Goals For the Season

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”

MARK VICTOR HANSEN

Four years ago today, I sat overlooking the Rocky Mountains on an afternoon trip to Estes, Colorado, with one of my best friends. We spent the day hiking around the lake, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Stanley Hotel, and photographing our journey along the way. I held my mother’s film camera tightly—just like I had in London, Paris, and Italy, right before this trip to Colorado. I still didn’t understand aperture, f-stops, or what to set my lens speed to, but that didn’t stop me from snapping through a film roll. I had always wanted to understand the rawness that film captured, and at the time, I was learning to love the light leaks and imperfections my processed photos held.

Right before this trip, I had let go of my biggest goal of the season and focused on what would come of grad school and writing. Around this time, the idea for my first novel came to me in the parking lot of the Elementary school where the kids I nannied each day attended. That idea later manifested into my fascination with the love that hangs in the words of a handwritten letter and how that interest and prompt would then become the thesis for my master’s degree. When I spoke about grief this time in September four years ago, I had no idea that later I would experience my grief more than ever before.

At the time of this photo, I was in a brand new relationship with its issues. I struggled each day to see the longevity of that love. At the time, my trustfulness gave power to the process of just following what felt right. I knew little of my callowness, but I later would learn that I did know something—I was trying to navigate the same raw and imperfect emotions that I would one day learn to love. I did everything I could to make the view come into focus for photography, but I needed my personal view to focus on what I was experiencing.

What I needed to improve on in 2016 sometimes feels like the same thing that I need to improve on in 2020—allow myself to be imperfect. 

For the first half of 2020, I began setting goals and then painstakingly laid the foundation of who I want to be and where I want to see myself in 2021 and 2025, and 2030. These goals became my benchmarks for recognizing change within my life. This included goals like “make two new friends,” “get a job,” and “start paying down student loan debt.” I have kept track of these goals in my 2020 planner—something many believe was the worst purchase of 2020, but for me, it was one of the best investments because it set into motion the process of becoming the person I most wanted to be.

My planner allows space for me to track my goals and to feel productive with my time. I feel best when my day is full, where I am productive, and I am working towards who I want to be. I hold myself to this standard because I know how good I feel when I get up early and tackle the day. At the end of those days, I feel tired and sleep better than any other day. At the end of those days, I look back at all the little red checkmarks and believe I made something of myself.

But because of that, the biggest challenge I face is allowing myself the space to be imperfect and making room for error. I look at an empty week in August and wonder what happened? Where did the desire to be productive go? Why wasn’t I proactive for my future? 

My negative self-talk can be all-consuming. Sometimes, I get angry at the girl from 2016 who was learning to love raw and imperfect emotions. What happened? Where did your desire to be productive go? Why weren’t you more proactive? Why didn’t you think of me, our future, and how your impulsivity brought me heartache?

I knew I would curse that Hannah for years to come. How disappointed I was in her for just rolling over on one of our goals and forging through the warning signs that she ended up internalizing. But something I am learning to understand is just how important those decisions in 2016 were for a growing me.

What I was learning in September 2016 is the same goal I am setting for myself this autumn. The goals I have set for this season include focusing on how I spend my time and allowing myself the space to learn from the past and what I deem as “imperfect traits.” 

Journaling and tracking my days are just some ways where I feel like I can take control of what I want for my future. I have found that I lose track of time quickly—weather it is scrolling aimlessly, binging the next season of a Netflix series, or cleaning all day while I put off what I really should be doing. A goal is to spend shorter intervals of time on tasks and breaking them up into sprints instead of marathons. And with that goal comes the responsibility to allow room for rest days.

This trip to Estes feels like a lifetime ago, but it was one day that put my future into focus. When you overlook the world’s vast beauty, it changes the way you view how small the imperfections are in your life. At that moment, I didn’t think about what I should be doing to better myself for the future; I was thinking about how beautiful a moment could be. So here’s to finding the beauty in imperfections and setting ourselves up for futures we sit in awe of when we set out dreams in motion.

Trust. /trəst/.

trust /trəst/ verb 1. belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of. “I should never have trusted him.”

Trust is fragile; I’ve known that for what feels like a lifetime.

As a baby and child, you trust that your parents will keep you safe and healthy. From an early age, you look to them for food, shelter, and warmth. They were my providers for so long, and I trust them to always have my best interest in mind when they make decisions for themselves and for me. I trust their strength and knowledge. I trust that the truth will always come with validation and honesty.

Growing up with a sibling, you learn how to gain their trust. As the younger sibling, you enter as a foreigner into someone’s home. Children begin to see the attention they once had from their parents divide and focus on the new child. There is animosity built alongside a love that needs to be tended to and grown. That is true, at least in my family. I never doubted my brother’s love or trust, but the ability to trust another comes more-so over time. You show that you won’t always be a tattletale and that you can keep pinkie-promises. You show that you can stand your ground and stand up for them. Siblings learn to trust through their mutual agreements and growth as individuals and becomes a trust you take with you through life.

When you enter school, you trust that your teachers know what they are saying and your schoolmates will keep your secrets. Eventually, you will learn that sometimes teachers don’t always have all the answers, but they always try their best, and not every girl and boy keeps your secrets. Drama is spread fast between loose lips and eager ears. The whispers hurt as your insecurities grow. You will learn to find who will keep your intimate details, intimate, but for many, this is the first time you will struggle with trust.

It stings when a friend, a close friend, betrays your trust. You wonder how you will ever confide in them again, and struggle with the reality of a now distanced connection as you forcibly replace the trust with space and nondescript conversations. In the back of your head, you will think about stories you want to share or advice you need to seek, but your lips don’t budge, and you hide what it is you are really thinking in fear that someone else will know your truth.

Then there are relationships, romantic relationships. Where you meet someone and immediately believe in their reliability, truth, and ability, in order to find in the strength of the match. The person could be familiar, a fellow classmate, a next-door neighbor, a friend of a friend, or friend the family––someone where trust lingers between your undoubted and harboring trust. But then there is a chance the person is a stranger, someone you’ve met at a bar, bus stop, or meet up. The person is a blind date, a match on an app, or a random follower. The trust is new, foreign, and needs to be tended to.

When you first fall for someone, you typically have no reason to believe they aren’t reliable, truthful, or able to be in a relationship. It takes time and investment for you to grow and learn about who this person is––could they be family, someone with your best interest in mind, or could they be reckless with your unhindered belief in them?

Trust is necessary for a relationship, but very quickly destroyed because of its delicate nature. With love, lust, emotions, and attraction on the line, many lines are crossed, and a lot can be released. You overlook the red flags, look past the warning signs, and drive more in-depth into the destruction of a one-off relationship.

“I should never have trusted him.”

“How could she do that.”

“Why did they hurt me like that?”

Losing trust in someone is scary and takes time to build back. There are lessons I have learned from loving those who have damaged the trust in our relationship. At times I felt on guard and nervous because loving them can cause some internal anxiety. Communication is something you need to grow, and that communication requires honesty. Honestly with everyone.

If you feel like you need to hide your relationship, you aren’t honest. If there are aspects to your relationship that hurt you, you need to be accurate. You, as a person, need that to survive. If you are hurting, be honest with yourself and seek what it is that you need.

When you can learn from the times that you have lost trust, you can grow more as a person. Sometimes it is hard to see through the mirage which is a vision of a failed relationship, but soon the veil will lift, and you’ll be capable of thriving in a new relationship.

Relationships After Heartache

Summer is a funny season for me. Being raised in Naples, Florida meant that life was an endless amount of warm days, beach visits, and afternoon thunderstorms. To tell you the truth, I kinda, really, sorta, hated it. The only benefit of never-ending 70-80 degree weather was warmer Halloweens––I loved autumn, but I would have probably hated having to wear a jacket over my costume because it was freezing/snowing for trick-or-treating. I guess I was lucky that I could show off my costumes, but we still had to deal with hurricanes; there is the trade-off. Ever cry because you heard they were canceling Halloween because there were ample amounts of standing water and debris from the Hurricane that blew in the week before? No? Just me? (they didn’t cancel it, which means my mom and I grabbed a costume from Party City last minute, I was a ghost, and it was a laughable outfit, to say the least).

Now that I am older and get to decide my home, and by decide, I mean a place where there is a leaf-peeping opportunity close enough to drive to. But now, I find myself feeling more and more uncomfortable when the weather is ever over 70 degrees. Like it is right now in New York. However, I am so thankful August is around the corner.

Now, you may be wondering, “what does this have to do with being in a relationship after a heartache?” Well, one reason I now feel uncomfortable in summer is because of precisely that. For me, my heartbreaks happened in the summer. Now I didn’t pick this, but maybe that correlation/causation theory in psychology wasn’t wrong. Perhaps a spike in ice cream sales does cause murders, just as the stereotypical “uncuffing season” is summer. It makes sense to those people who think this is the time when you are meant to find a fling on your extended stay in the Hampton’s and leave the person you met in the winter behind.

After my previous relationship ended out of the blue in June, I have had a little PTSD surrounding the anxiety and depression I developed in 2017 deemed “the summer of heartache,” and I can see how it influences my now, current relationship. When I touch the month of June, I start over-analyzing my partner’s actions. I tell myself I am trying to be a bit more cautious this time around, you know “pay attention to what the relationship is needing” instead of focusing on what “I needed” as my ex so graciously taught me he valued more when it came to our relationship.

With all this being said, I can see how summer distances some couples. The first thing that pops into my head for a relationship is cuddling. In winter, when the windows are like the walls of an igloo and the heater is clanging, then well cuddle on! Intertwine those legs and wrap your arms around each other like a gift-wrapped beneath a tree. In summer? Forget that closeness. Sometimes even feeling the warmth of my partner’s thigh delicately rubbing against mine on the Subway is enough for my leg to start to sweat and my body temperature to feel like even more of a furnace.

I think, for myself at least, intimacy is so essential for me to feel comfortable in a relationship. It’s a subtle reminder that you are mine and I am yours (unless you cheat, and then well you suck, I’m sorry I am not sorry for saying that). And when I am trying to feel okay after heartache, and its the summer, and I am having flashbacks, the “not being intimate” and “sitting on opposite sides of the couch so you can feel the a/c at the precise position” are scenarios that make me feel insecure.

Luckily this is the second summer with my partner, and time definitely heals those insecurities, but Summer 2018 was definitely my crash course on relationships after heartache. See we had met in winter, lol, which meant we had four months before the hot, humid, and stinky garbage days sept into the streets when we walked around hand in hand. When it hit over 70 degrees, I felt my fear bubbling up like the heat index. We had distanced to the point my partner was unsure of our relationship. When he communicated that to me, at first, all I could think was, “here we go again, Depression.”

But something I learned about Summer 2017, the rollercoaster of a season, was I needed to love myself through the heartbreak. It was h.a.r.d. to limit my emotions to four simple letters. I was a mess: my eating, irregular, my resting heart rate, frantic, and mindset, troubled. I closed off from most but a select few friends. Then I moved. Then I started working towards myself and I was making new friends, I felt like everything was coming around. Then he got into a new relationship within two months of us ending (hello August downfall), and I was destructive. I was mad at him, so why was I taking it out on myself? 

It took time, over seven months for me to feel good dating again. It took six months of me sulking to say no to it all. I took the month of December, once all my finals were handed in, to pay attention to “me”. It was my best decision. I went on long walks while the snow fell and small flakes collected on my hair and hat. I would remember going to Trader Joes at night, explicitly walking through the tunnel of Christmas trees on 11th and 2nd Avenue and finding yummy, healthy food to cook for dinner. I was going to the Strand Bookstore and spending hours in the clearance book section outside, wearing gloves as my fingertips scanned the spines and gathered more novels to add to my ever-growing “read next” pile.

I listened to music that made me happy, wore face masks that rejuvenated my skin, and sat for hours on the couch watching Harry Potter. I was giving back to myself what I had taken away. I was doing everything I could to bounce back from the heartache. It wasn’t till 2018 when I met my current partner. For our first four months, we were the honeymoon stage and then some, but in the beginning, I was slightly hesitant about entering another relationship because the last thing I wanted was another six+ months of me sulking and binge drinking in New York.

Was he going to hurt me, like the other men did? He didn’t, hasn’t. When we got to the summer and got a bit more distanced, we were able to communicate. I heard his doubts about us and was able to sit and talk it out with him. Our future, our feelings, and our frustrations came out. I had never been able to do that with my past relationship; heartbreak taught me that. 

I think it takes time. If you were in love with someone else, and that love has stopped existing, then I think it’s worth you taking the time to reposition the love you were giving to them and give it back to yourself.  I think you know when it’s an excellent time to enter another relationship. **Mind you my ex’s rebound that caused my August Downfall only lasted a few months, so if you are into breaking up with people often, then maybe skip over the refractory period like he did, but if you are like me and care about people’s feelings, care about yourself first. 

After heartache, care about yourself because you deserve it, dating and caring about others after that will follow in due time.