advice

The Pants Can’t Do Everything

Confession: I like online shopping.

The ease. The convenience. The ability to make fun mail arrive on my doorstep. It is wonderful.

But sometimes I use shopping—or perhaps, the items I shop for—in a way that I shouldn’t. I pretend that shopping will solve my problems or make me feel better when it won’t. I try to shop my way to somewhere, something or someone, hoping a certain pair of pants, sweater, t-shirt, jean jacket, pair of shoes, book, journal, coffee mug or eyeshadow palette will do all the leg work for me.

Do you know what I mean?

Sometimes I feel down or lonely or out of sorts and I will have a certain struggle on my mind, but rather than actively working through that struggle, rather than talking to a friend, exercising, journaling, meditating, going for a walk, reading my bible, or just sitting in the struggle as it works itself out, I will shop.

I will look at prayer journals, assuming that if I buy that journal, I will become a better, more productive prayer and I will strengthen my relationship with God.

I will look at running shorts and assume that if I can find them in my size, I will improve my mile time and get in incredible shape and finally be proud and comfortable in my body.

I will look at shoes and imagine myself strutting confidently, my introversion thrown out the window. I will look at t-shirts and imagine myself casual and cool, someone people admire and envy and wish they could be like. I will look at makeup and imagine I am as beautiful as all the girls I see in the magazines. I will look at blazers and imagine myself at the top of the corporate ladder, financially stable, with the ability to travel anywhere at any time.

I rely on objects to make me a different person, rather than giving myself time to grow into the person that I actually am. And oftentimes the girl I’m picturing in all of these fantasies, the girl who stars in all of the daydreams that convince me to add to cart, is not me at all. She is a version of me that I’ve convinced myself is “the right” version. The version that the media has deemed pretty, successful, worthy, etc. So when the packages arrive full of clothes and things that are supposed to fit her, they don’t fit me. I don’t like the way they look or maybe a part of me is just disappointed that my daydream didn’t come true. That even though I have these new shoes, I’m still unhappy or lonely. Or even though I bought that eyeshadow palette, that relationship didn’t pan out the way I hoped it would. Even though I bought this or subscribed to that, I am still me, in the same place, with all the same struggles.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with shopping. There’s nothing wrong with buying something that you want, that makes you feel good and inspires you to go out there, try new things and better yourself. There’s also nothing wrong with manifestation. With buying something that can help you picture a specific dream and can help motivate you to chase it.

What I’m doing is shopping in place of feeling. In place of listening to what I really need and want—even though in the moment it might seem like what I both want and need is that pair of leggings THAT ARE ON SALE.  I want to stop shopping under the assumption that buying something is the same as doing something or trying something.

Buying running shorts won’t make me a better runner. Running will.

Buying a journal won’t create a daily journaling habit for me. Journaling daily will.

I have to put in the work to make what I buy capable of fulfilling what I dreamt it could.

I have to be the person in the shoes or the pants or the dress and I have to appreciate how I wear them, not wish they turned me into someone else.

I have to live my own life, my things can’t do that for me.

So maybe I don’t need those pants today. Maybe I just need to take a deep breath and figure out what it is I really want—and then go out and get it.

Trust that the Ground is There

There have been a couple blog posts in the past where I mentioned not only my love for yoga, but especially Yoga with Adriene hosted by Adriene Mishler on both YouTube and her website Find What Feels Good—both of which I would recommend.

In taking her classes for the last year and a half or so, I have learned so much about breath, about my body and about yoga that have helped me feel inspired, empowered and calm in some very not so calm times.

One phrase that has stuck with me since the moment I first heard it, and has grown deeper and deeper in my mind ever since is: trust that the ground is there.

There have been many classes and videos I have watched of Adriene’s where she says this. Oftentimes it will come when our feet are stepped wide and we are moving into a new posture that requires our feet to be together.

“If you can,” Adriene will say, “don’t look down at your feet. Trust that the ground is there and step your feet together.”

At first, this seemed kind of funny to me. I mean, of course the ground is there. I could feel it underneath my feet. But then, when I heard her say this in the context of more complex poses, and I feared I might fall, I noticed my instinct to look down. To look at my feet to help me center myself and stay balanced. Because seeing the ground, seeing where I was standing, what I was doing, and checking back in with my foundation, helped me feel safe.

After a while however, when I would gain confidence in a pose, or practice consistently at the transitions between them, this need to look down went away. I felt stronger, more balanced, and I didn’t have to double check that my feet were sturdy, or that the ground was holding me up. I could just keep moving, having faith in my foundation and pursuing my next challenge.

In thinking about this outside of yoga, I noticed that there are so many habits I’ve formed in the hopes of holding my balance or keeping myself “safe”—whether it be from getting hurt, being rejected, embarrassing myself, standing out, or just making a mistake. I’ll stay quiet when I have something to say, I’ll stay home instead of going out, I’ll hide behind friends and family, and I’ll agree with opinions that don’t necessarily align with mine.

I will look down rather than look forward. I will hide in the safety of invisibility rather than allow my self-confidence and self-awareness to grow, because sometimes I still feel like I need to ask for permission or reassurance that who I am is okay; that I’m worthy of acceptance, success, love, etc; or that I can say no (or yes) to things without feeling lame or uncool or a burden on others’ fun/lives.

I am still learning to trust my foundation. That the ground is there. And that I can walk into each day knowing that I’ve put in a lot of work to discover who I am, why I’m here and what I’m capable of.

And while sometimes I still might fall—I might make a mistake or say the wrong thing or get hurt—the ground will catch me, and I can get up and try again. So I will continue to take steps forward, to try on new postures and poses without looking down, all the while growing and finding more balance on the ground I’m standing on.

Take time to find faith in your foundation. It is no easy feat to build, but it will only get stronger with time. Take deep breaths and, when you can, try not to look down. The ground is always there, and it will catch you if you fall.  In the meantime, let it build you up.

The One Question I Keep Asking Myself

When I was little, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I was in high school, I was often asked what I was going to study in college.

When I was in college, I was often asked what my plans were after graduation.

When I reached my mid-twenties, I was often asked when I was going to get married.

And now that I sit at almost 31, unmarried and with no kids, I know I still have a lot of questions to come.

I used to believe that once I got the answer to these questions, I would have lived (or be living) a successful life. But then, as each question slowly got answered, I was disappointed to find that another one was always waiting right behind it. And each one got bigger and scarier and more life defining.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention behind these questions. They are shortcuts into getting to know someone. They are milestones that connect people. But I have also felt the pressure of these questions. Of entering a conversation and immediately feeling uncomfortable, praying that I won’t be asked the questions I don’t have an answer to yet, because they make me feel like less of an adult, or even, less of a person. I feel like a failure for not having reached some of the major milestones that my friends, family or some random stranger has, and I spiral into self-doubt and self-hatred, wishing I could change parts of my life that have made me intrinsically me.

And so, I have tried to start asking myself better questions. Mainly one in particular.

For me, right now, I am single and entering into the second year of my thirties. I am a rarity among my friend group, with no boyfriend, fiancé or husband, and no kids. I have worked the same job for over a decade that is not related to the field I studied in college, and I don’t really have a long term “career” path in mind. But that doesn’t make me a failure. It doesn’t make me less of an adult or less of a woman or less of a person. It just makes my path different than theirs.

So, a question I’ve tried to start asking myself is: what can I learn here?

Because one day, I won’t be single. One day I will have kids. One day I will have a new job. One day I will live in a new place. One day my life will look completely different than it does today, and yet, people will still have their questions, I will still have my fears, and there will still be reasons for me to wonder if I’m doing any of this right.

But right now, I’m here. And I believe I’m here for a reason. There are still things for me to learn, people for me to meet, ideas to form, conversations to be had, moments to be experienced and choices to be made. And so I focus on the question that has to do with where I am, not where people want me to go, or where everyone else seems to be.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking, I find myself trying. I find myself searching my surroundings, noticing slow magic, and finding joy in small things that otherwise would have been missed.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking I find potential. I learn more about myself, about what I like to do, what I want to do, and what I’m capable of doing.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking I find peace. Memories long buried turn over in my head, unfelt feelings rise to the surface and new understandings dawn.

When I ask myself what more there is for me to find and learn exactly where I am, I better appreciate that place—this place—rather than wish it into the past in favor of checking off an item on a list, or staying on track with lives and paths that aren’t mine.

There will always be questions, and that’s okay. If there are more questions to ask, that means there is more life to live. But I’m trying to stay focused on one question, as it’s the only one that keeps me present and moves me forward at the same time.

What can I learn here? I ask, and the answers abound.

A Name for Smoggy Days

Yesterday was a smoggy day.

Sure, in Los Angeles, it’s smoggy most days. But that’s not the smog I’m talking about.

Some days I wake up feeling low. Sad. Or what I like to describe as “heavy.” It’s when every worry, insecurity, and regret seem to be sitting on top of me, making it hard to think straight, feel comfortable, or find motivation. There is a haze that blocks the blue sky. And it’s hard to breathe the fresh air that was there yesterday.

I’ve long looked for something to call these days. Because often when they pop up, I don’t know how to explain them to others. I sit quietly, talk politely, walk slowly, and fidget nervously, all while fighting through the chaos and lies that are spiraling in my mind. On particularly bad ones, I feel fragile. As if I might burst into tears at any given moment. And I don’t know how to explain that it’s not you, it’s me. I’m playing offense and defense in a battle that is taking place inside my head, and I’m not sure if I want help, privacy, attention or solace.

When I was in high school, I remember having a handful of smoggy days that I didn’t really understand. My mind was in overdrive and I wanted validation. I wanted to be told I was wonderful and beautiful and absolutely crazy to be thinking these negative thoughts. But when I reached out to a friend, spitting self-deprecating venom, fishing begging for compliments and expecting them, I got nothing. I got crickets. I got, “I don’t know what to say when you’re like this.”

I don’t mention this to blame them, because they were just as young and lost as I was. But I remember the guilt that was born in that moment.

The guilt that comes in with the smog. The shame that sits on top of everything else. Telling me that I should be embarrassed for feeling so low. For bringing people down. For not being my best. It tells me to get over it. And it promises that if I don’t I will push everyone away.

And so the smog suffocates. And for a little while, it wins.

For a little while I am low. I am sad. I am quiet. I am scared. I am not myself.

But then the wind comes.

A friend. A movie. A book. A butterfly. A sunset. A tall tree. A child’s laugh. A kind word. A joke that lands in just the right place. A hug. A moment alone. An unexpected deep breath. A combination of a lot of little things. And eventually, a breeze picks up. And then a gust. And soon the smog is blown away and I can see the sky again. I can breathe the fresh air.  

It doesn’t last forever. Eventually the smog settles back in and piles back up. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the more I talk about it, the more opportunities I give to that wind, the more public I make these battles that thrive in private, the better I set myself up to win.

And I’m hoping the same can go for you.

We all have smoggy days. Maybe even smoggy seasons. And sometimes we just need a name for it all.

We might not know what we need from others. We might not want extra attention or to give a longwinded explanation of everything we’re thinking about. Sometimes we just need a name. Something that can explain where we are when we aren’t ourselves.

So if you’re looking for a name, have mine. And remember, it’s okay to have smoggy days. It’s okay to not be your best. It’s okay if you get knocked down. As long as you get back up and keep fighting.

Open a window and let that breeze in. Take a good look at the blue sky. Take a deep breath of that fresh air. You are okay.

Look for the Happy Middles

The other day I was listening to a podcast that discussed the cliché: happiness is a journey, not a destination. It got me thinking about movies and books and their tendency to have “happy endings”—a direct contradiction of this cliché.

Oftentimes we are given a main character, and a single obstacle, choice, or relationship that is holding them back. We follow their journey to make things right, sometimes laughing or crying along the way, and then we listen to the music swell, and watch them (sometimes) metaphorically ride off into the sunset, satisfied, accomplished and happy. The screen fades to black and we sit in the goodness of the ending, holding onto it for as long as we can, feeling hopeful and inspired that our own happy ending is on its way.

I have seen this my entire life.

In high school, I watched romantic comedies every single night. They were literally the last thing I thought about before I fell asleep. As a result, I believed that while life was an obstacle course with twists and turns, tears and pain, it always had a happy ending—a place where you would be free from those things.

I believed that about finishing college; about having a lavish and successful career; about falling in love, getting married and having kids; about getting in shape, being skinny, having straight teeth, clear skin and self-confidence. Once I had what I wanted, I thought, then everything would be fine. I wouldn’t have bad days. I wouldn’t feel sad. I wouldn’t feel pain, be scared or get lonely.

But the truth is, there is no such thing as happy endings—at least not in the middle of your life. There are openings and closings of chapters. Beginnings and endings to seasons. Reset buttons, changes of direction, path defining questions and answers. But there is no mid-life finish-line or series finale sunset that you walk towards, leaving behind everything hard or painful, to live our the rest of your days in blissful, unbreakable happiness.

And that’s good.

Because then what would we do? Stop learning? Stop growing? Stop creating?

Imagine how much unhappier a place the world would be if we all stopped searching for and creating new kinds of happiness.

This is why I think we have to stop looking for happy endings and start appreciating the happy middles.

Happy middles (n): happy moments that happen in the great, vast middle of your life. (i.e., the accomplishments, inspiration, wonder, love, friendship, joy, kindness, compassion, etc. that make days better. That make happiness feel a place you’ve been and will be again soon.)

Happy endings in movies are actually happy middles. (Or, depending on the movie, maybe sad middles, hard middles, devastating middles.) They are moments that would stand out in the lives of those characters as they moved fictionally forward. They showcase moments and experiences we’ve had in our own lives, that prepare us for what is ahead—whether good or bad.

Happy middles don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be dramatic or grandiose or come with a pay raise, trophy, or engagement ring. Happy middles can be slow, consistent, and simple. They can be obvious or undetectable. They can be absolutely anything at all.

If happiness is a journey, happy middles are the pit stops. The points of interest. The places where you refuel and refresh before getting back on the road.

So if you’re going through a tough season, keep going, there’s a happy middle waiting for you right around the corner.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, and/or discouraged with where you are in your life compared to where those around you seem to be, take heart in knowing that we are all in the middle. No one has it all figured out, no one has crossed that fictional finish-line where everything becomes perfect or easy. We are all on our own path, finding our own happy middles, and your next one might be right in front of you!

All that being said, I can’t and won’t stand here and say that I don’t love me a cute, romantic, emotional, happy ending, because I do and always will. But the way I see it, I’ve got a lot of life left to live, so I’m keeping my eyes on the middle(s) and all the goodness they have to offer.  Here’s hoping one is just up ahead.

March & April Favorites

I’m having one of those days where I want to say, I can’t believe it’s going to be May already. But then I feel like I could also ask, is it only May? But also, what day is it? You know?

It’s been a wild couple of months.

Luckily, I have found some good things to keep me company/keep me sane, whichever way you want to look at it.

Here are my favorites from March & April.


Podcasts

I had heard a lot of rumblings about Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard but never looked it up because I’d burned myself out on interview podcasts. I got tired of hearing people ask the same questions to the same people. Plus interviews during COVID that took place over the phone, giving no one face to face cues, so everyone was interrupting each other, saying, “no, you go ahead” “no, no, you go ahead,” made me want to die. Luckily, this podcast has none of that, and Dax Shepard does a great job at not only asking fun, interesting questions, but he has all kinds of guests from all different walks of life, making every episode different. I will say though, there are a lot of episodes. Like, multiple per week. So unless you listen to every single one right when it comes out, you just have to accept that you’re going to be behind. Which was initially hard for me to cope with. But now I kind of like knowing that I always have a good handful of episodes to choose from.

I also started listening to The Basement Yard, which is now my third or fourth podcast that centers around two guy best friends just chatting away. I don’t know about you, but I feel like there is something magical and hilarious about two guys that are best friends through and through and can talk for hours about absolutely anything, all the while cracking each other up. This podcast has made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt and I have been recommending it like crazy.


Books

I wrote a blog post back in March about how much I loved and appreciated the perspective I got from The Midnight Library, but I think it would be a disservice not to send another round of encouragement to read this book. With all of the solitude we’ve experienced over the last year, giving us far too much time to be with our own thoughts, I have no doubt we’ve all wondered about those what if’s in our life. This was a great reminder that the choices we make, while not always perfect, get us to where we’re meant to go—even if it’s not where we expect.

This book was something brand new for me. I had never heard of blogger and comic artist Allie Brosh before reading Solutions & Other Problems but I’m so glad I have been introduced! She is so funny and creative and this book was a delight to read. She pairs stories with drawings and the combinations are truly hilarious.


TV Shows

Homecoming is a show based on a podcast that I actually recommended all the way back in this favorites post. I have been wanting to watch this show since it came out—which was a cool three years ago—but hey, better late than never. I thought they did a great job at adapting the podcast to a series and I arguably felt more stressed watching than I did listening because I got to add faces to names and thus instantly care about everyone involved. (find it on Amazon Prime)

Next up was Barry. And wow. I have always loved Bill Hader, but this was just fantastic. It is funny and smart and incredibly unique. It follows Barry, a marine turned hitman who accidentally falls in love with acting. It’s wonderful. (find it on HBO Max)

And finally, Upload. This one explores a high-tech future where, after we die, we can be uploaded to an artificial version of heaven. In this afterlife, you are still able to communicate with your friends and family on earth, and more or less go about your (after)life, walking, talking, eating, etc. It was creative and funny and not as dark/sci-fi as it might sound. (find it on Amazon Prime)


Movies

One of my goals for the year was to see all the Academy Award Best Picture nominees and (ideally) be able to accurately pick the winner. Full disclosure, I didn’t watch them all before the Oscars. I just didn’t have time. I did see Nomadland which ended up winning, and don’t get me wrong, it was a great movie, but I was pulling for Sound of Metal. It follows a drummer (and recovering addict) who loses his hearing and goes to a rehab facility for the deaf and hard of hearing to cope. It was easily the best movie I’ve watched all year.

I also saw Promising Young Woman which was fantastic in its own right. It tells the story of a woman who is on a mission to right the wrong that caused her to lose her best friend. It is a very timely film that manages to be both heartbreaking and funny.


Music

Obviously by Lake Street Dive

All In by John Splithoff

Songs to Break Up To by Wild Rivers


Third Love Bras

When I tell you that I would bow down to these bras…

I have been long on the hunt for comfortable bras that are pretty, not $1000, and can actually fit me like a glove. In the past I’ve been frustrated with cups that leave uncomfortable space, or straps that are either too loose or too tight, and I tell you, with no ulterior motive, that these. are. it. I threw every other bra I owned away and I have never been happier. (find them here)


Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know!

See my previous favorites post here.

If it Weren’t for that One Crazy Hair

The other day I watched a YouTube video where Kylie & Kendall Jenner attempted to do their makeup while drunk. Regardless of your opinion of them or their reality show, the video is cute and funny and especially sweet if you have a sister or sibling that you love to laugh with.

At one point in the video, as Kylie is talking, I noticed that Kendall was looking at herself in the camera and trying to fix a part of her hair that (to her) looked off. She poked at it and combed her fingers through it, trying and trying to get it a certain way, while I was sitting on the other end of the screen wondering what is even wrong with it?  What flaw could she possibly be seeing?

Kendall, being an actual supermodel, whose job it is to be pretty and skinny and “perfect”, who was sitting on this video in clothes that fit her perfectly, with barely any makeup, promoting her brand-new tequila label, and undoubtedly raking in more than my annual salary by the minute. And yet, she swiped and swiped at her hair, distracted and frustrated, until she was satisfied.

At first, I wanted to think of her as shallow or vain, only focused on her appearance. But having watched the video and seen her personality, her humor and a little glimpse into her relationship with her sister, it was clear that there is more to her than that—just like there is more to all of us. But sometimes, even if it’s just for a few minutes, there is something that makes us feel like nothing else matters. Something about our clothes or our body or our skin or our hair or anything that stares back at us so glaringly in the mirror or in a photograph or on a video. Something that erases every other good thing going on and says, you look bad. This looks bad, and everyone else sees it too.

I know for me, I get especially self-conscious about my skin. I worry about when I breakout or when my skin is especially oily. I try to avoid pictures at all costs, and when one is taken it is all I can see. And while it might not be something that no one else sees, it is not something other people are focusing on. It is not a character flaw. It does not make me less of a person, less interesting or unworthy of spending time with. The same goes for that awkward way you’re standing in that one photo. Or the way your arm isn’t perfectly muscular. Or that those clothes aren’t laying perfectly on your body. Or the fact that your nails that aren’t painted. Or that your teeth that aren’t perfectly straight. Or that that one crazy hair just won’t stay in place.

None of these things discredit your heart or erase the goodness you bring into someone’s life. They don’t minimize the happiness in a photo or ruin the mood of a dinner shared between friends and family.

And while I know, depending on the day, that one thing can feel like a breaking point. It can feel like a good enough reason to call it quits on the day. To not want to leave the house. To cry or lean into bad habits or miss out on things you wanted to participate in. I also know that that one thing is not worth it.

It’s not worth your time. It’s not worth your energy. It’s not worth you missing the wonderful things going on around you. So let’s just leave it be. Let’s live inside the moments we’ve locked ourselves out of simply because we didn’t feel like we looked good enough to live them. Let’s not define ourselves and our lives on that pimple, or those jeans, or that sleeveless shirt, or that one crazy hair. You’re more than that. I’m more than that. We’re all made of millions of other colors and thoughts and dreams and ideas and memories that make us who we are and who we’re going to be, which is not and never will be defined by that one thing. So let’s put that thing aside. Let the crazy hair fly, and leave it be.

A Five Senses Check-In

Back in October I wrote this post—inspired by The Next Right Thing podcast—that was all about connecting to your senses in order to find some peace amongst the fear of the future and chaos of the present.  

Right now, I have a lot of moving pieces in my life, a lot of things that I don’t feel like I have control over and that are changing. As a result, I have been pouring myself into projects, exercise, and goal setting in order to combat the corresponding anxiety. Yesterday, after getting home from work a little earlier than usual, and with the sun out and the weather an incredible 75 degrees outside, I found myself debating over how I could be productive. Should I go for a run, a walk, a hike, do yoga, do work, write, clean, read, pray? What could I do to make myself feel good, or better, or at the very least, calm.

After a while, I decided to do a little yoga, even though I spent the first few minutes frustrated and unwilling to participate. I pretended to relax until I actually relaxed. Then, I sat down on my bed and tried to map out my plan for the rest of my evening—instantly going back to that place of demanded productivity.  My mind was racing and I felt like I was wasting time. But then, I felt the breeze come through my bedroom window. And then I noticed that the sun had turned golden with the evening and there were birds chirping outside. And then I thought back to that post, and I thought it was a fitting time to shift my focus back to the present—“to what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

Here’s what I wrote down:

Five things I can see

  1. The golden hour sunlight shining through the window
  2. The flickering shadows casted on my bed, my floor and my wall from my blinds
  3. A branch of the palm tree in my backyard swaying in the breeze
  4. The collage on my wall that I made to inspire me whenever I look at it
  5. My newly painted pink toenails

Four things I can hear

  1. The bells of the church down the road that mark the start of every hour
  2. Birds chirping—a reminder that spring is so close!
  3. Neighbors chatting and laughing
  4. A UPS truck driving in the distance

–Three things I can feel

  1. The evening breeze that is cool but no longer cold
  2. The soft comforter that sits on top of my bed
  3. Hunger. The excited kind of hunger you feel when you know what you’re making for dinner and you can’t wait to have it. Looking at you Naan pizza.  

–Two things I can smell

  1. The laundry detergent I used to clean the cozy sweatshirt I’m wearing
  2. Fresh air from my open window

–One thing you can taste

  1. Cold water

There are a lot of things that we can’t control, but there are also a lot of moments that we can choose not to let control us. As it turned out, there were plenty of good things to find on what tried to become a very stressful afternoon. And while I can’t guarantee that anxiety won’t sneak its way back into my shoulders, as I sat there, allowing myself to feel the breeze, to listen to the family next door joke and laugh, and to watch the sun turn gold, I knew everything was going to be okay, and that I could take a deep breath and relax.

I Want the “More”

This past weekend I finished reading The Midnight Library which is a book about regrets. It follows Nora, a girl who is so consumed in regret and despair that she decides to end her life, only to wake up in a state of in-between called “the midnight library” where there are shelves full of books that each tell the story of a different life she could have lived if she made different choices.

This concept was fascinating to me, and instantly inspiring as I am someone who often finds myself wondering “what if _____?” I sat up wondering what my own “midnight library” would look like and what it would teach me; what different decisions could have led to different lives, and what questions could be answered by finally knowing if I made “the right” decision.

I loved reading Nora’s story and how she was able to uncover and disprove some of these regrets she’d been holding on to for so long, but I also found myself wildly jealous. Because the not knowing, the wondering and the regretting about the past can take all the fun out of the present. And sometimes when my present is sad or lonely or just hurts, I turn to those ponderings and regrets, believing that if I had done something differently, I wouldn’t have to be here, in the hurt.

But then I wonder, what am I really asking for? Am I asking for a life without hurt? Am I asking for a life where I never have to feel any pain or experience any loss or wonder about any fork in the road? Because while that sounds cozy and fun compared to all of this, it also sounds naïve and fake. It sounds like a life where I never learn anything, never overcome anything and thus never become more than I thought I could be. On the surface it sounds like a happy life, but it also sounds like a life where I would never really understand or appreciate what happy is.

We all go through bad things, we all experience hard chapters, we all have moments when we wonder why. And I wish there was a place to go and get all of the answers. A place like the midnight library where you could look at all the other outcomes of a situation and understand why that was the best one. Not for the best, most perfect life, but for the life that allows you access to becoming who you were made to be.

I don’t have all the answers—about anything really. And there are many parts of my life that I don’t understand or that I will always wonder what if. But then there are parts of my life that I catch myself saying how? How did I get to this wonderful place? How am I so lucky to experience this wonderful moment? And that is when I have to remember that it was all the moments that led up to this that got me here. It is all the good, all the bad, all the what if’s and regrets that still linger. They all make me me and they make my life my life. They are what have built me and will continue to build me as I continue to build this life. And while I’m scared for what’s ahead, scared of what might happen or what might not happen, I’m excited for it all because it will make me more. And at the end of the day, that’s all I really want—to discover all the more this life has for me, and that I have to offer the world.   

Take a Step Back

To kick off the new year, my church participated in a 21 day fast. In lieu of certain food groups, I opted to delete social media from my phone, as I felt that it was one thing stealing more of my attention than necessary. And while I expected a bit of habitual reaching for my phone, and the mindless skimming through apps in search of Instagram, Twitter or the like, I did not expect the real, physical withdrawal I felt.

While at first I thought it was just frustration, FOMO, this sense that I must be missing out on something big, I soon began to realize I was actually feeling a little afraid. Unbeknownst to me, social media had become a bit of a crutch—a coping mechanism that I’d been using for whenever I was sad, angry, lonely, jealous, or confused. If I felt a feeling I didn’t like, I’d take a scroll through social media to find a new one. And now that I didn’t have that option, many of the feelings and thoughts I’d been avoiding were all demanding to be felt.

I lay awake almost every night of the first week, unable to fall asleep, unable to quiet my brain the way social media had been doing. It had become such a habit to scroll through whichever app until I got tired, never sure what I was looking for, but always hopeful it might be in the next post, or the next. But it never seemed to be there.

Having time away from social media, I’ve given myself space to think, space to wonder, and space to just listen.

Reaching for my phone is still a habit. I still catch myself tapping at the screen, hoping something pops up that might make a bad moment better or a long day easier, but I am also doing better at looking for things offline that can help. I’m reading more, I’m praying more, I’m being more creative. I’m feeling all of the feelings that come naturally each day, and I’m allowing them to pass through me rather than attempting to shut them out.

I will admit, I thought this fast would be harder for me than it was. And after those first few nights, I was convinced I would never make it. But having come to the end of the 21 days, and not feeling even an inkling of the relief or freedom that I thought I would, I realize how crucial this fast was for me—even when I was someone who would have considered herself not to be addicted to social media.

And so, I’d encourage anyone to take a step back. Just to see if there’s anything you might be missing. Take a step back and feel the feelings that you might be avoiding. Take a step back and listen for the things that have always been inside you but have been muted by the endless scrolling. Take a step back and breathe. Exist in the real world and simply in the real. You don’t have to leave social media behind forever, but it’s important to remind ourselves that social media is a place to visit, not a place to live. Take a step back, log off and look around. There’s a lot more for us out here than there is in there, and out here it will last a lot longer.