journal

A Call for Advice Before I Turn 30

I have exactly three weeks left of being 29. Which means I have exactly three weeks left of my 20’s. Which is…well, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve never really been afraid of or concerned with my age—mostly because I’ve learned that every age has the potential to bring you both good and bad things—but the milestones always feel different. They ask you to reflect, to prepare, to predict, to manifest. They ask you to notice. (And slightly panic.) But mostly notice that you have made it this far.

I look forward to breathing in that milestone.

I also look forward to basking in the vast wisdom and grace I assume arrives at midnight.

But if I happen to be wrong, I figured I’d send out a small request for any advice you might have.

Note: you do not have to be 30 (or older) to provide this advice, as I think we all learn different things at different times in different ways.

So, let’s truly let age just be a number here, and, if you’re willing, give me some advice that has inspired you. Something that you take with you into each day or something that reminds you everything is going to be okay or something that has taught you how to rebuild when things are not okay or something that makes you smile or cry or just helps you breathe.

My 30’s thank you. (As do these last three weeks of my 20’s.)

There is More

Since I have been lucky enough to continue going into the office for work, I am among the (far fewer) commuters in the morning and afternoon. And lately on my way home, I have been taking the freeway a few exits past my own, and then driving up and down the side streets around my neighborhood, just listening to music and decompressing. I like looking at the different houses—especially the front doors, I love a pop of color on a front door—and seeing which roads wind into each other, which ones dead end, and which go up into the hills.

I also like driving around and finding the little spots that hold memories for me, some good, some bad, some from over a decade ago, and some from only a few months before everything shut down.

I can drive down the street where the food trucks park on Friday nights, where my cousin once jogged down the very windy, cold street to get a churro for us to split before the cart closed.

I can drive past the pancake restaurant my friends and I use to eat at once a week in high school, before we spent the night driving around blasting music—sometimes with added choreography.

I can drive past the front lawn where I saw the boy I liked take prom pictures with another girl.

I can drive past the park where I ate cake with my best friend the week before she moved away.

I can drive past the house with the orange tree out front, where my grandparents use to live and my papa used to let me sit on his lap while he pulled into the driveway.

On some streets I can hear myself laughing so hard with my friends that I can’t breathe; on other streets I can feel the heaviness of a hard day and hear the sad songs carrying me home; and on some streets I think of a specific person, specific food, specific weather pattern or specific song for reasons I can’t remember anymore.

More than anything, the driving around reminds me that the world is still out there. It reminds me that I’m alive—that I’ve lived a life. And it gives me hope that I still have lots of life left to live.

There are more memories to make out there, more spots to claim pieces of my mind and my memory. There is more than what I see from inside my house, more than what I feel inside my own head, and more than what we hear on the news or social media. There is more out there and we will find it.

If You Have Time to Kill, Take These Personality Tests (Part Two)

One of my favorite ways to kill time—quarantine or not—is to take personality tests. I love unlocking new sections of my mind, gaining a new understanding of my psyche and defending myself against results that seem too dead on to be possible.

So, if you are looking to get to know yourself (or your friends and family, your dog or maybe a houseplant you’ve started openly talking to at this point) a little better, and start arguments that are sure to expedite the time between sleep and snacks, take these tests for a spin.

You can also check out this post from last year with even more personality tests, including one that tells you what kind of potato you are, which I personally think is a VERY important thing to know.

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1) What character are you?

This will tell you which fictional character you are most like.

My Result: Rosalind Walker

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Also, if you scroll down and click “show all” next to full match list, it gives you 800 other characters that you bear some resemblance to. I highlighted a few of my favorite top matches:

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And a few that I was very glad to be very dissimilar to:

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Find the test here.

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2) Visual DNA Test

This test uses images in the place of text for you to choose from to answer each question. (And to be honest gives you scary accurate results.)

My Result: The Olympian

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Find the test here.

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3) Color Personality Test

This test asks you to select colors first based on your most favorite to least favorite, and then least favorite to most favorite. I have absolutely no idea how it calculates your personality from this, but science is weird.

My Result:

Color test results

Find the test here.

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4) See My Personality IQ Test

This test will make you feel like you are back in school again, which for me was not extremely enjoyable, but it was fun to stretch my brain a little.

My Result: 119

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Find the test here.

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5) Which artificial flavor are you?

This test gives an answer you’ve clearly been looking for.

My Result: Blue raspberry

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Find the test here.

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Once again, I cannot and will not claim any responsibility for any emotional confusion/identity crises that may result in the taking of these quizzes. However, it is worth stating that blue raspberry is the best flavor of Jolly Rancher without any competition at all. So I personally I am walking away feeling pretty good today.

Talking to Your Fear

I was recently listening to Rachel Hollis’ podcast, Rise, and she had author Elizabeth Gilbert on to talk about fear.

If you’ve been around this blog before, you’ll know that fear is a pretty common topic, as it is a very prominent part of my life—though not always in a negative way. I find that while my fear can often hold me back, it has also driven me towards some of my favorite projects (like this blog) and greatest accomplishments (like running the LA Marathon).

Having seen both the positive and negative consequences of fear, I sometimes find myself obsessing over it. I am always trying to see it from a new perspective, or trying to overcome it with a different mindset, or trying to find a new way to talk about it so it can loosen its grip on a specific situation in my life.

Thus, when two of my favorite ladies sat down to talk about fear, you better believe they had my full attention and I had my pen and paper ready to take notes. But as I sat waiting for these two successful, inspirational women to tell me how to overcome my fear, how to leave it behind and live what I can only assume would be an easier, barrier free life, I was again hit with a new perspective.

“Your fear has one job,” Elizabeth Gilbert said, “to keep you safe. To keep you alive by preventing you from doing new things. Thus, if it doesn’t know what something is, it triggers something in your brain. It says, ‘I don’t know what that thing is and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, so in order to keep you safe, I have to keep you from doing it.”

I’d like to think I’ve always known that my fear tries to protect me, I mean, I am afraid to cliff jump because I think I might get hurt (or die), I am afraid of holding short stem matches because I think I might get burned, but I think over time I forgot that part of growing up is learning the many ways we can get hurt, and thus our minds learn the many things it needs to protect us from. Things like embarrassment, heartbreak, failure, rejection, grief, etc. So when I’m angry at my fear for holding me back, I am essentially mad it for doing exactly what I’ve taught it to do: keep me safe.

Elizabeth Gilbert went on to explain that when we try to throw fear out the window and move on without it, rather than giving in, it tends to send extra fight into a situation because it feels like something really bad is happening.

Think about a time when you set out to do something that scared you, and how in the moments right before doing it, you feel that overwhelming desire to quit and go home. This might be the moment you feel nauseous or shaky or unable to move. That is your fear doing everything it can to keep you from stepping into this unpredictable situation where you might possibly get hurt, and sometimes that last push is so strong that some of us do turn around and go home.

I know I’ve done it.

I’ve thrown up my hands and said, “you’re right, I shouldn’t do this.” Even when “this” is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

But there have also been times when I’ve pushed through, when I’ve demanded that my fear give me a chance. For me, this is when I’m taking deep breaths, praying, pacing up and down a hallway, and sometimes, in the case of my college self studying abroad in Australia, not giving myself enough time to say no, and tip toeing up to the ledge that I’d just seen my friends bungee jump from and jumping.

And that, Elizabeth Gilbert explained, is called talking to your fear. That is taking the time to say, “I respect why you are trying to protect me but I feel like this is something I have to do.”

And so, the next time you feel afraid, dig into the reasons why, and talk it out. Be open and honest with yourself (and your fear), and unpack why you do or do not want to do something—and don’t be ashamed if your fear wins out in the end sometimes. Take each situation as it comes, and give yourself grace in figuring out where you’re willing to step into the unknown. Work with your fear and give it a greater understanding of what you are capable of. Thank it for keeping you safe, and use it to push you forward.

How to Make 2020 Memorable (In A Good Way)

This past weekend I was sitting on the beach with some family, listening to music and watching the sunset, when my cousin Amanda posed a question.

I know that 2020 hasn’t been great, but I think we should each try and think of something that we’d like to do by the end of the year to make our year positive and memorable.

We each took the question in, and then went back to the music. We hummed and danced and occasionally used anything close by as a microphone, all while letting that question twist and turn in our minds.

I had a particularly hard time coming up with an answer, which surprised me, especially because I am such a goal oriented person. But even when ideas and answers were brought up—like seeing a drive in movie or going to the Grand Canyon—my mind still drew a blank.

At one point, I lay my head back on my towel and looked up at the sky.

“Look!” I said, pointing up at the now dark, starry sky, “I think that’s the big dipper!”

The group looked and excitedly agreed and then eventually fell back into swing with the music, this time with the intent to “get our cardio in,” which mostly meant jumping up and down in time with the music, running around our spot on the beach—which was by that time was completely dark and empty except for us and our little electric lantern—spinning with our arms out and our heads tilted up towards the sky, anything that made us feel good, got our hearts racing a little faster, and gave us an excuse to eat an ice cream cone later.

On the drive home (which did include an ice cream cone) I still thought about the question. I was the only one to not give an answer. But when I got home and I relived the afternoon and evening in my head, and I looked at the pictures we’d taken of the sunset and the videos of us singing and dancing around our speaker, I realized why I had struggled so much.

This year has been tough for all of us—in ways we all understand and in ways only you and me can understand. I have had obstacles and hardships you haven’t and vice versa. This year will forever be memorable, but it is not over yet, and sometimes I feel like I’m in survival mode, hiding and waiting until it is.

But just as I wrote in this blog post a little while back, and just as Amanda brought up on the beach, there are still ways we can make this year good. There are still things we can gain from 2020 that we might not have had the time, energy, or inspiration to in any other year.

So I encourage you (and me, because I still haven’t thought of an answer) to think about a way you’d like to make 2020 memorable. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant or expensive, it just has to be something that gives you that good feeling—like sitting on the beach with people you love and singing Celine Dion into a shoe microphone.

The goodness of 2020 is still up for grabs, and I think it’s about time we went out and found it.

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If you have any ideas for how you want to make your 2020 memorable, please leave them in the comments! We could all use some inspiration. white-smiling-face_263a

Thank You For Your Magic

I am currently reading “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and I just wanted to share this little blurp from the book that inspired me:

 

“Each of us was born to bring forth something that has never existed: a way of being, a family, an idea, art, a community—something brand-new. We are here to fully introduce ourselves, to impose ourselves and ideas and thoughts and dreams onto the world, leaving it changed forever by who we are and what we bring forth from our depths.”

 

It’s easy to get caught up in all the things we think and believe we aren’t, but it’s important to remember all of the wonderful, unique things that we are. We are each so important to the world and waste so much time thinking otherwise. So today, rather than leaning on those self criticisms and the constant nit picking of what is wrong with you or your life, take a second to appreciate what a special thing you bring to the world just by being. Take a second to revel in how lucky the world is to have you and how much it needs you and all of the magic you bring to each and every day.

 

Thank you for your magic, I know it helps me, and I hope mine helps you.heavy-black-heart_2764

For Anyone Else Who is Opening and Closing and Scrolling and Sighing

I wrote this a little while back, but it has been resonating with me lately so I wanted to share.


 

It’s 7:00 p.m.

I’m alone, my roommates aren’t home from work yet, and I’m lying on my bed with a towel in my hair. I unlock my phone and I open Instagram. I scroll and scroll and scroll, and then I close it. I open Twitter, and I scroll and scroll and scroll and then I close it. I open YouTube and I watch a few videos with my head resting on a pillow, my hair making it damp through the towel and my feet kicking off the end of my bed.

I drop my phone on my bed and I walk into the bathroom. I take the towel off and hang it up, then run a brush and some product through my hair. I walk back to my bed and pick up my phone. A red notification shows up on Facebook. It’s a friend request from someone I don’t know, so I block it, and then I take a few seconds to scroll. At some point I lay back down on my stomach and I open Instagram. I scroll and scroll and scroll and then I close it. I open Twitter, and I scroll and scroll and scroll and then I close it.

I sigh.

I walk downstairs. While I make dinner, I leave my phone on the table so I won’t look at it. I open my computer and open Hulu, with subtitles, so I can watch an episode of something while I cook. Ten minutes later, a notification goes off on my phone. I look over at it on the table, and then I turn back to the stove and my computer. I finish cooking and set my dishes in the sink to do later. With a spoon I scoop myself a healthy serving onto a plate, then I grab a fork, a glass of water, and my phone en route to the couch, where I turn on the TV.

My food is hot. I put a pillow on my lap and I blow softly on the plate while unlocking my phone and opening Instagram. Hardly anything new has been posted, so I go to the discover page and I scroll and scroll and scroll until I learn more about a stranger’s life than I have ever known about some of my friends. When I realize I haven’t turned on the television, I put my phone down and scoot it away from me on the end table, and then I start eating.

When I finish eating, I put my plate on the end table and I clutch onto the pillow in my lap while I watch television. I like this show, but at some point I’m looking at my phone again. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but it feels like I should keep looking. When I don’t find anything, I put my phone down again and I go into the kitchen to wash the dishes.

I want to write tonight. To be productive. Maybe go to bed early so I’ll feel better tomorrow. I walk upstairs and sit down at my desk. I throw my phone on my bed so I won’t look at it, but then I walk over and pick it up because I decide I want to listen to music. Just music, I tell myself. But when I hit a snag in what I’m writing, I’m back on my phone, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

It’s 9:00 p.m. now and there is still nobody home. I’m tired. I want to say it’s because I went to the gym earlier, but it’s not my muscles that hurt. I want to say it’s because I woke up early for work, but I’ve been doing that for years. I lean back in my chair and let the exhaustion set in while I continue scrolling. When I find a tweet someone wrote about feeling tired, I feel understood, and I feel better.

For a second.

I throw my phone back on my bed. I need to write. If I write I can move forward, and if I move forward I will feel happy. But I’m too tired today. Today I need a break. I get up and walk over to my bed. Reaching for the remote on my bedside table with one hand, I pull my phone towards me with the other. With my index finger, I tap the screen, looking for notifications, texts, missed calls, anything, but there’s nothing there, so I flip it over. I pick a movie and I lay back on my pillow. I pick up my phone and I turn it in my hands. It’s just a fidget, but when I happen to turn it in a way that makes the screen light up, I glance down at it—just to check.

It’s 10:30 p.m. now and there is still no one home. One roommate said she’s working late, and the other texted to say she’s grabbing drinks with a coworker. So for now, maybe even for tonight, I’m alone. It’s just me. And it’s quiet. I pick up my phone and I scroll and scroll and scroll, but nothing helps. There’s nothing there. Or if there is, I can’t find it. Should I keep looking? Should I follow new people or unfollow those I’m no longer closer to? Should I post something? Should I take something down? Is there anything I can do to break this silence? Anything to make me a little more visible?

That’s what it is, I’m just not loud enough. If I was louder, people would hear me, they would see me, they would talk to me. I should post something. A picture or a blog or a tweet. Something funny. Something sweet. Something that makes people think or laugh or just simply answer. I should post something.

I scroll.

It’s 11:00 p.m. My eyes are heavy now and my stomach hurts. The house is quiet. My room is quiet. But my head is so loud. My phone is on the charger and I’m wondering whether or not I’m upset. Am I mad at my roommates? Am I mad at myself? Am I mad at all? Maybe I’m sad. Maybe I’m lonely. Or maybe I’m just tired. That’s it. I’m tired. I should go to bed.

I scroll.

Tomorrow I’ll do better, I think to myself. Tomorrow I won’t look at my phone. Maybe I’ll even leave it at home. No, what if I have an emergency? What if I need to call someone? What if someone sends me a text or a Snapchat or tags me in an Instagram photo or mentions me on Facebook or follows me on Twitter or posts a good YouTube video. Not that I care about that stuff. People know where to reach me. They could call my work if it was really an emergency. Plus, if I leave my phone at home, I bet by the time I get off work I’ll have so many notifications. And when I tell everyone I left my phone at home and just saw this, they’ll think I’m cool and casual and don’t need my phone—like the rest of the world. Which I don’t. I barely even look at my phone.

I turn my phone on silent. I don’t need all of the upcoming notifications keeping me awake. I turn over, then wonder if people are texting me. Namely that guy I like. I’m sure he’s apologizing for waiting so long to text me back. My friends from high school and college are probably sending me quick messages to let me know how much I mean to them. And my sister might have posted something about me on Instagram that people will think is funny and endearing and make them wish they were in my inner circle of friends. People are probably commenting on my blog, letting me know how much it means to them. I bet my follower count is increasing by the minute.

I roll over and pick up my phone. Nothing.

Right.

I don’t care.

I was just curious what time it was.

I turn back over and close my eyes. I’m glad I’m not one of those people who think their worth can be found in their phone. I bet they’re miserable.

Getting Over the Big Bump

Up until I was nine years old, my family lived in a blue house, in a neighborhood close to our church. My dad had bought the house with a few of his friends before he met my mom, and so by the time they got married and I came along, we were very much part of the neighborhood. Our next door neighbor, Frank, always had the best Halloween candy set aside for my siblings and I, and our neighbors down the street would smile and wave when they saw us heading out on an afternoon walk—my sister and I on our bikes, and my mom walking (and eventually pushing a stroller with our brother) close behind us.

Fun fact about me: I am not a strong bike rider.

The day I learned to ride a bike (without training wheels) is a notorious one in my family, as it involved hours of me trying and failing to balance on two wheels in the cul de sac in front of my aunt’s house. There were tears, scraped knees, explosive frustration and unwavering determination. Eventually I got there, but I have never considered myself a “confident” bicyclist, even to this day.

Nonetheless, I loved riding my bike on our afternoon walks. I liked pretending I was on a safari and that I could spot wild animals running beside me. Sometimes I liked to pretend that I was being chased or that I was in the last seconds of a race I needed to win. But then, once we took a left turn onto the louder, busier street, I would see it.

Always big, though, once I got my training wheels off, it appeared nearly mountainous, there was bump in the road, mostly likely caused by an earthquake, where two chunks of sidewalk collided and raised. We called it “the big bump.”

Pre cul de sac stick-to-itiveness, I would go over this bump with my training wheels without hesitation or fear, but once I began riding on two wheels, it became an ongoing obstacle. I was suddenly very aware of how it changed the balance of my bike and could ultimately cause me to fall and get hurt. And even though we would do that walk often and I longed to approach the big bump without worry, when we made that turn and I saw it come into focus, my hands would grip tighter on the handles and my visions of being on a safari or in the middle of a race would vanish.

To my credit, I always went over the bump. And to my knowledge, I never fell. There were times when I severely slowed my pace, and there were times when I completely stopped and walked my bike over it, but I always went over it.

These days I rarely ride bikes, and when I do I rarely seek out “big bumps,” but I still find similar obstacles in my day-to-day life. Some I expect, dread even, and some come out of nowhere, but they both give me that same sense of fear I felt as a kid. And while sometimes I can connect to that girl who spent hours trying and failing and willing herself to succeed, other times I find myself looking out at that (now figurative) “big bump” and turning myself around.

I’m still scared. Scared to get hurt, scared to be thrown off balance and lose control. Scared to get stuck, scared to hold people back, and scared to get left behind. I’m scared of the consequences of going over the “big bumps,” which are no longer just scraped knees or a broken bone. Plus, what might look like a big bump to me, might not look so daunting to others and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile that what’s holding you back gave your peers no grief at all. But as scary as the big bumps seem, and no matter how often I might find them in my path, I owe it to myself to keep going over them.

When I was little, each time I made it over the big bump, I felt a swell of pride, and a small burst of confidence that next time I might go over it a little bit easier. And even though I might not be that seven-year-old girl anymore, I still have her grit, I still have her determination, and I still have people behind me willing to help me over whatever bump may enter my path.

So I’m going to keep moving, keep riding, keep walking, keeping making my way over those big bumps, because I know there are good things waiting for me on the other side.

Two Things Yoga Has Taught Me This Year

A couple months ago I mentioned that I’d gotten into a yoga series called Home on the YouTube channel Yoga with Adrienne. Since then I’ve made it into a habit to do yoga almost every day and it has done wonders for me.

As of right now, with some restrictions still in place, I am still doing yoga at home. And while I look forward to being able to get back to in-person yoga classes, with all of the resources available online, I’m not really in any hurry. Plus, taking yoga classes at home—especially on YouTube—has been far easier to work into my everyday schedule. It doesn’t matter if I get off work a little late, or if I don’t have time in the morning, the classes are available at any time, and the only way to miss them is to…not do them. That being said however, it has helped me greatly to work them into a routine, and so every day, right around the 5 o’clock hour, I roll out my yoga mat and open my computer.

When I was doing Yoga with Adrienne’s Home series, I would always head straight to whichever numbered session was next, but right now I’m working through her June calendar, which is a 30 day series that pairs together her past videos around a common theme of courage. The classes in this series range from about 15 minutes to a full hour (the longer sessions usually falling on the weekends) and they have been a little more challenging. I am glad that I started with Home, as it is a very calming, introductory series, and it focuses a lot on finding peace, de-stressing, and breathing—which is exactly what I was looking for amongst, you know, the pandemic and all. But the courage series is much more about finding strength and challenging yourself.

Now, I know that people can be on the fence about yoga, that some people don’t think it’s a good workout, some people find it boring, and others think it’s too hard, or too intimidating. I also know that in the community of people who do yoga, there a wide variety of reasons why people like it. And while I could probably research and organize and present you with all the reasons why you should give it a shot, I’m just going to tell you the two main things that working through these two yoga series have helped me with:

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1) Breathing

I am telling you, breathing is underrated. Yes, we do it all the time without even thinking about it, but when you actually take the time to take deep breaths, it does wonders. I have felt less stressed, less anxious, and overall more peaceful, not only in my mind but in my body, my eating habits, and my day to day choices. There is a specific move that I learned in one of the Home sessions that has been my go to whenever I’m feeling stressed, angry, overwhelmed, or even just hunched over my computer too much, and in case you’re interested, it is as follows:

  • Sit up straight
  • Inhale and lift your shoulders up high towards your ears
  • Push your shoulders back as if you’re trying to make your shoulders blades touch
  • Then exhale your shoulders down.

I’d say on average, I do this about five times a day.

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2) Feeling in control

Exercise as a whole has always been appealing to me because it makes me feel strong. I have gone through good and bad phases with exercising solely to try and attain a certain body shape, but I have seen a marked difference in my mindset when I do yoga. These past few months, as I’ve taken class after class, I’ve started to notice how much more in tune I am with my body, from my skin to my muscles to my joints to my bones. In practicing each day, I have realized that when an instructor says to shift my hip back or to straighten through the crown of my head so my spine can be in a straight line, I can consciously make that small adjustment, and I can feel the difference when I do. That alone makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel like I am the one in control of my body, which I don’t know if I’ve ever felt before.

I think I always believed that once I liked the way my body looked, or once I could do hundreds of sit-ups or pull ups or whichever physical feat was on my mind at the time, then I would finally feel like I was in control. But I’ve found that in slowly gaining an understanding of the body and all the intricacies that make it move, I have also found a sense of control. On top of that, in focusing on the way all the parts of my body work together, I have found myself less focused on specific areas that I don’t like or want to change. I have found an appreciation for what my body can do and what it can learn, and I believe this will help me going forward in any kind of exercise I might do.

So, if you are on the fence about yoga, I’d say give it a go. It can be a workout, a relaxation technique, or just an excuse to make you breathe—sometimes it can be all three at once. Don’t demand too much of yourself, don’t worry about your starting point, and don’t be afraid to be still. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to push yourself, to fall or to step out of your comfort zone (I’m looking at you, “lion’s breath” and “happy baby” pose).

If you want to check out the Home series, you can find it here.

And if you want to check out the June “Courage” calendar, you can find it here. (The video for each day of the series is linked in the calendar.)

Why Finding Your Own Voice Can Help Everyone

Not too long ago, I did a thorough cleaning of my house in which I gave away things I didn’t use, threw away things that were broken, and, more than anything, found things I forgot I had. One such thing was a book called “Music Listography,” which I’m pretty sure I impulse bought from Target, and seeing as its copyright is from 2009, it’s safe to say I bought it a while ago.

The point of the book is to flip through the pages and fill in the music related prompts with lists of songs, bands, concerts, albums, etc, until you have a kind of music autobiography (or listography) of your life. It’s a cool idea, and the creator, Lisa Nola, has a whole series of “listography” books to help you create a simplified, listified story of your life.

Looking at it now, I have no doubt why I bought. And to be honest, there is a part of me tempted to add the rest of the series to my Amazon cart as I write this. For as a writer, it is not only important, but vital to me to constantly get to know myself—what I like, what I dislike, what I’m working towards, and what I believe in—because it helps me continue to write, which in turn helps me understand myself, the world around me, and where I fit in it.

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do with our lives is understand it. Not understand the who’s and how’s of everything and everyone around us, but the what’s and why’s of our own personalities, beliefs, behaviors, and dreams. It is important to know where we stand, and to discern and feel confident about our opinions, from music to politics to religion, and everywhere in between.

We are all born into different families and different circumstances, in different environments with different obstacles. That gives us each a unique perspective. We all have our own reasons to believe in what we believe in, and different motivations to fight for what we fight for. So it is crucial to get to know ourselves and accept ourselves, so that we may be better equipped to know and accept others. In knowing where we stand and what we believe, we are given the opportunity to talk to other people from a place of confidence and grace, rather than fear and defensiveness. It also gives us the opportunity to see a new side of things, to explore a new avenue of thinking, and perhaps even change our mind.

So as our world continues to demand change, I have made it a mission of mine to learn all that I can about the world I live in, about all the sides of it that I know and all the sides I don’t. I’m looking at different perspectives, listening to different stories, and hearing different voices. In doing so, I am getting a better idea of who I am, what I believe and how my unique voice can help advocate for this much needed change.

The day I bought that “Music Listography” book I know it was from a place of longing. I wanted to fill the book out, but I wanted to do it in a way that would be impressive to others. While I was curious about “who I was” I was more concerned with whether that person was cool. Today, as I flip through the pages, I have a much clearer idea of how I would actually fill them out, and I might even go through and cross out the answers that were so clearly reaching. For now I know the music that moves me, and I know the reasons why. And though a small part of me will always want to be “cool” I don’t want it at the expense of being honest—not just in the context of this book but in every aspect of my life.

I truly want to know and be known, so I will keep learning, keep growing, and keep listening. I will keep asking questions, not only to get an answer, but to hear the many answers until I find one that aligns with who I am and what I believe in. I will share the things that give me comfort in the hopes it can comfort others, and I will share the things that make me uncomfortable to find out why, and to see if I can help change them.

I also think it’s important to note that we all fight on different stages and at different volumes. So as we work to figure out who we are and where we stand, let us also discover how we were made to stand. It might not be in the same place, in the same spotlight, or in the same style as those we know—even those we share beliefs with. And that is okay. We all have a unique voice and a unique way to share it, and so long as we keep working to find that voice, find the honesty in it, the fight behind it, and how we can best use it, we will find our way to not only stand, but create lasting change.