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inspiration

Inspiration, Oh F**k

Oh F**k

Moments with Jeff Seymour

“how fast can you get me out of here?”

Jeff Seymour is currently working for the Securitas company, manning the Lincoln building in Columbus, Ohio. There’s something about Jeff, a unique sincerity and genuine warmth that he exudes. This is what has allowed him to be on a first name basis with every person who walks through the front door of his building, never letting their name leave his lips without a comforting smile or a knowing head nod. When I first asked him to do an interview regarding his success story, he seemed a bit taken aback. He later explained his hesitation, confiding in me that he had never pictured his life story as “successful” and how he’d spent a good portion of the night before our interviewing racking his brain over what he was going to say. Little did he know that his success story was on the tip of his tongue the entire time, waiting for the right moment to be told. This is that moment. 

Oh F**k Moment

“Now, I have a few of those…” Jeff chuckles. 

It was supposed to be his senior year in college. As it happens with the majority of us, it didn’t look so good in regard to graduating on time. Jeff was lost. He explained to me how he’d gone into college ready to set an example, the oldest of his siblings, an heir of responsibility the others couldn’t quite understand. He had gone in with the intent of being an electrical engineer.

“My first trimester I dropped calculus,” Jeff started. Same, Jeff, same. 

“My second trimester I dropped physics,” he continued, shaking his head. 

By the time his junior year rolled around, Jeff was on academic suspension.

Fresh off his academic suspension, Jeff was back in school for what was supposed to be his senior year, well aware that he needed to get everything figured out. He needed to find the major that suited him, fix his grade point average, get a final graduation date set, all amongst the unspoken pressure of maintaining a good image for his family, who he did not want to disappoint. The happiness of others quickly shadows our own. Feeling confused, depressed and anxious (understandably so), Jeff knew he needed to get out of his current situation. 

“We had two landlines in the hallway of our dorm room. I went out in the hallway, sat down, opened the yellow pages up in my lap and grabbed the phone. I dialed the number to the US Airforce. No answer,” Jeff held up a finger, so I knew that wasn’t the end of it. 

“The next number I dialed was to the US Marine Corp,” Jeff said, a little smile on his face. This time, they answered. 

“How fast can you get me out of here?” was the first thing Jeff said to the recruiter on the other end. By that time the next day Jeff was no longer a college student. Rather, he was a new member of the marine corp. 

In his “oh f**k” moment, Jeff admittedly had no idea what he was doing. He knew he wasn’t happy and was willing to try anything in order to change his current situation. Coincidentally (or not so much so), Jeff was one of the top recruits of his class, quickly took on leadership positions in every role he partook as a marine and loved every second of it. 

Come to find out, his grandfather had also served, a fun fact his mother had never shared with him until after Jeff himself had joined. It had been a part of him all along. It seems he was bound to find his place, no matter what detours he took along the way. 

Moment of Success

“It was magical,” was the only way Jeff knew how to describe it. 

Working part time at his kids’ grade school, Jeff also volunteered as an assistant coach on his son’s flag football league. Listening to Jeff describe this rag tag group of six- and seven-year old’s out on the field was comical, as I know it all too well. Whether it was oneself or a younger sibling, we’ve all seen the attention spans of six-year old. Mix that with the undeterred passion to win of a head coach/father and we’re bound to have some fun. 

Jeff described how the team had made it to a pretty big game in their area in California. They all knew they were going in as the underdog team and found out last minute that the head coach and his son weren’t going to make it to the game. 

“So, these kids are on the field, knowing they’re the underdog, a new coach in front of them, no idea what to expect,” Jeff sets the scene. He got into the huddle with these little football stars, hyping each one of them up. Somewhere between the chanting and high-fiving, Jeff was able to pull an energy out of them that they hadn’t seen before. Their underdog team managed to pull off a big win that day and advance to the next game. 

However, this isn’t the moment of success for Jeff’s fleeting moment as head coach. This is where I would like to introduce Flint. Flint was one of the smallest boys on the team, his favorite position being anywhere on the field he was able to sit and pick grass. He’d been such a bother to the regular head coach that he had decided to put Flint right in the middle of the defensive line, alongside the biggest kids on the team. Jeff shook his head disapprovingly at this decision. “You don’t argue with the coach of your son’s team, though,” he said, hands up in resignation. 

In his moment as head coach, Jeff decided to pull Flint aside.

“Look at that guy in front of you,” Jeff said to Flint. “He’s big, round and slow! I know you’re so much faster than he is, so this is what I want you to do. I want you to speed around him as soon as you see the ball move and I want you to take not just one, but both flags off the quarterback,” Jeff directed. Flint looked back at him, blinked, mouth guard swinging from the side of his mouth. He headed back to his position on the field. 

“He sacked the quarterback four times in a row after that!” Jeff said, smile so big and contagious on his face that I could help but be just as proud as he was. He described Flint zipping right around the guy in front of him, sliding in from every direction and ripping the flags off the quarterback while everyone was high fiving and cheering. “It was magical,” Jeff said, wrapping up the famous victory for this little league flag football team.

After this, Flint’s mom approached Jeff. She thanked him for what he’d done, for giving her son a chance that the other coach hadn’t been able to. Knowing Jeff was only working part time at the school, she mentioned a job opening in security for the nuclear plant that her husband currently worked at. This turned out to be a job of Jeff’s dreams. He was still able to describe every detail of the building, painting a picture so vivid that I swore I’d been there before. That is, until I remembered I had never been to California. He could tell me every code he was made to memorize, describe every piece of his uniform, every position he held there.  

All from taking one moment to talk to flint. All from one moment of success.

 Jeff’s moments of success have nothing to do with monetary value. They have nothing to do with power or fame. They have everything to do with passion, pride and true happiness. 

This is the definition of success that we so often overlook, when in fact it is the truest form. Thank you so much Jeff, for your complete honesty and willingness to take the time out of your day to share your truly incredible, and ever so successful, life story with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have been able to hold this interview with you.  

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My “Feministic” Views: Addressing a Few Misconceptions

Don’t get me wrong, I love men. Some of my closest friends are guys and I value their relationships more than anything. I have many men in my life who I look up to and admire very much. I’m grateful for all of them and am so lucky to hold a relationship with them with such a mutual respect and understanding. 

However, just because I have guy friends and male figures in my life that I admire, doesn’t mean I can turn a blind eye to inequality amongst males and females in America. To be clear, me recognizing this inequality does not mean that I hate men in any way, does not mean that I think less of men in any way, and does not mean I’m unable to have open discussions pertaining to this inequality and/or lack thereof from any other person’s viewpoint. 

My viewpoint comes from years of observing, experiencing and learning about this topic. I still continue to learn about it every day. 

I wanted to address why I made a post the other day about a tweet that I saw. If you didn’t see my Instagram story, I put a picture of myself with a new short haircut and brought up a tweet that I saw saying “only women with long hair are attractive”. My response to that was “men ain’t sh*t, you’re hot no matter what”. I also mentioned the fact that, in our society, men are raised to view certain things as attractive versus unattractive. 

I got a response from a guy that said something like this: don’t generalize all men because of what one man said, understand his ignorance and move on.

After responding that I didn’t find it acceptable to stay silent on an issue that affects the way people feel about themselves and ultimately live their lives, I got a rather aggressive response that led to him stating the following: there is no pay gap between males and females, women deserve to be paid less due to pregnancy, there is no ideal woman anymore as this isn’t the 1900s, and to top it all off, white privilege doesn’t exist. 

Man. Oh. Man. To be clear, I did not address any of those issues in my story except for the image of an ideal woman on the most basic level. I was told that I was just trying to “make myself feel better” and that none of what I was saying was correct. When I tried to have a discussion about the issues he was addressing, I got berated and was told to “keep coming at me with your feministic views.” 

Here are the top two reasons I chose not to ignore this man’s ignorance: accountability and awareness. 

When I say that society has raised men to behave and to think a certain way, I am holding all of us accountable. I’m not blaming this one individual male who made one comment about a female’s appearance. In America, the image of the ideal partner, and the ideal self, has been formulating in the minds of every individual since they were children. We are shown images, told repeatedly, of what our society identifies as “beautiful”. The further we stray from these ideals, the more damaging it is to our self-perception and ultimately our self-value. 

My favorite example of how harmful this unrealistic standard of beauty can be comes from an experience by Dr. Brene Brown. She did a project with a class of hers that had three parts. The first was to bring in their favorite magazines and cut out images that fit their “ideal look”. She noticed how every participant was taking bits and pieces of different women in order to create one ideal look. The second part of the project was to find themselves in these magazines. After flipping through magazines and finding only bits and pieces of themselves (a similar haircut, skin tone, etc.) the students gave up in frustration. The final part of the project was to ask the students “how does being invisible feel?”. 

The answers that were given were all self-blaming. They said they couldn’t find themselves in these magazines because they weren’t good enough or, even worse, because they didn’t matter. They blamed themselves for not fitting the pictures they had created based on a learned idea of beauty. Based on a learned idea of value. 

In just one sitting, these students went from cutting images out of a magazine to convincing themselves that they don’t matter in this society. 

To go back to the tweet that said “only women with long hair are attractive”, I hope it might be a bit clearer the consequences these statements may have, and also why I chose to address it rather than to remain silent. We are reinforcing ideas that are demeaning to many individuals. We are reinforcing ideas that take away value from people who matter, which is every single person in this nation and on this planet. Beauty is, first and foremost, a cultural construct. Let’s work towards constructing a cultural view of beauty that looks at more than the surface. One that adds value to every individual rather than taking it away.  

I didn’t get to touch on a lot of other subjects that were brought up, so if anyone would like to discuss anything else with me, please feel free to reach out! 

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Lessons Learned

I have too much I want to say about this past weekend. I tried to fit in all into one piece of writing, but it ended up being five pages before I was even halfway through. 

Instead, I’m going to share a story a day, until I run out of stories. 

I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt in a rut, stuck in the wrong place, stuck in the wrong mood. My birthday was one week away. I’ve always had an irrational fear of birthdays. Not the fear of getting older, but a fear of being behind in life. Of not hitting the landmarks that have been instilled in my brain I should have hit by the age of 23. 

This is what I needed to escape. 

I wanted time to think, time to be on my own. I opened Airbnb and typed in the date’s “March 29-31”, anxiously clicking the search button. Up popped a few options, a loft here, an apartment there. It wasn’t until I saw a red cabin on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina that I knew. That was exactly what I was looking for. 

Mind you, I have never traveled completely on my own to an unfamiliar location before. Ever. I’ve traveled many times with family and friends but seeing as I am usually a very cautious individual, planning my trips meticulously, I was in completely unfamiliar territory with this one. 

Confirmed: March 29- March 31. Check in 3 pm- 12 am. Pack your bags!

Just like that, I was off to Asheville. 

Since it’s a special occasion, I want to skip forward to my favorite part of this trip. Let me introduce you to Patrick O’Shea.

Upon my arrival, I was introduced to my host (and one of the kindest men I’ve ever met), Bob. He asked what I was doing there, assuming I was there to enjoy a weekend of fine dining and breweries, as many other guests had been. 

Funny question, really. I had no idea what I was doing there. 

“I like to write,” I said. I explained how I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by my birthday coming up and really just needed a change of scenery for a second. I wanted to be able to collect my thoughts, hear myself think. 

“Well, if you need some inspiration, there’s the arts district,” Bob began. “It’s covered in art, graffiti. I would describe it as a new age, hipster, rich kid type area.” 

I visibly cringed and Bob laughed. 

“If you’re looking for more of a townie location, I would recommend Jack of the Wood. It’s the epitome of an Irish bar, live Appalachian based music and best bar food in town.” He had me at Irish bar. I was sold. 

I walked into Jack of the Wood and immediately began to smile. The majority of the crowd had beards and were sporting a leather vest and/or a cowboy hat. I was easily one of the youngest people there. Everyone had a beer in their hand and there was college basketball playing on the tv next to the bar. 

Perfection. This is exactly what I had been looking for all along.

I sat down at the end of the bar next to an older man, ordered a beer and leaned back in my chair to watch the game. A few moments in, I felt the older man next to me tap me on my shoulder. I turned, already apologizing if I had been in the way of the tv. 

“Oh no, honey, you’d have to be a few feet taller for that to be the problem,” he chuckled. Fair point. He motioned for me to look to my left and asked me how I felt about “man buns”. About a foot to my left was a younger man, sporting that very look. I laughed and explained that it’s not my favorite, but whatever makes people happy. 

“I’ve got to be honest with you, every guy I’ve ever met with one… asshole,” he said. “Complete asshole. You’re trying too hard buddy, just give it up!” he said, loud enough for me to hear but just below man bun’s level of hearing.

This is how I met Patrick. He was late sixties, a regular at Jack of the Wood, and stole more olives from the side of the bar than I could count. It was truly impressive how quickly he moved to grab them when the bartenders turned their backs. He still wrote and performed his own music every Monday night at this very bar. 

He asked why I was in Asheville, what I liked about it so far. 

“Honestly, I love the people. I’ve found that every person I’ve run into has been extremely nice and so open in conversation.” 

“Do you think that has anything to do with yourself?” Patrick responded. 

Seeing as he was insinuating that the way I looked had something to do with people being nice to me, I responded by saying I really didn’t think so. He laughed and gave an exaggerated “sureeeeee”. 

I knew what he’d meant. However, this is exactly why I had been looking for this crowd. Patrick wasn’t saying anything to try and impress me. When I asked him a question, he answered with complete honesty. He wasn’t trying to prove himself to me, to make me like him, to show the similarities between us. Many people my own age will say what they think you want to hear. Not Patrick. This was him, take it or leave it. 

As Patrick was on a first name basis with everyone who worked at the bar, I quickly became acquainted with the bartenders and servers. Before I knew it, I was on my third beer, the Purdue vs Virginia game had just been tied by a buzzer beater shot and all of us had bets on who was pulling through for the win. Even the bartender who claimed he “didn’t care at all for college basketball” was leaning over the counter, yelling with the rest of the crowd when their team fell behind. 

I asked Patrick how he’d ended up in Asheville. 

“My ex-wife moved here with the kids. It was a no brainer,” he stated, matter-of-factly. He told me what his kids were up to now, what they’d accomplished. “I’m just so happy their mom raised them,” he said. I asked if he thought they would’ve turned out differently being raised with him. He scoffed and informed me they wouldn’t be even half the people they were today, had their mother not raised them. 

The band began to play, and Patrick ended the night by scolding me for paying eighty dollars for jeans with holes in them. 

“It’s outrageous! Ninety dollars for these jeans, holes and little frills sticking all out from them and girls are paying for them! Bring ’em to me, I’ll grab a pair of scissors and do it myself,” he exclaimed, completely exasperated by the whole concept. I informed him that fashion companies were now laser printing wrinkles onto jeans, to sell them with a “pre-wrinkled” appearance. This almost pushed him right over the edge. We both laughed.

He’d stayed around longer than usual “to be chivalrous” he’d said. Another older man had entered the bar that he was not particularly fond of. 

“What a toad. What a complete toad,” Patrick said. I was dying laughing. “He’s just slimy. Maybe if he didn’t look like such a frog, people would actually talk to him,” he fumed. Patrick refused to leave until this guy left, insistent that he didn’t trust him. I appreciated it. 

After he’d left and I had eventually returned to my bed in the red cabin I had rented, I thought back to what Patrick had said. Did I have anything to do with the way people treated me here?

Yes. He was right, but not in the sense that he’d intended. It did have something to do with me. I had to be open to the experience. I had to be open to meeting others, to trusting others. I guess most people my age wouldn’t have picked this bar in the first place, but I noticed that even more wouldn’t have given someone like Patrick the time of day. 

Unfortunately, we tend to look past what’s right in front of us. 

Traveling alone allowed me to be open to others. It forced me to trust in people more so than I normally would. To be open to hearing their little anecdotes, each containing a vital piece of their lives they were excited to share, to teach you about. It’s truly incredible what you can learn from a complete stranger. 

When I listened to myself, felt where I was truly comfortable, I found exactly what I was looking for. If I trusted myself, I could trust in others. If I trusted myself, I would end up exactly where I was meant to be. 

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On My Body

I didn’t have much time to write this (aka pls don’t judge me for how poorly it’s written) but I did want to take a minute to acknowledge something really important to me. 

The female body has been viewed and commented on by so many. Opinions fly from every mouth about what it should look like, what it should dress like, how it should act. 

I started doing yoga at a young age. When I first started, I enjoyed the physical challenge behind it. Twisting and contorting my body in ways that were unfamiliar to it, attempting at every class to be able to move on to more challenging concepts. I was completely focused on the physical feat behind it. I wanted to master my body at this point in time. I wanted to be able to control it, be able to push it to its furthest point. 

I took a break from yoga for a while when I began college. A break makes it sound like I took a week off but if I’m being honest, it was years before I got back on a mat. I just recently came back to it, breaking myself in with a hot yoga class. The class hit me, and it hit me hard. However, I found myself being able to do things I hadn’t been able to do, even when I was trying my hardest and practicing regularly. As I hadn’t been to a class in a while, I had to start fresh. I had to listen to every word the instructor was saying, watch the other members of the class, listen to myself as I exhaled deeply through the pain of starting over. This time around, I had focused not on pushing myself, but on listening to myself. On talking to my body, moving deeper into poses with each exhale. 

I accomplished much more in the exchange of talking and listening to my body, than I ever was able to when I was just telling my body what to do. Having a conversation with it, telling it where I wanted it to go but allowing it to lead me there at its own pace. I didn’t rush to get to the end, to master the pose right away. I took my time in getting there, acknowledging how my body felt at every single moment throughout the process. 

It takes time to learn how to listen to yourself. It takes time to acknowledge the fact that your best and most beautiful version of a pose, will look completely different than someone else’s. It took me years to wrap my head around what seems to be such a simple concept. I grew out of the idea of only picturing myself at the end. I now take the time to appreciate where I’m at, every single day. I acknowledge that it doesn’t matter how you look, but how you feel.

Listen to what feels right from the inside, not to what people tell you is right from the outside. Enjoy the strength that you find within, recognize the power that your body uses to push you through every day. That power is so much more valuable than any other person’s opinion.

This is just a small reminder to anyone who needs it.

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To Whom It May Concern

Long before we met

I already knew it to be true

Home would always be with you.

Your eyes sink into me in a way

I’ve only ever felt

When looking at a body of water.

Your laugh like a lullaby

Something that was sung to me a million times

Before I was aware.

The warmth of your embrace

Reminiscent of the warmth of the fireplace 

I can remember every detail of.

It all resonates as familiar 

Even though it’s brand new

Because home was always with you.

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The Art of Self-Care

Sometimes, you just need to take a break. I know, easier said than done. Here are a few quick tricks to fit some time for self-care into a never-ending busy schedule. 

Take a Deep Breath (Or a Couple…)

This sounds too simple, right? If your day is jam packed with work, whenever you have a break in between meetings, classes, etc. , stop for one minute, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths. Listen to the sound of it and focus only on the air going in and out. If it helps, count each time you exhale a breath. If you need (or have more time for) more than three breaths, keep going! It sounds silly but it really does help.

Smile 

Ninety-nine percent of the time, if I’m smiling, I’m happy. It’s a natural reaction for your energy to change when you smile. Muscle memory associates the act of smiling with the emotion of happiness. It’s a natural trigger. With that, find a reason to smile at some point today. Look at a funny picture you took with a friend, a text that made you die of embarrassment originally but now makes you giggle when you talk about it. Speaking of, f you’re in an especially stressful situation, call someone and tell them about it. Every time I go through a particularly frustrating situation, I call my friends with the intent to rant about the situation until I feel I’ve made my point about how unfair my life is and beg the question of “why is the universe doing this to me?”. This usually ends in me laughing it off because talking about it makes me realize how insignificant these events really were. Sometimes you just need to hear it out loud to be able to put things in perspective.

Plan Ahead 

In one of my recent reads, I came across this genius idea of planning little surprises for yourself. I know that I always feel more motivated when I have something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be a week-long excursion or a bank breaking appointment of some kind. It can be as little as scheduling a coffee date with friends at a café you’ve never been to before. This past Monday, I was in the middle of a crisis while looking at everything I had to do in the upcoming week. I stopped everything I was doing, google searched nearby spas, and booked facials for myself and my roommate. The facials were relatively inexpensive, and it was something we had been wanting to do for a really long time. It was completely worth it. It feels good to treat yourself occasionally! You deserve it!

Eat a Donut

…Or a baked good of any kind. Get on yelp and search “best bakery near me”. Click on the one that looks the most appetizing, has the cutest décor, or the highest rating (whatever floats your boat). Even with the splurge on calories, I can promise you that by the time you take that last bite, you’ll have a huge smile on your face. Baked goods are magical. 

Act of Kindness

I don’t know about you but doing things for others makes me genuinely happy in return. Go out of your way to do something kind for someone else. Hold open a door, offer a ride to your roommate, give someone a bigger tip than usual, pay for the person’s drink behind you. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything huge. If you want to take it a step further, go for it! It can never hurt to build up good karma! 

Hit the Breaks 

Put your phone down (unless, of course, you’re reading this article). Start small with intentionally putting away electronics for five minutes. Set a timer if you’d like. No, it doesn’t count if you do this while napping… Take a break from social media. Even if you don’t think you have a problem with it, try it and see how you feel. I deleted snapchat recently, planning on re-downloading it the next day. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t missed it one bit. Instead of taking on more stressors through social media, tackle some stressors you currently have in your real life with that spare five minutes. 

And if none of these suggestions help, look up pictures of tiny animals. Tiny animals are always a good idea. 

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The Big “A”

I’m not going to lie, the last week has been a struggle. There’s a perfectly logical and scientific explanation as to why I feel like this, but to me it just seems like I just feel like crap for reasons that I can’t explain. 

Struggling with anxiety is simply a pain in the ass. The thing is, I’m a very put together person. I’m the definition of Type A, a huge perfectionist, acutely aware of time (how much or little I have of it), and competitive (especially with myself). Although these characteristics sound great on a resume, they are the absolute worst in real life. 

I push myself harder than anyone else does. I turn everything into a competition. When I first realized I had anxiety issues, I read up on how to control them. One of the most common recommendations was to get into a workout routine. What started off as being a half an hour of cardio to clear my head and take a break from my day, quickly turned into a question of how much longer could I push myself to stay on the treadmill? Could I increase the incline? Could I go faster? Could I outrun the person next to me? Before I knew it, I was spending an hour and a half in the gym and would feel guilty if I didn’t work out as hard as I had the last time. 

So that’s me in a nutshell, lol. I have an incredible ability to get into my own head and set expectations for myself much higher than what anyone else expects from me. 

Although this is a good quality in some aspects of my life, it resulted in a very intense case of anxiety. To be honest, I didn’t even know what anxiety really was or what the side effects looked like until I was sitting on a bed in Urgent Care, convinced I was having a heart attack. When all my tests came back normal, the physician explained that all of the symptoms I was having were indicative of both a heart attack and an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks literally mimicked the feeling of a heart attack. How effed up is that??? 

After learning about that I realized I had been showing signs of anxiety for a long time. I couldn’t make it through a night without having a nightmare. I still can’t most nights. It got to the point where as a 22-year-old, I couldn’t sleep without a light on at night. I know how dumb that sounds, but I can’t even describe to you the experience of waking up repeatedly each night, drenched in sweat, opening your eyes to nothing but pitch black, remnants if whatever was just terrifying you in your subconscious mind still lingering in your conscious mind. I showed less intense signs like biting the inside of my cheek throughout the day, grinding my teeth, not being able to accomplish any one task because I was too distracted by the thought of the other tasks I had ahead. 

Another fun fact about myself, I don’t like to ask for help. On anything. Going back to my perfectionist personality trait, I like to handle everything myself. When I’m feeling times of extreme stress, I don’t like to tell anyone. Reaching out to people is hard for me in general, so reaching out to someone about something I really struggle with is basically unfathomable to me. I learned pretty quickly that by trying to handle my anxiety by myself, I actually just made it worse. 

I used other methods. I took to working out (casually this time), meditation, reading and even started an anti-anxiety medication. It all helped, it still does help, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. 

So, the other day, I got home from work and sat down to do my homework for the night. Half way through an impossibly hard assignment for an intro level anthropology course, I found myself with my head in my hands, leg shaking uncontrollably, staring blankly at my computer screen, thoughts running a mile a minute. I couldn’t do it. I just needed to talk about it. Talk about everything I had going on, get it off my chest and I would be able to move on and tackle the issues at hand (even the four-hour long assignment for an INTRO level ONLINE anthropology course. Yes, I’m still mad).

I texted my mom, simply saying “I’m having a really hard time right now”. When she asked why, I didn’t have a good answer. Anxiety has this really cool thing it does where it builds literally everything up inside of you so that it’s impossible to point to one thing and say “that, that right there is the reason for all of this”. Pretty sweet, right? I told her I didn’t know, that my anxiety was just so bad at the moment, that I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown because it was making it impossible to get anything done. She pointed to one issue and named that as the cause. When I tried to explain to her that wasn’t what I was feeling, she argued with me about it and shut down the conversation. 

The next day, she told me she hated when I told her I was feeling that way because she didn’t know what to say and it made her worry. I’m not going to lie, I felt resentful that in the one moment when I needed her to tell me everything was okay, I had to be the one to reassure her that everything was fine and not to worry, I would work everything out. 

I knew what I had wanted my mom to say in the moment. I had wanted her to validate what I was feeling. I wanted her to tell me that the way I was feeling was completely understandable, completely normal under the circumstances. I wanted her to tell me that everything would work out and that she loved me. Instead, because she couldn’t relate exactly to how I was feeling, she got defensive and pushed the situation aside because she didn’t know how to properly handle it.

Neither of us were wrong. I wasn’t wrong for reaching out to her. She wasn’t wrong for not being able to understand my situation. I realized that it would be so simple for me to tell her what I needed to hear when I reached out to her in those situations. Everything I needed to hear were things she was more than capable of saying, of meaning even. It would make her feel better to be able to know how to respond in the situation. 

Pro Tip: Go to the person you are most comfortable reaching out to. Explain your situation to them, whatever you struggle with the most. Tell them what you need to hear when you reach out to them in hard times. It can be the same as mine, something reassuring like “you know everything will be okay and I love you”. It can be something funny, like a pic of their dog being a goofball. It can be something cheesy, like the time you met that person. Anything that gets you out of the headspace you’re in, even just for the second that they’re saying it to you. 

Trust me. They’ll appreciate knowing how to help you just as much as you’ll appreciate being helped. 

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Breaking The Cycle

I’m not going to lie, this is really hard for me to write about. Again, I hate, neigh loathe, being vulnerable. This would be the reason I have five million doubts running through my mind at the moment and why I’m on the third draft of this piece in under an hour (I’ve also listened to three full albums on Spotify, worked out for an hour and stress ate three little bags of gummi bears in procrastination but anywayssss). I know it needs to be said and I know I’m not the only one who has gone through this. So, here we go. 

I just want to give a quick background as to why I am the way that I am. I’ve been very perceptive to relationships from a young age, taking note of the rewards and consequences of them. I saw the happiness they could bring, the laughs, the comfort, the inside jokes that made each person in-the-know smile when it popped into their thoughts. I also saw the hurt relationships could bring. I saw people fake feelings, I saw people anxiously wait to hear words they knew they would never hear, saw people change into someone they thought would please another. It was from all of these observations that I subconsciously built an arms-length distance between myself and everyone I built a relationship with. 

It seems rather crazy, but it was only within the last year that I even realized I did this. I kept wondering why it was so easy for me to let go of people, when to others it seemed rather detrimental for a long period of time. Not to say I didn’t cry a few times, didn’t think through the should’ve, would’ve, could’ve process after something didn’t work out, but nothing ever really stuck with me. I also realized that after one problem, I was able to be done. I had no problem cutting them out of my life, moving on for what I thought was the better. Once I decided to be done, I was done. I never saw a problem with this.

And then I met a guy. The story of how we met is equally hilarious and embarrassing (may or may not involve me falling off of a table) so we’re just going to skip ahead a bit! Listen, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but this wasn’t one of them. We clicked pretty fast and I found myself doing things I never normally took the time or energy to do when I was talking to someone. I absolutely hate talking on the phone, but I would easily spend two or three hours talking about nothing on the phone with him. I caught myself smiling when he would tell stories about his family, who I didn’t even know. I was even starting to listen to country music. No, not even the pop country that most of us can endure. This was deep, twangy (what I would earlier classify as “gross” and shudder at) country music. The worst part was, I actually liked it. I liked all of it. 

Moving forward, I realized that in a very short period of time, I’d become very comfortable with him. It was a level of comfort that I hadn’t really known before and was slightly terrifying, but I pushed back those thoughts. Things took a turn and slowed down a bit. Keeping in touch went from daily, to weekly, to monthly. 

This is usually where I thrive. This is where I’m able to dive into work/school/whatever and walk away clean. I couldn’t figure out why little things still made me think of him and why I still wanted to text him when something funny happened. I couldn’t figure out why it was still causing me to be distracted, why I hadn’t woken up and been able to push the memory aside as I usually did. 

Then, out of the blue, I got a call from him. He came over, we talked for the first time in a while and it honestly shocked me when I literally felt the same exact way I had before about him. Like I said, when I decided to be done, when I stopped talking to someone, I was done. I’m not kidding when I say I was able to turn my feelings off for them. I only ever thought of them as friends from that point forward. This was different. I had gone through the same process but still felt the same way, still felt happy to have him there. 

Before we went to sleep, I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He grumbled something into the pillow while I was laying back down. I turned to let him repeat what he said. “You would spoil me,” he said, head still in the pillow. He left the next day, but that line replayed in my head long after he was gone. 

I couldn’t figure out why I was still thinking about it, so I enlisted the help of my friends. It seemed the common response from my friends was that it was upsetting that he would say that when we weren’t together, that he was able to disconnect from the situation in a way that I wasn’t able to, and ultimately that men were idiots (sorry guys). I listened to all of their opinions, looked through that perspective. None of it was the right answer for me. 

It took me two whole days of thinking about this line to realize that what he had said hadn’t made me upset at all. It was quite the contrary, actually. Without knowing it, he had actually said one of the greatest things I had ever heard about myself. 

Guys, I did it!!!! 

He was absolutely right, I would spoil him. There was no arms-length distance between us. For the first time, I had put my arm down and allowed myself to fully and truly care about someone else. With his help, I broke a cycle that I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be able to break. I had subconsciously built such a defensive response towards relationships for so long that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to change it. He showed me I could. 

I didn’t hear from him again after that night. This is probably the most important part of this piece. I’m telling my side of the story. There’s a good chance that he never felt the same way I did and that is completely okay. Of course it hurts, of course it’s embarrassing but the takeaway from this was so much bigger than all of that. I kept wondering why I ‘d met him in the first place (the chances were one in a million) but this was why. He was honest, he was kind and he showed me that by putting my guard down, I could meet someone truly incredible. 

I don’t have one bad thing to say about him. He’s an amazing person with a big heart and deserves just as much time to find himself as he needs. The only thing I have to say is thank you. Thank you for letting me in, thank you for letting me care, thank you for showing me I’m capable of so much more than I thought. 

I’m not quite sure how to end this, but I do want to say one more thing. It’s always easier to see the bad than it is to see the good. If I had settled on the response that what he’d said was mean in some way, I would’ve never been able to realize this huge detail about myself. Don’t settle for the easy answer. Settle for the answer that feels right, that you know to be true. 

See you guys next time. 

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Finding My Way Home

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Research has varied, but all of these readings have been under the broad genre of self-improvement. More specifically, these readings have been under the topic of happiness through self-improvement. Some books I’ve been able to read in the blink of an eye, others have taken much longer to finish than I’d like to admit. Even though I’m still in the midst of my research, I’ve run into a reoccurring problem. I’ve found that with the majority of the books I’ve read up to this point, they are directly aimed at those who are middle aged adults, married, have children, and are financially stable. So, my question is, am I crazy for wanting to find happiness, true happiness, at the age of twenty-two? Do I have to wait until I’m in my forties, married with two kids and in my second job in order to deserve to finally be happy? Should I be fully satisfied at this age? Do we have to wait until we’re at our lowest point, only then feeling we truly deserve to be happy? Ultimately, what is the point of waiting to make ourselves happy? 

*Disclaimer* I’m not saying that the books I’ve read didn’t have useful and accurate information. I’ve learned so much in just the last month since I’ve started this research and I’ve truly enjoyed reading all of it. Even with the small disconnect, I will keep these books on my shelf and reference them very frequently in the upcoming months. 

After ranting not only to myself, but also many others about why the young adult population isn’t included in the majority of these writings, I came across many different answers. Young adult ideas are not yet set in stone, young adults are still finding themselves through trial and error, young adults don’t yet understand the permanence of decision making, etc. After deeply contemplating all of the differences between the stressors and outside variables between adults and young adults, I came to this final conclusion: malarkey. It’s all malarkey. In other words, any argument about what age group has the harder life is completely ridiculous. What I mean when I say this is, it doesn’t matter what stage of your life you’re in. At this very moment, you deserve to be happy. To be happy, we all have to start at the same spot, no matter what our background information is. We have to start with ourselves. 

My rant could go on for days about this but what’s the point in ranting about it if I’m not going to do anything about it, right? So, I’m doing something about it. I’m making myself happy. 

I also think it’s important to note that one doesn’t have to be particularly unhappy in order to not feel fully happy. This is the stage I’m in myself. In general, I’m working towards being the happiest I can be in my everyday life, so that I’m able to properly enjoy and be fully grateful for the moments that have been given to me. I want the first thoughts that pop into my head to be positive ones, ones that remind me why I go through the not so positive ones in the first place. 

My first step in establishing happiness is defining it. My personal definition of happiness is pure and unequivocal contentment. Now, what does content mean to me? I can only describe it through a picture painted in my mind of a very specific memory that warms my heart every single time I think about it. Here is what being content is to me:

It’s Christmas Eve. I’m sitting on the brick fireplace of my nana and papa’s house, the heat from the fire making my cheeks blush as I start to overheat. I refuse to move though. This is my spot. Next to me, my papa sits in his chair, my nana is making a pot of coffee in the kitchen, the rest of my family scattered around the living room. Presents have been given and received, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy each other’s company. I just sit and listen. I can hear and see everyone from this spot at the fireplace. I hear the fits of laughter, clinking of glasses, the crackle of the fire. I see the smiles, the looks of peace and relaxation, the bit of wrapping paper sticking out from under the wooden coffee table. There’s a blanket of snow building up on the stack of wood outside of the front door. I feel no need to go anywhere or do anything. I only feel the need to be in this moment. I feel happy. I feel content. I feel home.

I realize from this contemplation on my purest moment of being content, my ultimate goal and ultimate happiness. My ultimate happiness is to feel at home. When I think of this moment of contentment, I feel nothing but warmth and honestly can’t help but smile. 

One thing I’ve come across in every single reading is the idea of being specific. In goals, desires, motivations, one has to be very clear. So, to narrow this down, my ultimate happiness goal is this:

By next Christmas, I will be with someone, as well as in some physical place, that makes me feel like I am home. 

I’ve realized that the hardest part of finding pure happiness is finding where to start. I gravitated towards Maxie McCoy’s book You’re Not Lost, because I was feeling exactly that, lost with no idea of where to begin (Again, please read her book, I’m begging!). If you’re like me and need that starting point, here it is. Define happiness for yourself. Make yourself a happiness goal, making it as specific as possible. Write it down, type it out, express it in some way so that you can refer back to it. I know I might sound silly and it might feel weird to broach this topic but really, what can it hurt to try? 

Every week I’m going to be sharing the steps I’m taking and the changes I’m making in order to reach this goal. One step at a time until I find my way home. Please, please, please feel free to join me at any point in time! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far is that doing things alone is much, much harder than doing things alongside others. C’mon people, don’t leave me high and dry here. You can comment or email me your personal happiness goal and work towards it with me if you’ve been looking for that support to get you started. 

Huge shout out to Lucia and my mom (hi guys) who I’m currently signing up against their will to do this with me, right at this very moment. Loveeee you guys!!!! 

Alright everyone, cheers to kicking some happiness a-s-s in the next couple of months.

p.s. my email is cmhiggins02@gmail.com & is in my about page as well !

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Do. Not. Even.

What’s my biggest fear in life, you ask? Fantastic question. No, it’s not the clown from IT or those monstrous, too large to even be in my nightmares, spiders that they have in Australia (although those are very high on the list as well). My biggest fear is, and forever will be, settling. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. The thought of describing my life as “average” gives me absolute chills. I just picture myself on one of those suburban streets, where every house looks exactly the same, all of my walls the same shade of eggshell white, describing my work as “fine” and my husband as “he’s always just there”. I’m literally cringing while writing this and may or may not be a little nauseous. 

Let me define “settling”

Settling (v.) : forcing oneself to be content in a situation; ignoring literally every thought in your head telling you that you can do, and deserve, better; fear of the unknown, forcing one into a perpetual state of mediocracy 

For a quick example, I once had the following conversation with a friend of mine. 

“Okay, honestly, why are you with him?” I asked, referring to her current boyfriend. “Well, he doesn’t make me worry,” she said. That’s all she said. 

If ever asked why you are committing your time and effort into anything, whether it be a job, relationship, even a hobby, the response as to why you are committing your time to this should never begin with an explanatory phrase (such as “well…”). “Well, it pays the bills” or “well, she doesn’t ignore me all the time”. Not only does this indicate that you don’t already know the answer, it indicates that you are trying to convince yourself that your statement is true, as well as whoever is asking you the question. 

When I ask why you do something, the answer should be declaratory. The response that should happen when I ask why you are with someone is “they make me the best version of myself” or “I love the way this person takes care of me”. Referring to jobs or hobbies, the response should be “because this is my passion” or “I truly enjoy what I learn from doing this”. If those aren’t the answers, or if an explanatory response is the first to pop into your head before a declaratory one, something is in need of change. 

I realize that the definition I gave for settling is not in a dictionary anywhere (and may be a bit intense) but tell me that it isn’t true. This isn’t my biggest fear because it looks terrifying aesthetically or haunts me in my sleep. It’s my biggest fear because I’ve seen the way it creeps up on people, pulling on their insecurities and tricking them, brainwashing them, without them ever realizing it.

I want to take a turn and look closer at the effects of settling into an unhappy situation for a second.  

We’ve all been there to see this happen. I’ve seen the change. It starts off small. They start to take on the likes and dislikes of the person they’re with. They work their significant others’ name into conversation as much as possible, even when unnecessary. Plans start being canceled with friends, white lies start being told. 

It creeps up.

You finally get ahold of your friend, finally make a date to hang out. You realize every sentence begins and ends with this person, the conversation drifting when any other topic is brought up. You laugh, forcefully, wanting to be happy for them. But how can you be happy, when it’s not really them anymore? Where had your friend gone and who the hell is this person now sitting in front of you?

It consumes.

They look exhausted. The zip in their step is long gone. You’ve gotten at least one call a day, your friend miserable. Guess whose fault? “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t even be upset over this. I’m overreacting”. They aren’t overreacting. 

Inevitably, it destroys.

You can’t listen to the pain in their voice anymore when they talk. You can’t hear the same story of them being torn to pieces. You tell them again and again how much more they deserve, remind them how things were before, point out all the faults they already see but refuse to acknowledge. “But we’re in love”. No, you aren’t. 

Here’s a reminder: someone who loves you is not capable of causing you this type of pain. Someone who loves you is not capable of seeing you at your worst, in no rush to make things better. Someone who loves you is not capable of ignoring you, hurting you just to get a reaction, keeping you hidden from the world. Someone who loves you would not change the person you are for their own benefit. 

Here’s an even more important reminder: Someone who loves you will make you laugh, even when you never thought you’d smile again. Someone who loves you will light you up in every single way possible. Someone who loves you will support you, even when you’re on some crazy ass kick of only drinking ginger shots and eating kale. Not only will they be the first to support you (and your ridiculous ideas), but they will be the one by your side, doing it with you the entire time. 

Settling is my biggest fear because I’ve seen what it turns into, a toxicity that people cannot escape. It doesn’t have to be a relationship. This toxicity can occur in any form of settling. It could be settling at a job you absolutely loathe. Hey, gotta pay the bills somehow and how tiring does it sound to spend hours applying for another dead-end job? Settling on friends who couldn’t even answer what your favorite color was, let alone be there for you when you really need them to be. But hey, they have the coolest Instagram, so many followers and so many connections. So, it’s worth it, right? Settling comes in all forms, shapes, sizes… freaking terrifying right????

“Do not let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game”. Yes, I did just directly quote Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story. Do not let the fear of being along keep you in a relationship that you describe as “eh” to your friends. Do not let the fear of stepping out of your professional comfort zone keep you at a dead-end job. Do not let the fear of being “less cool” keep you from avoiding the people who could turn out to understand and care for you better than your current “friends” ever could. To sum this up…

Do. Not. Even. 

Do. Not. 

Do. Not. Even. 

Write it down, stick it on your bathroom mirror, think it, say it. Most importantly, believe it. Believe you deserve better and you will. If you’re having trouble reminding yourself, or find yourself slipping into old habits, reach out to friends. If your friends are the problem at the moment and you’re on the hunt for real ones, reach out to me in the meantime.

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