A Letter To My 18 Year-Old Self

Dear Sarah,

You will change so much in the next ten years, it will make your head spin.

Mistakes, many many mistakes, will happen. You will, sometimes, hate yourself. You will question the purpose of it all, and wonder if you are doing anything right. You will wonder if you are broken and beyond repair. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. You will discover that you are capable of greatness. You will eventually gain enough perspective to see that your heart is tender, loving, vulnerable, and forgiving. These qualities are so important. You are special, so special. You will only get better at life.

Most people won’t get your sense of humor. That’s okay, because it doesn’t make you any less hilarious. You’re more intimidating than you think you are, so be careful with your words. Make sure they are always kind. Your ability to say how you feel, and your directness, are two of your most enduring traits. You won’t realize this until much later than you should. Do not be ashamed of your positivity and sparkle. Some people will not like you, and that is okay. Some people will not understand or approve of your story, and that is okay too. It is not their story to write.

You will lose yourself, and then you will discover yourself. The world, and your decisions, will almost break you. Then you will build yourself back up again. The people in your life will teach you valuable lessons. They will enter into your orbit and show you love, wisdom, pain, sacrifice, and toughness.

That’s what everything is. It’s toughness training. When you get to be twenty-eight, your skin will be thicker. Your heart will be bigger. Your self-awareness will be better than it’s ever been. You will have gained back the confidence you lost during your dark years, and more will come with it. You will get more than you bargained for in every aspect of your life.

When it comes to the dark years, remember it is all essential in shaping who you will become. They will be extremely uncomfortable, painful, and full of tears. You will doubt your ability to make it through. You will feel alone and devoid of faith and hope. Remember, dear one, that these years are inevitable for you, and so important to your journey. When you are closer to thirty than you are to twenty, you will be on the other side of them. You will feel truer and more authentic than you ever have. You will have learned so much about yourself. The darkness is imperative to discovering your inner light. Feel it. Go through it. Don’t fight it. Look forward to the person you will someday be.

When it comes to college, pay attention. Especially in statistics and economics, or else you’ll regret not doing so once you graduate. Major in something that you are passionate about, regardless of what job opportunities it may present after graduation. College is a bubble, a wonderfully encased and protected version of life, so soak it up. Join the sorority that resonates with you and your ideals and your principles, and it will give you lifelong connections. Do not disappear into the partying. For heaven’s sake, make it to that 8 am ochem class regularly. Take a quarter abroad and travel. Your twenty-eight year-old self never did, and she really wishes you would. At graduation you will have no idea what you want to do or who you are meant to become, and that is okay. You will figure it out along the way. Be weary of how much you spend on your credit card.

When it comes to your career, don’t be afraid to assert yourself and live out loud. Do not shy away from expressing your opinions. Do not let other people make you feel small. If you work for a company that does not value you or recognize your accomplishments, move on. Chase your dreams. Don’t be scared to make a change or to use your voice. Don’t settle for a job that is boring, but be sure that you can always pay your bills. Financial security is necessary but living lavishly is not. Try your best to let temporary setbacks and negative energy flow in and out, like the gills of a fish. Work is the water and your gills are the filter; keep only the good.  Be fluid and proud and kind, always kind. Treat people how you would like to be treated and do not reciprocate less than graceful behavior.

When it comes to your love life, maintain the faith that the right one will come along. There will be years that are meant just for you in which you learn about yourself, all alone. There will be years in which you have no interest in a relationship, and years where you yearn for companionship and love. Who you think is good for you, or a good idea, usually won’t be. Consider advice but make your own decisions. There will be men who lie to you, take advantage of you, disrespect you, and don’t appreciate the wonderful woman you are. There will also be men who restore your faith and teach you that what you are looking for will come in its own time. There will be men who take care of you and honor your friendship. There will be men who are honest, kind-hearted and want the absolute best for you. Keep fighting for yourself. Keep dating. Pray. Do not become bitter or closed-off to something amazing, for it could be just around the corner. Assert your needs but don’t be afraid to compromise. Remember to find the good in every experience and that time heals all. There are good ones out there, I promise. It only takes one to change everything.

Do not play the comparison game. It is the quickest way to suck the happiness out of your life. Follow whatever it is that makes you happy. Write. It will be your therapy and your contribution to the universe.

The earlier you learn to accept what is, rather than what you wish would be, the better. Quit blaming yourself for everything. Throw out that life plan you’re writing out in your journal. It’s all a process. It’s all impossible to control and predict. The point is to enjoy the ride and to run head-first into your life, with arms spread wide.

Don’t be scared. I know that’s easier said than done, but it will all be okay in the end. You are fierce, brave, independent, driven and full of promise.

And last but not least, trust me when I tell you that the only thing standing in your way is you.

What do you want to say to your 18 year-old self?

xoxo

Sarah

 

 

Give Me Struggle

Nothing truly comes easy to anyone. We each have our own challenges that we must overcome. Your journey is your journey and my journey is mine. That is what makes each of them so interesting and beautiful; they are uniquely ours.

I used to think that one day life would become easier, softer and more forgiving. I thought that if I worked hard enough, it would all eventually even out. I believed that once I was past this or that it would all become clear. I figured that one day the messier pieces would just fall into place and I would be able to level up, reaching a space in my life where things consistently made sense. A space where I could breathe and rest comfortably, if only for a short while.

As I have historically been about how many parts of my story would turn out- I was wrong.

My story is messy and confusing and often courageous. It is punctuated by challenge, pain and moments of incredible strength. It is full to the brim with accomplishments and doing the things I thought I could not do. It tells a life of dreaming, action, hesitation, determination, false starts, harsh realizations and times of heart-breaking happiness.

My story is a lesson in nothing coming easy and learning the true meaning of appreciation and gratitude. My story is about doing my best with what I have. It’s about breaking away the unnecessary parts and wastes of time to get closer to my true meaning and purpose. My story is continuously teaching me that it’s not about what I think, what I want, what I need, or what I feel I deserve.

Give me struggle. Give me the lessons that will build my character. Give me hard work paying off over something handed to me that I have not earned. Give me confusion and give me hope. Give me trials and give me breakthroughs. Give me yet another disappointment, always followed by a fresh start and a new opportunity to see where it all may go. Give me good enough to make it through another day.

Give me the tools I need to do better in this world. Give me the challenges that will make me more useful, more capable, more creative and more tolerant. Give me whatever it is I need to teach me how to be a better advice-giver, shoulder to lean-on, and source of comfort.

Give me struggle so that I may learn to contribute. Give me pain so that I may become accustomed to sacrifice. Burden me, again and again, so that I may show that I can overcome anything that comes my way.

And keep it coming.

What does your story say?

xoxo

Sarah

On Bouncing Back

We all go through it. The bad days, the crummy moods, the hard times. It’s normal and a part of life. After all, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. However, the fact that it’s normal doesn’t make it any less sucky while you’re going through it!

Confession: I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. And while I am aware this is a normal thing, I don’t like it. Not one bit. The best thing I can do for myself when I notice I am feeling down is to get into action so that I can speed up the bouncing back process. Here are some things that help me when I’m going through it, all of it, and I hope that they help you too.

Plan A Trip

What’s more exciting than the thought of an adventure? Umm…nothing! Planning a trip will give you something to look forward to, which is a natural mood enhancer. I am taking my own advice and am planning a trip for Thanksgiving weekend to visit my best friend, and it has been a great way for me to get out of my own head and think positively. She’s my person, and I cannot wait to be reunited. 🙂

GreysQuote

 

Request Reinforcement

Speaking of best friends, times like these are the perfect opportunity to let them do what they do best- show up for you. Talk about how you are feeling with them. Allow them to support you. Allow yourself to be cared for. When you are feeling less than stellar, they will be the champions for your cause and reinforce that superstar that you really are. Plus, they are the surest ones to make you laugh when you need it the most.

Friendship

 

Binge Watch Your Favorite Shows

Go ahead, re-watch all nine seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. We’ve all been there. Technically, you don’t even need to be in a slump to do this, because it can just feel so damn good to lay around and be endlessly entertained by your favorite plot lines and characters. That’s what they are there for, to make you feel better.  

Greys

 

Treat Yo’Self

Go shopping. Get your nails done. Eat a tub of ice cream for dinner. Not that I’ve done that recently or anything. Sleep in. Take a day off. Whatever it is that brings you a little bit of enjoyment and comfort, do it! Be kind to yourself and don’t feel guilty about it, even for a second. A little splurging is well deserved.

Treat

 

Be Patient

It takes time to bounce back. It is important to remember to be kind to yourself during the process, and to allow yourself room to experience the emotions you are feeling. There is no set amount of time for how long it will take you to get over something, so just be patient and have faith. It will happen.

Success

 

Whatever it is that you are experiencing, it is completely and 100% true that this too shall pass. Before you know it, you will be back to your old bouncy self. I promise.

What do you do to brighten your mood when you are feeling down?

xoxo

Sarah

 *All photos are via Pinterest

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.

On the Pursuit of Happiness

Let’s talk about happiness for a minute.

You find what makes you happy, and you do that. Over and over again, adding new things to the list as they bring you joy.

Simple, right? Not always.

There have been years in my life where a state of happiness was not something I identified with. I knew it existed, I held hope that I would feel it again someday, but I didn’t know how to live happily every single day. I held on strong to the things that life had ripped away from me; the people and the ideals and the destroyed dreams. My smile was false, my laughter was empty, and my heart was heavy. I felt completely alone; I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t be honest about how lost I was, and I couldn’t figure out how to find myself again. I repeated the same mistakes over and over, searching in vain for different results. My world was full of chaos.

I don’t say this to shock you or to make you feel sorry for me, I say this because I want you to realize how far I have come.

Today, I am happy. Truly, honestly, blissfully happy. I laugh often, and my smile reaches my eyes. I really mean it when I’m smiling. It is now possible for me to live in a state of gratitude, where before I only felt desolation and fear.

It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen without work. I had to ask for help. I eliminated toxic people, places, and things. I had to get to know myself. I took a hard look at my past, and faced my demons. I had to learn to build my faith. I kept at it even when I wanted to give up. Finally, and most importantly, I figured out how to love myself again.

One day, out of nowhere, it hit me. I was happy again. Genuinely. Somehow, someway, the sadness had lifted. I felt more me than I had in a very, very long time.

It really is possible for anyone to turn their life in a new direction, and to finally become what they once might have been.

You just have to do the foot work.

Choose Joy

Is it always easy? No.

There are bad days. There are even terrible days. Some days I want to give up completely. Some days I am fed up with working so hard for everything, exhausted with the constant effort of trying to build the new.  It takes focus. It takes dedication. At times, it is incredibly painful.

Then, there are the good days. With the good days come the best days; the days that you feel completely and utterly alive, capable of achieving anything and confident that the world is full of limitless possibility. These are the days that you hold on to tightly, the ones that you store deep inside your memory for recall during the tough times. These are the days that make you understand that all the hell you have ever been through was necessary to become the person you were meant to be. On the best days it is easy to believe that you really are perfect, in every single way.

Today, I actively choose joy. I embrace being alive. I laugh. I have thirty second dance parties (all my Grey’s Anatomy fans, you know what I mean). I look for inspiration in the ordinary. I rock out to Taylor Swift. I try to help others, and to be a good friend. I look past the stress, the hurt, the mistakes, and the crap that used to hold me back. I focus on the good, in spite of the bad, because there is so much to be thankful for.

Today, life is beautiful.

Happiness, and joy, are things we can choose to welcome into our lives. It is a choice to believe that the best is yet to come, that the universe always has your back, and that things really will work out. When we choose to believe in these things, absolutely and completely, they are translated into our everyday lives.

Miracles happen when you least expect them, and a there’s a little bit of magic present in every single day.  Anything is possible. You just have to believe.

Miracles

xoxo

Sarah

 

Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry pancakes make me happy. Blueberry pancakes from Denny’s at midnight make me even happier. There is something magical about them. Creamy butter and sticky, sweet, syrup perfectly complementing the easy conversation being traded lightly across the table. Conversation is always easy over blueberry pancakes. You find yourself divulging some of your innermost fears over those simple disks made of flour, sugar, and fruit; the words slipping off your tongue as easily as the description of your favorite color.

Blueberry pancakes remind you of the happy times. They are an enjoyable kind of easy, like waking up early on a hot summertime morning. They are not pretentious like crepes, or heavy like French toast. They are perfect for good moods, or the perfect remedy for sad ones.

As time goes on, the responsibilities multiply and life inevitably becomes more complicated because you have more to care about. More to lose. It is important to have things like blueberry pancakes, simple pleasures that bring you happiness just in being themselves and nothing more. The small things that allow you to be present and fully appreciate the exact moment you are experiencing, drinking it in like a deep breath of cool ocean air. That moment, in its entirety, is enough. When time disappears and nothing matters except for the person sitting across from you and the perfectly made breakfast in front of you, where bedtimes are a thing to be brushed off like an annoying Nat buzzing in your ear.

Nothing invites trepidation into my soul like the fear of mediocrity. This is a dangerous fear to have, because then it becomes possible to become addicted to chaos. Appreciating the small pleasures, like breakfast at midnight, makes the commonplace seem desirable and startlingly fleeting. You have to hold on to those moments while simultaneously trying not to grasp at them too desperately, for it is that desperation which will make them disappear all the more quickly.

A point of growth comes when in realizing that these small moments of simple yet complete joy are not mediocre ones. Your existence is not merely a serious of unremarkable moments strung together, sprinkled with bright snapshots of happiness or tragedy. Life has a purpose. The small moments can turn out to be everything; they build strength, appreciation, and depth of character. These moments, the blueberry pancake moments, are when you realize that this right here is why life is worth sticking around for.

A handful of months and a few thousand dreams ago, I didn’t even know I loved blueberry pancakes. I had never sought them out, nor had I given them a second thought when browsing the breakfast menu selections. Then, one day, this ordinary breakfast item had transformed. It was now unique and special and just a little bit mine. That is how all miracles in life happen. Suddenly. Magically. Without warning. Then, your life is irreversibly altered. The trick is being patient enough to hang on, to wait for the miracles to happen.

The Point of Growth

The point of learning, of growing, of achieving, of self-improvement, is not to puff ourselves up. The point isn’t to inflate our egos or to spout off about the self-actualization we have attained, or to throw it around disguised as self-importance and arrogance. The point is to give it away.

For it is not by breaking down others that we build ourselves up, and it is not by shouting out to the world our need for attention that we gain recognition. Instead, we work tirelessly. We work tirelessly to be a better friend, a better employee, a better shoulder to lean on, a better partner, a better human. Lead by example it is said. This is difficult, because often on your long spiritual journey up the proverbial mountain it is impossible to see your own progress. With your pack weighing you down, your body sagging from exhaustion, and with sweat dripping off of your forehead blocking your view, you can’t see if you are any nearer to the top. Step by step you struggle forward, pressing on with no idea if and when you will ever reach it. If you will ever get there. 

The truth is, there is no THERE.   There is no when or someday either, only now. So how can we make now enough? For when you are in the middle of your climb you cannot see the crowd of supporters at the summit, cheering you on. You have no idea how your progress, and struggle, is inspiring those that are watching you. One foot in front of the other. That is how we do it. That is how we make now into enough.

We make now into enough by realizing that we don’t need the perfect anything to be happy, we just need to be growing. We stimulate growth by challenging ourselves; by getting out of our comfort zone and saying yes to every new opportunity. Thus, the importance does not lie in reaching the top of the mountain. It lies in your path to getting there.

The World will never be in short supply of people who will try to tell you, loudly, how to live your life. What you should do, how you should act, and who you should be. It’s crap. All of it. What you should do, how you should act, and who you should be, is entirely up to you. Write your own script. The only person you need to measure yourself up against is the person you were yesterday.

So keep it up. Keep up the journey, keep up the struggle, keep up the discomfort. Enjoy the good moments the best that you can, for small triumphs lead to large successes. One tiny step forward is much further than no steps at all.

Xoxo
Sarah

Inspiration is Everywhere (and Other Keys to Success)

Inspiration is everywhere. It is in our surroundings, the people we spend our days with and around, the music we listen to, in the very the air we breathe. And inspiration is usually most elusive when we are actively looking for it. Then, when you least expect it, inspiration hits you like a beam of light shining through a dark grey sky. An illuminating burst, engulfing you in brilliant glitter and reaching bright rays out to everything you see. One of those moments is how this blog post came to life. 

The following is a compilation of  Keys to Success. A list of some of the wisdom I have learned while stumbling through my twenty six years here on Earth so far. Things to give you hope, that give me hope, and ways I have learned to better trudge my road to happy destiny.  

Inspiration is everywhere. Embrace it. Look for it. Don’t look for it. Let it guide you. Let it give you hope. Take it in any and every form it comes in. 

Trust your gut. Listen to your intuition. I have found that my gut reaction to things, or people, has rarely failed me. Your gut reactions are based on your instincts, learned from the past for good reason. However, do not let your gut run away with you. Be sure to use your head and know that every initial feeling or perception might not always be the right one.

Stay hydrated. I’m not kidding. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep on top of your game, mentally and physically. 

Expect the unexpected. Always be prepared, and always be prepared to be surprised. The only thing constant in life is change. 

Speak with confidence. Believe in yourself and your voice. Let it ring out clearly and without tremble. Practice makes perfect. 

Know your friends. Developing strong friendships is one of the most important things you will ever do. Know how to be a good friend. Know how to cheer your friends up when they are down, how to make them laugh, how to make them feel appreciated, how to make them feel seen. Our friends are the family of our choosing. They will be at your side at some of the most joyous, and some of the most trying, times of your life. That said…

Know your enemies better. You cannot win any battle without understanding your opponent. Knowledge is power, and you should never fight the unknown blindfolded. Removing the unknown, to the best of your power, makes almost any problem solvable. Or at the very least, workable. 

Take the stairs. Cardio is good for you. Just do it. 

Be kind. Without fail, and even on your worst days. Try. 

Learn to breathe. Deeply. Controlling your breathing, while saving you in the immediate moment from hyperventilating, has long-lasting benefits. It will help you to think clearly under moments of extreme stress, act with grace under pressure, and also help you assimilate your thoughts and emotions during times of relaxation. This is something I’m still working on. 

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You have to be able to laugh at yourself, and see your own flaws, to reach your full potential. 

You have to kiss a few frogs. Don’t be afraid to date someone because you think he isn’t “the one”. Don’t be afraid to break free from a certain set of rules you have outlined for yourself, and color outside of the lines. Because you know what? All of those frogs you kiss, they will ultimately lead you to your prince. Someday. But only worry about today. Have fun.

Pick your battles. Not every argument is worth having, and being “right” isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Happiness does not lie in being right if being right means being left alone in the end with no-one to back you up. 

Set goals. A dream without goals is just a wish. Setting small goals makes a huge task, or dream, seem much more feasible. 

And with that said, I come to perhaps the most important tip on this list

DREAM BIG. Dream big, huge, amazing things for yourself. It sounds cheesy, but you can do anything you set your mind to. Really. This is something I have to remind myself of every single day, but that reminder is crucial. Do your dreams scare you? Good. Think you can’t possibly accomplish them? Perfect. Because life will show you that you can. I’ve been told many times that in the end, it will all have worked out better than we could have possibly hoped for. Always, always, remember that.   

Do you have any tips you would like to add to this list? 

*I would like to give credit, and a special thanks, to my co-worker Becky who served as a source of inspiration for this post. Her positive attitude and sense of humor make even the worst days brighter.