Thursday, November 13, 2014

Give Thanks...For the Little Things

Perhaps it's the cold and flu medicine making me slightly loopy, or maybe we can blame the fact that it's been so cold today (and I've been under the weather) and the boredom of being bundled up in bed is getting to me. Either way, I've had some (okay, a lot) of time to think about things. 

I've conquered many subjects in my head. I've overanalyzed some, I'm sure. But, mostly, I've been thinking about Thanksgiving. It's only natural. It's mid November, after all, and the fire going in our fireplace has served to remind me that the holiday season is, in fact, upon us. I went through the typical thoughts: "what am I going to wear," "who will be attending the family Thanksgiving celebration," "am I too old to sit at the kids' table," etc. Then, I settled into the true spirit of the holiday that's right around the corner. I pondered gratitude. 

As this has been a year of great change in my life, it's been a year in which I've gone round and round, loving and hating things in equal measure. Things that I now consider to be great things, I once resented. Nonetheless, I've got plenty to be thankful for. Certainly, I've got a number of people who are the best part of my life. I will resist the cheesiness of listing you all out and the things you do for me. The fact of the matter is that you people enrich my life, you put up with my shenanigans, and you rock. Thank you. That aside, there are many little things for which I am grateful and for which I almost never give enough credit. 

This year, I'm taking a bit of a sidetrack from one of those traditional gratitude posts, and I'm giving a shout-out to the little things. (As previously mentioned, we're working on sick brain here, so gear up for an interesting ride).

In 2014, I'm thankful for:

Creative Coworkers - Working in an office of all creative-minded folks assures that there's never a dull moment. From helping you figure out life problems in a new way to constantly keeping you entertained, they're the best! 

Skype - Although it often makes me feel as though I assume prisoners feel behind that Plexiglas window while talking to their loved ones without being able to touch or embrace, it's an incredible invention that allows me to feel close to my family, friends, and special ones who are far away. 

Etsy - While it's dangerous that they have my credit card info on file and I'm only one click away from anything on there that my heart desires (and it desires a lot, let me tell you), it's great for finding unique gifts...or gifts from me, to me. Besides, getting something I ordered online always feels like a little present. 

Wine - Unless you're guzzling from a box, it's the drink that you can feel at least a little sophisticated whilst sipping and laughing with friends. Not only that, but it's tasty and pairs well with almost any dinner. 

You stay classy, Albuquerque.

Overpriced pillows - This year, I dropped some money on some fairly expensive pillows in hopes that they'd help me sleep. They didn't, and I regretted and hated them for a while. Nonetheless, they're good pillows to snuggle up with, and they're a reminder that I've made it to a place in my life where I can afford luxurious pillows. They make me grateful. 

Porch swing - Over the course of the past year and a half, I have fallen in love...with my porch swing. It's my thinking spot, my "have a beer and ponder decisions" spot, my spot to talk on the phone, my spot for praying, my spot to share deep conversations with those I care about. It's my spot, and I adore it. 

Green chile - It's a food, a condiment, a dish all of its own. It's spicy and amazing, full of vitamin C, and truthfully one of my favorite things in the world. Every time I think I could leave NM, I remember that I can't think of a week in the past several years of my life where I haven't consumed green chile. 

Heaven on earth, my friends, heaven on earth!

Chapstick - It's simple. Really, it is. But, is there anything better than applying a fresh coat and delighting in how soft and smooth your lips feel? I don't think so...

My dog - She's seen me do some stupid things, and there have been times where I look at the way I take care of her and think "this is why I'm unfit to be a parent," but she loves me unconditionally. She lights up when I come home from work, and she's my favorite snuggler. 

Scarves - They can turn an outfit from "looking rough to looking good" in about five seconds, if paired right, and they keep me warm. They're a fun, useful accessory, and I feel like they don't always get the praise they deserve. 

Skirts - I know this may come as a shocker from the girl who hates dresses and skirts, but I've developed a certain fondness for them. It's definitely not the type of fondness that could result in frequent wear; it's just that (although I'll undoubtedly gripe about it for a day leading up to the event) I've become okay with their flair for marking a special occasion. 

How I feel every time..but it's worth it on occasion.

Beyonce - The woman is a class all of her own, but she's also my favorite morning pep talk. When "Flawless" comes on during my drive to work, I know it's going to be a good day! She's the warmup music to life as a woman. 

"I woke up like this..."

Inspirational quotes - I'm talking about the super cheesy ones, the ones that make you tear up a little before you realize you're being stupid. They're not that profound most of the time, and they're not revolutionary. They're simply shedding light onto truths we already know about ourselves. They're cheesy, but I love them. 

I'm a girl of the 21st Century, and stuff like this will keep me on Pinterest far too long.

Snapchat - I'm a horrible snapchat user. I check them like once a week and never respond, but I get a good laugh at being with my friends while they're snapchatting and seeing the silly things they do. Also, when I get around to my weekly check, I'm always amused. 

Bad days - Don't worry. I'm not getting all philosophical here and saying that bad days make us appreciate the good. We all know that it's true, but it doesn't make us hate the person saying it any less in that moment. Instead, I'm going to say that I am thankful for the bad days, because they're an opportunity. They're a chance to come home, blow off steam by venting to someone I trust, have a drink, and eventually laugh it all off. I'm a goofball at heart and love to laugh. Bad days provide the best anecdotes (second only to bad dates), and that's worth it all. That day where you were so angry you contemplated throwing a stapler through the window, if told with the right inflection and pauses, will provide you with weeks worth of anecdotal gold. 

As I wrote most of this, I could hear a voice in my head saying "you don't take anything seriously." Maybe I don't, but I also know that I am truly grateful for the big things too. Most days, I have knowledge of those things, i.e. my family, friends, job, writing, etc. I'm thankful for people who make my life a better place, for those who showed me what I deserve, and for those who taught me what I do not deserve. They're something I'm always thankful for, but I wanted to take a step back and look at all the little things that I consistently overlook to remind myself that there is something in every single day (both big and small) in which to delight myself. 

Be grateful, of course for the big things, but also for the little things. It really is the little things.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Best Years of Your Life

Some people say that college was the best four years of their life. Admittedly, my college years were fun–more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. However, I have to say, I have been quite pleased lately to realize that my twenties have actually been the best years of my life. 

Sure, the twenties can get weird. There are so many situations that come at us and so many curveballs. There are mountaintop moments, and there are definitely more than a handful of fall-on-your-face moments. There are great successes and personal improvements, and there are times when we forget to prioritize our spending, get our hearts broken, make really bad decisions, and try to act far too young or far too old. We're kind of "in between," and we sometimes get carried away on the weird questions of "if we're doing enough" or "if we're good enough." From the ever-changing friendships and relationships, to job bouncing (or even losing a job), climbing ladders only to realize you want to jump ship to a new career field altogether, and not really knowing if you're ever "grown up" enough, it can be a somewhat stressful time. 

In our mid-twenties, there are plenty of days that end with sentiments such as's a coping mechanism.

But, if we truly relish it for all it's worth, it's a wonderful time. So far, I'd say that 22–almost 26 (I need just a second to recover…26 is here!) have actually been the best–albeit some of the most difficult–years of my life. 

You have the opportunity to figure out what you want in life. Whether you're dating and figuring out traits you do and don't like, or you're trying out new hobbies and learning if you can really transition from a softball player into a tennis player (hint:  it's not easy to stop trying to swing for the fences, and this is how you frustrate whoever is playing with you and lose tennis balls…like lots and lots of tennis balls), you have the opportunity to take a little time and look around. Find those things that interest you, try something new, give it a shot. The twenties are a period of discovery.

You can typically still get away with being considered young in some decisions. While I'm all for being responsible and taking accountability, sometimes, we all still yearn for that opportunity to ask for forgiveness and say, "I'm young and stupid." Things happen, and sometimes in taking those aforementioned chances, we make mistakes. While we are adults and have to deal with consequences, we are, indeed, still learning. And, it's okay to do a couple of stupid things during your twenties. 

And I'm totally cool with that! 

You have responsibilities. I know I'm weird, but I still love making my car payment. It was one of the first on-my-own, brand new, adult purchases I made. It's mine. I am responsible for it. I'm also responsible for the life of a small dog, responsible for showing up to work on time and delivering quality results for my clients, and responsible for being accountable to the people in my life. Growing up and actually having bills to pay can be a burden, and it's not always fun. But, it's also kind of cool. 

You're constantly growing. Whether it's been through periods of focused personal growth (i.e. making sure I go to the gym every day, intentionally taking quiet time, getting up early, setting good habits) or through periods where I didn't even realize I was changing and maturing, the mid-twenties change a person a great deal. Those first few years out of college and truly on your own are times of many lessons learned and many memories made. Each experience–good or bad–shapes us and gives us a chance to become more of who we were meant to be and to make a greater difference in the world. 

You realize what matters and what doesn't. Over these years, you learn that saying "no" is okay. You learn to let go of those who don't want you in their lives. You learn not to stress out too much about the things you can't change. But, you also learn the true, genuine beauty in moments–both large and small. You appreciate the value of a good wine, the wonderful simplicity of old friendships, the joy of a Netflix night, the shock and awe of people watching/clubbing/observing how "college kids these days" behave, the wonder of those new connections that happen with incredible ease, the beauty of family, and the fact that life keeps getting better. You take time for yourself, you enjoy the people who matter, and you let go of the things that don't. (No we're not perfect, and we still have our moments of obsessing over stupid things or not appreciating the good things, but we are learning, and it's getting easier). 

You learn to surround yourself with good people. Those who play mind games, those who make us crazy, those who are selfish, those who hurt us intentionally, those who gossip about us–or anyone for that matter–they can all take a hike by the mid-twenties. Sure, we'll stay on good enough terms to say "hi" if we run into you in Target, but trust us, we'll probably try to dodge you on at least the first three attempts until it becomes painfully obvious that we've seen you and you've seen us. Once we come into our own, we don't need the reassurance of having a slew of people surrounding us at all times. We've matured enough to realize that being alone or being around a couple of good people is far more satisfying than having bad company. 

Awful people?

You don't have to live off of Poptarts and Ramen, but you could if you chose to. You have the option. You're no longer that strapped for cash, and you have the opportunity to go out and have a nice steak or make a meal at home. However, should you just really get one of those have-to-have cravings for a Poptart (seriously, who doesn't love a good Poptart?), you can go get one. 

I made a grown up decision today...I had an ice cream sandwich for breakfast.

You have the time, a little bit of freedom, and enough money to experience life (and you've likely mastered the art of experiencing on a dime). After all of those years of living on a shoestring budget in college, you've learned how to have fun for little. The beauty of the mid-twenties, though, means you don't always have to. You can take a long weekend from work, hop on a plane, and go explore a bit. For many of us in our generation, we're settling down a little later. That means as long as you find someone to feed your dogs, you're good to go. It's a beautiful freedom. 

You have many milestones to celebrate. And, let's face it, milestone celebrations are a great excuse to get together with friends, pop open a bottle of champagne (or wine), and embrace whatever awesomeness you are toasting. These are the years of first jobs, first new cars, engagements, promotions, etc. I've even been known to celebrate the first time I set up a retirement account. It's the little things, you know. 

You learn to legitimately stop caring what others think. You cut the pretenses a little bit. Whether it's just being yourself on a first date or embracing your place in your family/friend group. I've learned to appreciate that I'm the one who's usually around for comedic relief and known for bringing a good bottle of wine to an event. I'm happy with it. My family is happy with it. When you hit your mid-twenties, you accept that you are who you are, and others who love you do the same. 

Own those quirks! 

You occasionally allow yourself to behave like a preschooler with a credit card. There are times when my adult side wins out and I can easily put something I don't "need" back on a shelf. But, there are also times where I want it, so I'm going to buy it. I fully know the difference between want and need, but I also know that I work my butt off for my paycheck, and sometimes the best part of being an adult is being able to spoil myself just a little bit. It's one of the best things in the world! 

Or the pool, or the gummy bears, or the ill-advised shot of tequila. Girl, you work hard for your money ;)

Your parents become friends–allies even. I've always had a great relationship with my parents, but lately, we've developed a fantastic bond that I wouldn't change for anything. There's not quite anything like having coffee with them and chatting about life or being able to call them, share experiences, and get advice on everything from insurance to setting up an IRA. We laugh together…A LOT, I enjoy every minute with them, and they suddenly make a lot more sense to me. 

Andthey've even mastered the art of the selfie AND the photobomb. They're hilarious!

You learn to forgive. People are flawed. They do stupid things. We learn to let go, let live, and move on. In the teens and early twenties, I had a hard time with this. My Hispanic/Irish heritage would occasionally kick in, flare up my temper, and make me decide that some things were unforgivable. As I've grown up a bit, I've learned that it's much more freeing and cathartic to feel the pain/anger, and then let it all go. Forgive, and let it be. While trusting the one who wronged you again is truly a decision that will need to be assessed carefully, forgiveness really is a great thing, and it's the only way to truly move on from any instance in which you have been wronged. 

Sometimes, we really don't know the options people were faced with. Forgive anyway.

The fact of the matter is, there are many things–from a new found appreciation for sweatpants to getting to make my own decisions and from finding out what I really like in life to being surrounded by the best people for me–that make the mid-twenties amazing. They've had their ups and downs, but they truly have been the best years of my life. I'm encouraged by this, and I'm pretty sure that means my dad was right about the fact that it just keeps getting better and better. For that reason, I'm excited to turn 26, because I'm looking forward to the next "best 4 years of my life!" 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"You Can't Control Everything" and Other Bits of Wisdom from a Curly-Haired Kid

Beautiful. Unique. Exotic. I've heard my naturally curly hair called many things. I've also heard it referred to as I've often seen it:  unmanageable, wild, frizzy. For me, it's always been a mixed bag. Some days, I tolerate it. Some days, I embrace it. Oftentimes throughout the years, I've hated it. 

Throughout my life, it has remained constant in one way. It has been unpredictable. No matter what it's supposed to do, it finds a way to do the opposite. About the only thing I can count on with my hair is that it will stay on my head, and it will change how it looks from the start to the end of the day. I can straighten it, just to have it curl back up. I can work to maintain the curl and have it look presentable, only to have it frizz all over the place. At the slightest hint of humidity, I'm Bozo the Clown in an instant. My hair will always be the most challenging part of my morning routine. Having said that, I have realized that having this crazed, curly mop has taught me a few lessons I might have otherwise overlooked. 

You can't control everything. I am a perfectionist–always have been. It was something that drove me crazy as a child and teenager, the need to have everything perfect. Over the years, I still strive for excellence; however, I have relaxed greatly. I credit much of this to my hair. Truthfully, when you have something on your head that you simply cannot control, no matter how hard you try or how much you spend on products, you learn that some things were never intended to be perfect. There's beauty in imperfection, though. I mean, I can put a great deal of effort into straightening the hair, only to have it ruined by a gust of wind or a small amount of humidity. Or, I can let the curls do their thing, embrace it, roll down my windows, and let the wind mess it up all it wants. Sometimes, the imperfect moments–the ones that are out of our control–are the best moments in life. 

I've used this before, but it's because I'm pretty sure this woman is my spirit animal.

Some things really are forever. There are some things in life we are stuck with, things we do not get to choose. Our hair. Our family. Our upbringing. Our hometowns. Our past. These things may be great. They may be good or even bad, but they're all a part of who we are. While life takes many turns, there will always be parts of ourselves that we cannot change and that we should really learn to appreciate. 

Some things never change…

People will make assumptions about your life, and they will be wrong. If I had a nickel for every time someone has made an assumption about what it must be like to have curly hair, I'd be loaded. Seriously, we could all take a massive vacation. My favorite of these is, "it must be so nice to just let your hair be free and natural." As I shall illustrate, what you see when my hair is curly is never its "free and natural" state. Its "free and natural" state is the stuff nightmares are made of, the stuff that frightens children…really. Nonetheless, no matter what you are doing (whether it's a relationship, a job, or where you want to live), people will make assumptions. They'll try to relate or think they understand. Sometimes they're right, but even when they're not, it gives you a chance to laugh or to educate them on realities of a situation when it calls for it (with the hair thing, I usually just opt for the laugh…it's better that way). 

Sheerly for the sake of proving an old argument wrong…this is what happens with "free and natural." Like I said, happy nightmares…

Spontaneity really is a beautiful thing. As I mentioned, the need for perfection is futile at best. Life is so much more fun when we can learn to be flexible. One night, I had worked to straighten my hair to what I thought might be close to perfection. We went out, and it started to rain. I thought about running for cover, but something made me stay. Instead of worrying, I let the rain fall, and before long, my hair was curly again (albeit wet and probably a little unsightly). Even so, that night was one of the most fun nights out I've had in a long time, and I could have missed out on a lot of it by hiding out to protect my hair. The fact is that, when we just go with the flow on occasion, we're open to options. We're not spent hiding out or planning everything to a T. Life doesn't go according to plan; neither does hair…ever. 

When all else fails, grab a goofy hat. At least, then, the hat might be more of a conversation piece than the hair. Always worth a shot.

There will always be someone who has it "better" in some way. As a kid, I used to dream of what it would be like to have straight hair like my sister's or my friends. Some days, I still do. Sure, my morning routine would be easier, but I'd also probably have fewer laughs in the mirror. There will always be things about ourselves we want to "fix." We all have our quirks, and we all have things that aren't exactly as we wish they would be. But, we're all also unique, and there's great beauty in that. 

Laughter is the best way to deal with everything. I can get uptight about certain things, and my hair can be one of those. Some days, it makes me a little crazy that it's completely out of my control. Some days, I look in the mirror and just know that that's as good as it's going to get. But, the best part is that, I can usually get a laugh out of what it does. When I first wake up, I'm always amazed at just how many directions one head of hair can go…and it's always good for a laugh. From this, I've learned that, if you can't control it, find the humor. 


A back-up plan is always a good idea. You know that event you have in a few weeks? You've got the dress, the shoes, the hair…you've got it all planned. You may even set aside some extra time to get ready. And, then it starts to rain (or even worse, there's just a touch of humidity hanging in the air). If you've got curls, you had better prepare for a change in planning. Much like curly hair, life is highly unpredictable. Sometimes, you have to change gears, change direction, or come up with a spur-of-the-moment back-up plan. The trick is realizing that it's not necessarily a crisis, but instead a chance for redirection. 

Hakuna Matata???

Life is full of good, bad, and interesting. Amongst the bad and crazy hair days, there are always a few good ones. Sure, it'll frizz or curl at the ends by the end of the day, but, as with everything else, you have to just go with it. Rock it, be you, and surround yourself with people who love you, regardless of what your hair may be doing. 

And, although I've always hated the saying, it really is a nice thing to be able to have options (albeit, once the humidity shows up, there is no option)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Friends - The One with All the Life Lessons

I've seen many articles about the show Friends, such as this one from BuzzFeed. While I find them all hilarious, I think (and go ahead and laugh if you want) my love for the show is based on the fact that I truly relate to so many of the situations they portray. I think we all do in one way or another, otherwise it wouldn't still be so popular. 

I was a kid and a teenager when it was on air, but over the years, I have watched every episode. I own most of the seasons on DVD and can quote them with the best of them. Admittedly, I have even got into serious discussions about which characters are the best and why (although, I love them all). It was–and still is–a great show, full of great one-liners, subtle life lessons, and humorous situations that most of us can relate to.

Have we all bought a pair of leather pants and experienced the terrors of trying to make a pair of paste pants? Do we all sing goofy songs about sick pets at a coffee shop? Probably not, but we can all relate to so many of the situations that occur in our twenties. We've all had jobs that truly sucked. We've all had breakups and awkward family moments. We've all had to learn new skills–sometimes skills we should have learned earlier in life. We've all questioned whether or not we needed to make life changes. We've all tried to please everyone at some point, eventually realizing that, as long as we're happy, that's all that matters. 

Over the years, I've watched and related to the struggles of some of the characters, and when I reached the age that they were all portrayed to be, it was a stunning realization that the show was pretty spot-on for many areas of my own life. 

These are the lessons I've learned from Friends, and that I think many twenty-somethings learn (either with or without the help of the show, although the show makes it much more entertaining):

It's okay to make mistakes. We all do it in some form or fashion. We're human. Some of them will be doozies, so big that our friends will lovingly make them into anecdotes for years to come. Some will be littler, even if they seem huge at the time. But, we all come out of it stronger, wiser, and ready for the next step in our lives. 

Always aim to make improvements!

But be aware of the fact that your friends will call you out on things from time to time.

People and the connections we make are the best things in life. Those people with whom you can let down all pretenses and let your true colors show are the best people in the world. They'll be the ones who will pick you up when you fall down, who will laugh with you–and make you laugh–when you need it the most, and who will be your greatest support system. They'll also be the ones who will be around when you want to do nothing. They'll catch a ball game with you, share meals with you, watch movies, drive around, do nothing–but be everything, all in the same breath. Those are the people worth holding onto and keeping in your life forever. 

When you find friends who will help you deal with life like this, you've found your people.

The best medicine is to laugh at yourself, or to spend some time with those who know you best. If you can't laugh at yourself, you should. But, if you truly cannot, tell your best friends what you've done, and more often than not, they'll do it for you. Sometimes, we get so concerned about our "problems" that we lose sight of the genuine humor of whatever mess we've gotten into. 

Feeling down? Made a mistake? Took some bad advice on a tanning salon? Tell a friend, and laugh about it. 

Siblings will always be one of the most important parts of your life! They were there for the goofy years, they saw you through the "bangs" phase that didn't quite frame your face, they know all about those embarrassing teenage crushes, and they know your weaknesses. Still, they're your support system. They're the ones who will be there whenever you need it most, and they'll be the ones to agree to do something equally stupid with you in adulthood. They're your go-to for those things that are a little too embarrassing to do with anyone else. 

Being competitive is something all of your friends will tease you about–but it can be a good thing. If you're the one who always wants to be the best, you'll take a ribbing for it, but everyone will want you on their team when it comes time for the game (whatever game that may be).

Channel your inner Monica and go for the win!

Relationships are messy, and dating is hard. How many times did we watch Ross and Rachel screw it all up? Too many! And the whole time, we all got to see ourselves on that screen, remembering or even empathizing with how it feels to be in those positions. Dating is messy, because there are people–and feelings–involved, and that just leads to a place where a million things could go wrong. We can all relate. 

So many opportunities for things to get messy and confusing...

Pampering yourself is a necessity at times, and it's okay to do what you want. We all need a little downtime. At times, we need a buddy to sit and watch TV with, an evening to ourselves, the "Joey special" for dinner, a run with someone who will push us to the limit, or a bubble bath. Whatever you need to do for yourself on those days, take it and do so without compromise. 

We've all had those days!

Sometimes, you just have to say "no" to anything you don't want to do.

Hard times are going to come. It's inevitable. There are going to be those blows to the gut that bring you to your knees, and as you're staring at the ground in pain, you're going to realize (for the millionth time) that life isn't fair. Maybe you get fired from your job for taking "complimentary" steaks, maybe you find out that the one you still love is with someone new, maybe it's something as simple as the fact that you have to share your fries. Whatever it is, hard times happen. 

When in doubt, express yourself through creativity. I've found that my most productive writing comes in rough times. Whatever your creative outlet may be, find it and run with it. It's cheaper than therapy, and it's usually more entertaining. 

It may not always be beautiful, but it can help.

True friends are those who are going to be honest with you. They know your strengths and your weaknesses. They know what you've been through, and chances are they've gone through what you may be experiencing now. They're the ones who can offer you a hug, a drink, and a well-meaning pep talk. 

Best to be honest…

After all, they know you best...

Humor is truly the best option in most awkward situations. Sometimes, it'll make it worse, but hey, you can't say you didn't try to ease the pain of running into an ex, sticking your foot in your mouth, or being forced into someone else's drama. Who knows? You might make them laugh and make it better. 

Seriously, where is Beyonce hiding in this small world?

We all doubt ourselves on occasion. There were weaknesses and strengths within each character, and they all had things they didn't like about themselves. They made a lot of mistakes, and they doubted themselves. They were vulnerable on occasion, but they grew through each mistake.

As a twenty-something, we've all had some ups and downs, and some not-so-fine moments. Embrace it, grow from them, and be happy.

Life gets better and better. As a kid, I was always sad when something good ended. My dad's response used to always be that things kept getting better and life kept getting sweeter as time went on. He'd always remind me that, if we had been able to freeze time in happy times past, we'd have missed out on what we just got to experience. I always held onto that, and I think one of the genuinely beautiful things about the show is that, they display that fact. Sure, there were heartaches, there were steps backward, there were so many bad things that each of them endured, but with the right people by their sides and with enough time, it all took the shape it was supposed to, and life got better and better. 

There are always great things to look forward to!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Slump

When you're playing softball or baseball, it's the slump. If you're a writer, it's writer's block. If you're just living your day-to-day, there are many things we could call it.

The slump is never fun...

Whatever we choose to call it, we all hit a roadblock every now and again. It can be a storm of life, it can be focusing on distractions, it can be "getting lost" temporarily. We lose sight of who we are meant to be, what we are meant to do, and what we can offer the world.

The simple fact of the matter is that we all have moments of feeling inadequate or like maybe we've "missed the boat" on something. We get distracted from all that we are, and we focus on what we're not. We lose sight of those dreams that have driven us, and we get caught on an off-roading experience in which we stubbornly refuse to ask for directions.

I think we've all been there a time or two, and it can be a difficult thing to overcome. We start looking and nitpicking every detail of everything that's not quite perfect, instead of actually doing anything about it. Or, we obsess and decide that we're going to "fix" it all. We get caught up in the cycle of constantly trying to overcome it, all the while asking "is this it?"

Call it a bad case of not knowing "where to go from here...."

It's as frustrating a time as it is unproductive. We can't all be everything; nor, should we try to do so. We will fail, and we will be left even more frustrated in the wake of the post-superhero complex trail of shame. Nonetheless, we can all be something, and we can all be great at something.

Whatever your unique talents or skills are, there is someone out there who needs them. There is someone who needs to be inspired by you, to learn from you, to grow as a person because of you. It is when we lose sight of this fact that we get caught up in the "slump."

It happens...

Each of us has something to offer. Maybe, you're the funny one whose comic relief can get someone to laugh in a hard situation. Maybe, you're the teacher whose influence will shape future leaders or help that kid who needs it most. Maybe, you're the writer with a story to tell. Maybe, you're the musician whose creation can touch hearts and resonate with people. Maybe, you're the mom or dad who is the your child's hero. Maybe, you're a best friend who can offer a shoulder to cry on or a pat on the back, an athlete whose drive and determination inspires young children, or an everyday person working and fighting to provide for your family whose example of strength will forever be remembered.

There's a little bit of "hero" in each of us, regardless of how we spend our days, and there is someone looking to each of us to be those things. We all hit a slump from time to time, but you were made to be something. Go out into the world, and be it. Be it boldly. Know your name. Know your influence. Know who you were meant to be, and don't let a slump ruin that.

When in doubt, quote Dr. Seuss...yeah, that just happened.

Life is a journey, full of some weirdness, ups and downs, and a little bit of losing your way. But, it's all about remembering what's important, finding yourself again, and using who you are, where you are, and what you can contribute to make the world a better, kinder, more beautiful place. If you're in the slump, keep swinging, slugger! Swing, miss, fail, strike out, but always keep swinging.

Note:  for a little context, I found myself in one of these slumps recently. It was a strange case of knowing that part of my dreams had come true, and that I now find myself in my dream job, surrounded by some of the most fantastic people in the world. I'm not sure if it was an issue of complacency, of realizing that I still want so much more, of questioning this "new normal," or what it was...but, the slump came unexpectedly. For a brief time, I lost sight of so many wonderful things. I stopped working on new writing projects and worked on picking apart old ones. I blamed writer's block. I let myself waste time. I was wandering (well, and wondering...they can go hand in hand, I suppose). It wasn't until I gave a friend a copy of my book yesterday, and she smiled so big. She said to me, "You're a writer. That's so cool that you can just say, 'here's a copy of MY book' and know that you wrote this." It was a simple moment, but it was one that resonated with me, reminding me that I AM A WRITER. Throughout the evening and into today, that replayed in my head, serving as a reminder that, while I've been in a slump, I have something to offer those around me. I have stories to tell, and I have people to matter to. That is never something to dismiss or to cast aside, regardless of other situations. We all have an identity, and a slump shouldn't detract from that. Whatever you do, do it and do it well! 

It's okay to wander from time to time, as long as we come back to who we are.

In honor of the sappy, feel-good nature of this post, I'm including everyone's favorite sing-along, encouraging song...(made extra special by the fact that it's got the lyrics conveniently displayed, karaoke style, just in case your slump made you forget the words).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Like a Girl

After seeing the new Always commercial floating around YouTube and various social media sites, the wheels in my head have really been turning. 

You know, "like a girl...."

(Note:  I watched it about a week ago, and have been somewhat contemplative about the subject ever since). 

We see it every day, the way that doing something "like a girl" is considered to be a negative, somehow less than the masculine form. We're told that there are things that men do better, and we're told that being feminine is frowned upon somehow. 

Yes, I'm good-natured enough to laugh along when my friends make the occasional "women in the kitchen" joke. And yes, I'm feisty and passionate enough that I do get a bit of rage when someone claims that women basketball players aren't really playing a sport. Yes, I'm a woman and can proudly turn on a dime, so both scenarios can go back-to-back. But, the fact of the matter is that, we are all subjected to the pre-conceived public notion of what a woman "should be," or in some cases what a woman is. 

There are many varying opinions of what a woman is. For the most part, (at least if you asked most men—and even some women), women are moody, indecisive, and volatile. To some degree, all of that is true. But, at a deeper level, there is the internalized part (the part that plagues many women internally). This is the part that suggests that being a woman makes us weak, makes us less intelligent, or makes us less-than somehow. 

It's the Mad Men moment, if you will. We were put here to serve, to be a ditzy sidekick, to be whatever is needed. We were put here to be the right hand of some high-powered man. While I've never claimed to be a "feminist," hold with me, if you will for a moment. 

I've always been somewhat unsure of the feminist movement as it is typically explained, due to the simple fact that it typically claims that we are no different than men. The simple truth is that I believe we are quite different from men. It is in this fact that we draw our feminine strength (something I feel all women should be encouraged and even empowered by). Am I suggesting that there are things that men can do that women cannot? Absolutely not. I think these are the gender stereotypes that can lead to the negative connotation. I believe that every woman is fully equipped to take on and succeed in any role in which she takes on; just as I believe that societal norms and preconceived notions can skew incorrectly suppressing some women in a lot of ways. However, I think that our differences are where we find our strength. 

As women, we attain the ability to have several emotions at one time. Are we happy, sad, strong, amused, intrigued, or confused? Whatever we are, as women, we can experience them all at once. We may be sad something is ending but happy it occurred—all at the same time. We may have an emotional response to something but be able to note that we have a physical need such as drowsiness or hunger at the same time—and actually be able to process the two as separate entities. While men are complex beings as well (and I'm certainly not trying to create a reverse stereotype in the process), many feel what they feel at one point and time and focus on that solely.

As women, we are typically more analytic in our approach to situations. Do we sometimes operate by pure instinct? Yes, of course. We are human. We still have access to our innermost basic instincts, but often, we consider the outcomes. We analyze. We even tend to overthink (cue that emotions running wild thing, if you want). But, we look at all sides of the coin. Who will be affected? What will happen if I react a certain way? While we sometimes act irrationally or emotionally, we have often thought the process through. We are thinkers. We are dreamers. More often than not, we have considered all possible outcomes and become okay with the risks involved before asking or acting. On the flipside, most men I have encountered operate by instinct, by the “what’s the worst that could happen?” mentality. It’s a brave one, I’ll give that to the boys, but it’s also one that is alarming—perplexing, even—to us women. Nonetheless, it’s part of what makes us different.

While those are two simple differences, I think it’s a basic call to the fact that we are different—and that that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine to us to have something that is “like a girl,” as long as it’s not perceived as a negative connotation by society as a whole—and that’s the true shame in the whole thing. It’s the part that makes young girls question their identity, the same part that makes women mold themselves into shocking and alarming standards of beauty and conformity that defy who they were meant to be.

Truthfully, there is nothing shameful about being “a girl.” There is nothing that women should question or conform to, regardless of what society tells us. We are strong. We are empowered. In many cases, we call the shots. How many times have we heard it said that someone is “whipped?” How many times have we seen someone attempt to change to woo a girl? How many times have we seen an empowered female completely take charge?

We are strong. And, we are such in our femininity. We don’t have to embrace masculine attributes, "toughen up," change our interests if we like typically "non-girly" things, suppress our emotions, change our looks, or even adopt harsh outlooks on life. Instead, we can embrace who we are. So what if we’re moody, indecisive, and volatile? We’re experiencing complex emotions, considering all possible outcomes, and reacting whenever the world throws us a curveball stereotype of what they think women should be. We’re reacting with strength, intelligence, and all the complexity that makes us great—that makes us strong and unique and female.

We may have once been perceived as the weaker sex, but with each outspoken and empowered woman, we are truly making a difference in the public persona. I commend Always for making a statement and for making us all question what we perceive “like a girl” to mean, just as I commend every woman boldly living her life “as a girl.”

For me, personally, I have always been surrounded by strong women who encouraged me to take pride in what it means to be a woman. I'm incredibly grateful for this influence in my life. Most of my role models and mentors were women. I was raised by a mother who could accomplish anything she set her mind to and whose stubborn determination to get a job done right is still something that serves as a strong reminder of who I am and who I can be. I had grandmothers who didn’t take “no” from anyone, and who fought tooth-and-nail for their place in this world. In my adult life, I have seen far stronger women than I ever imagined. Currently, I work at a woman-owned company, where I see the strength and intelligence of women displayed daily. In our society, I see many places where women dominate a market or an industry. 

I am fortunate, but many are not. Many are oppressed, held down by society’s downcast look at all that is feminine, and I am disheartened by the fact that such a view still exists. Being a girl is not something to disregard. Being a girl is empowering. May we all embrace our identity as girls—as female—and may we all be strengthened by the fact that, while we may be different from men (as I believe we are), we are strong in all that we are, in all that is unique. And, may we all be strong enough—confident enough—examples of womanhood to inspire young girls to embrace who they are. We are all complex, just as we are all ever-changing and ever-growing. We are all bold, and we can all be an example of just how empowering, how exuberant, it is to be “like a girl.” 

I have played sports, graduated as valedictorian, earned a college degree, climbed the career ladder, faced heartache and recovered, overcome adversity, grown personally, and achieved many dreams....all "like a girl," and I'm proud to have done so. I am a girl and am proud of the fact. It's my hope that we can all be an example of feminine strength, living proudly as such, as an unspoken or out loud example to young girls across the globe. Each girl needs a mentor, a teacher, a coach, an aunt, a mother, an example. Be that example of what it means to be "like a girl," and remind each young girl that she can do anything she sets her mind to, regardless of what society says.