26.

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I always wondered when my life would start. Many people have nostalgia about being a kid, but I don’t. I don’t have memories of long summer days swimming, or going to the park, or going camping with my family. When I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more than to be an adult, and here I am.

I turn 26 today, and I finally feel as though my life has started over the past year. I think in some ways, not having as much nostalgia about childhood has made me more content because I feel very much like my life can only keep going up and up from here. I’m slowly carving out my space, my joy, my passions with intention and with determination.

I’ve spent a large part of this year discerning where I want to be (not in Massachusetts anymore) and what I want to do (help people…but beyond that it’s unclear). But you know what? That was more than I had last year.

In my 25th year, I took charge of my health in more ways than one – I started going to doctor’s appointments consistently and by myself. I got an IUD after doing the research on my own. I started going to therapy and coming to terms with my trauma and my own narrative as the child of an alcoholic.

I applied to job after job starting in the fall, and got a few interviews but no offers. I became increasingly discouraged and started thinking that if administrative work isn’t what I want to do, then I’d better take steps to move in a direction that feels more true to me – so I did.

I decided to move to Seattle and will be relocating in September (I’m so excited holy moly). I think this opportunity will give me a lot of time for discernment and being surrounded in a holy and loving and supportive environment. I’m excited to see my placement and how I can best use my gifts and talents to serve.

I started going to swing dancing more consistently (even though going by myself is still hard and kinda scary!) and it’s brought so much joy into my life I’m not even sure what to do with it.

I’m finally (like within the past couple of weeks finally) having some huge mental shifts about how to be gentle with myself, and love myself, and finally, finally realizing what I deserve. I’m working on making sure that these changes come from the inside, so that if something external changes, I don’t lose the progress I’ve made in all of my hard inner work.

I can’t wait to see what this year holds.

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Things I’ve learned from swing dancing

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I went to my first swing dance a little over a year ago as part of a free program with Art Week Boston. I had never swing danced before, but it was a free dance in South Station so I figured I’d try it! For months after, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it was, so I signed up for a beginner swing dance “boot camp”. Then I went to a Friday night dance at one of the swing studios in the Cambridge area. And then, I started going consistently to free social dances this summer with a friend who is now super into it. My only regret? That I didn’t start going consistently sooner!

I’m still a beginner, mostly, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons so far (that are OF COURSE a metaphor for life:

1. It’s worth it to take the plunge

As I mentioned, I wish I had started going to social dances earlier because it just gives me so much joy. I was scared of going by myself, but lots of people are there by themselves and they have a great time – and so can I. When I move this fall to a new city, I’m going work to get as involved as possible with the swing community (to the extent that my program will allow me), even if I have to go by myself.

2. I can be both a leader and a follower

It’s not uncommon in the dance scene for people to switch “roles” and for women to lead dances (and it also makes it a safer and more comfortable space for the LGBTQ and non-binary communities). I didn’t want to do this for a while, because I wanted to learn and also because I just like to relax when I dance, but I recently was a lead and it was actually…okay. I kinda liked it, even though I  had to do everything the opposite from how I learned it. I can do both. I can be both.

3. I can let go

Partner dancing is a constant exercise in letting go of control, something I am notoriously bad at. Like, so bad. But! Swing dance is helping me work on it because it is teaching me to trust my partner and also to focus on myself. All I need to do is get from point A to point B, and not worry about what my partner is doing – they will let me know. Also, sometimes all I need is a gentle push in the right direction and I’ll get where I need to go – eventually, and maybe a little bit off the beat. 😉

4. I can trust myself

Although swing dance is absolutely an exercise in letting go of control, there are sometimes where I’ve realized that I am right, maybe in terms of steps or musicality or following the beat. I can stand up for myself and say, “no, this is how you do this step”, and I’m realizing that sometimes it’s not me that’s a bad dancer, it may be my partner who isn’t being the best leader they could be. I often shift blame onto myself, so this has been a fantastic way to learn that sometimes I really truly am doing the right thing.

5. I can say no

I don’t often turn down dances (because I looooooveeee it), but there may be a time when I just don’t want to dance, and that’s ok. I can say no, and I should say no if I’m not feeling it or if I’m tired or if the person is creepy. It is important to me and my space to say no.

6. I can be rejected and the world won’t end

Friends, I remember how it felt when I asked someone to dance and they said no. I thought “what did I do wrong??” but honestly, it probably wasn’t about me. Maybe they were tired. Maybe they sit out every other dance like I often do to get some water and catch their breath. Since then, I’ve definitely been turned down and I’m still here. It’s absolutely ok to be rejected.

Going swing dancing is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself – and I can’t wait to find a community of my own to be a part of in the future!

 

 

The things I can control & not leading with fear

I recently got some bad news that I can’t go into details about yet, until I have some more information, but it made me start to think about what I can and can’t control.

Control has always been a big aspect of my life. Growing up with an alcoholic parent, I often felt like my world was out of control and I know that some of my anxiety disorder is due at least in part to my uncontrolled environment. I like control. I like controlling myself, my emotions, my body, my surroundings, and often other people. I’m working on all of these things, especially my relationship with my body in recent weeks (maybe more on that in another post). I’ve realized more and more that I can’t control the situations around me but I can control how I react to them and that I can give myself time and space and resources to feel what I need to feel, process, and work on how I will get through a tough scenario.

Here’s what I can control:

-My compassion towards myself

-My healthy habits – eating in a compassionate and healthful and balanced way

-Reaching out for resources when I need them; through my therapist, online communities, and my church.

-The words that I say to myself and others

-How I let a situation define me

What I can’t control:

-How other people react

-What other people in a situation will do to deal with it

-Difficulties or issues along the way


I have realized that my first reaction to many different scenarios is often fear. I definitely think my control issues stem out of fear and an uncertainty about how a situation is going to unfold. I expect the worst and sometimes don’t take chances because I’m worried about something that hasn’t happened yet.

I want to be done with that. I’m done with thinking I don’t deserve good things and that the worst is going to happen. I want to live my life to the fullest and not use fear as an excuse not to do things or not to be open with people and relationships.

We don’t have to lead with fear or expect the worst. It is important to be cautious, of course, because not everybody has good intentions, but what I mean is that I don’t want to disregard someone or a situation before it even comes to be. I want to take chances and be open and love myself and the world.

 

What to do when you feel lost (or, how Parks and Rec always helps)

I was talking with my therapist yesterday, and I was describing how off-kilter I had felt recently (as if that wasn’t clear enough with my latest post). I said that it felt like if “normal” me is at True North, my inner compass is somewhere…off of that. I haven’t felt like myself, I’m not sure what direction I’m going in, and so on.

And she said “So, you’re saying that you feel lost?”

Oh. Well…yeah, I guess that is what I’m saying and I just hadn’t realized it before then. No wonder I feel so weird recently – I am lost. And confused. And maybe a little bit scared (or maybe a lot scared). I’m trying to sort stuff out for my future but there are some things that I really truly have no control over at the moment. I know I’m going to Seattle in September but beyond that? No idea (and I hate that).

So me being me, I’ve been researching and talking to people and becoming more and more discouraged because damn, grad school and career stuff is hard and everyone kind of points in a different direction and I’ve been more confused than when I started. Mm, perfectionism (eye roll).

Once I realized this, I realized how I felt mirrored a Parks and Rec episode where Leslie wants to come up with her next “big idea” after the Harvest Fair. She’s scared that the Harvest Fair will be the only thing that she’s known for, so she takes everyone camping so they can help her think of something. She pushes them and pushes them and also pushes herself, and when they finally relocate to a B&B down the road, Ron locks her in a bedroom and eventually she falls asleep for double the amount of hours that she usually gets. When she wakes up in the morning, she feels refreshed and full of ideas – because she rested. 

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I’m going to take some time this summer to rest. My job ends in July so I’ll have all of August to sleep, decompress, and try to do fun free things in Boston. But because I’m me, here are some bullet points of stuff I want to do for the rest of the summer:

-Read tons of non-fiction: I love non-fiction. I love books about religion and feminism and society too, but sometimes I just want to read fluff and I’m okay with that.

-Re-read the Harry Potter series: I’m starting this now actually, and I’ve been listening along with the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast while I do it. I’ll be done reading before they finish the podcast (it goes for 199 weeks – one for each chapter of the books), but it’ll be done for my next re-read. It’s been so fun reading as an older person now, because I can see so many of the themes and the foreshadowing I missed when I was younger.

-Spend no money in August: I’m going to try really, really hard with this one. Come September, I’ll be getting a very small monthly stipend, and the money I have now is hopefully going to last me throughout the year. I want to get into the habit of living simply, so this August I’m going to aim to spend as close to nothing as possible, with the exception of a monthly bus pass and supplies for my trip.

-Exercise: I love to exercise, but I haven’t been feeling like it lately and my schedule has been pretty tight on time as well. I’ve been swing dancing more recently (which is SO FUN!!), but I miss doing other cardio and weights and yoga. I’ll have plenty of time in August, so I’m going to try to work out more consistently and listen to what my body needs.

-Cook more: One of the biggest ways I spend money is on food. Sue me, y’all. It can get stressful to prep breakfasts and all of that – and that also feels like a very American thing to do – but it is really helpful when it comes to the week. I also just really enjoy cooking for myself and others!

-Journal – My friend Heather gave me a lovely journal for “all of my adventures”. It’s been so nice to write my thoughts out, so I want to keep going.

-Be mindful – Ah yes. Mindfulness…something my therapist repeats often, and something I need to work on. I multitask, like most of us, and my thoughts are usually elsewhere when I’m doing something else. I’m going to try to work on being in the moment and knowing that I have enough time and memory to do the things I need to do.

 

Ok, I have some questions.

I wonder why nobody talks about the in-betweens: when you feel like you’re not where you were, but you’re not where you’re going yet, and there’s all of that stuff in the middle that’s full of fear and doubt and anxiety.

Moreover, how do people get where they want to be? Along with not talking about doubts and imposter syndrome and fears of not fitting in, developing a goal is hard enough but then working out all the tiny details – inner and outer – to get there is even more complicated.

And then, how do you know what we’re called to be doing? Nothing feels quite right to me when I imagine it, but maybe that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be doing it – maybe it means that I myself am a little more off-kilter and out of touch with myself lately than I have been in the past. It’s scary, because when I feel out of touch with myself, I feel out of touch with God (and vice versa). No wonder I’ve been feeling lost lately – it’s this spiral of self-doubt, which leads me to doubt God, which leads me to doubt my path in life.

This fall, I’m moving to Seattle, and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this will be a wonderful experience for me. It’s what comes after that is freaking me out!

I’ve been thinking a lot about ordination lately, and this if course has been a scary thought process. Mostly, I’ve been caught up in feeling like I wouldn’t fit in in seminary because my views are too out of the box (i.e., hippie liberal semi-pagan) for me to be an Episcopal priest. I’ve been caught up in the “shoulds”, but I remember one of my first meetings with my former rector where I brought to him my feelings of what a Christian “should” be like and things that I felt like I “have” to believe in order to be Christian and to feel like I belong, and basically said…nah. You don’t need to believe these things. And I felt the pressure lift on who I felt like I “had” to be and I was able to grow and fit in and not have to compromise myself.

Is seminary like that? It’s easy to think that all priests do the same thing (work in a church) and think the same way – or that there’s like…a standard way of thinking for clergy. I know, logically, there isn’t, but it still feels like that, you know?

So yeah. I have some questions. Maybe there are some literal answers that people are willing to comment down below (esp. about seminary…I’m curious!), but I think a lot of this stuff I’m going to need to discover for myself. To be honest, I don’t feel ready, but I’m not sure ready has anything to do with it.

 

 

Future.

To say that I’ve been confused and a little bit lost lately is an understatement.

I am super-duper lost and confused and pretty discouraged, if I’m being honest.

I’m having a really hard time picking out God’s voice from all the mental noise and I’m experiencing some…well, not doubt about God, per se, but doubt that what I think I want is what I actually want.

Is there any way to be sure?  (If there is please tell me, for the love of all that’s holy.)

It all started a few months ago – well, truly it was this past year. This year I’ve been doing some pretty heavy thinking on what I want to do with my life and what the next steps might look like for me in terms of grad school. The problem is, I wasn’t sure what I wanted: I thought about a master’s in Anthropology, Social Work, and finally I stumbled upon a Master’s of Divinity.

“It’s three years,” I thought, “and it’s going to cost an arm and a leg.” I put it aside but it still sort of sat there. Also, I wanted to go to grad school abroad – that had been my goal for so many years, so I started looking at graduate programs in the UK. I didn’t want to stay here, and doing a master’s degree that’s sort of faith-based seemed like a risky thing for me because I’m never 100% sure of my inner landscape. What if I started and lost faith partway through, or hated the program?

So, I stuffed it down. I looked into spiritual-type jobs – hospital chaplain, spiritual director, (gulp) priest…I kinda skimmed over all of them. I was in a meeting with my former rector and I mentioned how I had thought about an MDiv, but moved on in the conversation. On my way home that night, I was walking and heard “yeah, why don’t you become a hospital chaplain??” in my head. It was my voice, talking to me…but snarky? And totally, completely out of the blue -it cut across all my usual mental noise. What the fuck? I thought.

But maybe… it was God? I don’t know, I know “hearing voices” isn’t how God often speaks, but hell, I have a hard enough time listening to that still, small voice (or whatever) that I need God to be really, really obvious.

I started researching hospital chaplaincy and reaching out to chaplains. I was told that I don’t need an MDiv, that I do, that I need to be ordained, that I don’t…and I’m over here not only digesting all this information but asking myself how do I know that it’s what I want to do in the first place? 

It seems unfair. Shouldn’t we just know? Picking a new path is hard enough – it often causes us to uproot our lives, turn our entire way of thinking around, give up on dreams we might have had for years and yet, there’s still no certainty at the end of the day? Yikes. Yiiiiiiiiiiiikes.

So, anyway. Here I am, Lord.

Shit.

 

On living loudly

 

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by artsyndrome on Etsy

For those that know me, y’all know I can get pretty loud sometimes. I like to talk when you get the chance to know me, and I obviously like to write and communicate. That being said, I’m actually pretty quiet in how I exist.

I dislike loud noises like door slamming and people yelling.

I dislike confrontation and arguments although I’ll do it if I have to. I often give parts of myself away to other people, especially when I’m in a relationship (this is something I’m working on). I go to protests sometimes, but I often prefer to do education on social justice one-on-one, or behind the scenes through writing or social media.

I dislike drawing attention to myself and my body, or at least I did.

This year, I’m learning how to be loud in both body and spirit. I go swing dancing and often, if not every time, I’m the most plus-sized person there. I’m slowly getting over my fear of rejection when asking people to dance (it’s still terrifying but I’m doing it!). I’m learning that dancing brings me so much joy and that I need to do it every so often to recenter myself.

I continued taking sign language (although I’m currently on a break because of a busy schedule), which is a very physical language. This has forced me to get over some self-consciousness to simply learn how to speak the language.

I wear brightly colored lipstick – today, it’s orange.

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I’ve started thinking ‘what if I didn’t criticize myself 24/7?’ I’ve started taking note of how often I speak badly about myself to myself and what I can do to stop being so self-critical.

And most recently, I decided to move to Seattle from Boston to do a year of service this coming fall before grad school.

Am I scared? Yes, but I don’t feel it yet. Mostly, I feel so excited that I decided to this big scary thing by myself and live in a place that I’m unfamiliar with and immerse myself in what is sure to be a emotionally and spiritually fulfilling year. I wondered what my three years of work experience after college gave me, and my answer is that it gave me all of this. It gave me the adult skills to figure out what I want to do and how to do it, and that I have the independence to make my life my own.

I’m finally ready to stop being scared, I think. I’m ready to be loud in my own quiet, persistent, and stubborn way.