“Well… That wasn’t part of the plan.” I’ve been saying that a lot lately. I feel like the comedic relief in a Star Trek episode. There’s always something else that I did not see coming. But that’s life. It’s messy and complicated and no matter how you try, if the timing is off, things will undoubtedly go sideways. We like to walk around like we know what we’re doing but most of the time, we’re just as clueless as everyone else.
It’s okay. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones we didn’t plan for. Maybe some crisis at work turns out to be a blessing in disguise or a daunting task like buying a house becomes your new sanity project. Seeing the silver lining takes a little work but it’s usually there if you look closely.
Last year I made a promise to myself. I would write and post something every day even if it was simply to caption a photo from my most recent adventure. Thus began my Photo of the Day blog posts. Often, that was all I could manage. While my writing and photography skills have both sored to new heights in the last 12 months, I’m afraid my time management has all but left me.
Therefore, today marks the start of a couple of new writing goals. By virtue of recently befriending a fellow reader, writer, shooter, athlete and foodie, I have decided to take a step back from blogging in order to participate in April NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I plan to continue to post regularly, three times a week rather than my previous five, while using the off days to dig into a novel idea that I’ve been in the process of finishing for the past seven years. It’s high time I did something about that.
Many blessings to everyone this Easter. I hope you’ve enjoyed my random sparks of inspiration, potluck recipes, fantasy quotes and the occasional freewrite. I look forward to sharing much more but am excited to be embarking on a new literary adventure.
Have you been feeling drained lately for no reason at all? You haven’t gone anywhere or done anything particularly trying. Yet, somehow it still feels like you’re running on empty. There are so many things that need doing and you can’t seem to work up enough energy to lift a finger for a single one of them.
It’s days like these when I most loudly proclaim my detestation for the rise and continuation of COVID fear and isolation. I feel like a child who’s been sent to her room for the last year. Having your own place is fantastic but even before social distancing, there was always a danger of overdosing on ‘me time.’ Now, it’s practically guaranteed. This has been the longest timeout of all time and occasionally, it’s impossible not to feel like my motivation to do anything worthwhile has been completely zapped.
Thank goodness for people like my parents. Despite going totally insane at being ordered to stay in my room (a lovely, comfortable one bedroom apartment but still) until further notice, my mom is constantly making suggestions to keep me moving forward. Everything from scheduling a massage to starting to shop for my first house is fair game in her eyes. Here are a few of my favorite momisms that have come in handy recently and which she is constantly reminding me.
“Go big or go home.” – Whether you’re picking out an outfit for Saturday brunch or deciding to become a homeowner, go all in and make some noise. If you only ever do something halfway, you might as well have not done it at all.
“Don’t let the grass grow under your feet.” – Most opportunities will not fall into your lap. If you sit around waiting for things to happen for you, yours will be a very empty life. You have to chase what you want. In life there are two choices; stand still or move forward.
“You can do hard things.” – I have to actively remind myself of this every single day. I can do hard things. I’ve already proven that to myself time and time again. It’s why anything less than my best simply doesn’t cut it.
“Life is short. Buy the shoes.” – My mom has never said this as encouragement to become a shopaholic or to fill the voids in my life with meaningless keepsakes. It’s about pulling the trigger on the choices that will make you happy. Stop wasting time with indecision. Pursue your passions, however strange, far fetched and fantastical they may seem to others. Obviously be smart about it. You don’t want to break your bank but if you can afford it, buy all means, buy the shoes!
Today, as I thought of how to begin, much like Bilbo when tasked with completing the story of his travels, one quote rang in my ears. Even lost and alone at the tower of Cirith Ungol, Samwise Gamgee still found his courage at the very darkest of times. I think we could all take a lesson from Samwise the Brave.
In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.
Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the stars farewell.
Welcome to a new day, full of fresh sights, fresh ideas, and a fresh outlook on the same old situations. Today, as chilly spring winds howl past my third floor apartment window, I can’t help feeling a spark of renewed energy. I still don’t sleep enough or tidy as I go or keep to a concrete routine. My life is no different than it was yesterday. The same stresses loom a bit more imminently and I still wonder at all the questions I had before.
But today, for some reason, I feel revitalized. I can do hard things. I can be brave and loud and confident. I can be organized and motivated and I’m capable of making solid adult decisions, even if they do still terrify me. Today I refuse to be stuck.
Happy Friday! Today’s post is short at sweet, inspired by this friendly face and dozens of squirrel puns discovered through a quick Google search. However, it’s valuable advice that we could all take to heart a little more. In my experience, the things that terrify you tend to be the very best things for you. I don’t mean horror movie jump scares or the feeling of dread you get when walking the streets alone at night.
I’m talking about the electrifying thrill of taking chances in life, like that time you finally got up enough courage to ask out your crush. In school and work, it’s often best to err on the side of caution. However, when it comes to leading your best life, sometimes it pays to go a little nuts.
As I was deciding what to write for today’s blog post I scrolled through some old freewrites and came across this gem. I wrote it during those strange four months following the termination of a three year relationship and before graduating with plans to move halfway across the country for a fancy job in a steel mill. My life leading up to this point had always been orderly and structured and, if not easy, at least manageable with a killer game plan and tremendous support team. Suddenly, for the first time, there was no game plan beyond the next four months and I’d just utterly upended the status quo that had seen me through the better part of a difficult engineering degree.
Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I ever made. I had no idea what was in store for me when I set up shop in Valparaiso, IN. Since then, I have happily embraced my inner Elle Woods although I still need the occasional reminder to let her shine. We’ve all wondered if we’re on the right path, if what we’re doing is what we’re meant to be doing, if where we are is where we’re supposed to be. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away completely. To be human is to walk through life with your head held high, knowing full well that you’ll never have all the answers. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for yourself is to cease all of that meticulous planning, take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.
Looking back at my terrified, sleep deprived, boyfriendless, 21 year old self, I’d tell her to hang in there because things are about to get so much better.
Often I feel like the Elle Woods of engineering school, the dumb blond that tags along after all the smart people because I didn’t have anything better to do. I didn’t always want this. I decided one day that it was a good idea and I’ve been working at it ever since. To be fair, my Warner wasn’t a complete jerk but that doesn’t excuse all the things he did (and didn’t do). Still, I occasionally wonder at exactly how my engineering career began. I did it because I wanted to make my parents proud and there’s a chance that I stuck with it because I wanted some guy to think I was smart, good enough. I worked so hard to be and he never really rewarded my efforts. Not that I regret it. I’ve found success, with and without him.
Now, I’m single with no desire to get him back. I’m about to graduate from a prestigious engineering school with a great job lined up that I can’t wait to start. Everything is amazing but I still can’t help feeling like I don’t quite belong. I still feel like the dumb blond along for the ride. That’s not to say that I think I’m an idiot. I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without at least some smarts. But I look around and I see a bunch of other people doing it so much better, people who are so much more well versed in this world. My mom says I need to grow some confidence and she’s right of course. But it’s difficult when I keep fumbling my elevator pitch.
That was one problem that Elle never had. She was a people person, even if they didn’t like her. She always said hello and goodbye and dolled out compliments to the competition. She had an amazing capacity to forgive people, even Vivian, and managed to win nearly everyone over. She was good at making friends. I met my best friend because she introduced herself on the playground in third grade even though she was the new kid at the time. I only had to say hi and follow her to the swing set. Now, I read books on how to talk to new acquaintances. Approaching people I don’t know well and fostering friendship does not come naturally. In fact, it is appallingly unnatural. I like people and I like getting to know them but I can’t stand failing at it.
I need to be more like the Legally Blonde star. I need to unleash my inner Elle. I know that deep down, it’s in there. I’ve just never been brave enough to let it out. She can be incredibly thoughtless and naive and yet she manages to make friends wherever she goes and does it with a splash. I need a little more of that.
Of course, the day that I’m finally struck with a creative brainwave for a short story that I’d love to write, my computer decides to fail me. New characters are clamoring around in my mind, playing tug-of-war with my emotions and using my mouth to speak their emphatic heartache, begging me to write their story, and I can’t seem to get a good wifi connection. I sincerely hope the trail of creative breadcrumbs I’ve left for myself will be enough to find my way back at a later date when I can log into Google Docs and get to work. It’s always a danger with writing. I can’t wait to get to know those characters, interview them over a cup of coffee. I want to learn their names, who their friends are, where they grew up and why they made the choices that they did. But for now, it’s enough that they’ve stopped shouting and we can all get a good night’s sleep.
It seems like a theme has developed on this blog over the last week revolving around my completion of Book One in the Stormlight Archive series. My intrigue for Brandon Sanderson’s work has blossomed into a full blown obsession and I simply must talk about it. As I’m well into Book Two, Words of Radiance, it felt like a good time to share some of my favorite bits from The Way of Kings, real life inspiration from fantasy people.
“You can’t go someplace a second time until you been there a first time, I reckon. Everyone has to stand out sometime…” – Yalb to Shallan on the docks at Kharbranth
It’s so easy to get ahead of ourselves. Too often I catch myself dwelling in the useless realm of someday, dreaming up perfect conversations with perfect people who I still have yet to meet. Life just doesn’t play out that way. Things never go the way you expect them to but that’s what makes it interesting. We like to pretend that we know where we’re going when in reality, we’re all just wandering through life waiting for the day that our prayers are answered and we bump into the right people.
“A blank page was nothing but potential, pointless until it was used.” – Shallan thinking on drawing and art.
Whether you’re a painter, writer, composer or musician, I think every artist on the planet can identify with this. That blank page is always there, begging to be filled even if only with the seemingly infinite mental clutter which obscures the true artistic gems of your consciousness.
“The hallmark of insecurity is bravado.” – Dalinar Kholin to his son, Adolin at the Shattered Plains
Have you ever noticed how the most uptight people are the only ones going out of their way to show the world how incredibly easy going they can be? This goes for all sorts of things. In my experience if you strut around like you’ve got something to prove, chances are, you do. No one is perfect. We’re all only human after all. How much simpler life would be if we all stopped trying to appear as we think we ought to and instead embraced the fabulous, singular individuals that we already are.
“When your dreams are vague, it’s easy to rationalize little exceptions all day long and never get around to the specific things you need to do to succeed.” – Atomic Habits, Chapter 5 by James Clear
I think this is my problem. In order to get what you want, you must first know what you want and be willing to work day in and day out to achieve that end. On a good day I’m capable of being highly motivated but my efforts always seem to crumble, whether it be in a single afternoon or gradually over the course of several weeks. Each new self-improvement kick lasts for a couple weeks until my work schedule changes and newly developed habits inevitably go by the wayside.
Growing up, I was always a little envious of the dreamers, those people who seemed to know exactly where they were going from the very beginning. The focus, clarity and defiant determination with which these individuals pursue their dreams is staggering and something I’m constantly trying to imitate. For them, there is always a vision, a guiding light and a next step to take, however difficult that step might be. Life rarely goes according to plan and detours are inevitable but, when you know where you want to end up, decisions become far less complicated. While never easy, they will at the very least adhere to certain guidelines which can be considered by answering the following question.
Will this action bring me closer to my goal?
It’s a very simple question and yet impossible to answer without a highly specific and concrete goal in mind. The dreams you leave for someday will always stay there like the distant horizon, tragically out of reach no matter how many mountains you summit. You can’t go to the horizon but you can journey to a point on a map. X marks the spot. What are you doing today?