Blogging Reflections

As more changes come to my blog this month, I think about what I saw my blog becoming when I first created this space. 2020 is my fourth year with rewindandunwind.com, and there is still so much I expect out of it. I still live in the past and allow it to shape my future. I’m not living in the best moments—such as knowing what I have accomplished academically and within my career. I don’t just live in the past of all those fantastic trip memories or laughs that my friends and I shared. I allow the negative moments to impact me at times when it really shouldn’t.

My first blog post outlined where the name Rewind & Unwind” came from and what my readers may find as they pull back the curtain and glimpse at micro-moments in my life:

We all do it—live that is. I mean sure eventually life happens and then ends, but that isn’t what I am blogging about. If there is a blog space after the end, then I am sure you can follow-up on my eternal life there, but until then, here is where I rewind and unwind on my times in this life.

I view the past rather simply: we are built from it, but it does not necessarily define us in our present and future lives. We achieve different goals, overcome obstacles, and transition, if you will, into the person we destined to develop into. I recognize my past, as well as the past of others, to see the person we became because of it, but it isn’t a tool used to judge another.

Who is the person I have become since blogging? What has my writing journey brought me, and what doors have opened since that I don’t give enough credit to or recognize? What remains valid from the past four years?

I find myself setting short-term and long-term goals for myself. I collect dates and reflect back as years past and notice what has changed. I rewind, if you will, and see how I gain a new understanding of where my life is now.

When life happens it is really easy to get wrapped up at the moment, and that is where I need to unwind. You can encounter life changes at any moment during any day. There really isn’t any standard on how to prepare for life, you just kinda have to get through them. As lackluster as that sounds, there are definitely lessons to be learned and tips that can be shared.

After four years, I think a lot is still the same as how I view this blog’s future. I still have a long way to go before seeing what I would like from this blog; I still am incredibly proud of its journey thus far. Rewinding and looking at what has happened this past decade and the decade before makes a difference. The anniversaries and dates that mattered then don’t matter less. They feel more distanced as more events follow in suite.

There is still so much more that I want to reflect on and learn from as I continue my writing journey. I look back on where my writing was before my masters, and I see there is still so much to learn and share. As I continue evolving my blog, there are so many blogs that I pull inspiration from, but here a few that I think you may like too:

http://steffysprosandcons.com

http://www.poppydeyes.com

https://www.aladyinlondon.com

https://noellesfavoritethings.com

Check out some of my recent blogs below:

14 Septmember 2016

I had to share this shot because it gave me major Taylor Swift folklore vibes, except I did it first in 2016. There are times I miss Colorado while living in this city. I miss the air’s freshness, the mountains acting as a backdrop, and the way the trees fill the empty spaces around you. These photos … Continue reading “14 Septmember 2016”

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.

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.

The Concept of Loneliness

Something that’s crossed my mind a bit this past month is the idea of being alone, being lonely, and feeling lonesome. It isn’t because I feel alone, neglected, or overseen but rather how today’s advances isolate us in ways different than the past. In February, I read The Lonely City by Olivia Lang as well as You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. Together, these books examine how loneliness doesn’t discriminate. Together they focused on two thought-provoking topics. On,e is how even in a city as populated as New York City, you can feel incredibly alone. Another being even if we have people who we care about us may do little to make us feel acknowledged instead somewhat ignored. 

Something I felt when I first moved to New York was his it’s sheer size did, in fact, isolate me more than I already felt. I moved to the city of opportunities for a new life in New York. But, I moved here heartbroken

The man I love ended our last conversation by telling me he never wanted to hurt me. What he never understood was, saying a final goodbye to someone I wanted to always say hello to, was a pain that I could not numb.  He propelled me into the loneliness of heartbreak while I was alone, surrounded by strangers. 

I was smuggled by the emptiness each evening. Those who supported me felt the timing of it all was perfect—the only baggage that I would have was the emptied suitcases stored on the top shelf in my closet. I struggled to see how lost love would be a silver lining when I had no desire to find it with the city or the men who filled it. 

I used to say my hardest goodbye was London; a city that propelled me into the best version of myself. When I found love that was reciprocated in a way a city could not, I realized there were goodbyes that would drop me to my knees. I knew I couldn’t love like that again soon, so I took to explore New York. 

The first week here 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 of the evening’s information that had my feet moving downstairs into the dimly lit dive bar.

His name, Alex, was the same as my older brother’s. 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 the bar, New York shrank in size.

Several times a week, I entered the watering hole for adults. I took notice of the novelty decorations that hung all around and seemed to have no reason to be there. I 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. 

I’d press my fingertips to the cool copper countertop; lean in to 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 larger in return. I thought I found good company in New York that appreciated my presence. 

Men who frequented the bar took me as a damsel in distress that needed saving. They consumed my evenings with small talk, which lead to questions of nightcaps, numbers, and future dates. Single seemed to objectify me and the wrong men some became possessive—the last thing a woman wants/

One evening, I stood outside with them. 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 into the bar. 

Another 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. The last one closed the door and turned to me. I uttered goodbye as I turned for home, but my sense of safety slipped from underneath me. 

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

If his words weren’t painful enough, his hand clutched around my arm as he pulled me out of the entrance. He pushed me further outside and yelled at me to vacate the premises. The men who loved my presence did not get up. The men that just said goodbye ignore the scene which unraveled outside. They heard the yelling, but chose to stay downstairs. 

At that moment, I questioned if I had found a community, or had I found depths of another beast? Observe, but avoid confrontation if possible while here in New York. The community I felt dissipated in a matter of seconds. I spun a web and somehow became tangled in it. Embedded in the pain, I could not forget was feeling alone in a bar that I once felt safe in. I could see that evening was their eyes as they diverted from the conflict I was confronted with. 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.

Were they just as lonely as I was? I questioned, as their smiles grew each time they served another Guinness to the coaster that sat in front of me. I wasn’t surrounded by strangers, but that made the pain of loneliness feel different.

Since then, I’ve contemplated if there was any benefit of isolation. In the coming months, I went back to see them and share causalities of the day and weeks ahead of us. I used the bar to understand myself and the insecurities that were growing because of the company I felt. I vowed to focus on myself after the issues there piled up. And those weeks in December that I spent in isolation, I found myself. Like Murphy mentions, these men weren’t listening to me. Sure maybe my friendship benefited them in some way, but I gained little to nothing from them past more pain.

It’s strange to think I could ever feel alone or isolated in New York City, but as millions of people rush past you, and you know no one, then all you can feel is an amassing weight of being singular.

21 February 2017

Three years ago was a very different day compared to where I am today. Aside from waking up in a different bed in a different city, the 21st of February was quite possibly a new beginning for me, but I had no idea then what would come from it that morning. I woke up after not sleeping and slipped into my black dress and a pair of sneakers. I had nothing to eat or drink before getting into the car with my mother. We were heading to Naples Community Hospital, the hospital I was born in, but this time I waiting for my turn to get my name printed on a bracelet.

I remember how cold it felt to sit in the chair while my mom scrolled on her phone to the left of me. She had my best friends number and boyfriend’s “in case anything happens.” Obviously, the last thing you want to consider is your death, but complications aren’t that rare. I remember the man that called my name and shuffled us into another waiting room dedicated to the family members waiting while their loved ones were in surgery. There were low lit lamps on side tables and magazines that have been flipped through but barely read. There were young children, wives, and husbands scrolling on phones and finding ways to pass the time.

I was only there for a few minutes by my mom’s side before I was called back for surgery. There was a gown waiting for me on a bed and a bag for the rest of my belongings. Nurses and doctors poked my hand, wrist, and the inside of my elbow for a vein suitable for my IV. They searched in my knee, thigh, and calf for the nerves related to the nerve block. The nurse and mother looked on frightened as they watched this anesthesiologist dig with a needle for what he needed. At one point, the nurse grabbed my hand and apologized and confessed her admiration for patience and pain tolerance, but I knew this was only a taste of what was to come.

I had my hair pulled into a hairnet, which of course, my mother snapped a photo of before they wheeled into the operating room where even more bodies stood around me and shuffled past. I remember the OR tech that summoned me on to the operating table. It was the first time I vividly remember moving from the bed to the narrow, uncomfortable surfboard of a table that had movable arms and straps, which felt like I was being secured to an executioner’s table into a death sentence prison.

I was staring up while he prepped my iv with the new tubes. In the distance, I heard a song. A Queen’s song, Another One Bites the Dust played out in the speakers. I remember singing along, well humming along, and having the OR tech call out to turn the radio off—realizing that among the last song you want to listen to before you head into surgery. Then just as the song goes quiet, so does the rest of the world until I wake up in the room with the blue pull curtains and on the bed I was initially on. This time it is just me and the nurse. All I taste is metal. I squint as the lights brighten, and the nurse greats me with a pen and paper. The first thing I tell her is that I feel like I am going to throw up. Its the combination of pain, medicine, and anesthesia, but I knew it was coming.

We talk about my surgery and how my mother is on her way back. She places a bedpan on my chest, and I feel the room spinning. I tell her I have had issues in the past with anesthesia, and shortly after explaining that she’s thanking me for knowing how sick I was going to get ahead of my vomiting all over myself and the bed. I constantly impress her. She’s impressed with the fact that I wore a dress that just slipped over my head, and required no movement on my part. That I knew to wear sneakers and not sandals, given that we were in Florida. She was impressed with how I dealt with everything, but at the same time, I knew this wasn’t my first time being here.

They lowered me into a wheelchair and I saw the monstrosity left on my right leg. Before all, I could do was imagine what it looked like tucked under the blanket. They wheeled me out to the car, and that’s when my life had the chance at the beginning again. I remember getting my phone back and letting my then-boyfriend and best friend know I had made it out of surgery, although it was only my best friend who was texting my mom throughout the procedure. 

At that time I had no idea what was going to come. I had no idea the pain that was ahead of me, the fears, the possible infection, and the months of therapy. I had no idea if the surgery would work. Now, three years later, I am wiser but only marginally in a better place. After being home last week, I saw the way my ankle swelled like it used to. I joked that my ankle must remember what happened in Florida because, for a long time, I was in pain with standing and growing impatient with walking around. But in New York, I walk close to 3-miles a day, if not more, and I am fine.

I wake up most mornings, forgetting all the surgeries and the pain, and other days I can’t help but remember. I can’t help but remember the way the sutures rub against the fiberglass cast. I can’t help but remember the mornings and days spent in my bed, wondering if I can push myself to walk sooner. I remember the day I decided to stop my pain medication and what it felt like to finally lift the fog, but then submerge myself in a new pain of withdrawal. I remember screaming out in the night because I wanted to rip the skin off my body. After all, there was nothing I could do to get comfortable. I see the photos of myself before, during, and after and see the way the light comes back to my eyes, but I remember the night I woke up yelling for help.

I am past all that, but sometimes it is still hard to move forward from it. 

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?

Self-Love

Although most stores have had their Valentine’s Day decor, candy, and cards up since December, we just barely into the month of February. And as the shelves dwindle as loved ones buy gifts for their significant others, it leaves some of the world happy with the love they are feeling and others longing or sad over the same emotions. This time of year always reminds me of these underlying feelings of wanting to be loved and not lonely and February is an interesting month to dive into the topic.

Ever since we were children, this has been a holiday to show love towards our classmates by filling out cartoon character cards and fastening a candy to the small note. But then as you got older, the holiday became polarizing because there was no longer a day in a class dedicated to decorating a shoebox for your mailbox. Still, instead, it was “whose your valentine?” It no longer was this holiday centered around others but centered around yourself and one other person. And that can be a bit isolating, especially if someone was single, be it for an extended period or after a fresh break-up.

Ever since the holiday has changed for our adult selves, you learn about spin-off holidays like Galentine’s Day or forget about the day altogether. I recently read an article on Zoella’s website that listed 20 Things to Do in February. If you don’t know what Zoella is, or rather who, Zoe Sugg is a British Youtuber who is well known for her beauty videos, style, and lifestyle. She has excellent articles about delicious recipes and mental health, and she’s a blogger that I have looked up to.

I thought all of her suggestions were both comical, like “2. Treat yourself for getting through the longest month of the year. Huzzah!” or inspiring like “14. Do something for Random Acts of Kindness Day” but overall relateable “17. Restart your failed NY resolutions. We go again – new month, new me…” and focused on relationships. This goes along with the message I wanted to get across in this post—there’s more to Valentine’s Day and February than just romance and relationships. And really it should be about caring for ourselves as well.

And although those who are coupled up tend to forget about loving ourselves and focus solely on our partners, I think there is a lot we can do for ourselves to makes sure we too feel the love regardless of our relationship status. I decided to list my own “20 Things” to hopefully inspire you to get out there and find time for yourself.

 

 

20 Things To Do for Yourself in February 

  1. Reward yourself for a small victory, be it a promotion or getting out of bed before 10:00 am on the weekend.
  2. Buy a bouquet of flowers for yourself at the grocery store and put it on your coffee table, so you are always reminded of them.
  3. Have a night where you put on a face mask and watch a movie that has been on your Netflix Watch List for years now.
  4. Write yourself a letter and talk about what you are currently excited for and proud of, keep it safe, and date it for you to open shortly.
  5. Take the time to read for 20 minutes, go on a walk around your neighborhood, or practice something creative that you enjoy.
  6. Treat yourself to a movie, and get a large popcorn and Slurpee all for yourself.
  7. Visit a store that you live and peruse the shelves or displays and find a new book, clothing item, or be it anything you like.
  8. Learn a new recipe, and take the time to enjoy a nice dinner that you made for yourself to enjoy.
  9. Put the phone down before bed and actually try to get 8 hours of sleep one night.
  10. Get up and make time for breakfast!
  11. Pick out an outfit the night before that makes you feel confident and beautiful.
  12.  Learn something new.
  13. Take time out of your day to meditate or just reflect on the day and what is to come.
  14. Tidy your space and light a few candles.
  15. If you have a busy schedule, make sure to set aside an hour dedicated to “me time.”
  16. Listen to a podcast, find some new music, or pick a new audiobook for the month.
  17. Make your bed in the morning, so you already start the day by completing a simple task.
  18. Allow yourself to take a pause and reflect on your feelings.
  19. Define three daily goals for yourself and set to it that you complete each one/
  20. Get yourself a treat or grab a bite from your favorite restaurant.

 

Little Women—Book and Movie Review

Before I get started, I must say that this blog post will contain some spoilers as talking about them is somewhat crucial for my opinion of both the book and the movie. 

I frequent the AMC on 84th street and on 68th Street quite regularly. I have a membership with the theater that allows me to see movies at a discounted rate for the month, or at least see on during the month for the same price. Because of that, I see a lot of trailers, and a lot of the same trailers while there. One that always caught my attention was Little Women with its star-studded cast and, of course, seeing myself in Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan, as the heroine known for her writing and a quite progressive stance on women.

In the trailer, over beautiful scenes from the film, you hear the angst and pain in Ronan’s voice when she says, “Women, they have minds, and they have souls as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for, I’m just sick of it.” I watched the trailer end for the first time and immediately knew I wanted to see it the second it came out.

But then in the back of my mind, I knew it is based on the 1868 novel written by Louisa May Alcott. It was a book most everyone has seen in some capacity. There are trendy Urban Outfitters versions,  illustrated, coffee table worthy versions, paperback, hardcover, leather-bound, fabric coated, vintage, and new-age versions. Its a classic in all sense of the word, but as I scroll through Goodread and converse with other women my age, most of my cohort have marked the book “to-be-read.” Before January, I saw the book, always said I would like to read more classics, but it wasn’t until I saw the trailer did I actively go out to seek a copy of the book. In fact, the first book store I stopped in looking but it was sold out of every print they had. 

After not seeing the movie on Christmas Day, I put off seeing it until I had a copy of the book in my hands and had read it. Something I do very commonly is read the books after I have watched the movie. I’ve done that with too many good stories, although it’s rare for me to not like both of them had I seen the adaptation first, I know everyone says, “the books are always better.”

So, a friend and I vowed to read it together and go and watch the movie once we were both done. And before I get into my overall thoughts, I want to talk about my expectations that I had from the trailer and how that really did impact the way I read my copy of Little Women.

I was SO ready for this novel all about female empowerment and independence and chasing dreams and not boys, but then again, I got that, but not to the extent that I wanted.

The novel follows the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Throughout the story, they are anywhere from pre-teen to their early twenties and are doing what they can to support their family while the father is away during the war. Everyone has something that they enjoy, but I took to Jo quite quickly as she was the writer, and in many ways, I saw Alcott projecting herself within Jo’s character as I do in my own writing. Jo is proud of what she writes, she learns to write for herself and allow the money to become a bonus. She holds a complicated but platonic relationship with the neighbor, Laurie, who becomes an important character throughout. He can be a great friend at times and pushed the envelope at others, but in the back of your mind, you cheer for him and Jo’s relationship because of how it seems as though he genuinely cares.

But for the majority of the book, you experience Jo’s loss. You see how she struggles with death, and when her sisters marry, she leaves home thinking it would save her friendship, and she grapples with this concept of love and knowing women can do more than just love, and part of me wanted Jo to remain independent. Its the eye roll at the end of the trailer that has me believing Jo will be that heroine, but then she marries an advisor of her’s, “the professor,” Mr. Bhaer.

Outside of this sudden shift of my expectation, Allcott write beautiful characters to life that has you beliving these are your friends and not fictions. They exhibit a series of struggles, sacrifices, flaws, and kindness. They are characteristics all of us strive to understand and exhibit, and at the same time, their characters can be believable. There is more to the story that I can critique, but I think its also necessary to touch on how the movie impacted my opinion.

At first, I was disappointed in the book because I didn’t necessarily want Jo to end up with anyone, and part of me was knowing that that was selfish. I wanted a female character that embodied “making it on your own” and wondered if Jo settled when she married the only other man we have to know her to be intimately acquainted with—outside of the publisher.

But then you watch the movie, you see how Jo embodies that. The book’s story is posed in almost two different realities within the movie—where flashbacks and foreshadowing of the story as opposed to the chronological telling from the book. Outside of that, the ages of the men, and the fact that the professor was French and not German, there was nothing glaringly upsetting about how the story was retold in the film. In fact, I felt the movie almost made me appreciate the book a bit more.

While I was reading, I told you that for selfish reasons I wanted Jo to follow her dreams and not marry; I wanted the rouge telling of a single woman making waves in her occupation, but then you listen to the pain in Ronan’s voice and come to remember there is nothing wrong with wanting human interaction. That being lonely isn’t some flaw to the female character, and her desire for companionship doesn’t discredit her career pursuits—it in ways showcases how forming that connection can improve our mental health and benefit our work.

I also appreciate the added interaction with Jo and Mr. Dashwood, the publisher. I loved seeing how the director, writer, and producer shined a light on the publishing community. Being someone who would love to work in the contracts department, I understand how much can benefit the company versus the writer, and love how she negotiated for better pay and the copyright. I felt it was an accurate description of how the publishers know what will sell, and how the end of the book could have changed because if Louisa May did base Jo off of herself, she did not marry.

I really do appreciate that I read the book first and went to see the film, and I look forward to doing that more with other novels!

 

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! 

New York, Unfocused

There’s a chill in the air. Everyone is bustling past, clenching their hoods tighter around their necks, or hunkering under scaffolding and billowing umbrellas. It’s wet outside. The rain pours down heavier and heavier until the fronts of your jeans are soaked, and droplets run down your jacket sleeves. Puddles are collecting on the street. Cars whip past spraying a wall of water onto unsuspecting pedestrians who focus more on looking down and getting home vs. what lies ahead. It’s dark outside. The streetlights shine out and illuminate the falling mist and low hanging fog. You can see who is home and what apartments are empty; you can see just how New York is getting by during the rainstorm.

While I stood, and when I walked, I watched the city come in and out of focus. I walked out of the house with just a raincoat and a pair of Docs (well and other clothes as well). My hair was platted into two separate dutch braids that follow my skull and curve down by either ear. I have my hood up, but no umbrella—part of me knew it was raining, but the other part didn’t know how much it was. For most of my walk from 80th street to Lincoln Center, it rained hard, but I had stepped out of the house wearing my glasses.

Why that last sentence is so important is because wearing glasses during a rainstorm is almost as bad as driving during one with no windshield wipers. The droplets form on the glass and streak down when they become too heavy. You could have big drops, little drops, and sized drops in between, but there is never anything to help wipe it all away. So when I leave the house with glasses on when it’s raining, they immediately go into my pocket—leaving me in this unfocused world that feels intimately alienating.

At this point, I love to be outside without my contacts on. There are no faces until they are right next to me. There are no signs, ads, or stores to distract me. There were just lights everywhere. The Apple Store on 67th and Broadway looked like a sun, the Hotel Empire sign glowed like a red halo over the skyscrapers.

I didn’t need any street signs, I knew where I was going. So I walked along and allowed the city that so famously catches everyone’s eye, fall to the background of everything else that lingered within in it. I paid more attention to the people around me because part of me wanted to see the face that was once a blur. I looked more at how the buildings reflected in the puddle like a mirror putting a scene into focus. I noticed the way the lights blurred when the cars drove past, and how the city seemed to calm down once you couldn’t see everything that was happening around you.