I don’t know what this is…

I keep thinking about things I should write about but, by the time I actually sit down and try to write them, I don’t really care enough to write anything worth reading. When I abandon those thoughts altogether and try to just write something else entirely, I feel that nearly-crippling fear of the blank page and that impatiently blinking vertical line. I’m having one of those terrible moments in which my mind is swarmed with thoughts like, “this is it. I’m done. I have written all I will ever write,” and, “I was never really a writer to begin with. I should really just stop this nonsense and focus on things I can actually do…” and so on and so forth. I know that these thoughts aren’t necessarily true and I know that they will eventually pass but I still have no idea what on earth I’m even doing with my fingers on these keys. I’ve been reading too many different things and I don’t know where my voice is at the moment. I’m feeling very pretentious right now, or rather, I’m judging myself to be pretentious. Or I’m imagining other people to be judging me as pretentious. Is there a difference, really?

Anyway, I have a little note on my phone with a few abandoned ideas that I’ll probably get around to caring about and writing about within the next couple of months, but it’s just not going to happen for this month’s post. I just needed to fulfill my personal goal of at least one post per month so I can feel a little less…terrible. Or whatever.

Okay, I shouldn’t let this post go on much longer.
I’m thinking about the people who will probably read this and I feel a little sorry for them – for you. But not sorry enough to delete this post or refrain from posting links to it on my various social media pages ;) I’m just going to type away and create some drivel and you’ll probably waste a bit of your time letting your eyes fall on every word until you’ve – blessedly – reached the end. You may now breathe a sigh of relief, because here it is. The end.

So…My Brother Got Married…

This post is a little late… I was going to post about my brother getting married like… maybe a day or two after the wedding… the wedding was January 31st so….

I’ve been trying to figure out just what I wanted to say and I’ve been having a bit of trouble. It’s weird but it’s not. It’s different but it’s comfortable. And then there are all these other things… well… See I already spent a considerable amount of time writing about how I feel about my brother and his bride, etc. because I had the privilege of giving a toast at the wedding. Let me tell you, getting up in front of all those people and crying like a baby while trying to read what I’d written was not easy. People later told me that it was good that I cried. I cried because I meant it. I cried because I felt it. I cried because I love my brother.

Anyway, I pretty much said everything I wanted to say in my toast, so that’s what the rest of this post is going to be. My toast.

It’s really difficult for me to say with words just what my brother means to me. God has blessed me tremendously by giving Daniel to me as a brother. He has been with me through the most difficult times of my life as well as some of the most fun times. While we certainly don’t get along 100% of the time, we have a uniquely close relationship that I treasure immensely. From the little things like our dumb, repetitive jokes or silly noises and dances, to the more meaningful things like telling me the truth when I need to hear it, even when he knows I might not receive it well, or hugging me when I’m crying even if he doesn’t know why, I will always treasure our bond and the kind of friend that he is to me.

Watching the Lord pull Daniel up from darkness and into the light of salvation has been one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. I remember praying for him for so long and feeling so hopeless, but the Lord saved him when I least expected it, and I had the privilege of watching it unfold first-hand. Then, to watch him grow and mature so quickly afterward was such a great testimony of God’s power and faithfulness. When I really think about it and look back to who he once was and who God has changed him into, I am often brought to tears. It is truly amazing and I am so thankful for God’s work in his life.

I am also thankful for how Daniel has taught me and cared for me over the years. Even in my more difficult and unyielding times, he has stuck with me continued to speak truth to me. Because of this, I am confident that Daniel will make a good husband – he is faithful and he never gives up, no matter how difficult things get.

My friendship with Bekah has been an interesting one. It took quite a bit of time for us to get close and I believe we are still working on that. I think she will agree that the Lord has placed us in each other’s lives to teach us a lot about understanding others and about loving those who are very different from ourselves. I mean honestly, what better way to learn about those things than to be placed in such close proximity to our polar opposites? I have learned a lot from Bekah and greatly appreciate the times when she has shared hard truths with me as well as the times when we can just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. I know that we still have a lot to learn about each other and I look forward to times of bonding in the future.

My brother is a very unique person and I never imagined he would find someone who has so much in common with him – but here she is. God orchestrated this so well, as He always does. Daniel and Bekah are certainly well-matched.

Daniel, If mom were here today, she would be so happy to see the man that you are becoming and she would be crying her eyes out and talking about how her baby has grown up so fast. I know that she would be so happy for you and she would be eager to welcome Bekah into our family as her daughter.

May the Lord give the two of you strength and continue to equip you with faithfulness and diligence and every other tool that you will need in order to create a marriage that glorifies Him and paints an accurate picture of Christ and His church.

I love you both.

Let’s raise our glasses to Daniel and Bekah!

 

Beautiful Wedding <3

Beautiful Wedding <3

My brother and Me

My brother and Me

My New Sister-in-law and Me

My New Sister-in-law and Me

After my Toast... couldn't keep it together :P

After my Toast… couldn’t keep it together :P

Grieving State of Being

Missing someone who has died is a weird phenomenon. Not only is it different for everyone while also kind of being the same, but it’s different each moment, each month, each year. There is progress but there isn’t. It improves but it doesn’t. There have been some years when holidays or my mom’s birthday or the anniversary of her death were easy and I didn’t cry and it didn’t hurt that much. And there are some times, like this past holiday season and like today, when it hurts just about as bad is it did the day she died. It’s true that it has gotten easier as time has passed, I think… but when I have such hard days I wonder if I’ve made any progress at all in terms of feeling better or coping or getting through the grieving process…whatever that means. I’m starting to wonder whether grieving is actually a process or if it’s just a state of being that comes and goes or gets stronger and weaker. It’s never going to be over as long as I am still on this earth. I am stronger than I was before except for when I’m not. And sometimes it makes sense. It makes sense that this past Christmas was harder because it was also the first Christmas after my grandpa (my mom’s dad) passed away and it was the first Christmas that I didn’t spend with the people I usually spend the holidays with. It makes sense that today (her birthday) is harder than last January 5th because my brother is getting married at the end of the month and she won’t be there to see it. And this year is going to bring about big changes in my life and the knowledge that she is going to miss it all hurts like the week I went back to school after she had just passed away and I knew she would miss my high school graduation the following month. But there are other times when it comes out of nowhere. I think I’m fine and I’m not feeling particularly sad and then it just hits me. And there’s nothing observable that seems to have caused it, it just is. It’s just there. It just hurts.

Anyway, I’m not really sure how to wrap this up because my thoughts don’t really feel conclusive or tidy to me, so I will end with this:

If you are grieving over someone, whether they died years ago or just yesterday or anytime in between, your feelings are valid. I have had many times where I beat myself up about grieving thinking I should be better now, I should be stronger. I have so much to be thankful for, I shouldn’t be sad. But I am. And it’s okay. It’s human. It’s love. It’s okay to remember and it’s okay to talk about it and cry in front of other people even if they don’t know what to do with you. I often feel the desire to share and be vulnerable about these things but I’m always afraid of seeming like I’m begging for pity and I think I need to apologize… but opening up and being vulnerable is so worth the risk of being seen in an unfavorable light. It connects us. It gives people the opening to be vulnerable right alongside us. Getting those feelings that feel so personal out there feels so good especially when you find people who can relate. So feel that grief if you are feeling it. And talk about it if you want to talk about it. And if you can’t find someone who will listen, I’m right here.

Happy birthday to my mother who was my closest friend and confidant. I learned so much from her and am so thankful to have had her for nearly 18 years. Remembering her warmth and love today.

Happy birthday to my mother who was my closest friend and confidant. I learned so much from her and am so thankful to have had her for nearly 18 years. Remembering her warmth and love today.

The Cliché “What I’m Thankful For” Thanksgiving Post

Happy Thanksgiving! I just felt like taking a couple minutes to write some of the things I’m thankful for. Thinking of all the reasons I have to be grateful has been a powerful tool for me in battling anxiety and depression… I guess that’s one of the things I’m thankful for :)

I’m thankful that every time I think I have nothing, no one, nowhere to turn, no hope, no one who loves me, I’m wrong.

I’m thankful for God’s grace, unmerited favor, steadfast love, strength, goodness, and sovereignty.

I’m thankful for all the people who love me and all the people whom I love and the fact that the Venn diagram of those two groups overlaps quite a bit.

I’m thankful for strangers.

I’m thankful for those whom I love and have lost.

I’m thankful for those friendships that I never expected to blossom, but did.

I’m thankful for vulnerability and how it connects us all.

I’m thankful for stories whether true or fiction.

I’m thankful for the difficult things in life that God uses to make us grow.

I’m thankful for the ability to write.

I’m thankful for the ability to read.

I’m thankful for language.

I’m thankful for music and how many different kinds of music exist and will exist in the future.

I’m thankful for food and the fact that I don’t have to eat the same thing every day.

I’m thankful for empathy.

I’m thankful for colors.

I’m thankful for art and those who make it.

I’m thankful for emotions and the fact that I can feel them after periods of feeling nothing.

I’m thankful that I live in a place full of diversity.

I’m thankful for inspiring teachers who actually give a crap.

I’m thankful for education.

I’m thankful that there is always more to learn and I can keep learning for the rest of my life.

I’m thankful that we don’t have to be grammatically correct to be understood.

I’m thankful for how language evolves.

I’m thankful for the many ways people express themselves.

…I’m thankful that if I had more time to write this, it could be much much longer than this because the number of things I have to be thankful for is uncountable.

And, also, I’m thankful that people actually read my blog. Thank you :)

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I Never Thought I Would…

Going back to school has been interesting for me. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed school. It’s nice to be a student. It’s so weird that I’m in this place again. As I go thought my classes, I keep thinking over and over, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.”

When I earned my AA and left school in December of 2011, I walked away convinced that I would never return to school. I certainly didn’t believe that I would ever decide to earn a higher degree. The more I think about it the more I realize how much my heart has changed over the past couple of years. There were so many things that I never thought I’d change my mind about, but it has happened. My tastes, dreams, desires, and ideals (for the most part) have changed drastically. Like, if my past self saw me now, she would be utterly shocked and maybe even angry. I would hardly recognize myself.

I think that just about everyone comes to this point in their lives (perhaps several times) where they realize that their life is suddenly full of things they never thought they would do or think or say. We grow and change and become the people we never thought we would, better or worse or just…different. I imagine a past version of myself rolling her eyes at the little changes, like the style choices I make or the music I listen to. I see her confusion at the way that I deal with negative emotion. I see her fear and disapproval at the life goals that I have set for myself as well as the goals that I have decided to let go of or alter. I see her lack of interest in many of the things that I am passionate about. Sometimes this past version of myself sits on my shoulder and makes me question everything I do and think and feel. I have to remind myself that I don’t really like that girl. I like who I am. I like who I’m becoming. This is something that I don’t believe all the time, but those times that I do are so freeing. I think one of the most stark contrasts between past me and present me is that I’m no longer trying so hard to be something in particular. I’m not trying to fit into a category. I’m not trying to be something that I’m not. I’m not trying to be flawless or hide all of my flaws. This might sound terribly cliche and cheesy, but right now, I’m just being me. And I like being me. I can grow and change a lot but I will always be this person that God has created me to be (and after all, He directs my steps).

This post kind of got away from me…anyway, I can’t seem to think of a way to conclude this one other than to say that a life full of “I never thought I would…” can be a great life to live. There are so many things that we never saw coming and things yet to come that we might never predict and I think that’s exciting…and a little bit scary.

Killing Off Characters

People often get really upset when one of their favorite characters in a book, show, or movie gets “killed off.” They often get angry at the writers as though the writer sadistically decided to murder the character. I understand the frustration – I can get pretty emotionally invested in stories too – but really I think people need to chill out.

First of all, having beloved characters die is realistic. People die. We don’t get to decide who or how or when. Sometimes the people we love the most die. Sometimes many people that we love die all around the same time. It happens. And fiction should, at least somewhat, mirror reality.

Secondly, though I still sometimes use the phrase, I think we should stop accusing writers of “killing off characters” unless it is pretty obvious that the death of said character was written purely for shock factor (I’m looking at you, season 3 of Downton Abbey…I don’t know, that all felt really cheap to me…). One time John Green was talking about this (I think someone may have asked him why he decided to kill a certain character) and he said something to the effect of “Authors don’t kill characters; Characters die.” (This is not an exact quote). And I really liked that. I know this sounds kind of mystical, but whatever: The stories and characters that we write, while they are technically our creations and come from our own minds, are separate entities that already exist before we put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as the case may be). The story is already there and it’s our job to write it accurately. The characters already exist and it’s up to us to make sure the actions and dialogue we write for them are consistent with who they are. So, when I write about a character who dies, I’m not sadistically “killing him off,” I’m relaying to my readers the facts of his life. If I feel that a character is supposed to die in the next scene and I don’t write that death, the story is instantly cheapened.

It is perfectly okay to grieve a bit when a character dies, but please stop getting angry at storytellers for writing the deaths of characters. If you only want to experience unrealistic stories in which nothing tragic ever happens…maybe stay in the children’s section? Well… you may even be in danger there…

Quick Update Thingy…..

Sorry readers, I’ve been away from my blog the last couple of months, so I’ve broken my one-post-per-month streak. I have been quite preoccupied, beginning the journey of continuing my education. (I got an A in my Stats class, by the way! Woohoo! No more math classes for me!). I have a few blog ideas that I would like to flesh out, so hopefully I can post two or three before August is over! I’m about to post a quick one right after putting this one up so…………

Nothing Left Unsaid

\\ Just a forewarning: this month’s post is going to be a bit emotional. I had told myself before that I was going to stop writing blog posts about losing my mother, but I just really wanted to this month. And anyway, it’s my blog, so I’m going to write what’s on my mind. This post might also be a bit scatter-brained, or “stream of consciousness” if you will, because I can’t be bothered to organize my thoughts. So if this isn’t your cup of tea, go pour yourself some coffee :P I’m not sure what I mean by that. \\

The month of May is probably always going to be difficult for me. May 6th is the anniversary of my mom’s death and Mother’s Day always arrives a painfully short amount of time after that. There have been a couple of years when May 6th didn’t really get to me, but don’t worry, Mother’s Day tends to bring out the grief that the anniversary couldn’t manage. But this year it hurt on both days and even some days surrounding. I think it had something to do with the fact that this was the first year that May 6th has fallen on a Tuesday (same as the year she died) and I was really thinking about each day that she was in the hospital, etc. This is also the first May that I don’t live in a place where she once lived and my father is married to someone else. These changes aren’t bad changes at all, it’s just that sometimes the new things make me feel like I’m losing her even more. I remember the first year or so after she died, I became increasingly more afraid of big life changes because I didn’t want things to be too far from what they were when she was here. This kind of freaked me out because a month after she went, I graduated from high school, turned 18, got my license, and a month after that, got my first job and then later that year decided to switch churches. These changes were all normal changes. They were good changes. But they hurt. I hate realizing how many things she will not be here for. I hate noticing all the things she has already missed in these six years. I think that’s what hurt the most this year. I’ve become hyper-aware of all the things that are different and all the things that will likely change. I realized that the me that she knew is not the me that I am now. And it’s good that I’m different. There would be a huge problem if 23-year-old me wasn’t much different from 17-year-old me. But it hurts. It hurts to think that my mother didn’t know who I would become. It hurts that my mother can’t currently know me. 

On this most recent May 6th, I stayed home from work because I was not doing so well emotionally, and I have a nice boss who didn’t mind. After a long while of trying to distract myself, failing to do so, and then just full-on grieving, I pulled out my notebook and wrote something that I think might explain a bit better what I’m trying to say here:

 

It was Tuesday, May 6th. Just like today. I remember coming home without you. It was annoyingly sunny outside and there were children playing in their yards as we drove past. It made me so angry. 

The weather is more fitting today. It is finally raining after so much sun. It is quiet but for the cars on the street. 

I remember the three of us walking into that house that you made a home. We said nothing. I cried and they held me. I could not be comforted as I saw all the spaces you would never occupy again. 

Now I sit in a home you’ve never lived in, at a table you’ve never eaten at, living a life you cannot be a part of other than in my own heart and mind. I know you are much better off where you are now, but it still kills me to know what you will miss. You won’t hold me when I’m crying. You won’t give me advice when I’m lost. You won’t go anywhere with me. You won’t bake or cook with me. You won’t see who I’m becoming or the new interests I’ve developed. You won’t know my new dreams and ambitions. You won’t cry at my wedding or hold my hand while my children come into the world. Your chair will always be empty.
You left so early. 

There is so much I want you to see. So much I want to tell you. 
I am blessed that when you died, there was peace between us and I had no regrets – nothing left unsaid. But the trouble is that life keeps going. There are new things to be said. I can’t say that they are left unsaid because there was never an opportunity. 
You left so early.

…anyway, I don’t really know how to end this. I’m sorry if that was depressing or anything, I just felt like sharing and I know that there are many who can relate. When I learn about other people’s grief it makes me feel less alone and more connected with others, so I try not to hold back too much. If you powered through my ramblings… well, thanks ^_^

 

Here’s a picture of my mom and me because of reasons:

Image

Best Friends Aren’t For Everyone

Over the past few years, a lot of my friends have been getting married. As is customary, each of these friends has had to choose someone to be the maid of honor or best man. This led to me thinking about who I might choose to fill that role in my own (currently hypothetical) wedding. Thinking about this brought me to a realization that, at first, was a bit distressing. I have plenty of really good close friends, but I don’t actually have a best friend anymore. There is not just one friend who I spend the most time with or who knows the most about me or whatever it is that makes a best friend a best friend. There is not one friend who I feel closer to than all other friends. There are definitely friends who are closer than others, but there is nobody in first place. Nobody who stands just slightly higher than the rest. I’ve had best friends in the past for sure but over time, due to whatever circumstance, we grew apart or just came to a point where we weren’t quite so close or involved in each other’s lives. And that’s fine, really. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s sort of how life goes.

But I remember when I was younger, I thought that having a best friend was essential to life. Other people had best friends – that friend who had almost everything in common with them or that friend who had known them, like forever or that friend that had just always been there in the difficult times, etcetera. But that’s just not something that I can find in any one person anymore. Not currently anyway. When I came to the realization that I don’t have a best friend, it really bothered me. I started to think that maybe there was something wrong with me. I started to think it was really sad. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized: best friends aren’t for everyone (at least not for everyone while they are single… I would hope that married people would consider their spouse to be their best friend… that’s the ideal, anyway).

I had to ask myself if I was really lacking anything in terms of friends. Did I really need a best friend? Wasn’t it enough to just have a few really good friends? Honestly, when I look at the friends that I have, I am so thankful and so satisfied with who God has placed in my life. I like the fact that different friends can relate to me in different ways. I have some friends who have just been in my life for a really long time and have been with me through so much that we have a deep bond. I have other friends who totally get all my geeky/nerdy things and we can just be super weird together. I have friends who understand my creative side and we can encourage each other and talk about our creative process and other things of that nature. I have other friends who fill other parts that I don’t even know how to put into words. And having a varied group of friends also means that I have friends who relate to each part of my rather wide-ranged sense of humor and my varied taste in music, movies, books, etc. And I know my relationships with all of them go even deeper and can be even more complicated than that, but I don’t even know how to explain that here… you probably get it without me having to spell it out. The more I thought about all of these things, the more I realized how well off I am in the area of friendship. I have so much. I am so wealthy in this regard that it is absurd for me to think that I am missing something.

Some people do have a best friend, and that’s great. A best friend is a special thing indeed. But, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we all have to have that one person that fits that label in our lives. It is not essential. As stated before, best friends aren’t for everyone. Right now, having a best friend isn’t for me. I’ve had them in the past, maybe I’ll have one in the future, but I’m not going to think about it too much. After all, I’m pretty dang happy with the close friends I’ve got. I don’t like one friend better than another, I like them each differently. I love them each uniquely for who they are as individuals and I am so blessed by how each one of them has made my life better.

Too Old

I’ve recently realized that I have – on some level – been making decisions based on the belief that I am “too old.” I know, I know… I can just see your eyes rolling. At the age of 23 I do understand that I am still very young. I most likely have many years of life ahead of me and I still have a lot of opportunities. But, somewhere, on my way to this stage in my life, I picked up these ideas about which opportunities I have passed up (never to encounter again) and where I “should” be in life by now. Two of the biggest examples of this (the ones that have affected me the most) are these:

  • I’m supposed to get married in my  early-to-mid-20’s and therefore should already be in a serious relationship that is heading in that direction.
  • Continuing my education, other than just getting some kind of certification, is out of the question because I’m too old. Most of my peers already have their Bachelor’s Degree or beyond at my age. All I can do now is work.

I didn’t really realize for a long time that I had been actually thinking those things. And, honestly, typing those thoughts out, knowing that people will read them is kind of embarrassing. But, I feel like this kind of thinking is quite common. We have these ideas of where we should be and what we should be doing once we’ve reached certain ages and when we pass those ages, we think we’ve missed something. We think it’s too late.

This wrong thinking (along with a few other things) greatly contributed to a sort of “waiting around,” kind of lifestyle that I’ve found myself in during the last couple of years. I lived believing that the next step in my life was to become a wife and mother and I was just trying to “sit tight” until the right guy came along. I lived a life forbidding myself to have any ambition or dreams as a single woman, thinking that my every step should be toward being a good wife and I should aim to rid myself of this “single” status [Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that fulfilling the roles of wife and mother would be a tremendous blessing and those roles are such high callings from God. These are roles that I wish were more valued and appreciated in our society. But there is something very wrong with putting time limits (or age limits) on these things. And there is something even more wrong with living a life solely focused on those roles]. I had set my vision of the future on this rigid path and would not allow myself to look around at other paths that might actually be a better way for me. And so I stifled those desires, that drive to do something more, without looking to see if pursuing those things might actually be the best road for my life. It made me much more willing to settle, which is almost never a good thing.

I’ve found that we operate on these arbitrary standards based (most likely) on the “average” or what we see most around us. I think we forget that reality is more complicated than that. Life doesn’t happen the same way for everyone and I don’t really understand why that would be considered a bad thing. Can we really say that Person A has a better life or better life circumstances than Person B, because Person A got married at 25, while person B got married at 45? Or because Person A finished school at 22 while Person B finished at 29? I think that most people would acknowledge the absurdity of that thinking, but we still often live with that kind of mindset. There is no magic number. There isn’t even a magic formula (you can live a content and happy life without a degree or a spouse, too!). Everyone’s life story is different and I think there is something astoundingly beautiful and interesting about that.

[Life update for those who are interested: due to this and a few other “revelations” so-to-speak and after much thought and prayer, I have come to the decision to go back to school to get my Bachelor’s Degree. It’s very scary for me, but I’m pretty excited about it! It’s going to take a while, but I think I am at a good place in my life to do this. I have much more ambition than I had before. I’m hoping to major in Linguistics – though, I might have to start out majoring in English due to some complications – and minor in Asian Studies with a focus in Korean :) There are so many possibilities for the future and I am excited to get started!]

On Liking Things, Pt. 2: Playing the Part

Have you ever heard someone say “you don’t look like you would listen to that kind of music,” or something to that effect? I have. Many times. I used to think that way too – if a person likes a certain thing, they will probably dress a certain way, act a certain way, style their hair a certain way, and so on. But having gone through many different “phases” throughout my teen years and my current early adult years I’ve realized just how strange that is. This applies to all kinds of things, but I’m going to mostly talk about music here, because music has always been a huge deal to me and my taste in music has undergone more changes than my taste in just about anything else.

When I was in high school, my taste in music dictated the way that I dressed, the way that I talked (subtly), the guys I was attracted to, and the way that I saw (and judged) other people in general. Sometimes it would even dictate what I didn’t like (or would pretend not to like). I never really thought about why that was, it just sort of happened that way and I didn’t question it. I even sort of had this idea in my head that I had to like one genre of music more than any other genre of music – I couldn’t like two or more genres equally. My favorite genre was a huge part of my identity, or rather, how I viewed my own identity. When I was into 60’s and 70’s rock, I dressed sort of like a hippie and became somewhat obsessed with those eras. When I was really into 80’s metal I wore torn-up jeans, lots of bracelets and started wearing eye make-up. When I was into death metal and metalcore I wore those same torn-up jeans and black band t-shirts, and started hating most things that were girly. When I was into indie rock and indie folk, I  started wearing artsy-ish t-shirts and became a lot more judgmental and hipster-y (although, I never quite got hipster style down because I wasn’t cool enough). In each of these phases, I would pretend not to like things that would seem “contradictory” to whatever my main genre was at the time. Like, in my death metal/metalcore phase, I would never admit to liking any softer music; when I was in my indie phase, I would never admit to liking something that was on the radio. I would like what I was “supposed” to like and dislike what I wasn’t “supposed” to like. It was exhausting, really.

My first few years after high school, I was still sort of in my indie phase, but I had started to realize that I still kind of liked all the things from my previous phases. I still wanted to listen to a good ol’ Metallica song sometimes. I still liked singing along to Jimi Hendrix and headbanging to War of Ages. But I also really liked listening to Tchaikovsky or chilling out to some ambient tunes by Album Leaf. And, you know, I really liked some of those bands that were on the radio like Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay. And that’s when I started to get a bit confused. How was I supposed to be labeled, then? What was I going to say when people asked what kind of music I liked? How should I be dressing? Sometimes when people would find out that I liked Megadeth and Metallica they would look at me strangely and tell me that they would never have suspected that. That’s when I saw it. I saw the ridiculousness of the notion that you could tell what a person liked by looking at them. Saying that someone doesn’t look like they like a particular band or type of music is almost as weird as saying “You look like you hate tomatoes.” And yes, there are many cases where people do dress in a similar way to others who like the same things as them, but what I’m saying is that it’s all very arbitrary and relative and it can be limiting.

Currently, I am in a place where I don’t even have one favorite genre of music. I have a few genres that I like the most, but I like them equally. I do have a favorite band, though one of the reasons they are my favorite is that they experiment with different sounds and their style varies between albums and I actually don’t even really know what genre to consider them. Because my taste is sort of all over the place, the concept of identifying myself by any one thing that I like just doesn’t make sense. And I’m beginning to wonder why anyone does that. Aren’t we more than any one taste we have? Can’t we like something without having to look or act the part? I find that I enjoy life more and connect with more people if I like all kinds of things and don’t worry so much about trying to “seem” a certain way :)

On Liking Things – Pt. 1: Like What You Like

Recently there have been certain things that I’ve been getting into that seem totally cool when I’m by myself, but when I’m around other people, I feel a little embarrassed about it and even feel like maybe I should hide the fact that I like these things. This, of course, is not the first time in my life that I have had this sort of feeling about something and I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who is reading this has also felt this way at some point. It’s like that time when I find a band that I really like and I listen to them over and over and over again while I’m by myself, going about my daily life, but then when I have a friend in my car – listening to the same music that I’ve been practically addicted to for the past few weeks – I hear it differently. I start to listen to the music with their ears. I hear it as I think they will hear it and I notice all the little things about the songs that I assume they will not like. And I don’t know whether to apologize for having such uncool tastes or start laying out my reasons for thinking the band is great. Sometimes it doesn’t even come to that decision because I avoid playing the band altogether and choose a band that I’m pretty sure my friend will think is super cool. Something that will make me seem hip and impressive. And I’m like this with lots of things: movies, books, clothes, makeup, shows, and so on and so forth.

There is always a self-consiousness when I show someone something that I like. Sometimes when I like something that I know most of my peers think is lame, I feel this strange urge to confess to them that I like this thing just to get rid of the dread that they will find out on their own in some unexpected way. That’s my get-it-out-there-as-soon-as-possible-so-we-can-all-just-get-over-it approach. Then there’s the make-sure-everyone-knows-how-much-I-know-that-this-thing-is-lame-but-I’m-going-to-like-it-anyway approach, which is dangerously close to the, currently popular, I-like-this-thing-ironically-I’m-so-cool approach. Like, what is that? Why can’t we just call it what it is? It’s a guilty pleasure. But why are we even feeling guilty about it? What’s with this pressure to only like things that are considered cool by the people around us? It’s especially absurd because a lot of the time, everyone around you has their own set of guilty pleasures and some of them might even be the SAME ones that you are trying to hide from them! It should be okay for us to like what we like and not have to pretend otherwise. Right? And why is “cool” even the goal? Maybe we should be thinking about our likes and dislikes a bit more complexly than that. Can’t I think something is kind of dumb but also kind of see the merits in it and like it just the same? And can’t I dislike something while also appreciating it and understanding why other people like it? I’m learning to respect the preferences of others even when they are so different from my own and it’s actually helping me to respect and relate to other people.

Anyway, I know it’s difficult to just stop feeling a little embarrassed when I like something that my peers think is super lame, and I probably won’t be changing in this respect any time soon. But I am going to make an effort to just like what I like without trying to pretend like I don’t or being super sheepish about it and I think you should too :)

PS- My most current “guilty pleasures” are K-pop and K-dramas…. shut up, they are super good :P

Just a Quick Check-In

Hello readers! I just wanted to say a few things really quick:

1) Thank you so much to everyone who has talked to me about my writing since my last post. You have all been very encouraging and supportive and I really needed that :) [feel free to keep that coming]

2) I know it has been a while since my last post (3 weeks? or something) and I had declared in that post that I will be posting more and writing more in general. I AM writing more, I just haven’t had much to show for it yet :P

3) I’ve been trying to set a doable goal for how often I will post on here and I think I’ve settled on writing at least 2 posts per month (I know, I’m running out of time in January!). I might change it to once a week or something when I get the hang of it again, but we’ll see.
[EDIT: I’ve been having trouble doing 2 posts per month, so I’m changing this goal to 1 post per month to make it less stressful for me. But I might still have some months where I post more than once!)

4) I’ve been trying really hard to write my next post but nothing has been turning out quite right. I actually have a lot of ideas about what I want to write about. I sat down the other day with the goal of fleshing out a couple of those ideas and turning one of them into something post-able, but it just wasn’t happening. I can’t force these things. However, I have a new topic that I thought of today while I was doing dishes at work (my prime thinking time), and I will try to write that one before the month is over! I’ve got 3 days! To writing! TO VICTORY!

See you soon with something (hopefully) more substantial! ^_^

Why I Stopped Writing

It’s been so long since I’ve written a blog post… and even my last one came after quite a long hiatus. I’m not sure I know how to do this anymore…

It used to come so easily. I used to write all the time and would post blogs a few times each month. I wonder at how easy it was back then. [But maybe it was harder than I currently remember; nostalgia often accompanies altered memories.] I don’t really know what happened, but somewhere down the line, writing got harder for me and I was no longer really feeling encouraged to keep at it. It started to seem like this silly dream that I’d been chasing while I was in college and now it’s time for me to grow up and face the world. This world of adulthood where surviving is all that matters and writing isn’t going to take me anywhere because I’ll never be a great writer anyway. Take this line of thinking (part realistic, partly flawed) and add major anxiety issues complete with panic attacks and periods of depression and… well, maybe you can see why I’ve stopped writing.

I think that somewhere in the midst of all that, I forgot that writing is a part of me. Writing is important, even if I won’t ever be able to make a living from it because when I am not writing, there is a hole that grows bigger and bigger inside of me until I no longer know who I am or what I’m doing. If I lose writing, I lose a part of myself.

I think I also forgot that it’s okay for me to be bad at this. Writing has been my “thing” for a while now and I often feel like my friends and family are expecting everything I write to be phenomenal. I live in constant terror that everyone will find out that I’m not that good at writing, that I’m just a poser with her head in the clouds. This is why I often don’t let people read stories I’ve written and have even deleted some of the things that I wrote. And I know it’s so stupid and unproductive, but sometimes my fear gets the better of me.

So anyway… lately it seems that every time I try to write (which is not as often as it should be), I end up writing a lot about how I can’t write anymore (yes, I am aware of the irony). A few people have been asking me about my writing and I’m beginning to realize how weak my excuses are in comparison to how good I feel when I am writing… no matter how hard I have to work at it. And I know that I need to just write and keep writing whether or not I’m feeling it. That’s what writers do. They write. They write because they have to. They write because they love it (and maybe hate it a little too). They write because they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they weren’t writing. I have come to that point where I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. So I’m going to start writing again. And if it sucks, it sucks. I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to try to post blogs more often (I’m not sure if I’m going to make a regular schedule yet, but that is a possibility) and I’m going to start writing stories again… even when I don’t have any ideas. I’m also toying with the idea of creating another blog, separate from this one where I can just post writing prompts and free-writes just to keep the ideas flowing and for accountability (we’ll see). 

So… I guess I’m back to blogging. Some of my next posts might be more rambling about how I can’t write anymore, so I’m sorry in advance. I might need to do that a bit just to get past this terrible case of writer’s block… or whatever it is I’m blaming this all on. 

Oh! And, if you are one of the people who sees me in person on a regular basis: please bug me about my writing. I need to be bugged! (You know what I mean)

See you soon!

[PS – I think it is obvious how rusty I am. Thanks for putting up with the awkward flow and lack of structure that characterizes this post.]

Midlife Cri-…wait…no….Quater-life Crisis?

My brain does this thing every so often. Sometimes it’s once in a month, sometimes it’s every other week, sometimes it leaves me alone for about three months and then starts up again. I’m not entirely sure how to describe this thing but it is something like panic…very close to an identity crisis, but that’s not quite what it’s about.

It starts either with one little comment from someone else or with a thought from my own mind, apropos of nothing (well…maybe not nothing). It starts with a comment like “If you could be doing anything and money were no object, what would you be doing?” or “man, I love my job,” or “I really have a passion for [insert hobby/job].” Or it starts with a thought like, “I love writing, but I don’t really do it like I used to,” or “what is a writer without any ideas?” or “I already finished school and I’m nowhere near starting a family yet; what on Earth should I be doing with my life?” and so on and so forth. That’s when it happens. My mind begins to flood with all these semi-toxic thoughts until I begin to feel dizzy and worthless and utterly confused. And then the weight comes. This horrible, heavy monster that likes to plop himself right down on top of my lungs, and he sort of grins this fuzzy brown grin while he’s doing it. It is at this point that I start to wonder if I’m going completely insane.
After a while of this sensation, my slightly-more-logical side decides to show up and starts to re-think things, but all my crazy just starts to shout abuse at her until she just throws up her hands, sighs loudly and sits down, beginning to feel numb. It is at this point that my head goes quiet, I stop thinking about the matter of what I should be doing with my life altogether and proceed to go back to the way things were. [Sluggard that I am]

[[Usually, about a week after this fiasco, I again realize that God is sovereign and that my life should be lived completely for Him. I remember that I just need to keep trusting and serving Him and moving forward, but I still have that nagging feeling that there’s some turn in the path that I’m just missing outright. Like if I He gave me the skill and love for writing, shouldn’t I be using it?]]

Maybe someday I’ll actually get somewhere with this. Oh well…

Remembering (…or not)

I sort of have a bad long-term memory. Like, if I haven’t used the information in the last few years, I’ve probably forgotten it. Since I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about my childhood, it has all become a blur with arbitrary moments of clarity. Here and there, I’ll remember little details and facts about my past (like the little games my dad used to play with us, or baking cookies with my mom) but I never have many actual stories to tell. Whenever people ask questions like, “what is your favorite childhood memory,” or “what were you like as a kid,” I get really frustrated and kind of sad – I usually have to rely on things that my dad has told me or pictures I’ve seen or little fragments of memory that may not be wholly true.
As I am growing up, this is beginning to scare me a bit. It makes me feel like I’ve lost something huge. Something important. I know that things happened in the past and they have contributed to who I am today, I just can’t really remember what they were. But there are things that seem really valuable, really essential, like memories of my mother or things that I learned in school – as these things slip further and further into the past, they become things that are still sort of a part of me, but I don’t actually have them anymore. Not really. I feel like humans are in the business of making memories, but what happens when those memories just disappear? Some say that you only remember the important things or the things you want to remember, but I’m really beginning to disagree with that (For instance: I want to remember everything about my mother, but I still forget).

Anyway, this is becoming more…serious (for lack of a better word) than I meant for it to be, so I think I’ll stop there …I never quite know what I’m really thinking and/or feeling about something until I write it out :P

…And maybe this isn’t even a big deal. Maybe this is all just part of growing up. Maybe this is normal.

Questions of Identity

Recently, I was working on a trial-run-basis for a small business as a receptionist. I worked for them for about a week and a half (I didn’t end up getting hired, but I’m not going to go into that because that is not what this post is about). While I worked there, I worked full-time almost every day of the week. Since I was spending so much of my time working there and it was so different from how I had previously been spending my time, I noticed that I started to feel…different. And not in the way that I would have expected. I started to see myself differently – not better, not worse, just different. I felt like I was a different person, but only just. Like my identity was somehow shifted because I spent a good amount of my time being a receptionist rather than, say, a writer, or a cook, etc. And I started to feel a bit strange. I started asking questions of myself that I didn’t really have time to answer, nor even really think about. The main question was this: Am I really defined by what I do? By how I spend my time? If I am spending my time doing something different, does my identity change? (okay I guess that is more than one question…but hey, teachers do that all the time…).
After I found out that I didn’t have the job, I started to think seriously about what I really want to do with my time. Should I really push to do something that I have a passion for, or should I simply find something that I am qualified to do that helps me pay the bills? Should I save my passions for the things that I do outside of the workforce? I don’t really think there is an easy answer for those questions.
Is my identity defined by what I do or by how I do them? Or, perhaps I should ask: How is identity defined? What is my identity, really? As a Christian, there are some easy answers: I am a created being made in the image of the Creator; I am a child of God, chosen and saved by grace; I am a part of the church, the bride of Christ; and so on and so forth. Then there are the relational answers: I am a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, a subordinate. Or the general: I am a human, a female, a 22-year-old, an American of European decent, a college graduate, an introvert, a redhead. But we know that there is more to a person than these things. God is complex and creative and  He made us complex and distinctive. So what else is it that defines us? How do we really say who a person is? And, moreover, does it really matter? It feels like it matters, but that doesn’t mean that it does.

…I realize that this post is very unsatisfying and is basically one gigantic question-mark… but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to post a comment or communicate with me by any other means. I am especially interested in any scripture references that might speak to this topic.

Quick Snapshots: Serving With Joni and Friends

Last month (April 1-6), I had the privilege to serve as a Short Term Missionary (hereafter referred to as STM) at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat at Wonder Valley. Honestly, when I first agreed that I would do this, I wasn’t really giving it much thought…I just knew that I had the time, would probably be able to raise the funds, and could be of service to someone who needed it. I had heard about this camp before, having written about it for my church newsletter a while back, and I was interested in the things that they were doing there. So, I went into it thinking, “this could be a neat experience.” Let me tell you now, “neat” was a gross underestimation.

[I’ve broken this up into parts because that’s kind of how my brain works…]

Part 1: Leading up to camp

Wonder Valley

Let me start off by telling you a bit more about this camp, in case you are not familiar with it. Joni and Friends Family Retreats are week-long (roughly) camps for families who are affected by disability (whether it be physical, developmental, etc). Typically, it is one or more of the children in the family who have a disability, but the rest of the family is affected by this as well. Caring for these children is not an easy task and these families are on the job every single day. These retreats give these families the opportunity to have a vacation. Not only do they get time together as a family doing fun things that may or may not usually be accessible to them, but they also get some time to be around their own age groups, kids playing with other kids and adults spending time with other adults, and generally getting to be around people who can relate to them. One of the major ways that these retreats make all of these things possible is by assigning trained volunteers (STMs) to each family for the purpose of serving and aiding them throughout the week.

As the week of camp drew nearer and nearer, I started to think about what serving as an STM would require of me. I became a bit worried as I started to realize just how self-centered I am and how much I am used to taking care of my own wants and needs before considering others. This is a troubling thing to begin with, but it was even more disturbing to me as I knew that I was entering into a situation in which I would need a selfless, servant-hearted attitude in order to accomplish what I had signed up for. I did not want to be a poor representation of Christ to whomever I was assigned. I wanted to please the Lord by reflecting His character, and I knew that I would not be able to do so by my own strength and “will power.” Humility and servant-heartedness are things that do not come naturally to sinful mankind, but are only accomplished by the grace of God. And so, I prayed for God to change me, even if it were just for that week, into one who regards others as more important than myself (Phil. 2:3).

Part 2: Training and Preparations

The group of STMs from my church. We bonded together as we served over the week.

Arriving at camp, the STM’s had about a day and a half of training to get through before the families arrived. We bonded together, learning about various disabilities and how to deal with different things that we might encounter and so on and so forth. Something that really meant a lot to me and remained with me throughout the week, and indeed, after that week, was that in order to serve in such a way that would display the love of Christ, we must constantly come to Him in prayer and depend completely on the grace of God.

All throughout the first day (the day before the families arrived), I was nervous, not knowing which family I would be assigned to. I kept thinking that once I knew who my camper was and what disability my camper had, then I would know, more or less, what I was going to be dealing with and could start preparing my mind and praying more specifically about my assigned family. That night, when we got our assignments, I learned that I would be caring for a 4 year-old boy who had autism. My first thought was, “now I still don’t know what I’m dealing with.” As you may or may not know, autism sort of ranges from mild to severe and the affects of it vary from person to person. So, all I could really count on was that I would have to adapt and learn as I went. And so, I began praying even harder for the week to go smoothly and for my assigned family to be able to relax, enjoy themselves, and really experience the love of Christ. It was nice to finally be able to pray for them by name.

Part 3: Meeting my Camper/family and getting started

Left to Right: Fellow STM Rebekah, my camper Nathan, parents Edie and Bun, Rebekah’s camper Gabriel, and me.

As the time (the second day) for me to actually meet my assigned camper and family drew nearer, I became more and more nervous. Thankfully, I had many brothers and sisters in Christ around me who could encourage and pray for me. When I finally laid eyes on my precious little camper and his equally-as-precious twin brother, my excitement and joy won-out and my nervousness was no where to be seen. To my delight, the mother and father of my camper turned out to be very kind and loving people and I felt a connection with the whole family almost instantly. I quickly learned about my camper and his twin brother (who also has autism – he was assigned another STM and we worked together a lot of the time), their little quirks, cleverness, character, and the differences between them. By the end of that first day of serving my camper and his family, there was already so much love in my heart for them; all I wanted to do was spend time with them and help them with whatever they needed or wanted. I couldn’t keep from smiling as I realized that there was literally no place in the world that I would rather have been at that moment, than right where the Lord had placed me. The Lord had, indeed, already answered my prayer.

Part 4: The rest of the week/concluding thoughts

My camper, Nathan (right), and his brother, Gabriel (left), loved the wagon :)

All throughout the week, my days were very busy, and I noticed that I had a lot more energy and stamina than usual, which could only have come from the Lord. I remember feeling so blessed. It was so satisfying to spend my entire day serving someone else and not focusing so much on myself. I enjoyed watching the parents of my camper relax and enjoy themselves, having extra hands to take care of things. I loved looking around and seeing so many families in such a happy state, in which they did not have all the usual troubles weighing on their shoulders. It was so neat to be in a place where everyone could just be themselves. If a child began screaming or doing other things that would usually be considered “disruptive” or “rude,” it was received with understanding and grace rather than judgmental stares and ignorant whispers. If ever a parent felt overwhelmed, there was someone there to help lighten the load. All of us STMs worked really hard throughout the week, but it was some of the most satisfying work we had ever done. I know from my own experience, and from talking to other STMs, that we left that camp feeling as though we were more blessed by the families we served and the work that God had done in our hearts than we had even anticipated. I really did not want to leave that place. I had grown so attached to my camper and family as well as the overall environment of the camp – so much so that I had a good cry as I was leaving the camp to go back home.

It was truly an eye-opening experience that I will not soon forget. My whole outlook on service has been altered for the better, as has my understanding of families affected by disability. The Lord has used this experience to grow my desire for service and my love for others. I would urge everyone to prayerfully consider trying something like this at least once. I promise you, it will be an unforgettable experience that you are likely to carry with you for the rest of your life. And, if you are like me, you will quickly decide that this is something you want to be involved with every year.

If you would like to know more about Joni and Friends, you can visit their website at: http://www.joniandfriends.org/

Please feel free to ask/talk to me more about the camp if you feel so inclined :) I was not super specific in this blog because I didn’t want it to be too long and also because I wasn’t sure how detailed I should get about my particular family and whatnot. However I am open to talking about it on a one-on-one sort of basis. :)

Precious boys <3