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life Self Love and Personal Growth

Obligatory End of the Year Post

Time is an illusion, but the start of a new year can be symbolic if you choose to let it be. What better day to draft my last post of the year than on December 21st, the start of the Winter Solstice. This time period can be thought of as the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one. If you enjoy this sort of symbolism, it is a good time to reflect on the past year and set groundwork for the next one.

Ah, 2020. Where to even begin. It feels like the first year where everyone around the world was simultaneously forced to slow down, look around, and reset. Some countries fought this harder than others. 2020 in the United States was a mess for various reasons including Covid, Trump, and the presidential election. Many admirable people, both in and out of the limelight, that will have a lasting impact, have died. Everyday life for people changed in one way or another. This paradoxical year has both flown by and been the longest year, at least of my life. so far.

In 2020, we started a new decade. I achieved some of the goals, big and small, that I set for myself the previous year. I got promoted at my job. I finished my last college course and received my college diploma. I got pregnant and moved back to my hometown. I am lucky to have turned 23 and still be surviving a pandemic.

Reflecting on the year, a lot happened but it also feels like not much did at all. Some of the lessons from 2020 I have taken away are reminders from 2019. Some have been expanded upon. Here’s a few of them.

Be Thankful

If you don’t already, you should take more time to be thankful for what you have. I said the same thing in 2019. It’s something to be more conscious of. The parts of life that stress us tend to need our attention. Because of this, it is normal and easy to get caught up in the stressors of life. It is important, though, to actively recognize what we have going for us, especially this year, amidst so much tragedy. This does not mean our lives are perfect. This does not mean there are not problems that need fixing or uncontrollable situations that have or will knock us down. This is not promoting toxic positivity. It is just a reminder that chances are you or I have something someone else wishes for. It is a reminder not to take things for granted.

Toxic Positivity is Bad

Pretending like things are okay when they aren’t will leave you worse off than accepting you are upset. It is okay not to be positive all of the time. It is okay to say something is shitty if it is. Life is all about balance. Sometimes we just need to cry it out and dwell in our sadness. Sometimes we need to stew in our anger before we forgive, if we even decide to forgive. We feel what we feel and that’s human. (How we react may not be justifiable though.) Don’t force yourself to put on a show nor let anyone make you feel as though you’re complaining when you’re expressing how you feel.

Two Things Can Coexist

We are so used to viewing things in labels and boxes. Often times, concepts are explained or understood as this or that. An example that I grew up with is the idea that evolution and God are conflicting theories. Now some things innately have a line drawn in the sand. How can you be pro-life but believe in the death penalty? Those two ideas are conflicting since the death penalty takes away life.

However, I would argue that lots of concepts are not so easily conflicting. Covid spreading in the US can be the result of both government incompetence and human selfishness. If you believe in God, God could have been the designer of evolution. You can hate capitalism and still contribute to it. You can agree the political system needs to change and still vote. Etcetera, etcetera. Life is simple and complex, depending on how you look at it. Not everything is simple enough to be knocked into boxes when concepts can be a spectrum and/or situational and/or dependent on your own ethics and values. This is proved by the spectrum of sexuality, the ethics behind the trolley problem, and the age old question “Is it wrong to break into someone’s house for food? What if it’s to feed your starving family?”

Perspective Matters- One Size Does Not Fit All

I like to think there is the absolute truth and then there are the perspectives of the people involved. Sometimes, those perspectives line up with the truth. One person or both people can be completely off. Both can align with the truth to an extent. One (or both if they agree) can be completely right. We have a tendency to twist the words and situations of other people and project our own insecurities, experiences, and assumptions onto them. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we aren’t. Some of the time, our judgements do not matter.

Since two things can coexist, one size does not fit all. Perspective and intentions matter. “Money does not buy happiness” can mean that money won’t solve all your problems and instantly make you happy. At the same time, having money will mean no more of your concerns will come from a lack of money. Your current problems would be solved and you’d be happy. Your viewpoint and objectivity will determine which way you view the statement.

Say What You Need to Say

I am a big believer that it is important to get what you need to say off your chest. I feel like every year at least one post mentions communication. As I get older, I have come to see the importance of clear communication. I have learned to sit on my feelings and thoughts about a situation and communicate them if they continue to affect me. Whether it is a good or bad thing is subjective, but I always feel better after I say what it is I need to, whether positive or negative, whether it is received and received well or not. Whatever happens after that happens and it is important to be willing to accept and deal with the consequences of your words. If you’re not willing to, you shouldn’t say it.

Speaking up reinforces the idea that your feelings matter. It can clear up any confusion. It shows you parts of who the other party involved is. Just remember, other people’s feelings matter too. If they express discomfort with your words or tone, consider shifting your approach if you want to salvage the relationship.

People Come and Go

I used to be a pact person. I attached myself to people and, in doing so, subconsciously refused to be comfortable with and learn more about myself. In college, I went on a journey of self discovery and slowly grew out of the need to unhealthily attach myself to others. The mindset did have residual affects though.

It seems like a lesson I would’ve learned by now, but not everyone you encounter will or is meant to stay in your life forever. Social media makes it hard to forget that people come and go and that’s natural. Friendships begin, end, or become distant with time. Acquaintances and past coworkers move on with their lives, as do you, when the common denominator changes. In some ways, that is a blessing.

That’s not to say some relationships won’t be long or even lifelong. I’m still friends with people I met eleven years ago, in middle and high school. My dad is still friends with people he met in middle school. My mom still talks with her college friends often. I believe I have met and will continue to meet people for a reason, but not all of them are and will be meant to stay.

Boundaries are Necessary

Establishing healthy boundaries with people is a necessity. Knowing what lines you don’t want crossed and what lines not to cross can prevent a lot of arguments. It helps everyone involved feel comfortable and respected and be on the same page. Learn what your boundaries are. and then stick with them. Some of them form with time. Some are specific to certain people or situations. A boundary could be not lending any more money to a person who keeps asking. It could be not being available all the time. It could be not allowing someone to talk to or treat you a certain way. It could be ignoring work calls when you’re off the clock. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for making those boundaries. Don’t let anyone guilt you into allowing them to cross those boundaries. Don’t let them make you feel bad for enforcing those boundaries.

Anxiety Can Be Manageable

My anxiety became a little more constant at the end of the year with my unexpected pregnancy and all of its symptoms, Covid, the shutdown and decline of the hospitality industry (my major), and the bubble that comes with social distancing. With anxiety it can be second nature to have a spiral of thoughts that lead to a wave of fear and worry. I talked to a mental health coach, courtesy of my job benefits, and learned the root of where my anxiety comes from: the unknown of the future and not being or feeling in control.

She taught me to actively be aware of and change my thoughts when I felt overwhelmed. We discussed ways to cut off the spiraling thoughts and shift directions by literally doing something else instead. She helped me see that, like with concepts, with myself and my life, it doesn’t have to be this or that, all or nothing. You can start working on parts of a goal without finishing the whole thing in one sitting. Having a few setbacks doesn’t mean everything is going to shit. Your projects don’t have to be 100% perfect to be shared, especially on the first go around.

Most importantly, she helped me realize I need to be more aware of and live in the present. Worrying about the future, though seemingly natural to me, does nothing. Doing so is based off of assumptions, not absolute truth or reality. It wastes time and energy and forces you to live through a situation twice if it happens to come to fruition. Accepting and releasing fear, accepting whatever comes, knowing I’m equipped enough to handle it, and believing everything will work out in my favor are all things I’ve been and will continue to work on.

We’re All Different

Not everyone will treat situations the same as you. Not everyone will treat you the way you would treat them. Releasing the expectation that people will handle things the same way you do makes life easier and will help prevent the feeling of betrayal.

Also, the fact that we’re all different plays into the subjectivity of situations. Some people are content to be in the situations they are in. Just because you say you wouldn’t be or want to be in that situation doesn’t mean a) you won’t ever be there and b) that person is unhappy in that situation. We all need to work on not projecting, assuming we’re always right, and being judgey of others.

Final Thoughts

A few more things to leave you with before I end the last post of 2020.

1. Clean up your social media, especially by unfollowing celebrities. It can help your mindset. Also set app limits.

2. Set goals for the new year. It’ll help you get an idea of how you want the year to go.

3. Celebrate your wins. It’s not bragging as long as you watch your tone. You really accomplished that, possibly in a pandemic. It’s worth celebrating.

4. People’s opinions really don’t matter. It can feel like they do but they only hold as much power as you give them. At the end of the day, it’s your life. If you’re cool with it and it’s not offensive or hurting anyone, including yourself, do and say what you want.

5. People can make it seem like you are different than you are to others. This is on a case by case basis and you have to be able to accurately hold yourself accountable to discern appropriately. Still, sometimes people will paint you in a different light than you actually are in. Sometimes, it’s to make themselves feel better about how they acted or treated you. Sometimes, there’s confusion on intentions and wires get crossed. Sometimes, they’re just assholes who want to feel like the victim because they can’t take responsibility for their actions.

6. What you accept is not always what you think you deserve. It can simply be what you want or are willing to handle. It can be a reflection of your subconscious thoughts and fears. After self-reflection, I realized I accepted less than I deserved because it was what I wanted at the time, even though I claimed, to others and myself, to want something more or something different. I knew I deserved and could have better. People would tell me that to reinforce it. But I didn’t actually want better or more. It served its purpose until it didn’t. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, that depends on your perspective. To me, it just is.

7. Allow yourself to be unproductive without feeling guilty. Productivity is a product of capitalism. You don’t always have to be doing something related to work, money, or your goals. Chill out and relax whenever you can and want to.

8. If you have any regrets, let them go and forgive yourself. You wouldn’t be who you are or where you are without all of your experiences. You might say that’s the point of your regret, but regret won’t change anything. Accept what’s happened, show yourself grace, and make movements forward.

A lot can change in a year. A lot has changed for me this year. Securing my college degree was the end of a cycle. Giving birth by the start of the new year will be another one. What are the chances life would align symbolically for me like that?

I recommend you reflect back on the year and take note of how you and your life has changed. I would avoid going into the new year with unrealistic or pessimistic expectations of how it’ll go. Don’t assume it’ll be as taxing as 2020 (don’t speak that into existence), but don’t think everything will return to the way it was (because it won’t). Set your desires for the year, and then just live day by day. You never know what’ll happen.

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Food For Thought life Self Love and Personal Growth

The Dream I Had

I had a dream a month or so ago that woke me up feeling some type of way I cannot really explain. I wholeheartedly believe dreams that are remembered can tell you a lot. They pull from your subconscious. They can spark your creativity and imagination, remind you of something you have forgotten or have been meaning to do, teach you lessons, and even tell you how you feel. In this dream, there was a bunch of things happening, but the part I am going in to detail about is the part I remember the most that resonates the most with me.

I suppose I was a teacher in the dream. I had a whole group of people with me, all in their twenties-around the same age as me. I don’t know what kind of class it was. It seemed like the mission was to complete an escape room like experiment. A lot of us had finished it on our own already. There was one person who hadn’t experienced the escape room yet.

One of the stages required the participant(s) to knock out this monster guarding the next round. The way to achieve this was to pull the ropes so that the monster would be enticed to go near the dangling slab of concrete attached to the rope, which you’d end up releasing on its head. The person who didn’t complete the escape room beforehand, lets just call her “Student,” performed this step with the help of everyone else. As the teacher I allowed it, though I was getting a little annoyed because she was meant to do it herself.

We moved through that round of the escape room and got to a huge room with two sections. As you walk in you would see a desk with with papers on it, with a drawer and a lock. To the right of that was a huge window that opens out with another desk underneath it. Shelves covered in books, vases, and plants decorated the walls. An archway to the left led to treasure chests with key holes on top of chairs. Bookcases were on the walls behind that.

The group that was there started explaining to Student how to get the keys to open the locked drawers and chests without her exploring the room and finding them for herself. I was getting more and more agitated. At one point I told them all to stop feeding her information. She found a key with their help and searched for which keyhole it opened by herself. She went to the first keyhole she saw and attempted to open it. It needed a code. She couldn’t figure out the code, so the drawer wasn’t opening.

Everyone knew the key wasn’t meant for the desk drawer. The key opened the treasure chest in the archway. A group of people moved there because they were getting restless. It seemed like a lot of time was passing. I was worried that she would assume the key opened a treasure chest in that room simply because everyone gravitated there. Then, someone opened up the treasure chest and pulled out a plant, which was what Student was meant to find. I yelled at that person for sabotaging this whole experiment which was meant for Student to learn. Turns out that person took the plant that was inside to mess with, who I assume, is the other person who facilitated the experiment. Their actions had nothing to do with helping or harming Student although it would affect her.

I went outside to recover the plant that was taken and when I got back inside, Student was crying hysterically. The drawer just wouldn’t open and she was frustrated. Someone else was crying watching her. I approached Student and consoled her, holding the plant behind my back. Someone took it from me as I told her, “Hey, obviously this isn’t working. This key isn’t for that drawer. You know that. Why do you keep trying? Find the right keyhole.”

She ended up going to the room everyone gravitated to. She picked the right treasure chest and opened it. Although the plant she was meant to find wasn’t in there, it would’ve been. One of the members of the group revealed it to her. Student seemed satisfied and asked, “See. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just tell me how to do it?”

“No,” I answered, “Because this was meant to teach you how to think critically and problem solve. I would’ve let you keep going but we’re running out of time. Now it’s time to open the desk drawer.” The code to the drawer was outside, on the ground, which could be discovered by looking out of the window. I was worried she wouldn’t find it.

Then I woke up.

I took away a couple explanations and lessons from this dream. A part of me felt like I was talking to my daughter just because I am pregnant with a girl and mothers tend to teach lessons to their children.

However, I also took away how Student was trying the same thing over and over again. It wasn’t working, she knew it wasn’t working, but she kept trying. And though getting up after you get kicked down is admirable, it is equally as important to recognize when your approach is wrong. Trying the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, is insanity. It’s important to be flexible and to learn when to keep going, walk away, or approach the situation differently.

I was upset in the dream because I wanted Student to figure out things for herself. When you are always given all the answers, you become dependent on others. It can make it hard to know where to start when you are met with a problem. It can, in some ways, hinder your growth. Problem solving and critical thinking are skills. Skills need to be developed and sharpened. This doesn’t mean not to ask for help or rely on others. It’s just a reminder to trust yourself and your instincts as well.

People providing Student with answers also bothered me because it did not allow her to look for clues. Escape rooms somewhat require you to solve a puzzle by looking at all the details to make sure you don’t miss anything. Student wasn’t turning every stone. She looked at the directions she was pointed to instead of the bigger picture. She also wasn’t looking at the details. You can learn a lot by stepping back to see the whole picture and by zooming in to look closely at the details.

It can be hard or disheartening to watch, but sometimes you have to watch people figure it out on their own. You can give your opinions and advice, but ultimately it is their life. You can tell your kids not to touch the hot stove, but they will not understand how hot it is until they touch it. Similarly, sometimes you have to learn the lessons for yourself. I mean, how many times has someone given you advice that you did not listen to? How many times were those people right? It is different to hear it than experience it.

Lastly, upon editing this post, I was reminded that life happens. People, events, and situations may interfere with your life and unknowingly (or knowingly) affect your life. The person who stole the plant was not thinking about Student when they did so, but the chest was still empty when Student unlocked it. Intentions matter, but they do not always warrant forgiveness.

Maybe I think too much, but those were the lessons I took from that dream I had. It was so random but the fact I remembered meant something to me. It felt like a metaphor when I woke up. I had to share what I learned and was reminded of.