The Soul Year: Confronting Expectations, Redefining Success, and Laughing in Failure’s Face

Hello everyone! It’s been a hot minute.

I’m intentionally taking a step back from my blog right now, to refocus my life on what’s truly important and what I want this space to look like moving forward.

That being said, I’ve been talking to other young twenty-somethings from around the world over the past few months, and I’ve made some maybe-conclusions (???) about a few things.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking a break from college right now, for at least a year. Before I made this decision, I spoke with professors, classmates, friends, family members, and other mentors for guidance. Many cautioned against taking a year (or more) off, warning that I wouldn’t return. That I wouldn’t “reach my potential”. That I wouldn’t be happy.

Ultimately, however, the decision was mine alone, and I knew it was necessary.

Calling this a “gap year” doesn’t really seem right, so I’m opting to call it a soul year. A year (or more) where I can truly listen to my heart, without feeling like everything I do should be resume-worthy, grad-school-application-worthy, or interview-worthy.  Instead, I just want my life to feel worthy. 

Finding a new home can be difficult. It doesn't have to be.

There are so many expectations placed upon us at such a young age. Our lives are essentially laid out for us from birth: SchoolCollegeJobMarriageKidsDeath. With some other stuff in there, maybe.

Instead, I just want my life to feel worthy. 

I thought about taking a year off before I began college. I thought about it again after my freshman year. After my sophomore year of college, I knew I had to just take the leap and do it.

I was drained.

Annoyed.

Tired.

Wrestling with feelings of unworthiness, sadness, and failure.

As someone who always performed well academically, I was incredibly weighed down by expectations of greatness. I placed expectations on myself that were influenced by society and adults I admired, both of which spoke goodness and failure into my life.

I wrestled with questions like Does an accomplishment matter if it isn’t grand enough for my resume? If I can’t write a twenty-page research paper about it with twelve APA sources and six points to prove my argument? and The major I’ve chosen won’t result in a high paycheck…. is there still a point in majoring in it if it’s not impressive? It got to a point where I was constantly comparing my accomplishments to others’. I was deeply unhappy at school, and I felt as though I could never do enough.

I was deeply unhappy at school, and I felt as though I could never do enough.

On the flip side, if I took some time off, it’s statistically unlikely that I would return to school. This meant that I was signing up for a lower salary, less scholarship money when I did return, graduating later than my peers, and being labeled as a “college dropout”.

Both sides seemed dreadfully undesirable.

Eventually, I knew I had to make a decision. I chose by mentally placing myself in both arenas. The first: remaining a full-time social work student, overwhelmed by comparison and questions. The second: working full-time, traveling, and making intentional time for the pursuit of new hobbies and self-development.

The choice became clear.

I am choosing to make this year about personal development. I want to stare the questions, the comparisons, the doubts that constantly plague my mind right in the face. I want to develop new hobbies and invest time in the things I already know I love. I want to learn to let go of both material and emotional baggage. I want to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

I want to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Then came a bigger question: how will I define personal success, if not through academic accomplishments?

My entire life has been categorized and defined by awards, scholarships, roles in theatre, titles in after-school clubs, and report cards. How would I feel successful without such a definitive measurement of it?

I’m still figuring out the answer to this question.

Here’s what I have learned so far, though, and a bit of advice for those who also feel stuck.

We all have expectations, both internal and external.

It’s not wrong to have expectations. I think they’re a good thing, actually. Another word for this is goals, which we all know I’m a huge fan of (hehehe). Before I went to India in August, I made a list of goals for this fall that I wanted to work toward. I refined the list when I returned, and added a list of hobbies I wanted to pursue, some personal development questions I wanted to answer, and a sort of bucket list for these few months.

The key is to recognize when expectations become unhealthy. I expected myself to graduate with a degree in International Studies from the University of Denver in the spring of 2019, and y’all, that is not what happened (PTL, amiright?). When I transferred and was still unhappy, I realized that perhaps it was not solely the school environment that I was uncomfortable with. So, I adjusted my personal expectations, and I’m ignoring societal expectations, for now.

Be gentle with yourself.

I was brokenhearted when I realized by big dream of living in Denver was not going to be realized. I was confused when I transferred and still hated school. I was in love when I traveled, and that’s all I knew. I’ve fallen in love with many more things over the past few months, and I’m still falling.

I think the most jarring thing about this whole process was realizing that the plan I’d made for myself a little over two years ago was so, completely, wholly wrong. And it’s taken me a long, long, long time to come to terms with this. At first, I bullied myself into staying in school, because I felt as though I wouldn’t be successful without a degree. After a while, I learned that having a mean spirit won’t get you anywhere either. Recognize when you are pushing yourself too hard.

Follow your heart.

Fam, I’m not trying to be cliche. At all. But had I stuck with my original plan, I would be dreadfully unhappy.

So, instead, I listened to my heart. I spoke to my soul. I responded to the whispers from the universe. I now work in the customer service industry, which I love. I get to meet new people and have interesting conversations and talk all day at work and honestly, the energy from other people fuels my happiness more than the energy from textbooks.

I am endlessly thankful for the opportunities I am provided every day to improve myself, even if I am uncomfortable and stretched and awkward in the process. There isn’t really a way to do this thing smoothly, is there? (If you know how, hmu pls.)

And finally, the biggest thing I’ve learned: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Literally, everyone is comparing their accomplishments to everyone else’s. There are SO. MANY. PEOPLE. who are unhappily running through life at a million-mile-an-hour pace because that’s how we operate here in America.

Breathe.

Love.

Find joy in small moments.

We’re all having this crazy experience of life together, and we need to support each other. Know that there are other paths and opportunities for you, if you allow them to come into your life. Hear this: You will never be alone in any of this. Your heart will not lead you astray–let’s listen in together.

Advertisements

Wait to Date: Why the “Date-to-Marry” Mentality Can Be Toxic

For all of high school, I subscribed to the belief that dating without the intention of marriage is pointless. Why would you waste your time with a significant other if you couldn’t see yourself marrying them? Why invest time, money, emotions, resources, etc. if you didn’t picture a future with them?

This largely stemmed from my religious practices in high school. I was (and still am) Christian, and I read a lot of books by Christian women who advised dating only when ready for marriage, whenever that may be. I followed Christian influencers on social media who had similar ideas. I knew all the sayings and quotes about saving yourself (sexually or otherwise) for the right guy. I had conversation upon conversation with my Christian female friends about “protecting your heart” and “praying for guidance” when it comes to dating and marriage.

Essentially, I was the girl waving the flag shouting, “ALL RELATIONSHIPS END IN BREAKUP OR MARRIAGE!!!!” 

Which, at its core, is true. Romantic relationships will, inevitably, end in a breakup or a marriage (unless you take a break or don’t believe in marriage or a thousand other scenarios, but I’m talking conventional here). I do still sometimes give this advice to younger girls who ask me for it.

I also know I am not the only girl (or guy) who has adopted this approach to dating. The Internet is full of hercampus and the Odyssey articles about this topic. There are checklists titled things like “differences between the girl you date and the woman you marry”. There are formulas for “dating the right way” and how-tos for “dating to marry”. There are thinkpieces on when it’s appropriate to let your children date, because you want them to be marriage-ready when they first step off your stoop and into a car with someone else.

Newsflash: there is no one formula that will get you the perfect relationship. There is not a checklist, an equation, a perfect approach.

I have come to realize that there are some very toxic mentalities that accompany this “date to marry” mindset, and I am here to lay some of those out today. And as always, all opinions and experiences expressed are mine… if you had a different experience than I did, that’s awesome! I’d love to hear about it. These are my thoughts on this, and we can differ. What a privilege to be human and different, amiright?!

Why the -Date-To-Marry- Mentality can be Toxic

I didn’t date until the very end of my senior year, and it was a short relationship that ended before I moved to Colorado (while he’d be staying in Minnesota). My second relationship started soon after, the autumn right after I moved to Colorado. Although it was also relatively short, it was brimming with passion and probably-too-soon “I-love-yous” and planning for the future together, like, two months in. In fact, all of my relationships have followed this path: falling for each other incredibly quickly, saying “I love you” in a matter of weeks, planning for the future waaaaaayyyy too soon, etc. Then when we would break up (after only a few months), it was heartbreaking. Soul-crushing. Absolutely, downright horrible.

For a long time, I wondered what I was doing wrong.

I was invested. I was loving. I tried to spend time with them, to plan, to pray, to align my dreams with theirs. Wasn’t I doing everything right?

I started to notice something. I see a cute guy and RIGHT AWAY I am already picturing our wedding, our five kids, the photos of our world travels adorning the walls of our kitchen. And I’m sure some of that is just personality: I’m a dreamer, a planner, and a wedding lover. I can’t help it! But one day, after relationship after relationship was failing, I realized something:

The “date-to-marry” mentality puts too high of expectations on imperfect people in a new relationship.

You’re both figuring the other person out. You’re both stumbling through life. So you found someone similar enough to spend this time in your life with–that’s fantastic! Now spend this time with them, and let the future come when it does.

Spend this time with them, and let the future come when it does.

For the control freaks in the room (aka me!!), that’s fucking scary. You want to control the future ASAP. You want to lock them in (lol), get that commitment, hear that “I love you”. You don’t have time for games, you want need this one to be The One.

Below, I’ve listed some bullet points that include advice, reminders, suggestions, and tips for dating without this expectation of marriage. And of course, there is a time and place to talk about the future, especially as your relationship grows lengthier and you start to blend your lives more and more. But don’t let that become the main theme. Don’t begin talking about marriage two months in. Don’t get caught up in expectations.

Things to Consider, Advice, Mistakes and Lessons… etc.

1. Dating more than one person allows you the space to figure out what you want — and what you don’t — in a significant other.

If you date one person and end up marrying them, that’s so amazing and I am so so so happy for you! You’re pretty much living my high school dream life, lol.

BUT for the rest of us whose first relationships didn’t work out…. that’s okay. I learned lot from my past relationships. I learned so much about myself, and what I need to work on. I learned about what kind of expectations are realistic… and what isn’t. And best of all, I got to know another person. Isn’t that the entire point of life? To form relationships and make memories and enrich your life the best you can?

2. Learn to let go of some control.

This is always so hard for me to hear, but it’s so so so necessary:

Having too much control is never a good thing.

Allow the relationship to run its course… whether it’s awesome or shitty, or maybe (probably) both. Just enjoy it! Don’t worry about whether or not (s)he’s The One. If he/she has a habit that annoys you, don’t sit up nights journaling about whether or not that’s a dealbreaker or will fuck up your kids in the future or whatnot. Honestly, just let the relationship happen. Enjoy getting to know the other person! You are into someone else and someone else is into you! Isn’t that just amazing in and of itself?!

My advice for this? Don’t blend your lives too quickly. Y’all don’t need to be into all the same things, do everything together, or even have the same core values (unless that’s hella important to you… which then by all means, stick to your guns!!!). I actually had a guy once mention my love for poetry slams while we were breaking up. Like?????? That’s why I have poet friends?????

Let the relationship happen. Don’t force the future. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Rest in that.

3. Don’t!!! Save!!! All!!! Your!!! Firsts!!! For!!! One!!! Person!!!

What is a “first”?

This could be anything, but I know HELLA people do this.

A “first” could be physical/sexual, experiential (visiting places, etc), relational (saying “I love you”, etc), or anything else you consider to be significant.

Banking all your relationship “firsts” on one person is not only stressful for both parties involved, but it’s a hotbed for shame, regret, and heartache if 1) the experience doesn’t live up to what you’ve built it up to be in your head and 2) you break up. Here’s the truth of life: some relationships just don’t work out. If you saved everything for one person and you break up, how will you feel? I know I felt used. Angry. Broken. Like I’d wasted everything I’d always considered important on the “wrong person”. Honestly, I felt dumb.

In addition, if you saved firsts for someone with the expectation that someone else would be waiting for you too, you honestly never know that you’ll find that. Ask yourself honestly: if you knew you’d be saving your firsts for someone who wasn’t, would you be saving them? This could honestly be anything from sex to roadtripping. Decide what you’re waiting to experience because it’s important for you, versus you want someone else to have that first with you too. Because truthfully, that may never happen. Will you be disappointed if you saved your firsts and they didn’t?

4. There’s nothing wrong with expectations… but check yourself.

The “date-to-marry” mentality, at least for me, has always bred SERIOUS expectations. This is in both myself and the other person.

In the other person, you might subconsciously expect that they’re instantly going to be this incredible person that’s just made of spouse material. They will put you first. Love you unconditionally. Incredibly. You will be their first priority behind God.

In yourself, you expect that your firsts will be with them (see no. 3). You expect that you’ll have this amazing, movie-like connection. You’ll prioritize them, love them endlessly, become instant spouse-material (as if you weren’t already!!!).

As Joshua Fields Millburn from the Minimalists said in a podcast I heard yesterday:

Lower your expectations, but raise your standards.

There is nothing wrong with expecting certain things from your significant other. This might be amount of time spent together, the way they treat you alone or in front of others, how much you have in common, the amount of money they spend on you, literally anything.

But you have to recognize that they (and you!!!) will mess up. No one is perfect. And if you live your life with this “date-to-marry” mentality, when they inevitably mess up, you’ll be left gasping for air, wondering if this is really right. If they’re really The One. You’ll be crushed, because your expectations were too high. If you’re thinking about marriage from square one, is there really isn’t room for mistakes? Is there really room to wonder if the other person isn’t right?

5. And finally, know this: being in love more than once is okay.

It’s possible.

You aren’t used up.

You are not a slut.

Love isn’t constricted to one person. I remember once Googling “is it possible to love more than one person in a lifetime” when the first guy I loved had been in love with someone else before and I was terrified that he wouldn’t be able to fully love me.

What???????

I laugh looking back at that. But honestly, it’s a true fear I had. Ladies (and gentlemen and any other people of other genders), hear this: it’s okay to be in love more than once. In fact, it’s pretty fucking common. It’s normal as hell. You’re amazing and worthy of love from more than one person.


All in all, I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences with dating to marry. That mindset has NOT worked for me, and I wanted to caution others away from this mentality. But again, these are my opinions, thoughts, and experiences. If you had other experiences, that is so awesome. I’m so glad for you, honestly! But for those of you who have had relationships fall apart, I wrote this for you. If you’ve ever felt like you wasted your love, I wrote this for you. If you ever had your expectations come back and hit you hard in the face, I wrote this for you.

I’ve been there, and it’s not fun. It’s pretty fucking shitty. But know that you will find happiness. You will find happiness. You will find happiness.

You’re fucking gold. Hear that today.

How to Adjust to Moving Back Home + Other Unexpected College Failures

How do you come to terms with the fact that what you’d been working for your whole life doesn’t live up to expectations? That you aren’t thriving, like everyone else seems to be? That the person you are becoming isn’t who you wanted to be?

This is one of those posts I’ve had in the making for a looooong time. It’s been sitting in my “for later” folder, and every time I start a new post I am taunted by this one, smirking at me from my drafts. I’m gonna get really raw and real in this post, so bear with me as i try to navigate my thoughts about moving back home, as well as some other unexpected failures I’ve experienced over the past two years.

How to Adjust to moving back home

I started college searching sophomore year of high school. I think really started to feel the pressure when one of my teachers told my parents that I would probably end up attending an Ivy League school, and seeing the beams on my parents’ faces was so rewarding, after years of working my butt off.

Flash back to a little over two years ago. I was in the thick of college tours, admissions emails, and college letter after college letter in the mail, universities’ mass mailings basically falling out of the mailbox, it was so stuffed. I never threw away one letter a college sent me, and I would periodically sort through them. I opened every single one. I took “find your major” quizzes online and I used the Naviance college finder. I went on seventeen college tours over two different states, and I met with countless admissions officers and department heads and current students.

To say the least, I was obsessed with finding the exact. right. college. 

Here’s what I didn’t know: I had no (???) idea what I wanted out of a college. Like at all. All I knew was that I wanted to choose one and graduate from the same school I’d entered into four years previous.

First, I wanted a huuuuge out of state school. I looked at schools in California and Colorado, and I looked at Texas Christian University, one of the largest schools in the nation.

Then, I wanted a tiny Christian school where I could major in Worship Leading. I toured four of said “tiny Christian” schools, and I changed my plan. Lol.

I landed on a medium-sized, private university in suburban Denver, Colorado. For my Minnesota peeps, think very St. Thomas-esque. Not exactly Ivy League, but it was an adventure, something different than what I thought my classmates were planning. I really felt as though God confirmed my decision again and again, and I was confident in my commitment to this university. I selected a major in International Studies with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance (say that five times fast, lol).

I was so pumped to be moving almost 1000 miles away from home. I was so excited for this new adventure, and it really felt like I was beginning a new chapter in my life.

My first quarter at this university was incredible. It was everything I had hoped and dreamed for. I could not have asked for a better ten weeks: I had amazing friends, a gorgeous boyfriend, and I was academically challenged.

The next two quarters? Not so much. (You can read about my experiences here. I could definitely go more in depth, but this is an overview of my life in April 2016.)

I dropped out of my dream school. I regressed enormously mentally and emotionally. I had no idea what to do.

I wanted to transfer, but I always said I wanted to go to one school and just thrive there. I wanted a solid group of friends, which I didn’t really have. I wanted to be confident in my major, and I hated my classes. I went through the worst few months of my life, and I honestly don’t know how I survived (literally). Everything I’d ever wanted and dreamed about was falling apart before my eyes, and I was unable to stop it. I felt completely powerless. Discouraged does not even begin to describe what I was feeling.

Discouraged does not even begin to describe what I was feeling.

So, I turned to alcohol. I turned to self harm. I turned to sleeping, crying, and daydreaming about just buying a plane ticket and reinventing myself.

I think the biggest disappointment was the failed expectations I’d had of myself for eighteen years, let alone the perceived expectations I thought my family, friends, and educators had of me. College was NOT what I’d thought it would be, and I didn’t know how to come to terms with that.

How do you come to terms with the fact that what you’d been working for your whole life doesn’t live up to expectations? That you aren’t thriving, like everyone else seems to be? That the person you are becoming isn’t who you wanted to be?

I’ve been wrestling with these questions for over a year, and I still don’t have the answers. But I’ve learned a lot, and that’s what I’m here to share.


As I mentioned above, I switched what I wanted in a college a number of times. I was eighteen, I had no idea what I wanted from life, and I was scared to shit. I knew I wanted to take cute instas and meet cute boys (the only two important things in life, amiright?) I didn’t know what extracurriculars I was interested in. I didn’t know what I wanted from a degree…. To be honest, I didn’t even know that I really cared to get a degree.

Everything I did, I did because I thought I was supposed to do it. I rushed Greek life and hated the thought of it (and the price tag, tbh). I selected a major that I thought would be interesting and make me a lot of money. I tried to look ultra-cool on social media.

Nothing I was doing was in line with what I truly wanted, deep down in my core.

This past January, I subbed as a leader for a 7th and 8th grade girls’ church retreat in Alexandria, MN. The speaker said something Saturday night I’ll never forget.

What if God called you to work at a Starbucks in Roseville full-time? Would you listen?

Would I? Would I listen if the calling on my life wasn’t to be this amazing, brave, incredible world traveler who everyone else seems to be jealous of?

That was what I wanted (and still kind of want) for my life. I wanted to be cool, to have adventure after adventure, to have an amazing group of friends, to have all the greatest immaterial things life has to offer.

And it’s been a hard reality check to realize that even if these things are coming for me, they aren’t here right now.

Because now, I am a student at a small, all-female college 30 minutes from my hometown.

To me, that doesn’t sound like an adventure. That sounds incredibly boring. Like everything I’ve ever worked for didn’t matter in the end. 

It feels like a letdown. Like I’ve fallen incredibly short of the expectations I had for myself. Like the person I always envisioned myself to be was left in my first quarter at the University of Denver. It feels like the big adventure that was supposed to be the Start to all the Other Adventures didn’t live up to expectations… so does that mean all the plans I have for the rest of my life will be like this, too?

Looking back, however, I have learned more about myself than I ever would have imagined. I completed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a form of PTSD therapy. I found an interest in Buddhist and Hindu art. I fell in love with slam poetry. I strengthened my passion for a Capella music. I deepened my love for students, and discovered a special place in my heart for middle school students.

These are all things I would not have discovered about myself, had I not tried and failed at another university. And this just begs the question: what else will I discover about myself?

Moving back home has been the biggest, weirdest part of this whole adventure. Sometimes, I’ll be driving in an unfamiliar part of the Twin Cities, and suddenly feel like I’m back in Denver. I start to panic because I’m confused and would dread to live there again, but then I just have to gently remind myself that I am home, safe, and loved.

I’ve been walking through a long and confusing healing process. I’m mourning the person I wanted to be, and the person I didn’t get to be. I’m mourning the place I once loved. I’m mourning the confusing heartache. I’m feeling this. I’m allowing the healing to come through.

And this is the most important part: recognizing that it is hard. This is hard stuff. Don’t lighten the feeling. It’s a kind of death, realizing that the person and place you wanted to be aren’t in line with reality.

Remember that this is a part of growing up. Our expectations and our reality won’t always match….but that’s where you need to have grace with yourself. It might take time, and that’s okay. It might take a loooooot longer than you expected, but you’ll get there.

These years are incredibly weird and formative and require a lot of soul-searching.

As for me? I’m trying to remember that just because the crazy plan I had two years ago didn’t work out, doesn’t mean all the rest of my plans won’t work out. I’d still love to go to all seven continents, get married, join the Peace Corps, and adopt a kid or two. I would absolutely love to live all over the world. I still plan on backpacking around Europe.

If it takes me a little longer to get there, that’s okay. And I’m learning to be okay with that.

Why I Stopped Wearing a Bra

Okay, y’all. It’s time to get #real. I’ve started and reworked this post approximately five million times over the past three months, but it’s time to get down to business: in October, I stopped wearing a bra every day. Here’s why.

why-i-stopped

Maybe you’ve seen the headlines–every news source seems to have covered this popular new trend, from the Huffington Post to Bustle to USA Today. Or maybe you’ve heard of the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Women are going braless in droves, and maybe you’ve wondered why. Why would women forgo arguably one of the most important pieces of clothing? Granted, there are a number of downsides, from needing to hold my boobs when I go up or down stairs to aching nips from direct exposure to whatever fabric my shirt is made from. But in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. In this post, I’m getting into the nitty gritty: what’s it really like? Is it right for you? Why is it important?

1. The Why

Last year, I grew two bra sizes. I went to Victoria’s Secret on a whim and got measured, just for the heck of it, and I grew two sizes! I’d been wearing the same size bra since, like, eighth grade, so this news was SO. EXCITING. The sales lady celebrated with me (I’m sure she was just salivating over the commission she was going to make) as I brought like ten bras into the fitting room in celebration. I ended up purchasing only one, but it was $78. Seventy-eight dollars! Almost eight hours of work at any one of my various jobs. And this was no ordinary bra–it was one of those ultra-sexy bombshell beautiful babe bras. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.

I definitely got my $78 worth, because I wore it all the time. I went like three months without taking it off. I felt gorgeous, and I wore low-cut tops to show off my brand-new set of boobs. When I went out with friends, I made sure to wear clothes that showcased my new favorite accessory. I let my boobs go to my head, if that’s even a thing. Sometimes I even contoured my cleavage just for the fun of it. I bought a second bra a few months later, spending the same amount of money on just another item of clothing I already owned. What???

They were kind of comfortable, I guess (keywords: I guess). Not $78 comfortable, but they were, nonetheless.

When it was laundry day, I didn’t want to take them off, because what would people think?! I could not, would not be caught braless. I mean, obviously my chest wasn’t as big as these bras made them seem. What was I to do?! The only solution was to do laundry at off times, to only wash one at a time (and do twice the load, therefore wasting twice the amount of water, etc.), or hand wash them. So. Much. Work.

I was totally participating in the horrible women-shaming culture ideals that preach that women aren’t worthwhile unless they have triple-D cups and a tiny waist–the exact culture I was trying to combat. I was completely investing into everything I said I was against: the ideal body type, the sexualization of the female body, putting your worth in your body.

And here’s the thing: I never measured up–to my own standard’s or anyone else’s.

2. The When

Living in Denver, a notoriously liberal city, I had casually noticed that many girls were choosing to go braless. I thought to myself Oh, that is so awesome! Props to them, but that’s not for me. I guess I approached it the way I approach girls who don’t shave (which I still do, but am totally intrigued by the concept of). The deciding moment, though, was at an anti-Trump rally. Classic liberal move, am I right? Lol.

My friends and I were on Capitol Hill in downtown Denver right off of Colfax, high on the buzz of cohesive protest. The woman behind me was holding up some sign of protest on her piece of cardboard, wearing just a flimsy red tank top with nothing underneath. I remember being so in awe of her openness. She was chanting along with the crowd, totally unnerved by my eyes. I know I was being totally rude, but I just couldn’t believe it! Sometimes, I even slept with sports bras on. I literally couldn’t even imagine going out in public on a chilly-ish night with just a thin tank top on.

I had already been quietly toying with the idea of going braless once and a while when I wore a sweatshirt or something. But seriously, seeing this woman’s bravery and complete lack of caring about other’s opinions was SO inspiring!

3. The What

The next few weeks served as a test-run.

I wore bras without underwire to a job interview and to rehearsals and stuff, to appear a little more “professional” (because boobs are so unprofessional *eye roll*). I tried wearing different kinds of shirts with and without bras, to see how it felt. And quite honestly, the first month was very uncomfortable.

It’s gonna get a lil TMI here for a second. You’ve been warned.

Y’all, my nips were SORE. Like, sore sore. As in, red and painful and all of the other cringe-y words that you don’t want to see associated with the word “nipple”.

I did a little research on this. My idea was that maybe, because my boobs have been so lovingly sheltered and protected my whole life, they were just not used to the harsh reality of fabric. My suspicions were confirmed with a quick Google search. Nips don’t like the roughness of fabric right away.

Thankfully, this went away after about a month. I am thankful I stuck it out though. However, there were (and still are) other challenges.

It is very obvious when someone is staring (which I totally know I did to that woman in Denver, lol). Like, hey men!, newsflash!, women can tell when you aren’t looking at our eyes when you’re talking to us! When you don’t wear a bra though, everyone notices. Then they awkwardly look away, like they weren’t supposed to see your nips or something. As if they’ve NEVER seen nipples before, lol.

I went to the gym a few times without a bra on, which was still great but pretty painful. I have now allowed myself to wear sports bras to the gym.

Of course, we all know what happens when we get cold. I’ve learned to deal with the social response of having visible nips when it’s cold out. I live in Minnesota, for Pete’s sake. It’s going to happen people, deal with it.

There are jackets I own where the zipper annoyingly rubs right on my nips and it’s actually really painful. When I know I’m going to wear those jackets, I either wear a thicker shirt underneath, fold the jacket out in such a way so it doesn’t touch my chest, zip the jacket part way, or I’ll just wear the Calvin Klein bra I own as another physical barrier to the pain.

4. Why it’s worth it, regardless

As I previously mentioned, I spent $78 on two different bras. And to be completely honest, I’ve considered spending more. $78 is pretty typical for a quality, sexy bra pricetag. Of course, I have the staple lace bralette to wear under my nicer, meet-the-parents-type dresses and a sports bra for working out, but those are just cherries on an already overwhelming sundae. Now, I don’t spend money on bras. I still have the bras from Victoria’s Secret, but I don’t really wear them. I don’t even have them at college with me.

I don’t need to consider what a shirt or dress or something would look like with a different type of bra. In addition, I don’t need to buy a special kind of bra for a certain style of clothing (backless, strapless, etc.).

The CONFIDENCE I have gained is the most significant benefit. I have become unapologetic about my body, and my chest in particular. I can totally see when people notice, but I literally just don’t care anymore. My self-worth isn’t placed somewhere on my body, it’s in my mind. It’s in my heart. It’s in the most important part of who I am: me. Not the outward presentation I put forth, but the me that I want people to see. (Also, there’s this, like, ~sisterhood~ when I see another woman going bra-less. I feel very connected to my feminine, sisterly side, lol.)

Granted, it took a while for me to get to this point (I’ve been bra-less for about six months now), but it is SO. WORTH. IT.

Not wearing a bra is the most empowering thing I’ve ever done (not to mention the cheapest, least stressful, most carefree thing).

What do you think? Have you tried going bra-less? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

New Years Resolutions Check-in

Helloooooo! I hope everyone’s February is going well! I’ve now completed FIVE WEEKS (???) at my new school, and I’m it’s a great fit for me.

Since we’re two months into 2017 (!!!), I think it’s a good time to evaluate how we’re all doing on our New Years Resolutions! Take an honest inventory, reevaluate which goals are *actually* attainable, and make some new, realistic short-term goals that will help eventually achieve that long-term goal.

Here’s a link to my post about my 2017 New Years Resolutions and Mission Statement (it’ll open in a new tab!). Let’s do a quick check-in on my resolutions:

  1. Learn Spanish. I think I’m doing pretty well on this one! I have a 31-day streak on Duolingo (I was at 28 days but I missed a day while I was on the Middle School Girls’ retreat *crying face*), and I’m joining the Spanish club at St. Kate’s! I’ve also signed up for daily Spanish emails through Study Spanish, and I listen to the Coffee Break Spanish podcast on Spotify while I workout.
  2. Continue to study music theory. Weeeeelllllllll…… I kinda dropped the ball on this one. I’m in choir and voice lessons, does that count?! I need to intentionally set aside time to continue learning theory on my own.
  3. Start a UST/SCU a Capella group. I ran into some logistical roadblocks with this one when I met with a student group organizer at St. Kate’s, but I have some more in the works with this one!
  4. Stop the negative talk. I feel good about this one as well! I have some goal-setting worksheets posted around my room that focus on the good things about myself, and I heard some quotes recently about building others up, differentiating between gossiping and venting, etc. I’m also taking a neat theology class all about the divine in human beings and our interactions with each other, so I am continually learning (and reading scientific articles) about the awesomeness of people. I’m still working on this goal, and I anticipate that I will be for a long time, if not my whole life, but I’m giving myself room to mess up. And that’s what it’s all about.
  5. Keep track of my spending. I feel awesome about this goal!! I’ve started paying off some of my credit card debt that’s accumulated from paying for textbooks and clothes and such, and I got a new, well-paying job that will help me put some cash in the bank. I used Dollarbird for a while, but my phone broke so the app doesn’t work very well, so I’ve transitioned to Track Every Coin, which is on desktop so I can use it! I’m still working on actually *saving* some money for future use, but I know I’ll get there soon.
  6. Run a 5k. Lol. Madison and I signed up for the Color Blast 5k in May, but we’ve ran into some weird business stuff, and we’re working with the Attorney General to figure it all out. Soooo, this goal has been ~mysteriously halted~ for the time being.
  7. Clean, clean, clean. Eating clean has been a HUUUGE focus for me recently! Since I moved into my apartment, I’ve only been keeping 100% whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods in my cupboards and refrigerator. And I cannot even say how much healthier I feel. I am still struggling with some weird health things (we’re thinking maybe trying a gluten-free diet for a couple months), but my acne is gone, and I don’t get stomachaches anymore. I used to live in a perpetual state of slight nausea, and I have not had ONE. STOMACH. ACHE. It’s AWESOME. Clean eating has my vote!!!

I think I’m doing pretty well! I’ve also been journaling a LOT more frequently than usual, and I’m reading for pleasure again. Life is pretty dang awesome right now!

I’d love to hear how you guys are doing–shoot me a message if you want to talk. I would *love* to talk with anyone about anything. Literally. xoxo

2017 Resolutions + Mission Statement

If anyone knows me at all, you know I’m huge on making goals, resolutions, and plans for the future. I love having separated, step-by-step goals to work towards, and I love the process of creating the goals and researching ways to achieve them. My favorite way to separate goals is categorically–that is, I separate them by personalprofessionalnutritional, and fitness-related goals. I try to add a couple steps below each goal, to help me remember how I’d like to reach that goal. This year, I also made a 2017 mission statement, which you can find below as well. I really wanted to emphasize my building up my strengths this year, as opposed to improving my flaws.

2017-1

Personal Goals

1. Learn Spanish!

This is something I’ve wanted to do forever, and this is the year I’m going to do it! I’ve already checked out some things from my local library and made an account on duolingo.com, a free website that helps its users learn a new language. I signed up for the “serious” level, meaning I’ll do 15 minutes of practice a day, lol. So awesome!

2. Continue to study music theory.

At St. Kates, I’m taking exclusively social work classes, so I don’t have time to fit in music theory courses. However, I still have my theory textbooks and have subscribed to many theory Youtube channels. I want to continue my knowledge of music theory, because it’s important to me and I want to use it in my singing.

3. Start a St. Thomas/St. Catherine co-ed a Capella group.

This is already in the works! Check back for more. 🙂

4. Stop the negative talk!

I love this graphic, that I have saved to my Pintrest board about mindfulness.

talk

I’m focusing especially on gossiping, complaining, and tearing down others. This is something I’ve been working on for a long time, and I know I’ve made huge strides in this practice! A quote I heard once that totally changed my perspective on things is this:

The success of others does not diminish the chance of yours. Cheer on others.

I love this! I have really tried to remember this quote, and I’m noticing the difference in my mindset. In 2017, I want to emphasize building up others’ successes.

Professional Goals

1. Keep track of my spending.

A lot of bloggers I follow have adopted a mindset called “minimalism”, which can be everything from owning 100 or less items to simply going through your closet once and a while. I’ve done a lot of research about minimalism, and I love the idea of it! I tend to spend a lot of money on material goods, and this is something I want to work towards changing. I am starting with simple things, like de-cluttering my email inbox and going through my clothing.

This year, I’m focusing on saving money to invest towards things that are important to me. I spend waaaaay too much money on material goods, when what really matters to me is experience. So, I’ve downloaded the app Dollar Bird, which is connected to my bank account and credit card. It keeps track of what I spend most of my money on, and helps me make saving/spending goals towards the important things! This year, I’m specifically focusing on spending/saving money on my future adoption(s), traveling, eating out with friends, donations towards my favorite non-profits, and supporting local and organic grocers.

Fitness Goals

    1. Run a 5k!

This was one of my 2016-2017 school year goals, and I’m still working towards it! Getting sick got  me off track a little, but this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it’s going to happen this year!

Nutritional Goals

    1. Clean, clean clean.

I’ve been trying to eat clean for years now. I stopped eating meat when I was twelve years old, and I’ve really cut back on eggs and dairy. Within the past year, I’ve done a lot of research on what it means to live a “clean” lifestyle, and I’ve learned that it encompasses a LOT!

I’m living in an apartment in St. Paul this spring (apartment = I have a kitchen!!!!), and it’s one of my new year’s resolutions to learn how to cook REAL, GOOD food. What is clean eating, you ask? I have a post in the works about this, but here’s the gist:

-Eat foods that you can pronounce–aka avoid color additives, preservatives, fat replacers, emulsifiers, etc.

-Avoid processed foods, including white flour, refined sugar, etc.

-Eat plenty whole grains and healthy carbs (quinoa, for example!), fruits, and vegetables.

-3/5 of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, 1/5 protein, and 1/5 healthy carbs.

Sugar is something that is really hard for me–I have the biggest sweet tooth ever. Like, ever. But I’ve found ways to combat this (I chew gum like crazy), and I’m working towards eating a clean lifestyle all around!

In addition to eating clean, I want to live clean, too. I watched a video on Facebook recently about a girl who lived 30 days without creating any trash at all, and since then, I’ve really become aware of how much trash I create! I’m constantly looking for ways I can reduce my trash use. One of the easiest ways I’ve found is telling my barista I want my tea latte “for here”. Even Starbucks has “for here” mugs that they use if you specifically say you’re going to be drinking in house. It’s such an easy way to use less trash!

My 2017 Mission Statement

I used this graphic from my Pintrest to help me do this.

mission

My columns looked like this:

1.) travel, resourcefulness, health, savings

2.) more acceptance, green energy, patience

3.) positivity, zest for life and living, excitement, passion

4.) spend less, listening, forgiveness

And after some refining, squishing, and rewriting, I came up with this:

I will save more money using my passion for life to accomplish more global acceptance, and in doing so, achieve personal resourcefulness.

To others, this may sound wordy and unclear, but it means a lot to me. Essentially, I want to use my money, time, and resources for the betterment of myself and the world I live in.

Making New Years resolutions is a fantastic thing, and I could not be more of an advocate! This year, let’s all agree to *actually* work towards our personal goals, and encourage others to do so as well!

In a World That Tells Me to Focus on the Bad….

Every morning when I open my eyes, the first thing I do is check social media. This is mostly because I don’t want to get out of my warm, cozy bed. But I check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest, and my email. I am a huge advocate for social media, and I love sharing my life online. I think it’s an amazing tool for promotion of ideas, marketing, education, politics, religion, and so much more. But recently, I’ve been disappointed by what I’m seeing online.

in-a-world-that-tells-me-to-focus-on-the-bad-1

**DISCLAIMER:** I do recognize that there are mental illnesses that cannot be cured by saying “It’s okay!! Life goes on!!! Just get up early! Read a book! Go for a walk!! :)” This is not what I am addressing. I am addressing those times in our lives where we might need a little push, some motivation to get through the night, the day, the week, the semester. Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded that it gets better.

I’ve written a lot about my struggles this past year. I spent a lot of time in both talk therapy and EDMR, and I started taking anxiety medication this fall. It’s been a crazy, crazy ride, and it’s something I am working on day in and day out. It’s an everyday battle to remember that I am more than my struggles.

And even more, I’ll be the first to admit that I fail at this.

I am horrible at being positive. I am definitely a glass-half-empty person. It’s the fact of the matter: I look at the negative side first. It’s just who I am. I am not good at being positive and flexible and willing. I do not like being wrong. I do not like change. I do not like being uncomfortable. I am inherently a negative Debbie downer.

Real-life example: I have to go to work tomorrow, because it’s Monday. Instead of being grateful for a well-paying job with a bunch of little kids, I always think “God, I don’t want  to go to work today. I could be doing a million other things. I am tired and I have a lot to do.”

Here is what I am learning: positivity is a choice. 

Bad things are going to happen to all of us, in all seasons of life, and sometimes they come unexpectedly. Last year, the worst season of my life so far came immediately after the best season of my life. I’d never been so happy, but then I’d never been so low.

And I think I did need to fall apart. Sometimes, that’s necessary. Sometimes, we need the space to lay in bed for two weeks and eat container after container of frosting and watch the entire series of Grey’s Anatomy (not that I did that or anything…). But then, we get up. And we keep going.

Here’s another thing I’m learning: this is not what the world tells us to do.

It comes in places we don’t notice.

It’s a tweet from an “artsy” account, saying “full of emptiness but its fine!!” or “im afraid to be happy at this point tbh”.

It’s a black-and-white photo on tumblr of bruises and faded scars taken on a polaroid camera.

It’s movies and books about driving with no destination while old Bon Iver songs play in the background, and the driver is devoid of feeling.

It’s the romanticization of sadness. And it’s everywhere. It’s on all social media. It has become popular to have problems, and it’s a contest of who has it worse. It’s easy to be sad online, and it’s easy

Here is one more thing I’m learning: sadness is comfortable, but it is not what we are meant for.

I have spent one too many days laying in bed, watching Meredith and Derek and their horribly addicting on-and-off-again relationship fall apart again while I sob because life is just too hard to do today. It’s easy to lay in bed and listen to sad songs on my Spotify and wallow in how hard I have it right now.

It’s comfortable to be down, because it’s work to be happy. It’s hard work! It’s actively choosing that that dumb glass is half full. It’s our reversing our preset condition (well, mine, at least). But how will we recognize the good without the bad? What are highs without lows?

Life will to happen to us–the good, the bad, all of the above. Sadness is comfortable, and it’s oftentimes our first response. But I am learning that it’s an active choice to be positive about every situation. It’s not the popular thing to do, and most of the time, it’s not fun.

Here is a list of some positive affirmations to repeat to yourself. This week is going to be a good week, and I am choosing happiness this week. Will you join me?