Home

Homes bring me so much joy. I love old doorknobs, nooks and crannies, third floors, sloped ceilings, built-ins. I get so attached to interior spaces that I spend any length of time in and every time I drive past a house that has some kind of intriguing detail I wish I could knock on the door and ask for a full tour. I love having grown up in a house nearing 100 years old, with drafty, wavy-glass windows that shift in the frames when the wind blows, a bedroom door with a skeleton key lock that now only unlocks from the outside (I’ve tested this and accidentally imprisoned myself twice), such creaky wood floors that I am completely desensitized to bumps in the night, laundry chutes to the basement (so convenient) and an old door upstairs that leads out onto a flat section of the roof for optimal sunset viewing.

I loved my maternal grandparents’ sprawling split-level mid-century ranch in a rural small town, with room after room after room (having housed ten people once upon a time) of special custom-built details including a dumbwaiter, a furnace, and a fireplace. Garage, carport, side paths, looping driveway, a rock garden extending in tiers off the back enclosed porch stocked with gardening supplies. Large windows overlooking an expansive backyard dotted with islands of greenery, an old metal swingset and slide, and a stone shrine with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Bird feeders and birdbaths in front, a purple martin house high above the pond in the back at the end of the sloping yard where you could find patches of bluets, mushrooms, a few lost feathers, the occasional fallen robin’s egg, and a certain Mr. Toad. A mulch pile, a woodpile, flower gardens throughout. Indoors, lots of pastel paint colors and a few instances of shag carpeting. Stowed in every room were artifacts of 100 years lived: books, love letters, tools and supplies, table settings, records and well-loved toys. A time capsule of a 20th century immigrant doctor’s family, most idyllic in the spring and fall, the property covered in blooms or blanketed in leaves with family gathering for Easter egg hunts and Thanksgiving feasts.

My paternal grandparents’ home was much smaller in contrast though it housed almost as many people and details: a simple two-story home in a large suburb of a Midwestern city with a small attic and basement, some furnishings updated/some old. The mantle above the fireplace covered year-round in layers of framed photos and birthday cards and spare keys and bowling trophies. Stacks of books and photos of family on every surface, art on almost every wall: a few oil paintings by my grandmother and a couple pieces by her oldest son (my dad). A stone path leading around the house past various flowering bushes and the side door to a front stoop painted brick red and shaded by a few trees and rhododendrons. Opposite, a narrow driveway curving to an end at a double garage and an aging basketball hoop, the tiny backyard framed with seasoned apple and pear trees and a well-tended vegetable garden, grapevines and berry bushes wrapping around the garage, and a couple of chairs and benches for warm-weather seating. A perfect image of the family of high school sweethearts, at peak magic when overstuffed with visitors, decade-spanning decorations, homemade gingerbread, conversation and piano-playing as snow fell outside the bay window on Christmas Eve.

As I’m sure you could surmise, I immediately love any story with immersive descriptions of interior spaces, gardens or grounds. I remember The Little White Horse as having especially magical descriptions of the properties and interiors in the story, it’s one of my favorites, though I haven’t reread it in some years. Mostly when I think of art I’d like to make or stories I’d like to write, they either revolve around idyllic nature settings (the home of animals or fairies), or magic interiors full of character and specific detail. I think it’s a large part of why people love Harry Potter or Wes Anderson films…there’s something about a castle full of nooks and secret passageways or a stunningly detailed bedroom that feels like magic, whether magic is literally involved or not.

On a darker note, I think my obsession with homes is also why I (and most others, I’m sure) find stories of haunted houses, home invasions, living in war-torn countries, or even hurricanes and natural disasters especially disturbing; the home is supposed to be the ultimate place of refuge, and to feel vulnerable and unsafe in your own home is a terrifying thing. I count my blessings that my home experiences have been so ideal and comforting my whole life so far.

I love thinking about the living spaces I’ve experienced, and writing out my favorite details of my families’ homes was quite therapeutic seeing as one is long ago emptied and sold and the other is beginning the same process. I could write forever on my love of interiors, gathering spaces, sacred spaces; such a distinctly human thing. I know I often throw around generalizations in these essays I write, saying “most others” “many people” “we” “humans” etc. Those are the kind of the topics I like exploring: human nature, things that seem so broadly relatable once I step back. I mean, if I’m being honest, I guess I feel that every topic is broadly relatable in some way. As much as I often have felt like a weirdo or an outsider in my life, I know that we all come from the same place. Your life is yours alone and you are the only you that will ever exist, but the heart of your experiences are universal. Emotions are universal.

If you made it all the way through this, I hope you enjoyed as I got carried away in nostalgia paying homage to the homes I grew up in.

Rest

“If you get tired learn to rest, not to quit.”

I’m not really sure whether this quote has a confirmed origin, but you can find it all over the internet, pinterest and the like. It’s one of those simple ones that takes a second glance to sink in. Learn to rest, not quit. Hmm.

We all get tired. That’s one of the biggest hurdles of being an adult sometimes. Everything is so much more tiring. Responsibilities are bigger, and energy is lower. You can’t eat sugar and junk and go running off to play for hours like a kid. You have to eat right and fit some exercise into an already busy schedule in order to keep up the energy you need to get through the day. And you have to make sure you stay on top of everything so you can also get enough sleep. It’s tiring to keep from being tired.

I’m definitely guilty of being an all-or-nothing type of person sometimes. I don’t consider all the options. It’s either do it or don’t do it. Get it done in one sitting or put it off until I can devote that much time at once. Go to the difficult yoga class and work till my muscles are dead or don’t go at all. For some reason, I forget that there are other ways; better ways. Break a large project down into smaller tasks. Go to the therapeutic yoga class instead, or just rest a minute in the middle if I need to. I’m getting better at recognizing these options, but sometimes I still get so caught up in the do it or don’t mindset that I forget the options until it’s too late.

It’s kind of funny, because I’m very much not a black-or-white minded person in other areas of life. I’m usually pretty good at looking at situations from different angles, realizing that most things are a big gray scale spectrum and not one end or the other. It’s just when it comes to the everyday tasks and boring responsibilities that I let myself get stuck and overwhelmed. I mentioned on this blog several times about struggling this past semester. I was very physically organized, more so than ever, so I thought I was golden. But mentally, I was still getting a bit jumbled. I still had that mindset that prevented me from doing things bit by bit instead of all at once, and I learned that that’s the real killer of productivity. The key to is to approach things little by little, because all at once is a gamble. You might run out of time, energy, or ideas. I think I definitely hit a burnout because of that. I did not want to get out of bed most mornings. So going into this semester, when things weren’t coming together and I really wanted to just quit, I took it as a sign that I needed to rest. And I really felt a lot of peace with that decision.

When talking with my friend last week, we both were reflecting on how much we’ve learned about navigating college that we wish we had known ahead of time. All the little things that people try to tell you in high school that don’t really sink in, or weren’t articulated well enough. All the things we wish we could go back and change. But hindsight is 20/20, and some people seem to find those answers earlier than others. With all that said, we are each on our own path with our own timing, and while I feel like my college experience has really altered my life plans, I’m making peace with that. I’ve learned to leave a lot in God’s hands and let myself be guided rather than giving up and getting frustrated when something doesn’t go as expected. I know I have to keep improving and doing my part to work smarter and move forward, but I also know that I can’t control everything, and I sure as heck can’t go back and change anything.

So when it felt like everything was becoming extra tedious, things kept going wrong and I just wanted to give up, I realized that it was ridiculous to get so worked up over school and things in the past. Sure, school is very important, and I’m lucky I have a support system so that I can afford to mess up a little and learn from those mistakes. But if I was so ready to give up on everything just because of some setbacks and frustration, I realized that was a sign to chill out a little. Sometimes every setback feels like the end of the world, and it’s important not to be tricked by the American (and social media/comparison-influenced) go-go-go culture, thinking that your life is over because it slowed down a bit or took a detour. My cousin and I had a great conversation recently about a podcast she sent me that emphasized having an “eternal mindset.” The here and now isn’t everything. You have to look at the big picture, and realize that where you are is a tiny part of it. And from the Christian viewpoint, even our whole life on earth is just the beginning, the preparation for eternity. So why am I so stressed now when there are going to be so many bigger things to conquer in my life?

I hope this is somewhat encouraging. I want to do so many different things, and I already have done so many things, so I’m making a promise to myself not to get too bogged down by setbacks. If I keep learning, working harder and smarter, and resting instead of quitting, I think anything is possible. That’s the mindset I strive to keep, anyway. When you’re no longer excited to wake up in the morning, it’s time to change something, reevaluate, or just rest for once if you can. Whatever you do, don’t quit.

Weird

As a kid, the things that worried me were pretty funny. I was terrified of being dragged away by possums or murdered by katydids, and refused to set foot on the driveway after it had rained and all the worms had crawled out and dried up on the pavement, which was exasperating to my mother but that’s all pretty rational, I think. My favorite animals were crocodiles, then snails, then ducks and otters. I thought maybe if I looked around all the tiny bluet patches dotting my grandparents’ yard, or hung out long enough behind the rhododendron bush at my home, that maybe, just maybe, I’d run into a real fairy. Again, rational enough. I like to write down these random details sometimes so that I can hold onto that childhood magic, because it’s really something I never want to forget. There are millions of details in even just a couple decades of life, and it’s so magical to remember tiny ones you had lost for a while.

On the occasions when I journal, I feel like a weird private songwriter, expanding on the most minute experiences. Sometimes it’s fun to write out detailed accounts of very specific memories to give them a more concrete quality, but sometimes the raw feelings just stick better in your brain when you don’t try to translate them from abstract thought-language. That’s kind of why I feel a little out of place writing on this blog sometimes; if you were to analyze my private journal/blog it started out very straightforward and journal-y and quickly devolved into mostly vague poetry over the years, but it’s funny that I can remember exactly what I was feeling and referencing in even the most seemingly random lines while I feel more detached from the literal accounts.

Just some thoughts. Can anyone relate? I feel so emo saying I journal better in poetry but I feel like if you’re the creative writing/diary-keeping type and you’ve tried it, you can probably relate 100%. I really think abstract creative writing is closer to how our thoughts work, because somehow things tend to get lost in translation when I try to put deep emotions or experiences on paper in plain language. Maybe that’s why music is such a powerful thing for most people; pithy lyrics can hit home harder than long, explicit essays because you tend to automatically read between the lines in the way that you best connect, filtering them through your own context. I think poetry tends to get a bad rap as a weird or overly dramatic outlet, but if you consider the fact that mostly everyone likes to listen to music, I think poetry is the opposite of weird. It’s completely normal.

Once again I’m not overly sure where I was going with this little post, aside from more personal encouragement: be creative. Express yourself in a variety of outlets just for fun. You don’t have to share what you create, or you can if you want to. But don’t let the potential opinions and reactions or non-reactions of others stifle you. And maybe rethink your own reaction the next time you find yourself rolling your eyes at another person’s personal creative expression. Remember the little details about who you were as a kid, when you weren’t concerned about what the world thought.  It’s very freeing when you make the decision to not worry about likes or views, to just make things that make you happy. Easier said than done, I know.

Happy Thursday, wherever you are, and remember: you create your reality, for better or for worse.

Resolutions

We’re a couple weeks into the new year and I’m already plotting all the things I want to accomplish and trying to find ways to manage my time better going forward. Adjusting to a new year always feels a bit odd…it doesn’t really feel weird that it’s 2018, but it feels weird that 2016 is now not last year, but the year before, and 2015 is now three years ago…does that make sense? It seems like it’s not as hard to adjust to a new year so much as it is to adjust to being farther removed from years past.

I usually don’t make specific resolutions; the past few years I’ve found it more helpful to focus on a specific word for the year such as “simplify” or “unplug” to motivate me to cut down on distractions and be more mindful of how I live in general. This year however, I was pretty quick to write down some resolutions that came to me without really thinking, so I figured having these more concrete goals would be helpful for a change.

1. Read more books/be online less

I am the type of person who loves to learn…often to a detrimental point. It is very easy for me to spend hours on the internet reading blogs, articles, watching youtube videos…and because I mostly read and consume information that is actually sort of informative and helpful and inspiring (not just random clickbait) sometimes I get a false sense of productivity. In reality, the internet makes information so easy to access that it’s easy to forget that we don’t need all this information. I don’t need to read about why tardigrades can survive uninhabitable conditions or watch a video on how algorithms learn. These things are interesting, and I think learning about a variety of things is extremely beneficial, but ultimately those things have nothing to do with my current career path and I could be focusing my time better on things that do. Plus, we have a lot of books assigned for yoga teacher training that I had better get a move on… 🙂

2. Become (sort of) conversational in French

Okay, so I didn’t want to just say “improve my French” because that’s not a very concrete or challenging goal, but I must put a heavy asterisk on this resolution and clarify that I probably won’t be anywhere near fluent by the end of the year. I just want to be able to read/write and speak/understand at a solid elementary level, and I know that will involve various methods of intentional practice. I took three years of French in high school and while my ability to conjugate all those irregular verbs kind of went out the window in the years following, I have kept enough exposure to French in my life that I haven’t lost everything. Plus, I dusted off my duolingo app and have kept up daily practice for the last two months, so I can finally at least understand the instagram captions of the few french-speaking accounts I follow without hitting the “translate” button 9 times out of 10. That’s something!

3. Go back to ballet class!

I’ve been focused on yoga lately, but my yoga teacher has also resumed teaching ballet, and I haven’t attended a ballet class in probably over a year now. I definitely miss it, so there’s no more excuses, time to get back to class!

4. Declutter my digital life

I’ve basically run out of physical things to organize after my minimalism kick these past few years, but now I’m starting to feel the weight of all those years of photos on my hard drive…it’s not going to be fun, but this year I need to really purge a lot of unnecessary files and reorganize my digital photos into a system that can work for years to come. (and improve how I backup everything as well!)

5. Illustrate a book

I’m anticipating this one to be the hardest and take the longest of all my goals. If you missed it, the main reason I started this blog was for creative practice toward my future goal of writing/illustrating children’s books. I actually have already written a few things in recent years, but I want to experiment with different illustration styles to pair with my writing. This goal is more about the doing than the end product, but it’s time to really start to bring those images in my head to life. (Keep in mind, by book here I mean a basic picture book, nothing long or complicated.)

Bonus/tentative goals:

I have a few more things that I’d love to work on but aren’t priorities for this year:

-improve my ukulele skills: I got a ukulele for Christmas 2014 and I really have not made much progress since. My limited skills on the ukulele make it much less fun to play than the piano (which I practice almost daily) so I’d like to try to practice more this year.

-have a go-to lunch or dinner recipe that is simple and healthy: I do plenty of baking here and there but not any real cooking, so in an effort to stop eating the same canned vegetable soup every other day, I’d like to settle on an easy recipe or two to diversify my options.

-buy only 12 or less new clothing items this year: This is probably going to be more of a challenge than it seems, but I think just making the extra effort to be mindful of my unnecessary purchases will be great. I definitely have enough clothes, so trying to limit my purchases to an average of one new item a month will be a good exercise in gratitude.

Sorry that got a bit wordy, I’m excited to make some progress on these things this year in addition to completing yoga teacher training in the summer and getting closer to graduating college! What are your priorities this year?

Reflection

Wow, what a year 2017 has been. I have honestly had some of the best and worst experiences of my life this year, but one of the things I remember from our many discussions in yoga teacher training is that it’s beneficial to not jump to label experiences “good,” or “bad,” because truly, everything is an opportunity to learn. Failures and hardships are often much better teachers and motivation than successes and good times, and I have certainly had that reinforced this year. I had some major personal successes and took some leaps, reformed some bad habits and overcame some obstacles. My family experienced a major loss together, but also has quite a few happy things to look forward to in the coming year. My faith has strengthened and my confidence in my value as a person has grown. I started this blog, and by quietly showing up here again and again to put my creations out into the world, I’m accepting that improvement comes through doing, perfection doesn’t exist, and everyone needs to start somewhere.

This year I cemented some new goals and plans and learned to be especially patient when I’m feeling especially impatient (because instant gratification is not actually gratifying). I learned a lot of similarly contrary-seeming things, actually. Less really is more. Owning less makes me happier and frees up a surprising amount of my time, focusing on less allows me to accomplish more (still working on that one), and less perfectionism in my individual work allows me to improve more. I’m a quiet person by nature, and I’ve learned to appreciate the power of listening, but also to not hesitate to speak up a little more sometimes. Plus, I’ve learned to embrace that there will always be light and dark, (literally and figuratively) and to appreciate both for what they are. I’ve always been drawn to a little darkness and I used to think I was destined to be a night owl forever, but now I’ve learned to appreciate the mornings and try to get as much daylight as I can, because too much darkness and solitude can weigh on you. It’s all about balance.

Also, after diving into self-improvement this year, I have become a lot more comfortable with being myself. I still have plenty to work on, but I’m definitely not the insecure teenager I was just a few years ago. I don’t overthink as much. I “like” things on social media that I like. I give people compliments when I mean it. I’m more open to opportunities and experiences, and I say yes as much as possible, but I recognize the importance of saying “no” as well. I’ve also gotten better at letting go of what I can’t control or change. My personal values are firm and well-considered, and I know that I am capable of functioning as an adult, even when everything feels overwhelming, because everyone has to get through life and figure things out the same and no one has all the answers.

So, 2017 is definitely a year that will be clear in my memories, but I’m praying that 2018 will bring more goodness and growth and challenges, because I’ve finally learned that praying for an easy life doesn’t work. It’s never easy for anyone; it’s better to pray for strength to handle the things that come your way, and learn to roll with the punches. I even came down with the flu these last 3 days of 2017, and since I’m not one to get sick very often, it was sort of a last, humbling reminder that I’m not in control. It’s important to learn how to take care of yourself even during the times when you just want to give up.

Hi 2018, cheers to a new year full of new surprises!

P.S. I made a phone background as a little present for anyone reading! You can use it by clicking here and saving it to your photos, then set it as your background if you like 🙂

Comfort & Joy

The last few weeks of the year tend to be pretty hectic, but I love them. People are returning home, meeting up with old friends and family, exchanging gifts, enjoying treats, watching movies, talking the night away and slowing down a bit to prepare for the start of a new year. It’s a bit of a reset button where you can wrap up the year’s projects, catch up with your loved ones, and savor all the Christmas cheer. I know my last post addressed the more melancholy, stressed feelings that can surface at this time, and those are valid feelings. Everyone has something different that might be weighing on them especially during this season, but I am still so excited for the Christmas holiday and the fast-approaching start of a new year. I think it’s always a good reminder to try to find the joy.

My family has a nice pattern of gathering with my dad’s side of the family on Christmas Eve for a traditional Eastern Orthodox Christian fasting meal, then my mom’s side of the family on Christmas Day, and the reverse on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year certainly will be different as it’s the first where people have moved and we have no one able to pick up hosting duties for Christmas Eve, but we are embracing the break in tradition and just planning a more low-key, different way to celebrate. I must say, I never thought I would miss that sour mushroom soup until suddenly, pretending to like it alongside my cousins wasn’t part of the plans for the year…haha!

At any rate, I really enjoy these last days before Christmas. I have been really lucky, my Christmas wishlist is more like a list of people to see, and it looks like I’m going to be able to cross off quite a few! I had a great, super chill two-night sleepover with my cousin over the weekend, my mom and I had a wonderful catch up with a family friend for brunch this morning, I hope to spend some time with my best friend (and maybe bake some cookies!) on Friday as well as see some old ballet & yoga friends at the annual candlelight yoga, and then have a nice gathering with some other great friends on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll also get to see most of both sides of my family for Christmas and New Year’s to round it all off.

Today I’m planning on a lot of handmade gift-making, so wish me luck that I don’t get in over my head with that, I’m pretty last-minute as usual! Plus a yoga teacher training deep hangout/meeting later tonight. Is it odd that I don’t feel “busy” when I have lots of hangouts with close friends and family planned? I definitely consider myself an introvert but when it comes to people I love, socializing fills me up till I’m bursting with joy.

I hope whatever your plans are, you can be filled up to bursting this holiday season as well.

Gratitude

This can be a stressful time of year. Usually I get kind of internally frustrated with people who are unreasonably negative during the holiday season, because c’mon, it’s such a beautiful time, celebrate!! Be happy!! But this year I’m one of those feeling a little more down and stressed. My typical unrelenting optimism and general excitement is a bit dampened at the moment. I feel a little odd looking back at the serious tone of my blog posts the past few months, but then again, maybe I only ever want to write when I’m feeling more serious. It does tend to be the pattern in my personal journal, but it is quite a contrast from my off-paper(-screen?) self, where I’m constantly laughing and joking around and never taking anything too seriously, whether by myself or with others. So I guess with that said, I feel more comfortable talking seriously in writing than in speaking, and it feels good to write it out so I can keep laughing and joking elsewhere. 🙂 Anyone who can’t be serious sometimes and silly sometimes is a robot, I tell you.

So yeah, I’m just not feeling that great lately; my semester hasn’t gone too well. My last one went really well despite a lot of things that could have derailed it, so this one in contrast feels pretty defeating. It “should” have gone fine, but I just had a hard time keeping up with everything for no good reason, only myself to blame. I don’t feel super stressed, I’m not one to carry much tension, but I was just looking through some pictures from the past summer and I can see a difference in my face. I looked so fresh and happy compared to looking in the mirror today. I notice a subtle, tired shift in my features when I’m weighed down. Right now, I’m ready to move on but I can’t fast forward, I just have to keep going, even though at the moment everything feels impossible (and I know I’m just being irrational). I’ve heard from a few others lately who are feeling similarly stuck, so I know I’m not alone in this…when it gets to this time of year where it gets dark so early, it’s no joke that it just gets harder to function.

All that said, though Thanksgiving has come and gone, I think the season of extra focus on gratitude should linger well into the new year. Christ is almost born. We need to remember to glorify Him and be so grateful that we can live our beautiful lives knowing that He humbled himself enough to be born on earth, to our beautiful mother Mary, (Theotokos, what a wonderful title, the mother of God!) to eventually die for our sins so that we may receive God’s mercy and have an opportunity of eternal life to look forward to even after our life on earth ends. I look back on especially defeating weeks I’ve had, where everything seemed to go wrong, and see that there were still so many blessings in every day.

A season where things don’t go as you planned is never the end of the world. It’s just even more of an opportunity to pick out all the things that still go right, all the small beauties. Even if you just smile at the fact that if you hadn’t been running late, you wouldn’t have seen that bubblegum pink Volkswagen Beetle pull up behind you at the red light. Or that plane gliding through the sky low enough to make out the detail of its wings. The little, funny things are worth appreciating even when you just want to cry. Gratitude makes all the difference. It really does turn what we have into enough. And in first world countries like America, most of us really do have enough, more than enough. The older I get, the less I want material things for Christmas. The more I just want quality time with people I love, and the chance to sit in silence and be grateful for everything, even the challenging seasons.

Questioning

My posts have gotten gradually fewer and farther between lately, but it’s not for lack of ideas or effort. I’ve been writing and rewriting, saving drafts and rethinking. I only started this blog under four months ago, and I started strong and with excitement. I still get really excited about what I can write and make for this space, it’s truly a just-for-fun project and creative outlet for me. I don’t really mind if almost no one is reading. But that initial “yay I started a new blog, I need to fill it with posts!” stage has worn off and I’m starting to question if I should be hitting “publish” at all.

What do I know, y’know? I try to write about my honest and relevant experiences, but I’m also becoming more careful. I don’t want to write and publish something that I later realize was worded in a way that doesn’t properly convey my values or my purpose. I’m only human though, and I realize anything can be misconstrued. The comfort of having a private blog or journal is that I can look back on what I wrote and shake my head if it was something silly or that I no longer agree with, or I can flat-out type “I don’t know if this makes sense, I’m just getting it out” and it doesn’t matter. I mean, I’m pretty sure mostly the only people that read this are a few friends and family, so I know I don’t have to be press-release perfect.

But that’s the thing about our social media era. Everyone can have a voice on the internet. Anyone can be an influencer. I have enjoyed reading blogs, watching youtube videos, and following people on instagram for years. I have my own few favorite “influencers” that I’ve honestly come to trust for opinions like a close friend. If I’m looking for a good recipe, I’ll often check a blog that I’ve followed for eight years before I would ask a family member I’ve known my whole life. So you see, having a voice on the internet is a responsibility. It’s easy to think yours doesn’t matter, but I’m a firm believer that no matter how small, your voice had better be intentional, well thought-out, and true to your values if you’re going to hit “publish,” and in fact, hitting publish is probably a bad idea nine times out of ten.

As a high school senior, somehow I was voted “most likely to be famous” along with another old friend. I joke about it sometimes, because I have to wonder if it will ever come true, or may even be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of that little thing in the back of my mind, will I seek out opportunities to put myself out there, like writing this blog? Or did the few classmates that voted for me in that category recognize that I already always tended to put myself out there creatively? I do keep telling people that my dream is to be a children’s book author/illustrator, because it honestly is, and I intend to pursue that dream. In fact, starting this blog was sort of step one in that process, to practice building a style and brand identity. But, unlike my high school superlative twin who was the more deserving of the “most likely to be famous” title, I have honestly never truly desired fame.

I’m not afraid to attach my name here, as I know I am being authentic and always will. But I think that aversion to fame is why I’m hesitant to post a picture of my face on Luna Moth Life. (although for anyone reading that doesn’t know me, my face is probably not hard to find from here if you snoop around a bit) I understand that nowadays, anyone not showing their face on the internet is hard to trust and relate to, and I try to make up for that by writing as personally as possible.  I love to create and share, but I don’t want it to be all about me. I don’t feel entitled to recognition. It’s just, a byproduct of a creative life, and potentially a creative career, is that you have to have yourself in it somehow. Creativity is personal.

If you noticed in my playlist a couple posts back, I included a few Taylor Swift songs. I think she’s talented and I enjoy her music more than most chart-topping pop of this era. When I first became a fan of her a little under a decade ago, she was probably the least controversial person in the music business…a cutesy teenage rising star writing country-pop hits about love, friendship and heartbreak. Now, because of her exponential fame, she’s about the most controversial artist to be a fan of. Everybody knows who she is, and everybody has an opinion of her, usually love or hate. She was able to write a whole album centered on her crazy reputation and living with the consequences of being famous. A perfect example of what the modern media and fame in the 21st century can do to a creative person (as in, anyone doing anything).

So I guess my whole point in this rant is that this is truly an experimental platform for me, one that I might have to continually question, rethink and reorient. It’s personal, it’s real, and it’s intentional. I try to be consistent for the sake of it, but I really don’t want this to be tainted by any goal of fame or about being an influencer, just about sharing my life, and for those few who might stumble on this and not know me personally, to just connect with you across the interwebz. I’m not trying to influence you, just to sort of give you a virtual wave, a smile, a handshake, or a hug as we cross paths in this life. I write here mostly to influence myself, really. In a way, it’s just one big accountability project to get me creating more, connecting the dots more, doing more. I may decide I want to grow this blog and put it out there more in the future, but if I do that, I would probably shift the focus to be more about illustration or short stories or something not so personal. Anyway, if you got this far, thanks for reading, truly. 🙂

Trust

I think the root of so many problems lies in trust, or lack of it.

In our monthly Sunday session of yoga teacher training last week, after the morning yin yoga class, we began with a brief meditation. It involved sitting and breathing in and out for equal counts of your own timing while blocking one nostril, alternating and repeating, and then after a series of that, breathing through one nostril at a time without physically holding the other closed with your finger. I can’t remember how many breaths but it was probably around 10 minutes of this meditation.

The first thought I had when our teacher told us to begin was already to doubt myself. Not that I could do it, because we had already done this sort of active breathing meditation in the past, but just various silly things, like: “oh no, I think I already forgot the instructions–how many breaths am I supposed to take? when do I switch sides? am I doing this right?” etc. I kept opening my eyes for the first few breaths to check that I was doing the “right” thing. Luckily, after a minute I remembered that lesson that keeps tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear lately: “there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way. just do it.”

I could’ve spent the ten or so minutes wondering whether I was doing the meditation “right,” or I could relax into it and focus on the breathing on my own pace. Which was the whole point, anyway. But sometimes we forget that we don’t always have to follow instructions to a T. Sometimes we forget that we know what we’re doing. We forget to trust ourselves.

Later in the day, we were given instructions to pair up and study the muscles of the hip, upper leg, and abdomen. We were given a list of muscles, a total of 16 groupings, told to grab an anatomy book, and figure out their attachments and origins, and subsequently what kind of movement the muscle controls. Now, I loved the one anatomy class I took my senior year of high school and I tend to retain that kind of highly applicable information pretty well, but this kind of assignment (using medical illustrations and not, like, google and youtube, mind you) seemed like a pretty big jump outside of my scope of expertise. However, since I’ve known this teacher for the majority of my life, I’m pretty used to her tendency to assign challenges by now.

After an hour, I’m pretty sure we were all going a little brain dead from the mental work, but it was surprisingly not as out of reach as it seemed when assigned. We were all used to using these muscles, we just never had to think about them that technically until that point. But we figured it out, mostly, and then it was time for lunch. Again…a small part of me didn’t want to trust myself at first, but I proved that I had no reason not to.

Later, the final thing we did was build little tensegrity structures out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. These were confusing at first. Once we got them started, we helped each other hold them together to finish connecting the parts. As I was pulling all my rubber bands into place, I started to get that doubt again. I was sure it wouldn’t work out, saying I had probably done something wrong, it wasn’t looking quite right. Yet, as I pulled the last band into the notch of one of the sticks and we let go, it sprung into place and held its shape.

Lately, I’ve been losing faith in myself. I’ve suffered a few major failures in the past few years and I’m still suffering from the residual ego-bruises. Now, when I fall behind, I start to doubt my ability to succeed. The thing about working as part of a group, such as in yoga teacher training, is that ego is often pushed aside. We’re all helping each other, we’re open, we’re vulnerable, we’re in it together. It’s good to push aside your ego as much as possible, especially where success and failure is involved. Your failures do not define you, and neither do your successes. They just help you learn and grow. These are all temporary experiences, and you will have plenty of them in a lifetime.

Often, I need to write my experiences out to connect the dots. I didn’t really know where I was going with this when I started to write this post, I usually don’t. But I think I’m convinced now; I’m not helpless, or aimless. Maybe I should trust myself a little more…but more importantly, realize that trusting myself isn’t really about me. It’s about trusting all the lessons I’ve been taught. Abandon that ego and you find that you’re never really alone. You’re not God. You didn’t get where you are by yourself. You’ve had a lifetime of lessons: hard lessons, small lessons, shaping you and nudging you into where you are. It’s not all on me, and I would be pretty silly to think it is…trusting myself is really just trusting in something more.

Explore

When you feel uninspired, unmotivated, restless…it’s time to explore. It’s time to get out of your house, take a walk, drive somewhere, take a spontaneous Saturday trip to a nearby city with no plans. If you feel like you aren’t meant to sit inside all day, working, studying, doing nothing…it’s because you’re not! It’s time to get moving and get some fresh air. Any excuse to get outside is a good one.

Maybe you can tell I’ve been unmotivated lately. I needed to get out and do something. Last Saturday my mom woke me up and said she wanted to drive to the city to explore a little and hang out for the day, so that’s what we did. I had some stuff to do, I always do, we all do. But I knew I wasn’t going to have a productive day if I stayed home, I just wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes, to get rid of the “but I should do _____ instead…” guilt, you have to picture how your day might go if you stay home. Are you feeling energized, motivated, ready to tackle that thing? If not, you may end up wasting your time procrastinating, doing unimportant things, and feel even worse for trying. Can you do it tomorrow instead? If so, a little day trip might be just the break/motivation/reset button you need.

I’m the best and worst person to take this advice from…on the one hand, I tend to prioritize family and healthy fun over to-do lists, and I can’t say I have ever really regretted putting something off to spend time with people I love. On the other hand…this can get me into trouble sometimes if I sacrifice sleep or get stressed later on because I didn’t prioritize my work…so take this with a grain of salt. But, I find that most people tend to put themselves under too much pressure, and I’ve always valued quality time with people above all else, so maybe I am the perfect person to give this advice. Trust me, it’s kind of impossible to regret actually spending time with people you care about.

Also, I’m a big believer in hometown pride (see my last post) and the whole “bloom-where-you-are-planted” -type affirmation. So even if you feel like you live in a boring place, I think it’s a fun challenge to seek out the local gems. I’ve always found surprising beauty in my literal and figurative backyard. I do happen to live an easy drive away from a couple major cities, but I often have just as much fun taking a walk in the park near my home…which, thanks to creative locals, occasionally has some fun surprises in store. The photo above was taken this past summer when my friend and I left the park path to take a shortcut past the baseball field and through the woods…and hello, someone had built a teepee out of branches tucked away in the trees! Super fun, random discovery.

Magic can be found anywhere, I tell ya, you just have to keep your eyes open…and explore from time to time.

P.S. If you need some new jams for your road trip playlist, I thought it might be fun to share what I’m listening to currently. Some old and new favorites of mine:

(shoutout to my cousin for randomly telling me I could pass for the singer of the band Alvvays, because it was just what my playlist has needed lately. Thanks for the accidental music rec Claire!)