Tag Archive: reflections
May 22, 2016
I remember thinking about this day from the time I was small. Eighteen seemed so big, so distant, something I would never touch with my chubby little hands. But as I’ve gotten older, time seems to have only gone by faster and faster, and now here I am, turning eighteen tomorrow.
It’s so strange to be so aware of your transition, to sense the shifts unfolding in the people and environment around you. In the past year especially, I’ve seen and felt so much change, both in myself and in my peers. I’ve seen friends reveal pieces of themselves they guarded fiercely in the past; friends pick directions for their futures then rotate them 180 degrees three times in three days; friends shutting doors to their hearts while others throwing the windows to their souls wide open. I suppose all times in one’s life are turbulent and fuzzy on occasion, but I think late adolescence is one of the first moments when you’re conscious of the change and able to process it with some level of meaningful contemplation.
I can’t tell you how many times in the last twelve months I’ve changed my mind about where I want to go and who I want to be. There have been solid weeks or months where I’ve remained fairly consistent and confident; there have been solid weeks or months where I’ve felt as if I was trying to paint a self-portrait and only yielding a blank canvas with a speck of red in one corner. There have been days where I’ve been on top of the world, my curls bouncing with every step I took; there have been days where I’ve remained buried beneath chunky scarves, catching tears I kept to myself.
But through it all, I’ve learned, I’ve stretched, I’ve grown. Though there were times I was swallowed by doubt, hatred, and apathy, there were times I was embraced by assurance, love, and passion, and I’d argue that both were critical to my development as a young adult. With every experience you take away a tool, a skill, a lesson you’ll need or apply one day.
Since I enjoyed doing this so much last year, I’m going to share eighteen more lessons I’ve picked up in not just the past twelve months, but my eighteen years hanging out on this planet, breathing and feeling and observing and learning and sharing within myself and with others. I hope you pick something up along the way, too.
- Say yes.
Some of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life have been because I said “yes” to things I was hesitant about, or things I was initially afraid to do. I made the leap to spend a month abroad with a homestay family in France, even though I had never been away from home for that long before and was nervous about how comfortable I’d be communicating. I packed up my things and made the three and a half hour long journey out to the East End of Long Island to volunteer on a farm last summer. Despite having a previously horrible experience with AP social studies classes, I decided at the last moment to take AP Government and Politics, even though it meant more work for an already jam-packed senior year. The fear and jitters I pushed aside led to near-fluency in French, a new passion for agriculture, and one of my favorite classes and teachers of all time, things and memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Even though doubt may cloud your mind, if you know something could yield a positive benefit, just do it. You won’t regret it 99% of the time, and regardless, you’ll have learned something along the way that will enrich your human experience, which in my mind is always an asset.
2. Say no.
Just as there are times to say “yes,” there are times to say “no.” Life is not a skew in one direction; rather, it’s a balancing act between extremes and what lies in the middle. In your life, there are going to be times when your plate is full, when you’re exhausted or uncomfortable, when whatever is being presented to you isn’t a productive use of your energy. In those situations, do yourself a favor and say no. There will be infinite opportunities in your life (if you are open to them), and if you said “yes” to all, you’d have no time to reflect and relax, both of which I’d argue are critical to being a healthy human being. Just as traveling the world, trying new things, and learning about new subjects are important, so are staying at home, following a routine, and revisiting the things you love. It’s not something you have to beat yourself up over, either: accept that saying no is all part of the holistic package that is you. So get some sleep, take a bath, be lazy, because sometimes, you need to give yourself a break.
3. Get comfortable with yourself.
Newsflash: you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. Deal with it. No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be a glamourous six-foot blonde when you’re a nerdy five-foot brunette in reality. And you know what? It’s okay. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: and you aren’t broke, I swear. Instead of trying so hard to change yourself, take what you’ve got and own it. It’s counterproductive to be one more force against yourself when there’s already so much out there taking swings at your head and heart. Alleviate yourself of that unnecessary burden and love yourself. Figure out who you are and what you like. Know your flaws and embrace them. Take your mistakes and use them to fertilize the soil of the garden you’re blossoming into. No, you aren’t perfect–no one is–but you’re perfectly you, and that’s all you need to be. There are going to be times when you’ll be surrounded by a crowd cheering your name, but there are going to times when you’ll be standing alone on a precipice of despair, and in those times, you’re going to need self-support more than anything. Learn it, preach it, do it now and always so you’ll be able to hold yourself with some sense of security when you find yourself deserted in solitary struggle.
4. Life is a practice.
Anyone who tells you that there’s a be-all, end-all solution for your life and its dilemmas is spouting bullshit. In our capitalist society, we want to believe that buying something will somehow fix everything, but in fact the opposite is true. Putting all of your reliance in one external solution only makes the matter worse, for you’re avoiding all of the minute details that need to be addressed in order to eradicate your burden. You don’t scale a mountain by dragging yourself up in one go; you scale it–and surmount it–by taking it a little at a time, so that when you reach the summit, you’ll have the strength and energy to enjoy your surroundings instead of passing out from exhaustion. Life is the same. Take your problems step by step. Be patient, because impatience only hinders you further. Breathe. Recognize that there will be days when you take five steps forward, and days when you fall six steps behind. There will be consistency and inconsistency, progress and regression, success and failure: but it’s all part of the practice that gives your life meaning. And trust me, practice is rewarding.
5. Don’t be embarrassed.
Let’s be honest: we’re all idiots bumbling around blindly on this roughly spherical chunk of rock. We’ve all asked where the butter is when its dish is right before our eyes. We’ve all said something completely stupid to someone we secretly (or not so secretly) worship. We’ve all burped loudly in a room filled with attractive people, tripped over our own clumsy feet, farted at the least-convenient time in the history of ever. Even though there will be times when this embarrassment makes the sneaky transformation into self-depreciation, you don’t have to be ashamed. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, not even Beyoncé is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all say things we don’t mean, we all screw up. At times, it’s hard not to beat yourself up over even the most petty of matters, but you don’t have to rip yourself to shreds over every little “oops.” Instead, take that humiliation and make it into something. Turn it into a joke that makes your friends laugh. Use it as a reference point for when you’re making a decision in the future. Hell, channel your shame into pottery: mold a “yikes” bowl and fill it with hard candies, so every time you feel that embarrassment, you can take one and say, “Well, this sucks.” Flip the switch from shame on to game on.
6. Tame those monsters.
We all have a monster hiding in our closet, beneath our bed, or both. The monsters come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s always one there. You know that monster. It comes out at night when you’re tired and vulnerable; it chants, “You’re a failure, you’re a fool. You’re ugly. People don’t like you. You will never be successful. This, that, and the other thing is wrong with you. You don’t deserve love. You’re going to die alone with 10,000 cats.” That’s what my monster says. I don’t know what yours utters to you in those moments just past midnight, but I’d imagine he repeats lines similar to mine. Unfortunately, the monster’s probably going to always be there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gag him, tie him up in ropes, and make him beg for mercy from the awesomeness that is you. Remember this: you are stronger, bigger, and better than that monster, and you can defeat him. He is wrong. He is the fool, not you. He’s the one stuck inside; you’re the one who can go out into the world and drink up the sunshine. Don’t let him take that away from you. Yes, there are going to be times when the monster wins and terrible feelings will creep into your heart, but be resilient. You’re going to win next time, and you gotta keep going.
7. Build people up, not knock them down.
It’s easy to talk shit about other people. It’s entertaining, it’s easy, it distracts us from the more complicated crap going on inside our own minds. But honey, it’s a waste of time. Pushing people over doesn’t make you seem any taller. There is so much negativity in the world that we can’t control; you, however, can control the words you say and actions you take regarding others. You never know what’s going on beneath the surface: someone may be suffering from anxiety or depression, healing from devastating heartbreak, recovering from an illness she kept completely under wraps. Be one less force that’s out against that person, whoever he or she may be. Instead, take the energy you’d put into criticism and make it something healing, something beautiful. Channel your anger, your frustration, your pain into helping someone else. If someone hurts you, do something nice for a friend who loves you. That’s one of my fundamental life philosophies: go against the grain of malevolence and infuse the world with benevolence. While it’s not easy to practice that attitude at times–because, let’s face it, gossip is fun–redirecting your energy into a more compassionate pursuit will make both your life and the lives of others far better.
8. Sometimes it’s better to let go than to hold on.
Maybe you’ve seen this cartoon on this internet. If you haven’t, I’d implore you to conduct a quick Google search after reading this and find it. Basically, it’s a two-panel drawing, one with a person holding a rope and the other with a person releasing it. In the sketch with the rope, the person’s hand is red and swollen, blistered from its pull; in the one without, the hand is unscathed and free from burden. Every time I see it floating around Instagram or Facebook, I am struck by the truth the metaphor conveys. In every relationship, in every pursuit, there are positive and negative attributes, and it’s healthy to regularly check in and see where the matter in question lies on the spectrum. If you find that it lies far more frequently on the negative side than the positive, please consider letting go. Yes, if a friendship, partnership, career, (etc.) is valuable, by all means make an effort to fix it, but know that sometimes, there are things that are unmendable. Save yourself the pain and move onto something you can hang onto without the burden. Rope burns suck.
9. Boys are dumb. So are girls.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve whined to a friend over tea or massive bowls of pasta about this very subject. Abby’s top three most-commonly uttered phrases of senior year: “I am a potato,” “I just want to go to yoga already,” and, “Boys are dumb.” Holy shit boys are dumb. They break you and make you feel insecure yet have no idea they’re doing either at the same time. But you know what? Girls are dumb too. They’re dramatic and complicated yet constantly feign to be innocent cherubs who “wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Haha. I laugh. Yes, these are oversimplified stereotypes–there are some genuinely sensitive, compassionate guys and calm, sweet gals out there–but the truth is that these people are men and women, not boys and girls. Especially when you’re young, like yours truly, the realm of romantic pursuits is filled with disappointment. But when your non-platonic forays yield no positive outcome, recognize that the person for whom you are destined will come into your life when the time is right. God, I hate that statement with every fiber of my impatient eighteen year old being, but it’s so dead-on. When you’re ready–and when the world is ready–he or she will enter your life and steep your entire world in rainbows and glitter and unicorns. You have to be patient when waiting for this sparkling euphoria, but I promise, the wait will be worth it. You are worth it. Focus on yourself, your friends, your family, your pets, your passions, and one day, a surprise will come knocking at your door when you least expect.
10. Spread your love like Nutella.
Sorry if you’re allergic to nuts. (*Snorts immaturely because I’m five inside still.*) Substitute it with butter or ripe avocado or whatever other smooth condiments you enjoy. Anyway, jokes aside, put love on everything. Don’t do it lightly. In the words of my best friend Jeromy, “Go HAM.” Don’t you realize how many awesome people there are in the world? Don’t you realize how little credit they get for being the awesome duckies and potatoes they are? Show them! Let them know! Do it often! Write appreciation notes for your favorite people. Get random presents because hey, who says September 2nd or April 17th isn’t a holiday?! Bake your pals cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies? Go and see your little brother’s interpretive dance recital or your friend’s noodle art exhibition (THE PASTABILITIES ARE ENDLESS): people work hard and their work deserves to be admired, no matter what medium it is. Don’t give a rat’s ass what “society” thinks about your affection: society is a judgy bitch and you are a stunning superhero! Tell your teacher he’s the coolest person on earth, because it’s true! Tell the waitress at the restaurant her outfit is flawless! Tell the guy in the park making balloon animals that he has a wonderful smile! Filling the world with more love is never a bad thing.
11. Don’t like it? Don’t eat it!
This comes from one of my most profound childhood memories. It was a Sunday night when I was seven, maybe eight, and I was watching Food Network Challenge with my dad on our couch downstairs. That day, the show brought together two Italian families (chefs and their parents) to duke it out in the kitchen.The father on one of the teams was quite sassy. During the appetizer round, his culinary school-trained son suggested that he adjust the seasoning on his soup for the judges’ taste. To this, the father replied–verbatim, yes, I memorized this line–”I make the soup my taste. They like it, they like it. Don’t like it? Don’t eat it!” I thought this was absolutely the funniest thing on Earth–so funny to the point where we DVRed the episode and I’d watch it over and over again, erupting with giggles every time. I guess the message got implanted in my head, because today, I consider this line another one of my fundamental life philosophies. You gotta make the soup your way; you gotta be you. Some people will love your soup. Some people won’t. That’s just how it is. Don’t exert so much energy into getting people to like it: own your soup, because your soup slays. People are picky. People are close-minded. People are snotty. That doesn’t mean your soup stinks, though.
12. Be a renaissance woman (or man!).
My teachers have frequently called me a renaissance woman. (I always laugh a bit when they say it because it just makes me picture myself as a stern woman in an oil painting.) The reason why I suppose is that I’m interested in basically everything. To me, the world is such a fascinating place filled with so many wonderful things to learn. I’ve been a bass clarinetist, a doodler, a poet, a baker, a photographer, and everything in between. I love talking with people about politics and philosophy. I love reading, and I’m down for pretty much anything. Memoirs. Historical fiction. Fluffy romances. Words are awesome. I’m always looking for new things to try, and though I know I’ll never try everything, that doesn’t stop me from constantly looking to expand my horizons. I think this life is much more exciting when you’re open to culture, when you see art and seize it. Don’t be that person who spends his or her free time playing games on an iPhone. Be that person who reads the newspaper. Visits the obscure modern art museum. Plays the banjo. Cooks authentic Chinese food. Goes on nature walks and dries the flowers for souvenirs. Enrich yourself in the gifts this life has to offer.
13. Define your own version of success.
Most people you’re going to meet in your life will define “success” as this: undergraduate and graduate education at a prestigious university, steady, high-paying job (preferably in a field of medicine, law, or business), attractive yet financially competent partner, large group of demographically-similar peers, vacations to the usual places, perfect model children who are conceived at some socially-acceptable age. I’m not saying any of those things are bad or wrong, but me? I say bullshit to that definition of success. To me, success is doing what you love and believing what you believe regardless of what everybody else says and thinks. That’s the only way you’re going to feel satisfied from the core, not just on the surface. The happiest people aren’t the ones who have the most money, the ones who fit in, the ones who got what they wanted right away. The happiest people are the ones who follow their passions, the ones who stand out, the ones who worked hard and earned their success. If you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or hedge fund manager, by all means do it. But if you want to be a teacher, artist, or writer–or anything else, really–go for it. Some people may not understand why you’ve chosen your path, but screw ‘em. The people who love you–the people who matter–will support you through and through, even if they might not understand. The world needs all different types of people in order to be whole, and if you follow your heart, it will all fall into place. You will be successful; it’s up to you how you want to characterize it.
14. Be a child.
I have a task for you. On the next nice day, go to the park–preferably one with a playground–and watch children play. Don’t be creepy, just be an observer of this life and the beautiful people in it. You learn a lot by watching kids. Yeah, they get upset over trains and haven’t read chapter books yet, but kids are smart, and they know how to live. Children don’t care if they’re loudly singing the wrong lyrics off-key. They don’t care what their playmates look like. They don’t care if they’ve already had two desserts today: if there’s a chocolate cake in front of them, gosh darnit, it’s going to be dessert number three. Should we all act like we’re five all the time? No way. But should we emulate some of these childish qualities? Absolutely. Dance and don’t give a damn who’s watching. Pick your friends based on their kindness and quality of fart jokes, not their looks or status. Give into your pleasures and enjoy yourself. Disney movies are wonderful, watch them sometime. Nothing cures the blues like Goldfish. Be a princess. Be a pirate. Be an astronaut. There’s nothing like staining your hands with sidewalk chalk. Life is filled with simple joys: soak them up.
15. Be a crazy tea-drinking old cat lady.
Old people know how to live. They’ve been here longer than the rest of us, so they’ve got this whole life thing figured out. Traveling and partying and staying out until the crack of dawn are all fun, but so are staying at home and having sit-down dinners and going to bed before ten o’clock. I am an “old soul,” so I can attest to all of this with confidence. Life is delicious when you take it in thoughtfully, when you treasure your memories and divulge your stories with others. Drink tea. Coffee speeds you up too much, tea slows you down in just the right way. Nothing is better for the soul than a good book and a solid night’s sleep. Bring a sweater when you’re going out: it’s better to be warm and prepared than cold and neglectful. Write letters using, yes, an actual pencil and piece of paper. Don’t go for a run, go for a walk today. Enjoy the trees and the flowers. Call a friend instead of sending a text. Share your wisdom with those who are younger. We go too fast too often; take a moment and hit pause. Be here and remember where you came from.
16. You can be completely lost and afraid and have no idea what the hell you’re doing.
Look around you. Everybody seems happy, calm, and collected, right? Wrong. Inside, everybody is probably thinking, “Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing?!” Maybe not all of the time, but certainly a good portion of it. There are very few people in this world who are completely solid and grounded in themselves 100% of the time. You don’t have to be one of them. I know I’m not! Yes, there are days when I feel good, when I know what I want, when I’m confident I’m going in the right direction, but there are arguably more days when I don’t feel good, when I don’t know what I want, when I think I might be going in the most absurd direction possible. And you know what? It’s okay. Part of being human is getting lost so you can find a better version of yourself. You don’t learn anything by sticking to the itinerary; you learn something by losing yourself and winding up at an abandoned alpaca farm in New Mexico with only an elderly sheep dog (named Shep), a unicycle, and an unlimited supply of Whoopie Cushions as your survival tools. You don’t have to feel ashamed for drifting. Drifting takes you somewhere new, and teaches you about yourself and the world along the way.
17. Learn how to cook one solid meal from scratch. Yes, this includes dessert.
Maybe this is because I’m a foodie, but I think learning how to cook is one of the most important skills a young adult can learn. Food is for you, food is for me, food is for EVERYBODY. There are so many big grownup responsibilities we have to learn; preparing a meal is a relatively easy, conquerable one. Pick a recipe for your favorite entree and sweet. Go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients yourself. Make sure you include vegetables, because you’re a grown-ass man or woman and that’s what grown-ass men and women do. Yes, you can buy boxed pasta, but please, if you’re going to have tomato sauce, make it from scratch. It’s so easy and tastes way better, trust me. Get real vanilla and decent chocolate. You don’t have to be Ina Garten, but set some standards for yourself. Don’t be eating no fake crap. If you buy pre-made cookie dough I’m coming to your house and shoving a stick of butter up your nose. Set aside an afternoon and evening to cook. Follow the instructions. Watch YouTube videos if you don’t know how to cut something. Bonus points if you invite a friend over for dinner. Set the table and eat with a fork and a knife. Chew and swallow and engage in conversation. No phones. Do the dishes. Master these recipes down-pat so when you want to impress a date or host friends for dinner after work one day, you’ll be ready. If you mess up, it’s okay. Every cook has had a night where he or she has burned everything or added too much cayenne. The important thing is that you learn and take responsibility for what goes into your stomach.
18. Be a go-getter.
Sometimes, life comes to you. That’s great. It’s also rare. More often than not, you’re going to have to go out there and get life for yourself. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but that’s how it is. You want to be friends with someone? Go out and formally introduce yourself to him or her. Set up a time to get coffee. You want to date? Prince Charming isn’t going to show up on your front porch with a majestic white stallion. Talk to people. Go do stuff. Make an effort to socialize and look nice. You want a job? Put yourself out there and put your best foot forward. You’re going to be rejected. Rejection sucks. I hate it. But you keep going, because eventually, it will click. You don’t need a pizza man. Go out in your pajamas and pick up your godforsaken pie from the restaurant. You are strong, you are independent, you are talented and brave and clever: therefore, you will go places if you try. Believe in yourself and other people will believe in you, baby. Keep getting up when you fall because scars tell stories that make you better. Seize the day, don’t let the day seize you.
So, did you make it through the whole thing? Another 4,000+ words of fun? If you did, I’m proud of you. Thanks for reading my writing. I think that I’m going to write a book one day. A book-book and a cookbook. Maybe just one and not the other. I don’t know. But I’m going to write a book sometime in my adult life.
I want you to be the first to know, because whoever you are, I love you. Maybe you’re one of my close friends who’s reading this out of obligation; maybe you’re an acquaintance I’ve waved to once or twice; maybe you’re one of my teachers who is kind enough to read my work even though I’m no longer your student; maybe you’re a stranger. Whoever you are, know that you are a gorgeous person worthy of love, and you should be proud of yourself for what you’ve gotten through and who you are. Never be ashamed of the beauty that is you and your heart.
Xoxo <3 <3,
Tags: my life, reflections
February 23, 2016
(Shout-out to my amazing teacher Emily, who is not only one of the most gorgeous human beings on the planet both inside and out, but also knows me too well and has the best handwriting ever, as evidenced above, and is a great inspiration of mine! xoxo!!!)
At the end of every yoga class, I sit in silence at the top of my mat with my hands pressed in anjali mudra against my heart, feeling the energy of my past hour of practice wash over me in a calming inundation of good vibes. All of us in the room then bow our heads and say namaste, expressing our gratitude for our practice, our teacher, and our fellow yogis.
In Sanskrit, namaste literally translates to “I bow to you,” but depending on tradition, there are many ways to interpret such a loaded word. My personal favorite, though, is this: “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you”…because in this gesture, you are recognizing that both you AND those around you possess a wonderful radiance. Basically, you acknowledge that your entire world is steeped in light, and I think that’s a truly lovely philosophy.
Right now, I’m personally feeling very stuck, slinking through the quibbles and dabbles of adolescent life. I’m not in college yet, but I’m not really in high school, either: this is my last semester, and all of a sudden this pressure that’s been building up the past four years has dissipated into near apathy. I’ve been doing the same routine forever, it seems, and each day simultaneously seems to drag on yet blend seamlessly into the day before and the day afterwards. There are moments here and there where I feel a rush of excited adrenaline for the future pumping through my veins, but most of the time, I’m just sitting, staring into space, being here, wherever here is, and being completely aware of it.
But that is life. Life isn’t about the dazzling heights of milestones like graduating, winning an award, going on a fabulous vacation: life is about brushing your teeth twice a day, feeling up avocados in the grocery store on an early Tuesday evening, stepping in a pile of late February slosh that’s there for the sole purpose of ruining your shoes (pun intended).
Life is about the interactions of each passing “normal” day, and that can make people frustrated and upset, because a lot of days are so humdrum that they seem to stand as boring blobs of blah. Trust me. I get it. But lately, I’ve been trying my darndest to find sparkle and joy in the little moments, because if you shake up your perspective, at least one really awesome thing happens every day. And for me, saying namaste helps me get to that daily place of contentment, if not elation, because even if your circumstances aren’t the most exciting, the people around you always are, if you look closely enough.
So, how can you say namaste not only to yourself, but to the world every day?
1. Give other people chances.
So often, we make snap judgments about the people we meet, the people we interact with on a daily basis. We take others at face-value, because it allows us to filter and simplify our world without giving it much thought. We define people based on what they wear, who they hang out with, the gossip we hear about them through whispered rumors…and while these quick, very materialistic analyses enable us to nicely compartmentalize our worlds, it makes our scopes of human interaction quite narrow.
And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown really not to like this approach. I look at the relationships I have, and I’ve found that the ones that mean the most to me are where I’ve given another person a chance despite my first expectation of him or her. I once knew someone whom I thought I’d never be friends with, because my initial conception was that he was mean and wouldn’t like me. But then, I gave him a chance, and I quickly realized that this was one of the most intelligent, honest, loyal people I had ever met, someone I never would’ve known was there otherwise. Today, this amazing person is one of my best friends in the ENTIRE universe, all because I let the world and not my judgment define my reality. (He is also now screaming at me through his phone. Love you too boo!!! <3 )
This has been a common trope in my life, whether it’s been with a teacher or a peer or someone I’ve met at a coffee shop: people can shine a light on you that fills you with the most lovely warmth, if you give them the opportunity to shine that light. Put aside your expectations and walk through the world with an open heart, letting those around you show you and tell you what they’re really like.
2. Be curious about the light all around you.
People honestly ask the most boring, bland questions sometimes. “How is your day?” “How is work/school/family stuff?” “What do you think of this project?” Sometimes we don’t even ask questions and just make blanket statements to fill silence, meaningless observations about the weather or tidbits about other people. Yes, small talk has its place, but I personally believe that we all have the potential to enhance our conversations with so much more sentiment if we give it a whirl.
Last year when I was bored in my U.S. History class, I would take out my rainbow pens and sheets of lined paper and write questions that, if given the opportunity, I would ask to someone I was getting to know. I entitled these lists of inquisitions “Dates and Figs,” and by the end of the year, I had compiled a whopping 800+ unique questions in total. Some were on the sillier side, like, “If you were a rubber ducky, what would you look like?” and “What is your preferred length of sock?,” while others were deeper, such as, “Who in the world can you tell anything to?” and “What is your deepest insecurity?.” My goal was to make my questions as interesting as possible, because there’s so much to be curious about in the world.
What was once a distraction in class became my new philosophy about the world. Dates and Figs inspired me to be fearless when talking to others, peeling past seemingly simple outer barriers to reach the intricacy that I’ve found every individual possesses. Sometimes, you get to this layer of complexity on a first encounter; other times, you’ve got to continually dig before you tap the surface of someone’s heart. But the journey to discover the source of another person’s light is one of the most humbling, rewarding experiences, if you give it time.
I’ve realized that you don’t really see the light in other people by asking them how their assignments are going or where they’re headed for lunch. You see the light in other people by asking them what their favorite color is, whether they consider themselves introverts or extroverts, what their greatest passion is. Be bold with the inquiries you pose, because hey, what’s holding you back? Society? BAH, society! (This is such an Abby statement.) You’re going to understand and appreciate people way more and way better if you discover what really goes on inside, because that’s who people really are. Genuineness exists inside everyone if you give him or her the chance to reveal it, so go find it.
3. Recognize that everyone’s light is different, and differently expressed.
Okay, so I’m going to sidetrack for a minute, but I promise it’s still relevant. One thing I’ve been very into recently is Myers-Briggs types. In case you don’t know what those are, it’s a simplification of Jung’s Psychological Types, where Isabel Myers and Katharine Cook-Briggs established 16 different ways that people are and go about the world. While it’s not a perfect science, I personally love Myers-Briggs because the principles emphasize that people work and feel and process information differently, not wrongly. The goal of Myers-Briggs is to articulate that if we work towards understanding where and why we differ, we’ll be better able to form relationships and be successful in all types of environments. Introversion versus extroversion, intuition versus sensing, thinking versus feeling, perception versus judgment: all of these elements come together in various combinations to display that we each are composed of varying patterns of thought and interaction.
(By the way, I’m a hardcore INFJ, in case you’re wondering. You can read more about types here and here, and my favorite personality test can be found here. Let me know what you get!)
This, to me, relates to namaste because by saying that the divine light in me sees the divine light in you, we’re saying that while we understand that we might not be the same, we recognize that we can all find a place of mutual admiration and respect. And that’s pretty powerful…and something I’ve been trying really hard to practice lately.
Me personally, I’m a very emotional, intuitive person, and most of my passions and interactions are deeply rooted in feelings and ideas as opposed to facts and logic. My life is infused with creativity, and if I feel like my imagination is being stepped on, I get grumpy. Happy Abby is Abby writing about her day in her journal, having three hour conversations about human existence, and slaving away for days over a kitchen stove or a crafts project to bring a smile to another person’s face. So when I talk with someone who is grounded in the concrete, who prefers work to introspection, who may be less attuned to the world of emotion with which I’m so intertwined and more in line with the rational side of life, I often become puzzled or frustrated as I try to figure out how to connect.
But I’ve been steadily working towards always remembering that everyone thinks in a different way, and if everyone was the same, life would be painfully boring. Learning about how each person interprets the world is a fascinating experience, and I’ve grown to love picking people’s brains to best understand perceptions and ideas that aren’t like mine. Embracing all of these different kinds of light makes you a more thoughtful, sensitive person, and it not only brings you more friends to love, but also challenges you to reevaluate yourself and develop new ways of going about your life.
Flexibility is fantastic, so again, allow yourself to be open to the rainbow of ways in which people process the world. The best conversations and friendships arise from where you can find connection in similarities and differences, where you see light even if it’s not a type of light you’re familiar with. Let it shine, let it radiate. You won’t be sorry.
4. Remember that YOU have divine light, too!
Namaste has two parts: the divine light in ME and the divine light in YOU. You should always look outward, recognizing that everyone and everything in the world has beauty if you have a gentle enough perspective, but you should never forget that YOU are part of this beautiful world; therefore, you too possess a wonderful kind of beauty. It doesn’t make you narcissistic to see beauty in yourself. Really.
Sometimes I just want to go up to people and start shaking them, screaming, “I F**KING LOVE YOU!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?!?!?!?!” (And, as my friends will tell you, I often do this, though usually I’m able to restrain myself from being too extreme.) Yes, everyone has flaws, but it makes me sad and mad and frustrated when people are ashamed, when they can’t see how freaking fantastic they are. I wish I could convince everyone I know how much he or she deserves to love himself or herself for exactly who he or she is.
Please, do me a favor and even when you feel scared or lonely or hopeless, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is light within you, and other people want to see and feel and love that light. Just like you give others a chance, give yourself a chance, too. Understand that in life, you will make mistakes, you will feel uncomfortable, you will sense the quirks in your personality and you may squirm, but don’t let that stop you from loving yourself. You are strong, you are courageous, you are gorgeous and radiant and held by others and this life itself. Let your light shine, because you beam, and you ROCK.
To especially my loved ones reading this, thank you all for being the most wonderful people in the world. Thank you for letting me ask you personal questions. Thank you for listening to my babbling philosophical meanderings. Thank you for talking with me about everything, because I love talking to you about everything. Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with me, because I feel so grateful for the beautiful light you exude every. Single. Day.
Tags: my life, reflections, yoga
May 23, 2015
Hello! In case you haven’t seen my various social media posts (if you have, you’re probably sick of them by now), I just want to let you know that I feel very colorful today, I am now seventeen years old, and I am pretty darn happy to be alive.
…WARNING: CHEESY POST AHEAD.
No, I don’t mean macaroni and cheese or some sort of fondue. I mean reflection-y cheese. So if you are a sentimentality vegan, please continue scrolling for actual food. Thank you, sincerely me. 🙂
May 23rd, 2015. Today is the day I turn seventeen years old, pushing myself one step closer to becoming an adult in just a year’s time. Though my mother insisted, “You’re already an adult in our eyes!” at dinner the other evening, I still feel very much like a child, yet very much like an old lady in many ways. But, then again, I’ve always felt kind of old, if that makes sense, so this feeling isn’t really anything new. I have a profound memory of being five or six years old and socializing with the grown-ups at some party my parents had taken me to when one of the adults said, “You’re like a forty year-old lady!” Welcome to my life.
I guess what I mean to say is that I feel that the age of my soul and my body do not correlate, and the two have not yet met each other somewhere.
Maybe this is the hippy side of me coming out, but I believe that our individual energies–not quite the soul, but something similar–have different ages than our physical bodies, for energy is passed from being to being as collective life continues. Some energy is older than others; some energy has been through more experiences than others; some energy has just recently arrived on this planet and has not yet explored the nuances of our corner of the universe. We do not choose the energy we are given, nor are we controlled by it; rather, the energy finds us, and we live in a symbiotic relationship with it, as we feed off of its prior experiences while we lend it the details and lessons of our personal events.
People have frequently told me that I have an “old soul,” which I can definitely see. I enjoy the small things in life: drinking tea out of my favorite mug, seeing the first dandelions pop out of the ground, feeling the lovely warmth of the sun after spending a day cooped up inside. I don’t really understand the word “party:” my idea of fun is curling up with a book or having a small dinner with a few friends. I think long and hard about things, and constantly: I absorb the movements of others like a sponge, piecing the people around me together so I can best understand where they’re coming from and where they might go.
And, most of all, I enjoy reflecting, synthesizing my experiences and figuring out what exactly they mean to me. This is the reason I love birthdays (other than the fact that they celebrate two of my favorite things–myself and cake): they serve as permanent markers with which we can track our changes as human beings as the vault of our experiences grows. That, my friends, is why I’m here today.
When I was twelve years old–the summer between sixth and seventh grade–I ordered myself a subscription to Seventeen magazine, mostly just to look at the horoscope section because I was really into astrology back then (and still am today). Even though some of the fashions were completely ridiculous and I had no idea why so many forms of eye makeup existed, I always looked forward to reading the magazine every month, holding onto some crazy expectation that THIS was going to be my life when I was sixteen, seventeen years old.
I cancelled my subscription when I was fifteen, partly because pairing plaid with floral print and calling it fashion is absurd, and partly because I knew this was going to be a completely inaccurate representation of my life as a teenager.
When I was a tween, I thought that as a sixteen or seventeen year old, I would have a boyfriend (who was somehow radically different than the exact same dweebs I went to middle school with), be very involved with social gatherings, and spend my days bopping around town in my car listening to cool music. It all seems so silly now. While I do bop around town in my car listening to cool music (at least in my opinion), the only relationship I have been involved with is that between me and my cats, and I mostly spend my weekends socializing with food and homework assignments. Oh well. I’m honestly not that disappointed, nor surprised.
Though I cannot dish up advice about how to score a hot guy in ten days or how to paint your nails perfectly for prom, I’m pretty sure I’m up for sharing, in my old soul fashion, some of the more valuable things I’ve learned in my seventeen years of existence. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve discovered (or just want to laugh at how badly I fail at being a stereotypical teenager), please, I encourage you to read on. 🙂
- Spend time by yourself…
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely love people and like spending time around them, but as a bit of an introvert, I greatly value time spent alone. It’s wise not to talk to me on Friday afternoons, because often, I will be so fed up with people in general that I have to take myself to yoga to empty out some of the clutter too much social interaction generates. I think it’s incorrect to assume that people are purely “dumb” or “annoying,” but I do believe that you can be your own greatest companion. Honestly, some of my favorite memories are those I’ve passed in solitude, be it skipping school (don’t worry, I was just missing two free periods) to go flying on the swing set at the playground or taking myself out for a drive and a dopio decaf espresso. When you’re alone, you learn how to be comfortable with yourself, and you also discover pieces of your soul that you’ve never uncovered before, which I think is pretty magical. It can actually be really fun, too: maybe this is just me, but I think I crack myself up more than any other person can.
- …but don’t forget about other people, too!
Now, too much time alone isn’t a good thing for anyone, even the most introverted of introverts. We are humans, we are social creatures: therefore, we must socialize! Though it may seem difficult at times, I strongly believe that everyone can be a friend, and there is a friend out there for everyone. Just as nothing can be as satisfying as telling yourself a joke that you find absolutely hysterical, nothing can be as satisfying as sharing that joke with three of your best friends who all understand why exactly that joke is so comical. Even if it requires more effort on your part, try your darndest to have conversations and do activities with the people you love. You don’t know how long a person will be in your life for, so relish each moment you can share with a friend, a parent, a lover, or even just an acquaintance.
- Recognize that there is good in every single person…
I can’t tell you how many times I have texted or picked up the phone and called a friend to complain about how agitating so-and-so was, or what rude, insensitive comment so-and-so said to me or someone else I know. I may seem polished on the surface, but once you get me talking, I can swear like a sailor, and in a moment of anger I have no problem calling someone a fucking shithead asshole (though rarely to that person’s face). Still, I try to make a habit of recognizing that just as everyone has flaws, everyone has assets that are worthy of mention, even if every quality about a particular person irritates me to the core. You have no idea what’s really going on behind the walls of another person’s skull, so treat others with kindness and take just a second to remember that there is beauty (both physical and beyond) in every being. If we at least try to see the world through the lens of love as opposed to hatred, I think a lot could be done to improve our lives.
- …though don’t let yourself be a carpet.
There are times when someone has really hurt you when you have the absolute, indisputable right to be completely and utterly furious and upset. I believe that forgiveness is a wonderful thing that should be exercised regularly, but I also believe that instantly alleviating someone of the wrongs he or she has done upon you is an insult to your value as a person. Give onto others, but don’t give so much that you have nothing left for yourself to hang onto. There are times when you feel manipulated, used, and abused, and you don’t deserve to have those weighty emotions glossed over, so do yourself a favor and don’t let people walk all over you. You are not a place for people to rid themselves of their dirt: you are a person with valuable feelings and opinions!
- Don’t dwell. That’s for stalkers.
Being angry, annoyed, or agitated (or other adjectives starting with a that have negative connotations) for an extended period of time is just an outright bad idea. Both physically and mentally, you just feel nasty, like you ate a really greasy taco and it’s just sitting around in your belly, unable to be digested. It’s all about striking a balance between forgiving others and taking care of yourself and your emotions, and only you can tell where the midpoint lies. Get furious, get angsty, throw things, ignore people, curse, eat ice cream, but also take a deep breath and calm down, pick up the pieces, listen to apologies (or craft your own), and move on with your life. You are not obligated to forgive anyone, but after a while, you will feel so much better if you do.
- Recognize that relationships are fluid.
As much as we like to say that a particular person will be our best friend forever, or that you will always love one special guy or gal, almost all relationships inevitably crumble or simply fade out. It’s not a bad thing, or something we should even necessarily try to prevent: it’s just a part of life. People change, gradually or all at once, and two pieces that once fit together perfectly may no longer even share a common side or nook. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or made a fuss over; rather, it proves much simpler to address any problems at hand (say, if a fight broke out) or just part with a casual goodbye if the shift cannot quite be explained. It can be painful to lose someone, but sometimes it’s for the best, and what you once loved can always come back to you if it aligns with the paths of both of your futures. In life, we must just…let go…at least sometimes.
- Ugh, give yourself a break already!
I’ve talked extensively about this before, but I will continue to toot my horn until I can finally get the idea planted in my very own head as well as in the minds of everyone else. In our society, we always strive to be “perfect,” a word that has very rigid definitions that makes it pretty much impossible to ever attain. We’re taught from a young age that mistakes always happen, but they should be frowned upon, that they are things that should be pushed aside, shoved in a corner, and hidden to make room for accomplishments you will use as their replacements. Let me be frank: that’s bullshit. Instead of seeing your faults as negatives (and beating yourself up inside about them), understand that you are human and will never defeat that fact: therefore, you will always make mistakes. But messing up isn’t a bad thing at all; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn–one of the greatest gifts we have in this life–and grow in a much deeper, more satisfying way.
- Learning is outright awesome.
I am a nerd, and there is no question about it. When I was younger, I would go through “phases” as my parents would call them, where I would spend a few months at a time infatuated with a particular topic, ranging from bridges to viruses to the presidents of the United States. (I can still name all of the presidents in order, skipping no one and accounting for the fact that Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms.) Discovering new information is like giving yourself a free gift, and who doesn’t like free stuff?! The best thing about learning is that it can be done in pretty much any way you please. If you’re a word person, you can read all of the books you like; if you’re a kinesthetic person, you can take a dance class; if you’re a spiritual person, you can partake in meditation; if you’re a verbal person, you can pick up a plethora of languages simply by doing an internet search. There’s no excuse not to learn, because really, everyone has the capacity to learn and learn more.
- Don’t be a chicken. Be a LION!
Back story: I have had the same French teacher for the past three years, and will have her again for a fourth year independent study. Ever since my freshman year, Mme Berliet passionately chirps, “Vous êtes des lions ou des poulets?!” whenever no one volunteers to present a PowerPoint or answer a question. While we all have different levels of confidence, each one of us has the power to decide whether he or she wants to be a cowardly chicken or a fierce lion, and it only takes a bit of courage to pick one over the other. Obviously don’t do anything stupid–jumping off of buildings (without bungee cords or parachutes) and eating nails are always terrible ideas, and doing them makes you senseless, not brave–but don’t let yourself be afraid of this world. Take the opportunity to see new places, to try new foods, to discover what having a pixie cut is like. Don’t just make ripples; make a splash!
- Travel. Oh my gosh, travel and ENJOY it.
I am a lucky girl, and from a young age, my parents have been big on taking me to different states and countries. At times I’ve loved it; at times I’ve grumbled and wished that I had stayed home and derped around on YouTube all day instead. The older I’ve gotten though, the more and more I realize that seeing the world opens your eyes to a much wider life. By “travel,” I don’t mean picking a popular spot and just hitting up all of the tourist attractions for Instagram opportunities; I mean wandering around an unfamiliar place with an open mind and breathing in the smells, seeing the houses where people live, poking your head into the shops and galleries owned by locals. My favorite memories of travelling are actually quite simple ones: talking to a vendor on a hillside in Èze, driving under a rainbow with my parents in Hawaii, eating beignets on a bench in New Orleans. The place doesn’t even have to be far away: if you don’t have the money for a plane ticket, hop in your car and take a road trip to a different part of your state or even just a nearby town you haven’t visited in the while. Something unknown and waiting to be discovered is always within your reach.
- Don’t forget that home is a pretty sweet place, too.
If I spend more than two or three days exclusively at home, I basically go bat-shit crazy. I’m a doer, and even if I have books to read and Crash Course World History videos to watch, I need to get out of my house and go somewhere else, even if that somewhere else is the grocery store or, gasp, school. Still, as much as being at home sometimes bothers me, my house is perhaps my favorite place in the whole world. Doing mundane things–brushing your teeth, lying in bed before you fall asleep, getting the mail from the mailbox–are all so ingrained in our lives that we forget about how wonderful having a routine at home can be. At the same time, I know that “home” is a difficult place for a lot of people, but in my opinion, a “home” doesn’t have to be where you take a shower or tie your shoelaces in the morning; instead, “home” is wherever you feel most comfortable, most like yourself. “Home” could be the library, a yoga studio, or even a particular chair at your school or university, but wherever “home” is, always remember to come back to it, even if it isn’t the most exciting place on earth.
- You are never, ever “stuck” anywhere…
Human beings and their day-to-day dramas kind of remind me of the game of Twister, which was never really my favorite as a child. (No, I am not getting sexual here. Sexual is not my forte. Grape-eating is my forte.) You have no control over where you land, and often times, you’ll find yourself in a really uncomfortable position that both exhausts you and makes you look quite silly. While you may be “stuck” in a particular spot for a long time, you can control how you feel about your position. Really. Like WHOA. It may be easy to grumble and complain about how sore you are and how much you want to change things around, but it’s much more beneficial to figure out how you can keep yourself calm and relatively pleasant until the moment passes. Humans are pretty strong: if we put our minds to it, I believe we have the power to make ourselves feel at least somewhat comfortable in any situation.
- …but if you feel really mired, don’t be ashamed to call out for help.
We can’t go through this life alone. It’s actually a really bad idea and I would not recommend it at all, even to the strongest soul. While we shouldn’t be helpless–many of the tools we need to solve our problems are right in our own belts–we shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that we sometimes need a hand to hold, a push to get us going, or a shoulder to cry on when we just feel like poop. All people deal with the same crap, so why be shameful of it? Being comforted, counseled, or even just listened to by another person can do more healing than all of the cheap chocolate truffles and Advil one could possibly buy. Feeling weak should not correlate with hiding yourself from the world; rather, vulnerability should coincide with seeking support to make up for the strength that isn’t quite there yet.
- EVERYBODY STOP CRYING!!! (Eventually…)
Disclaimer: I am a complete and utter crybaby. I cried in the third grade when I only met the “goal” level instead of the “exceeds expectation” level on my state-mandated writing assessment. I cried in the sixth grade when my science teacher gave me detention for not getting a test signed. I cried in the ninth grade when I couldn’t answer some dumb question about triangles on an honors geometry quiz. I cry in my car, I cry at my desks, I cry in my room. I cry watching movies, I cry talking to friends, I cry for no reason at all sometimes. And while it’s all fine and normal to get upset or emotional, it’s silly to always get dramatic over everything, or have your tears last an eternity. I will probably always cry, but I’m slowly learning how to not sweat the little stuff and save the waterworks for when it really counts. Take a deep breath and remember that even if it takes more effort than you’d like, life is so much better when your face isn’t half-covered in saline solution and half-covered in snot.
- Drama and gossip are for Pop Tarts. You are not a Pop Tart.
My best friend Natalie and I came up with this concept when one of us was complaining about how the boy she liked was far more interested in a girl we thought was too unstable and dramatic to be considered an ideal candidate for a partner. While that probably had more to do the reality of teenage boyhood than anything else, we devised an ingenious term for someone like “this other chick” who loves to gossip and is overly dramatic: a Pop Tart. Though they are initially sweet and fun, Pop Tarts are deceiving, for they crumble and leave you feeling kinda icky and tired after a short while. The idea here is that though gossip and drama give you little jolts of energy, neither really does you any favors in the long run, and all you’re going to wind up with is a sugar crash. It’s not worth spending your time around Pop Tarts; at the same time, don’t let yourself be a fragile Pop Tart who falls apart the second something even slightly stirring comes about, either. Ignore the petty chatter of life and focus on what will really sustain you.
- Make time for meaningful activities.
By meaningful, I am not suggesting that you become a Buddhist monk and move to Bhutan to find enlightenment, nor am I recommending a particular young adult novel that will change your life. By meaningful, I mean (no pun intended) that you should make time for what matters to you. It’s unique to every person, so don’t let anyone diss the fact that drawing pictures of exotic birds or playing hopscotch are what really fills your heart with joy. Don’t be selfish and take all of your time for yourself, but give yourself ample time to savor what makes you happy. Everyone deserves to lead a life filled with sweetness, and more than anyone else, you have the potential to sprinkle your days with glitter and illuminate them with sunshine. Yes, there are unpleasant things that must be done for the sake of society (because, let’s face it, we’re all kinda forced to comply with it), but I believe that the opportunity is always there to do something you love. So sing your Bulgarian folk songs, munch away on your favorite dill pickles, flaunt your hotness with that crazy purple boa you own: this is your life, and you get to decide what means the most to you.
- Say thank you, silently and aloud.
Manners are my jam, or at least I try my darned hardest to make them a priority. I’m a big fan of holding doors and shaking hands, but most of all, I’m a huge proponent of saying thank you. Yes, it’s small and it can feel insignificant, but expressing gratitude fills both your life and the lives of others with the most delicious positive energy. It’s nice to say “thank you” to someone’s face when he or she prepares you a home-cooked meal or saves your butt on a group assignment, but it’s equally as nice to say “thank you” to the rain for having a perfect pitter-patter, to your favorite pair of slippers for keeping your tootsies toasty, to the universe or God or spirits or whatever you believe in for putting you on this earth and giving you a chance to lead a beautiful life. For this year, and next year, and every year to come, I hope to express more gratitude towards everything, because honestly, I receive such an incredible gift every day I’m alive.
Phew! Did you make it all the way through? If so, I’m proud of you: you just read 4,000+ words, which is perhaps the most I’ve ever written in one (okay, two) sitting(s).
Before I go, I just want to say thank you (huge shocker) to whomever read this post, because I put a lot of time and effort into it and if you took the time to absorb it, you are pretty much one of the coolest people ever.
So…until we meet again. Shine on, my friends, and always remember to be happy, and that Abby loves you, no matter who you are or where you are. 🙂
Tags: birthday, my life, reflections
December 30, 2014
WARNING: If you are not one for gooey, reflection-y pieces and prefer just to look at pictures of food, please skip this post and continue scrolling down for biscotti, granola, and brownies. I promise I won’t be mad. 😉 Thank you!
As each year draws to a close, I like to reflect on how I’ve changed and where I’ve gone since the previous December. I do fun stuff (like making a playlist of my top 100 songs of the year), but I also partake in more serious, sentimental activities, including reading my journal entries from throughout the year and having deeper conversations with friends about life and relationships. I know it sounds cheesy, but I love carving out this time for myself before I dive into the newness of the next year.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you, whoever is reading this.
I know I’m a teenager and don’t exactly have a lot of years to compare this one with, but I feel as if 2014 was a big year for me. And overall, I think it wound up being a really, really good one, despite some rough patches along the way. Yes, having my best friend from Texas visit and getting my driver’s license were certainly monumental, but my mindset has definitely changed, too.
I came into this year with a lot of baggage, honestly. It was hard looking back in January 2014 to January 2013, when I was very, very thin and in a cold, miserable fog that I had put myself in. Though I know I was far healthier weighing more, eating more food, and exercising, I didn’t like how my body looked at all. It was vain, but I missed the me that could wear size 0 pants, even though that me had to wear two or three jackets at school to keep warm and felt incredibly lonely inside. And for those of you who maybe didn’t know this about me, yes, I struggled with disordered eating and body image issues, and it was difficult and painful and I don’t like to talk about it much because it hurt. A lot. And I got help, I got better, before things got bad. And while I am happy and bubbly most of the time now (and I have infinite reasons to be joyous and grateful, to be completely honest), sometimes in the dark at night, these thoughts come creeping in, and I let them linger for a moment before blowing them away.
Throughout the beginning of this year, I was incredibly critical of not only my body, but my grades and schoolwork, too. While I had a perfect GPA for my sophomore year when I finished up in June, it was a drive for perfection that really did me more damage than favors. I self-imposed competition between myself and my good friends (who were also high-fliers in the grade category), and every time I got any mark I wasn’t satisfied with, I’d beat myself up inside. There were times when I’d scream and cry for hours because I hated my body, because I didn’t get a perfect grade, because I felt that I had to be perfect in order to be satisfied. I hated that place, but at the time, I felt as if this was where I had to be in order to be better.
But better than what?
And then, at the beginning of my junior year–this September–something changed within me. Maybe it was getting my driver’s license (and being able to take myself where I wanted when I wanted), maybe it was starting yoga and participating in Eat Breathe Thrive, maybe it was eating a magic banana, I don’t know, but I found that hating myself, hating my body, making myself feel so much pressure was just not worth it anymore. And I realized that I was spending too much time looking inward at all of the things that were “wrong” with me and not looking outward to my family, my friends, my teachers, all of the wonderful people in my life that I loved (and love) so much.
So I just…stopped. I stopped caring that I wasn’t skinny anymore, that I couldn’t count my ribs, that I didn’t have a perfect, wonderfully-toned body. I stopped caring that I wasn’t getting a perfect score on every test, that I wasn’t going to be valedictorian, that I wasn’t always going to be the person that got the highest grade in the class. Do I still have negative thoughts? Of course, everyone does, no matter how optimistic or strong you are. I didn’t feel great when some of my clothes didn’t fit right anymore or when I got a few grades that were, er, “under the sea” in math and AP Chemistry, but I accepted those facts, and I moved on, because you know what? Neither is really that important.
You know what’s important? The people in my life. The places I get to travel to. The experiences I have cooking in the kitchen, visiting the farmer’s market, holding myself in wheel pose (back-bend), laughing so hard with my best friends I almost get dizzy, talking on the phone with my best friend Natalie, having dance parties in empty classrooms and my bedroom, waking up at 5:00 in the morning and listening to my favorite song…these are the things that matter, not what I look like, not the numbers on the scale or written on my papers.
And I have been the happiest I’ve been in so long because of it, even in the midst of the stress that is taking standardized tests and looking at colleges and being sixteen years old.
This is the time of year where magazines publish recipes for spinach-kiwi-antioxidant juice, where gyms have special rates for getting a membership, where every drugstore is advertising how this pill or this shake will make you skinnier, younger, prettier. And after all of the delicious treats we ate over Thanksgiving and Christmas, we feel as if we need these things, for we have done something wrong by indulging and letting ourselves go.
While I strongly believe that you should try to be the healthiest person you can be, I personally think you should ignore all of this crap the world is throwing at you, because you are lovely just the way you are. And not just at this time of year, but every time of year.
The world tells you that beauty and success are being tall and slender, getting into a prestigious university, taking ten advanced placement classes over the course of your high school career, living in a big, elegant house, and being the most well-rounded person you can be 24/7, 365 days a year. Yeah, having model-status looks and going to Yale and being famous and whatnot all seem like they’re the most important things in life, but there’s so much more to this world than that.
You want to see beauty? Look at yourself in the mirror, then close your eyes and listen to see what’s within you. You are not a statue carved by society, you are a real breathing, caring, feeling person, and that’s the most beautiful thing of all. Need more? Look at your friends as they chuckle about the most random thing in the world. Look at your parents or grandparents or cousins as they smile at old stories or photographs. Look at random people you see on the street painting or holding hands or just being alive. Look at the sunset or the crescent moon at night against the rich navy of the sky or at waves rolling against a sandy shore. Call me a a mush-ball, but these are the things I think are far prettier than being thin, being famous, being “perfect.”
You don’t need to be anything other than yourself–who you really are inside, who you’d like to be–in order to be loved. And I know being “yourself” can be hard, that everyone faces rejection and loneliness and wishes he or she was different, but maybe if we all tried to like ourselves, to stop trying to change ourselves, the world would be a happier, better place.
You want to be healthy? Here’s the secret: you don’t need a special regimen or rainbow-colored free weights or even chia seeds. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Drink water. Find a form of physical activity you actually enjoy. Cook more food at home and share meals with family and friends. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’ve had enough. Get sleep. Give yourself time to relax and be with others. Smile and laugh. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you aren’t good enough or that you need to change something, because you are good enough just the way you are.
This year, I don’t want you to go on a juice cleanse or buy a fancy workout DVD or resolve to spend hours and hours doing nothing but studying so you can get into college or grad school or anything. I want you to love yourself, because I love you, and I hope you do, too.
Instead of trying to be different or do something just for yourself, write a letter to your best friend describing all of the things you love about him or her. Bake something or compose a poem or draw a cartoon or make a mix CD for someone. Spend time with yourself reflecting, doing whatever suits you best. Hug a stuffed animal. Break out your favorite pair of fuzzy socks. Give a stranger on the street a compliment just because. Listen. Be present. Love with all of your heart. Be open. Because in the long run, these will be the things that make the biggest difference in your life…and someone else’s.
Before I go, I want to say thank you to everyone that makes my world a wonderful place to be in every day…to my incredible mom, my awesome dad, my loving family, my darling friends, my amazing teachers (both in school and not), and of course my adorable cats. And thank you to all of those who are reading this post, who put up with my babble about almond flour chocolate chip cookies and purple cauliflower and who read my recipes and thoughts on the world. It means everything to me.
Have a wonderful 2015, everyone. Let’s make this year one filled with love, with joy, with acceptance.
Tags: 2014, my life, reflections