Welcoming Change with Spring

Winter is “behind us” although it snowed yesterday, the country, for the most part, is preparing for spring. When I think of spring, I think of flowers cut into a bouquet on the coffee table, where the light slips through the shades and casts horizontal spotlights on the glistening hardwood. I think about barren trees being dotted with fresh green buds of sprouting new leaves that will soon coat and shade the branches and trunk below.

When I think of spring, I think about the smell of freshly cut grass, lavender hand soap, and clean countertops. Spring, to me, symbolizes new growth and beginnings. It’s a time where we pack away our heavy winter coats and pull out the shorts and dresses.  Its where central park reopens the fields and lawns — where groups gather on blankets and share a glass of white wine and a charcuterie board. When I think of spring, I think of all these things, except this year, Spring is slipping through our fingers.

Sure we can open the windows to our fire escapes and feel the breeze, but with the epicenter of the virus being on the streets of New York City, Spring is, in turn, becoming isolating. Sure, now we have time to spring clean, where in years past, we put off the daunting task of going through our closest to spend time outside. This year I have to burn candles that smell like fresh flowers but borderline overpowerful, elderly women perfume.

There is a lot of change happening across the world right now. What I am trying to do with that is instill new habits that I can carry into the months when we can transition back into civilization. I am being smarter with food waste and limiting letting produce go bad, given that I can’t just jog down to the nearest bodega and pick up something that I am missing. I have kept my space tidy and clean, given that I have spent nearly two weeks living out of place without leaving. I have prioritized my health, both mental and physical, with stimulating activities to help distract me from the way walls of a small new york city apartment can feel like they are caving in. I decided to write more people, catch up over facetime, and rekindle more friendships that I haven’t shown the proper time and care to.

There is always something new that can throw a rut into our situations, but it is all about looking at what elements in your life you can change for the better and ensure that you welcome a new situation with something other than fear, anxiety, and stress. My contact page is always available for you if you ever want to reach out and talk with someone during this difficult time.

Finding Balance

A lot of my life for the past two years has been about finding the balance between two or more essential aspects of my life. Like balancing exploring and school, school and work, work and social life, social life and alone time, alone time and friends, friends and relationship, relationship and myself until the neverending balancing act weighs too heavily to one side. When that happens, I put a lot of effort and time into one side of the teeter-totter, and that leaves me neglecting other fundamental entities in my life that feels far away and out of reach. It sometimes feels impossible to do so, but recently I have tried to find the balance between devoting time to them all—as equally as possible.  

I think a lot about how the city I live in balances various landscapes, people, and activities. I joke that sometimes when I walk in Central Park, I can forget that I am in New York City. Where less than a mile from where I stand are miles of concrete, brick, and steel, but when you are amongst the trees and the lakes, sometimes its difficult to see the towering buildings overhead. But, eventually, in my walks, you reach a rolling field or a serene lake, and see the way the skyscrapers brush against the low hanging clouds and remember exactly where you are. That is how I can visualize balance. 

New York, or shall I say the “concrete jungle” is the strange place that has always tried to balance nature and urban life. Obviously being that Central Park is the most abundant green space on the island of Manhattan isn’t saying too much. There are 14,600 acres of land that makes up Manhattan, that’s roughly 22 miles of land. Only 840 acres of those 14,600 is Central Park. 14,000 compared to 840 seems unbalanced, so how can I sit and feel as if it is balanced? Well, even though Central Park is only 5% of the land, it feels massive compared to what actually surrounds it.

One of the largest urban parks in the world is the English Gardens in Munich, Germany. It is 900 acres and often compared to Central Park, and being that it is bigger, by 60 acres, it seems like a great feat. Except, Munich is 119 square miles, roughly 76,700 acres. That is just 1% of the acres in the city. Sure, the Gardens are more prominent, but balancing is all about how one entity is relative to another and how you devote your space to each and every one.

It hasn’t always been the easiest, and its been a lot of “touch and go,” but so far, I feel I have recently broken out of focusing on one side and found a way to reach the apex of the triangle—what I feel I am balancing on. Being that I am the triangle, I have had to learn how time can be shared amongst various tasks and how they are relative. Something I do a lot now is set 20-minute timers. Meaning, if I need to clean the living room, I set a timer for 20 minutes and clean as much as I can during that time. It leaves me wasting less time and has me working faster and harder to beat the clock.

A considerable hurdle was trying to balance my work and fun times. The twenty min timers help when I need to take a break from something that is frustrating or trying to cram a lot of little tasks into a busy day. It helps sanction off my writing, reading, and journaling into manageable tasks when I know I would want to spend all day doing that to avoid anything else I need to actually get done. The 20 min timers make sure I don’t spend all day organizing and leaves time for me to learn new skills, talk to loved ones, and still have personal time later.

Another one of my goals was to try and balance my friends and my partner. I love him dearly, and I live him, so I see him the most often out of family and friends. However, I know I need to make time to see him outside of nights on the couch before bed, just as I am making time for meaningful time with my friends and family. Recently, I have learned to see my friends on weekends or nights when he works, so I feel as if I can balance friendships and the dating world. Obviously, there are times I see my friends when he is home, and there are times we gather all of our friends together and spend time with everyone, but it’s about finding a balance between all of those relationships, so your do neglect one over the other.

But the one thing I have really overlooked while trying to balance everything else is myself. I have been standing, doing everything I can to balance my social-life, work-life, and school-life that I lost what it was I needed to make sure I have enough attention. Earlier this week, I wrote a post about self-love and care, and I feel as if I have tried to focus on that recently. When I am upset or down, I can’t find time to devote to anyone else because I am mentally not there. So, I take to spending days like Friday really focussing on me and activities I love to find a balance inside me.

How is it that you feel you find balance in your life to do everything you could possibly want to do, and spend time with everyone you want to spend time with? Do you find that it is difficult to find time for yourself during those times, or are you spending too much time on yourself that you are letting other important tasks fall out of reach?

Fresh Start for February

When I set out to layout my goals for the year, I had a hard time finding what my focus would be. There was so much I wanted for myself, my career, and future that at times my list was growing without any focus and was quickly becoming a daunting and overwhelming list. But then I sat down and saw how there were roughly 12 overarching themes to everything I wanted, and then I saw how I could use each month to focus on the goals I set. 

January was all about getting organized—and that is precisely what I did. I knew throwing myself straight into focusing on routines or the typical “gym-daily” mentality would set me up for failure, just like in years past. My Unbound Planner has helped me visualize what it is I want and how I will execute it, but it took the first few weeks of January to get everything settled and organized. (If you still are in the market for a new planner, and love goals, I have recommended this one after sifting through the saturated market of agendas).

I have finally reached a rhythm where I know what needs to be done daily, weekly, and monthly to really maximize my time. But I know things will change in the coming months, which is why in February I have decided to Prioritize Health. 

I knew once I got a bit more organized, the next thing I really wanted to get started on was focusing on my mental, physical, and emotional health. There is a lot that goes into upheaving your life into a new schedule, especially while you are planning on having a significant life change when it comes to starting a new job, so I knew I needed to quickly prioritize myself.

At times, it would be hard to encourage myself to get out of the house and do anything but stare at my computer screen for hours on end. When you are in that mindset, you lose sight of yourself and what can be crucial. There’s a lot that goes into getting out and getting exercise when you think there’s a cover letter you should be writing or jobs to be hunting. When that happens, everything else falls to the side, and negative thoughts, emotions, and actions come into play.

Activities you found fun or enjoyable fall even lower in the priority ranking that they were previously. Who has time to read, when the most you can think about is your expenses collecting in your bank account? Who has the money to enjoy a Friday night movie when the tickets are close to 30 dollars, and you know that would be a good amount of groceries at Trader Joes?

In the past, during my more trying times, I lost myself. When I first moved here, I was a completely different person, and she is entirely unrecognizable now to who I am today. But it was her actions and her depths that have me really reminding myself that I need to take care of “me” first. 

Firstly, putting me first isn’t a selfish thing, and its taken me twenty-five years to really hone in on that. I have come to realize that its okay to say no, and not seek out these melodramatic experiences or friendships. I have learned that negative things happen when I put myself second. I think illogically. I hurt bonds, or worse, I make awful friendships. My health declines, I eat poorly, I don’t get outside, and I practice worse habits.

Now, as I stare down a daunting task of things to complete in the coming month, I thought I would share them along with you here. Every month I have twenty Monthly Goals and Tasks. Two of those tasks are set for me by my planner, “review your yearly goals & last month’s progress” and “add repeating monthly goals.” I have eleven, yes, eleven goals I plan on repeating monthly:

  1. Finish two books
  2. Write 8 blog posts 
  3. Plan an adventure 
  4. Send a letter 
  5. Earn a new career certification 
  6. Reflection writing piece
  7. Practice a new self-care routine  
  8. Learn something new 
  9. Write one chapter
  10. Reward yourself
  11. Plan a big date with David 

That leaves seven goals or tasks to set for the month. From my daunting list of goals, I took the ones that fit best with my theme and set them as goals I wanted to accomplish during the different months. There were only two significant goals in January, whereas February has four.

  • Have a job that best suits my interests  (Ranked #1 Overall) 
  • Under 30 min on Social Media daily (Ranked #13) 
  • Complete Whole 30 Challenge (Ranked #15) 
  • Have Recipes Organized (Ranked #9) 

I felt that these four goals really played to prioritizing health in February. Having an income and a job (outside of my freelance hustle) is really important for my mental health wellbeing. Limiting my social media engagement and screen time will allow myself to spend more time on myself, and those tasks I previously mentioned tend to get forgotten (like reading two books a month). I know I wanted to partake in some sort of healthy living, diet fad, to really get my body in better shape, because I know when I am physically feeling my best, then my emotional and mental health is right there with it. And lastly, I have hundreds of recipes that live on my computer in screenshots, links to websites, poorly taken photos, and scribbled down papers. I know when they all live in one place, I will finally have an easier time finding what it is I would like to meal prep for the week.

That leaves just three goals that I will set for the month after reflecting on the previous month’s wins, and what I can expect for the next month. I purposefully didn’t set all 20 in January, because who knows how I will be feeling in October. Maybe there will be more pressing tasks, such as how I found a fellowship to apply for in January that I hadn’t noticed until the second week into the month. For February, I want to continue with my health goal by trying to reach 10,000-20,000 steps daily. I believe that will have me out there getting active and not sitting on the couch if I don’t find a job on February 1st. I also want to set the goal of learning more about my body and taking care of it because I know certain foods don’t sit well with me, and I need to take better care of my ankle. And for the last goal, I want to reread You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. While I worked at Celadon Books, this was the first book I was gifted, and it had always stayed on my mind. The first time I read it, it was a skim read for an assignment at work, but not I want to take the time and apply those skills mothing forward—so what better month than a month dedicated to a fresh start.

I took a photo of my February goal breakdown looks like! Hopefully, it will be an inspiration to you all as well. You can see there are still a few blanks of goals and tasks to do, but thats something I learned from January, you are always going to find new major tasks to complete, so I repositioned my twenty goals to wither be priorities or Ideas this month to consider.

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Happy February! 

10 October 2008

I can still feel the morning dew as it seeped into my navy basketball shorts that Friday morning in October. I couldn’t have been dressed out in my P.E. uniform for more than thirty minutes before I found myself laying out on the field that was in the center of my middle school’s track.

It was football week, which meant highly competitive boys were refreshing the skills they picked up on their flag football team while they show what they’ve got before all of us head to high school next year. We weren’t running plays––they were just chucking the ball to see how far it could get and hoping there was a teammate of theirs on the other side.

We all wore the same navy pants and gray T-shirts that had our last names marked on the front and back with a black sharpie. I don’t even remember what team I was on, but I wanted to catch a ball. Growing up, I lived a reasonably competitive lifestyle with the sports I spent my weeks playing. Up until that point, I had played soccer, dance, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse. I was used to playing with a team, but that never loosened the competitive drive I had when it came to giving the sport my ultimate best.

I remember lunging in the air, reaching my fingertips through the sky, while the ball spiraled through space above me. A boy, Jacob, jumped for that exact ball, and we collided. Our ribs smacked into one another, throwing our momentum off balance and having us both plummeting back down to the field beneath us.

As I landed, it was like the earth below me gave way. Pop, pop, pop.

There was no pain for a matter of moments, just a sound knuckles cracking, or a piece of fabric ripping. Either I landed on Jacob, or he landed on me, but I remember the moment I tried to stand up and fell back to the ground beneath me.

My footing was uneasy, and I looked down to see something was wrong.

My ankle swelled to three times its average size within moments.

Classmates from across the field could see me holding my calf up as my foot dangled. A group of them rushing towards the two of us, Jacob, was, however, standing beside me talking about how bummed it was not to have cathed the ball. Our teacher came running over, took one look at my leg, and ushered a group of students to get the golf cart from the other field in the distance.

She asked if I could stand, I said no. 

I never knew what the tenth of October would mean for my life. How I would miss those moments when the pain was slowly rising to my level of consciousness because it has been eleven long years since I could say I am pain-free. The trauma surrounding this incident manifest and swarmed me into complete darkness nearly impossible to ever feel like you would find your way out.

During the 2009, 2010, and 2011 anniversary, I was still dealing with the repercussions of this day. For a while, I thought I had beaten it, nearly forgetting what day it actually was until 2014 when a stumble down uneven grass had me reversing all the progress I had made in the prior year.

Because of this day, I have scars I can, but won’t cover-up. Screws and wires are lingering inside, holding everything in place. My bones have been drilled into, my skin has been carved, and my body has been repaired.

Most October’s, I forget about this day, but the aches are still there most morning as I wake up wondering what it would be like to just not jump for that damn ball. 

A Love Letter to London

A man named Harrison once believed I was in love with him, but what he never understood was he is the one person who reminded me of my love for London––he was the strongest tether to the feeling I still struggle to describe even today. 

My love never belonged to Harrison; hopefully, he knows that by now as any kind of romantic feelings towards each other have washed away with time. He was a man that I met through a dating app. We must have matched around the 27th of September, roughly eight days into my study abroad trip.

To this day, I still don’t understand how we matched. He lived in Portsmouth, and I lived in London, around 80 miles of rolling hills stood between us, but somehow he slipped into my 5-mile parameter and caught my attention.

Now, imagine spending nearly three-months of your study abroad time consistently talking to one man as you learn to love yourself—like really fall into the person you‘ve dreamt of being. We never met in person, but towards the end of my time in England, I knew I should goodbye. Before my flight took off in December, I had a few more texts left on my burner phone, so I drafted him a message and said my final farewell. His reply sent me into tears.

“Fu** me that went fast! I will definitely be keeping in touch and it’s nice to know you thought of me before you go back. Have a safe flight home and have a good Christmas IF I don’t speak to you before xx”

You are right Harrison, those three months did go by too fast. Saying goodbye to him, meant I finally was saying goodbye to London, and that was never something I could draft in a 160 character text message.

I sat at Heathrow airport, two hours before my flight, bawling into my chest as I sat on the leather seats and I stared down the departure board waiting for my gate to appear on the board. I wiped away tears on my emerald peacoat and shifted my legs as feelings of anxiety and nervousness overcame me.

I had spent the Uber ride to the airport sucking down tears, as I was sharing it with a roommate of mine I barely got to know over our three-month stint living abroad. At six o’clock in the morning, it was hard to know how much my anxiety and emotional state was due to sleep deprivation versus pure sadness, but I came to know just how depressing leaving London would be.

***

Now that I am older, and four years removed from my time in London, I now know I don’t need to hang on a physical being to feel the pull England has on me since the beginning. There was happiness hidden in every Sunday roast, pint of cider, “mind the gap” painted pavement, and brightly-colored townhomes.

Before London, my past seemed to mimick feelings similar to asphyxiation. I felt like I struggled for air under the pressure of not feeling whole––not feeling like myself. I felt out of place for so much of my young years that it was hard to feel like I wasn’t drowning in a skin that wasn’t mine. London allowed me to exhale then inhale with new beginnings for the first time.

Much like the days of my stay fell to the past, the green leaves on the trees in Notting Hill slowly faded into the colors amber, orange, and scarlet until they fell gracefully and collected at the bottom of the tree trunks. They painted the pavement with colors under the dazzling street lights, and every day I returned to my flat, I was entranced. I did not mind that this love was solely a one-way street. I could not overlook the happiness loving London brought me, thus teaching me how to love myself. 

I have only returned to London once since leaving that faithful day in December; that trip was three months later in March. That’s right, I lasted 13 weeks before getting on yet another transatlantic flight back to London. I was only there for a week, but that was enough to remind me that the city wasn’t going anywhere, and my love would continue to ignite in my chest like an ember refusing to submit itself to the ash surrounding it.

So, instead of saying goodbye in March, I knew that I will always feel the love I have for the city. The coordinates from the photo above hang around my neck with the words “Bloom & Inspire” engraved into the gold. For me, that spot in Regent’s Park, in London, was my time to shed everything that felt wrong hanging off my body and rebloom into the dreams that have always inspired me. This blog would have never exsitied had it not been for London, so I keep the city with me in my heart and feel the warmth of my time there until I visit there again.

There are very few cities that I have had such a tremendous effect on my life, like London, but I am looking forward to talking more about the growth I experienced in the town, no matter how short or long my experience there may have been. At times I can feel brokenhearted, as I leave so much of myself behind when I move on to another chapter. But, I am forever indebted to these cities and I wonder will ever be my home once more.

 

Finding Your Light: The Action

A while back I started a series I never followed through with, until today, of course. I talked a little bit about the self-doubt I had been feeling at the time and how it had surpassed a similar doubt I had a few years prior to then. I described the way it flooded my bloodstream with toxic feelings at such force, and I wanted to talk about how I was combating the negative energy. Partially because I wanted to feel strong.

I mentioned that I was starting this multi-part series to invite others to gain insight towards mental health by providing personal experiences that I hoped, in turn, would promote more people to gain an understanding of the significance of mental health. I wanted to make sure individuals knew that you are not alone, there are so many resources out there to better yourself. 

Not too many knew that in 2017, I became crippled under the weight of fear and ached every time I tried to pull myself back up. So I wasn’t heading my own advice, I was isolating myself. I struggled, still struggle, daily with the events surrounding the changes in my life, but the struggle I initially wrote about is gone.

When I first wrote Finding Your Light: The Onset I had no idea what was to come within the next month –– the hole I found myself in July 2018 was a pothole compared to the fault line that eroded my sanity come August 2018. But, I wasn’t wrong in July to discuss my hard times, but what I should have done was listen to my own advice.

When I was at my darkest time, I wrote only one post, and you can feel the pain seeping through the words. I remember having a friend reach out to me the day I posted it. They had read it and wondered if I needed anyone to talk to, but I shook off my issues. I didn’t take my advice to not let the demon consume my happiness, but instead I allowed him thrive in for way too long.

Because of that, my light shattered more, but that seemed impossible. What happens when you drop an already broken piece of glass?  It explodes into more and more fine and fragmented pieces that I, in turn, amounted myself to because I felt like I was a fine mist of dust allowing something invisible to the eye, something such as wind, to take control.

I was sick, mentally and physically, but weakened to nothing past a sleeping vessel that struggled to ever feel rested. I abused myself and my health, and I let insignificant people define my worth. I let depression linger behind my sullen, hazel eyes that were tinged red from the evenings spent overthinking and manifesting fear. 

But I took action, finally, because I needed conversation. I needed a distant bystander who could talk to me and listen. It helped to see a therapist for a few weeks until she tried to take control of the therapy session. I wanted to talk about the flames because I needed help putting them out, but she was too busy trying to forge through the ashes that were lying where objects once were. The dust wasn’t me, but the wind oxygenating the flickering flame emitted an unbearable flame.

The conversations for awhile validated me. They told me the pain wasn’t insanity, and that I could find something better. It reminded me about who I was when I was younger. I knew I struggled with self-confidence. It was almost typical for me to feel down about myself. I had a great friend group, a supportive family, and a bright future, so why was I manifesting on this low time when I should be thankful for all the highs?

The second the therapy would no longer help, was when I gained the confidence back in myself to really believe in who I was and the journey I was on. I was a grad student, thriving in class, and making friendships that were going to matter. Hell Yeah, Hannah, keep kicking butt! I was writing again, for schoolwork, but I was creative again.

But being thankful wasn’t enough because I was still grateful for a handful of the wrong things. I was thankful for toxic relationships, honestly up until the end of 2018. I couldn’t hold on to those people, and I needed to learn to let go. I was thankful for my freedom, both financially and parentally, but I wasn’t following a life destined to be thankful for.

Sometimes I think back to what fun I used to have with some people in the East Village, but leaving it all behind showed me how to bring the happiness back. I wrote a bit about that journey in Relationships After Heartache when I referred to the saga as the “August downfall.” But I learned in isolation I could focus on myself. I wasn’t worried about saying the right thing to someone, striking up the best conversation, or ordering my favorite drink. I wasn’t concerned with making an impression, telling the funniest joke, and worrying about what my friends were saying behind my back. I just was me, alone in my apartment, crying when I needed to but mostly doing the things that strengthened me.

The reason this time was different was because of the way the negative thoughts strained me into a thick pulp without any sustenance. Sometimes I still struggle to let go of the toxic relationships, hoping they just lie in a grave, so I don’t have to deal with goodbyes, but I have learned how to walk away. Because walking away from the sadness was the one thing that brought happiness back?

My sadness in July? I buried it in 2017, looking my anxiety and depression, literally in the eye and forgiving the demon forever reintroducing it in my life. I told him that I am no longer mad, and that is why this time was different. The past showed me that I can stand up and turn away from something I don’t want to be apart of, and I think so many of us can struggle with that part.

I think we worry about the action when it comes to rekindling our light. We fear that it won’t fix anything, but this time was different because I reignited my light in the most mature way compared to the past. I learned I could find even more strength if I just gave myself a chance, so give yourself a chance.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, I urge more to feel comfortable asking for help. Bearing the weight of your friends in times of need is not meant for everyone. If you are in a space in your life where you can be there for others, I hope you utilize your gift as I have in the past. If you personally cannot handle that role, help yourself, and help others to seek personal help. There is nothing shameful for wanting help. Hug more and remind those in your life that you love them, it will make a significant impact on your well being.

 

 

29 August 2017

In the comfort of a Memoir class at New York University, I told my partial truth. We were tasked to write a short piece situated in a place. For me, that was New York. It was my home of a few weeks, and by the 29th, I had already felt abused by it. So I sat down, and I typed about the one thing that had me feeling utterly alone; the D-Day of my unsettled nature.

The man I love ended our last conversation by telling me he never wanted to hurt me. What he never understood was that saying a final goodbye to someone I had wanted to spend the rest of my life saying hello to was a pain that I could not numb as quickly as he had.

I moved to the city of opportunities for a new life in New York. He propelled me into the loneliness of heartbreak while I was alone, surrounded by strangers and thinking over what destruction was lying in the path of my future. 

I was starved by the emptiness each evening. Those who supported me felt the timing of the break-up was perfect—the only baggage that I would have in NYC was the emptied suitcases stored on the top shelf of my closet, not a washed-up man living at home complaining about how his career hadn’t taken off. I struggled to see how lost love would illuminate a silver lining when he haunted my every thought, but I tried to listen.

I used to say my hardest goodbye was London; the city that propelled me into the best version of myself. Yet, when I found love that was reciprocated in a way a city could not, I realized some goodbyes would drop me to my knees. When I moved to New York, I wondered what I would find, and would I love the city just as I had love London? What was I to find in the streets of New York? Would they inspire me like London did while I was in limbo of finding myself again?

It was the first week here that I found my past intertwined with my future. A chalkboard that leaned against the window of a bar, just a block away from my apartment on 9th Street, caught my attention. It displayed happy hour prices that were grad student reasonable, but it was the bartender’s information sketched out that had my feet moving downstairs into the dimly lit dive bar.

His name was Alex; the same name as my older brother. He was born the same year as me, and only eleven days separated our births. We grew up in the same town in Southwest Florida, and somehow, our paths crossed in New York. The serendipitous meeting was my first shot at finding a community in a place that associated closely with my lonesomeness. 

He introduced me to everyone he knew.

Soon the other bartenders knew my drink order and the regulars knew my name. The owner learned the story of how I came to be a regular and told it to everyone. Inside this nondescript dive bar in the East Village, New York shrank in size.

Several times a week, I went to the bar to connect with my newly acquainted friends. I took notice of the novelty decorations that seemed to have no reason to be there. The bar paid homage to Einstein, who overlooked the entrance and the knight amour who stood tall over the bar. Christmas lights colored the low ceiling, while small amber lights attempted to illuminate the faces who lined the mahogany bar. It was dark, damp, and musky in the basement bar. Television screens lit up with the nightly news, sports games, and fishing shows. 

I’d press my fingertips to the cool copper countertop; lean in and greet my friend on the opposite side. Over their head was a wall of confiscated IDs, an underage drinker’s most wanted that filled the empty space above liquor bottles. They’d place a Guinness in front of me and smile. The froth with the first sip gave me a slight ‘stache, which made me smile broader in return. I thought I found some good company in New York. 

Men who frequented the bar took me as a damsel in distress that needed saving because I was alone most evenings. They filled my time with small talk, which leads to questions of nightcaps, numbers, and future dates. I objected them all. Single seemed to objectify me slightly to the wrong men, and one man, in particular, became possessive. Andrew was a regular like myself; the first one I met through Alex, but he is the worst kind of man; insecure and fueled by anger.

I stood outside with two off the clock bartenders and Andrew. The three of them wavered as beer replaced the blood swimming through their veins. In his thick Irish accent, one bartender enclosed me with his love which turned confessional of how much he cared for me and how glad he was that I was apart of the bar. He flicked the butt of his cigarette to the ground and held me tightly in his arms before he faded back through the door. I needed that. I needed a man to show compassion for a single moment and not want anything in return. 

Alex checked that I would be okay walking home as he inhaled his final drag. I nodded, and he hugged me goodbye before he slipped downstairs. Andrew then closed the door and turned to me. I uttered goodbye as I turned for home, but my sense of safety moved from underneath me. 

I was face to face with a man who wanted to hurt me. Aggression filled the words he interchanged for goodbye. 

“You are banned from this bar.”

His displeased attitude stemmed from me not falling into bed with him. I caught on to that when I asked him to repeat what he just said. 

He had no jurisdiction over this bar but wanted power over me. I stood in shock, as he listed threats that came one after another. Confused by how this change of events happened, I sought clarity with the bartenders inside and attempted to open the door. Really I was looking for help.

If his words weren’t painful enough, his hand clutched around my arm, and he pulled me out of the entrance. He pushed me further outside and yelled at me to vacate the premises. I remember telling this part to my teacher, and he repeated back the words, “he assaulted you?” I was nervous. I felt like I was oversharing, but I couldn’t deny what had happened. 

The men who loved my presences did not get up. I yelled for them down by the bar, while this man forcibly kept me outside. I watched them ignore the scene which unraveled with the fear I was sinking into. They heard the yelling but chose to stay downstairs. After just showing my compassion, they ignored the issue. I walked home, scared, and alone. The man threatened my safety, and I was frightened.

Had I found a community or had I found depths of another beast?

I spoke to them all about it during the days that followed. One begging me to come back to talk about the situation. They scoffed. Of course, I would never be banned.

“He’s just upset you wouldn’t sleep with him.”

One said as I felt slight justifications leave his mouth and my stomach lurched from the pure arrogance to the situation and the issue at hand.

“Don’t feel threatened by him.”

Another said as I filled with anxiety as he entered the bar and stared me down. How could I not be? A man who wants nothing but power over a woman is someone a woman is taught to fear.

Embedded in the pain was feeling alone in a bar that I once felt welcome in. All I could envision was how their eyes diverted from the conflict and could only stare down. I felt confused as to why they feared to lose me when I mentioned it wouldn’t be ideal for me to keep coming around. As if my final goodbye caused them some sort of discomfort, yet the pain in my voice as I yelled for help didn’t cause them any. Did they know they were wrong to leave me alone? Did they have any regrets?

I began to wonder if they just as lonely as I was? They weren’t struggling with a break-up, they had friends, family, and lovers in the city. They were connected with the locals and their coworkers. But they were lonely. And for once in New York, I wasn’t surrounded by strangers, but these people were anything but friends of mine.

For the remainder of my lease, whether I want to ever admit it or not, I looked over my shoulder in fear. I was anxious to bump into the man who assaulted me. I never wanted to come face to face with him again, even though many have told me that he was sorry.

I didn’t want that. I wanted a new beginning where I could be happier, and that meant leaving that life behind. It meant never replying back to text messages from those people and forging a new life I wanted to live. For a while, New York pained me, but as I let go of that pain, I felt better. Little by little I opened back up to the city I so quickly shut down, but it wasn’t until I let go of this week, this day, this month in 2017. 

It’s these moments, the August 29th moments, that have me continuing this blog. So much has changed since that moment, but at the time, I was struggling to ever find a way out or a positive in the situation. It’s difficult to think back to the fear I had at one point and wonder why I would ever put myself in that situation, but I realize now there is always time for me to grow and move past the difficult time.

 

 

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.

Learning to Live Purposefully

After writing my post on Monday, I started to really reflect on the time I spent on my phone. I wanted to know how much time I was spending on social media and how that was impacting my daily life or productivity. To do this, I notice Instagram has a new function that monitors your time spent on the app and will set a reminder notification for when you reach a particular time. I set it to 30 minutes because at the time I had averaged around 40 minutes –– 30 minutes goes by very quickly. 

And that makes me sad. Because I know there is so much more I could be doing with my time, so I am just trying to figure out how I make time and kick the habit.  I still tend to pick up my phone in the morning and scroll through social media, but there is a new voice in the back of my head telling me to be more purposeful with my time.

I feed into the idea and stigma that social media has its pitfalls and lacks its benefits, but at the same time, I worked at a start-up who employed over thirty people with generous salaries that were funded entirely by social media. I understand the power that comes with it because so many of us thrive off of it. I am following influencers who are trying to show positive, real stories. I see how they will post photos of them breaking down, unedited, and raw. They understand so many people look up to them and believe their lives are perfect based on what they put on social media, so they are more open.

I appreciate that. I try and do the same, and be honest while I write my blogs because I believe it’s okay to show weakness as you work to strengthen yourself. I am not someone who assumes everyone’s lives are exactly like their feed, especially since some of my proudest accomplishments are nowhere near my feeds; yet I still can’t get rid of social altogether. In the back of my mind, I eventually want to introduce this blog to the world through my friends and followers. There are a few of you that I have confided in, Hello, and there are some that want to read my account, but I have kept the URL private.

In the future, I know I will open up more. I know I will share this more freely and use social media to reach more and more people, but until then I made a list of things I would love to do daily that could only happen when I start living my life with a purpose.

Mock Day, I want to devote my time to:

Journaling my thoughts

Reading a new book weekly

Learning new skill

Walking and exercising daily

Cooking something yummy 

Blogging as much as I can

Practicing more creative work

 

It isn’t a long list, but ideally, between the time I wake up and the time I go to sleep, I would have done everything on this list. Sometimes it may not be realistic, but I am going to try my best to reintroduce each item to my daily activities because I know that they are habits I need to form. When I lived in London, I was able to journal every day for three months, get out of the flat and explore the city, cook food for myself and my roommate, learned how to use a film camera, and blogged daily –– and I was always with friends and excelling at my studies. I know it is possible.  

At times I have done a combination of all these tasks in a day, but never all together. I partially wonder if my time scrolling inhibits all of them being done. Could my thirty minutes in the morning when I wake up go to reading a chapter or journaling? Yes. Could I wake up at 6:00am instead of 7:00am and get out and walk a loop in Central Park? I should. Are there classes online that I have signed up for, paid for even, that are news skills I would love to have? You better believe it. It will take practice, and I know that, but I don’t need to watch Netflix all night, or I could write posts, exercise, and cook while I watch the latest episode of Big Little Lies. There are little changes to be made to make a tremendous impact on my mental health, liveliness, and happiness.

There is so much I want to do, but I want to know what some activities you would do daily if time weren’t an issue? Leave a comment and let’s try and hold each other accountable! 

 

 

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.