Identity · Personal Experiences

Third Decade

How do 29 years go by and feel like only 1? I’m sure people have been wondering this since the dawn of time, or at least since the measurement of time first began. And now here I am on my own simple journey through life, wondering the same thing.

Tomorrow I turn 30.

It’s surreal and bittersweet.

On the one hand, I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my life and already have a bunch of new goals and adventures I plan on investing in more fully now that I feel readier for them. On the other hand, others have been ready for these things far sooner than myself, didn’t lose an entire decade wandering aimlessly, and it’s a little hard for me not to consider the things I always imagined I would accomplish by now when I was still in the first and second decades of my life.

But I can’t go back and start over and change the outcome. I can only accept that this was my story of being in my 20s and no one else’s. I can only accept that the ups and downs and in betweens happened, choices were made, and I’m now entering my 30s a woman shaped by it all. I can only accept my story for what it is and move forward, resolved to becoming a better and stronger and happier person by the time I’m 39 and reflecting back on another decade of life gone by. Because even if my story isn’t as amazing or successful as some and even if there were a lot of lows that I wish there hadn’t been, I am a better and stronger and happier person than I was when I turned 20.

I have been low, I have been mean, I have been angry, I have been careless, I have been clueless, I have been lazy, I have been scared, I have been stupid, I have been blind, I have been lonely, but if there is anything that this past decade has shown me it’s that I’m brave, beautiful, capable, kind, gracious, loved and worth so much more than others over the years have wanted me to believe I am. I am resilient and I’m not listening to those voices anymore. I can’t because nothing they’ve said about me is true and the things I’ve said about myself when I believed them are not true. I’m not the person others want me to be. I’m not the person I thought I’d be. I’m just a person who is learning how to be less afraid of living her own life no matter the “messy bits”.

So on this last day of my 20s, I’ll admit that I’m overwhelmed.

I’m overwhelmed with a desire to make sure I tie up as many loose ends of this decade as possible – if it’s even possible.

I’m also overwhelmed with a sense of peace in regards to where I am, who I’ve become, how I’m changing, and what lies ahead.

Here’s to my twenties, may the memories last a life time.

Here’s to my thirties, may they thrive.

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Personal Experiences · To Do

6 Weeks Down, 12 To Go

Today marks the third-way point of my 18 week self-given challenge to focus on and improve aspects of my life as I approach 30.

So I figured it might be a good time to check-in so I can analyze my progress and hold myself accountable going into the next 6 weeks.

♥ Become a better blogger

Well, I’ve posted one other time over on my spiritual/life journey blog and I’ve started at least three or four other blog posts for this one, but every single time I start, I ask myself ‘what’s the point?’ and close the tab. Even if I overcome outside factors such as energy levels, general lack of interest, difficulty with putting my thoughts into words (brain fog, essentially), time constraints, etc. I still end up with the question of what’s the point?

Anything that I could write about has been written by someone else far better. I don’t have a niche, I don’t even lead a very interesting life – it’s essentially the same routine day in and day out with a little variance once in a blue moon; even that variance is usually mundane.

So I wonder why waste the little bit of time and energy I have on waxing philosophical about favorite characters, movies, and similar things? Again, when others out there are offering so much more than I can to any potential audience (not that writing is always about an audience, of course). Just because I could probably sit down and write post after post on Kathleen Kelly (You’ve Got Mail heroine) or The Lord of the Rings or any of my other eclectic (but basic) interests doesn’t mean I should.

I suppose this is the pessimistic attitude a lot of writers feel from time to time. Regardless if it’s blogging or writing a novel or anything else. I just happen to wonder frequently if my pessimism and lack of focus when it comes to blogging means I need to stop trying to fit a square block into a triangular hole.

 Improve my handwriting

Thanks to muscle pain – potentially repetitive stress or carpal tunnel from my job – this one has been on the back burner. I’ve mostly been experimenting, trying to find my favorite ways of forming letters in a way that I can keep consistent. I’ve also worked on paying better attention to trying to keep my arm loose and letting it come naturally. Lastly, I’ve been making myself write in a planner and make lists as a way for daily practice without overtaxing my already stressed limbs. I can honestly say I have seen an improvement (on the days I’m trying; some days I’m still like ‘forget this I’m going with shorthand chicken scratch’).

 Improve my fitness

My health and fitness has been my main focus over the past 6 weeks (well, a little longer than that of course!) since I figured that if there is only one thing to focus on in this challenge, it’s that. I got very complacent during the first half of this year when it comes to fitness and if there’s anything I’ve learned about my body it’s that the whole ‘you can eat at a deficit and lose weight without exercise’ thing doesn’t work for me.

Consistently in my life if I only eat at a deficit (tracking calories religiously), I can still gain – and not just a little but a lot as if I were overeating. But if I track my calories religiously (even on days I go over or my compulsive need to eat everything in sight rears its ugly head) AND work out at least an hour a day, I start to see the scale go down and other physical changes.

It’s exhausting that I have to do both. It sucks that I can’t do the average recommended 30 minutes a day. It sucks that I can’t be like my coworkers that can eat all the junk food and stay thin while if I eat at the minimum suggested 1200 calories (which I don’t because I feel like I’ll eat my own face when I do that regularly) I still gain.

It sucks, but when I started this challenge and started thinking about my future, turning 30, etc. I had to be honest with myself and realize no amount of pitying the poor hand I feel I was given is going to make things better. Either I have to accept that an hour minimum of exercise a day and treating caloric intake the same way I treat my bank account is the lifestyle I have to commit to and make room for in order to be fit* or else I need to stop whining about what isn’t going to change just because I don’t think it’s fair I have to put in a little (or a lot, depending on each person) more effort than others.

* I say fit because I also have to work on getting out of a shallow mindset of the number on the scale or the composition of my body on the outside being the sole determination of if I’m strong, eating right, etc. Obviously, when I workout that much each day, I may not look like a person who works out at all to those who can only see my weight, but I know that I feel better, walk faster, sleep better (okay marginally better lol), fill full faster, etc.  Just because the science of calorie in, calorie out dictates I should be losing approximately X pounds a week doesn’t mean it’ll happen. Recently, it took ten weeks of effort before my scale showed my weight loss, going up and down 2-4 pounds at a time before dropping 12 seemingly overnight. That was a good reminder to me that persistence even when nothing seems to be changing is what matters (this is true of other areas of my life!).

I won’t go into detail, but I also took the gallon of water a day challenge in July and I am ecstatic to say I’m never going back to drinking less than 100 oz of water a day (outside of extenuating circumstances of course). While a gallon is a little too much for my body on most days, I learned over the course of the challenge that averaging around 100 oz does wonders for my body. I just feel better in ways that are hard to explain, and this is speaking as someone who regularly drank the recommended 64 oz a day, sometimes getting closer to 75. In fact, the days that I only drank 64-75 oz I was just a little more blah and I retained water really bad.

 Pay extra on my student loan principal

So, I guess it counts on extra on my student loan principal that I paid off one loan entirely, right? Since $1200 of an almost $1300 balance was the principal rather than interest on it ahaha. I was lucky to get a on the spot type bonus that allowed me to pay it off. Otherwise I haven’t paid any extra on any of my other student loans yet, but I have been saving money back extra per paycheck with the aggressive goals of paying off one more loan before my birthday (happy birthday to me – y/n?) and then another one after that by the end of the year/beginning of January in order to have my minimum payment down by over a hundred dollars from what it was at the start of this year. So that’s sort of what this specific goal has shifted to instead (and if I have an extra five-ten dollars laying around at the end of each pay check, I may still put it on the principal of my largest sum/interest rate loan).

While it’s depressing laying down literally grands at a time instead of being able to use that same money for other things, I keep telling myself the more aggressive I am now, the faster my minimum payment will go down and the less of a hassle this will be in the future. A little discipline and sacrifice now, while I’m in a position where I can do this (since I don’t deny that privilege whatsoever!) without as many worries as there might be in the future, will give me breathing room in the future – e.g. lower minimum payment to budget for in addition to other bills.

Of the other goals: improve my Spanish, write a novella, practice better skin care, deal with my name issues, and develop better sleep habits, there’s nothing of much interest to report. I’m working on them, but my focus hasn’t quite been there as much.

 

Personal Experiences · To Do

18 Weeks

As of today there are exactly 18 weeks until I turn 30. It’s still a little hard for me to believe that I’m this close to such a (arguably?) milestone age. In 18 weeks I’ll never ever be in my twenties again. Wow.

But I’m looking forward to it. So much so, that thinking about it has helped me with my ongoing depression. It’s given me something concrete to focus on, to plan for.

So with 18 weeks left in the countdown, I’ve come up with 9 goals to focus my energy on for the rest of my twenties (/dramatic). 9 goals that I also have specific mini-goals/strategies for helping me achieve them.

Become a better blogger
Improve my handwriting
Improve my fitness
Pay extra on my student loan principal 
Improve my Spanish
Write a novella
Practice better skin care
Deal with my name issues more aggressively
Develop better sleep habits

I plan on making this list into a visual graphic and then making copies of it to have at home and at work so I can keep a literal eye on my goals. They say that you are more likely to achieve goals if you write them down, but you increase your chances of achieving them even more if you can see them regularly. This has proven true for me in the past so that’s why I’m utilizing this method again.

Also, I tend to do strangely well when I challenge myself with very specific goals. If someone else gives me a deadline, or task in general, it tends to fall on deaf ears until I go out of my way to break it down and then psych myself up. This was true as a kid when cleaning my room (I’d make a list of the things I needed to do and then work on just one thing at a time), it was true in college (and the only way I survived my last term) and it’s true as a worker (I make a list of the overall goals for the month and then at the end of the work day I make a list of the things I want/need to accomplish the next day). I feel more capable when I break it down like this and then challenge myself to prove what I can do.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to over do it only to make myself feel like a failure. That’s why I’ve used language such as improve or better for most of these. For example, I fully recognize that I’m not likely to be speaking Spanish perfectly or even understanding it perfectly when it’s spoken in 18 weeks unless I actually immerse myself in the language and culture. But I can work on it regularly so that I’m more capable of saying the basics without thinking too hard or developing my vocabulary so that I can read/recognize words without relying on my English/Spanish dictionary.

So, here’s to 18 weeks more and, hopefully, an improved life as I prepare for the next decade. Since once of those goals is to become a better blogger, I will definitely be checking in on my progress via posts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go read a bunch of silly posts about all the things a person should supposedly do before they’re 30. I’m pretty sure I’ll probably have accomplished very few of them!

Personal Experiences · writing

To Be A Writer, One Must Actually Write

Note: if you were following me for my faith-based posts, those have moved to another WordPress: All Things That Grow. Also, apologies for lack of replies to the comments on my Doris Day post. Depression hit hard, but I will try to get to those shortly.

Some time during my second college degree, I stopped writing. Original fiction. Poetry. Songs. Fanfiction. I just stopped. Insecure and depressed and more, I stopped. A few years ago I started writing fanfiction again, but I kept it to myself. Then, I started publishing some of my fanfiction again and have been doing that again for going on two years. I get a lot of wonderful feedback, including comments insisting I work on my own material for publication (some from people actually in the industry which boggles my mind). In spite of that, I have remained largely insecure and have let that – and my ongoing depression – prevent me from trying my hand at original fic on a serious level. I’ll start to write, nothing will happen, and I’ll skitter back to fanfiction where it all comes much easier to me (which I guess makes sense seeing as the heavy lifting has been done and I adore the characters I’m working with most of the time).

It’s time for that to change.

Now that I’ve settled on a pen name that I adore, and now that I’ve been looking at some long term goals I have for the next two years, including moving to a new place while juggling student debt on my current salary (that whopping 2,000 dollar lump payment on one of my loans I just made has me seeing a few stars), I realize it’s time to stop hem-hawing and start creating content. Even if it’s like throwing darts at a dartboard and I end up with a whole lot of nothing before I end up with something, it’s like that old motivational poster: You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. I can’t be a writer if I never write.

So, a couple days ago, I opened up a new package of loose leaf paper – God knows I have more than enough laying around my room – and started drafting a story idea that’s been in the back of my mind (originally intended as an au fanfic in one of the fandoms I’m in) for about six months.

This is horrible, extremely rough, sure, but I know if I don’t share it I won’t stay motivated. So, I present you with the initial draft first section of what will hopefully be the first completed original fic I’ve written since college.

And I’d like to dedicate this little post to Simoa, whose perseverance as a writer has inspired me and made me dare to try again ♥

Continue reading “To Be A Writer, One Must Actually Write”

Mental/Emotional Health · Personal Experiences · To Do

To Do: March

Nine days into March, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to outline some goals I have for the month.

March, in the past, has always been a difficult month for me. It’s a month where depression either tries to sink it’s claws in deeper following some January and February lows or it’s a month where I start to climb out of January and February funk only to fall back down harder. Thus, I’m trying to be as proactive as I can at the moment. Staying on top of things. Avoiding triggers. Not stressing too much. Taking steps back from things. Focusing on healthy habits. So on. So forth.

Thus some goals I’ve set for myself in 5 key areas are as follows:

Health

I’ve let myself get lax with my walking and general physicality thanks to 1. winter and 2. emotional health. So I’m currently in the middle of a 2 week restart, getting myself back up to walking 10,000 steps (at least) a day. I’m doing this by using this guide from MyFitnessPal. I’m utilizing the off-the-couch one since even though I used to be able to walk/jog 3 miles a day, my body quite literally feels like it’s back to square one so I’m just going to ease into is as if I am. Today was day 5, so I walked 5,000 steps today! Half way there! But, boy, oh boy, was it a doozy. I don’t work in at a place where I feel comfortable getting up and walking (although many of my coworkers do so maybe a later goal is to deal with my insecurity in this respect), so finding a way to squeeze in more and more steps has been a challenge. If the weather were nicer, it would be no problem, as I can walk a nearby trail after work. So I’m thinking I’ll need to readjust my typical daily schedule to fit in logging some minutes on the treadmill – which is a bonus since I’ve been trying to get myself to use it more!

Spirituality

I’m not Catholic, but I during this season of Lent – and thanks to the inspiration of Simoa – I am trying to spend my Friday’s separating myself from the things that I tend to give too much time to or fixate on which for me is negative media (like social media, news, etc.) and writing fanfiction. The latter one may sound silly, but I sometimes find myself writing 10,000+ words a week and latching onto unhealthy behaviors with it (like writing instead of sleeping, not wanting to do work around the house because I’m writing, obsessing over updating, not focusing on my own original stuff which would probably be of more merit, etc.). While fanfiction is an outlet for me to let the pent up creative energy flow, sometimes I need to reel it in or find multiple ways to release that energy instead of “stemming” so much with it.  On Fridays throughout this season, I will be spending as much of the day as I can focusing on prayer, meditation, etc. I feel like this is especially needed right now as I’ve been so disengaged spiritually due to fatigue from the election and my ongoing break away from Evangelicalism.

Social

This is a huge trigger point for me so I’m simply trying to stay positive and not put any undue pressure on myself. Updating this blog alone is quite the exercise in itself. My goal is pretty much the same as it always is: engaging without getting stuck inside my head. I typically engage and then stress out over it after it’s done or stress out prior to engaging or stress out when it feels like nobody wants to engage with me.

Self-Improvement

I really do want/need to start working on my own original fiction writing again. So even if I have to pull a few teeth in the process, my goal is to write at least 5000 words, be it a short story,  a few short stories, some outlines or something of a greater work. 5000 words. If only I knew where to begin. Sigh. I have another post about this topic coming soon.

Interests/Hobbies

I haven’t been reading much lately and I really want to get back in the habit of it. So I may pick up a few quick (guilty pleasure, campy) reads from the Amazon Kindle store to read this month which will also get me back on track with my Goodreads goal for 2017!

Identity · Personal Experiences

What’s In A Name?

My stomach fluttered with nervous energy as I waited in line to order my grande white hot chocolate. When the time came I gave the desired drink order with well-practiced ease, but took a deep breath in as I awaited the barista’s inevitable question: What is the name for the order? For the first time in my entire history of going to Starbucks I didn’t talk myself out of giving a fake name. And to my delight I got a positive response of, “Oh, what a pretty name.” For a few short moments I was able to be the person I’ve always wanted to be – that is, someone with a different name.

Now, this is no uncommon thing for people to do at a Starbucks. You get all sorts of funny or outlandish stories regarding fake names given out, such as character names or the recent hullabaloo of people giving out the name of the current U.S. President. But for me, and for others who have been in my position, it’s about something more than just a little fun. It’s genuinely about identity.

In fact, I got this idea quite a while back from a forum of people discussing adult name changes. Someone suggested using Starbucks as a tool (just one of many, mind you) to help a person considering a name change, in that he or she can give the desired name when asked and then hear what it sounds like/feels like when called. Seeing as I have a short list of different names I would love to find the nerve to legally change to, I thought why not? Only, I chickened out far too many times prior to the experience described above.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I won’t be heading to the local courts Monday morning now that I’ve finally managed to give a fake name at Starbucks, but it was definitely an enjoyable moment of “what if” while it also gave me quite a bit to reflect on.

The biggest thing is that the name I gave was immediately deemed pretty by the barista. I can guarantee you that this has never, ever once happened to me with my real name and I’m not entirely sure it’s a common thing at all, really. Which is precisely one of the reasons I’m not sure I’d change my name to my most desired name if given the chance.

On the one hand I fully recognize that my desired name would probably be considered pretentious by others since it’s not common for women, to my knowledge, of my age group and since it would be a legal name change to said name, making it seem like I was trying to brand myself as something I’m not (in this case, elegant or pretty). On the other hand, I fully recognize that all of my desired names have been chosen to some extent because, thanks to ingrained social cues, they sound more elegant or pretty to my ears and I do long to have that sort of pride in my name – which in turn could mean I’m just inherently pretentious and that criticism is valid. (That’s not to say that I don’t consider a lot of names, some others deem plain, pretty because I do!)

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other would still smell as sweet.

But is it true? Artists change their names – even if not legally – on a regular basis so as to stand out or to be brand-able. Even writers face the daunting task of selecting pen names that will give them a boost in the market. Consider Potentilla, also known as Cinquefoil, which is part of the rose family. You don’t hear a lot of children with either of those names, but you do hear Rose. You don’t buy a dozen Potentilla for Valentine’s Day. You don’t stop and smell the cinquefoils. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do those things, for what it’s worth, but we generally accept that Rose is the pretty name of a pretty flower that we give to our lovely little girls.

The fact is, names seem to be quite powerful things once given. If they weren’t people wouldn’t have the need to care one way or another. We wouldn’t link names to gender for one thing, and for another we wouldn’t make rash judgments based on names. If the way society-at-large viewed names was as simply markers for people to know us formally by then a barista wouldn’t even make comment one way or another on the prettiness of a name nor would we be talking about the Oscar prospects of Meryl Streep rather of Mary Streep.

So, no, I don’t think it’s true. Should it be true? Probably. But be it given names, chosen names, nicknames or else, names are a big part of our society and culture. And we seem to make a very big deal about them in general beyond just how they roll off the tongue, how they’re spelled, etc.

We tell daughters they should automatically take the last name of their father and then husband later if they should marry a man. We tell sons they should take their father’s last name to pass along to his wife/children. In fact, in modern Western society, all of us are given names at birth 1. without any choice in the matter and 2. before anything is known about us and whether or not we do, we are at least expected to hold onto those names as an identity for the rest of our lives regardless of if they’re practical, professional, or otherwise. Consider that even in cases of adoption, parents often change their child’s name, further emphasizing the purpose of names as an identity given to us from our parents.

I’m not saying necessarily that this is a bad thing or that we should just call children by their social security numbers until they’re old enough to have some say in the matter. I’d go as far as to say I doubt most people even share my sort of fixation, or complex, on this matter. And those who do typically seem to have similar negative experiences with their name that stem from childhood. That said, it may be better if we weren’t so rigid with names.

The reason I haven’t changed my name legally is because I’ve met with resistance. I’ve met with the likes of: Wouldn’t that be weird? How do your parents feel about that? I’d hate it if my child changed his/her name after the time I put into picking it. I like your name, why don’t you? It’s just a name.

It’s just a name and yet we make such a big deal about it if someone decides it’s really just a name and thus changes it. It’s just a name and yet artists change their names so that we’ll notice them better. It’s just a name and yet one is considered plain, another is considered old-fashioned, and then some are considered trendy. It’s just a name and yet we say some are suited for biological males and others for biological females. Then, to muddy the waters further, we designate some as unisex even if we don’t actually reserve them for intersex children the way we try to reserve boy names for boys and girl names for girls (ignoring feminism-based trends of calling girls with traditionally male names like James, John, Mike, Pat, etc.).

It’s just a name and yet a barista at Starbucks was struck enough by one to offer me an undue compliment over it.

True, a name is not the end-all of an identity, and I would hazard that I have a lot of other identity issues to work through that wouldn’t be fixed by the superficial change of what I’m legally allowed to call myself, but I quite seriously question that we have no right to consider the role our name does play in our identity and in how that identity is received by other people. In a perfect world we could name a son Rebecca and a daughter Joseph and they would never have to face any kind of backlash or undue scrutiny regarding their character.We just don’t live in that perfect world yet.