Falling For Myself

I have never been the type to be fully comfortable in my own skin.  There has always been a laundry list of things that I would love to change about my appearance tucked away in the back of my mind.  Whenever I’m having a rough day I can recite the things I dislike about myself as readily as if I were being asked to recite the alphabet.  My almost non-existent shoulders, my lazy eye, my nose, my not-so-white teeth, my round face, my thick and often unmanageable hair….

The list goes on and on.

I have also never been the type to like to admit that I have insecurities.  But then I guess no one is.  I hide my insecurities under a smile and makeup, hoping that if I do it just right it will somehow imitate the confidence I seem to have lost so long ago.  It’s gone on this way for a few years now, and it could probably go on for a few years longer.  But what way is that to live?  Who wants to live in fear of mirrors and transparency their entire life?  I make money telling young adults that they cannot live this way, yet I have made it a habit myself.  I have become a hypocrite, and coming to that realization was so incredibly hard to swallow.

I have been my greatest enemy, constantly letting the whispers and expectations of society fill my ears until they get to my head and the lies dance around in my mind.  I let myself lose control over my self image, and in doing so I let the idea of confidence fade away until it was nothing but a nice yet unattainable concept.

It was time to go to war with myself.

When I look in the mirror and feel the urge to look away, I stare myself down instead.  I dare myself to think a negative thought so that I can shut it down and replace it with the truth I have been denying myself: that I am enough.  When I am afraid to look someone in the eye for the fear that they might see right through me, I instead silently dare them to look away first and make sure that I flash them a smile (after all, I’ve always had a brilliant smile).

It isn’t easy to reverse the negative, false image of myself that my mind has so generously created for me.  But it’s something I have to do, and something I will continue to strive to do every day of my life.  I owe it to myself.  If I choose to wear lipstick, it is for myself.  If I decide to wear no makeup and wear clothes that are dangerously on the border of not matching, I will smile because I know I’m doing it for me.  Maybe it’s selfish, and that’s okay.  Because if I can’t be happy with who I am, if I can’t look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m doing something wrong.

If we as individuals cannot learn to be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that make us unique, if we are unable to fall in love with ourselves all over again every day, then how could we ever ask or expect that of anyone else?  Or even more importantly, how can we give that kind of love and acceptance to someone else if we deny ourselves it?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated, but also remember to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

-SM

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Finding Your Tuesday

It started with the usual suspects: a few glances at the time only to roll back over for a few more minutes of sleep, the joy of knowing I did not have to work, and the inevitable surge of shame as I realized it was almost ten and I was still in bed.

Until today this has been my typical Tuesday morning routine, except usually I can be found sleeping in long past ten.  I’m the type of person who likes to think they can do everything until eventually the exhaustion catches up to me and I just want to go into hibernation  for the next few months.  After taking on two jobs, school, and various Bible study group it became clear to me that I needed more free time.  This realization resulted in me deciding to take Tuesday’s off (unless I get called in to one of my jobs) and spending those Tuesday’s sleeping well into the afternoon and then loafing around the apartment not doing much of anything.

This brings us to this morning, which started off the same was as the past weeks have.  Yet, as I prepared to snooze a little longer I couldn’t help but think that this was not what I should be doing.  Somewhere between my hectic schedule and weekly snoozefests I lost myself.  I was going through the motions of life without really doing anything unique.  In taking on everything I should be doing, I gave up ever doing any of the things I wanted to be doing.  Tuesdays are the one day out of the entire week that I have to myself  to do whatever I desire, and here I’ve been letting them slip by.  This morning as I lied among some dangerously comfortable pillows with the promise of a new, beautiful day hiding behind my curtains I knew that it was time for a change.  I lost myself somewhere between the craziness of everyday life, and I was determined to find myself again.

I decided that I wanted to spend today doing all of the things I always tell myself I don’t have time to do.  I put on an extremely cute outfit for no particular reason.  I gathered my belongings and headed to my local Barnes & Noble for a change of weekday scenery.  It was there with the help of Taylor Swift and a delicious, free nonfat pumpkin spice latte (thanks Brittany!) that I was able to finish a lot of homework that would have otherwise ended up getting done at the last possible minute.  I could have done more, but I was determined to make today about doing what  I wanted to, not what I needed to.

I went to Target and bought new leggings, for no occasion or reason other than the fact that I wanted leggings.  Well, that and they were only eight dollars.  I came home, changed, put on more Taylor Swift, and decided to bake pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies for no particular reason (they taste better than they look, I promise).photo(2)

You better believe that I was singing and dancing around my kitchen in the process.

I repainted my nails.  I did the dishes.  I did all of the things I wanted to do but often found myself convinced that it just wasn’t a good use of my time.  Somewhere in all of this I found myself.  I found the joy in simplicity that I used to pride myself on.  Needless to say, I’m going to make an effort to make sure this is not a one time thing.

I think that it is so easy for us to get caught up in routine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love working and value my education, but I feel like when we let our schedules dictate our happiness we have forgotten what joy really is.  Especially for us ladies, there is so much preasure on us to be perfect.  Whether we strive to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, or maybe just the perfect person, we are all facing expectations placed on us by the world and even by ourselves.  It’s imporatnt that we allow ourselves time to simply do the things we want to do.  Because of today, I do believe that I am starting fall for a new favorite day of the week.

I realize that not everyone can take a day out of their work week to dedicate to themselves, but that’s okay.  Maybe it could be during the weekend. Perhaps it could even be half of a day per week, or a few days a month.

Regardless, I challenge you to do something this week that you have been wanting to do but have been telling yourself you are too busy to do.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  It can be something as simple as sipping a latte with your favorite music playing in the background.  Whatever it is though, I hope you are able to do it with happiness and contentment, knowing there is nothing else you want to do.

I hope that in this crazy journey called life, you are able to find your Tuesday.

Early Adulthood Doesn’t Come with Directions

At an early age we have the idea seeded into our mind that after high school there is a certain way we have to live our lives.  As you get older, that seed grows into a vine that twists about in different directions as you battle with what you want to do, and what you feel you are supposed to do.  My whole life I was an honor student and always had very good grades.  On top of that, I was heavily involved in a wide range of extra curricular activities.  In my mind I had my future all planned out.  I was going to graduate high school, go straight to a four year university, graduate from that university, get a job, and live happily ever after the way everyone does.  The way we are all told we’re supposed to.

The first wave of doubts came my senior year in high school.  One day my economics teacher was speaking to us about life after high school, which he referred to as “the real world”, and that was the first time I ever heard a teacher tell me that college isn’t for everybody.  I was so taken aback at what I was hearing.  He went on and on about how some people are meant to go directly into the work force, some to a junior college, some to a trait school, etc. and I thought surely he had to be in violation of some unwritten teacher code.  I remember sitting there trying to ignore him because I knew that I was going to go straight into a four year university, I had to. But in the back of my mind I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not I was doing the right thing.  However, soon after that class discussion I received my acceptance letter into California State University Fresno, and before I knew it I would be packing up my belongings and riding off into the horizon as I began this new and exciting chapter of my life.  My plan was finally falling into place.

Well, almost.

The next obstacles in my road map came the spring and summer before I was supposed to leave for college.  In March of 2012 I began working for the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team.  It was my dream summer job, and definitely was part of my plan.  What wasn’t part of my plan was that while working there I met and began dating the man that is now my fiancé.  That summer I also began an internship at an investment firm.  Now, it is important to understand that before I graduated high school I loved learning.  I looked forward to getting up each morning and filling my mind with knowledge.  It was always an exhilarating and empowering feeling for me.  I was good at school, plain and simple.  However, that summer I learned that there was actually something out there I loved more than going to school.  I loved going to work.  I loved it so much in fact, that I spent countless hours driving back and forth from Fresno and Modesto just so I could keep both of my jobs.  But still, I was under the illusion that I was going to be able to live out my perfect little plan.

But what about God’s plan?

My year at Fresno State was a miserable experience at the time, but in retrospect it was probably one of the most enlightening and wonderful learning experiences of them all.  My first couple months there I went through the motions of what I thought a college kid was supposed to be.  I went to all of my classes, partied on the weekends, lived off of fast food and top ramen, and on the outside seemed to be enjoying myself.  But after those first few months, it became harder and harder to convince myself that I was where I was supposed to be.  I only lived two hours away from home, but I had never felt more homesick in my life.  I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was completely head over heels in love, but to be honest, even if I hadn’t met Eddie I would have been unhappy.  I had spent so long trying to live according to my plan that I had never once stopped and thought about God’s plan for me.  I couldn’t sleep, I stopped going to class, and I spent most of my time locked in my room lying in bed and doing absolutely nothing.  I knew that I had made a mistake.  I knew what I needed to do was own up to it and transfer to my home city’s community college.  After a lot of prayer and consideration, I knew that was what I should have done all along.  But even after making this decision, I had my doubts.

Everyone is going to think I failed.

I was convinced that once people found out I was dropping out of Fresno State and moving back home that they were going to judge me.  That in their eyes, I was a failure.  Why is that?  Why is it that our whole lives we are told that there is only one right way to do things?  Teachers, parents, and even the media teach us that there is one way to do adulthood and that if we don’t do it that way, then we won’t succeed.  This couldn’t be more false.  I wish that there were more teachers like my senior year economics teacher.  I wish teachers and parents made it a point to tell us that we have options.  That yes, it is easier to get a job once you’ve gone through college, but that doesn’t mean that if you don’t go straight into a four year university that you are a failure.  If more people had told me this, then maybe I would have got it right the first time by going straight to a junior college and then transferring.  I don’t regret my experience in Fresno because I think that in a way, I learned a lot more than any college course could have taught me. 

In the sitcoms we watch we see the typical group of friends sitting around in their mid-twenties or thirties sharing witty banter over a couple beers or a cup of coffee. They, of course, have all gone through college and now have their careers, their lives, and everything else figured out.  How extremely misleading.  The fact is, that there is no wrong or right way to be an adult.  From a moral standpoint yes there are rights and wrongs, but as far as the big life decisions we make, it really should be different for everyone.  How extremely boring would it be if everyone went through adulthood the same exact way? Where would all the diversity be?

If you had told me three years ago that at the age of only nineteen I would have a permanent position as a client associate at a big financial firm, be engaged to the man of my dreams, and attending a junior college as opposed to a four year university I would have laughed in your face.  That wasn’t my plan.  But that’s just the thing.  When you turn 18 an instruction manual for the rest of your life doesn’t magically fall into your lap.  And no matter how perfect we think our plan for ourselves is, that’s not what life is all about.  Life is about God’s plan for us, and the moment that we are willing to give Him the control, we will see Him doing things in our lives we never even dreamed of.