The Beauty In The Mess

Many years from now, when you look back at the chapter in your story that you are in the middle of writing at this very moment, what do you want it to say?

I used to want my story to be tidy and efficient and easy to read out loud. I wanted to leave the mess behind. I didn’t yet understand that each page in my book didn’t need to be, nor should it be, white and crisp and pristine. I had no idea that the messy in my life- the splashes of discoloration on the pages from errant drops of coffee, salty tears, and words that had too many times been crossed out and re-written- is what actually makes it interesting, thrilling, beautiful, and all mine.

I had a pretty picture in my mind of how things should go and would go if I took the right steps.

In taking those steps, in reaching for my ideal, I began to learn about myself. In taking action towards making the pretty picture and the pretty goals and the pretty life I wanted into a reality, I simultaneously dove head first into a complete demolition of my life. During the demolition and subsequent rebuild I closely examined my past and my present, my strengths and my shortcomings, my insecurities, fears, and most-cherished hopes. I dug and I dug and I dug, relentlessly seeking to uncover every part of myself that needed to be fixed or polished.

The years of soul-searching and practicing and trying my hardest to become this person I have always wanted to become led me to an important moment, a moment in which I found myself waist deep in the excavation of my life and seeing clearly for the first time that there is no end to the digging.

And in that moment I took a deep breath and asked my very deepest, truest and honest self what I want my story to say.

I want it to say that I’m not afraid to make a decision that I’m not quite sure will be the right one and that I see these decisions through until the very end. I want it to say that I’m unable to quit. I want it to say that I am incessantly hopeful. I want it to scream that I am willing to give all of myself to whatever it is I am doing, no matter what the return is. I want it to say that I make an effort to always be kind even when it is not returned or necessarily deserved. I want it to say that I care more about compassion, understanding and empathy than being right or avenging those who wrong or seek to hurt me.

I want my story to say that I own my decisions and that I don’t make any of them out of fear or insecurity. I want it to say that my words and actions reflect intentions that were pure of heart. I want it to say that I am a giver. I want it say that I am willing to do whatever it takes. I want it to paint a picture of someone who is fierce yet steady. I want it to say that I am dependable and loyal. I want it to speak to my ability to forgive and overcome. I want it to say that I use my voice in a way that is at once confident, powerful, and soothing. I want it to say that I am able to find immense value in even the hardest of lessons. I want it to sparkle.

Most of all, I want my story to say that I didn’t quit before the miracles happened.

If I only focus on the digging, there will always be more dirt to throw aside. But if I pause and focus on my breathing and the moment I am in, I am able to take a step back and see myself clearly. My face is dirty and my clothes are black but I wear a satisfied smile and my eyes reflect a joy deeper than any I have ever felt.

Nothing is different yet everything is different, because I am coming into myself in a way that I have never experienced before. I feel how capable I am, how worthy I am, how me I am, and how filled with potential my story is.

In this moment that I am standing in now, I love the mess. I love all of the trials and the tribulations that I have experienced and continue to navigate. I am watching my life bloom in front of my very eyes. Good things are happening and they are happening quickly. What’s more is that I have the ability to notice it and appreciate it and embrace it.

I love the beauty in the mess, I love that nothing has turned out the way that I thought it would or should, and I love that the only certain thing about life is that everything is completely out of my ability to control it. It just keeps getting better.

xoxo

Sarah

The Truth About Dating

I recently had dinner with a couple of girlfriends from college who have known me forever. Eventually, the topic of conversation turned to our love lives, which is pretty standard for close friends who haven’t seen each other in a good number of months.

One of us is newly married, one has been dating her boyfriend for a couple of years, and me? Well I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing for awhile now. More or less treading water in the singles dating pool.

A portion of my friends is married or well on their way there, but it’s fair to say that just as many of my friends are in the same boat as I am. We have tried it all: free online dating platforms, online dating platforms you pay for, meeting people through friends, being set-up, the bar scene, swearing off the bar scene, blind dates, speed dating(which remains an open action item on my dating bucket list), friends-who-turn-into-something-more, reconnecting with past loves, giving up on dating entirely, and eventually arriving right back where we started. With renewed determination we throw ourselves back into it all, come hell or high water.

And just like the next single gal, I have a lot of interesting and entertaining stories about my dating adventures to share with anyone who asks.

The truth about dating in your late twenties is that you are coming into your prime. You’re not so slowly but surely approaching thirty and you’ve never felt so good. Your career is blossoming and your sense of self is more developed than it’s ever been. Your social calendar is full of whatever you want it to be full of. Whether that’s trying out new restaurants, bouncing around to your favorite workout classes, jetting off for the weekend to wherever for however long, sleeping in, not sleeping at all, or singing along to Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs on a Saturday night, your life is filled to the brim with you.

You don’t have anyone to answer to or check in with. You don’t have to give a second thought as to who you want to spend time with. You can go whichever direction the wind blows you next. Plus, speaking of online dating, you can go on as many dates as you humanly have the energy for. When it comes to the dating game you get to set the rules, play by them, or throw them out the window as you wish.

Life is pretty easy most of the time when you’re doing what you want when you want to do it. Another silver lining of being single is that however you choose to do it, dating makes you wiser. The people you meet teach you lessons about who you are and what you want. The experiences you have make you laugh and they make you cry and they can fill your heart up with hope. They also occasionally make you want to rip your hair out. Dating makes you feel everything on the spectrum of feelings, unexpectedly and deeply and more bravely than you thought yourself capable.

By the time you’ve been single for awhile in your late twenties, you’ve gained enough experience to know what you want. You’ve survived enough heartache to know just how grateful you’ll be when the really great thing comes along. You have triumphed over and discarded all of the disappointments, repeated letdowns, false starts and squashed dreams. You know that whether you are in or out of a relationship you can be happy.

But most of all, rather than it being depressing or a shameful or representative of failure, being single is liberating and empowering.

Being single is really just another of life’s phases; a life phase that needs to be embraced and cherished and taken advantage of. One day it will be gone and replaced by the next chapter. Single turns into in a relationship which is followed by engaged and then comes married and then arrives married with babies and no time to wash my hair.

At this point, it’s important to embrace single for all of its worth; to relish in it and appreciate it and develop your sense of self throughout it. All single is is a fleeting phase within a chapter that is writing itself. What’s the big rush anyway? Enjoy the moment and live your story.

The truth about dating is that you’ve finally learned that your self-worth and capacity for self-love come from within and it’s all really not such a very big huge deal anymore. You take it as it comes.

And then on one seemingly ordinary day and completely without warning, someone will come along who will put you right back in the ring. Sooner rather than later you’ll be fighting for your next shot at love with everything you’ve got. It’ll be a beautiful time full of hope, perhaps a little anxiety, and overwhelmingly full with the power of possibility. On that day, everything will change. Because when good things happen, they happen quickly.

Don’t believe me? You’ll see. Until then, don’t be afraid to kiss a few frogs on your journey to finding your fairy tale prince. The beauty lies in the experiences you are having, not the end result. Whatever life phase you are in, appreciate it. 

xoxo

Sarah

Dropping the Guilt

Have you ever experienced something and once you were done with it, you were left in a state of complete and utter bewilderment?

A breakup. A fight with a best friend. A disagreement with a coworker.

During it you speak slowly, try not to overreact, and do your best to stay calm. You struggle to maintain every meager ounce of self-control. You try to distance yourself from the sudden flood of emotion that is washing over you, try to give pause and to stop yourself from the very real possibility of completely losing it. You bite your tongue. You fumble your way through it without saying anything mean, or rash, or unforgivable. You maintain the appearance of calm rationale, and afterwards you are left sitting there like a deflated balloon.

What the hell just happened?

Days pass. You talk about it with your friends. You talk about it with your therapist. That’s what healthy and well-adjusted people do, right? You cry. You journal. The confusion and anger simmer, and they don’t leave quickly like you want them to. Weeks pass. Things aren’t really better, they are just different. Time is passing. You have some distance, but you don’t feel like you are any more over it than you were the day it happened. You try your best not to be bitter.

People expect you to bounce back. They expect you to carry on like normal. They don’t know how you are feeling, nor are they responsible for your inner turmoil. This is your deal. You are strong. You just wish you were over it already, like everyone thinks you should be.

You turn the conversation over and over in your mind. What you could have said better. How you could have been more to the point. Did you overreact? Did you not react enough? Could you have done anything to prevent ending up where you are, feeling so alone and abandoned?

The hurt shifts. It doesn’t hurt less, it just hurts differently.

You have to see that person. You feel you have to pretend like it is all okay. You smile, and even though your smile doesn’t reach your eyes the way it used to for them, they don’t seem to notice. They don’t seem to see the sadness that now rests in your eyes either. Nothing seems wrong with their smile, and you try not to let that drive you crazy.

They can’t take it back. You can’t take it back. You press forward, both trying to be mature adults who didn’t do this ugly thing to each other. You feel guilty about all the complications, for not being able to just be cool about it.

You will the guilt to go away. You will it to disappear. You just want it all to go back to the way it was, before it all fell apart.

Sometimes the conversation that you always wanted to happen actually does. A heartfelt apology from a best friend that pieces your broken friendship back together. A work lunch invite extended as an olive branch, and suddenly you have a new-found understanding and respect for your coworker. That love that you thought you lost asks for another chance, and the world seems to have magically righted itself.

Then sometimes, most times, that conversation doesn’t come. We work on accepting that that is for the best. We work on accepting the goodbye.

We never know how these things are going to turn out. We try our very hardest to not be crappy people. We try to be kind, and understanding, and forgiving. We try to carry ourselves with grace. We hold out hope, and hold on to the belief that everything happens for a reason. We practice believing that this person is supposed to teach us something. We try to believe that they are helping to make us better than we were. Or, we think, maybe we were supposed to teach them something. Isn’t that ironic.

Loss changes us. What remains with us after the loss helps shape us into who we are. It makes us stronger, it makes us unique, it makes us resilient. It teaches our heart to use our brain as an ally. Loss teaches us that we can never be fully prepared, because life is only lived forwards and not backwards. It’s okay to have a hard time pretending. It’s okay that it hurts. It’s okay to want to be able to turn back time. It’s okay to want to have done something differently so that you could create an outcome where there isn’t so much pain.

Even while trying our hardest, sometimes we come up short. Sometimes it is too painful to try and simply get over what happened, to act towards that person like the repercussions of their actions aren’t creating giant ripples throughout our entire life.

It’s a process. Time heals all wounds. You will heal in your own time and no-one else’s. You make the changes you need to. You also don’t apologize for setting boundaries, or for avoiding certain people so you don’t have to pretend. That is standing up for yourself. That’s true strength. That is you taking care of you. Ultimately, taking care of yourself is the strongest thing you could possibly do.

It would be nice to be able to forgive and forget like it never happened, because that ignorance would allow us to avoid a lot of pain. However, truth is more resilient than pain. Being honest builds the courage you will need to repair and rebuild. Honesty gives you the necessary fortitude to become a better person than you once were.

Should we have to apologize for that? To say we are sorry for not being able to carry on the lie?

I say no.

I say we shouldn’t apologize for having a hard time or for not being able to constantly carry ourselves forward without falter. The fact that we are trying speaks volumes. People hurt us. The hurt we experience does not warrant us to hurt them in return, but it does teach us to protect ourselves. We should not be ashamed for being honest about the fact that it is difficult to lose something, and someone, from our lives.

We will give ourselves what we need to move on. Whatever it is, space, time, honesty…we are allowed it. We must allow ourselves room to process, and feel, and breathe. Time to assimilate, to heal, and to move on. We must drop the guilt, and release the expectation that we should handle things perfectly.

These experiences make us better people. They make us kinder. They make us more understanding. They ready our hearts for the lessons we have yet to learn. We aren’t perfect people, and we aren’t meant to be. Mistakes mean we are trying, and failure begets new beginnings.

Thank goodness for new beginnings.

xoxo

Sarah

Ambition, Hustling, and Finding Purpose

Success

One of the most powerful things we can do is to decide what we want. To do this, we must get to know ourselves. What makes us tick? What fulfills us? What do we want our lives to look like in five, ten, or twenty years?

We must take a stand in our beliefs, choose our path, own our choices, and then pray that it all works out as beautifully as we hope it will. Find our purpose and follow it- without fear, regret, or hesitation.

Here is what I know about my purpose: the peak moment of my life will not be the day that I walk down the aisle. My marriage will not define me, and it will not be the bar by which I measure my happiness. Do not get me wrong- that day, when it comes, will be one of earth-shattering happiness. But the most significant moment of my life will not be captured in my wedding photos.

The achievements which will define me, those that will mark the most significant moments of my lifetime, will not be contingent upon my relationship status.

Secure my dream job. Publish my first book. Work with other women; empower them and inspire them. Walk with a self-knowledge, a confidence, and a grace learned through life experiences that have challenged me and strengthened me. Help to make the world a better place. These are what I imagine, and dearly hope, some of my most significant achievements will be.

There will be other moments too. Miracles which I haven’t even begun to consider, dream of, or factor into my schedule. These moments will take my breath away with surprise, and happiness. Some of the most monumental and special things in life are those that you never spot coming.

I am not the woman whose future revolves around planning a family or worrying about her ticking biological clock. It is true that I am in my late twenties, unattached, and want children someday, but today those are merely considerations. They do not give me pause. I am a woman who places greater importance on professional ambition than husband hunting. You see, I want to be truly and wildly authentic in anything and everything that I do, and I want to give all of myself to my work and to my daydreams.

To be honest, I am way too busy hustling. I am too preoccupied with making my dreams into a reality to worry about those things that I, confidently, believe will come into my life at the exact moment they are supposed to. And not a second before.

I spend the majority of any free time I have obsessing over work or writing. Any extra head space immediately gravitates towards pushing myself to achieve my goals- and then when I meet them I am spinning up new ones. I can never sit idly, it must be a constant progression. A new day, a new idea, a new dream, and a new to-do list to help get me to where I am going.

Try. Fail. Try again. Fail again. Try some more. Succeed. Repeat the process.

Do I experience doubt about my choices? Absolutely. I worry that I perhaps I should be more concerned about the lack of a husband or a boyfriend or my aging eggs. I hold immense respect for those women who are my age and already have established a family. Stay at home moms are incredible, and I think they have one of the toughest jobs imaginable. I applaud them and all that they do for their families. I know, without a doubt, that I could not do what they do.

However…engagement rings, wedding bells and babies? They don’t get my blood pumping. Career advancement, networking and writing? Now you have my attention. I am not saying I don’t sometimes fantasize about the ring, the dress, and the children. I do. But these things don’t ignite a fire within me, and they are not my passion. I am not chasing them fervently like I am chasing my career ambitions.

Should I have a daughter someday, I want her to be capable of putting herself first, fiercely and unapologetically. I want her to find her happiness in whatever capacity she chooses, with the freedom to chase her purpose in life without doubt. I want her to understand that choosing career over family, or vice versa, does not make her cold, power hungry, or self-seeking. Her dreams will be her own, to be realized without judgement. 

If I cannot show her this behavior through my own actions, how could I ever hope that she would be able to carry it out for herself?

I am twenty-seven and just getting started. I am just beginning to develop and realize my own purpose. I have a lot of life to live, a lot of lessons to learn, and much to discover in the process. I am making the best choices I can for myself and embracing these decisions wholeheartedly, and I cannot wait to see where it all takes me.

If you would like to learn a little bit more about me, my choice in career, and what makes me tick, you can read my guest post on 20Somethings Blog here.

 xoxo

Sarah

On Taking the Bus

Source: SD MTS Website

In October of last year, I sold my car and began the adventure of taking public transportation. It was an experience that humbled me, challenged me, taught me patience, and at other times completely broke me down. Some days, I did not think I could stomach commuting two hours each way, to and from work, one minute longer.

I fought back tears, foul moods, and a complete lack of personal space on a daily basis. I learned to accept that it would take me an inordinate amount of time to get just about anywhere. And finally, I embraced getting lost; in an array of books, Pandora radio, and the inspiration to write.

I experienced an awful lot, about the crazy thing that is human behavior and being immersed into a new world. While devoid of the means of my own personal vehicle, I started collecting tidbits and memories of my travels. Here is what I learned:

Some people don’t bathe as often as they should.

It is absolutely baffling how a person’s own staggering body odor doesn’t offend them. The rest of the bus is certainly affected. Like really, how do you deal with your own stench all day?

Everybody, regardless of age/social status/gender/race, will give up their seat for someone in need; such as an elderly or handicapped person.

This, for a brief period of time, makes you forget all of the other horrors of riding the bus. Enjoy the moment, but don’t let your guard down.

People are oblivious to social cues.

Never forget your headphones. 9 times out of 10, people will ignore your headphones and talk your ear off anyway.

It is a game of strategy.

You have to know, through the course of the route you are taking, who will be sitting where. Forget just taking a seat, you have to strategize. Sit too near the front, you may have to stand for the aforementioned elderly or disabled person. Then you are standing the rest of the way with people’s armpits in your face. Sit too close to the back, and it’s like you’ve been transported to the Wild Wild West. Since the back is furthest from the bus driver’s watching eye, it is a breeding ground for mischief. Complete anarchy. Winning move: sit close to the middle of the bus with your purse or bag on the seat by the window. This way no-one can grab or sit on your purse, and you can slide over to make room for a suitable bus mate (should you spot one). Suitable bus mates are like unicorns; rare, magical, and their existence has yet to be proven.

Do not, under any circumstance, make eye contact.

Eye contact is a sign that you want to communicate. Trust me, you DO NOT want to communicate.

On the bus schedule:

Buses run every 15-30 minutes, give or take 10 minutes. Except on the day you are running 2 minutes late, on that day the bus WILL leave on time.

Assume no-one is of sound mind.

This is for your own good. Safety first. Trust only yourself.

In order of riding comfort, the San Diego Transit System is ranked as follows:

Coaster or Amtrak > Trolley > Bus

In all seriousness, being dependent on public transportation taught me many valuable lessons that I will not soon forget. I encourage anyone to embrace a challenge of this size any time it is presented, because it will help shape you into a better person.

xoxo

Sarah

*Photo courtesy of Bus Ride.

Unexpected Obstacles and the CA DMV

Clerk: “That will be four forty.”

Long pause. Me:”As in, four dollars and forty cents?”

Clerk: “No, Miss, four hundred and forty dollars.”

Me: Gulp.

And THAT is how my trip to the DMV went yesterday.

After some grumbling and a few exasperated looks thrown at the clerk, I reached into my wallet and took out my credit card. At the moment, I didn’t have enough in my bank account to cover that amount.

“No, Miss, we do not accept credit cards.”

Crap.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to vent my frustration directly at her-complete with harsh words and numerous expletives. My eyes welled up with a few tears, but I held back. I could not cry to the DMV woman. I couldn’t throw a temper tantrum like a two year-old. After all, it wasn’t her fault that I wasn’t aware an 8% use tax fee would come with the title transfer. I should have done my homework better.

It wasn’t about the money, really. It was about the embarrassment. I had been caught totally unaware; unaware and unprepared. It felt like having the wind knocked out of me, and the feeling made my face warm with shame.

I try to be smart about my money. I plan ahead each month, allocating my income to necessary bills and expenses, and whatever little I have left over goes into savings.  Each month I creep closer and closer to paying off the amount I still owe on my credit cards, and I do it with pride. This month, in particular, I had applied a larger than normal payment towards a credit card. Which, you better bet, was the first thing I thought about when the DMV woman told me she needed $440.

If I had known, I wouldn’t have paid off so much on the credit card. If I had known, I would have been able to pay the fee on the spot. If I had known, I wouldn’t look like a twenty-something mess who can’t pay what she owes.

Now I have to go right back to the DMV next month, to do the exact same thing I was just there yesterday to do. More of my time taken up, more rearranging of my work schedule to accomodate this, more little stressors added to the day.  I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir about resenting the DMV here.

That night, getting over the shock of the large amount of money I will have to pay was easier than soothing the sting of embarrassment I still felt. It wasn’t about the money, entirely, even though the amount of money was a big deal. It was about not being able to fulfill my adult role regarding financial responsibilities. It was about not being prepared for the unexpected. I felt defenseless and foolish.

After drowning my feelings in the form of pizza, and putting my big girl panties on, I accepted that my trip to the DMV didn’t go as smoothly as I had expected. I also learned that I can still throw a pretty good temper tantrum, even if it is after the fact and in the privacy of my own bedroom.

In a few weeks, I will get to march right back into that DMV, smile brightly, and hand them the money that I don’t want to give up and that I don’t want them to have. I get to woman up, and act like an adult. I will get to walk away a little bit poorer, a little bit smarter, and a lot less embarrassed.

Feel free to share your own experiences with obstacles, embarrassment, or the DMV. 🙂

xoxo

Sarah