Build Community

Have you ever had a really bad cold or the flu? You know the symptoms, body aches, fevers, sweating, sore throats. Just thinking about it slightly makes me feel sick, but then relief comes. There is that awesome moment of respite when you finally take medicine or you take that first sip of warm tea. The moment when your body finally finds rest is anything short of magical.

Just like the body needs rest, our souls need rest too. As a twenty something, with the constant chaos of balancing work and everyday life, I am finding that my soul needs rest more and more. The past weekend, my soul was able to get that much needed rest, and what is better for any woman’s soul than a GIRLS’ WEEKEND! A friend and I were able to make the journey to visit two friends who live a few hours away, and man, let me tell you. It was amazing. We laughed, we cried, we danced, we sang (some of us better than others) and we ate a ton!

Image

Just thinking about it makes me smile. As a twenty something, it gets so easy to get caught up in the rat race toward success. It is so easy to get caught in the hustle of the 9-5 life that you quickly find that there is less meaning and intention in your life. This past weekend was so needed to help remind me that not only is there intention and purpose for my life, but also that the meaning of my life is so intrinsically interwoven with other people.

Like me, my friends are all very independent women. I love that about them. They are go-getters, achievers, dreamers and doers. In the midst of our fiery need for independence is also a need to walk arm in arm with other people. We need each other. We need cheerleaders. We need mentors. We need counselors (that don’t charge). We need encouragers. We need someone to give us perspective when ours gets a little cloudy. We need comedians. We need shoulders to cry on. We need each other.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms

So who is your team? Who do you call on during the rough times? Who are your cheerleaders? As a twenty something, I can guarantee that you will need them. We are not meant to walk through this life alone. We need other people. Haven’t found your team yet? That’s okay. The funny thing about the twenties is that they are extremely fluid and full of lots of changes. There are always opportunities to meet new people. As the saying goes, “To have a friend, you must first learn to be a friend.” But when you find friends who are worth their weight in gold, hold on to them. They don’t come around every blue moon.

I hope you are encouraged to build community. To find people who bring hope and light into your life. People who love you enough to tell you the truth, even when it hurts. People who will lovingly correct you. People who will love you at your worst and cheer the loudest when you’re at your best. People who keep their promises and show up for you. People who will trust you enough to unload their baggage with you and give you the freedom to do the same. I hope, as a twenty something, that you are always encouraged to keep moving forward. More importantly, I hope you know that you don’t have to do it alone.

– Stephkt

Advertisements

Enjoy the Journey

Last year, when I was moving back home from Minneapolis (my first, post-grad position), a friend gave me a card with the most profound quote on the cover. It said, “”Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”  In that moment, the weight of those words did not really hit me. It wasn’t until I was back home, jobless and in small, town Tulsa that I understood.

My friend, who gave me the card, is a lot like me. She is a thinker, a planner, a type A kind of person. We prefer structure over chaos, a map over the uncharted and ordered steps over a free fall. I thought it was funny that she was giving me the card. It was as if she was telling me, “Stephanie, I think you may need these words to carry you through in the months ahead.” If she did think that, well, man was she ever right.

The card now sits on my desk, where I can see it every time I enter the room. It serves as a constant reminder to me that this life will not always go as planned, but happiness is a choice. Happiness doesn’t just happen when you get to the goal or the dream you have been working toward. Happiness starts with me. It starts now. It is my choice, and I have decided to choose happiness as I travel along my journey.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Enjoy the journey.”

It seems like in our culture today, there is always the illustrious “more”. More money. More success. More fame. More, more, more. There is always something to attain. While there is nothing wrong with striving for better things, I think it becomes a problem when we tie our happiness to a dream or to our “more”. My passion is writing for magazines and film and to use media to inspire women and girls. My dream place is L.A. I have always thought, “I will be happy someday when I get to California. I will be happy when I have reached a certain amount of success. I will be happy once I’ve made it.” The reality is you can have all the success in the world and still be miserable.

Like anything, happiness is a choice. I am so grateful that my fellow planner, type A personality friend gave me a note that reminded me to not get so caught up in my destination that I forget to enjoy my journey. My fellow twenty somethings, this is a wake up call. Life is messy. It can be chaotic and the unexpected is always right around the corner. Work toward your dreams. Give it everything you’ve got, but do not put your life on hold, thinking that you will be happy once you “make it”. Happiness isn’t in a dream job, a relationship or a city. While those things are nice to have, your happiness is up to you. It’s in your hands and all depends on your attitude and how you choose to spend your time.

Since I have been back home, I have been learning to create my own happiness. I am choosing to enjoy the little moments and to be deliberate with my time. Now, I make time for weekly dinners with my parents. I call and Skype friends more often. I eat at new restaurants. I challenge myself physically with new goals. I try new things and go to new cities in surrounding states. I do these things on purpose because I want to make the most of my time. Before, I thought that I had to wait to be happy until I attained my dreams, but I now understand that happiness is not a destination. It is a daily choice. It is my choice and yours.

ImageMe and my friend Lucy (the giver of the empowering note) on one of my last nights in Minneapolis

– Stephkt

Even Superwoman Needs a Day Off

13 Going on 30 is my all time favorite movie. As I am sitting here letting Billy Joel serenade me to the tune of Vienna, I am reminded of the power of a four letter word, rest. What comes to mind is the scene in 13 Going on 30, when Jennifer Gardner has to return home to New Jersey. After a few bumps and bruises in the “real world”, she ran to her safe place, the place where she knew she would always belong, home. She ran to her parents, the people she knew loved her regardless of the mistakes she had made. She found the thing she needed most, peace of mind.

If your life is anything like mine, the twenties are not a straight path. I am 23 and so far this journey I am on has had its share of detours, bumps and hills. The last few months I have had a lot on my plate. It seems like there have been a lot more bumps than smooth sailing. I am not sure how some women are able to work forty hours a week, get in a workout three to five days a week and put food on the table for other little mouths. I struggle to be able to do all of that just for myself.

If I could describe my life as of late, I would say exhausting. There is always somewhere to be. Something to get done. A meal to be made. An assignment to work on. Someone to meet. Someone to take care of. There’s always something. On top of that, I have had a lot of work and friend tensions the past few months. So much so that it has left my head spinning.

Image

Earlier this week, I was sick and off from work. So I made the decision to allow myself some much needed rest. I decided to take care of myself, body, mind and spirit. I know that the season I am in right now will eventually pass. So it is important that I take from it the lessons it has come to teach me and remember to nurture myself along the way. Just like Jennifer Gardner in 13 Going on 30, I needed my own time of respite, rest and quiet. I didn’t get the smiley face pancakes or the chance to sleep in my parents’ bed the way she did in the movie, but I did get to go for a walk, have brunch with a friend, take a nap in the daytime, read before bedtime and cook a nice, warm meal.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?

Vienna, as sung by Billy Joel

The thing that I have learned so far as a twenty something is that seasons come and go. Learn from each season what it has come to teach you about yourself. This season has taught me the importance of showing myself and others some much needed grace. It has taught me the importance of rest and solitude. So maybe, you’re like me and have had it rough lately. Maybe you have had so much on your plate with family, friends and work that it has left you feeling overwhelmed. My advice: rest. Take some time to yourself. If you’re exhausted, rest my friend. If you’re sad, cry. If you’re lonely, reach out to someone who you feel safe sharing with.

It’s completely okay to not have it all together all the time. A friend had to remind me of this the other day. Exhausted, she allowed me to fall apart in her arms. I was quite surprised and embarrassed by my tears. Life had taken its toll and my spirit was drained, but my friend reassured me that it was okay. She told me that while my go getter attitude is great, the tears I cried were even more beautiful. It was the first time I had allowed myself to be that vulnerable in a long time. After recovering from the initial shock of it, it actually felt pretty darn good. So often I try to be everything for everyone and wear a smile while doing it. Even super woman needs a day off to take care of herself. Even superwoman needs help sometimes. I am so glad a friend reminded me of this.

To all you twenty somethings, I ask, are you taking care of yourself? What does your situation look like? Are you at a new job or trying to adjust to a new city? Is work a little stressful? Are you having trouble getting along with someone at the office?  Are you stressed looking for a job? Are you finding as you get older that you are growing apart from childhood friends? Are you going through a breakup? Are you stressed from having to take care of family members? Whatever is on your plate today, I encourage you to rest. Take care of you. It’s okay if you’re not feeling strong today. This season will pass friend, and I guarantee you will be stronger for it.

-Stephkt

 

Momma Knows Best

I would cringe at the thought of these words when I was a kid. “Momma knows best.” You’re kidding me, right? Now I have come to understand the value of a mother’s wisdom and insight. We often feel that our parents are clueless about whatever stage of life we may find ourselves in. The truth is, they’ve been there. They have walked in our shoes before, which makes the weight of their advice that much more substantial.

MommaKnowsBest4Big hair and beautiful smile, my mom in the 80s

This didn’t quite click for me until a few years ago when I was going through a phase of rejection. I was applying to job after job and not hearing back or I was getting the call for a first interview and never hearing a resounding yes at the end of it. I like to think of myself as a go getter. I work hard for what I want in career, physical fitness, relationships, etc. I go after it. So what’s a go getter like me do when she hears no? I kept trying……and trying and trying and trying.

Now, lets be clear, there’s nothing wrong with refusing to quit. It is actually quiet rare that you meet people, who after much adversity and let downs, have continued to pursue a dream. Those people are rare. However, with the “never quit” mentality, I have learned there comes a balancing act, as well.

After what seemed like dozens of doors slamming in my face, I felt defeated. So what did I do? I felt sorry for myself. I turned on He’s Just that Not Into You and grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s (actually Blue Bell because I am from the mid-west) and moped. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like rejection just kept calling my name.

Luckily, my pity party was interrupted by the words of MY MOTHER. I do not believe in luck or chance. So I will call this a moment of grace. When I reached a low point in my post-grad job search, I remembered an incidence as a child when I had faced rejection and the words my mom once spoke to me rang in my ears.

MommaKnowsBest5My mom helping me blow out the candles at my third birthday party

Here’s the story: I was in middle school, and a friend of mine had a birthday coming soon. In middle school, a girl’s birthday translates into one word, sleepover! As a kid, I was a pretty outgoing girl. I always had a lot of friends and I loved making new ones. Getting invited to a sleepover in middle school is essentially the same thing as an actor or actress being nominated for an Oscar. It’s a a big deal.

I remember all the girls were talking about the upcoming festivities. Everything from the location, to the theme, to the food, to the little invites…….but wait, I didn’t get an invite. This had to be some sort of mistake. This girl and I were friends. We may have grown apart that year because we had different homerooms but we were still good friends. I was in her group, her circle of people. How could she not invite me? Plus, she had kind of made it seem like I was invited by telling me about it. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

So I went home and cried to my mom. I felt left out. Did these girls not like me anymore? Why wasn’t I included? Why wasn’t my name on the elite list of birthday party attendees? I dried my eyes and went to school the next day, still confused and feeling left out. A few days later, the birthday girl handed me the golden ticket, an invite! I was so excited! She told me that one of the girls wasn’t going to be able to make it. She said she had wanted to invite me in the first place, but her mom only allowed her to invite a certain number of people. Now that one girl couldn’t come, I was invited!

Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I ran home and took the invite to my mom, telling her all the details. I just knew she would be just as excited as I was because she knew how disappointed I had been earlier that week. Excitement was far from her reaction. I will never forget. My mom turned to me and politely said, “Stephanie, you’re not going.” What??!! I shouted. I screamed. I whined. I cried. (So maybe I was a little bit dramatic as a child?) Why couldn’t I go? I had the invite. I remember trying to reason with my mom as a ten-year-old, explaining to her the only reason I hadn’t been invited is because there was a limit on how many girls could sleep over due to space. My friend wanted me there, but she just couldn’t add another person, but now a spot was open. Why couldn’t I take it?

My mom gently sat met down and explained to me that if “my friend” had wanted me at her party, she would have invited me. I would have been included from the beginning. She told me that I shouldn’t have to cry or beg to be included on someone’s elite list. By going to her party, I was essentially settling for being someone’s second choice, and no daughter of her’s was going to settle for being second rate.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“If a pair of shoes doesn’t fit today, they won’t fit tomorrow. Neither will that guy or that job. Don’t settle.”

I do not believe I ever really understood my mom’s reasoning until I reached adulthood and again was faced with rejection. Life is hard and it takes a lot of work. So yes, go after what you want. Do your best and give it your all, but if you find that one door simply isn’t opening, find another one. Do not give up on your dream, but understand that just because one job, relationship or city didn’t quite fit you, doesn’t mean there isn’t another one out there that is perfect for you.

If you’re anything like me, rejection hurts. I have faced it in dating, in friendships and in the career hunt, but I am learning that what looks like rejection is really a mix of protection and redirection. If you apply for a job, take all the necessary steps and still get a no, don’t keep emailing the HR person pleading your case. If a guy breaks up with you for someone else, let him go. If a friend walks out on you, let them leave.

Like I said, I am a hard working kind of person, but what I am learning is not to confuse persistence with desperation. Never be so desperate for a relationship or job that you cannot see yourself without it. Believe in yourself and know that you deserve the best in life. When you have this confidence, you will surely attract the best and you won’t have to beg for it. Value yourself enough to know when to walk away. You are too good to be desperate for anything or anyone. As my mom once told me, “Never settle for being someone’s second choice.”

MommaKnowsBest1Mommy and me

-Stephkt

Power Thinking

Call me a delusional, dreamer or a head in the skies type of girl, but I am of the belief that I can do anything. You may think the whole “You can do whatever you set your mind to” mentality is for fortune cookies or only something that parents and teachers tell children as they are growing up. I would like to challenge that mindset and any thought or fear in your head that tells you, you cannot do something. If no one has ever told you, you can do absolutely ANYTHING. You can have what you want. You can go where you want to go. You can become the person whom you want to become.

How do I know this?  I haven’t always believed in myself. In fact, I have struggled with insecurity, fears of rejection and not being good enough for as long as I can remember. Then life happened and with it came some important lessons that have forever changed the way I look at myself.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“The thoughts you think will create the life you live. Choose wisely.”

Three years ago, I competed in a pageant at my university. I am not exactly the pageant type. I am not tall, skinny and have never been a beauty queen. I am probably as ordinary as ordinary comes. I am a tomboy at heart, dressed in a girl’s clothes. I like to shop but don’t do it often. I would much rather rock climb or go to a basketball game than sit at home and paint my nails. I rarely wear makeup and I can count the number of times in my life that I have had a mani/pedi on one hand.

So what possessed me to go out for a beauty pageant? The summer before my junior year of college, I interned at a local newspaper and had the opportunity to interview several pageant winners for news stories. I was amazed at the humility and down to earth nature the ladies possessed. I was also impressed by the large amount of scholarship money these girls had won through competing in pageants. These girls were ordinary just like me. I remember thinking, if they could do it, then so could I. So that next semester when the opportunity to compete in my university’s pageant was presented to me, I took it.

Fast forward a few months later, after fundraising, shopping for dresses, working on my platform and exercising like crazy, it was the night before the pageant. I was afraid. In my head, I was already defeated. The other girls competing in the pageant were more popular than me. They were pretty and poised. They had the ideal pageant look. I was literally shaking in my boots, and then a text arrived.

A friend of mine was competing in another pageant the night before and she won! One of our mutual friends text me the good news. I remember being so happy for my friend, but I wasn’t at all surprised that she had won. I knew she was going to win. My friend was beautiful, not only on the outside but on the inside too. She was kind and outgoing. She was hardworking and giving. She was talented and well spoken. I believed in her, and then suddenly, it hit me. Why did I believe in my friend so much but did not have the same confidence in myself? Why didn’t I believe that I could win? Why didn’t I believe in me?

Imagepageant24The weight of that moment has stuck with me. I realized then that if I wanted to win, it was up to me. This applied not only to the pageant but with everything in life. I had to change my mentality. I had to start looking at myself as valuable. I had to see myself as enough. I had to start believing in myself the same way I would for a friend. So I told myself, “I can do this.” The next day, butterflies and all, I packed up all my dresses, my makeup and my costumes, and headed over to the auditorium. I felt calm. I was at peace. I was strong. I understood that my task for the day was just to be myself, to pour my heart on that stage and give my all. If the judges and the crowd like it or hated it, so be it, but I knew who I was and that was enough for me. My head was in the game.

I believe my last minute change of thinking caused me to win that pageant. Just by changing my thoughts toward myself, I was able to do something that I didn’t think I could do. I have seen this to be true so many times throughout my life.  When I started college, one of my goals was to intern at a magazine in New York City, but I had no idea how I was going to afford it. A few years later, I was living in lower Manhattan working for one of the top magazine publishers in the world.

I could tell you story after story about how the power of the mind changes things. The truth is the thoughts we think will create the lives we live. So if you want something, I challenge you to make it happen. If you have a dream, go after it with all that you have. Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you because fears are only as real as we allow them to be. When those old thoughts of not measuring up come to your mind, say this, “I can do anything.”

Image
– Stephkt