To You, Who Changed My Life

Dear you,

I guess I should thank you for coming into my life. I’ve been learning a lot about myself since Day 1 and not all of it is easy to stomach. Growing is hard, growing up even harder. You’d think that 25 years of life would have forced that second one on me already but everything I’ve gone through since meeting you has shown me I’m still a child in many ways, clinging to my fantasies and refusing to accept that life is seldom fair. I’ve come face to face with my selfishness, my pride, my sense of superiority. I’ve seen that even though I wouldn’t consider myself entitled, I believe I deserve answers and explanations for everything. In a perfect world I’d get them, but something I’ve learned is that I’ll go crazy if I refuse to move on with life until those answers arrive.

I want to make sense of things, because the world is often nonsensical and confusing. It’s loud and scary and overwhelming and knowing how and why bad things happened to me gives me a sense of security. Maybe if I know, I can avoid the same problem next time.

But sometimes the reason isn’t mine to know. I can’t even tell you how much I don’t understand that, but I know it’s true. Sometimes it’s just not up to me and I have to learn that I can survive in a world I don’t control. It’s terrifying and I hate it but it’s true, and I don’t know if I could have seen that without you.

I’ve been frustrated with myself because I’ve seen so much ugliness in the mirror lately, and sometimes I throw a fit and tell myself there’s no point in changing because I’m tired of other people and they can just deal with me as I am (see how easy it is to duck responsibility? I never knew how good I was at that, before). But I haven’t just scraped away my illusions on your unyielding indifference. You also helped me uncover passions I didn’t know I had, strengths I hadn’t dreamed of, and a sense of belonging I’d nearly given up on finding. Knowing it’s even possible to be that happy makes a huge difference in how I see the world. You clarified a lot of things for me, helped lift the fog for awhile so I could glimpse where I fit in the world.

I’m back in darkness now, but my eyesight is forever changed by the view you showed me. I don’t always remember there’s more out there than what I can see of my immediate surroundings, but the knowledge is there and it shapes my expectations, my actions. When I’m not too afraid to take a step forward, the things I’ve learned because of you are the path I set out on. It’s hard to accept the reality of things at times but I can’t go back to ignorance and in the end, that’s something to be grateful for. I don’t think I could really be as happy as possible if I was still trying to pretend I was more than I was. At least now I can fill myself out, become more of myself.

I still can’t decide if I truly want you to be happy, or if I just want you to be happy with me. But I can at least say I wish you well, because you’ve altered the course of my life in a way only a few things ever will. That wasn’t an easy task. But I believe it was worth it.

The Importance of Learning Yourself and the Missing Piece in My Search for a “What”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and what purpose I want to serve in this world because I have one answer that will never change, but that’s a goal that doesn’t depend solely on myself and I have to take personal responsibility for my impact on the world now, even if it’s just while I wait for what I truly want.

And I know, anyone who’s actually followed and read this blog is probably thinking “Um, you sure think a lot but don’t really DO anything….” I feel you. I really do. Finding a true source of motivation has been an elusive goal for me and I’ve never been able to reach it. Temporary motivation abounds; every new job I’ve worked excited me for a little while and every attractive idea of writing, knitting, reading tons of self-help books, or maybe even braving the dreaded extra time in college to become a psychologist or linguist or a something-or-other, has gotten me fired up for a week or two but has failed to capture my determination beyond that point.

Before I continue, I want to explain that the best source of information I’ve ever found about myself and the people around me is the MBTI, and a few fantastic spin-offs of that which are based on the same principles and psychology but have developed unique focuses and perspectives. My favorite thus far is found at 16personalities.com–the free content is amazing and they also offer more in-depth ebooks if you are interested enough to purchase one (I was). The quick test is pretty accurate, although I have to offer a disclaimer here: I’ve consistently received the same test result throughout my life both on unofficial MBTI sites and on the real thing, so I clearly function on a very set group of preferences. That makes any test have a higher chance of accurately typing me, so it’s possible that many of these sites, including 16Personalities, aren’t as clear or reliable to individuals with less solid preferences.

Having said all of that, my type is INFP (INFP-T on 16Personalities):

Being a part of the Diplomat (NF) personality group, INFPs are guided by their principles, rather than by logic (Analysts), excitement (Explorers), or practicality (Sentinels). When deciding how to move forward, they will look to honor, beauty, morality and virtue – INFPs are led by the purity of their intent, not rewards and punishments. People who share the INFP personality type are proud of this quality, and rightly so, but not everyone understands the drive behind these feelings, and it can lead to isolation.

 The more I understand of this type, the more it makes sense to me that a lot of my lack of motivation comes simply from my desire to find something that is really important to myself, to others, and to the world at large. I’ve found ideas that meet some of the needs I have here but so far I struggle to find what it is that speaks to me in a way I can’t ignore. So I end up spending a lot of time in my own head, scanning the opportunities of the world and trying to find a match.

I’ve already been exposed to a lot of fantastic leadership and personal development content through Life Leadership, so I’ve gathered most of the puzzle pieces I need to find my motivation in life as an individual. I understand the principles and have sought to apply them whenever I get excited about something for a little while. But I think there are still things I’m missing, and it’s exciting when I stumble across something that’s new to me but fits perfectly with what i already know.

Recently I discovered Steve Olsher, whose mission appears to be helping people find their “what.” I haven’t checked out a lot of what he offers yet, but in listening to an interview he did on one of my favorite podcasts (The Overwhelmed Brain by Paul Colaianni), I found an important piece of information I’ve been missing so far. I’ve known that I should be looking for what my gifts are, what I’m passionate about doing, and where those two intersect with a way to make it a living. What has been eluding me and what I didn’t realize I needed to find, is the audience I feel most compelled to serve. It’s not enough to know that I want to be a writer of some sort, because there are so many kinds of writing I can do. It’s not even enough to know that the kind of writing I do has to directly impact the people who read it in some way. I love fantasy and fiction and I want to write novels at some point but that goal doesn’t meet my specific need to be useful, to help people be happier and feel understood. I certainly can help through that medium but it’s not the vehicle I feel compelled to drive. So, what am I missing? I’m missing the “who” in all of this. Who do I want to write for? What need do they have that I feel called to meet? Whose lives am I gifted and excited to improve? 

I can’t really explain how satisfying it was to see the suddenly-illuminated piece of information I’ve wanted for but hadn’t discovered on my own. Even though I didn’t hear Steve’s words and immediately know what I want to do from now on, I did hear the words and immediately know that my focus hasn’t been where it needs to be in my search for the “what” I want in my life. I already know the gifts part of the equation. I even know the general type of vehicle I will be using. Instead of looking for a different vehicle and reexamining my gifts to see if I’ve missed something, I need to look for who I’m supposed to be driving. Who needs to go to the destination I can take them to? Who do I need to be looking for to pick up in the first place? And I think this might be the hardest part to figure out of the entire equation because there are so many different ways people need help and I don’t know if I’m looking for something general like “everyone who feels lonely, get on this bus!” or if I’m looking for something specific like “everyone who’s ever had a parent who loved them and wasn’t abusive but also was kind of emotionally distant or unavailable, climb in my car because we’re going to a very specific place!” But I think it’s also the most fun to discover because if I know what kind of vehicle to drive an what kind of gifts I have to offer, I can just start Doing. I can start with the bus loads of people and keep an eye out for those who benefit most from the trip. I don’t have to sit here paralyzed and unsure because I can’t find out who I’m supposed to be helping by sitting in my isolated tower looking through a spyglass at the world below.

So, why have I said all of this? Mostly because it’s exciting to me and I love having a clearer direction to travel in. But also because I know I’m far from the only person out there who feels the way I do. Obviously people like Steve Olsher wouldn’t be in business if I was the only person who hasn’t found my “what” yet. I can’t offer the range or quality of information that books and seminars and people gifted to be teachers can provide. But hopefully the way I interact with this material, the way it affects me and the way it changes me, can help someone out there. Maybe I’m meant to be the stubborn person who takes forever to understand things but who shares her experiences and saves other people some time and effort in the long run. I don’t know! All I know is that if you feel rudderless in any way or just unsure of where you want to steer the ship, the best place to start is to look within and start understanding yourself better. If you have no idea why you do the things you do or feel the way you do, start there. No matter what level of self-awareness you have, there’s always more information. Ultimately your direction comes from who you are, even though, as Steve Olsher also said on his interview, it’s not about you at all! It’s not about making your life better so much as finding out how you can make others’ lives better. And I think when we’re really helping other people in a way we’re uniquely qualified to do, that meets a need nothing else in life can reach.

Personal: Where I’m At Right Now

I have been wanting to update for a long time now, but I haven’t known where to start or even what to say. So many things have changed in my life and it’s been a difficult summer. I’m taking lots of hits and I’ve barely had the energy to function on a day-to-day basis, much less write blog posts that require effort!

Fortunately, while my life hasn’t necessarily gotten easier, I believe I’m through the worst of it and I’m in a better place emotionally than I was a couple of months ago. “Better” is a relative term, so I’m really not where I’d like to be, but I’m well enough to try to write again. Or, if I’m not truly well, at least I’ve given up on caring for now and either way it results in me sitting down, typing words on a laptop, so it works.

My main reason for avoiding updates on my life is that the emotional baggage is just too big to unpack right now. I know where I could start but I don’t think I have the energy to spend on it. Perhaps I can unpack a little at a time; small chunks are easier to chew.

For now: I’m alive, and trying to find out how to really live as well. Some days all I can do is exist.

A Personal Update on Moving Forward


The past month or so of my life has been crazy, stressful, and heartbreaking. Honestly, the entire past 6 months have been hard on me with one challenge after another and often many at the same time. But the biggest changes came only recently. I wasn’t expecting them. I didn’t want them. I fought so hard to hold onto what I was losing. I believed then and still believe now that this wasn’t a good thing that happened and I do wish it wouldn’t have.

BUT. Some amazing and wonderful lessons were taught to me and I have found a peace and joy I’ve never felt before. I am stronger now and I can truly be thankful to God for letting me break so I would finally turn myself over to him for healing.

I’m still struggling. I’m still sad. I haven’t finished grieving just yet and I’m not sure when I will. But I’m looking forward, not backward, and I truly believe good things await me even if I don’t know what they are yet.

Hooray for Books (2016)

These are all the books I’ve read so far this year. Some of them I’ve read in years past, but I’m getting into new territory now. Brandon Sanderson is a phenomenal author of fantasy, and his overarching Cosmere story (told throughout all the relevant novels) touches on sci-fi as well. There is just so much to learn and discover about his worlds, and he writes so prolifically that I pretty much never have to wait for new reading material.


 

Mistborn: Secret History (Mistborn, #3.5)Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so lame at writing reviews tbh…. This was pretty freaking awesome to read, although it’s surreal to think that all this stuff has been canon THE ENTIRE TIME but my poor imagination never even touched upon any of these possibilities.

IE, this is ridiculously cool and I just want to know everything about the Cosmere NOW because there is so much hinted at, things I can only guess or wonder…. Ugh, Brandon, why you do this to me


 

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6)The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sooooo, that was amazeballs. What else can I say? If I wasn’t suitably engrossed in this Mistborn series before, I certainly am now. There was so much to take in, and now all I want is 50 more books, stat.

ETA: I encountered way more laugh-out-loud moments in this novel than the previous ones. A small thing, perhaps, but it’s endeared me to the book even more.


 

Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1)Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5)Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Optimal Living Daily [Podcast Rec]

I’ve been getting into podcasts lately as they’re free, simple, and potentially educational (depending on what you listen to). It’s easy to play a podcast on writing tips while I’m washing dishes, or to learn about new books to read while I get ready for school or work. Audio books are also great for the same reason! I can go about my life and still be learning.

One podcast I found during my initial exploration into the various topics people cover was Optimal Living Daily by Justin Malik. Justin scours the internet for blog posts that teach you how to optimize your life, and then reads them to you. This saves a lot of time for those of us who might be busy, or who just don’t want to spend our energy sifting through internet content that may or may not be worth reading. Most of the episodes are about 10 minutes long, with a couple going to 15 minutes. They’re brief, but you get the same benefit that you would from reading the posts.

Another thing I enjoy about the podcast is Justin’s personality. He adds a bit of his own life to the podcast, sharing thoughts on the particular topic he just read, but he uses his voice to highlight and emphasize the great information shared by the original author instead of overshadowing it. He’s brief, professional, and determined to make his podcast valuable to all the listeners.

If you like taking in new information about how to make your life a little better and more efficient, join Justin’s “Life Optimizers” and check out the show!

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Note: I’m independently promoting this podcast and am not being paid for it. I just really like what I’ve found!

[Christmas] Traditions

The other day while I was picking up groceries, I found a bunch of marked-down “EZ Build” gingerbread house kits and couldn’t resist grabbing one. “This should be a fun activity to do at home,” I thought, after checking to see if it had everything we’d need (icing, candy decorations, a tray to set it in, and a little gingerbread man and Christmas tree!). I’m all for trying new activities and creating special memories with my family and friends as we share that experience together.

We didn’t get around to building our little chalet right away, but after a couple of days Josh came home and said “I think we should make a gingerbread house tonight!” So, after we ate supper and made space on the table, we cracked our knuckles and set about the daunting task of assembling a picture-perfect cookie home.

It looked like it would be a fun kit for kids and I didn’t think it would take us too long to finish. After all, we’re two adults in our twenties, with much greater dexterity and coordination than your average 8-year-old. It couldn’t be that difficult.

I was, of course, wrong on that front. The directions on the back of the box were clear and “EZ” to understand, but the execution of the last few steps was messy and time-consuming. That was mostly my fault; I cut the tip of the icing tube too much so we couldn’t do anything with finesse or delicacy. Just a big, roaring waterfall of sugary icing that we tried to channel properly.

Josh was actually a lot more excited about the decorations than I was, and he decided to use every last piece of candy from the kit. Some ideas worked well, and some…not so much (see our Christmas tree–there were little baubles on it before a huge spearmint leaf slid all the way down the front and knocked everything off). I wielded the icing throughout the entire project, attempting to outline the doors and windows with little success.

One of my favorite memes on the internet is the “Nailed It” meme, so we kept comparing our quaint cottage with the gorgeous chalet pictured on the box and laughing about how much alike they looked. We had such a great time laughing at ourselves, licking frosting off our fingers and throwing candy around.

 

My favorite part of the experience, however, was the following night when we were eating the last of the house in companionable silence. Josh finished his half first, looked over at me and said “I didn’t think it was gonna be good, but it was actually pretty great. This should be a thing we do from now on.” I joked about running back to the store and buying another dozen of the same kits to store for years to come, but I was really happy to hear him say that.

Christmas is in the past for this holiday season, but this time of year always makes me think about traditions I’ve seen and experienced, and why they’re so powerful. I like this quote from Augusta E. Rundell:

Christmas…that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance…a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.

That’s the heart of why I think traditions are so special to us as families, friends, and individuals: they’re moments in time that span past, present, and future to connect us with loved ones and happy memories. Once something is a tradition, it ceases to be a simple activity done with other people. The activity itself really isn’t important at all. It’s the fact that it’s been done before and will be done again, together.

It strengthens the bonds between us when we share traditions, because we have something to look forward to together and a special, sacred knowledge that we’ll still be in each other’s lives when Christmas rolls around again.

We recently found out that Josh’s grandmother is terminally ill, and family has been gathering around her to share memories with her one last time before she passes. Time marches forward, and people leave us. The moments and memories we share will someday be the most important things we have left of each other. It is a wonderful blessing that we are given as much time with each other as we are, so that we have something good to look back on.

I believe that even as our loved ones pass on, they will be with us in the traditions we shared, the photos we took, and the difference they made in our lives. Remember not to take these things for granted, for they are often the warmest moments we’ll ever know.

How can I impart value to the world?

A big fear of mine is living my entire life without accomplishing anything worthwhile, never doing anything valuable for the people around me. A lot of things I can do feel hollow to me, and I think it’s because they don’t ask anything of me that only I can give. I want to take who I am, and what gifts I have, and use those to create some sort of legacy or positive impact on the world, even if it’s small.

Every time I ask myself questions about what I love doing, what I’m good at, and what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, I usually come back to some sort of writing. I think that’s what I’m called to do in life, and I’m really happy I know that.

But I’m not sure how exactly to apply that knowledge right now. Yes, I want to write books, but I’m not sure what kind of books I should write. Yes, I enjoy blogging, but I don’t know what kind of blog I can run that is valuable enough for someone to take the time out to read it. What knowledge can I share that someone else hasn’t already said better? Is my life interesting enough to justify asking for someone’s attention, even if only for a few minutes a day?

I really don’t know, and it feels a little overwhelming to think of my small, insignificant self ever making a difference in this world. What can I do that no one else can?

For now, I’m taking the steps that seem best to get me to where I want to go, even if I’m not sure what the particular destination is. Studying English in college and keeping up this blog are two things I know will be beneficial to me as I seek for my mission in life.

I won’t lie, I’ve always felt that being a mother is the most important thing I can ever do with my life and I’ve always known it’s a calling for me. But I don’t know when I’ll be blessed with children and I don’t know how much of my life will be only blessing the family I have, and how much will be using some of my other talents to bless others as well.

I don’t know what my life will actually look like in 10 years, or what my impact in life will be, but I know I can prepare myself to be whoever I need to be in order to make the most of it. I don’t have kids now and I don’t have a popular blog with thousands of followers. I don’t have any books published or even a writing-related career. All I can do, then, is write and develop that skill, and sand off my rough edges while exercising my positive attributes to be a more patient, nurturing, forgiving person for my future children.

I’m grateful I have at least a direction to point myself in. I know so many people my age who have no idea what they want their lives to look like, or what they could do to bless others. They’re just plodding along, not knowing where they’ll end up, hoping the fog will lift and a sign will appear that tells them where to go next. The scary part is, I’m not completely out of the woods yet. I feel that same fog around me quite often, and it’s tempting to give up and simply do whatever seems easiest at any given moment.

But I know each of us has some sort of gift, and a unique ability to make a positive difference. I guess I’ll never be happy as long as I’m ignoring that fact and trying to keep my head down.

“5 Minutes to Feelin’ Good!”

I had a pretty fun day today, started off by a super-sweaty workout that left me feeling very alive. I was aware of the energy flowing through my body in a way I really never have been before, and I felt ready for the day ahead despite having just burned a whole lot of calories.

However, I haven’t gotten much sleep the last few days and I’m tired. Right now I’m feeling dejected and down on myself, focusing on aspects of my life that aren’t what I would like them to be. I watched a movie a couple hours ago that ended up sparking my melancholy mood, and I simply am feeling sad about life.

Sitting down in front of my computer to check emails, revisit posts I’ve made, and catch up on the TIU Community, I saw an article K&K posted this morning that apparently they knew I would need by the end of the day. It doesn’t say anything I’ve never heard before, but it was a timely reminder!

So, as I’ve just been encouraged to do, I’m making a list of 5 things I’m grateful for. Here goes:

  1. I’m grateful for the Tone It Up community! I’ve been following them for a few years now and while I haven’t been really committed to actually doing the challenges and workouts for very long, I’ve always been impressed with the joy and positivity they exude and I’ve found inspiration there that’s truly made a difference in my life.
  2. I’m grateful for my friends. I don’t have that many who are close to me, and those are the ones who ultimately fill the friendship-sized hole in my heart. They bless me and enrich my life and love me when I don’t remember to love myself. They’re there for me when I hit rock bottom and I wouldn’t be where I am today without those arms holding me and those voices cheering me on.
  3. I’m grateful that I love reading. There are so many things I’ve learned from the books I’ve read, and I’m so blessed to enjoy the process instead of having to force myself to read. Books can change how you think, and they should be an important part of any serious effort to better yourself. Thank goodness I don’t have to learn how to love reading before I can start learning FROM reading!
  4. Today I was grateful for the quiet night with soft, wet snow falling lightly around me when I went outside to head home from my friend’s house. It struck me as extremely peaceful, even though it was closer to tiny raindrops than actual snow. I wanted to stand out there in the quiet and just get lost in the feeling of being connected to that single moment, and I’m grateful I got to experience that.
  5. I was also grateful to spend time with my friend and her son! I don’t think he’s been feeling well so he was a little bit cranky and that frustrated my friend, but I could tell he’s normally a sweetheart and he won me over with no problem. And it was really great to have someone to go out with and run errands that I normally hate doing, because I have no one to go with me except occasionally my boyfriend. I was way more motivated to get things done, and I’m grateful it lined up that way.

There we go! Definitely doesn’t break the entire melancholy chain of thoughts, but I feel a lot lighter and more content than I did a few minutes ago.

What is one thing you’re grateful for right now?

Tone It Up 2016

Hi there! My favorite trainers, Karena & Katrina at Tone It Up, LOVE to challenge women everywhere to dedicate themselves to loving their bodies and getting healthy! A few times a year they roll out themed challenges with new workouts, nutrition guides, giveaways, and more! A year ago I was participating in the Love Your Body challenge, although I quit after a week or two because I was frustrated with how expensive it was to buy healthy foods when I didn’t have a job…. This year, I’m participating in the Tone It Up Challenge!

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I’m also working through their book, 28 Days to Fit, Fierce, & Fabulous to tone up my mind and heart along with my body.

It’s Hump Day of week 1 (although it’s not too late to join in if you’re interested) and I feel like posting a mid-week update!

Sunday was meal prep day and goal-setting. I did a good job with goal-setting, not so good with the meal prep because I wasn’t feeling well and I got really tired and needed a nap before I got everything done. I got the hardest parts done though!

My goals for this challenge are:

Be Fit

  • I will learn to rock meal prep Sundays!
  • I will use exercise/yoga to cope with stress and relieve tension
  • I will go completely gluten-free for good!

Be Fierce

  • I will follow through on all my promises
  • I will have the courage to keep going when I’m frustrated
  • I will have the motivation to accomplish my dreams

Be Fabulous

  • I will share my love more freely
  • I will feel more peaceful
  • I will be more forgiving

Day 1 was great, followed the meal plan really well and got both my exercises in! Day 2 was an oopsie since I slept 13 hours and got up pretty late. I did eat healthily that day and get 2 workouts in, although the second one was shorter than it should have been. Stayed up too late again. 😦

Today, Day 3, I got one very very short workout in! Hung out with a friend for a bit, got all my meals ready to take with me to work tonight and I’ll probably be doing squats or something when I’m not too busy.

I’m checking in on Instagram when I can, and you can see the photos in the sidebar of my blog!

I’m planning on weekly updates for the next 8 weeks of the challenge, but I’ll probably do some midweek posts every so often or whenever I have something to share!

I love the book and the daily mantras and challenges that help me to focus on an aspect of myself that will improve my life and how I see myself. It was a purchase I needed to make.

ETA: I did some research last night and I found a great gym to hit twice weekly when I start my college courses in a couple of weeks! I’m really excited about attending some fitness classes for the first time and meeting new people!

Have a wonderful day and enjoy the rest of your week! Love you guys!