“Behold, I am making all things new. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”
About a decade ago, as my ninth grade self was climbing onto the school bus one September morning, something in my brain started to feel wrong.
I didn’t have words for it at the time. I didn’t know much about mental health and wasn’t familiar with concepts like anxiety or self-talk or intrusive thinking. All I knew was that my mind latched onto one particular fear and wouldn’t let go, and it changed everything.
Over time the fears grew until they crowded everything else out, and before long I began to wonder if I was crazy. I didn’t know how to explain what I was going through to people, so I didn’t. For a long time it only came out in journal entries and bursts of anger and floods of tears behind closed doors. It came out in strange and ugly ways, ways that kept people at arm’s length or drew them a little too close for comfort. Throughout all of it I knew something was deeply wrong, but I just kept hoping it would eventually fix itself.
2014 was a breaking point. That was the year I started attempting to put words to the silent battle I'd been fighting. I began to name the fears, to speak the thoughts aloud, and to declare truth over the lies. I began to open up and start talking about it, first with new friends and then with old. I began to realize my story was unique but not exclusive, that a lot of other people had their own versions of crazy. I began to claim the Lord’s promises of freedom and victory over what felt like an impossible war with myself. I read the verse “perfect love casts out fear” and chose to believe it even when I didn’t feel it.
Fast forward through the next five years. If 2009 was the year I cracked and 2014 was the year I broke, then 2019 is the year I healed.
Not fully. Not perfectly.
But it is the closest I’ve felt to being whole since that September morning ten years ago. It’s taken a lot of prayer, a lot of courage, a lot of counseling, a lot of breakdowns. It’s required choosing to seek help, even when it meant opening my mouth and stumbling over my words or owning the ways I hurt people in my mess.
I’ll end it by saying this: The past ten years have been painful. It’s hard to look back on what were supposed to be my “glory years” and feel like so much of it, even the good stuff (and there was a LOT of good stuff), was overshadowed by this inner suffering. It’s hard not to dwell on the what if's, to mourn the experiences I might have had or the relationships I might have better cultivated if I hadn’t been held captive by fear for so long.
The past ten years have also been incredibly beautiful. I have seen redemption play out in my own life in a way that has drawn me so much closer to Jesus, something a painless existence could never do. I have been given opportunities to share my story, even while it was still being written, and to see tears in the eyes of people who heard it and who get it. I have walked through a period of deep and suffocating darkness, and this has made living in the light that much sweeter.
At the end of it all, I walk into the end of this decade better knowing my Healer: the one whose heart beats loud and strong for me. It does for you, too, my friend. Do you hear it?
Happy New Year, and may the next ten bring healing wherever it's needed for you.
all glory to Him,
Back in my grade school days, the Back to School blues hit me hard. I fell into a low grade seasonal depression every September, mourning the lackadaisical freedom of the prior two and a half months. For me, the excitement of a new classroom lasted only the first week and a half, and then came a slow but sure slump into boredom. By mid-October I was X'ing off the calendar days until Thanksgiving break.
Not so as an adult.
This year, the Back to School season brought with it a deep, calming breath that I didn't realize I needed in the middle of summer's chaos. A mostly good chaos, yes, made up of work and family events and volunteering and more family events and more work... but chaos nonetheless. I've never been one to thrive in chaos. I like structure in my schedule, a solid idea of what each day will bring with just enough room for spontaneity here and there. My introverted soul needs time to rest, to reflect, to figure out what's working and what's not so I can make the appropriate changes. (This is a skill I've only just started to learn in my mid-twenties, so don't lose hope if you're still figuring this out for yourself!)
Plus, I was over 99% humidity on 90 degree days.
So if nothing else, 2019 has redeemed September for me. No small feat for a month that used to be associated with crying over math homework.
writing: I had two articles published this month! Yay! What's even cooler is that I wrote them for organizations that have a lot of personal meaning to me. (Changing Libraries and Significance in the Smallness, in case you're interested.)
reading: I'm currently in between books, but I just finished The Librarian of Auschwitz and it was just as heart-wrenching as the title sounds... but with a note of hopefulness woven throughout. It was originally in Spanish and I found the translation to be a little awkward, but I still highly recommend.
watching: I went to see Scary Stories in the Dark in theaters, and it was actually less scary than my memory of reading the stories in a friend's treehouse. Specifically "Harold." #ifyouknowyouknow
listening: My "in and out" workout playlist because I'm running my first 5k in a little less than three weeks!
eating: Just enjoyed a traditional Hungarian dish of pörkölt (beef stew) over nokedli (egg noodle dumplings) made by my mama :)
drinking: Starbucks' Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew
Even though it's been over two months since my last update, I'm keeping this one short and sweet. So far summer twenty nineteen has been 45% traveling, 45% work, and 10% trying to stay afloat (no pun intended, in reference to the above photo). The library's summer reading program is winding down and I'm looking forward to settling into a more consistent routine next month. This might be the first time that I'm genuinely okay (maybe even excited) about summer coming to a close.
Does this mean I'm a real adult now?
reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (finished it about a week ago and highly, HIGHLY recommend to both intro- and extroverts alike)
watching: any and all interviews featuring Jake Gyllenhaal because that man is off the WALLS and I love it
listening: Happiness Begins by the Jonas Brothers (are we in 2019 or 2008? I don't know and I don't care)
eating: Panera Bread -- the ultimate comfort food imho
drinking: black tea with honey and lemon
playing: I haven't had much time to game recently but I've been itching to replay Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door in celebration of its fifteen birthday last month! (speaking of which: #RemasterTheThousandYearDoor)
So May is already halfway over, which means I'm almost a month into being twenty-five. How did that happen? Work has been busy as the library gears up for its annual summer reading program, the theme of which is "A Universe of Stories" (coming soon to a local library near you!) To free up the time I'm not working, volunteering, or attending family events ('tis the season for bridal/baby showers and grad parties galore), I decided to attempt ~Media Free May~ again. I did it last year and it led to a five month Instagram fast that ended up being one of the best things I've ever done for myself. This year's attempt hasn't been quite as successful, partly due to the fact that my job involves curating the library's social media presence so I can't 100% abstain from Facebook and the 'gram, but for the most part I've been faithful and have been generally more productive now that "mindless scroll" is no longer an entertainment option.
Unfortunately the creative well has been pretty dry this month, mostly because my creative juices have been drained into planning programs and coming up with weekly activities and crafts for storytime. I did have the opportunity to do some copy editing for a couple friends' websites recently. One is a blogger who researches and photographs abandoned buildings and one is an incredible violinist in the D.C./Baltimore/Newark area. Check them out!
In other news, I've kinda-sorta taken up running again. What this means is about two to three times a week I lace up my neon Nikes, swallow the bundle of nerves that always precedes physical exercise, and spend the next twenty to thirty-five minutes alternating between a walk, a light jog, and something that can probably be qualified as running along the cornfield-lined streets of my neighborhood.
For those of you who don't know, I ran long distance for one season of track my junior year of high school. It was simultaneously one of the best/worst experiences of my young life. Best, because being part of such a supportive and encouraging team was healing in ways I didn't know I needed and because it taught me that my body and mind are capable of more than I ever thought possible. Worst, because I quickly discovered that I hated the actual sport. I was on the verge of tears before almost every race (and some practices) and I spent an ample chunk of time in the guidance office, processing my anxiety with the poor counselor who couldn't understand why I didn't just quit. I didn't understand it, either, but there was something inside that just kept pushing me forward in spite of the dread I woke up with every morning.
Needless to say I didn't do track again after that year, but ever since then I've gone through periods where I pick running back up again. My most recent goal is to run three miles straight. That's it. It doesn't have to be fast and it doesn't have to be in a race setting, but I want to be able to do it. Honestly, I don't know what it is that keeps drawing me back to it. Probably the moment at the end of each run when I stand breathless and sweaty in my driveway, enjoying the satisfaction of having done something uncomfortable but good for me. Endorphins help too.
reading: digital minimalism by cal newport and a wind in the door by madeleine l'engle
watching: the x-men movies! for the first time in my life! i don't know why it took this long but my cousin made me start (which is only fair because i took it upon myself to convert her into a marvel fan around this time last year) and now i'm hype for dark phoenix.
listening: my workout playlist - 90% the spiderman: into the spider-verse soundtrack, 5% ariana grande, 4.5% other, and .05% "he lives in you" from the lion king ii because no one can convince me that song is not about the holy spirit living inside of you and it makes me feel empowered as heck
eating: quinoa because it's a magical grain that can feed you for an entire week if you do it right
playing: does zombies run count as a game? it's a couch to 5k-esque running app, but in a post-apocalyptic setting with british voices cheering you on the entire time. which is much more motivating to listen to than the sound of my own labored breathing for thirty minutes.
Since April is my birth month and this year is the big quarter century (!!), I'm changing it up from the usual structure of these posts to share 25 things my twenties (the first half of them, anyway) have taught me. Shout out to T-Swift for the inspiration.
1. That first year of post-undergrad can be a rough one, especially if you don't go right into grad school or live in a city full of people your age. Life will probably be lonelier and possibly more boring than you expected.
2. Check to make sure your license has been renewed before you humiliate yourself by being bounced from a bar on your twenty-first birthday.
3. It's really important to learn how to navigate conflict before unaired grievances and passive aggressiveness slowly whittle away at all of your relationships. Repeat after me: HEALTHY CONFRONTATION IS YOUR FRIEND.
4. Once you hit twenty-three, staying up until 3 a.m. suddenly won't seem so appealing anymore.
5. Neither will downing an entire bag of your candy of choice in one sitting. (Well, it might, but just give it half an hour and then the only candy you'll want are those tropical flavored Tums.)
6. Twenty-four is a strange age to be. Expect to feel confused and maybe a little sad that year, especially if your life doesn't look like what your fourteen-year-old self imagined it would.
7. No one is too crazy (or not crazy enough) to benefit from counseling.
8. If you're having a down day, vitamin D and a long walk work wonders. Also, never be afraid to phone a friend.
9. If you think that hitting a certain number on the scale or looking a certain way in the mirror will magically fix your self-confidence issues, I promise you it won't.
10. However true the above statement may be, taking care of your body (read: feeding it with colorful foods and moving it in the way you enjoy most) is one of the best forms of self-compassion there is.
11. Social media breaks are one of the best things you can do for your soul, especially if you're in a season where you're struggling to find contentment in your circumstances.
12. That being said, logging off of Instagram won't instantly make said circumstances better. You need to find life-giving activities (i.e. spending real world time with people you love, traveling, reading, making art, writing letters, cooking/baking, de-cluttering, etc.) to replace those hours of scrolling.
13. THAT being said, social media is not the enemy. It is a tool that, just like any tool, you need to learn how to wield properly in order to get the best use out of it. Try to look at it as a means of encouraging, connecting with, and learning new things from others - rather than as a measurement of your own worth/value based on arbitrary numbers of likes, views and followers - and you will find the (moderated amount of) time you do spend on it be much more enjoyable.
14. Even after high school, life never really stops feeling like a popularity contest. The good thing is you're not required to participate. Find your people and hold them close.
15. You can't force someone to be your friend. You can send the first text, extend the first invitation, offer the first compliment, etc. and hope for the best, but recognize where your responsibility ends and where theirs begins. Try not to get hung up on someone who isn't willing to invest in a relationship with you when there's a good chance there are plenty of other people who are.
16. Speaking of relationships: if you're twenty-five and you're not currently in one, there are going to be days when you cherish your singleness and other days when you resent it with your entire being. If today happens to be the latter, it's okay to break up with Facebook for a little bit until you reign in that raging pity party.
17. Don't run from your feelings.
18. Don't camp out in them, either. Accept them, embrace them for an appropriate amount of time, and then do your best to move on from them. (Disclaimer: this is in no way an attempt to invalidate real mental health struggles!! Please see #7.)
19. I have two words for you: thrift stores.
20. I'm gonna go Marie Kondo on you for a second to emphasize that, in my own experience, less truly is more. If you're feeling weighed down emotionally, take a look at the things surrounding you physically and spend some time narrowing them down to only the ones that (in the words of my girl) "spark joy" in your heart.
21. Marie Kondo probably wouldn't approve of this next point, but reading old letters and journal entries is a form of therapy like no other. So maybe don't throw those out.
22. Sometimes we make friends for life and sometimes we make them for a season. The people who are going to stick it out for the long haul will reveal themselves over time (hint: your mom is probably one of them.) Once they do, don't ever take them for granted.
23. That being said, people can be surprising. Forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation are real things, so never fully give up on a (non-abusive) relationship.
24. Just take the dang photo.
25. Jesus is real and he'll change your life if you let him. For the record, this process usually involves humbling you by showing you the worst parts of yourself that he somehow chooses to love anyway, so be prepared for that.
That's all, folks!
Happy March! The past few days of sunshine here in southeastern Pennsylvania have been a tease for my soul; my body is beyond ready for steady springtime warmth. (Although let's be real, that's not really a thing in this corner of the country. April showers bring May flowers, amirite?) Between working a bunch at the library (highlight: our Dr. Seuss themed Books & Breakfast party featuring neon colored pancakes) and having my How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Captain Marvel film reviews published for the pop culture/entertainment website Dork Daily, it's been quite the month. I have a couple of more personal pieces in the works that I'll hopefully be able to share here very soon, so keep your eyes open for those.
Quick library plug: I've been brushing up on my bilingual skills by taking Mango's Spanish for Librarians course (which I can access for free through my public library system's website), and I forgot just how much I enjoy learning a new language! It's truly amazing how many resources libraries offer, and what's more amazing is that they that often remained untapped by the public due to pure unawareness. See what's available at yours today!
me/my family members: "how was running the 800?" [a race that involves running two laps around the track - a half mile - straight]
brother #1: "it was fun!"
brother #2: "ever feel like you have blood in your throat?"
reading: placemaker by christie purifoy (a local author who frequents the library where I work!)
watching: jane the virgin - just finished a crucial episode in the middle of season 3 and I am shook to the core.
listening: imagine dragons' new album origins on repeat
eating: TRADER JOE'S COOKIE BUTTER
drinking: black coffee (I know, Whole30 changed me.)
playing: still kingdom hearts; unfortunately it's slid down the priority list in the busyness of the past month but I'm determined to start kingdom hearts 3 by the end of this year so we need to step it up
We're almost two full months into 2019 and already it's been a whirlwind. There isn't much to share in the way of life updates, but I did have a pretty rockin' girls weekend in New York City last month (see above picture) so that's something. Right now my time is split between the library and pursuing creative endeavors on the side, which includes watching boatloads of free online tutorials for the Adobe Creative Cloud. One of my goals for this year is to be proficient in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. I took a digital media class in college that taught us the basics of Premiere and I have some experience with InDesign from my publishing internship, but other than that I'm clueless. Anyone with experience in these programs, feel free to send recommendations my way. Enjoy the last seven days of February!
reading: finish by jon acuff, the books of Hebrews and Leviticus
watching: friends (mark my words, this WILL be the year I finish the show in its entirety)
listening: a lot of hymns and a little bit of ariana grande
eating: anything that doesn't contain dairy, gluten, sugar (besides fruit), rice, beans, lentils, legumes, alcohol, or anything processed. so basically a whole lot of sweet potatoes. yay whole30!
drinking: kombucha since it's one of the few whole30 compliant beverages
playing: kingdom hearts
A quick summary of 2017 to date: I painted my bedroom Lost Atlantis blue. I started relearning piano and can now play the first half of "Go the Distance" from Hercules. I read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which are vastly different but equally fantastic. I sent handwritten letters to friends and ordered cute, unnecessary things from Etsy and Disney. I continued the process of decluttering my life (aka digging through the mountains of school papers, art projects, and various creative pieces I've saved since childhood) and stumbled upon the above picture that a) made me realize my interests haven't changed all that much since 2002, and b) rekindled my love for Paper Mario. I attempted to go dairy and social media free for Lent, one of which has been successful (hint: the one that forbids me from eating cheese and chocolate has not). I worked on a couple of personal writing endeavors, including submitting a short story to a fan zine and having it published (!) I shelved lots of books and taught a few students and probably spent too much on caffeinated drinks.
...Yup, that about sums it up for me! What new and exciting things have you tried this year?
"A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner - continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you - is a fine art, in and of itself."
Elizabeth Gilbert || Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear