don’t really enjoy making mistakes. No one likes to fail regularly. So I spent a lot of time in a variety of situations overthinking, researching, looking at things from every angle so that I wouldn’t take a misstep and fall flat on my face. To put it in a fun term, I was the queen of getting stuck in the “analysis paralysis.” I would think and think and think about something, but I would never actually DO anything. Damn, if I had taken a leap and just tried in a number of those situations, I would have probably accomplished so much more in this decade. Maybe that decision wouldn’t have been the right one per se, but I would have learned a hell of a lot from it. It’s not a bad idea to use common sense and put some thought behind things, but don’t get stuck there too long. Because sometimes you’re meant to take that risk, it will either turn out to be a blessing or a lesson and both of those things are valuable.
7) Friendships in your life will evolve over time. Embrace it.
Some friendships last a lifetime, from a young age all the way through your many milestones in life. These friendships are beautiful and should be cherished. But some friendships are only meant to be held close during a certain period of your life. You are a dynamic being. You are not meant to be the same person you were a few years ago, you should honestly hope that you are not. Everyone is meant to grow through the things they experience and sometimes that means that you will grow apart from people. This doesn’t mean that you have to hate them; you can love these people from afar and still hope for the best for them. Do not be afraid to choose your growth and find the people who are growing with you. You will also find that you tend to value having fewer friendships that are closer and deeper than having a million friends. Quality is better than quantity.
8) Comparison is the thief of joy
In these past 10 years, social media has become an absolute force in our society. Nothing exists if it is not on social media. There are some amazing things about this tool; we’re more connected, more inspired, and more in tune than ever before. But with it comes the green eyed monster of jealousy. It’s easy to look at social media and think that that is real life. If you are not vigilant, you will get sucked into a spiral of thinking your life is imperfect. Here’s the truth: NO ONE has a perfect life, even if you are Beyoncé. Social media is the highlight reel ,but you can’t tell from it if someone is genuinely happy. You don’t know what they look like without makeup and photoshop. All those cute romantic couples photos? Maybe their relationship doesn’t look so cute behind closed doors. If you let it, you will be consumed with comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s front and center and you will end up missing out on all that is good in your own life. And honestly even if it feels like your life is just a beautiful mess, you should focus on the fact that it is still beautiful.
9) Life sometimes hands you things that you could never possibly imagine. But you are also stronger than you ever thought you could be.
I will only touch on this briefly here as another entire post, hell an entire blog, can ( and will at some point) be dedicated to this one item on the list. This decade, I lost both of my parents. I experienced unimaginable grief and I unfortunately walked through this grief at a young age. I didn’t know how to carry it, it was impossibly heavy. But I was faced with something that I had no control over, that I couldn’t understand. I fumbled this heavy burden many a time. It’s taken nearly 10 years since my father’s passing and this nightmare began to truly understand how to hold this grief. But in many a moment, I heard the words “I don’t know how you’re still functioning.” Well, the answer to that was always simple; you never know what you are capable of until you are faced with something so insurmountable as the death of someone you love. You’re right, until it happened, I could never imagine a life without my parents in it. And honestly there are some days where I still can’t. But through this, I have learned I am more resilient and a hell of a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. Do not doubt what you are capable of, you will often surprise yourself when presented with the impossible.
10) Never stop growing and never stop dreaming
10 years has brought me a lot of things, but the biggest and best thing is the discovery of how exciting it is to grow. Sometimes growth happens without you realizing it, but when you chase that growth, it becomes something so much better. We all had dreams when we were young and the world seemed like it was wide open. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING was possible. The sky was the limit! What did you want to be when you were little? I told you in my first blog post that I always wanted to be a writer. I held that dream in my heart for many years and then I let it fade out. But here I am in 2019, a writer. It may not be my day job, but it is something that lights my soul on fire and that is worth more than any dollar amount added to my bank account. Your dreams that you have are yours for a reason and every day is a chance to become the person that you are meant to be. Do not fight it. Embrace it. The world needs you to be who you are supposed to become.
As the 2010s fade into the roaring 20s, I hope that you are filled with joy and excitement. I personally am excited to bring with me into 2020 all of the lessons that I have learned along the way and I am approaching the new decade with an open heart to continue becoming a woman that I am proud of. In the new decade, I will be more intentional with my priorities. I will be more present in moments that are important. I will chase new challenges that will teach me what I need to learn. I will focus a little less on things that I think I can’t do and instead say “why not me?” I know that who I am and what I am doing matters because someone out there needs to hear my story. And in honor of the rebirth of the 20s, I leave you with the following words from my favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald: “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things that you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you are proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
It’s been a few weeks since my last post, I have deeply missed writing during this time. Between Thanksgiving and now almost Christmas, it has been long nights, challenges at work, and just an overall giving of myself; to events, to gift planning, and to caring for others. I honestly have been feeling the mental strain and emotional burnout quite a bit. I’ve felt frustrated with myself: why do I feel this way? Why can’t I shake it off? Everyone is burned out, why should I be complaining? Well. The truth is that burnout, much like a sore muscle, is your mind’s way of telling you that something is off and you need to slow down, lest you risk injury. While work has been challenging and has given me a heap of learning experience this week, it is not mutually exclusive of the fact that I’m tired and feeling disconnected. I’ve not been as diligent as I thought with my self care: too much thinking a cup of tea is enough and not enough prioritizing the things that recharge my spirit, such as writing this blog. It’s easy to happen to all of us and while I think people acknowledge this feeling more during this time of year because it feels busier, it can happen anytime we lose sight of our priorities. This holiday season, I want to share with you how to give yourself the greatest gift: the gift of true self care.
While prevention is always the best policy, when feeling burned out, it is important to recognize it. Burnout can be insidious, can disguise itself with a mask, can be completely misidentified and therefore delay you treating it. Burnout can feel like:
Being tired even though you are sleeping regularly
Inability to focus
Lack of joy or excitement in things that normally bring out these feelings
Lesser productivity or feeling less capable
Anxiety or inability to relax
These are just a few symptoms, but I’ll give you a personal description of how I have been feeling burned out as of late. I’ve felt anxiety so strong that I can’t settle down, I’ve been having trouble sleeping, I’ve been feeling like the simplest tasks are an absolute mountain. I feel overwhelmed, like everyone needs something from me and at the end of the day, I have nothing but crumbs left of myself to give. I have a lot of tools in my toolbox to combat some of these feelings, but I feel like I have no energy left to use these tools. So, how do we work through burnout so that we feel like ourselves again?
First and foremost, we reorder our priority list with ourselves at the very top. This sounds quite selfish, but just like a battery, we aren’t any good to anyone when we are depleted. As a type A personality, I love to be organized, so I think a great step is organizing your priority list. If you have a daily to do list that is a mile long, you inevitably will miss something important and feel like you’re failing. There are a ton of planners out there, both in paper or app form, but the key is to list your top three items for each day that will make you feel the most accomplished. It honestly doesn’t matter what those three things are. They do not have to be profound, they can be as simple as folding a basket of laundry, the point is the way that doing those things makes you feel. That feeling of accomplishment will become a snowball rolling down the hill and will ultimately give you more confidence. Don’t feel like you have to be a superhero and do it all, just start small with things that will move the needle forward.
The next step in self care is tapping into something that brings you energy and lights a fire within you. While the things that energize us are going to be highly personal, everyone benefits from daily exercise as a means of producing that energy. Even though it seems counterintuitive, moving your body enough to break a sweat for 30 minutes a day will actually energize your body. It will keep your mood more stable, it will help you feel more focused throughout the day, it is all around the best thing for you. It is a non-negotiable in terms of self care. It is also important to find an activity that excites you. I’ve given my example of something that excites me: writing this blog. But maybe for you, it is doing a craft, painting, playing a sport. Whenever we’re busy, the first thing to go is the thing that we enjoy because it feels frivolous or unimportant. Don’t give up that thing, it matters the most.
The next thing that is important for self care is practicing gratitude. I dove into this much deeper in my last post, but gratitude helps keep you grounded and reminds you of the things that are good, which is so needed when experiencing burnout. Whether you meditate, journal, or say it out loud, find a daily gratitude practice that works best for you. It is really easy to slip into a pool of negativity when things feel overwhelming. It feels like you’re being suffocated and everything is hard. Gratitude will to remind you of what is important and will help these days not feel so dark.
Finally, find something that relaxes you in a positive way. It’s easy to turn to alcohol or stress eating and think that that is relaxation. But if the thing you are turning too takes away from you and your health, then that is not the right thing. There are many positive relaxation tools that are healthy, it’s about finding the one that feels the best to you. Maybe it’s a bath, massage, a cup of tea, or mediation. No matter what it is, it should be something that you can do daily without negative effects and is not mentally draining. Whatever that thing is for you, make sure there is time for it at least a couple of times a week, but more often if possible. Having time to truly unplug and turn your brain off for a few minutes will give you a short break that will help prevent you from needing a much longer one.
Life is unpredictable. It seems that there are times where you have more on your plate than normal and things are off balance. You feel like if you just had a few minutes to sit down or sleep, it would all be better, yet there isn’t time for any of those things because too much needs to be done. If you’re in this place, know that you are not alone and it will not last forever. But while you may not be able to take things off your plate right now, you CAN manage to make yourself feel more effective and capable of handling it all. I am truly a helper and a giving person, I will help others before myself to my detriment. While I have allowed myself to be somewhat depleted this season, I’m realizing how much I am unable to help the people I care about because I have nothing left to give. This week, I am refocusing my priorities and making sure that I am caring for myself. I’m giving myself the time to quiet my mind; the gift of a silent night.
Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday dedicated to my favorite things: food and family. It is truly a moment to pause and just BE PRESENT with those that are important to you. In the spirit of this week that is devoted to expressing thanks, I want to talk about what it means to adopt an “attitude of gratitude;” one that will extend past your turkey day festivities. Learning how to create a gratitude practice in your daily life can ultimately lead you to a more positive mindset that you can carry with you all year long. In this week’s post, you will learn what gratitude actually means, as well as some super helpful tips to guide you on your journey.
First, let’s start out by defining gratitude. The dictionary defines Gratitude as “the quality of feeling grateful or thankful.” I think when you ask most people what they are grateful for, they will quickly tell you things like:
My Dog or Cat
The list could go on and on. But have you noticed that these things are BIG, important things in your life? While everything on this list should absolutely be acknowledged, learning how to have a grateful heart involves looking at things through a smaller lens. It wasn’t until a few months ago during a meditation session that I was introduced to what is called a “gratitude practice.” I was asked to focus on something incredibly small: maybe a car let me over in traffic, maybe someone held the door for me when I was rushing to catch the elevator, or maybe I had a really nice conversation with a friend that I was missing. At first, I thought this was cheesy. Really? If I have to look that hard for something so small then that’s clearly just me trying too hard to be some fake, positive person, right?
The lesson that I didn’t know I was actively learning is that gratitude is NOT something cheesy. It is something beautiful that can help you grow as a human being and see the world in a slightly brighter light. It’s easy to get bogged down by the negative; spend 5 minutes on social media or watching the news and you will be convinced that you should have no faith in humanity. Gratitude is something that you need in your life because it helps keep things in perspective. As humans, we are constantly looking to compare one piece of information to another piece of information so that we know how to interpret it. This helps us to develop our own frame of reference. Every single person has a frame of reference that is defined by the cumulative sum of their life experiences; no two will be the same. That’s also why we perceive some people as really positive or really negative because we are evaluating their demeanor through our own lens. The truth is that whether you define yourself as a positive person or not, you can begin to create a more positive frame of reference through daily gratitude.
To begin your gratitude practice, you first have to be in the right mental place. This has to be done when you have the time to pause and take a moment to fully immerse yourself in your thoughts. I often struggle with this because I am a task-oriented person, I love checking things off my to do list. I think it is really important to not evaluate this daily activity as just another item on your list that needs to be done as quickly as possible. For it to have meaning and value, it needs to have your uninterrupted and undivided attention. You can choose to have a few moments at the start or your day, in the middle, or at the end, but no matter what it should be fully devoted to focusing on gratitude.
The next step is choosing how to express your gratitude. Whether you choose to write in a journal, speak it out loud, or keep your thoughts to yourself, you should note 5 things that you are grateful for that day. These should not be your “big” things like your friends or family, but should truly be the small things like getting let over in traffic. Why is this so important? Because you are slowly training your brain to focus on searching for joy instead of finding the negative things. This will ultimately help redefine your frame of reference as you move through daily life. I’ll give you an example of my items of gratitude today:
The beautiful morning sky on my drive into work
My boyfriend rolling over half asleep to kiss me goodbye and telling me: “Have a great day, Beautiful.”
A moment to listen to a podcast that I really connected with and helped me feel inspired to be productive
The sweet dog that lives in my building that greeted me on my way out and made me smile
A shorter work day so that I am able to switch gears to prepare for my holiday
This may feel a little awkward at first, it definitely did for me. Honestly, it SHOULD feel awkward because you are starting something new and your brain is trying to learn. Habits do not happen after one attempt at anything, but rather are a result of gradual and consistent repetition over time. It’s okay if you have to think really hard about what you are grateful for, it will start to come to you more easily. Maybe at this point you are wondering why this actually matters? How many times have you had something small happen, maybe you spill coffee on yourself on your way into work or maybe you got cut off in traffic, a relatively minor inconvenience or frustration. But when someone asks you how your day is going, you say to them, ” I am having the WORST day, just awful.” When you actually tell them what happened, it adds up to maybe 5 minutes, yet you have given it enough weight and meaning to define everything about your day. We do this all the time without even realizing it. But if you can give the really yucky things that happen enough power to make or break your day, why can’t we do the same for the really positive things?
As the end of the year, nay, the end of the decade is rapidly approaching, what type of person and perspective do you want to bring into the next year? Ten years? What goals are you hoping to achieve? No matter what your specific goal may be, gratitude will be a key part of reaching it. Anything that is worth working towards will take time and dedication to get there. It will not happen overnight and let’s be real, if it did, it wouldn’t feel half as amazing to achieve. Gratitude can help keep you focused along the way. It will remind you of the small victories that move the needle forward and get you an inch closer. And trust me from experience, it feels so much better than putting yourself down along the way. My hope for you this week is that you have the most joyous holiday, full of gratitude and love. In this season where our spirits are often lighter, I want you to know that this feeling doesn’t have to show up just once a year. And most importantly, my wish is that you are able to see that while there is truly bad in the world, there is so much more that is truly good.
I have been stuck on a topic for my first true blog post for, well, nearly a month. Why? I’m a self-diagnosed perfectionist. I have at least 3 different drafts of posts that I’ve started because I had a really great idea on an interesting topic that I just. couldn’t. put. together. The writer in me wants to have several rough drafts, proofread at least a dozen times, and only release my thoughts to the world when they have been perfectly combed through and curated. But that’s honestly NOT why I started this blog in the first place. Yes, writing is a part of it. But more importantly I wanted to put my thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned out into the world to help others along their own life journey, while simultaneously creating something that my future daughter (or son) will be able to read and be proud of. So, what better topic to start with than being perfectly imperfect.
If you know me personally, you know that I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person. I believe that the Universe speaks to me in ways that I need to hear in the exact moment that I need to hear them. The Universe spoke to me when I came across this quotation: “Perfection is stagnation.” I had all the momentum and JOY of starting a blog, but it quickly fizzled out. I let my perfectionism cause me to become stagnant in my pursuit of my purpose. Why? We can deep dive into a psychoanalysis of some deep seated reason from my childhood. But I think I have a better answer.
FEAR. I have so much fear around being vulnerable and about speaking my truth about my view of life. I always like to keep my thoughts close to myself because there I can process them without speaking something out loud that someone will then have the opportunity to judge and give meaning to. But let’s be realistic, we all have fear of some kind. Career speakers and writers may look at my fear of hitting the “publish” button at the top of my screen and chuckle because it’s so simple and something that they do every single day. Fear is something that will literally paralyze you if you let it. It will keep you bogged down like quicksand. The incredibly beautiful thing is that you have the ability to greet your fear as a friend and embrace it. You can instead give it another meaning and allow it to motivate you and give you the push to start the ball rolling down the hill. After quite a bit of time and introspection, I have learned the following things about fear and how to give it new power in your life:
1) Fear is often caused by a lack of confidence. Confidence is something that you can practice and build over time, no one is born perfectly confident.
2) No human being on this Earth is without fear. It is a valid emotion and part of the human experience. To live life thinking that other people just have something that you do not have because you think they are fearless is simply naïve and doesn’t serve you.
3) Being brave is not the absence of fear, it is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Emotions do not have to be mutually exclusive to be valid and true.
So what are some tangible things that you can do to help you work through your fears? You can work to gradually build confidence over time through a variety of activities. First, sit down and journal. YES, I do mean an old school journal with pen and paper. There is something psychological about handwriting your thoughts rather than typing them out. It gives them much more weight and meaning than something you can easily delete with the touch of a button. Journal about something that you are REALLY fearful of, no matter how silly you think it sounds. Write about what that feels like inside: do you feel your muscles tense, maybe you’re sick to your stomach, do you clench your teeth? Write about what thoughts this thing makes you feel about yourself. When you are able to recognize the physiological response to something, you become familiar with it. I’ll give you a personal example:
I loathe public speaking. It makes me anxious, makes me sick on my stomach, the muscles in my upper body tense. I feel like I’m going to say something silly and stutter over my words. I worry people will think that I’m a fraud or won’t actually know what I’m talking about. What if they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to?
Over time I have become very familiar with what the fear of public speaking feels like in my body. I recognize it when it happens and while I have worked on this skill, it still happens every. single. time. I have practiced this skill and sought out opportunities to work on this quite a bit. When I first started speaking, I was downright terrible. I stammered, said “ummm” way too often, fidgeted with my hands. After quite a bit of practice and learning from people that I felt were very good speakers, A.K.A. “fearless” people, I have fine tuned this skill. But the greatest lesson I have learned thus far is that you should never want to stop feeling that fear. Fear is your body’s way of giving you some kind of information and your big, beautiful brain wants to search for the meaning of that information. Instead of saying, “Wow, I’m really scared to do this thing,” what if you said, “Wow, I really care about this thing. I am EXCITED about this thing.” You get to decide what it means to you when your body sends you those fear signals. You get to build your confidence in your ability to do the thing you are afraid of and each time you feel the fear, it will paralyze you just a little bit less.
Disclaimer: please do not fall into the trap of thinking that you will magically wake up one day and automatically exhibit these behaviors. Please do not give into the lie that you are failing if you know this is a specific area that you want to work on, but you catch yourself falling into familiar thought patterns. These emotions are deeply ingrained within you and frankly are a biological response. They are there for a reason to keep you safe. You shouldn’t want to override the system completely. But what is something you can do today that will move you a little bit closer to building your confidence and embracing your fear? What is one step that you can take in the right direction? You have everything within you that you need to become the perfectly imperfect version of yourself that you want and are meant to be. All it takes is that first step….
“You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S. Lewis
Ever since I was a little girl, I had a dream of being a writer. I would fill pages and pages of journals with ideas, silly stories, and poems that I wrote just for fun. I LOVED getting writing assignments in school when most kids just groaned. Somewhere along the way, someone told me that writing was maybe not the most profitable career choice. So I believed them and I stopped writing altogether. What I wish I had known back then is that not everything that lights your soul on fire has to add dollar signs to your bank account. I recently tapped into journaling again as an outlet and I came across a writing prompt: “write a letter to the girl that you were when you were 8 years old. What would you tell her?”
This idea for a blog has been swirling around in my head ever since this question fell into my lap: what WOULD I say to the 8 year old version of myself? What lessons have I learned about life and, more importantly, about myself in my 27 years? Even if I could, I wouldn’t go back and change the past. Every stumble and fall along the way has made me into the person that I am. But what if I could share all the things that I’ve learned and am continuing to learn in real time? Should I be blessed with a daughter one day, what would I want her to know?
If you’re reading this, then this blog is for you. I will share my personal stories and experiences in a wide variety of areas, so I’m sure there is a topic here that will interest you. And to my future daughter, I hope that one day you get to read these posts. I hope you will become a fierce, amazing woman because of the things that I share here along my own journey. I hope you live a life that you are proud of and that excites you. And I hope that you remember that you can always change your ending.
Welcome to my blog. I’m excited to share some tidbits and musings about life with you.
I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC and I am so lucky to still call this place home. I am responsible for running my third generation family business, but I am also very passionate about health and wellness and this blog project. I live with my wonderful boyfriend and our hobbies include sports, traveling, and the occasional Netflix binge.
Why did I start this blog?
Writing has always been a huge focal point in my life. Whatever I was going through, I leaned heavily into journaling about my experiences by hand. As a true introvert, I best communicated my thoughts in written form. 2019 has been a year of growth for me, in almost all aspects of my life. Not only do I want to talk about some of the things I have learned this year, but I am stepping out of my comfort zone by putting them out there publicly. I’m excited to take another step towards growth through this project.
What can you expect?
I intend to post regularly about some topic in “life.” One week, I may talk about what it was like dating as a young 20 something and the next week I may talk about how to run social media in a small business. Everything I share will be from my own perspective and experience and I will document any resources I have used for inspiration.
Thanks for joining me on my journey!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I always welcome feedback on anything you read here. I hope you find this to be interesting, funny, and informative in some way!