These Four Things

My name is Stephanie Maria Martin.

I was born on June 11, 1994.

I have brown eyes and brown hair.

These are facts.  These are the things that I have always known to be true about myself and that will never change.  But beyond this, there is so much I have left to discover about who I am.

I don’t know what I will have for dinner next Tuesday.

I don’t know what my strengths are.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t know what my purpose in life is.

I don’t know when I’ll take my last breath.

There have been many days that I have found myself in tears over some of these facts.  I have a love-hate relationship with surprises, and uncertainty drains me.  One day I will think I have it all figured out, and then a split second later I realize how wrong I am.

It hasn’t taken me long to learn that I can do all the planning and worrying  that I want, but none of it will matter.  I can plan for the worst and hope for the best, but what good does that really do?  Realizing how little is under my control has been one of the hardest things for me to swallow.  I like to think that I live in present, yet sleepless nights and constant doubts prove otherwise.

There is indeed so much I don’t know about myself, and about the future. But there are some really important truths that, after a lot of time, I now know.

I am unique.

I have a purpose.

I am not a mistake.

I am so, so loved.

It took me far too long to realize these four things, and I’m not so sure that I always believe them to be true.  However, I know that while there is very little I can control, I can always choose to be happy.  I can choose to believe these things.  And that’s exactly what I will do.

I will repeat these truths to myself every day for as long as it takes for me to believe them, even if that means I will be doing it until the day I die.

And I hope that if you read this, you will do the same.

Because in a world that is constantly telling us who we should be, and as we constantly struggle to put the pieces together to figure out who we actually are, these four things will remain the same.

You are so loved.

-SM

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

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.

A Voiceless Generation

Today as I was scrolling through Facebook while killing some time before class I came across an article that sparked my interest.  I won’t say who wrote this article or what site it can be found on, as my goal is not to call anyone out or start any controversy, but I will say that after getting less than half way through it I was pretty disappointed.  The objective of this article was to advise young adults of mistakes they shouldn’t make in their 20’s.  Turning twenty this year, I thought that maybe I could learn something from this article.  To say I was wrong would be an understatement. 

There were a number of little things I disagreed with, but the one thing that really shocked me was when the author of the article stated that you should avoid falling in love in your twenties.  Here’s a sample of what I read:

Not only does it make you complacent with where you are in life, but it makes you boring.  When your business is at stake and your future is resting on your shoulders, the last thing you need is to be bogged down by an insecure lover rushing you home.

The author goes on to write about testing limits and how just because some of your friends are doing it, you shouldn’t fall into the “trap of a relationship”.  So I naturally jumped to three possible conclusions: 1.) This guy has had a really bad relationship, 2.)This guy watches too many sitcoms, or 3.) This guy just isn’t ready for a serious relationship. 

If the author of this article is not in a place in his life where he wants to settle down and have a serious relationship that’s totally okay.  Good for him!  However, what’s not okay is saying that if you fall in love in your 20’s you’re falling into a trap.  Curious to see if I was the only one that was bothered by this I skipped the rest of the article and read the comments, and saw I was not the only one who was less than satisfied with what looked to be a promising post.  A lot of the comments complained about it being sexist, which I guess in a way it could be, but my reason behind writing this post is not fueled by any feminist angst.  It runs just a bit deeper than that.

My parents got married when my dad was 24.  My in-laws got married when they were in their twenties.  My fiancé and I know plenty of couples who are married and in their twenties.  In fact, every Saturday night I attend a group that is exclusively for couples who are engaged or have been married seven years or less, and believe it or not a good number of these couples were married in their twenties.  You know what’s even crazier?  I’m engaged and I’m only nineteen!  So obviously, all of these relationships I’ve listed are boring and restrictive to one or both spouses, right?

Wrong.  So, very wrong. 

Not everyone should get married in their twenties.  Not everyone wants to get married in their twenties.  So they shouldn’t, and that’s okay.  But what isn’t okay is to write an article that attempts to act as a guideline for twenty-something’s everywhere.  In fact, it’s not okay to write anything that attempts to speak on behalf of anyone.  My concern isn’t just with this article alone, my concern is with my generation letting others speak for them.  Every day on Facebook I see at least one link to an article or blog post with a title along the lines of “10 things short girls hate”  or “8 questions people of mixed ethnicity are tired of hearing”.  People my about my age and younger gobble these things up, they can’t get enough of them.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else, because obviously I was reading this article about twenty year olds for something. Every time I see a post like this that I think I might relate to, I read it. Yet, I’ve found that while these articles can sometimes be entertaining, and on occasion have something I can relate to in them, more often than not I find myself disagreeing with the author. 

So why do we read this stuff?  The bottom line is that people like knowing that they are not alone.  We as individuals like knowing that there are people we can relate to and that our way of thinking isn’t totally wrong.  We need some type of reassurance, and these articles give us exactly the sense of belonging we’re looking for.  At first this isn’t really a problem, it’s perfectly natural.  But what we don’t realize (what I didn’t realize until about two hours ago) is that what these types of posts and articles do is allow someone else to speak for us.  And when we do that, we start to lose are sense of individuality and with that we lose our voice.  We see a post that kinda-sorta relates to us and are so quick to click like, share, reblog, etc. that we don’t even realize that we are letting someone else speak for us.  And this really boggles my mind because my generation, “Generation Y”, claims to be all about individuality and being different. On top of that, we are blessed with so much technology that allows us to do just that: to put our thoughts out there, give our opinions, and speak for ourselves. So why let someone else speak for us?

The author of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post is not a bad writer. I’m sure that a lot of people probably agree with the things he said. I’m not trying to say that he’s a bad person because he shared his opinion, I applaud him for that. What I want more than anything is for people to have the courage to speak for themselves. To open up and share their ideas and thoughts with the world in a way that is unique to them. Sure, it’s a lot more comfortable and way easier to sit back and let someone else do the talking for us. But do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be heard?