Life Lately: What I’m Thankful For

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Hey, guys. It’s been a while. If you think I didn’t notice, believe me: I did. But sometimes, you can have grand plans for things — like this blog — and life will just get in the way. That’s certainly what happened on my end. I have a plethora of saved blog posts, series I planned to launch, and a schedule I had hoped to keep to.

And then, well, life just got too busy.

But you know what? That’s okay. 

It’s something I’ve had to preach to myself often during this blogging journey. I find myself frustrated that I, quite frankly, haven’t made the time to get this little platform of mine to where I’d love for it to be. But then I remember that the reason I haven’t been as diligent about setting aside time for the blog is because I’ve been so busy doing other things, things that I’ve deemed as a bigger priority. All year, I’ve been trying to focus on balancing what’s work and what’s fun, what’s necessary and what’s a bonus, what’s rewarding and what’s stressful. I never wanted to look at this blog as a job, something I had to do. So, yes, sometimes, that will mean I disappear for a month. It means I’m not quite so good at that blogging planner my best friend bought for me. It means I won’t post as much on Instagram.

That’s perfectly, 100% okay.

So anyways. Long rambling reasoning for my temporary absence aside, here I am.

It’s Sunday morning, and it’s a little chilly outside, at least for Arizona. I haven’t opened the windows yet, at least. The tree outside our apartment is finally shedding some leaves and turning a proper orange; I’m loving it. Currently, I have a pumpkin candle lit and some pumpkin creamer in my coffee. It’s finally feeling like fall.

So, naturally, I decorated for Christmas last night.

Before you all jump on me with “it’s too early!” or “Thanksgiving first!” — I just gave you all examples of how the pumpkins have decidedly not left yet. I just added some Santas and a Christmas tree to the bunch.

Needless to say, the holidays are my favorite time of year. Christmas is my number-one favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second. Partly because I always go home. Partly because there’s stuffing and mashed potatoes. Mostly because it gives me a chance to look back and reflect on what I’m most thankful for this year.

This year, I’m thankful for the little lessons.

I’m thankful for the growing pains. It’s been a year of transition in some ways. The boy is hard at work studying for the CPA exam, and at some times, that’s been a little taxing on both of us. On top of it, there’s definitely been moments when I’ve unfairly taken my own stress out on him, whether that’s with snippy words or general disinterest. But we’ve continued to learn and grow through the more challenging seasons, and in the end, we’re learning to love each other better. I know this is a natural progression of a relationship, and I know that we are stronger for it. For that, I’m ever so thankful.

I’m thankful for distance. I won’t lie — it’s hard to have your best friend live several states away. It’s hard to not be near the majority of your family. There are times I wish I could just show up at my Grammie’s house, or call up the Shining Twin and demand a chips and salsa-fueled Friends marathon. But as I get older, I realize that there’s a level of effort that goes into maintaining relationships over distance. This is something I used to take for granted, especially when it comes to my family. Yes, family will always be there, but you’ve got to work at it like any other relationship. I like to think I’m getting better at managing the distance. Who knows if that’s true? But I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

(And, of course, this isn’t to discount my friends & family that are here. I’m of course so thankful for the immediate family that is nearby; not everyone’s so lucky to have their parents, siblings and brand-new niece less than 30 minutes away.)

I’m thankful for stress. This sounds weird, I know. But I mean it more of this way: I’m thankful to have a job I care so much about to be so stressed about sometimes. Granted, it’s not always stressful. It’s less often stressful than it is not, really. But there are certainly times, as with anything we care about, where pressure mounts — whether that’s to hit a deadline, to prove you can do it, or just to get the job done. However, I do think that a lot of my own pressure is self-inflicted, and I know for a fact that I do it because I want to excel in this position I love so much. Ultimately, that’s a wonderful thing.

Three simple things, and three big lessons I’ve learned this year.

So while I do apologize for not being as consistent with this blog as I might ideally like to be, I don’t apologize for the reason behind it. I don’t apologize for learning to be more present when I need to be, I don’t apologize for spending more time Facetiming than doing Instagram photoshoots, I don’t apologize for setting aside my side hustle for my main one. Life is about prioritizing sometimes, and in different seasons, different things will be important.

This blog is still my outlet, and I hope to have more time to devote to it once life calms down a little. For those who are hanging in there: thank you. I’m endlessly thankful for you, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

4 Goals for 24

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The older I get, the more I frown upon the idea of resolutions. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary pressure that stems from the concept of a resolution, this gigantic thing that you have to do in a set time period. Don’t get me wrong: I respect the concept, and I know that for some people, it works really well.

It’s just not my thing.

I am, however, a big fan of goal setting. Now, I realize that some may argue that this is essentially the same thing as a resolution, and to that, I beg to differ, and I offer this counterargument: resolutions are measured by whether or not they are accomplished, whereas goals are measured by how much you have accomplished towards it. Say you set a goal to save 500 dollars, and you only save 430… you’ve still saved 430 dollars, and that’s still a pretty darn good accomplishment.

I’ll admit that perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective, but that’s how I like to look at it.

Perhaps the other reason I am not so much a fan of resolutions is because I’m not a big fan of New Years. Beyond its overhyped expectations, I guess I also never really saw January 1 as the start of a personal new year. I’ve always considered my birthday more of a time for reflection and goal setting, as opposed to the arbitrary day that the calendar changes.

So, that said, it’s time to set some goals because, in case you missed it, my birthday just passed (and if you somehow did miss that, you must be new… and in that case, welcome!)

Once upon a time, I set goals based on how I old I turned, but the older I get, the more ridiculous that sounds. I doubt I’ll want to set 98 goals when that time comes.

So, this year, I’m instating a new system, a set of goals based on four key areas in life:

Professional. Projects. Personal. Physical.

And, yes, before you ask, I did intentionally start them all with the letter P. I’m a big fan of alliteration, okay?

Professionally, I want to continue on the same track that I like to think I have been heading. Admittedly, this is the goal I am probably least public about, at least over here on the blogosphere, because those worlds are somewhat and intentionally separate. So for now, I’ll go ahead and leave it at that.

As far as projects are concerned, I want to grow this blog of mine. I’d like to put the effort in and reach one thousand Instagram followers and continue to share a message of balance between faith & life for anyone who’s interested.

Personally, I want to work on my relationship with the Lord. I’ll admit that I have fallen into a pattern of leaning on Him when things get tough, and pulling away when all is going well. That’s an unfair give and take, and that’s not how He wants us to be with Him. He wants all of us, all the time, and I recognize that – it’s just so easy to unintentionally credit your idols when life is going well. So I’m setting a goal to be more proactive and intentional about my time with the Lord in order to further strengthen that foundation.

And when it comes to physical goals, I’m a bit of a broken record. I still haven’t run my first race, and it’s still a bucket-list item. I know I physically can run a 5K – I do it regularly on a treadmill. For whatever reason, though, I’ve always held back when it comes to actually putting on a number. This year, that changes.

Four goals. Four main buckets, if you will, where there’s room for improvement.

Then again, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there? We can always work on being better versions of ourselves, and whether it’s a birthday or a new year, or you’re one of those lucky people who is motivated to evaluate their goals and progress without a calendar reminder, it’s important to set a course for what’s to come.

Travel Diary: Denver for a Trip Around the Sun

I am sitting at the airport as I write this and, first off, I would like to acknowledge just how much I love the airport. It holds such a sense of adventure, such a promise of what’s to come. Plus, it’s a wonderful place to people watch.

But I digress, because that’s not really what this post is about.

I am on my way home from Denver, where I just spent a lovely three days with one of my favorite humans and her two cute pups. This is becoming a bit of a tradition. Every year at the 4th of July, I fly up to the Mile High City to see my best friend. Of course, this year, the Fourth fell on a Wednesday which was mildly inconvenient, so we just bumped our timeline up a little. Which actually worked out so well, because we also have a mutual love of Kenny Chesney, who happened to be playing in Denver this past weekend.

Naturally, we went.

This was my fourth time seeing Kenny, and Jen and mine’s second Kenny concert with one another, and it was just as fun as it’s ever been. I’m the product of Parrotheads, which probably means I was destined to be a part of the No Shoes Nation, but even without that prerequisite, there’s just something about a Kenny show.

I’ve always loved water, and always felt like, eventually, I’m destined to live beside it. Every Kenny Chesney concert simply confirms that prediction. There’s a feel to him — he’s a little bit country, a little bit rock, but he’s island through and through.

Plus, there’s the fact that Kenny was my first ever concert (I don’t count the Cheetah Girls in fourth grade), and you tend to have a bit of an attachment to whoever that was, right?

Besides, in my adult years — more specifically, since my junior year of college — it’s become a bit of a tradition to see him every tour, and if you know me, I’m a huge sucker for traditions.

I love knowing that you can always have something to look forward to. I love know that every summer, I’ll buy a plane ticket to Denver (granted, next summer may be an exception as we potentially shift our annual reunion overseas… but still, you get the picture.) I love knowing that Kenny Chesney will put me in a great mood and that I’ll be whisked off to the islands no matter where I am — whether it’s in the middle of the desert, at the edge of plains, or in the foggy bay.

But most of all, I love knowing that a friend will be there. I love knowing that I can call her up in the middle of the night because she’ll answer, and not just because she’ll be awake because of her crazy producer schedule. I love knowing that I can text her about the most mundane things and she’ll at least read it even if we’re both awful at replying. I love knowing how easily we can freak people out by accidentally saying the same thing at the same time. I love knowing that there’s a person I can always go to to remind me what’s important. I love the fact that we went from random Spanish project partners to coworkers to roommates to twins.

I mean, come on. We even unintentionally matched our outfits.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t start this post with the intention of making it a note of appreciation for my Shining Twin. But, I also started this blog on the floor of the Denver airport and I’m finishing it sitting upright at my desk, so I guess intentions can change with time, right? I always fall into a post-trip funk (anyone else with me on that? Coming home is great and I love what I come home to, but there’s still an element of sadness when a trip concludes). It’s heightened, when you just leave your best friend.

Anyways. Thanks, Denver, for another incredible trip, and here’s to the next one, in (pretty much) one trip around the sun.

Testimony Tuesday: Intention

Living with intention. It seems like such a simple concept, one that we all should want to adhere to so naturally. Of course, we want to be intentional — about our lives, our love, our faith, our families. Without intention, what’s the point, really?

And yet, it feels like, so often, intention can slip through the seams, for whatever reason. Life becomes more routine, more automatic… and, in turn, inherently less intentional.

I’ve been trying to be better at this but I’ll admit that even on my best days, there are moments where I feel as if I’m on autopilot. It’s little things: driving to work each morning, plowing through some everyday tasks, putting those miles in on the treadmill. I feel myself slipping away into the obligation of life, as opposed to relishing in its glory.

Now, let me preface all of this with the notion that this is by no means a bad thing. I think we can slip in and out of intention purely out of happiness, and if I’m honest, I can attribute the sweet happiness that I’ve been filled with lately to my zoned out episodes. Life is so good – there’s not much to worry about… which, sometimes, leads to not having a whole lot to think about. That said, there’s a difference, I feel like, between zoning out and becoming a robot, and I feel as if all too often, we tread that line so carefully that it blurs.

And yet, we shouldn’t. We should look at each moment that is gifted to us as something to use, something to create with, something to glorify. It’s not complicated; in fact, it’s really quite simple. It’s our own complication that I feel leads us to that “zoning out,” that autopilot, that unintentional mode.

God calls us to intention so obviously and so simply, and yet, at least for me, it often feels like the easiest thing to overlook.

So, whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31

It’s that simple.

Lately, I’ve tried to find little ways to live more intentionally, to be more present. I’m trying to pull myself out of my own head, my own routine, and focus on what’s given to me, what’s put right in front of me, what life should be about.

Whether it’s putting the phone down, or making the most of my morning commute… whether it’s finding a few extra moments to speak with the Lord or an extra second spent listening to someone I love – and I mean really listening. I find the more I focus, the more I feel, and the more I appreciate.. It’s funny, really, because I feel like God’s calling to me in the simplest of ways, and yet I’m sitting here complicating everything. All He’s been asking me, I realized, is this:

Pay attention, intentionally.

Pay attention to what He provides, and how. Pay attention to His little messages and His larger signs. Pay attention to the beautiful people that He put on this earth to love and support and care for and enjoy. Pay attention to the mountains He made, the wind he whistles, the Earth He created. Take your mind out of the distractions of everyday life – focus more wholly, more intently, more intentionally on the ethereal one.

Little by little, I’ve felt myself adhere more to this simple calling He has given me. I’ve tried to be intentionally intentional, and in that intent, I’ve found so much simple happiness, simple glory.

Happiness – in life, in the Lord, in love – does not need to be a series of complications or distractions or achievements. It merely needs to be intentional.

2 Years, 2 Lessons, 2 Words

Facebook memories are wild, y’all. Mine keep popping up to remind me that 2 years ago, I graduated from college.

Two years!? Are you kidding me?! 

On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like that’s even remotely possible. I still feel like a baby adult, just barely sprung from the comforts of college, with not nearly enough of this “real world” thing figured out to have been away from school so long.

(And, yes, I do realize that 2 years is really not that long in the grand scheme of things. But in the short-term, that feels pretty long-term.)

As I’ve reflected on the many, many pictures that Facebook has brought back to life, and as I’ve perused through the many, many other pictures of those younger than me in caps and gowns, I’ve also reflected on what I’ve learned in the past two years. I don’t know if there’s an adequate way to sum it all up, because if there’s a blanket theme here, it’s that these first couple of years truly on your own are so incredibly instrumental. I have learned more in the past twenty-four months than I ever could have expected. It’s true what they say: you never really do stop learning. It’s just that the lessons change.

However, I am going to ever-so-humbly attempt to sum up the countless lessons I’ve learned since graduating with two words. It’s two words for two main lessons learned in the past two years:

Speak up. 

These words, I’ve discovered, can be applied to the two main facets of life post-graduation: professional and personal.

Professionally, this one is probably pretty obvious, and I likely sound like a broken record of any professional development course for young professionals. I was told this so many times when I leapt into the full-time world. “Speak up,” they told me, “make your voice heard.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that concept is incredibly intimidating, especially for a fresh graduate. It’s likely your first full-time job in your chosen profession, and you’re likely nervous, and you’re most definitely still figuring things out.

And there everyone is, telling you to speak up.

Well, I hate to tell you this… but they’re right.

It’s not, however, just speaking up about the big things. It’s not necessarily throwing out some wild and crazy radical idea that is going to entirely change the trajectory of a project or an account (although, sometimes, it is). Sometimes, it’s just as important to speak up about the little things. Don’t let the smallest things go unnoticed – point it out. Now, keep in mind I speak from the role of a PR professional here, but I’m sure there’s parallel ways to apply this concept. Don’t let an extra apostrophe go unmarked, just because it’s in a release written by someone above you. If you think a particular sentence is worded strangely, say something. If you notice that there’s a hashtag getting more use than the one that’s in that social post, suggest it. Speaking up doesn’t need to always be monumental. It can be small – sometimes, the quietest behind-the-scenes voices are the loudest.

That said, it’s also important to speak up about your professional needs. Do you need a little extra guidance on something? Would you feel better if someone reread that email for the fifth time before you hit “send” for the client? There is no harm in asking. The worst thing they’ll ever say is no.

The same thing goes for your personal life. Speak up. In some ways, I feel like this can be even more intimidating in your personal circle. Opinions are everywhere and the internet has just given us an even louder void to shout into (I can say that – this blog is one of those voices.)

But it’s so important to let your own voice be heard… especially by yourself.

College is a wonderful time for gaining knowledge, but it’s when you start to apply that knowledge that you really figure out what you think about it. Don’t get me wrong – I think a lot of our core opinions are formed in school and in what we learn from school, but as with anything you learn, it’s when you apply it that it really begins to click (or so they used to tell me in math class.)

Speaking up in your personal circle also encourages healthy conversation, and sometimes debate. It’s important to know the opinions of those you love most, and how to get past disagreements… because inevitably, there will be some, even about the smallest of things but more likely about the big ones.

Beyond opinions, though, it’s so important to speak up and just tell them you love them… or that you’re mad at them… when you want to spend more time with them… when you need a little space. Verbalizing our heartfelt thoughts and genuinely formed opinions is a crucial element of adult relationships, and as an adult, those relationships are an essential part of thriving.

So speak up. It’s the two-word phrase that I can offer to any graduate. Be it personally or professionally, just make sure that your voice is heard.

It matters.

So do you.

Oh, and congratulations.

23 Things

I initially wanted to start this post as 23 things I want to do while I’m 23, but I have a bit of an issue with such resolution-type posts… mainly because life is entirely too unpredictable to commit to such a lengthy list.

So instead, in the spirit of learning lessons and growing from them, I decided to reflect on the 23 things I learned before turning 23:

  1. When torn between going to the gym or spending time with people you love, pick the latter. The miles can be run some other time; the memories are far more precious.
  2. That said, when you feel like you need some alone time, don’t be afraid to take it. We can’t be social all the time, and sometimes, it’s okay to make yourself a priority and recharge your batteries. Your mental health will thank you.
  3. That said: don’t be afraid to talk about your health, mental or otherwise. If something hurts, go to a doctor. They’ll fix it, or at least give you options to do so. If you’re struggling emotionally, there is nothing wrong with confiding in someone, be it personally or professionally. We are human beings, and inherently flawed as such. There is no harm, or shame, in admitting that we aren’t perfect and we need help. Everyone will at some point or another.
  4. Taylor Swift has the perfect song for every occasion. I don’t care what anyone says, I will always love her songs for being so relatable.
  5. Some things are better left unsaid, like your not-so-positive opinion of someone’s outfit. Other things, especially the hard things, need to be spoken. No matter the consequence.
  6. Traveling is exciting, invigorating, and an essential part of life – but it is just as important to take the time to be rooted, and relax.
  7. You won’t stay in touch with everyone, no matter how close you were at one point or another. Social media has made it much easier to keep up with people, but there’s a difference between liking every Facebook post and actually knowing what’s going on in their lives.
  8. Then again, when you meet the people who matter most, no amount of distance or time spent apart can sever that bond.
  9. Music can create some of the best connections. So can food.
  10. Pineapple does not belong on pizza.
  11. Loss is an unavoidable truth of life. Whether its the loss of your favorite keychain, losing a game, or the painful loss of a loved one – each loss will help shape us. Maybe we find a new favorite keychain, or learn to stop trying to play the game we just aren’t good at, or a new community who help pull you through a season of grief. Loss will happen, but good can certainly come from it.
  12. Some people will never forgive you for your transgressions. These are the same people who won’t see that you had good intentions even if you mishandle a situation, or let you forget about that time you said something you didn’t entirely mean. These aren’t the people whose opinions should matter.
  13. It’s not as easy to live without a washer and dryer (and dishwasher) as you might think.
  14. Social media is a highlight reel. It’s also a wonderful vessel for communication and a tool to express yourself. Also, most people don’t care if you double post on Instagram.
  15. Sentimental jewelry is worth investing in. Maybe it was frivolous to spend thirty pounds on a Claddagh ring from that tiny silver shoppe in Scotland, but I’ve worn that ring proudly every day as a reminder of both my grandmother’s Scottish heritage and the amazing adventure I took to Edinburgh.
  16. Not all great wine comes in expensive bottles. (However, my favorite wine does.)
  17. Having lofty dreams is totally cool. Having unrealistic expectations is not.
  18. Sometimes, the vision you had for your life at a certain point won’t pan out the way you thought it would… and it will turn out better than you could have imagined. No, I’m not living in London and writing a glamorous travel blog like I once thought I’d be by 23. Instead, I’m dwelling in the desert, quietly exploring new places and experiencing new things, and absolutely loving life.
  19. It’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally select the Uber Pool option. Otherwise, you and your friend might end up in a questionable part of Queens with a bunch of people you don’t know.
  20. Turning away from God during hard times might seem like the easy solution, but it’s absolutely the wrong one. Even if we are angry at Him for putting us through a certain season, we need to turn to Him for guidance. He has reasons, and a plan. Trusting in Him will make everything easier.
  21. The finest things in life are family and friends.
  22. Never buy a romper that is not stretchy enough to step out of without getting entirely undressed. Also, never buy a romper that ties in the back.
  23. The best kind of love shows up when you least expect it.

Here’s to another 365 more days around the sun, and to 24 life lessons to share a year from now.

Happy Birthday

My birthday is tomorrow. I close my twenty second chapter of life and embark on my twenty third, a year that will solidly place me at the end of my early twenties, on the brink of “actual adulthood,” as I like to think of it (as opposed to all that fake adulting I’ve been doing thus far).

The past few years, my birthday has been undeniably entwined with another’s – Jenny’s. Jenny was born a day before me, but two years later. And she was called home to God far too early, if you ask for my selfish opinion although, as always, I’m sure He had His reasons.

Every (recent) year, I’ve looked at the first two days of August as a chance to reflect, recharge, and redirect. It’s more of a New Year to me than the first of January, since this really marks the start of my next cycle around the sun. And I’ve begun to use these days to ask myself: am I living life to the fullest?

I don’t ask myself that in a glamorous, or cheesy way. I ask myself that in a reflective way. I ask myself that to ensure that I am doing everything I can to be the best reflection of God that I can be, to be the best version of myself.

Granted, that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m inherently flawed as a human, and that means that I will, inevitably, make mistakes. Needless to say, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes during my 22nd year, and I’m sure I’ll make just as many, if not more, in my next year.

But if there’s one thing I definitely learned this year, it’s that being the best version of yourself doesn’t mean you are constantly living perfectly. It just means that, as those unavoidable mistakes come around, you learn from them. You grow from them. You recognize the error of your ways, acknowledge the lesson, and forgive yourself. If you hurt someone, you apologize. If you forget something, you do better next time. You take what happened and you embed it in yourself as a learning experience, a seed that will take root and grow and eventually, the lesson that came from the mistake will become an inherent part of who you are.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year about loyalty, love, and loss. If I had to pick three takeaways, those would be them. I learned that to be loyal, you sometimes have to do the hard thing, because otherwise, you’ll do something really stupid that will end up hurting someone even more. I learned that to love, you have to truly let your guard down, and become a person you didn’t know you were capable of being, but who might be the truest version of yourself to date. I learned that loss is a heartbreaking truth of life, but that so much love (and loyalty) are found in that season of grief.

And now, on Jenny’s birthday, I look back at those lessons and I ask myself: have I become a better version of myself in the past year? I like to think that I have. Some people may not, and probably won’t, agree with me. But they aren’t the people I’m worried about. The people whose opinions I cherish most are the people who have helped me get to this stage of life, who have been the building blocks upon which I’ve built the most rock-solid foundation I’ve ever had.

On August 1, I like to think about what I’m doing to enrich my life, and those around me. That’s what Jenny did, and continues to do. My memories of her may be brief, but they are so, so bright. She is a light in my life, and a guiding beacon of hope. She may no longer be here on Earth, but her spirit – that spunky, sassy spirit – has never faded.

Jenny didn’t get to toast her twenty first, but I sure as hell can.

So here’s to you, J. To your light, to your sparkle. Thank you for being my guardian angel, and for constantly being my motivation to do better, be better. You may not have gotten the years that you deserved, but in your honor, I pledge to continue focusing on fulfillment – of my own life, and of others.

I hope you’re eating cake for breakfast and jumping on trampolines made of clouds.

Happy birthday.