Being a fan

Go team!! Why do we love rooting for the home team and being fans so much? It’s part of our identities. We attach so much importance to team allegiances. We get emotional, we get excited, we keep track of statistics and players and wins/losses. Maybe “we” is too much of a generalization, but I feel like here in America especially, everyone has a favorite team of some sort.

The Cleveland Indians’ 2017 season recently came to an abrupt end, the team coasting through the final month of the regular season with a record-setting 22-game win streak but ultimately losing the American League Division Series to the Yankees after 5 games. It was disappointing for sure, but as a lifelong Cleveland fan, I’m pretty used to experiencing loss. The Cavs brought a championship to Cleveland last year for the first time in my lifetime, but since baseball is my one true love as far as sports go, I’m still holding out for a World Series win by the Indians (their last one was in 1948). Last year, they came about as close as you can get, losing to the Cubs in game 7 in extra innings.

There’s something really special about maintaining a loyalty to a certain team. In my communications theory class, we discussed how proximity and shared interests draw us to other people. When you find out you are from a common hometown or area, or you are fans of the same team, it makes for an instant connection. These are your people. It’s fitting that the nickname for the Indians team is the Tribe. It really is our tribe.

I attended my first ever postseason baseball game on Oct. 5th in Cleveland. It was the first game of the ALDS; people were excited, hopeful. The stadium was packed full, loud, electrifying. The Indians were looking good, it was an easy 4-0 win that night. It was natural to chat with and high-five the strangers around us. We were all there for a common purpose. We were rooting for the home team. The phrase “Rally Together” was emblazoned everywhere you looked. Everyone sang along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with a smile during the 7th-inning stretch. There’s something about coming together for that major shared interest, coming together as fans.

The same applies for many things. Going to see a band in concert, keeping up with a favorite TV show or seeing the work of a favorite artist in a museum. There’s something about humanity that craves connection and familiarity. I love sharing excitement (and even disappointment) with thousands of strangers. I love things that can bring us closer, even if only for a moment.

What do you think? Has being a fan of something ever made you some fast friends? Isn’t there something special about having a home team? After all, there’s no place like home.

Grief and high delight

“Against my better judgment, I feel certain that somewhere very near here—the first house down the road, maybe—there’s a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody’s having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.”

–J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. It stuck with me immediately and has continued to resonate with me for years, even though out of context it sounds a bit odd. Even in context it might be odd by some standards, but if you are the type of reader who appreciates some good Salinger, I think you understand perfectly. Even if not, I think we can all relate to this feeling in our everyday lives…the feeling that some days you just bounce between those two extremes on the spectrum of emotion, grief and joy, and sometimes the oddest things bring you joy in the midst of your grief. It just seems to go that way in this world…such major highs and lows, so many joys, but so many tragedies.

Sometimes when grievous things happen, I find myself wondering why, but at the same time, I don’t really dwell on the “why.” The photo above was taken on Sunday in an herb garden that my cousin planned and planted several years ago. It has been almost half a year since a rare and aggressive cancer took his health and his life.

I find myself thinking of him in some small way every day since, and sometimes I do wonder, “why?” But mostly, I don’t, at least not as much as before. As young children, we often ask “why” repeatedly. As children, we are curious, inquisitive, learning in high volumes. As children, we need to ask “why” to start building connections between everything in this great big world we have newly joined. As an adult, however, I find that the greatest lesson I have been slowly learning in the past several years is that I will never understand everything. Some things don’t have a clear answer to the “why.” Some things aren’t meant to be understood.

I still feel stressed, anxious, or deeply grieved by some things. But I have found a remarkable peace in letting go of “why.” My faith is definitely the major influence in this mindset and this peace I have regarding hard and heartbreaking things, and I really couldn’t imagine having this extent of calmness in the face of certain tragedies without that belief that there is a God who is perfect and holy and cares for all of His creation, despite all the bad things in this fallen world. I want others to come to this same peace, but I’m not very good at talking about God to others because my faith is so deeply a part of my being that I just don’t know where to start or how to word it. Instead, I just try to live a thoughtful life through which I can pass this peace and joy to others in some small way.

So when I think of tragedies in the world, some affecting many people, such as the recent multitude of natural disasters or the shooting in Las Vegas, or some affecting a smaller group, such as losing a family member much too soon, I don’t dwell on the why. I believe things happen for a reason, or maybe weren’t “meant” to happen, but have positives even despite tragedy. But I’m not meant to understand it all. I’m only meant to love my family and do my best to work on my tiny presence in the world, through the joy and the grief. Remember to always look for the light in the darkness, because there are always glimmers of hope. If your heart has been heavy lately, I hope this can encourage you.

“Grief will succeed joy, and joy, grief, just as night follows day. This is how the Father of lights has established the path of those who are being saved. Just have patience and hope: engrave these in the depths of your heart—with these, all adversities will be faced.” – Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Fall feels

So…is anyone else getting those #fallfeels really strong right about now?

Was that a very millennial thing of me to say? haha. I think fall has been made into such a big thing the past few years where it seems like it’s everyone’s favorite season, and the Halloween and pumpkin-spice-everything marketing is off the charts. Eye-roll inducing, maybe, but it’s hard to say that the fall love is unfounded. It is a pretty lovely season that seems to bring strong nostalgic, cozy feelings with it as the air cools down and the leaves change to those gorgeous warm colors in contrast.

While I think spring will always be my favorite season with my mid-April birthday and undying love for flowers galore, fall certainly makes me question my allegiance year after year. There must be something in that crisp autumnal air that hits me with waves of bittersweet memories, as if my entire life could be summed up in all the autumns I’ve experienced. Suddenly, I’m back in my little woolly brown coat, my tiny fingers learning how to do up the buttons, or sitting in a pile of leaves as my cousin makes up scary stories, or testing my sewing skills putting together another homemade Halloween costume, or meeting family to go apple picking or exploring one sunny weekend.

I’m beginning to ramble, but I believe autumn is the season for rambling…a season to slow down a bit, appreciate the fleeting beauty in the air as the leaves change and fall, to take time to get outside on the weekends before the weather becomes too frigid, to reflect on all those magical autumns from childhood to present and try to rekindle that magic in a busier time. The summer warmth is still lingering this year where I live, but when those temperatures drop, it’s also time to embrace the coziness of wrapping yourself in sweaters and layers and grabbing a hot drink or soup. Soak it allllllll in. 🙂 I don’t know about you, but while I would prefer to ignore everything and take up residence in a cozy cabin somewhere to read all those books I haven’t made time to finish, I also find that even schoolwork and typically monotonous responsibilities are more tolerable when I embrace the fall spirit and cozy up to get work done.

So wherever you are, take a moment to feel all those fall emotions…it’s a season for the joy, and the grief too. Take it all in with extra gratitude if you can, and use those changing leaves as one of nature’s clearest illustrations of transition: time passing and seasons shifting. Because time and change are the constants in our fickle world, and all we can do is appreciate every season we have. 🙂

Jumping In: Yoga Teacher Training

Picture this: it’s summertime and the sun is beating down, the pavement is hot, but the pool water is cool and refreshing. The water temperature is so different from the air that wading slowly into the shallows would make you tense up in discomfort. So there’s only one thing to do…

jump in.

Some things in life require you to do the same thing that you would to enter cold water on a hot day: jump in, all or nothing, submerge completely.

I quickly realized that’s how it was going to have to go for me when the opportunity arose to go through Yoga Teacher Training. I didn’t feel ready. In fact, I wasn’t even considering it as something I wanted to do, even though I’ve been doing yoga for around ten years now. (Remember I mentioned my ballet teacher in my last post about Focus? The same woman is my yoga teacher and I’ve been doing yoga this long because she would incorporate it as cross-training for ballet.) That changed when the aforementioned yoga instructor announced she would be offering her last round of Yoga Teacher Training.

Knowing her, it’s debatable whether this will truly be her “last,” but nonetheless I decided pretty quickly that this was not an opportunity I wanted to pass up. Initially, I had serious doubt and hesitation. Could I ever really be a yoga teacher? Well, yes, I guess I could, but it would certainly mean leaving my comfort zone, which I am trying to do more anyway. Could I really commit the time and energy (and finances) to doing this intense year-long, 200-hour training on top of my college education that is nearing its end? Well, I want to become more consistent about practicing yoga, and since I’m living at home and have finally become decently organized with my coursework, I guess I could handle it. And so the doubts slowly lessened, and I realized two things: there would be absolutely no better time in sight for me to take on this training in the future, and I would seriously regret not doing it if it truly was my longtime teacher’s final time offering it.

So: challenge accepted.

I’ve already made it through one twelve-hour Saturday and a nine-hour Sunday at the yoga studio to kick off our year of training, and honestly, it was super fun. Luckily, we have a great little group of people doing this round of training (my mom is in it too!) ranging from 20-something to 60-something, and we’re all in it together. It’s definitely not easy, but I think this will be one of those experiences I’ll remember for a lifetime, and hopefully I’ll learn a ton and be able to pass on what I gain to others through the teaching part in the future. 🙂

I look forward to documenting more of my experiences in YTT on here, I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk over! Also, “Jumping In” seems like a concept I could continue in future posts as well. We’ll see.

If you need a shove this week, try visualizing the pool metaphor…and just jump in. 😉

Focus

There’s so much going on in the world today. So much good, so much bad, so much exciting, and so much mundane.

In a way, social media has leveled the playing field. Major news headlines sit alongside headlines of lesser importance about celebrities or sports. People from anywhere in the world with WiFi access can have a discussion in the comments on a Facebook post. It seems like everything is accessible thanks to the internet and in turn, this makes everything harder to filter and process.

It’s so hard to focus in this world, but focus we must.

In recent years, it has become painfully evident to me how much I struggle to keep myself on task when I’m alone. I have gotten much better at cultivating focus out of necessity, but every so often I still have days when I just feel constantly restless, when it is just difficult to think. I tend to do best when I am in a semi-public place, like a coffee shop or library. My self-consciousness keeps me accountable to my work when there are other humans around me.

In addition to forcing yourself to focus in order to finish a certain task, it is also important to cultivate focus in your hobbies/activities and interests as well. This is perhaps where I struggle the most. I love doing anything remotely creative, so I often end up creating nothing because I can only think about the ten different things I want to try–weaving, sewing, painting, you name it–and end up indecisive and doing none of the above. Something that has really helped me lately is realizing that (God willing) I have time. I don’t need to learn and try everything I ever want to learn and try right now. I can focus on one thing at a time, and then move on to something else when I have sufficiently explored the topic. As much as I am always living either 10 years into my past or future in my head, I am very much here-and-now in reality: not a big planner, probably too emotionally-led, always wanting to do everything on my to-do list at once, and often a play-before-work kind of person.

I think about something my ballet/yoga teacher said to me when I once asked her about the potential challenges of teaching ballet in the 21st century. She said the challenge is that kids these days (or their parents) aren’t as willing to make the commitment. Ballet is one of those art forms that takes a solid 10 years minimum to really learn, to get the posture and muscle memory and all the nuances down. You can tell a trained dancer from a casual class-taker often just by the way they move their upper body, their port de bras; the minute hand, finger, and arm movements requiring years to develop into the strong but delicate proper expression.

I wondered the other day about how different I might look and move if I had grown up playing basketball or something instead of ballet. When you spend so much time on something, it truly shapes you. My feet instinctively feel the floor as I walk, my toes automatically point and reach for the steps as I descend stairs. When I look in the mirror and stand up straighter I can still see the ghost of my ballet posture, lean and long. It’s been years since I was consistently in class, but my body still remembers the movements that were drilled into my muscles by repetition during my developmental years. I didn’t do much besides ballet growing up; it was my primary, and sometimes only, extracurricular activity. I was in class 2-4 days a week from age 8 to age 18, with hours of rehearsal around performances up to 4 times a year. This is partly where I learned the importance of focus.

Now that I’m in full control of my life outside of school and spending hours in a ballet studio is no longer part of my routine, the art of focus is a constant pursuit more than ever. There’s just so much I want to do, but life is so short, and we must choose wisely. I didn’t really intend for this post to go so deep when I started writing it, but this topic has been on my heart for the last few years. Simplify, simplify. Focus. That’s the real key.

Where do you need to cultivate more focus in your life?

Reminders

I drew this a couple weeks ago because my mom handed me a sketchbook she found and some markers and told me to. Or at least, she asked me to draw her a simple saying and some flowers after she had been trying to doodle some of her own, and I obliged.

I used to love to draw, but I don’t do it often enough on my own anymore. I doodle a lot, but rarely sit down with a sketchbook, and I don’t know why, because I really love it. I have always loved it; I have tons of notebooks and loose pages of drawings from age 3 through my elementary and middle school years, but as life naturally moved out of that childhood slowness and got busier, I stopped drawing daily like I used to. Now, sometimes I need someone to shove a sketchbook into my hands and tell me to.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded to do simple things.

Today was my first day of classes to start the new semester, and I was thinking back to that simple affirmation I had doodled: “be brave & be kind.” It’s so simple it almost sounds meaningless, but it’s pretty good advice for those new experiences, or “first days” in life. It’s not my first day ever at my school, and it’s certainly not my first day ever of school or college in general…but it is my first day of different classes, with different people, in a different building, on a different part of campus…lots of new experiences. So, I still found myself with a bit of that first-day nervousness, and it’s good to be reminded: be brave. Be open to the new, the different, the unexpected, the unknown. And I met new people, so another good reminder: be kind. Be open, friendly, and helpful to others, they may have really needed your encouragement, and they will return your smile.

So if you have any “first day” apprehension, remember: be brave and be kind. It may not always be easy, but it’s simple, and the simple reminders sometimes make all the difference.

Accountability

While I detail the reasons this blog is named for the Luna Moth on my about page, I didn’t necessarily mention the fact that it also fits because I am a notorious night owl. It’s just another reason I can identify with a moth better than a butterfly or a lark. For a long time, this was a characteristic I just accepted that I couldn’t change; that I would be doomed forever to accidentally staying up until 2am more often than not, pulling all-nighters to write papers instead of working in the morning or afternoon, and overall being constantly in a state of sleep deprivation with multiple wake-up alarms set each morning.

These past few years I’ve become a bit addicted to self-improvement. As you can probably tell from the theme of my blog and the tone of the posts I’ve written, I’m always on the lookout for bad habits to reform, things to learn, and new habits to build. My terrible sleep schedule should have been first on the list, but again, I just didn’t think I could really help it.

Until now.

(dramatic pause) Okay, okay, no miracles have been worked yet! I’m probably jumping the gun a bit. But I do have good news: with just one simple change, I’ve been able to get up before 9:30 without an alarm multiple times in a row this week, and with no obligations on the calendar at the moment and a track record for sleeping in late at any chance I get, this is huge for me. So what miracle tip do I have? The title is a bit of a spoiler: accountability.

My best friend also happens to be a major night owl, so two Sundays ago, as we were lamenting our desire for early-bird status over snapchat with the new school year approaching, I had an idea. Since we already snap each other daily as our primary and easy form of communication, why not use it to help kick our late night habits?

We agreed to snapchat each other with a timestamp when we head to bed each night and wake up each morning. As accountability partners in Operation Early Bird, we could hopefully be motivated to reform our natural tendencies into much healthier and more consistent sleep patterns. Surprisingly, that simple challenge has made a world of difference. While neither of us has become perfectly consistent and we’re not exactly waking up bright-eyed at 5am or anything, we’ve both been much better about going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up without abusing the snooze button, and when we have nowhere to be, without an alarm at all and long before noon. Seeing as we both went from consistent 2-3am or later bedtimes and very inconsistent wake times (sometimes in the afternoon) to relatively consistent bedtimes often before midnight and wake times before 10am in under 2 weeks, I’d say this is a pretty impressive change.

We’ll see how this goes once the semester starts and work begins to pile up, but I’m hopeful that this is the start of much better habits and a happier school year ahead. I’m more determined and inspired to organize my life than ever, and with the renewed energy I have from waking up with the morning light casting the prettiest sunbeams, I think this is good preparation for the remaining year or two of my college education.

September always feels like a month of new beginnings, whether that looks like a new school year, a new job, or just a new season approaching. So, mid-August, I think I’m off to a head start for once. It will always be easy for me to fall into night owl, late, last-minute tendencies, but I’m finally challenging that. Bad habits may be easier, but they make life harder, while good habits make everything else a little easier. Do you have any September resolutions? 🙂

20 minutes

What can you do in 20 minutes?

I know I ask a lot of questions around here so far. 🙂 That’s kind of the purpose of this blog, not to go on about having all the answers, but rather to go on about not having the answers, and asking questions instead. When a question is asked, unless it’s a math problem, usually there isn’t one single correct answer. Maybe there isn’t a correct answer at all. This is one of those very subjective questions: what can you do in 20 minutes?

I think we often underestimate how much we can do in a short period of time. When you only have 20 minutes between one thing and another, you probably don’t aim to do anything significant. But adding up all those 20-minute in-betweens in your life, you’re wasting a lot of time if you don’t use them for something now and then.

Today, I’m using one of my own 20-minute intervals to write this blog post. Typically, I’d just scroll away on social media or clear my email inbox when I know I only have a small chunk of time between A and B. And sometimes you do just need to use that break if A and B are hard work or draining activities, but today my A and B are not work, so I decided to use that in-between productively, and here I am, with a significant bit of writing to show for it. So next time you have 20 minutes, instead of scrolling through Instagram, you could…

-put away laundry or dishes

-declutter a shelf or drawer

-write a blog post or a journal entry

-meditate or pray

-exercise!

-read a chapter or two

Again, maybe you’re more productive than me and you already do this. Or maybe you forget how much time 20 minutes really is and needed this reminder. How will you use your next in-between?

Becoming a minimalist

I was listening to the minimalists podcast earlier today and one of the points brought up that really stood out to me was about minimalism not being a destination, or even a path to follow, but rather a tool to clear the path so that you can get where you want to go. In case you’re reading and you have no idea what this whole minimalism thing is, the best way I would describe it is the same line I use to describe what my blog is about: intentional living.

You can still be a minimalist and own more than 100 things. It’s not about obsessively counting what you own, wearing the same thing every day, decorating your house in solely black and white with sparse furnishings, or otherwise conforming to a certain stereotype. It’s not really even an ascetic lifestyle of denial, it’s just about focusing on/buying/owning/consuming only what brings true value to your life, and letting go of anything superfluous that might get in the way. And again, it’s not a journey or a destination, but a consistent mindset that helps you to live with purpose and not get bogged down by clutter, mental or physical. So, today I want to talk about my personal experience with minimalism and how it has affected my life (spoiler alert: only good things).

Let me start by saying that I was the furthest thing from a minimalist: I am extremely sentimental by nature, and as an only child I also had a tendency to give a lot of personality and weight to objects because playing often revolved around things instead of other people/siblings. So naturally, I held onto every little thing that came into my life because I wanted to and I had no reason not to, and I loved collecting pretty knickknacks. Being an only child and living in the same house from age 5 to present meant that I didn’t have to compete with any siblings for space, nor did I ever have to confront the full scope of my possessions…until I began preparing for college. I realized that not only would I have to pack up a condensed version of my life to move into a small shared dorm room, but there was a real possibility that I might not live at home with my parents for more than another summer or two if I followed the seemingly common college student pattern of getting an apartment, then an internship, and eventually a job.

So, sometime in late 2013 or early 2014 during my senior year of high school, I discovered the concept of minimalism. At the moment I can’t remember how or where, but something led me to the minimalists blog and from there my mindset began to change from sentimental hoarder to (still-sentimental but no-longer-hoarder) self-proclaimed minimalist. It definitely started slow, but looking back, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. Initially, I only had time to declutter while sorting out the necessities to pack for college. After living in a 12’x12′ shared dorm room for the 2014-2015 school year with only the necessities and for the most part feeling like I still had more than enough, I returned home with renewed resolve to pare down my belongings so that if I needed to pack up and move in the near future, it would be simple instead of overwhelming.

I ended up not following that “typical” college pattern of dorm to apartment, and have been living at home ever since for various reasons, which admittedly was helpful in the process of minimizing my life. Two years later, after packing away too many bags and boxes of donations to count, plus a few neatly organized containers of sentimental items that are truly worth saving, I am finally almost done utilizing the tool of minimalism to clear my path. Of course, I will continue using this tool again and again as more clutter inevitably makes its way into my life, but the large pile of debris has been cleared. My parents even removed a significant amount of their own clutter in this time as well.

I would estimate I now own about 25% of what I did when I started, and I feel physically lighter and much happier. The new things I bring into my life are carefully considered, and though I now own mostly things I love and use regularly, I do also feel less attached to “things.” As a Christian, my personal values are rooted in my faith, and minimalism fits right into those values. As I strive to live intentionally with my values as the core motivation of my actions, I knew that before anything else, I needed to clear the clutter. I wanted to share this story of how I became a minimalist in case you’re feeling stuck, or like your things own you instead of the other way around, to show you that even if you’re a sappy sentimental weirdo like me, you can still learn how to disengage your emotions from your “stuff” if you’re willing to put in a little effort to change.

Minimalism in a world of consumerism and indulgence can be quite countercultural, sort of like Christianity or veganism, but I challenge you to challenge this culture. Life is freer when you don’t have your path blocked by stuff you’ll never use, and it’s so much easier to be grateful for what you do have when it’s all stuff that actually adds value to your life. Maybe you’re like me and you need this challenge, or maybe you’ve been a minimalist since before minimalism was cool. Either way, remember to challenge yourself once in a while. What could you change in your life to better align with your own values?

On being uncomfortable (in a good way)

I want to try out a pattern for this blog where for one post, I use a photo, then for the next, an illustration. I take lots of photos, so this will be a way to put some of the random, pretty ones to use (I have a bit of an obsessive DIY attitude that makes me resistant to actually using a stock photo or anything I didn’t personally create) while also giving me a break in between illustrations, which are more of a challenge and a way for me to practice and refine that skill. So to begin my first illustration, I grabbed my sketchbook, which I conveniently keep in a basket behind the couch. Because, let’s face it…

I love spending time on the couch.

Don’t we all? I mean, if I ranked the activities I truly love doing, sitting on the couch would be pretty low on the list. It doesn’t give me any reward or sense of fulfillment compared to going to yoga class or visiting family or working on a creative project of some sort (although there are many creative projects that can be done from the couch). But sitting on the couch is comfortable.

How much of our time do we spend being comfortable?

The answer to that question varies for each one of us. Your comfort zone might not be as literally comfortable as a couch. Maybe you’ve had the same job for years, or you visit the same place for vacation every summer, or you hang out with the same friends and go to the same workout class every Tuesday night. When is the last time you tried something new?

I’m not trying to get existential here, but it’s often true that we stay in our comfort zones far more than we leave them. The word “uncomfortable” is typically only seen in a negative light, but in many situations it can be a very positive feeling. Think of the last time you experienced something really fun, new, different, unexpected. Riding a roller coaster, having a conversation with a friendly stranger, accomplishing something that you were really convinced you couldn’t do. The initial emotion you experienced in all of these situations was probably discomfort, then exhilaration.

So when 6:15pm rolled around yesterday and I had the choice to head to yoga class when I hadn’t gone in a month, or stay at home on the couch, I thought about this post I wanted to write. And I chose yoga class. And when the instructor cheerily told us to drag our mats to the wall for six rounds of handstands, I was happy to oblige. And when my whole body felt like a wet noodle as I held that sixth handstand, I was really glad that I wasn’t sitting at home on the couch. So I urge you: be uncomfortable (in a good way) more often. It beats living your life on the couch.

When is the last time you did something that took you out of your comfort zone?