My Awesomely Random Life (and Everything in Between)

The Fog Will Lift

Anxiety is a weird thing, friends.

Honestly, life is a beautifully weird thing.

Since a very young age, I’ve struggled with feeling anxious, worried and at times, just so overwhelmed.

Maybe you can relate?

When I feel things, I feel them fully and without conviction. I not only carry the weight of my own heart, but I also carry that of others as well. When the ones I love are hurting, I hurt. When people around me are scared, sad and suffering, I feel that pain. And I try to do everything I can to make it better, to make them feel better. Sometimes at the detriment to my own mental health.

My wonderful and amazing boyfriend Mike told me that being an empath is one of my greatest attributes, and he’s absolutely right. It makes me who I am. In a world that can often be so cruel and hard, I remain soft, caring, kind, hopeful. And I honestly think that’s pretty incredible.

But friends, feeling all the things and trying to carry those burdens can also be one of my biggest downfalls.

You see, when you take on that much heaviness, it can start to wear on you. Two years ago I experienced my first panic attack. Multiple, actually. I had never felt so completely not in control of my own body before. It was terrifying. My heart was racing. Every breath I took felt like concrete coursing through my lungs. It was almost as if there was this dark and menacing cloud that I just couldn’t get out of.

The panic attacks haven’t been nearly as frequent as they once were, but I still have moments of doubt, of fear, of helplessness. I think that’s all part of being human.

May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, an opportunity to truly bring to light the importance of looking after your head and your heart, and to have these sometimes difficult but open, honest and poignant dialogues and discourse about the struggles we all can face from time to time.

I have the most amazing life, and am blessed beyond measure for so many different reasons. But it’s important for me to be honest. And the truth is, I still struggle asking for help, and still feel bad anytime I feel bad.

That’s a funny concept with mental health.

It can sometimes appear to others that you’re living this perfect life, thriving – when in reality you’re struggling to keep your head above water. On the other hand, it can appear to people on the outside that you’re suffering – when actually you’re fighting and flourishing. It really can be both.

Despite it all, I love this big ole mess of a brain that I have. She is clever, she is funny, she is kind and positive and painfully empathetic. She doesn’t know a stranger, she loves anything and everything she comes across. She has felt a lot (thank goodness for writing 😅) but most importantly, she has fought. She has fought for who she knows she is. For the person she knows was handmade by the wittiest, most sovereign of artists. She has never given up. And deserves to remember those things. YOU deserve to remember those things. Even when your brain is convincing you of the opposite. In the deepest part of your spirit, you know who you REALLY are. Please keep showing up for them! For us! We are all worth that.

There will be days that are a little rockier, a little heavier, a little harder.

And on those days, I try to remind myself to simply: Try.

Try to breathe.

Try to be kind to myself.

Try to listen to my needs.

Try to write.

Try to move.

Try my best.

Try again.

Just, try.

So this is me trying.

Breathing, being, believing that just as it always has, the fog will lift. And whatever space you’re in right now, I hope you’ll keep trying too. Because this world needs both of us. All of us.

We can do this.

The fog will lift.

Let’s try together. 💚

To Walk Without Fear

“Do you hear that on the wind?” she said. “It says I am so many mountains more than the way you made me feel.” — Atticus Poetry

It was a little after seven o’clock on an early spring evening. The air was crisp with just a touch of sweetness stemming from the trees that had only just begun to bloom. And the sun, which had just settled behind the mountains to the west, gave way to the most brilliant moon-lit sky.

It was one of those nights that just made you happy to be alive, happy to be in that moment.

I had just wrapped up work for the day and was making the long walk across the beautiful Regis University campus to my car, a routine I had grown to really look forward to. It was the perfect way to unwind after a long day; just me, my music, and my thoughts.

I never ever had any reason to feel uneasy or unsafe. This was something I had done every day for the past three years, after all. It was something that became second nature to me: walking past the big weeping willow tree, over the tiny footbridge, and past the baseball fields that were now fully animated with cracks of the bat and players anxiously awaiting the new season that lay before them.

It was because of this that I also didn’t think anything of it when a stranger stopped me halfway on the walk to my car to say hi.

This stranger, an older man in gray sweatpants and a blue baseball cap, was standing in front of that tiny footbridge next to his bicycle. He waved at me, smiled, and introduced himself as “Father Woody”, someone I had heard about in the short time I had been at Regis who headed up the community service and outreach projects here at the university. I was honestly honored to meet the man I had read so much about, the man who had done so much good for the members of the Regis and surrounding neighborhood communities.

As I approached the bridge, he smiled again, although this time it wasn’t as friendly as before. Stepping in my direct path, he held out his hand and said, “Now wait just a second, beautiful. You’re gonna have to give me a hug first if you want to cross this bridge.” I was a little weirded out for sure, but gave him the benefit of the doubt, laughing it off as a joke, a man just trying, albeit horribly, to be nice and funny to a young woman just trying to get home. He proceeded to move to the middle of the path, saying in a much firmer tone, “You must have not heard me correctly; you need to give me a hug.”

Do you ever get this uneasy, pit-in-your-stomach feeling?  A feeling that shoots a message to your brain that something just isn’t right?

What happened next was somewhat of a blur. The man grabbed my arm and dug his fingernails into my wrist with such speed and force that I was stunned. Maybe it was adrenaline, or fear, or a distinct feeling that I needed to get out of there and get out of there ASAP, but I pulled away and ran to my car, not without hearing him exclaim in a tone that still sends a shiver down my spine, “You just gave me a god damn woody!”

*It turns out that this man was not, in fact, Father Woody. He was a mentally-disturbed man who got his kicks off of sexually insulting and physically abusing young women. Of course, looking back on it now, I should’ve seen the signs that something wasn’t right. But hindsight is 20/20, so they say.

The weird thing was, I got home that night and really didn’t think it was that big of deal. I remember calling my sister and telling her what had happened, the shock and anger in her voice is still something I won’t ever forget.  It wasn’t until that very next morning when I saw the man again on campus, this time riding his bike through the first floor of my office, the look he gave me and the “Hey sweetheart” that escaped his voice that I realized what had happened to me was something much bigger.

I decided to come forward about what had happened, not for me, necessarily, but I had this distinct feeling that I wasn’t the only one this had happened to. Later that afternoon, I gave my statement to the Denver Police, recalling in detail, everything that took place the night before. Over the course of the next two weeks, over 30 other women reported having this man say and do crude and awful things to them around campus on multiple occasions. I wasn’t alone.

I never thought something like this would ever happen to me. And when it did, I didn’t want to admit that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as bulletproof as I thought. The strong, independent part of me wanted to brush what had happened under the rug. I didn’t want pity. I didn’t want sympathy. But when I started talking to others who had come forward after I did, thanking me for sharing my story, being brave, and giving them the courage to share theirs as well, I realized the undeniable power that is telling your truth.

Unfortunately the path to justice wasn’t a short one.

For six years, his case dragged out in the legal system. For six years, I felt this uneasiness, this fear, this constant need to look over my shoulder when I was alone. Being a victim of assault is a funny thing; for the most part, you’re okay; you’ve moved on with your life, you’re stronger than you were back then. But then something out of nowhere reminds you of the debilitating fear you felt, the vulnerability, the complete intrusion of your safety, and it sends you right back to that place.

For six years, I’ve had to appear in court, rehashing that night over and over again and to no avail. For six years, I wondered whether or not this man was out there somewhere, continuing to hurt other people. For six years, I questioned whether or not any progress would ever be made, if justice would happen.

But today, that all changed.

Earlier this morning I received a phone call from the Denver District Attorney’s Office letting me know that this thing that has weighed so heavily on my heart and life for the last six years was just brought to a close. The man who tried to steal my sense of security and safety away on that fateful night on campus six years ago, was finally prosecuted for his actions and was behind bars.

When I tell you the breath that I finally was able exhale, the weight that was lifted from my shoulders, and the range of emotions I felt after hearing the news.

Happy.

Relieved.

Proud.

Just so damn proud that I was brave enough to stand up for not only for myself, but for women everywhere who have ever had their safety compromised, who were disrespected, abused, and hurt.

What had happened to me over six years ago undercut confidence, stole time, and harmed my mental health to the extent it that it impacted my work, my relationships, my life in ways I didn’t even comprehend.

Today, I felt like I had won.

That I had taken the power back.

And that…is an incredible feeling.

To those reading this that have gone through something similar, who may feel like they can’t or shouldn’t tell anyone because of shame or guilt or the antiquated stigma that comes along with being a victim, I want to let those people know that you are not alone. And that I love you. And that I am here if you need to talk or a hug or need a cheerleader to stand by your side.

Don’t ever, EVER be ashamed or afraid to speak up, to share your experiences and take a stand for what is right. You never know who else you could be helping.

I hope one day we won’t have to have these difficult conversations. But until then, I urge you to keep talking and creating these important dialogues.

And to the amazing men out there who are champions, who are kind, and respectful, who are challenging the status quo and working to help educate and raise an even better generation (I’m fortunate to have so many in my life), I thank you.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

If you are experiencing abuse right now, or fear for your mental and physical safety, please don’t hesitate to reach out. There are so many people and organizations who want to see you happy, healthy, and safe.

Hi, friends. I hope you know that sometimes, you’re not going to have the right words. Honestly, sometimes you’re not going to have any words.

Some days, you won’t be able to pick yourself up or wear that beautiful smile on your face. 

You’re not going to be able to keep pretending that everything is great when in reality you’re just trying to keep your head above water.

And I hope you stop thinking you have to.

Easier said than done, I know. I guess this is more a case of “do as I say, not as I *do.”

*but also, what I’m currently in the process of working so very hard to do. 

Take it from someone who has been there and felt all the things on the reg, sitting with our emotions can be an incredibly scary place; it means facing and accepting what we’ve been covering up and hiding behind the facade of jokes and smiles, even and especially from the ones we love most. It can feel defeating, demoralizing, like in some way you’ve let the world down, let yourself down, simply by being human. Which is just the silliest thing, right? Feeling all the things and fully embracing and allowing yourself to move through the motions of the ocean is one of the healthiest things you can do, necessary even, to come out the other side stronger and wiser than you were before.

And yet, still, it’s so very hard. 

The last few days have been a little heavier than normal. The anxious thoughts have been a constant humming in my head, reverberating every doubt, worry, and fearful thought I can muster — some have actual merit to them, others are simply manifesting in such a way as if to be a giant middle finger to lil ‘ol me, just out here trying to enjoy the present moment with the human beans who matter most to me.

Rude. 

I’ve noticed that I just haven’t felt like my normal, bubbly, overtly positive self, but more so a me that’s stuck very firmly in between the lost and found, between one lesson and the next. My life is amazing, incredible, the best it’s ever been, yet there are things — some that are in my control and some outside of it — that hold a certain level of uncertainty right now. Things that have, in the past, so sneakily defined who I was, what I could be. The not knowing, the not having an exact plan of execution (I’m a planner — it’s just what I do. On any given day, I have a plan to the backup plan to the backup backup plan). Not knowing the answers to problems I should be able to solve has left me feeling a bit depleted, rejected, inadequate.

The hard days are the pits, y’all.

And in those hard moments, it’s difficult for me to accept that not every day is going to be rainbows and butterflies — I pride myself in the unadulterated joy I carry, the authentic happiness I hold, the hope in the general good that I put so much of my faith in. It’s who I am. Who I love being. Of course, I can’t be all of those things all of the time, that would be impossible and unhealthy.

A part of me also feels guilty for having these low days knowing that there are so many other people out there struggling, who may have it worse than I do. I know that their problems and heartache don’t take anything away from what I’m going through at the moment, but again, it’s hard for me to rationalize that.

Only until recently did I realize that I tend to define myself by these low days. While far and few between, they do happen. And it makes me uncomfortable. Unsettled. Icky.

After all, I’m the one who helps others with their bad days. Who am I if I’m the one in need of help? How can I be there for others when I’m trying to keep the levy from breaking myself? 

As I’m typing this, I recognize how impossible this all sounds — no one has that superpower (although if I had a choice, I think it would be mine. And flying, definitely also flying because that just sounds neat.)

Part of being human, contrary to popular belief,  is not being perfect. 

It’s about being empathetic, supportive, kind, strong, giving, forgiving, and gracious. It’s lending a selfless helping hand to those who need it most. 

But it’s also very much about being brave enough to accept and receive that same help from others when you need it, too.

No shame, no guilt, no feeling bad for feeling bad. 

It’s about staying with those negative feelings, not pushing them away or trying to hide them, but allowing yourself to sit with whatever emotion comes up. To accept them, and you for feeling them. Because there is no bad feeling, only bad ways of reacting and dealing with them.

The person I love most recently told me that one of the things he admires most about me is my ability to feel, to be compassionate, and to have such a huge heart. He also said that one of the hardest parts for him is watching me apologize for having those feelings, particularly the heavy, hard, and uncomfortable ones. 

I’ve never felt so seen. 

*sidebar: I’m so beyond grateful for amazing boyfriend Mike and his unyielding support, belief in me, and for loving me unconditionally — my scars, flaws, messiness, and all. Until I met him, I didn’t know what love meant — real, true love — for having someone who will always be there, who I can count on and do life with, no matter what it throws our way. When you’re lucky enough to have those people in your life, lean into that love, that support, even and especially when it gets hard. Because as much as we think we can do this hard life stuff alone, having someone to help you carry that weight and hardship is invaluable in so many different ways.

One of my best traits is my softness, my empathy, my tendency to care (sometimes a little too much), and that I tend to always, always lead with my heart. 

But like anything taken to access, it can be detrimental, especially to your head and your heart. 

Mike helped me to see through a lot of shed tears (being vulnerable is so, so hard but so, so worth it) that I can be the girl who feels on top of the mountain one moment, and down at the bottom the next.

It ebbs and it flows, baby.

Being or feeling one way doesn’t cancel out the other. In fact, one could argue (me, I am that one) that you’re not truly complete without having or feeling both.

In a weird Colorado-themed analogy, that’s kind of what this beautiful and crazy thing we called life is all about. We are always exactly where we need to be, feeling exactly what we need to be feeling. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

So remember, all of the heartbreak, the ‘this doesn’t make sense’ moments, the challenges that have happened/are happening are all shaping us.

Keep feeling the feels, keep putting one foot in front of the other even when you don’t know where the ground is leading you, and keep being the amazing human that you are. This is about you – so please remember to trust in your journey. It’s got you.

You are a remarkable human and you are going to be okay.

Bad days, good days, and everything in between.

Keep going. 🤍

On the days when it feels like you will never get through this season, this period, this transition — please remember all of the mountains you have climbed before. Please remember all of the nights you spent convinced that the anxiety wouldn’t leave, that you’d never move beyond where you were in that very moment.

Whether you realized it or not, the time passed.

Without you having to even try, joy emerged from your days. One day, something small brought you a little ease, and then a little more. You waited. You realized that everything was going to be okay, even if it doesn’t always feel okay. You let the waves crash, and then you let them recede.

Whether you realized it or not, you found courage.

You did things you once did not believe you could do, even if those things were just finding the will to wake up and face each day. You felt worse than you were capable of feeling, you suffered loss that you couldn’t have conceived prior. You were awakened to reality, which is sometimes cold, and sometimes hard, and sometimes brutally unfair.

But also, unimaginably sweet.

Because while you were mourning what you thought would be, you also found softness. You discovered how important it is to love the people nearest to you, and how invaluable they are. You began to appreciate what you didn’t see before. You began to know that you were enough, because you decided what was enough.

Whether you realized it or not, you became resilient.

You explored the perimeters of what your heart could hold, and how much it could process. You discovered that your strength is limitless, you just don’t know what if it’s never been tested before.

And over time, what was once impossible became easy.

The life you have today is a mere dream of the past. The things you do right now were once the things you only could have ever prayed to have. The people in your life are the ones you gazed out the window for years and wondered if they would ever arrive, if someone would ever show up that made you feel so deeply understood, cared for, appreciated and loved.

You do not have to have everything in order to make the best of anything, because the truth is that goodness is something we extract from life, something we savor, something we choose to see. It’s not always something we can achieve, or find.

So when the day comes that it feels most like you will never move beyond where you are right now, please remember how far you have walked, and through what. Please remember all of the times you were stuck and were sure you would never get out from under the crushing weight of your own disappointment and defeat. Please remember all of the times you were truly heartbroken, truly let down.

Then remember all of the nights you dreamed of being where you are right now.

The days you spent working and planning and hoping that it would all work out. In one way or another, a path was made where it did not exist before. The opportunities showed up. The doors creaked open. You met the people who you’d spend years if not the rest of your life with, people who were once strangers becoming friends, family.

You discovered things about yourself you did not yet know.

You learned what it takes to feel safe, and not. You learned what you enjoy, and what you don’t. You learned what you value, and what you don’t. You learned, because you discovered, the honest truth of who you are and who you’re going to be.

You found yourself, not because you were searching, but because you were cornered. When discomfort in life peaks, we are left to look around and wonder why. Through that reflection, we discover all the pieces that are out of place, and then we find the courage to put them back together.

You will move the pieces in front of you today.

You will arrive to the horizon you’re gazing at in due time.

Instead of fearing that the road will fall out from under you, return to what life has shown you: that things can be scary, but that a way is always made. That even if you don’t believe you’re worthy, you’re always given enough. That even if you don’t believe you’re lovable, you’re always loved. That even if you don’t think there’s a way forward, there always is.

When it feels most like nothing will ever give and the mountain ahead of you won’t ever be scaled, remember how you crossed every one that’s behind you: one step, one hour, one moment, one glimmer of hope at a time.

There’s always that one person who is going to disagree with you, to dislike you, no matter what. It seems harsh and reductionist, and it’s a tough reality to stomach: that you could have done absolutely nothing, and yet someone will come along and decide that you are somehow not enough. That you are flawed, or come up short, or any myriad of lesser-thans that you could ever possibly be. Even if you weren’t even trying to please them, even if what you were doing was solely for your own enjoyment — because there still are those little happinesses in the world — they will make the official proclamation that you have somehow failed.

You can’t please everyone. So it goes.

But still, if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that these small maledictions are the ones that stick with us the longest. They are the ones that, even if they come from the faceless and nameless, torment us. As if we could have done better. As if we owed it to someone else, somewhere else, to do better, to do justice by their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs. And no one set of credos has the ability to take away from yours — the world is vast and open, and all that airspace above our heads holds everything from WiFi to power lines to birds and the little lightbulbs of inspiration and ideas that come along if we let them.

And when someone comes along and takes a swing at these things, it hurts.

It’s normal, of course, as is the habit of dialogue and debate and discourse. You can’t stop someone from disagreeing with you as much as you can stop them from drawing breath. And they shouldn’t have to agree with you. There is nothing in this world that says they ought to open their arms wide and welcome you in. We know this, at the core.

Why then, is rejection always so painful? Why do we care?

I’ve been back on the job hunting scene now for just over three months, and while I’ve had some incredible opportunities to speak with and interview for some even more incredible positions, all that I can really focus on is how much rejection I’ve faced.

Which has been…..a lot.

I know people say that you can’t take it personally; it’s just business, after all. It comes with the territory.

But I’m here to tell those people, whoever they are and however well-intentioned they may be, are crazy. How can you not take it personally? When you pour your heart into something, when you allow yourself to get excited and hopeful and inspired about the potential that could be, it’s nearly impossible to not be disappointed when that gets taken from underneath you via a two-sentence email.

It’s nearly impossible to not be sad, or confused, or upset.

To not care.

Because you should care.

You absolutely should care.

You see, that fear of rejection is what keeps you from applying to your dream job, but it also is what drives you to study for your interview. It’s what makes you terrified to ask that cute guy or gal at the bar for their number, but it’s what drives you to dress your best for your first date. Every point has its counterpoint, every con has its pro. The silver lining to rejection is acceptance, but it’s not other people’s acceptance we should seek so blindly — it’s our own.

It’s only when you begin to accept yourself for who you are — when you talk yourself down from the ledges of changing every last detail of what you think and what you say and who you like and what you don’t — that rejection seems a little less scary, because the people who would reject you won’t bother. To them, you will be a lost hope. They need you as much as you need them.

There’s no rejecting someone who doesn’t need approval to keep going. You can resign yourself to the idea that they will keep doing what they want to do, or you can accept it, or you can embrace it. But your rejection will fall on deaf ears. The relentless and the stubborn and most optimistic people care about being rejected, but they don’t let it stop them.

Therein lies the difference. Therein lies the key.

You can’t please everyone — nor should you even try. If you’re not doing something worth having a strong opinion about one way or the other, what are you doing? And there will always be the people who hate something on principle. They will want to hate it, and there is no helping them. There is no pleasing them, either, because giving in to what they want will only ever lead them to rejecting your next big endeavor, too, and the next, and the next. So it goes.

People say to focus on pleasing yourself. And while that is the push to rejection’s pull, that’s not quite right, either. Devote yourself, instead, to doing something worthwhile. To something that leaves you not always pleased, but satisfied. Fulfilled.

Naysayers will reject you no matter what. That is what they will always aim to do. You can’t prove them wrong all the time, by any means. You can, however, prove yourself right. You can create in yourself a person who you don’t reject.

Because if anyone should embrace the person you are busy becoming, it’s you.

When we’re faced with a constant and unrelenting barrage of pain and suffering, uncertainty and big, enormous problems for which there is never an easy or comforting solution, it’s not uncommon to begin to feel apathetic.

That apathy mostly manifests itself as disbelief and disregard.

In the face of crisis, and without sensing that they’re gaining any traction toward a solution, people begin to drop off. They devise alternative beliefs, and come up with every fathomable reason to dismiss someone else’s truth, replacing it with a narrative that is a bit less harsh, and a lot easier for their heads and their hearts to handle.

The truth is, when we are overloaded with so much negativity, we can all start to become used to its presence. It seems to neutralize itself and normalize as a steady constant that we are vaguely aware of but still not immediately alarmed by.

Maybe you have felt this lately.

Maybe you will feel this as the weeks and months press on.

If you do, you need to know that apathy is really a response to overwhelm. The overwhelm is absolutely understandable — but friends, the apathy can’t be.

This past week carried an unspeakable weight for a lot of us, myself included.

To the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. To the victims and their families of the senseless act of hate and violence that occurred in Boulder, Colorado earlier this week, to a community I love so much and one that has made me feel so welcomed, my heart is shattered for you.

I’ve sat with this overwhelming amount of sadness, anger, and fear over the last few days. As I tried to carry out my normal routine of going for my morning runs, grabbing coffee, making dinner with my boyfriend and trying to find joy in the smallest of moments, I felt a surge of guilt; I was clouded, lost in a fog.

I looked around me and wondered how people could go back to living their lives so effortlessly.

But then I realized something.

It’s not that they don’t care about what’s happening in the world around them, it’s not that they’re indifferent to other people’s suffering, but that eventually, they hit their saturation point for their own discomfort, and from there, they set up mental walls that help them regain a sense of peace.

This is, ultimately, just a coping mechanism. A form of self-preservation, if you will.

I guess what we all have to learn is how to strike a balance: how to at once keep our heart and mind open while not becoming completely consumed and overwhelmed.

When we first start to become aware of the fault lines within society, our instinct can be to insist that they aren’t so bad, until, of course, we recognize that they are and ultimately feel helpless. We pour every ounce of our already waning mental and emotional energy into devising and acting on a solution only to realize that this is so much bigger than you, than me, than any of us — it would make the most sense just to give up.

Except it doesn’t.

If you ever start to feel apathetic about what is happening in the world, please know, you are not too small to have made a difference. We are not irredeemable. Change that sticks is slow, and steady, and takes time. You do not have to be sidelined by suffering to still acknowledge it exists.

And I hope that you do.

I hope we all do.

I hope that you aren’t lulled back to sleep by the next trend, the next problem, the next crisis.

I hope that you keep your feet on the ground, which is far more important than keeping your finger on the pulse of social media, appearing to be one way without translating it into something real.

I hope that you never deplete yourself to the point that you aren’t capable of feeling empathy, of imagining how deeply injustices can run, how our very foundations must shift if we have any hope of healing.

I hope that you know you are not always at the center of it, but you can always contribute, you can always be a piece of the force that moves us all forward.

And that momentum? It’s important.

Don’t let yourself become worn out and give up.

It is hard to keep our eyes open.

It is far harder not to.

“WE HAVE TO CONTINUALLY BE JUMPING OFF CLIFFS AND DEVELOPING OUR WINGS ON THE WAY DOWN.” – KURT VONNEGUT.

Fear. It’s a funny thing, friends.

It’s also a very necessary thing. If you go back in history, fear was what enabled the cavemen to identify a dangerous situation. It’s what heightens your senses, pumps adrenaline into your system, and it helps you survive whatever it is that’s scaring you. But life isn’t that difficult anymore — there are fewer stakes raised, and we live in a pretty safe, comfortable environment – relatively speaking.

Because of that, our fears are the things we now manifest inside ourselves. The things we let fester, the dreams we never pursue, the chances we don’t take, the places we never move to, the people we don’t admit to loving, the jobs we never apply for. There are so many things to be afraid of, but most of these things reside inside our own heads.

BECAUSE WHAT IF WE FAIL? WHAT IF WE NEVER RECOVER? WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF?

But what if we don’t?

What if we do the scariest thing of all — what if we actually get everything we ever wanted?

One of my track coaches used to always say that “you should get uncomfortable because being uncomfortable is where you begin to see real change.” And it’s true — not just in the biological sense that your body responds to harder work by adapting and becoming stronger, but because your mind becomes stronger, too. You begin to withstand the scary things, the things you never thought you were capable of. And in this, you become more resilient.

BECAUSE BEING SCARED IS FREAKING UNCOMFORTABLE.

In all honesty, I think being afraid is supposed to be — it lights that metaphorical fire under your butt in order to tell you to work towards being more comfortable. But there are two ways you can do this: either retreating, and avoiding the scary thing in the first place, or working through it to the other side. Riding out the uncomfortable and the scary until you’re stronger and things aren’t as scary anymore. Fight or flight. Do or die.

And of course, in order to really understand how to withstand the scary things life throws at us, you have to get to the bottom of why you think it’s scary. Why it gets under your skin, why it terrifies you, why it dregs up memories of all the other times you faced scary things and didn’t come out stronger on the other side. There’s a whole host of reasons, really, and each will vary from person to person, but I think one of the things that connect this fear we all experience isn’t all that unique.

WE’RE MOST AFRAID OF BEING HAPPY. OF HAVING A GOOD LIFE.

Not that we don’t want to — oh, of course, we do. But we wonder if we deserve a good life, if we ought to have one, and so this doubt creeps in and we’re left second-guessing ourselves when we have to stand up to the thing that is in the way of our happiness. Of whatever it is we want. After all, what would happen if we wound up getting everything we wanted? What if it all got taken away?

But that is a risk with everything you do. So you might as well face the scary parts head-on because chances are, the outcome you want least might happen anyway. Whether or not you tried.

And if you don’t try, the what if — the magical, fantastical, best-case-scenario — will never happen at all.

My life has had its fair share of missteps, mistakes, ope, and oops moments and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Because it’s in that vulnerability, the scrapes and bruises, and scars that you grow, you learn, you prove to yourself how strong you really are.

DO THE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU.

I recently did something that was very uncharacteristic of me. Something that both terrified me to my core and also filled me with this new sense of power, of hope, of excitement and relief.

I quit my job.

Yep, me. The forever and always girl with a plan and a form of attack.

Stable.

Cautious.

Calculated.

I’ve never really been one to leap before I look, but after being mistreated at my job, unhappy, burnt out, stressed and anxious to the max, I decided it was time for a change.

Over the last few months, I’ve thought long and hard about self-worth: acknowledging it, owning it, celebrating it, and doing whatever it takes to make sure you’re being treated in a way that reflects just how incredibly amazing you are. 

For a very long time, I had a very narrow perception of what my self-worth was. Deep down I knew I was intelligent and talented, kind and genuine, and brought a fair amount of goodness to this world, but I didn’t always fight for the girl who was all of those things.

Until now.

The last year has taught me many a lesson – it has for so many of us – but the one thing that stands out most to me is deeply valuing who I am as person, as a professional, and not accepting anything less than what I deserve.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me, but I do know that I’m excited for the future, for doing something I love while also making a positive impact on the world, working for a company or organization I can put my whole heart into, and most importantly, one that believes in and respects me.

I’m also proud of standing up for myself, for recognizing that I didn’t have to accept how I was being treated. No one should. Am I scared? Abso-freakin-lutely I am! But that fear reminds me that I’m alive, and brave enough to go after something that sets my soul on fire. And to me, that’s worth it.

SO TAKE THAT RISK.

Be bold.

Be courageous.

And if you do wind up with everything you ever wanted, it’s because you did that work. You put in the effort, you found the grit within yourself, you realized that the scariest things in this world can sometimes be the most wonderful.

We’re scared of change, is all. But change is good for us. Change is how we learn.

And there’s nothing more fulfilling than that.

It’s still The Great Quarantine of 2020 (even though we’ve officially made it through the first month of 2021), and I’m on my phone, scrolling through Instagram again.

I’m reading a post from my favorite writer about how important it is to “find your passion”. She goes on to say how broke she used to be and because she found writing, she now brings home six figures a year. Her page is flooded with photos that are perfectly candid with inspirational captions and hipster cliches.

My passion right now is this bag of peanut M&Ms on my lap.

I used to be all about mantras and vision boards, and I suppose there is a time and a place for those. After months of trying to be a person I wasn’t, I accepted the fact that phrases like “find your passion” kind of annoy me….It’s not so much that they annoy me I guess… Everyone is so quick to throw the phrase out like it’s a process that everyone should just get. Easier said than done, my friends.

I’m sure you’ve all heard it. Everyone wants to find their passion. I mean, who wouldn’t want that, right?

But what if…..what if I have no effing idea what my passion is?

I mean…I like food. I really like food. And I enjoy writing and hiking and road trips and great hair days.

But my passion?

How do I find that?

It’s a cute idea in theory, but what is the practical application of finding your passion?

I’m here to tell you that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. Surprise, I know.

And I don’t think a quarantine is necessarily a healthy incubus for finding your life’s work. Is this an opportunity? Sure! The silver lining here is that there literally is zero else to do except stare your own existence in the face.

Let me disclaimer the following: there’s no rule saying that the stay-at-home order means you must suddenly become deeply spiritual or become vegan. If those things make you a better person, then I am a shining example of what not to do. We put so much weight on ourselves to find our passions that we end up on social media, stuffing our face with chocolate, totally overwhelmed. Just the word makes me feel clammy. It’s a unicorn concept that only heart surgeons or Oprah deserve to use. Or the people I follow on Insta.

If you feel the need to succumb to the social pressures of being productive while going through a traumatic event like quarantine, I would encourage you to do the following:

Get a pen. And some paper. Or your phone if that’s your jam. Something for notes.

Take some deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Relax the muscles in your face and hands.

Ask yourself these questions with the most honest intention. Write down the FIRST thing you think of:

If I could do any activity, ANYTHING, right now, what would it be?

If bills did not exist, how would I spend my time?

What do I spend hours watching on YouTube/IG/FB/Netflix?

Look at your answers.

If the activity you want to be doing is hiking, think about volunteering as a park ranger. Would you love to start a charity if personal bills didn’t exist? Join the board for a nonprofit. Whatever you prefer to spend your time doing will be the thing that you will put the most effort and dedication into. This is organic success at it’s finest.

If your living expenses weren’t a factor, would you have gone to that technical school to become a glassblower like you always dreamed of? Think about where your life has taken you because of the need to provide. Did you go to college for business because you always wanted to, or because you knew it was a secure future?

While killing time in the line at the DMV, what videos are you watching? Are you addicted to crime TV? Maybe you always dreamed of being a police officer. Love videos of animal rescues? Maybe you always wanted to be a vet tech.

If you ask yourself these questions and you can’t think of answers, that’s ok. 

You’re not alone! I’ve been going through sort of a mini mid-life crisis as of late myself. If there is anything that the last year taught me, is that life is way too dang short to do something that doesn’t make your heart smile, to not feel appreciated in your work place, to not feel inspired or happy. Does the thought of starting over again career-wise at [almost] 34 terrify the beans out of me? Definitely. Does it make me feel a little ashamed for not knowing what it is I want to do at this age? Oh, for sure.

But I’ve been trying to squash those beliefs down hard. And have been reminding myself that life today is so incredibly different than it was 30, 20, even 10 years ago.

It’s okay to reinvent yourself.

It’s okay to change. To grow. To adapt and thrive.

It’s okay to be happy.

It’s okay to put yourself first. Again, easier said than done.

But I’m working on it.

And if you are too, I want to tell you to keep going. And that I am damn proud of you.

The self-help world tells you to “do what sets your soul on fire”. I’m not certain I fully understand what that means, and it sounds dangerous anyway. At the end of the day, if you do want to find your passion, the first step is to let go. Don’t be too hard on yourself or others.

After quarantine is over and we all go back to our hustle and bustle, create time to pause. Don’t wait for a pandemic to care about your life.

And listen to that inner voice of yours, even if she tells you to eat some peanut M&Ms once in a while.

My Hope For You Is This

It’s hard to fathom that another year has come and gone. And while usually this is a time when I take a moment to self-reflect on the past year, and share all the things that I look forward to in 2021 (which to be honest, I still definitely did because I’m a creature of habit like that and because there is so very much that I am looking forward to in 2021), I wanted to do something a little different.

I wanted to put the focus on you.

Yes, you. The person reading this.

Because sometimes we all need to be reminded of just how beautiful this life really is, to be reminded to take advantage of the big moments, the little moments, the everything in between. To be reminded that despite the challenges and heartaches and rough patches you may have hit over the course of this year (and oof y’all, there was a whole heckin’ lot of those), you made it through.

And you will continue to do so because you are a badass. And are strong, and courageous and bold and damn you’re doing the thang. And I am so fucking proud of you.

In 2021, my hope for you is this:

I hope you see things that take your breath away, things that make you feel like you have never felt before. I hope you travel to the places you have always wanted to explore — and that it is finally safe to do so again. I hope you catch the sunset at the perfect time on a random Tuesday drive and have your whole chest expand with gratitude. I hope the night sky is always beautiful wherever you rest your head.

I hope you drink good coffee and stay out late with someone who enlivens you. I hope your bones are tired and your hair is messy and your heart is full of nostalgia. I hope someone who makes your whole damn face light up kisses you the way you have always wanted to be kissed, that they hold your hand and take care of you when you’re sick and bring you flowers just because.

I hope you fall so deeply in love with your life that your happiness is undeniable whenever someone looks at you. I hope your days are filled with people who inspire you, and that you always let them know just how rare they are, just how much you appreciate them. I hope they do the same for you. I hope you connect with your moments, the ones that make you feel like you’re doing something right, the ones that happen quietly in the middle of a conversation when everything stops and you truly realize just how lucky you are to be alive.

I hope that you take a chance, that you make a leap. I hope that you do something just for you. I hope you continue to take a stand for issues that mean something, that matter. I hope you allow yourself to take a breath, to pause, to relax and relish in the right heres and right nows. Because if there’s anything we learned this past year, it is to appreciate those seconds of solitude and stillness.

I hope you are reminded every single day why you’re special. I hope you are reminded that you make people feel heard, that you make people feel understood and accepted. I hope you believe that — that you have purpose, that you’re a good person who deserves beautiful things and rich moments in life, that you mean something to someone. Because you do. My goodness, you do.

But most of all, I hope you look back on 2020 and feel a sense of gratitude, strength and pride. Of encouragement, love and fortitude.

2020 was a year.

But we made it through. Together.

So here’s to the lessons we learned, the moments of pure bravery we displayed, and the prophetic change we were all a part of and witness to.

Here’s to the many loaves of sourdough bread we baked, the Zoom call meetings we took and make-shift home offices built.

Here’s to the virtual hugs, the cardboard cutout fans, and the number of times we Googled “How to…”

Here’s to the extra time we got to spend with the human beans we love most, the endless amount of support that was abound, and the kindness that was bestowed upon our neighbors during times of hardship.

Here’s to the smiles that still shown brightly through cloth-covered faces, and the love and hope that proved to be the two things that couldn’t be shaken, even in the most difficult of times.

Here’s to the end of quite possibly the best — and worst — year of our lives.

And to the beginning of a beautiful new one.

Here’s to you.

Happiest 2021, friends.

xoxo

Wendi Jo

Trust Me When I Say…

…that even if your plans have changed, even if your timeline is different, even if this year has not unfolded the way you thought it would — you are not falling behind, but instead, are right where you need to be.

The course of our lives is not contingent upon things happening precisely as we think they should. In fact, it’s often the unexpected that opens us up to opportunities that weren’t crossing our radars, ideas about life, and love, and the world itself, that we hadn’t stopped to consider. If you know that it’s time to slow down, to simplify, to take it easier, to savor your days, to adjust your course — you are absolutely right.

You are not straying from the path, you are finally finding it.

You are learning that real growth is not always just constant forward motion. Growth is also staying still. Growth is deep rest. Growth is stopping to reconsider where you’re headed before you arrive there. Growth is letting yourself settle, it’s letting yourself blossom, it’s letting yourself see how much good is already in your life before you hunger for more.

You are allowed to take days to grieve, to do nothing. You are allowed to press your plans back until they make more sense. You do not exist on a single schedule, your fate is not to arrive at each set point at precisely the second you think you should. That’s not what you’re here for. That’s not what this whole thing is about.

You cannot miss the exit.

There are no wrong turns.

Life is a living, breathing thing — because it’s an extension of you.

It’s the ways in which you explore the corners and contours of your soul, the way you find pieces of yourself through love, through trial and error, through reaching, through supporting and learning and caring and doing good. Every part of our lives exists to teach us something. We are not only making progress when we are clearly, discernibly growing. We are also making progress when we take time to simply be.

The irony is that it’s often the plans that go wrong that teach us more, and show us more, than the ones that go right.

Those words even signify our perceptions of how we are meant to be in the world, that we cannot possibly do anything but what was pre-determined, otherwise we’re failing, and off-course.

The truth that I am asking you to consider is that even if all you did was wake up and keep breathing today, you did what you are supposed to do. Even if all you could manage was to take care of your most essential tasks, you have done more than many can. If you’re able to reach for something just beyond yourself, you should applaud yourself and feel profoundly grateful for your courage, your strength, and your grit.

You should not feel ashamed that you aren’t able to wake up and do that every single day.

Because you and I? We are human beings just trying to sort through the realities and imperfections of being on this planet, with all of these people, trying to coexist and make sense of it all and come out on the other end a little more okay than we were before.

Our lives are not defined by how clearly and seamlessly we reach each goal, but what we are able to savor from each day.

Who were we, and how did we show up, in the simplest moments, in the easiest ways? We are far more defined by the way we make others feel than the way we think they feel about us. We are far more impacted by learning to see what we have as enough as opposed to thinking we’re only okay once we have more. We are far better for taking time to rest, to regenerate, and seeing this not as a stagnation, but a beautiful, and essential, part of being who we are.

May this be the year that you learn slowing down is nothing to be ashamed of.

May this be the year that you realize your life isn’t on any schedule but your own — and you can amend that.

May this be the year you realize you are not only as good as your latest accomplishment was great.

You are not falling behind, you never have been.

The journey has only ever been about learning to find a semblance of peace each day, and it’s often in the quiet, in the unexpected, and in the simplest things that we are given the greatest opportunity to do just that.

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