Lessons About Personal Growth

Love in the Time of Corona

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.

Lessons in Relationships

All in Good Time

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.

Lessons About Personal Growth

An Attitude of Gratitude

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 Partner
  • My Kids
  • My Family
  • My Friends
  • My Dog or Cat
  • My Job

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.

Lessons About Personal Growth

Perfectly Imperfect

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….


Hi, I’m Hannah!

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!