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. The 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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“I’m starting first thing tomorrow. Today has already been lost.”

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I’ve written a lot about habits and goals and getting out of ruts lately. It’s because I’ve been in a few of them. My life is going really well, but there are minor aspects of it need to be ignited again. Hobbies need to be restarted. Diets need to be started. Friends need to be reached out to.

But I’m having problems jump starting it because I, like a lot of people, want to start tomorrow. Tomorrow normally doesn’t come, or if it does, I make a mistake and then announce that I might as well start the next day and not count today, because, who wants to start with a failure?

Already ate a doughnut? We’ve ruined the diet we might as well eat poorly the rest of the day and start clean tomorrow. Already procrastinated past your scheduled work time? Might as well just try again tomorrow, no reason to start late. Ran out of time in your week to see friends, might as well wait till next week instead of reaching out. It’s constant. Tomorrow is always better even when we said it yesterday. It’s a cycle and one we honestly don’t want to break because it’s hard to break and we don’t want to put in the work.

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Learning hobbies and skills as adults:

 

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I’m currently reading The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (along with about five other books, but I regress). I was struck last night while reading by the adult drive to master a craft. I think we all have a tendency to believe that creativity is something formed when we are young. We either had it nourished or we didn’t. It’s easy to believe that when we ask amazing artists when they started painting and they answer elementary school, or the novelist that answers high school.

Maybe it’s because kids don’t fear failing, maybe it’s because if you’re bad at art in elementary school nobody is going to ask why you still bother to draw. You have permission to enjoy something even if the output isn’t worthy. It’s one of  the most amazing things about being young. We have room to fail and with that we have room to grow.

We still do some of this as adults, we all take on tasks at our jobs that we don’t know how to do and flounder around with it until we figure it out, and we keep figuring it out until we master it. But when it comes to things that are vastly seen as hobbies, our drive to work on them seems to be stunted. It suddenly becomes a waste of time. It’s not making money and it’s not getting things done so it’s not worth it.

But we all know it’s not true, we all know what creative outlets do for the soul. We all know that you could in fact turn this into something that profits later on (or not, but it’s an option). You’re not wasting time because as you produce bad works over and over again you are improving, slowly, but steadily.

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How to overcome the ruts we get in:

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I’ve been in a reading rut, for two years, honestly. It might not seem that way to people who don’t read much, because I’m still choking my way through a few books, but up till a few weeks ago it’s been taking me months to get through one. I didn’t know what was wrong. I used to love to read, I still did, but for some reason it wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting sucked in like I used to and I didn’t think it was the books I was reading. They were good enough, I was just grossly uninspired. Unmotivated. Unmoved.

I was stuck in a nice big rut and didn’t know how to get out of it. I did get out of it, in the last month I’ve read five books. I’ve officially overcome whatever beast I was struggling with. I was moved forward, so lets talk about ways that you can un-stick yourself from the ruts you get stuck in, no matter what that rut is.

  • Talk to a friend who is excelling where you are stuck. Inspiration is contagious. When we hang out with someone who is currently in love with what we can’t seem to deal with it helps open our eyes. It makes us feel like we are missing out and starts to move us back into motion. We remember why we loved what we loved, but more importantly we remember what it is like to be excited about our projects or hobbies. That reminder goes a long way.

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How to stay accountable: charting goals and health

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This past two years have been really crazy for me. I’m still getting treated for Lyme Disease, I got engaged, now I’m planning a wedding, and buying a house. A lot is happening, and when you add that onto the ever present task of bettering yourself, it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks. So I’ve been working on methods to stay on top of everything and I’m going to share the few things that have worked best for me.

Charting is something a lot of doctors suggest people with mental health problems do to track their moods and anxieties. I’ve had to do it for that in the past, luckily my mental health is pretty stable at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that charting hasn’t still been useful for my health overall. I’ve been using it to track progress with my lyme disease, as well as track what causes me to feel bad. For example, I’ve started creating a little list of things I’ve eaten that day in the corner of my planner, that way I can still see if gluten or sugar is effecting me like it used to (and I’m proud to say it’s not! It’s gotten a lot better).

I also have been using my planner to write down everything I’ve done that day, and I mean almost everything. I’m not just writing down appointments or lunch dates, I’m writing down whether or not I’ve walked the dog, what hobbies I did that day, whether or not I ate out for lunch. Having your day written down like that helps you track a lot of different things. It helps me track my energy levels in response to my lyme treatment, but it also helps me stay accountable for diving back into my hobbies.

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Retraining your brain: We’ve taught ourselves that mindless activities can take the place of hobbies

20180716_202856.jpgIf you’re like me you might be making a big push to spend more time on your hobbies and less time wasting time. I know a lot of people who are doing this, because after all we are in a digital age that runs on wasting time. Instead of going for a hike you’re rewatching a show you’ve seen before on Netflix, or worse, you’re wasting your time scrolling through Netflix for something to watch. We mindlessly scroll and we know it’s a problem, so a lot of us are trying to fix it.

But adding our hobbies back into our lives often feels like a chore. I talked about how going from a mindless activity to a mindful activity often seems like hard work, and I think we can agree just by how hard it is to talk ourselves into doing the things we love.

We love them, it should be easy, but it never is. So we add it to our to do list, we force ourselves to do them. Maybe that’s the only way to break the cycle, to make yourself get up and act. Maybe it’s harder to channel motivation to do it in a more natural way. Maybe it takes some time to build up the excitement you used to have. But if it lasts for more than the first two weeks you have to really look at why these things still feel like chores to you.

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Giving yourself more dimension: Why it’s important to explore things out of our norm.

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I wrote a post about labels this month, and my first way keep labels from working against you was to mix them up, because we’re individuals and our labels shouldn’t read them same as everyone else’s. The truth is I feel like a lot of people generify themselves so they can fit into a nice little package, whether they’re chasing a brand, an aesthetic, or simply want to be more liked.

I’ve noticed that a lot of my hobbies and loves let me fit into a neat little package, then when people get to know me they’re knocked off their feet by one of my more obscure fascinations or hobbies, not because they’re that rare, but because they never would have placed them with me. They only had a surface level reading of me and there’s always much more going on under the surface. We’re all like this, none of this new.

But what is a newer trend is collectivism, wanting to fit into to a certain group seamlessly and having all of our friends match us in hobbies and ideals. Okay, maybe that isn’t new either, but it’s growing and growing fast. I blame the internet for this, and I blame peoples insistence that you need to pick a side on everything from hobbies to politics to which TV show reigns supreme. You’ve heard of the sinking middle class, but what about the sinking middle ground? When we don’t have middle ground we tend to jump to one side as quickly as possible and leave all the stuff across the line to stay hidden or simply rot out of existence. It’s bad. That other stuff is just as important to who you are.

I hear people say “I lost interest in volleyball because I threw myself into art school and all that goes with it.” or “I lost interest in romance novels because I got my English degree and moved on to “high-brow” literature.”

It’s a common thing. Ask your friends why they dropped things they loved. Ask yourself why you stopped doing that hobby you loved three years ago. We all have our reasons, but I bet most of us didn’t spend a lot of time reviewing those reasons. If we were to, would we still think of them as legitimate enough to have dropped something we loved?

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