Feb 6

Are We Too Casual About Our Friendships?

2 Comments / Building Relationships

too-casual-about-friendship

When I talk to people about personal relationships, their minds automatically drift to the romantic.

Maybe it’s because we are full of expectations about how our ideal mate will be. We (hopefully) hold new candidates to those high standards, truly investing only in the most prime of prospects who have earned our trust and respect.

We don’t get into a relationship with everyone we date. We don’t date everyone we meet. And when the chemistry isn’t there, the values don’t line up, or when we can no longer stand to negotiate what to watch on Netflix, we find a way to say goodbye and move on to the next.

Why don’t we adopt some of these same practices for the people we befriend? Why do so many young people neglect to protect their hearts and their sanity from the other kind of personal relationship — friendships — when they can cause just as much heartache or damage?

I think more people should apply the rules of dating to their friendships. We shouldn’t accept behavior from a friend that would warrant a swift breakup with a significant other. For me, I’d never continue to date someone who continually ditched on our plans, but I know I’ve held on to friends who left me hanging more times than I can count.

Fortunately we aren’t limited to just one friendship, but we have to stop treating the majority of people like they are a good enough match to enter the inner circle of our lives. When it’s just not working out, we need a way to let go and move on.

The real problem here is that there is no protocol for ending a non-romantic relationship. There seem to be two wholly inadequate options: burn your bridges, or just phase them out. Instead of risking the drama of either of those, I know I have given away way too many second (and third, and fourth, and hundredth) chances over the years.

But in order to live the life we want, we have to be brave and let go of the things that don’t help us rise to happiness, success and peace. It’s a lesson I’ve learned countless times in my romantic life, and I am more than guilty of avoiding the lesson with my friends. But is it really that different? I’d like to argue that it isn’t.

As I toughen up and continue the process of turning into the person I want to be, I know that doling out a million second chances isn’t the smartest way to protect my heart or the investment I want to make in all of my personal relationships. Maybe it’s time to stop casually dating the friends that just aren’t right for us.

Jan 20

A Holiday Lesson in Embracing Chaos

No Comments / Personal Growth

embracing-chaos

For a neat freak like me, the holidays are both magical and nightmarish. Under normal circumstances, a pile of miscellaneous stuff on my desk would be enough to nag at my focus for an entire day.

I’m not the perfect little neat freak I’d like to be — far from it, in fact — especially when I do silly things like commit to making Christmas gifts by hand while juggling extra hours at work, freelance projects, social and family obligations, plus daily tasks like cooking and worrying about how much sleep I’m not getting. Essentially every moment of my day became focused on controlling everything, even after it all got way out of hand.

I spent most of the last month trying not to burst at the seams, worrying too much that I wasn’t working enough, that my crafty Christmas wouldn’t meet the standards of my friends and family, and feeling a constant current of failure as my apartment declined from its initial mess into a state of total disaster. I worried about imposing on my partner, and although he insisted he wasn’t upset by the blanket of craft supplies covering every available surface in our home, it didn’t relieve my guilt.

With only half of my gifts made, I finally put my head to a pillow at 2:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve, trying to remember what I wanted this special time to look like. What was the gold standard that motivated such madness and anxiety?

The answer was unexpected. As I pictured all of my favorite things about the holidays, I realized that none of them were tidy and perfect. Making special edible treats was messy. Untangling the Christmas lights was messy. Opening gifts was messy. Having a meal with my extended family was messy. Coordinating holiday events with dozens of people was messy. Making these gifts, shopping in the store, playing or driving in the snow … it’s all a mess. And here I was, feeling like a total failure because I couldn’t maintain a level of perfection that is contrary to the entire nature of this holiday and the things I love most about it.

Here we are, well into January, and I still have a few unmade presents calling my name. I have a pile of things that haven’t made their way to the post office (why is snail mail so hard?), and an even bigger pile of resolutions for 2014.

This year, I hope to respect my limits a little bit more by saying no when it’s necessary. This was a hard lesson in embracing holiday chaos and loving my imperfect self. As much as I try to instill good habits and take on the bits of life within my control, times like this hep me remember that the madness can still be beautiful, meaningful, and perfect in an unexpected way.

Jan 14

Emotional Status Updates: How Facebook Makes Us Lazy in Relationships

6 Comments / Building Relationships

facebook-ruining-relationships

Something was on my mind recently, really nagging at me. I was doing some work online, Facebook was open, and I had the strongest urge to turn my feelings into some generalized, probably passive aggressive advice. A voice in my head said, “I’ll just type it on Facebook and get it out of my system.”

I started typing, when a voice in my gut just said, “NO.”

I thought more about the countless times I’d seen friends directly or indirectly call someone out Facebook , and how all of them either got really negative feedback or incited an argument. We’re certainly old enough to know better, so why do we have the urge to do it anyway?

  1. Social media easy and available. Almost 20% of the time people are online, they are visiting Facebook. It’s so available and common for us to post every thought and whim that we’re using it as a default form of communication. It’s less intimidating than dealing with people face to face!
  2. You don’t have to immediately deal with the repercussions of your words and actions. If you’ve looked at the comments section of any webpage ever, you’ve probably seen people posting things they would NEVER say in person — but the person on the end of that aggressive Facebook post is real, even if you can’t see them.
  3. We rely on the crowd-sourcing effect. It’s appealing to have people validate you with “likes” and supportive comments. Social media allows us to go online, air our grievances and involve others in a private matter simply to use the support of others like a weapon. In reality, having validation doesn’t make you right or someone else wrong.
  4. We need to get the bad feelings out. It’s totally normal to feel like we need to get something off our chests, but let’s not make Facebook the place we do it. A website is no replacement for confidants.

Maybe, like me, you’re nodding your head a little, seeing your struggle in one of these scenarios — maybe even all of them. When we have a ball of emotion just taking up space in our hearts, we use logic to justify some pretty self-destructive behaviors. Maybe you never thought about those posts as self destructive, but your words are published and cached as a reflection of you long after the heat of the moment is gone.

The biggest consequence of all is that we rob our relationships of their full potential by using social media as a mediator, a diffuser, or a release.

“The level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” – Brené Brown, “Daring Greatly”

When we feel so comfortable putting the Internet between ourselves and another person, we remove ourselves not only from the possibility of heartbreak, but also from the possibility of love, understanding, forgiveness and belonging.

You sacrifice so much by allowing Facebook (or your email, or your phone, or any number of things) to diffuse the heat of a situation. Instead, face your fears and the people you love to sow the seeds of a meaningful relationship.

Jan 2

2014: A Year of Exploration

4 Comments / Featured, Personal Growth

2014-a-year-of-exploration

The new year is here! I, for one, am so relieved. 2013 was a year of preparation. Financial planning, meal planning, and working toward deeper relationships with the most important people in my life. It was a very difficult year, in part because everything I did was some form of delayed gratification to reap in 2014, the year I move to Seattle.

I’m looking forward to this move as one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ll probably do in my life. It has been a while since I really felt the wind of trajectory, and I need that! I’m the type of person who thrives on change, so a new chapter in life is certainly welcome.

I recently posted about digging deep to reveal meaningful goals, but I also think it’s important to help them stick by distilling your resolutions into a word or mantra that you can keep close to your heart when you need perspective.

In 2013, I did a lot of thinking and planning, but I still feel as though I’m standing in the same spot as the year before. 2014 is focused on growth through action. That’s why I have distilled my hopes for the year down to this one word:

EXPLORE.

When I think about exploring, my heart races with excitement. I am full of optimism about exploring a new city, myself, and the opportunities that are presented as I approach life with an open heart. Giving myself permission to explore gets me off the hamster wheel of comfort, which is a dangerous exercise in your 20s.

As you make your first attempts to enact your resolutions for this shiny, new year, I definitely recommend finding that motivating soundbite to keep the spirit of your intentions alive every day.

Feel free to share your motivational word for 2014 in the comments!

Dec 11

A Better Resolution

3 Comments / Personal Growth

A Better Resolution

Most of us wait until New Years Eve to think about goals, giving us less than 24 hours to consider how we’d like to be better people in the coming year. With nothing but an uncomfortably tight pair of pants and an empty bank account to guide us, our last-minute goal making is typically uninspired.

Is it any wonder that our resolutions only seem to last until the chocolates make an appearance around Valentine’s Day? When we neglect to figure out what we REALLY want, and why we REALLY want it, we’re not likely to get very far.

Speaking from experience, the result of such neglect is usually an unresolved mess. Productivity towards my poorly defined goals stops as soon as a shiny, distracting opportunity takes me in another direction. As far as the straws I hastily grabbed at for my 2013 resolutions, my clarinet has only collected dust, I wrote maybe five poems this year, and I honestly can’t even recall what else I expected to do.

If I could so easily forget what I wanted from my life this year, something tells me I’m doing it wrong.

I’m usually far from unfocused, which is why I find the whole thing so disappointing. Let’s forget the resolutions and take time now to develop goals that will give our life forward momentum and joy! Let’s pick things that light a fire within us so the momentum lasts!

In order to find where our true passion lies, we have to act as detectives. We can’t assume we know ourselves – we shouldn’t assume anything for that matter! Pick some goals, ask yourself why they are important, look deeper, ask again, have some uncomfortable conversations, eliminate some options. At the end of your introspection, you’ll hopefully have goals that are meaningful, achievable, inspiring and well-intentioned.

For 2014, and hopefully beyond that, I want to rely less on pre-made things. This includes processed foods, chemical-laden home and beauty products, mass-manufactured clothing, career paths, standards for success, and expectations for relationships.

Why?

Aside from what recent documentaries and studies are pointing out, the simple fact is that we don’t need this stuff. Most of it doesn’t do anything for our health or happiness, and having things readily available just makes us appreciate them less. We become detached from the processes that make our modern lives possible.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to — or want to — live off the grid. I know I’ll always enjoy occasional fast food and some retail therapy. But I want to rely on these things less so I can appreciate true quality in my life, improve my physical and mental health, and contribute to the solution instead of the problem.

But, this isn’t just about living a natural, organic or “crunchy” life. It’s about finding value in what I have, learning how to consume and waste less, learning more about myself, and creating a life that is truly tailored to me.

The goal applies most easily to food habits, but accepting the “pre-made” expectations of others as your own is just as relevant. I want to rely less on conventions and instead create my own standards for romantic relationships, friendships and my career.

Why build a life that doesn’t excite you, or doesn’t resonate with who you are?

You shouldn’t! And you don’t have to.

Nov 30

When You Change, Everything Changes

No Comments / Featured, Personal Growth

When You Change, Everything Changes

Four years out of college, I’m among a throng of twenty-something year olds who place what will someday seem like a disproportionate amount of value in how “put together” our lives are. Despite the strangely intuitive chase for acceptance through arbitrary expectations, the whole process already seems exhausting.

When I try to figure out why, I’m brought back to one of my first classes at my alma mater, Adrian College. Bright eyed and bushy (pony)tailed, I attended Introduction to Philosophy.

Trust me when I say I wanted to be there – then, I had perfectly well-intentioned delusions that I’d spend my whole career entrenched in the theoretical details of humanity. But a class at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning is more like a rehabilitation clinic than an education. With every blink, the brain flirts with a deep-rooted sleep deprivation, simultaneously savoring and resisting each heavy flit of the eyelids.

Through that half-conscious haze, I remember having some heated arguments and realizing quickly who my friends might be. There were also a lot of things I’ve forgotten since then, things that are now a mere idealistic pang that tempt me to reach for my old philosophy textbook. And now I feel even guiltier after admitting that I haven’t cracked it open since then. But to the things that do jangle around in my memory, I give great importance and even attribute a little winkle from the universe.

You might question a winkle – a feeling that came to you right out of the blue – but you didn’t question knowing.
— Stephen King, “Hearts in Atlantis”

So why does the chase always seem fruitless, and what can I possibly do about that?

That philosophical winkle reminded me that our perception of reality becomes reality. Our perception of reality is limited by who we are: what we have seen, known, felt, dared, feared, and wanted.

And for as long as we accept these unaccommodating standards of what a “put together” life looks like, we will only be overreaching and omitting important parts of ourselves to weave an unflattering tapestry out of our lives. We have our own realities to honor and expand. We should tailor the fabric of our lives to ourselves instead of using a neighbor or a coworker or even family as a dress form.

Habitually Hopeful is a personal quest and a challenge to others to improve our realities by improving ourselves. If we don’t take it upon ourselves to grow, we may never see the changes we desire.

To end this long-awaited inaugural post, I turn to you: What are the changes you want to see in your life? What motivates your desire to change?

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