In The Name Of Thanks

Understand the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility. –Oprah

In September of 2013, I opened my first ever blog post with the above quote. The notion of choosing my own path was one I was just awakening to and it was something I was just beginning to believe I might be able to do. The words in that quote filled me with hope. They instilled within me a deep need to see where I could go. Was anything really possible?

At the time of my first few posts, I never had any intention of sharing my blog with friends and family. I just wanted to try blogging and see if it was any fun. I was never going to show it to anyone. I could never be that vulnerable. I had no idea what I was doing and I certainly didn’t think it was going to be any good. I just wanted an outlet; a way to share my trials and tribulations while I navigated this thing called life.

At this blog’s inception, I was twenty-six and trying to pull myself out of a deep darkness. I struggled with anxiety and depression, had given up alcohol three months earlier, and was knee-deep in dealing with the repercussions from a variety of poor life decisions. I possessed very little hope for myself and nothing about my life was what I had imagined it would be at that age. The one positive was that I was beginning to dream up new dreams and was working tirelessly, day in and day out, to make them into a reality. Out of that, 26 and Stumbling was born.

I’ve always felt driven to write. Writing lights me up from the inside out. It excites me. It fills me with passion. It infuses me with emotion. After I have written something, I feel more whole than I was to begin with. As I let the words tumble out of me, fingers flying across the keyboard, I feel awake and completely tuned in. It’s like there is nothing else going on in the whole world except for the creation of words, character by character, on the blank screen in front of me. Time seems to pause.

I created my blog during a time of intense self-discovery and out of a desperate desire for better things to take shape. Creating this blog lifted me up. The writing began to heal me. Writing allowed me to show parts of myself to the world that I never thought I would be okay with revealing. It helped me to work through shame and to be vulnerable.

Writing makes me braver and stronger. I most often write in the hope of inspiring others and to connect with someone in need. I hope to teach that, through my own experiences, you too can triumph and overcome. I write to foster belief in myself and confidence in my story. You see, writing is one of the most selfish things I can do. I get so much more from it than I could possibly hope to give.

In 2014, as I neared my twenty-seventh birthday, I began trying to think of a new name for my blog. It was time to transition from 26 and Stumbling into something more long term and all-encompassing. I wanted a name that covered my whole life and everything that I wanted to write about. A name that didn’t seem to just focus on the negatives. One day, the idea came to me and Twenty-Everything was created. A blog for twenty-somethings and any-somethings everywhere trying to figure it all out.

Over the past couple of years I’ve written about anything and everything that my heart has desired: tips for twenty-somethings, lists and how-to’s for surviving your twenties, recipes, dating woes, dating tips, dating humor, juice cleanses, travel experiences, goals, what it was like in my first year without alcohol, career change, and all about who I am becoming. I’ve written about new beginnings and frustrating endings, about fear and doubt and perfection and freedom.

Twenty-Everything started as something intensely personal and private. I used it as a tool to begin to glue back together the broken pieces of myself. Over the past 800 and some-odd days since September of 2013, it has transformed into something more. I started this blog when I was at the beginning of finding myself and today I am simply overwhelmed with the gratitude I feel towards it.

This blog helped motivate me to turn my dreams into a reality. It helped me share my decision to make the leap into a new career and to say goodbye to the comfort of restaurant life and being a waitress. It has allowed me share my ideas and experiences on larger blogging forums such as Blog Her and Thought Catalog. This blog helped to land me my columnist role at Ms. Career Girl. Blogging serendipitously crossed my path with a few inspiring women bloggers whom I now call my friends and communicate regularly with. These women, and fellow writers, inspire me and support me and teach me how big and wonderful the world is. This little blog has helped to become a part of a much larger picture and purpose.

This is what I mean when I say I’ve gotten so much more than I’ve given. How could I ever begin to give thanks for all of it?

It’s amazing, and dumbfounding, what change can come about in your life if you just take one tiny step forward. When you hear that little voice inside of you whispering to you to try something, do it. It may be the beginning of a beautiful journey; a beautiful journey full of struggle and experience and lessons and redemption. A little voice inside of me urged me to try creating a blog, just try it. Where would I be if I hadn’t listened?

Today I am twenty-eight and my heart is full. I have come so far. I also know that I still have a great distance to go. I wouldn’t trade anything for an easier or softer way of arriving to where I am at today. Not all days are good. In fact there have been a lot of no good very hard days, but the depth of richness and fulfillment in my life is like nothing I have ever experienced. Today it is easier to share about the hard stuff and to embrace the discomfort that is necessary for growth. The darkness that I once lived in no longer threatens to overtake me. My life is filled with light, positivity, passion, and hope. Today, life is so very incredible.

It all started with a little blog that has helped me to do lots of big things.

And for that, I give thanks.

xoxo

Sarah

Friendship 101

It never ceases to amaze me how selfless, giving, and considerate my girlfriends are. These women are incredible; they balance careers, relationships, active social lives, and somehow still find the time to send birthday cards (before the actual day).

Add that to the list of things to work on: send more thoughtful cards.

We each show up for our friends in our own way, and each friendship is beautiful and unique. I have some friends that I talk to every single day, and some that I can go months without seeing or speaking to but when we are reunited it is like no time has passed at all.

Each of my friendships enriches my existence, and I am a better person for having these women in my life.

Here’s a few tips on how to be a good friend, which I have been lucky enough to learn from friendships that have forever changed me for the better.

1. Be There, Even If You Can’t Be There.

My closest girlfriends are spread out all across the country, yet I speak to them constantly. We are always there for each other, lending support, advice, and encouragement during times of happiness or desperation. One of the greatest strengths of these friendships is that, without fail, they are always there for me when I need it. A phone call, a sweet text, a gentle push in the right direction- they are good for it, no matter how far away they are. They don’t let physical distance keep them from showing up for me, and I do my absolute best to return the favor.

2. Respect Each Others’ Time.

You know what qualities my best friends have? Dependability and follow-through. A friendship cannot survive if plans are constantly being broken. I understand that things come up, but my schedule is too busy and my time too precious to let flaky people into my inner circle. I respect my best friends’ time, they respect mine, and that is why our friendships are still flourishing after so long.

photo courtesy of http://www.buzzfeed.com

photo courtesy of http://www.buzzfeed.com

3. Be Positive, Yet Honest.

Best girlfriends are your greatest supporters, but they aren’t afraid to get real with you. They will give it to you straight, challenge your opinions, and offer constructive criticism with grace (and without stomping all over your feelings). If you think you have a bright idea, you check with them first. You respect their opinion, and you know, after years of experience, that you should always listen to them.

4. Make the Effort to Persevere.

Your inner circle tends to have one thing in common: they have been there through everything. Your friendships with them have survived disagreements, fights, and possibly even periods without talking. At the end of the day, they persevere, because you know that a difference of opinion could never destroy all that you have built.

and last, but not least….

5. Show Appreciation

Your best friends really are amazing people, so be sure to tell them so. These are the people who believe in you and love you unconditionally, which is no small feat. They have strengths that you lack (ahem, like sending said birthday cards on time), and they never judge you for your faults. These ladies (or gentlemen) deserve a gold star and endless amounts of admiration for all they have contributed to your life, so be sure to tell them regularly how much they mean to you.

photo via pinterest

photo courtesy of Pinterest

What is your idea of being a good friend? I would love to hear your ideas!

xoxo

Sarah

* This post is dedicated to all of my best girlfriends. You know who you are :). I am so grateful for all that you are, for all that you do, and appreciate you more than words can express. I love you!

Gratitude Check

Some days, it feels like everything is in sync. You wake up on the right side of the bed, there’s no traffic on the way to work, your morning coffee tastes extra delicious, and it feels like, well, a Friday.

Some days are more challenging. Some days it seems like nothing is going right, like the world is off kilter, and you wonder what the purpose of it all is. You lament at why you work so hard to be disappointed, time and time again.

We all know that being vulnerable is uncomfortable. We all know that we must hold out hope. We all have to believe that the trying times will eventually pass, and when they do we will be rewarded with joys beyond our wildest imagination. We just have to keep moving forward. We have to keep working on ourselves and developing our story, dusting ourselves off when we fall and looking at mistakes as learning opportunities.

I was told once that I should be grateful for everything. No matter what. I had a hard time swallowing that piece of wisdom, because I used to think that being grateful meant appreciating it.

I used to be scared. I was scared of being grateful for the horrible things, like that meant I was weak and actively inviting more of them into my life. I thought I had to be tough, to build walls around myself and my heart like layers of protection so that no-one would be able to hurt me again. The thought of revealing my insecurities and vulnerabilities to people that might hurt me made me squirm with discomfort. However, this got me nowhere. No progress, no improvement, just stuck and running in place.

What I have learned about living in a state of gratitude is this: grateful doesn’t have to equal appreciative. You don’t have to appreciate the bad days, the hard days, and the worst days or the horrible experiences, the trauma, and the pain. Being grateful doesn’t mean you are agreeing with it or welcoming it, it just means you are refusing to let it get the best of you.

Because let’s face it, when we are really going through the worst of it, we find it almost impossible to be grateful for it all. It’s hard to believe in the light at the end of the tunnel when we are surrounded by darkness. It’s hard to do a gratitude check when all we want to do is give up.

Practice makes perfect. Like everything else, it takes time to change habits and to alter behaviors you have defaulted to for years. It takes energy to be mindful of the good things, and to be aware of the tiny miracles that happen every single day.

Learning to open up came hand in hand with embracing gratitude. The two coaxed each other along. As I got better at giving thanks, and focusing on the good, the pieces about me that I thought of as broken began to mend. I was able to be more open, more honest, and more authentic in every area of my life. Those silly suggestions, like making gratitude lists and living in the moment, became easier and easier to incorporate into my daily routine.

Because the miracles really do happen. An ordinary day can become something extraordinary, an unexpected introduction can lead to a life-changing opportunity, and you never know what tomorrow will bring.

It can take a long time to appreciate what a painful lesson has taught you and, in turn, what it has given you. Days, weeks, and years may pass before you can understand the true meaning of choosing to walk through one door instead of the other. Life is a serious of choices, chances, and opportunities. We can only live it forward, learn from it when it knocks us down, appreciate when it brings us joy, and always remember to be kind to ourselves in the process.

Thankful

 Appreciate the Fridays, the moments, and the miracles. Remember to breathe, to reflect, and to give thanks- because we have today.

xoxo

Sarah

*Top photo via Pinterest.

Failure, Progress, and Freedom.

Focus. Breathe. Tighten. Relax. Clear your mind. Tune in to your body. Drop your shoulders. Don’t forget to breathe, again.

I hear a seagull outside. Focus, Sarah.

Okay. Don’t drop your belly. Open up your hips. You’re not breathing, again.

That person next to me is really getting into that open-mouthed exhale…

One more breath in. One more breath out. Lean in.

Wait, did the instructor seriously just tell us to picture our internal organs squeezing and flushing out toxins?! That is disgusting. Great, now I can’t get the picture of my insides out of my mind…

This isn’t going so well.


My third yoga class of Self-Care September wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I had walked in confidently, my yoga mat tucked securely under my arm. As I set up my little zen spot, unrolling my mat on the floor and positioning my water bottle and towel beside me, I pictured how much better I would be in this class. I was ready. Ready to execute the moves a little more accurately, ready to deepen my extension, and ready to start to get the hang of this whole yoga thing.

That’s not how it went.

My body wasn’t responding to my instruction, my mind wasn’t clearing, and all I could think about was how terrible I am at this whole yoga thing. Crap.

The instructor came over to adjust my form. She lightly pressed her hands on my hips and shoulders, gently repositioning me. As soon as her hands dropped away, so did my confidence. I was trying, but it wasn’t working. As I transitioned from one pose to the next, trying my best to breathe and flow through the movements, I couldn’t arrest the thoughts. Anxiety about work, how my day had gone, and what was still left on my to-do list clouded my focus. I pressed on anyway.

Why wasn’t this working? This was my third class of the week! I should be seeing improvement by now!

As my frustration mounted, I took a look around. I realized I wasn’t the only one needing to drop down to my knees, and I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t entirely, 100% focused. I breathed a little easier. I inhaled, then exhaled. Deeply and completely.

That’s when the acceptance set in.

Suddenly, I accepted that my body wasn’t doing miraculous things on my third class of yoga. I acknowledged the tightness in my muscles that I could not fight, the disquiet in my mind I could not rest. I realized that I was holding on to a resentment towards myself for not being where I wanted to be, yet, and I let it go.

Holy crap was that freeing.

I let go of the feelings of inadequacy. I let go of hating the fact that I wasn’t as strong or as sure as some of the other class participants. I let go of these expectations I had for myself, and I settled in. I focused on doing each movement as best as I could, forgetting about the fact that the best I could do wasn’t very good at all, at the moment.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Letting acceptance flow freely in, frustration and self-doubt flow freely out.

Before I knew it, the class was coming to an end. In a seated position, I pressed my hands together in front of my heart and I took the deepest bow I could manage; giving thanks to the class, to my body, and to the experience. I wiped off the sweat, rolled up my mat, and tucked it back up under my arm as I walked out.

I had finished the rest of the class. I didn’t finish it perfectly, not one little bit, but I finished.

So many times I have left a workout feeling defeated. Mad, frustrated, disappointed. This time was different. No, I didn’t love the class and I didn’t love the instructor and I didn’t love my performance. What I did love, even though it felt like I fumbled my way through the entire 60 minutes, was leaving that class feeling like an accomplishment. Somehow, in failing, I had still made progress.

And you know how I felt? I felt light. I felt open. I felt rejuvenated. I felt free.

I was calm and grateful; grateful for the emotions I had experienced, for the respect I had given my body by showing up, and for the opportunity to learn something more about myself.  I felt ready to do it all again.

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I can’t wait to get back on my mat.

What is your favorite type of yoga to practice? Do you have a favorite class that you take, or have you ever had any difficulties similar to mine? 

xoxo

Sarah

*All photos pictured are via Pinterest.

The Big Plunge

It really is astounding how quickly the universe will work to make something happen once you decide you want it badly enough.  

After weeks of interviewing, sleepless nights, hoping, wishing, and praying- everything changed. I have accepted a position in the field I am passionate about, actually using my degree, working for a company I am already so in love with I could pinch myself. Had you told me five years ago that I would be tickled pink at being presented with health coverage, paid vacation time, and a 401K incentive- I would have told you that you were absolutely nuts. But now here I am, twenty six and couldn’t possibly be happier that I no longer have to fly under the radar without health insurance. Oh how times change!

I’m sure that not everyone is as easily thrilled as me. I’ll take my wins where I can get them. One piece of advice that I was given awhile back and try to follow religiously: always be in a state of gratitude. The universe is far more likely to help you accomplish the goals you set if you are constantly giving thanks.

Despite my attitude of gratitude, I have to admit that I never thought it would take me this long to get started. I never thought I would have to fail so many times, in so many different ways. I never knew I could fail so many times; then get right up, brush myself off and try again. Oftentimes, over the past few years, it has felt as though I have had two hands tied behind my back while the world pummels my front. Trust the process, I told myself. What is meant to be will happen. 

And it did. 

In an instant my world was turned on its axis. Gone will be my schedule of days free and working evenings with a twenty-something hour work week; replaced with rising early to work a full and productive eight hour day. Something I have never, NEVER, done. My whole adult life I have been working in restaurants, or in school AND working at a restaurant, or (for a brief stint) working in a medical office AND a restaurant. Until the new job offer came in, and faced with having to let go of my old way of life, I hadn’t even realized a certain truth that resonated within me.

The truth is…I love my restaurant job. I know that serving food to hungry people isn’t brain surgery, and sometimes us servers joke that we could train a monkey to do our job, but really it’s a tad bit ridiculous how much money people throw at me for the joke amount of hours I work. And the best part? It’s fun. I’m not kidding, like really really fun. I work with an absolutely amazing group of people. My coworkers are some of the kindest, most supportive, most dedicated individuals I have ever been blessed to meet. It is literally impossible to walk into that place at the beginning of the shift and not have a roaring good time while I am there. Those beautiful people, my coworkers, are constantly cheering one another on, making the work hours go by quickly and turning any crummy mood around. We are each others’ cheerleaders, lending a hand or an ear whenever it is called for. And also when it isn’t. My mangers are just as awesome. When I think of my place of work, that huge feeling of gratitude takes over. I am just so blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know all of these amazing people, to work side-by-side with them, and feel so lucky to call them my friends.

When I think about the change that is about to happen this coming Monday, fear threatens to take over. After a moment, I allow the fighter within to speak up loudly, telling my inner self that living in fear is for the weak.  Doubt is for those with no faith in their future or confidence in their journey. I will never gain anything if I allow myself to shrivel up into a fear-based ball. I believe in myself, in my story, and in my potential. I don’t have any time to waste on on being fearful, I have wasted enough already by not pursuing my dreams. I take comfort in the belief, and faith, that there is a plan set for me. I just don’t get to know what it is.

So here I am, about to take the biggest plunge in my career as a twenty-something woman trying to figure it all out. Maybe it will be perfect, maybe I’ll hate every minute. But my gut tells me that everything is going to work out just as it should and that I am in for one beautiful ride.

xoxo

Sarah