Four birthday wishes

Today, I turn 27.

On my walk home from work, with Mother Nature in her glory (wind howling, snow racing across the pavement and icy white lawns, the last bundles of leaves still clinging to trees cracking and crunching against each other), tonight I thought of some things I hope to draw into my life. A few birthday wishes for the year…

I have a list of goals I want to accomplish too, things from developing a daily meditation practice and sponging up less of other people’s problems, to paying down my student loans and remembering names (I promise I’m not as rude as I sometimes seem – my memory is just awful!). However, I hope the wishes I developed this evening will subtly morph me into a better person, transforming me into a better me, and bringing me closer to my natural, most complete self. Which hey, has got to be a pretty great thing right?

Here they are.

1) LOVE – I want to love myself, and be in love with myself.

For so many years I’ve let myself be my own worst enemy instead of my biggest fan. Judging, nit-picking, self-destructing… This year, I want to love myself like I love my best friends. I want to respect my body and mind, my wants and needs, and I want to have fun and ENJOY the time I spend with me. “They say” you can’t really love another until you love yourself. I’m not 100% in agreement with this statement, but I know I’ll love another better if I first love and like myself.

2) BRAVERY – I want to be bold and have the courage to take chances.

I’ve always been pretty adventurous, but I’m rarely overly brave with regard to trusting my gut and putting logic to rest in favor of faith. This year, I want to unabashedly run after the things I want, that I feel to be right, that may be scary or unknown but that, if I can muster the courage to take the first step, may help me get to where I need to go.

3) VOICE – I want to speak up, asserting my turn to talk and tell my truths.

Most of my relationships have been 70/30 — I listen more than speak, I sit shotgun more than drive, etc. I’m an empathetic person who wants to soothe and comfort others, always putting my thoughts and feelings aside in exchange for hearing another reveal those very same things, in their very own voice. But this year, I want to speak up and turn the tables and make sure my voice is heard clearly in every situation. In friendships, in initial encounters, in my career. In everything.

4) SOFTNESS – I want to soften my heart and release control.

For at least the past 10 years, I have maintained sole control over my happiness. Even when making plans or daydreaming about the future with another, at some space within myself I never fully bought what we were selling. I was never fully able to trust another person with my future and my happiness. Even on the surface level, with common events, I’ve kept walls up around my heart, always on edge, quick to leap from a situation when the potential for disappointment crept in. This year, I want to soften and allow others in, if they deserve my heart space. I want to make plans that I intend to keep. I want to fully wander into an unknown with another at my side… If and when the time is right.

I’ve asked the Universe to help bring this all into my life. I know she’ll do her part and we’ll work on me together.

I’m a happy birthday girl! 27 is bound to be the best year yet — cheers and positivity to all!

I survived! 11 Life lessons learned during a quarter-life crisis

I’m turning 27 in a few days and, I’ll be honest, I think I went through this crisis nearly all 20-somethings are going through, have survived, or are just about to start.

I didn’t realize it, but a few months after I turned 25 I started to experience symptoms now labeled as the “Quarter-Life Crisis” which are secretly or not-so-secretly devouring the souls of 20-somethings across the country. This enigma is now plastered all over the internet (on Huffington Post, there are 26,900 posts tagged “quarter-life crisis” alone!), but when I was starting to experience it, I hadn’t a clue others were going through the same thing.

I don’t know why exactly it is happening, but it is, and hey, so be it.

Regardless, at 25, all I knew was that I was unhappy and I was searching for something more, something greater than what I was experiencing… My job was good, my friends were good, my income was good… Life. was. good. But, I just couldn’t shake the desire to rip my hair out and run free, starting with quitting my job and moving to the jungle 🙂

Just days after I turned 26, I did just that.

However, I didn’t do it recklessly — I’d spent months saving and selling my things, weaning my body off prescription drugs, going to therapy, and tying up loose ends and breaking up with my boyfriend (a couple times). I was doing what any responsible, young professional would do while secretly FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.  I was scared — I didn’t know really why I was doing what I was doing, but I knew I had to do something. I seemed calm and collected enough, and could very eloquently tell you why this was a good decision for my future (“learning natural ways of caring for cows and taking care of jungle plants will look great on my design resume!” yeah…).

Despite having a semblance of a “plan” (Costa Rican permaculture farm where I would blog about learning to be a “good person”, about figuring out my purpose and how to take care of myself and the environment better, followed by a move to the Pacific Northwest where I would surround myself with “good people” and get to work on living my purpose), I really had no clue what was waiting for me.

Regardless, in the middle of my crisis, I took off.

Over the past year, this 27th year of my life, I lived in the Costa Rican jungle and worked on the farm (where I did surround myself with “good people”, and I did kind-of-sorta figure out my purpose and how to take care of myself and the environment better), but then I changed course and traveled to Nicaragua and Guatemala and dove into yoga and spirituality, and then (long story short), I came back to Michigan, moved to the ever-hip Royal Oak for a month and nannied for a rich suburban-Detroit family with twin boys (weird life choice on my part), then moved myself to a big farmhouse outside of Traverse City and worked at a winery for a month (good intentions, bad execution), and then, I took a safe, career-style job with Traverse City’s newspaper (where I’m still working) and I recently moved downtown next to a local food co-op.

Life. Is. Good.

I can honestly say that I think (and hope!) my quarter-life crisis is over and that I’ve survived. More than that, I’ve grown and I’ve learned many things that I hope to keep with me as personal truths for as long as I live.

This year wasn’t easy, though. The 27th year of my life was probably the most difficult year I’ve ever had. But, I’m grateful for it. Through this year, filled with sky-high mountains and extremely low valleys (literally and figuratively), I’ve learned many valuable lessons. I want to share each of them with you so that regardless of your stage in life, regardless if you’ve ever experienced a life crisis or not, maybe these lessons will resonate and you’ll decide to incorporate an idea or two into your lives. And maybe, just maybe, we will all have better, richer lives because of them.

Life is AMAZING. And full of lessons. Here are eleven from my very own quarter-life crisis.

11 Life Lessons from my 27th Year

1) Stop asking for your purpose in life.

Let go of figuring out what you should do and just do the things that make you truly happy — THAT is your purpose. Things that bring you bliss will help spark your inner fire and will guide you closer to your dharma, your unique path in life that will enrich this world.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been asking God, and anyone who I trust enough to really listen, what I should be doing with my life. “What is my purpose?” “What is my gift?” “What am I being called to do?” These phrases have been written countless times in every journal I’ve owned, and if God has a catalog of my prayers somewhere I’m sure this is a theme that repeats itself more than any other.  This was one of the first lessons I learned after turning 26 and, although I’ve asked for my purpose again since coming to this realization, I am BEYOND GRATEFUL that I now know this to be a truth for my life.

When I decided to move to the farm pre-Portland, I told myself I’d use this disconnect from the first world to really, really focus on what my purpose is in life. Four months away? Easy peasy. I’ll figure it out then I’ll move to the west coast with a clear vision for my life and I’ll relentlessly go for it, whatever that purpose is. And I’ll never have to ask “what should I do?” again!

Well… I moved to the farm and spent a couple weeks asking myself, god, the trees, the waterfalls, the animals, and probably hinted at it to every person I met. It was obvious this was my goal.

But then, during an amazing massage session one night, it came to me. Clear as my best friend’s voice.

“Stop asking! Just do! Do what makes you happy. THAT is your purpose. Now go.”

And wow, what peace came with that revelation. I realized that the things I genuinely love to do and that make me happy ARE helping the planet and her people, and for now at least, that is purpose enough. So, I’ve stopped asking and I’m making an intentional effort each day to do things that bring me joy and fill my cup. I’m done with should. For now 🙂

2) Don’t be them. Be you.

You can never be anyone else but yourself, who YOU really are. You’ll always be disappointed and unhappy if you keep comparing yourself to others, envying the attributes of others, and trying to be anyone but yourself. Each of us are blessed with our own unique strengths, with gifts that only WE can share, and loves and likes tailored to our own special being.

And, let’s be real, we’re each pretty awesome. So, enough wishing you were anything other than YOU. And… JUST BE YOU!

I think I did a number on my self-confidence through years of trying to be like others. For whatever reason, until late this year, who I was just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t preppy enough, or pretty enough, or graceful enough, or yogi-enough, or hippie-enough, or tough enough, or brave enough, or travelled enough or… the list goes on. Every time I entered a new social situation, I immediately compared myself to everyone in the room. And then, I’d judge myself. “Oh no, I don’t have the right clothes, or I don’t know enough about x and y to be here,” etc. Silly things. We each have a right to be wherever we are, and we are PERFECT just the way we are, and, always, we HAVE ENOUGH and we ARE ENOUGH. And that’s all the matters.

So, let it go and just be yourself. All of yourself. Live you as BOLD as you can!

3) Let your voice speak the loudest!

Everyone has an opinion of who you are and what you should do and why, but really, the ONLY opinion that has any weight on these issues is YOURS. Only you know just who you really are (and if you don’t, take some time for you and make it a goal to figure it out — I’m still learning each day), and ultimately only you have to live with your decisions.

So, starting today, MAKE YOURSELF PROUD.

Most people are only trying to help by offering advice and, like I said above and many times before, it’s normal to want direction and sometimes getting it from others is easier than getting it from ourselves. But really, our hearts know just what to do, so listen. And then do. And it’s ok to tell the other voices, “Thanks but no thanks. I got this.”

I have so many people in my life, most of whom I love, who like to tell me what I should do — this past year was filled with this. I’ve gotten everything from “you should take yoga teacher training right now” and “just don’t pay off your student loans — live here in the jungle instead!,” to “you’re meant to be a writer, so just start writing your book” and “I know in my heart you need to be a missionary — you need to go to seminary school.”

All of these may be great options for somebody, but for ME, for my life right now, none of these are what I should be doing. Only I can decide that. So thanks, but no thanks.

4) Choose to be choosey.

This is YOUR life so live it how YOU want to. If it makes you feel good, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Simple. Choose how you spend your time, with whom you spend it with (even if that person is YOURSELF more often than not), what you wear, what you eat, how to exercise, where to live, etc. The list goes on and on, but ultimately, each day we’re faced with choices and if we’re not choosing for ourselves, who is?

I have wasted so much of my life trying to make others happy or going with the flow, sometimes to appease others and sometimes because I couldn’t decide on a better option so why not? Well, this year, I’ve learned to take a step back and ask if something will enrich my life before making a decision. This is a newer one for me, but so far, the quality of my life has increased and I’m more focused on what I want. I also feel more at peace knowing the decisions I’m making are getting me closer to where I want to be.

5) Move! Physical motion is magic.

Our bodies aren’t meant to be sedentary. We have muscles and joints, we’re flexible, we’re strong — we’re ALIVE! The health of our bodies and minds is directly connected and we must make sure to take care of each. For our bodies, the best thing we can do is move. Walking, running, dancing, yoga, swimming… It doesn’t matter the activity, it only matters that we move.

If you’re feeling down, try going for a walk and let yourself be IN that walk. Be present while moving your body and you’ll be amazed how quickly your mood may change. It’s magic.

I am a dancer by nature. I love to move my body, to twirl and twist and leap. Yeah, maybe I’m too old to dance like a toddler in a tutu, but you know what? It makes me happy and I love it, so I’m going to continue doing it until I stop loving it. When I dance or practice yoga or swim, I feel my body releasing tension and I feel light and free! I’m just that little bit closer to the highest version of myself because I’m putting my body to work in a way that brings me bliss.

6) Spend time outside. Every day.

We’re part of the natural world and, to connect more with ourselves, we need to spend time IN the natural world. Be outside, observe the plants and animals, hear the wind in the trees and water lapping on a shoreline, smell the flowers or hayfields, feel tree bark with your fingers or grass between your toes… Just BE outside. This world is pretty amazing, and observing the natural way of things can help put our lives into perspective and calm our overactive, production-focused minds.

I’ve spent a lot of time outside this past year which helped me reconnect with this fact I’ve always known — nature is where we belong. I’m so thankful for Costa Rica and the farm which kept me immersed in nature all day every day for three months, but I’m also grateful for the big lonely house in northern Michigan and its couple hundred acres of woods and fields, and for the beautiful bodies of water in and around this state, and for the trails and hills and trees constantly calling, inviting us to visit. Whenever I find I’m agitated, stressed, heavy, or just off, I’ve learned that if I can drop everything and go outside, I feel better.

7) Listen to your body.

If we listen to our bodies — to our energy levels, to our cravings, to our aches and pains — we’ll gain a lot of insight into what we need. If we honor the body’s intuition we’ll feel better and reclaim balance within. Sometimes we need to take a day off. Sometimes we need some extra protein or water or fruit. Sometimes the way we’ve been exercising isn’t right or we need to adjust our posture. If we listen, we’ll know.

We push ourselves so much, often to unhealthy extremes, and this is only going to wear us down. On the other hand, many of us don’t push ourselves enough. We need to rest, but we also need to recognize that we may have more energy than normal so we should use it!

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to always do as much as I can — I’m a hardworking American girl who can do anything I put my mind to, at any time, right? Well sure. But really, why is this “achievement” important? If my body is tired, then hey, I’m going to take a break and relax. And, if my body is craving sweets (which it does, all the time), this signals to me an imbalance either in my nutrition or in the way my body is processing food. I’m only just starting to tap into my body’s callings, but it’s really fascinating how much I’ve learned already. So… take an evaluation of your body and see what’s speaking to you. Then do what you can to help it out.

8) Prioritize your pleasure points.

What brings you joy? Think about it. Write it down. A few things that REALLY make you happy. Then, make it a priority to incorporate these things into your life and into your daily routine. Each day, don’t go to bed unless you can say you’ve done at least ONE thing that gives you pleasure. Make it happen and trust me, you’ll feel better.

A friend of mine shared this with me a few months ago and ever since, I can honestly say I’ve made sure to include at least one of my pleasure points into my day, EVERY SINGLE DAY. And, I’m a pretty happy gal these days. My happiness has always been important to me, but what really makes me happy? Until recently I knew somethings did and somethings didn’t, but until I thought about it with the goal of identifying actual topics or activities, I couldn’t tell you. Now, I know, and my things are written on little colored notes next to my alarm clock. Each night I see them and each night I can go to bed at peace knowing I’ve done something intentional for my happiness that day.

(Curious what my five pleasure points are? I have five that I can, without a doubt, rely on to bring me joy. 1- Nature. 2- Yoga. 3- Creation (writing, cooking, art, etc.). 4- Sweat (vigorous exercise of some sort). 5- Travel (discovering a new place even if that’s in my home city).)

9) Make peace with your past.

Guilt gets you nowhere, and regret and shame are big roadblocks to self-love and living fully. This is a tough one, but it really is important to accept your decisions, regardless of outcome, and move on.

There are many things in my past I’m not proud of — many times I did the wrong thing, let something go on for far too long, made a decision with costly consequences, and many times I probably sacrificed too much or gave too little. Today, I am thankful I can say, I’ve accepted each event for what it was and I’ve moved on.

And, I’ll be honest, I feel a lot lighter and much more at peace with my present because of this.

10) Happiness happens but so does pain.

Everything is cyclical and our moods are not exempt from this truth. Regardless of circumstance, we will experience bliss, but we will also experience sadness. We can try to contain feelings we enjoy but no matter what, emotions are fleeting and every day will not be a good day. However, there is peace in this truth because, just as happiness fades, so does sadness.

We must be cautious not to get attached to one emotion because although we love feeling pleasure, we must remember there is something so raw, so human and beautiful, about feeling pain. There’s no way around our emotions, and the only thing we can do is just let them be.

I experienced so many highs and lows this past year. I even journaled about what nirvana and enlightenment may feel like because, at one point in the jungle, I could truly say I’d never been happier! It was like a took a bliss pill and was in the middle of a high lasting several weeks straight — happiness without any effort. No sadness or worry or anxiety or pain. Just joy.

But then, sure enough, a mere month or two later I lay face down in a field, sobbing, asking for some relief from the pain and sadness I was feeling. Asking for a way out of the dark place I’d gotten to. I spent days confused, sometimes openly lost and sometimes outwardly collected, while torn and writhing with pain inside.

Regardless of emotion, I can now say I’m grateful for the act of feeling and for the assurance that after every gloomy day or week or month, a good one is sure to come.

11) Manifestation works! 

Think of what you want to happen, what you really want to bring into your life, and ta-da! There it is! Maybe this is mystical stuff and too much for many of us to believe but hey, it seems to work!

I don’t remember exactly when I was enlightened on the power of manifestation but I do remember first putting it into practice this past spring. It sounds silly but so be it, I’m still a 20-something. I was in Nicaragua spending a few days on the beach with my girl friends and I decided that night I wanted to meet a tall, attractive, surfer boy who would sweep me off my feet and treat me sweet all night. I planted the idea in my brain, and then I envisioned and believed it would happen.

Then, I’m not even kidding, a few hours later just as my friends and I were about to leave the the bar and head back to our hostel for the night, up walks a tall, GORGEOUS, Canadian surfer (yeah… God makes these apparently), who says, “Como estas, señorita?,” to which I reply excitedly, “Estoy bien! Y tu?” He tilted his head and said with a half-smile, “Yeah I don’t speak Spanish. Would you like to dance?” And then, we spent the rest of the evening dancing, drinking, laughing, and loving. It was exactly what I wanted.

Each time since, whenever I’ve been able to verbalize exactly what I want and actually start to see it in my mind, IT HAS HAPPENED. Craziness I know. But wow. From people I’ve wanted to meet, to a job I wanted to get, to a place I wanted to live… It’s all happened.

So, dream! Dream big dreams, little dreams, whatever. Just start thinking of what you really want to bring into your life and get practicing — let me know how it turns out for you 🙂

All of these lessons symbolize my 27th year. Thank you for being part of my journey, and here’s to turning 27! Cheers.

Below are some shots of me at 26, doing my thing and learning some lessons. Most smiles genuine 😉 And my oh my, what a year it’s been.

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Just dance!

When I feel most in my element, when the things that govern my natural self are aligned, I move! My body naturally starts to sway, to tap, to flow… I dance. The beauty of life swells up inside of me and I’m compelled to dance. In my kitchen, on a walk, in a yoga class, in the shower, at my desk… I dance! This is me and my way of being, but I’ve witnessed others really come alive when they start to move.

So today, let yourself dance. To the music in your head and in your heart. Just dance through your day…

We’re alive and that’s reason enough.

It’s such a funny thing to me how the seasons in our lives play out. Up, down, driven, distracted… We’re always experiencing bits of the same (we’ll never really leave ourselves), and bits of newness (new people, places, food, hobbies). But yet, the changes of mood and ambition and willpower will always happen. We may be headed full force in one direction and something plops down in front of us and we’re forced to stop, to change, to reflect. Or, we may be stagnant and confused, not venturing too far in any direction in fear of failure. But then, something happens, and we start to move again. We give up thinking that we have to KNOW which way to go before we move, and we just start moving… We start dancing… We start listening to that little call from within and we flow, naturally, just how we should. Then, before we know it, we’re headed full force in one direction again. All good things 🙂

So today, regardless if you’re already moving or if you’re stagnant, take some time to pause, to feel, and to let that love well up inside of you, and dance… You’ll experience today a bit better if you do. Try it 😉

Feel the flow and move ❤

Learning to wait out the storm and find happiness within. Just like the ducks :)

The sun was shining bright this morning as Jax and I walked along the lake. The sun reflected on the water in front of me and beamed on my face, lighting the earth and warming my skin. I felt joy and bliss — it was a perfect morning. I stopped on the trail for a moment, immersing myself in the beauty of it all. I let the sun sink in and fill my whole being with peace. I didn’t care about going anywhere. I was there, and life was glorious. I started to walk again, this time with a little dance in my step, light as air. Happy.

But then, unexpectedly, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. The sky grew gray and the rain turned to sleet. It pelted my face and made me wince and tuck my head to avoid the sting on my cheeks. I tugged at the bottom of my sweatshirt to help protect my waist and I slid my hands further up into my sleeves. I did what anyone would do that moment — I retreated. My dance was now determined — finish the walk and go home.

As I peered into the water before me, I noticed a bunch of ducks bobbing in the waves. Curious as to how they would react to this change of weather, I stopped to watch them.

They stayed in the water, but they lowered their heads and seemed to retreat into their bodies, into a place of warmth and comfort, just as I attempted to do. Then, they did something I’ve never noticed ducks do before. They disappeared! They tipped forward and dove under the water, but instead of coming back up right away, they stayed gone for quite a while. I was so intrigued by this — who knew ducks could hold their breath for so long. But sure enough, eventually each of the ducks came back up and remained on the water, bobbing in the waves with heads tucked.

And then, almost as quickly as the weather turned sour the sleet lifted to a soft rain, and then after a few minutes, it stopped. The sky brightened and the sun started to shine.

The sky brightened and the sun started to shine.

As I look back through this past year, the situation this morning is quite metaphorical for my life. I too felt the amazing sun shining bright on my face this past winter. I felt the joy and bliss that comes from things going right, from doing good things for myself, the planet, and other people. I explored new places, made new friends, and reconnected with the true essence of myself. I felt the sun shine on my face and I basked in it. I was carefree and I let go of all worries, all plans, all thoughts of a potential storm blowing in…

But then, just like today, the weather turned bad. I became confused. I was lost and worried. I didn’t stick to the plan I’d prepared before the sun started to shine, one that may have helped me when the weather was less than perfect.

I retreated into myself. I went to a place of comfort, surrounded myself with people and places that might protect me from the feelings I felt. But sure enough, I was still facing the pain, the bad weather was still there.

So then, just like the ducks, I disappeared. I dove into new things, new people, played out countless scenarios in my mind that may help me avoid the bad weather not just for now, but for forever. I didn’t want to feel the pain and I was aching for something to pull me out of it. I busied myself the best I could, trying to avoid the bad weather inside of me.

But then, I came to a point of realization as many of us do — even a bunch of ducks facing a sleet storm — bad weather will go away when it’s ready but until then, I would have to face it. I would have to resurface and wait it out.

So I did. I came back up, back into myself and back into the world. I made myself calm my mind and be patient. I waited for the sunshine to come back, having faith that in time, it would.

I let myself feel the pain but while doing so, I made notes of things that I love, that I need, that I want in my life, and I started to make little moves to make those things a part of my life regardless of whether the weather (and my circumstances) is beautiful or not. I started to find comfort in myself and not my surroundings. I came to a point of truth where I learned it’s the inside where happiness lives. Who knows, maybe those ducks floated on the water in bliss despite the sleet. Having wisdom that soon enough, the sun would also shine again.

And it did. On all of us.

After many months and a trying, difficult summer, the sun is shining. Life is good again — I’m back.

I am so grateful for this period of pain and uncomfort because, as I’ve said countless times and written about before, everything is cyclical. This truth was proven once again and I’m grateful for having been reminded of it. I’ve also learned to be patient, to take what’s in front of me and make the best of it. To recognize that things aren’t always ideal, but that with acceptance, peace will come.

And that, my friends, explains why I also disappeared from writing. When I’m at a good place mentally — when I’m happy — I write. When I’m not, I can’t. This summer, I didn’t write, I didn’t paint, I didn’t express myself. But now, I’m back, and I hope to continue sharing bits of this journey with you all. I’m learning many things about this beautiful crazy life, and hopefully you’ll continue to join me.

Peace.

Trust that with acceptance, peace will come.

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