Using the pandemic as a tool to better ourselves after it ends:

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This whole pandemic came at a bad time. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by it, the kind of overwhelmed that makes you able to stare blankly at a wall for an hour. Yeah, you know the type.

I’ve been trying to combat it, in some ways I’m doing the things that I would do to try and fight of my depressive episodes, which is pulling out all of my coping mechanisms and making sure I’m doing the things that bring me joy, but this one has also included a lot of self reflection.

Obviously my short-term goals have changed, but not having anything to do has led me to think about what all I want to do and what is most important in my long-term plans. The change of routine has made me think that maybe my routine needs to be changed permanently. Not to this state of nothing, but to something different than it was before.

The fact is I liked the change at first, I liked being knocked off my rocker. I didn’t like the impending doom, but I thought that the change might bring something positive, and I think it still might. Certainly the pandemic itself is a negative, but there can always be a silver lining, and I think there is. I think the world as a whole is going to come out more thoughtful. We’ve been given so much time to think, we’ve been given so much time to care. I think we’re going to use both these things to our advantages.

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Coming to terms with Change.

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I’ve always hated change. When I was a kid I got really upset when my mom rearranged the furniture in the den to create a different layout. I’ve always like consistency, maybe it’s because I am bipolar and I cling to stable and steady things to keep me grounded. But I don’t want to use that as an excuse, mainly because I refuse to let my emotional disorder control me, but also because it’s a lame reason.

Things change, you just have to accept it.

And I have- to a certain degree. I’ve at the very least accepted progress. I’ve accepted that my life will advance. Good change is welcome, sometimes it still gives me a pit in my stomach because it is unknown, but I don’t let it slow me down any.

It’s the bad and neutral change that gets me, the change that sneaks up when your not paying attention and you have to face the fact that you’ve just been hit over the head with something that will alter everything.

Yikes, even writing that made me whence.

It’s hard to accept that change, especially if you’re not one of those people who simply go with the flow. Maybe your more like me and the flow takes you kicking and screaming. I’m not judging you, I don’t think anyone likes getting knocked off their feet. It should trigger your fight or flight instincts.

So, how do you get accustomed to it? How do you become civil with change?

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The decade of change and what’s still the same:

 

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Photo by Sarah Warden Photography

I’ve written and rewritten this blog post a few times. How do you summarize a decade? Especially one that started when you were fifteen and ended when you were twenty five. Those years are massively transformative. It seems like everything possible has been fit into the last ten years, from learning to drive to buying a house and getting married.┬áThe past decade has taken me from a child to a woman. It’s seen hard times and joyous times. It’s been remarkable in every sense of the word.

Maybe it’s strange for us as humans to take time and break it down into chunks like we do. It seems so logical to celebrate the new year, to be able to hit refresh, and to re-calibrate. But too look back over longer periods of time and try to make them a season of our lives just doesn’t work as well. So much happens in ten years time. So much changes. We are in every sense of the word, different.

So I’m going to do something a little different. I’m gong to focus on the parts of me that have stayed the same, because I feel like that says more about me than anything else. The people around me have changed. My place in the world has changed. My daily activites have changed. But there are also quite a few things that have stayed the same.

  • I still want to have a family. When I was 15 I wanted to grow up and get married and have kids, now that I’m older and married I still want to have kids and I was right when I thought that marriage would be one of the most influential things in my life. To marry is to gain a life partner and I’ve managed to find that in the last ten years, and though it didn’t happen at all like I planned, I started down the road that I only dreamed of at 15.
  • I still have a lot of the same morals, though God and society has slowly been fine tuning them. I’ve grown a lot and I’ve become better in a lot of ways, but my want to be better has not ceased. I have not drifted from my moral compass even as it has matured and changed. This is actually something I’m pretty proud of, because though I’ve made mistakes like every other person I’ve stayed true to myself through most of it. I haven’t faltered in major life altering way.
  • My hobbies have endured. I have gained some new ones over the last ten years, but I have also more thoroughly explored the ones I’ve had since I was young. This is amazing because not only does it mean that I’ve been able to approve, but those hobbies I started with when I was fifteen have led me into learning programs that help me in my job. They have helped me through some hard times when I had little else to do and lean on. And, as someone who has creative hobbies, they have helped me express myself and process my emotions. And there have been a lot of emotions to work through in the last ten years.

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On traditions: those worth keeping and those worth shedding

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As I’ve been going through planning this wedding I’ve been thinking a lot about tradition. My mother pushed for some traditional things that I didn’t think was needed, the double envelopes for the invites and printed cocktail napkins. I however found myself pushing for it in some other ways, the monogrammed thank you notes that are just so classic and southern, the traditional wedding vows, taking his last name. But, I also wanted some modern things as well. I’m not walking down the aisle to a traditional bridal march, but rather a beautiful piano song with no wedding ties. Our rehearsal dinner will be casual and have a taco food truck.

The mix of new and old and traditional and non-traditional got me thinking about how we view and use traditions in our everyday life. Obviously we all have family traditions that we love and value, but when it comes to societal traditions we seem to be trying to shed them. Traditional suddenly seems stuffy. Instead of classic, it’s being seen as dated. It’s a turn of events that I’ve hated seeing. Not because I think all traditions are worth keeping, but because I think there’s still value in a lot of them.

There is something really cultural about your traditions that link you to not only your location but also to your ancestors. It ties us to where we come from and how we were raised. It highlights our pride in our home and our people and I don’t think that should ever be lost. I don’t think taking pride in your heritage or culture demeans any others, but rather adds to the diversity that makes the world special.

I also believe that traditions often exist for a reason. Maybe not so much the monogrammed thank you notes, but the traditional family structure that keeps children supported by two parents. The structure that makes it so if one parent falls the other one will be there still. The structure that allows children to take care of their parents like they took care of us once they age. Keeping to these traditional structures, no matter how loosely the modern family does, can help keep children out of trouble and help fight off debt. There have been multiple studies on the fact that these systems work, so maybe it’s best not to throw them completely out the window.

Is there room for growth within tradition? Of course, there is a lot of room for growth. Traditionally women couldn’t own property or vote, those are traditions we should have promptly saw out the door. There are a lot of traditions that aren’t needed anymore, we simply grew out of them, advanced passed them, and some of them weren’t needed to begin with. But that doesn’t mean that we should throw them all out.

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Little Fixes: Getting rid of my road rage made me a better person

 

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We all have little problems, problems that we sweep under the rug because they don’t seem to be a big deal, or we don’t see how changing them will change anything else. We try to tackle bigger things, and sometimes that works out for us, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes these items are to big to tackle all at once. Smaller problems also take time, but not in the same way, they take a week or two of constant reminder and discipline instead of months of it. But they change our lives too, sometimes in ways we wouldn’t think.

I recently was in terrible 5 o’clock traffic and got cut off by someone who almost missed their exit. I cursed under my breath something terribly unkind and had a moment of clarity were I realized that that action didn’t warrant that insult. I’ve cut people off in traffic before and it really wasn’t that big of a deal, because more often then not, it’s a mistake. This break through thought kept circling back around every time I muttered something unkind in traffic, and I started to realize just how often I was doing it.

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Leaving home; some things are bittersweet.

I never meant to be at home this long. I thought after college I’d come home for a few months and then be off, moving into a apartment with a job. God had other plans for me. I got sick. I had to lose my job. I couldn’t take care of myself and I found myself on the couch for two years, then I found myself working part time, adding on hours slowly, unable to pay for a place yet, not fully well either.

So the story went, flash forward three years from graduation and I am finally working full time, still not a hundred percent well, but buying a house with my best friend and soon to be husband. But I’m 24 and I’m still at home. It brings a lot of millennial jokes to the surface, but I don’t mind. I was sick. I needed my parents. I love them and living with them has never been a bother, but it’s time to move on.

I’ve been excited about the move for months now. All smiles and laughter. A chance to make my own home just how I want it. Leveling up, moving to bigger things. It hadn’t quite hit me that this month will be my last month ever living in my childhood home. I’ve lived here my whole life, minus brief periods in a dorm room, but even then, I came home for summer and holidays. My room was still in my room. It didn’t feel like a big change. This is and its bittersweet. Some of my best memories are in these walls and up and down these streets. When I was a kid my whole world existed in these few blocks and it was wonderful, beautiful, and truly everything a childhood should be.

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Reflection: What makes a person’s personality consistent or spontaneous?

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If you know me now, you’ve known me since 11th grade. I wrote that I was thankful for our ability to edit and change ourselves in my thanksgiving post. I meant it, I know a lot of people who have changed for the better, I’ve changed for the better, but when I look at myself now compared to then, I realize that it wasn’t really change that happened, but more of a consistent polishing.

I’m a consistent person, a remarkable feat given that I’m bipolar, but I guess with enough time that becomes a constant as well. I remember talking to someone and telling them that I felt like I only knew one version of them, and that was all I could know, because they had changed so drastically over the years. Then I looked at myself and realized that there were only three versions of me. My outgoing crazy energetic and social childhood. My self loathing almost bullied to extinction middle years. And the adult version of myself, that surfaced a little early due to all that happened in the stage before. I say adult version lightly, because you can only be so much of an adult in high school, but if you knew me then you would see me now. There is a lot of similarities and though they’ve been edited, my dreams and wishes haven’t changed a ton.

Honestly, I wonder if it makes me a little boring. But I think I’m like this because I figured out some tough questions early on. It was easy for me to pin-point what mattered in my life, and I didn’t have to have violent revelations of self discovery. I fell into a pattern of picking up traits and interests that made sense, if you had been following along you’d see them and go “of course Anna liked and added that!”. Simple. Easy to define.

Again, maybe boring? But I don’t know if people would describe me as boring either, because I’ve got a lot going on, it’s just the type of things in my whirlwind of character are typical for me.

It makes me wonder what makes a person this consistent.

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