motivation

17 Goals for 2022 (List-cember #7)

I’m finding it harder and harder to believe that it is going to be 2022. Not because I want to stay in 2021—heavens no—but it just seems like it was 2019 yesterday and now it’s going to be 2022.

Like, what?

Time is flying, and I hope it’s flying towards something good. Something really good.

I feel like we could all use a dose of the really good this year, don’t you think?

I’m trying to set myself up for some really good with some *resists the urge to say really good again* goals.

If you’ve been here for a little while, you might recognize some of these goals. Sprinkled amongst the new ones are some classics, some spin offs, and some whose incomplete status has been haunting me for a while now.

So, with that being said, here are my 17 goals for 2022:

Also, if you happen to be new here, I set 17 because that’s my favorite number, not because I am a monster who avoids whole numbers.


1) 100 days of yoga

Kicking it off with a good old fashioned 100, I thought I’d set this yoga goal. I always feel better when I do yoga regularly. My body feels less stiff and my mind feels less jumbled and chaotic. So, I thought I’d add a little extra inspiration to stay consistent.


2) Celebrate lillördag (little Saturday)

Over the summer I came across this post, that asks the question are you celebrating lillördag yet? In case you are curious (like I immediately was), lillördag is Swedish for “little Saturday” and the celebration of lillördag is the practice of treating a weekday like you would a Saturday (i.e. going out to dinner, seeing a movie, splurging on dessert, etc.) I love this idea of bringing some weekend spirit into your weekdays, so I’m going to add this celebration to my weekly routine. Typically, lillördag is celebrated on Wednesdays, as it’s the halfway point, so I’ll use that as a guideline but not a hard boundary.


3) Donate blood once per season

I have really come a long way with this goal and I’m proud of that. In 2018, one of my goals was to try to donate blood once, and now I’m striving to do it four times in the same calendar year! Hopefully I can make it a seasonal tradition and donate many times in the future!


4) Volunteer somewhere new

For the past few years I’ve had “volunteer (at least) 5 times” as a recurring goal on this list. While I’ve been able to complete it each year, I have (mostly) done so with the same two organizations. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in the interest of learning and growing, I’m going to challenge myself to volunteer somewhere completely new this year! I am already anxious about it!


5) Visit a new city and/or state

I have had issues in the past setting goals to visit specific places, as plans can get crazy and schedules can get crazier. So rather than lock myself in to one specific destination, I just want to challenge myself to see a new place. I have a couple of plans that might help with this, but I’m excited to see what spontaneity the year holds!


6) Take two more writing classes

Due to lack of time and bigger commitments, I had to take a break from my UCLA Extension writing classes, which made me sad. But I’m hoping to get back in there this year. I only need a few more classes to earn my creative writing certificate, so hopefully by this time next year I’ll be (at least) two classes closer to that!


7) Read five more books on this list

I mentioned this list of inspirational books in my 2021 Goals Wrap Up post. The article it originated from has since been taken down, but I kept the list and want to keep working my way through it. Let’s read five more!


8) Wear everything in my closet

I feel like every time I clean out my closet I always leave things behind that I’m never going to wear. I will take my time and try things on to make sure they still fit, I will give everything the full Marie Kondo treatment and demand to know if each item still “sparks joy”—but there are always stowaways that continue to sit there, unworn. So this year I’m marking 12/31/22 as the deadline. If something in my closet has not been worn by then (give or take a snow jacket I have by necessity but rarely use in Southern California), I am giving it away to find a new home. 


9) Try a no-spend week

I like to think I’m pretty responsible with my money, but I also impulse buy sweatshirts in the middle of the summer, so I’m not perfect. I have seen the concept of a no-spend week around for a while now, but have never purposefully set out to do one. I think it should be relatively easy, but it also might be sneaky hard in ways I don’t anticipate. We’ll see.  


10) Find the best pizza in my neighborhood

A few years ago, I set a goal to the find the best pizza, ice cream, donuts, burgers and milkshakes in Los Angeles. It was a fun quest that my stomach greatly enjoyed, and so I’m calling it back this year but only in one category. My sister and I recently moved to a new city that has at least three pizza places within a mile, and many more within 5-10 miles, so I’m going to try and crown THE BEST pizza in my neighborhood. Stay tuned.


11) Open my Etsy shop

One of my quarantine projects (and goals for 2021) was to finish the Dodger Stadium cross-stitch that I designed. I have been making cross stitch patterns for a few years now, so I thought it might be fun to make them available on Etsy in case anyone is looking for some inspiration. 😊


12) Get published

This was on my list of goals for 2021, and while I didn’t complete it, I did get a lot of writing done. So, I’m adding it to this year’s list to encourage me to keep writing consistently, and to submit some of my already written pieces for publication. We’ll see what happens!


13) Go to one movie per month

This was on my list of goals for 2018 but I’m bringing it back because I want to support my local movie theater. The convenience of having movies released on streaming services that I already pay for is undeniable, but there is something so special about seeing a movie in theaters. So this year, I want to make it a point to see at least one movie in theaters per month.


14) Go to 5 museums

This is another throwback from my 2018 goals! (Can you tell that unresolved goals tend to haunt me?) In 2018, I set a goal to visit 20 museums in Los Angeles, but I only made it to eight. Throughout both 2020 and 2021, I think I went to one, which is ridiculous considering how much I enjoy them. So, for 2022, I’m hoping to inspire more museum trips. I’m aiming for five, but I’m hoping they will inspire even more!


15) Make a gift

For my Christmas shopping this year, I tried to shy away from Amazon as much as I could, opting instead for local businesses and artisans on Etsy. This year, I want one gift I give to be something that I make, be it a birthday gift, a Christmas present, or something just because.


16) Cook my way through a cookbook

This is my fourth and final throwback goal! This one comes from 2019, where I tried to cook my way through Chrissy Teigen’s “Cravings: Hungry for More” cookbook. In the end, I both fell out of consistently looking up recipes to make, and I ran into a bunch that I knew I never wanted to make. Still, I loved having a go-to guide for dinners and lunches, and I loved learning new recipes throughout the year. So, I want to try this one again. Cookbook TBD.


17) Places I Sat this Year Photo project

It has been a tradition in my goals to put some kind of creative project in the final spot. This year I’m going to play off of the “Pull Up a Seat” challenge and document “The Places I Sat this Year.” How often do we catch ourselves saying, “I just want to sit down”? When we are sitting down, we are giving our legs a rest, we are relaxing, we are eating, we are traveling, we are, at times, sleeping. We do so much sitting, but I feel like we often don’t pay real attention (or commit to memory) where we’ve spent time sitting. And I mean that both from the perspective of what kind of chair or “seat” you choose to sit in, or the view from said seat. I feel like this project can run in a handful of directions, so I’m excited to see how it turns out!


I’m excited for another year of goals, another year of possibilities, and another year of hard left turns (hopefully towards something *say it with me!!* really good) that I never saw coming.

Wishing you luck with any and all goals and/or resolutions you might be setting for the new year!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

2021 Goals Wrap Up (List-cember #6)

As always, the goals I set for this year took me a on a ride.

I am forever learning to go with the flow when things don’t quite go as I plan, and to tweak goals when appropriate.

I am also still learning and growing every year, which I love!

This is how my goals went this year:

1) Volunteer 5 timescompleted!

I mentioned in my Things I Tried this Year post that I took on a new role at Food Forward this year, which opened me up to volunteer more than I usually could. I also started actively volunteering at my church each month, and the combination of the two not only helped me reach this goal, but double it!

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2) Watch the sunrise completed-ish!

Early in the year my sister and I went to our first big wedding since COVID. (I wrote about it here.) We were both bridesmaids and so the weekend consisted of a handful of bridesmaid duties, including getting up super early the day of the wedding to get our hair and makeup done. My goals were fresh on my mind and my sister knew them too, so as we got in our car on the morning of the wedding, looking disheveled and tired, we noticed that the sun had only recently poked its head above the horizon.

“I think this counts as watching the sunrise,” my sister said, drinking her coffee.

“I think so too.”

In the moment, I assumed I’d plan another day where I would intentionally and officially watch the sunrise, but sleep won that argument for 40 straight weeks. Oops.

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3) Raise my VO2 Max score to 40completed!

To the distinguished court of “pics or it didn’t happen”, I’d like to call to the stand, my sister, Natalee, who can testify on my behalf that I did in fact raise my score to 40 in the summer of 2021. No, I did not take a picture, and yes, I did stop running about the time of my birthday and so my cardiovascular level, and thus my VO2 max score, has gone down to a 38 in the meantime BUT IT DID HAPPEN. I was a 40 for like, two whole months. Thank you, your honors, I rest.

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4) Get published

I think if I didn’t get so much writing done this year, I’d be more bummed about not being published, but I really did make great progress on so many projects. I wrote pieces that I’ve wanted to write for a long time, both for UCLA Extension classes and for myself, and I completed a big writing project that I can hopefully tell you about soon! Overall, I’m just really proud of how much time and effort I put into my writing this year, so I think that’s good enough.

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5) Donate blood or plasmacompleted!

The process of figuring out when and how it is best for me to give blood has been a journey (one that suggests I stick to donating only blood for now) but I did give blood twice this year and I’m going again tomorrow! So I’m very excited about that and I hope to keep giving in 2022!

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6) Reduce screen time to four hours (or less) day(barely) completed!

I initially set this goal to be three hours or less, but I changed it to four about halfway through the year. While I set this goal both to bring awareness to how much I’m on my phone, and to break the habit of reaching for my phone whenever I’m bored, mad, sad, etc., I started to become a little too obsessed with how much time I was on my phone rather than what I was using my phone for. After doing a little research into my screentime, I found that on a good week, when I don’t lean on social media or stare mindlessly at my phone rather than go to sleep, my screentime is about 3 ½ hours per day. It was hard for me to get it below that because I’m busy and like to check in with friends, take pictures, scribble out notes, scroll through new music, etc.  So for me, staying below four hours is both an attainable and maintainable goal both for now and the future.

Fun fact: My average screen time for 2021 was about 3.99 hours a day. So I made it by the actual skin of my teeth.

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7) Finish writing prompt book

I simply did not do this. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I remember being in a pretty good routine for the first few months and then I completely fell off. I just didn’t want to. But the point of this goal was to get me writing, which I did plenty of otherwise, so I’m not particularly bummed about this one.

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8) See one WLRAcompleted!

In case you missed our Epic October Trip, while in North Carolina visiting some family we did in fact check off one of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions: The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. It was gigantic, it was ridiculous, it was fantastic. I loved it.

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9) Read 5 books on this list

If you didn’t see the initial link for this list (which was in a post that is unfortunately gone now) I typed up the list and you can find it here. It is a list of 75 inspirational books, and I’m going to keep working my way through it in the years to come. This year, I read: The Noticer by Andy Andrews, The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, and Story of My Life by Helen Keller, which were all fantastic. My favorite of the bunch was probably The Noticer and I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for some fresh inspiration. Obviously, I didn’t reach the goal of five, but what can you do?

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10) Try 1 new recipe every month

I’m not really sure what happened with this one but come September I just kind of…stopped. I think it’s just because I got busy (and have remained busy, and will remain busy until roughly 2025) so when I was at home to make dinner, I just stuck with some of my reliable favorites rather than risking something new. I’m hoping to do more cooking next year though!

These are the recipes I tried this year:

January: Honey Garlic Pork Chops

February: Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi

March: Naan Pizza

April: Apple Spinach Salad

May: Seared Ahi Tuna Steaks

June: Honey Garlic Chicken Skillet

July: One Pan Italian Sausage & Veggies

August: Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza

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11) See all the movies nominated for best picture

Again, I started out so strong. When the nominees were released I watched half of them in a month. But then, I just…stopped. The ones I missed are still on my long list to watch, but the nominees for next year are right around the corner so I can’t make any promises. Of the nominees, I watched: Nomadland (which won!), Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal (which was by far my favorite), and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

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12) Finish my Dodger stadium cross stitchcompleted!

There came a point where I thought that I might be stitching grass for the rest of my life, but I did eventually finish, and I am so happy with the way it turned out! I got it framed at Michael’s and it now hangs on my wall as a testament to both 2020—which is when I started the cross stitch as my quarantine project—and to my grandma, who taught me how to cross stitch when I was seven ❤

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13) Learn to curl my hair

I asked for a straightener for last Christmas because I heard you can use it to curl short hair. I had such high hopes for this hack and for me not having to bug my sister to curl my hair whenever I want to look fancy. But she is so close—she is literally across the hall—and she is so free and all I have to do is sit there, so I remained curl un-educated. I did use the straightener to straighten my hair though, so it’s not like I completely neglected the straightener—just this goal.

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14) Try acupuncture

I was feeling really good going into this post but now I kind of feel like I did nothing? I opted out of trying acupuncture because I started going to the chiropractor regularly. Again, I’m not bummed, I stand by my choice, but I keep throwing up goose eggs on these goals and I’ll admit, it stings.

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15) Read 12 books of the Bible

I actually did better on this one than I thought I would. I wanted to read the Bible more and so I thought I’d cheat by making it a goal to read 12 books (or one book per month) because a good chunk of me is logically minded and I love checking off a goal. I did struggle however, finding a time to read. In the mornings I am running on routine alone and in the evenings I’m too tired to really focus, so it took a concerted effort both to open my bible rather than look at my phone (or read a different book) and to do it consistently. So I made it a point to do specific studies or to participate in guided readings of certain books, that way I could stay on task and actually absorb the text rather than just read it. In the end, I read eight books: Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Ruth, Esther, and 1 John.

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16) Keep my plant alive(can barely be considered) completed!

This was perhaps the biggest roller coaster of all. My sister gifted me a plant last Christmas that I was SO excited to receive and determined to care for and keep alive. Unfortunately, by April, that plant was dead. In May, I went to Ojai and bought a new plant because it was too beautiful not to buy, and once again set out on a plant mom journey. But by July, that plant was also dead. Clearly I have “the touch” but in my case, the touch is death. Finally, in August, I was gifted another plant—a ZZ plant which, and I quote, “tolerates neglect.” Now, neglect has never been my problem, I am more of a helicopter plant mom, but it was nice to be given guidelines to leave this plant ALONE. So I do. And it is still thriving. I think it’s even grown! So, with a live plant closing out my year, I think I’m going to count this goal as a success. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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17) Tuesday’s of 2021 projectcompleted!

This was a fun project and I kept up with it pretty well. The goal was to take a picture every single Tuesday of the year so that I could have a kind of Tuesday scrapbook. You will be able to hear more about this particular goal on Tuesday 12/28 a.k.a the final Tuesday of the year, but overall I say I both completed the goal and liked it!

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And that wraps up my goals for 2021!

I won some, I lost some. I completed some, I neglected some. But overall, they got me through the year and taught me a lot.

I’ve got 17 new goals for 2022 on the docket. Come back on Thursday to find out what they are!


Did you set any goals this year?

Check out more List-cember posts here.

17 Things that Inspired Me This Year (List-cember #5)

Inspiration is my drug of choice. You’re allowed to roll your eyes at that, but there is truly nothing that drives and excites me more than those feelings of “how did she do that?!” or “I never thought about it that way!” or “I want to try that!!” or “WOW!” So I make it a point to save, follow and emulate things that inspire me so that the effect is not a one-time thing, but a constant, ongoing experience.

This year, these are the things that inspired me:

1) This blog post about popcorn

2) Zion

Which we visited in April and I wrote this blog post about.

3) These Podcast Episodes

  • A Slight Change of Plans, Episode #1, A Black Musician Takes on the KKK
  • Heavyweight, Episode #36, Brandon
  • Proverbs 31 Podcast, Episode: 3 Questions to Ask when Faith Feels Impossible

4) Jay Lee Painting on Youtube

5) “Never underestimate the big importance of small things” – from The Midnight Library

And honestly the whole book, which inspired me to write this post.

6) Graves into Gardens by Elevation Worship

7) Paulie’s Push

I read this man’s story here and then started following his journey on Instagram (@pauliespush) and loved every step of it!

8) The Mile an Hour project

9) The Balanced Life Pilates

I came across this organization when they did their free 5-Day Refresh + Reset Pilates challenge (which I think is only available through their website now) and decided to give it a try. I had never done pilates before but I liked that these workouts were designed to be short and concise, so you can easily integrate them into your daily routine. They were great for beginners and I felt like I was able to keep up without wondering if I was going to die. Which is always nice. Going forward, I’m going to try out more of their content on YouTube and then decide whether I might give their subscription service a try too!

10) This:

11) This article written about the best life lessons people learned in 2020

12) Headspace by Riley Clemmons

13) @ememem.flacking on Instagram

Who adds some wonder to cracks in the sidewalk 🙂

14) CODA

This movie inspired me in the way that I was truly awestruck by how beautiful sign language is. It is a full body kind of communication and I am so drawn to that. It is one of my life goals to learn ASL and this movie added an exclamation point to that hope!

15) Be Like Benji

One of the best parts about Yoga with Adriene’s videos (besides the yoga, of course) is the cameo her dog Benji makes—which is usually him napping in the corner of the screen. This animated video put out by her team teaches the value of “box breath”, which can help with stress and anxiety, and is just about the most precious thing ever. The full video is available on her website fwfg.com, but even the trailer can bring you some calm.

16) This post:

17) The Olympics

I am never not inspired by the incredible stories that come out of the Olympics, and the 2020/2021 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo seemed particularly special, as it was a time for the world to join together and marvel at the incredibly resilient athletes. My family and I even had our own “Olympic” moment this year, and it’s one I’ll never forget.


Did anything particularly inspire you this year? Let me know!

Check out more List-cember posts here.

I Love Me (Part 3)

A few years ago, I was inspired by a fellow blogger to start a series that encourages friends and family to write down things they love about themselves.

We often find it too easy to criticize or put ourselves down, whether it be in an attempt to be funny or relatable, or as a side effect of comparison. On the flip side, we rarely, if ever, actively look for things we love about ourselves, and if we do, it is even more taboo to state those things out loud (or write them down for others to read.)

But I’ve now made it a tradition to ask friends and family to take this challenge. To sit down, bask in all of their wonderful, and then share it with others. So, in this third installment of the I Love Me series, allow me to introduce you to some incredible women.


Kristine

I love the way I love others. I always try to please/help everyone and put others before myself.

I love that I am athletic and competitive, but also a good sport.

I love my confidence and my ability not to care what others think, even when I’m my own worst critic. I love that I can laugh at myself.

I love that I am weird and I can embrace my weird wherever I go.

I love that I am hardworking. I am ready to take on any challenge and I am always ready to go above and beyond in anything that I do.


Sammie

I love how much I care for others and animals. I have so much compassion and empathy for others.

I love that I am discerning. I make careful choices and do what’s best for me and those around me. I always try to do the right thing.

I love how authentic I am. I am the same me with everyone around. I love that I don’t compromise myself, my wants, or needs for anyone else.

I love how loyal I am. I’m the friend you call at 3:00 a.m. to drive you to the airport or ask to say let’s bury a body. I am consistent and committed to those I love, even my long-distance friends. I am always ready to pick up where we left off.

I love that I am a nerd. I love learning new things. I love videogames, fantasy and sci-fi. If we could sit on the couch and watch Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter all weekend I’d be in my happy place.

I love how strong I am. I am strong mentally (or stubborn lol), physically (despite my size), and emotionally (I can handle far more than I think I’m capable of.)

I love who I am overall. My demeanor, my mannerisms, and my values. I know it’s not all me: it’s my family, my friends, and my experiences I’ve picked up along the way. You can’t figure me out with one glance and I think that’s special. I love that I’m unique. I love the things that have contributed to the me I am today—good or bad.

I want to love more things about myself, but I don’t feel I am there yet and that’s okay. I am a work in progress, and working on loving myself in all aspects. But for now, it’s good enough. I am good enough, and I love that for me.


Ashlynn

I love my sense of humor and that my husband always gets my jokes.

I love that I get to care for a little man and be his guide for the future.

I love that I am becoming a morning person slowly but surely.

I love that I get to help people everyday.

I love that I learned to make the recipes my mother-in-law shared with me.

I love that I can find something in common with anyone.

I love my sense of style (which I learned from the most stylish person I know who I am lucky enough to call mom)


Mel

I love my smile. I feel like a smile can truly make a difference in a person’s day and I am eager to share mine with the world!

I love that I am adventurous! I find great joy in my time spent outdoors every week and live a happier, healthier life because of it! I love that I am (relatively) unafraid and am willing to challenge myself.

I love that I am a caregiver. I love that I can have an impact on a person’s wellbeing through my work and that I can be the healer and ally that they need through their rehabilitation.

I love my sincerity. I love that I am genuine in my relationships and make an honest effort to grow in friendship with both friends and family.

I love my relationship with God. It is forever growing and changing, but I love that I now spend quiet time each day reflecting and praying to Him.


Kelsi

I love that I’m passionate about the things I care most about.

I love that I am discerning and have chosen a solid support group of friends.

I love that I’ve given myself permission to not always be good at things but to do them simply because they bring me joy such as painting, embroidery, and planting.

I love that I can recognize my own wrong doings and ask others for forgiveness.

I love that I cheer on people while they accomplish their dreams. It brings me such happiness to see people doing their thing.


You can read the last edition of this series here.

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.

30 Good Things that Happened in June

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things. It’s been a couple months, but we’re back!

Let’s dive right in.

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1) Days after getting married, this woman donated a kidney to her new husband’s ex-wife

2) This boy got an incredible souvenir:

3) This 94 year old woman received her high school diploma.

4) This duo had a jam session:

5) This 7 year old boy swam to shore to save his father and sister.

6) This:

7) Born with no arms, this archer is aiming for gold at the Paralympics.

8) This fun article pointed out words that are their own opposites.

9) This two year old became the youngest member of Mensa.

10) This bench is helping tackle depression.

11) Demetri Martin rethought the term OK:

12) This girl honored her parents in her graduation photo shoot.

13) These boys made a woman’s day.

14) Scientists claimed this straw is an instant cure for hiccups.

15) After having the tractor he rebuilt with his dad stolen, the Tempe police helped this boy get a new one:

16) This dog was named Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show.

17) This boy tried to sell his Pokémon cards to help pay his dog’s vet bills, but when people heard, they jumped in to help.

18) This woman found her long lost dog at a shelter.

19) This boy served as his speech therapist’s best man at her wedding.

20) This:

21) This reporter found the missing child he was sent to cover the disappearance of.

22) This photographer unexpectedly captured a couple’s proposal and then found them on Twitter.

23) This boat captain found a message in a bottle from the 1920’s and then returned it to the author’s daughter.

24) The world’s most premature baby celebrated his first birthday.

25) Jimmy Fallon & Lin Manuel Miranda celebrated the return of Broadway:

26) This girl got to meet her favorite baseball player: Joey Votto.

27) This Harvard-Bound senior gave her $40,000 scholarship to someone else.

28) In preparation for the Olympics, this article detailed events that no longer exist.

29) This girl set the new Guinness World Record for folding 1000 paper cranes.

30) And finally, this baby had a good dream about his mama:

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what July brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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.