My Biggest Fear Became a Reality, but It Didn’t Destroy Me

Sometimes, I worry about my condition as a human being. I wonder if I’m a bad specimen of person because I struggle to express emotions, or rather the emotions that I deem as difficult.

I know people who are extremely expressive and in tune with their emotions. If they’re having a bad day, then guaranteed everyone knows. If they’re mad, then all hell is about to be unleashed. If they’re in love, then it’s literally all. you. hear. about.

Me, on the other hand, I am a bit more of a peculiar breed of human. When situations occur that elicit stress, anger or fear in most people, I often show no outward signs of alarm.

A recent example was a few months ago when myself and two of my roommates were home and the carbon monoxide warning went off. Everyone was freaking out! Fanning the alarms. Opening windows. Calling parents for help. Normal stuff. I was….well pretty chill. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not that I don’t care about a possible carbon monoxide leak. Yet, my response was simply to open the windows and check the alarms. No worrying necessary. My roommates were both amused and confused by my lack of reaction.

Weird, right? Sometimes, I think it is a good thing. Life happens, and for the most part, I am able to keep a really calm head in tough times. My motto has always been to push through. Lately, I wonder if my lack of emotional response also has to do with something else.

Last year, I had a moment where I had to come clean with some emotions that I buried deep down. Long story short, I realized that I had feelings for my best guy friend. To be frank, after three years of a great friendship, I realized I was in love with this person.

Pause. Yes, you read that correctly. It took me three years to realize I was in love with someone. So yea, a really long time. I wonder why sometimes I have delayed responses or have trouble processing emotions more quickly? I wonder sometimes what keeps me from owning fear, anxiety or in this case, love? What about those things makes me want to push them back? What makes me want to run away from them?

Vulnerability.

Perhaps, it boils down to wanting to avoid vulnerability at all costs. Honesty with emotions, whether it be fear, anger, stress, anxiety or love, requires a willingness to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable, it leaves room for you to get hurt or disappointed, and nobody wants that.

If I express my anger or frustration at someone, then it means laying my cards out on the table. But what if they don’t respond well? If I allow myself to show fear, then I feel like I lose all control. What if things don’t go the way I hoped? If I allow myself to express genuine and true love for a person, then they could reject me. What if I get hurt?

Update on my love life: The love that I expressed turned out to be unrequited. It was my biggest fear coming true in real time. Falling in love with someone only for it not to be reciprocated. I felt embarrassed. I felt confused. I felt exposed. I felt stupid. I was hurt.

So what did I do? Oh girl, I hard core stuffed those emotions, deep, deep down in a dark tunnel that no one could find.  I worked out to avoid feeling emotions. I worked more hours to avoid emotions. I slept to avoid emotions. I shopped to avoid emotions. And guess what? Six months later the emotions are still here. They didn’t go anywhere.

A friend recently gave me some words of wisdom that really pushed me to do better. She told that perhaps the first step is to acknowledge what it was. I had been running, stuffing and avoiding for so long that coming to terms with how I felt seemed impossible. As we sat, talked and sipped coffee, my heart began to ease and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.

Twenty Something Advice (for anyone):
“Being honest about your emotions and being vulnerable won’t destroy you. In fact, it’ll only make you stronger.”

Guess, what? I’m still here. Being honest about my emotions and being vulnerable didn’t destroy me. It didn’t kill me. While awfully uncomfortable, I think it actually made me stronger. I am still here. To be honest, it was relieving to just be honest. It was like releasing pressure from a balloon. Once it was pierced, it all just came out.

I fell in love with someone and that love was not reciprocated. OK. That’s what it is, but knowing that fact doesn’t destroy me. Oh, most certainly it hurts like all hell, but if it was love, of course the loss of it is going to hurt.

Days later since that conversation, I am starting to slowly feel better. I surely don’t have all the answers, but I am finding that part of being an adult and an overall emotionally healthy human being means allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable.

Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes it means relinquishing your control over a situation. But it is truly the only way to live an authentic and happy life. Vulnerability is strength.

And hey, now that I know what love feels like and that I am capable of it, the sky is the limit, right? I believe love will come again in time. In the meantime, I am going to work on being a normal human being. I am determined to own my emotions and not let them own or control me. Because that is what being an adult looks like.

Cheers to everyone going through growing pains! I’m right there with you.

-Stephkt

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Why Rejection Is a Semicolon and Not a Period

Life is hard, plain and simple. It is a truth that will forever withstand the lengths of time. Rejection is by far one of the hardest realities in this life. Whether it comes in the form of a breakup, a friendship ending, not getting accepted into a school or a job loss, rejection of any kind is extremely painful.

If we allow it to, it can leave us paralyzed with fear, the fear that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not beautiful enough, simply not enough. We can allow rejection to set the trajectory of our thoughts, in turn our behaviours and ultimately our lives.

Rejection doesn’t have to get the final say though. We need to go back to the drawing board. Instead of seeing rejection as defeat or the end of our stories, why not see it as a new beginning, a chance to start again? I know it was probably a devastating blow. It may have caught you off guard and left you on your knees, but there is hope for you, yet and still, my friend.

What if what we really need is not the thing we think we lost but a perspective shift? What if rejection is simply a teacher? All rejection holds universal truths and lessons we can take with us for the road ahead. So grab your hiking shoes and let’s get to climbing out of this rut.

Don’t let rejection define you.

I know I am so guilty of this. Anytime a relationship didn’t work out, it meant there was something wrong with me. I am not pretty enough. I am not witty enough. I am not kind enough. I am too much. When I recently was laid off from my job, it was so easy to fall back into this trap of allowing the job loss to determine my value. I began to think: Maybe I am not a good writer. I suck as an editor. There are people who are better at this job than I could ever be. I’m not good enough.

Haven’t we all been there? When we lose something that is so important to us, a job, a marriage or a friendship, we begin to let the loss communicate to our minds a lack of value in and of ourselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our careers, our dreams, our passions and the things and people we love can easily start to define us once we lose them. I would challenge you to not let this be the case. I know it is hard, but remind yourself that no one person or thing determines your worth. You have intrinsic value that can’t be shaken.

Allow a “no” to serve as a confidence builder.

This might sound counterintuitive, but anytime you hear a, “No,” a “I’m sorry but we have to let you go” or a “It’s not you. It’s me,” be grateful. One door closing releases you from something that wasn’t the best fit for you. That’s all a no really means. Pick your head up and keep going.

This no will only make your skin tougher and your bounce back stronger. If things were always easy and all we ever heard was “yes,” then we would never know what resilience looks like. Rejection is the perfect time to see the stuff we are made of, perseverance, endurance, strength and grit. Confidence is built out of enduring hard times.

Surround yourself with positive voices.

When I lost my job earlier this year, I didn’t tell many people. I partially kept it to myself because I was in shock. I also didn’t tell many people because I was hurting and in a sensitive place. I knew the people I told would have to be people who would let me grieve the loss and then encourage me. I needed people who would sit in my pit with me and then help me climb out once I was ready to.

When you face rejection of any kind, it is painful, so very painful. The load of rejection gets lighter when we ask for help to carry it. Reach out to positive people who will be a voice of encouragement in your ear. Tell them about the rejection you are facing. Delve into all of your feelings of shock, sadness, hurt and fear. Be 100 percent real. This is your time to grieve. Be careful not to share with anyone who will cause you to worry or allow you to stay in a place of pity or bitterness. Positive voices are the key.

Determine that this is only temporary.

When we are faced with rejection, it is often unforeseen. We didn’t see it coming, and it can be difficult to know when it and the feelings that result from it will end. While there’s no definite answer, we have to remember this is just a drop in the bucket of time of our stories. It is only one chapter. Now is not your forever. Storms always come to an end. This is only temporary.

Get back in the game.

Dust yourself off and get back up. This is probably the most important truth to remember. Rejection can feel like a punch in the gut. It leaves you reeling and knocks you to the ground, but you don’t have to stay down. You can get back up. It’s a choice. It’ll more than likely hurt at first, but get back up any way.

Rejection is not the end of my story, nor yours, my beautiful friend.

This post originally appeared on Darling Magazine.

How the Job Hunt Is a Lot Like Dating (and How to Deal)

Dating is rough — especially in today’s millennial, app-driven, and instant-gratification society. The game of going to countless dinners with different people, having numerous awkward first dates, and swiping left and right based on a cursory glance, is not an easy process. And the job hunt is no different.

Both dating and job searching is so much alike, in fact, that you can’t help but laugh at the similarities.

It’s always a waiting game. You send in your resume, cover letter, and references. Then, you wait. HR emails you to set up a phone call and you respond right away. Then, you wait. You nail the phone call, they ask you to come in for an in-person interview and you agree. Then, you wait. You interview and follow-up with a thank you. Then, you wait. It sounds a lot like waiting for a guy to text back, waiting to see if a guy will you ask you out again, and waiting to see when he might call.

There’s a lot of uncertainty. With job searching, there aren’t any guarantees. So often in the job search, a person will walk away feeling like they’ve landed the position, only to not receive a job offer. Same goes for the dating world. Those who date are in on-again, off-again relationships or are in relationships they thought were for the long haul but suddenly ended. However, with all the uncertainty, comes a chance for adventure and an opportunity for something great.

You want the best fit for both parties involved. The older you get, the more you understand this rule of thumb in job searching and dating. You want a career and relationship with a person who is the best fit for you and for you to be the best fit for them. There’s no room for settling. If the pieces don’t truly fit, then you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice in the long run.

The initial interview (or date) is nerve-wracking. The first date butterflies are all too familiar. They’re similar to the experience of going on an interview for a job. You want your hair, your outfit, and your makeup to be just right. Whether you’re meeting your future partner or your future employer, you want to impress the other person sitting in front of you.

Confidence is key. You have to know who you are, what you want, and what you bring to the table. If you’re not confident, then the job recruiter or potential boo will see right through you. Know your worth, and you’ll find the right job and person for you.

This post originally appeared on FabFitFun.

When I Felt Like Jennifer Aniston in the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie Debacle

The echo resounded around the world. The ripple effect could be felt seemingly everywhere. It was like a pen dropping in a starkly, silent room. Unfortunately, I am not talking about important world events like the hurricane in Haiti or the Syrian civil war. I am talking about the breakup of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Shocking.

Everyone seemed to have their two cents to give. Their names were sprawled across headlines everywhere. Daytime talk show hosts had a field day picking apart the history of this relationship and how it was doomed for chaos from the start.

The one unsuspecting player in this game of love and war was Jennifer Aniston. If you aren’t aware, Jennifer is the former wife of Brad Pitt, pre- Angelina Jolie. It is largely speculated that the end of their five-year marriage (2000-2005) was due to an affair with Angelina Jolie that began on the set of “Mr & Mrs. Smith.”

What I found most interesting about the whole scenario was how Jennifer was brought into the commotion of her ex’s divorce. It seemed a bit unfair to bring Jennifer, who has been divorced from this man for 11 years and is also remarried, into the conversation.

Let’s be real…..she has absolutely nothing to do with it. She is her own person, as is he. She was Jennifer Aniston before she met Brad Pitt and will be long after. She is not him.

Saying all this to say, I can relate. (Not that I can understand the celebrity life that Jennifer lives by any means.) Recently, someone from college reached out to me via text. We exchanged the regular, “How are you’s?” and “I’m doing wells.” And then she asked me the question I wasn’t expecting….”How are you doing about (insert my ex’s name here)?”

To properly set the scene here, I was at work, swamped with a stack of stories to edit and probably shouldn’t have been checking my phone (since it is distracting, but I did anyway.) So when I got this message, to say I was caught off-guard would be a huge understatement. The ex I was being questioned about was someone I dated in college, five years ago. (I laughed just typing that because it still gets me.)

My ex is engaged. So on one hand, I suppose I get it….I lie. No, I don’t. I don’t understand why anyone would ask me about someone I dated more than half a decade ago. Because here’s the thing, that was a long time ago. I’ve moved on. He’s moved on. I’ll tell you something else…I did the work (back then) that I needed to do to move on. I did the whole “unfollowing” on all social media accounts thing. (And I stopped any and all creeping.) I deleted his number. I moved away after graduating college. I worked on myself. I spent time on my knees praying and talking to God more than I had ever done. I looked in the mirror and worked on myself. I got knocked down, but then I got back up. I took time, and guess what? I healed. Like 100 percent healed. My heart is OK. In fact, it is wonderful.

Twenty-Something Advice (for anybody):
“There is so much freedom and beauty in moving on, in setting something and someone free when it’s time.”

The optimistic side of me would like to think this friend from college reached out to me out of genuine concern, which I’m sure is partially true. I just wonder how often we do this to other people and to ourselves. How often do we attach people to a person or thing from their past? How often do we bring up things that we’ve put to rest and need to stay there?

When I heard all the comments about Jennifer Aniston in the news lately, my first thought was, “Let her live her life.” She moved on from Brad Pitt. I am guessing it hurt, a lot, at the time, but that was 11 years ago. For me, it was more than five years ago (almost six). I’ve moved on. I’m good. I’m genuinely happy. I did the work I needed to do to learn from that situation and that relationship. It was a teacher. I’d like to think that my name won’t forever be attached to an ex’s. I am, in fact, my own person. I was before that relationship, and I still am now.

With all sincerity, I wish my ex well. I am not angry, bitter, mad or heartbroken. I hope he is happy. Once upon a time, he and I were friends. Before the breakup, before dating, we were friends. So that part of me, the part that saw him as my friend, still has good will toward him. I have nothing but good thoughts to send his way. Five years ago, when we first broke up, I probably couldn’t have said that. But now, today, I’m good. We’ve all moved on, and I am happy that he is happy. He deserves that. He deserves to move on and live his life, as do I.

I think that’s the lesson here, learning to (genuinely) let go of people and things when it’s time. I think it’s important to not hold on when it’s time to turn the page. I know social media makes it so easy to peer into the past and creep (as the millennial generation so fondly calls it), but I’d advocate that there is so much freedom and beauty in moving on, in setting something and someone free when it’s time.

So here’s to hoping 11 years from now, someone isn’t texting you about your ex from high school or college. Here’s to hoping who you once were won’t define how you see yourself now. It’s time to let it go.

-Stephkt

Hold On to Let Go

LettingGo

If you’ve listened to the radio the last few months, you might guess that the title for today’s blog comes from the Top 40 hit, Lean On (by Major Lazer and DJ Snake). The song, with an eclectic mix of reggae, pop and electric, repeats the line “We would only hold on to let go.” This message has been etched into my head: That sometimes, even though all we want is security, the best thing we can do is hold on to the idea of letting go.

In the last few months, I have seen a lot of change in my life. From moving out of my parents’ home, to watching my closest friendship grow apart, to dating a guy to back to being single, change has been happening all around me.There have been a number of days where I wanted to stay in bed with the pillows over my head (and let’s be honest, I definitely had those days).

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“If you try to hold on to everything from seasons past, you’ll never see the beauty of today.”

Change will do that to the best of us. It’ll leave you scared, cringing in pain or running frantically in the opposite direction. I think what I have been realizing is that change, although painful at times, is necessary. If I try to hold on to everything and everyone from seasons past, I’ll never see the beauty of now, of today, of this moment. Everything and everyone isn’t meant to travel along with us into our futures. Although painful at times, letting go is a necessary part of life.

My godmom gave me a pep talk a few weeks ago, and she told me, “Stephanie, if someone is for you, they will be a part of your life.” What a relief that was to hear. I won’t have to beg, plead, force or finagle a person or a thing into my life. If it is meant to be, it will be. Sometimes you just have to let go. Whether it means forgiving someone, quitting a job, moving away, sometimes letting go takes more strength than holding on.

So for all my twenty something readers, maybe there are things that you can let go of. As fall steadily approaches and the new school year begins for so many, it may just be the perfect time to let go of something or someone. As you let go and release whatever you’ve been holding on to, it’ll be amazing to see what new things you make room for: adventure, growth, love, independence. The ball is in your court. Here’s to letting go!

-Stephkt

Don’t Give Your Power Away

confidenceI have always been a “wear your heart on your sleeves” type of gal. I am still deciding if that’s a good or bad thing. This trait has been a strength at times and my achilles heel at others. Most recently, it has served as the latter.

So here’s the scoop: I recently spotted my ex-boyfriend at the mall. Not just an ex, but the ex, the one that broke my heart and left the pieces scattered on the ocean floor for me to reassemble. The ex that was my first love. The ex that, at one point, I never thought I’d be able to get over. To keep the story short, I did one day, with much time and effort, heal from the wounds of that relationship. I have moved on. So what’s the big deal?

I am a very honest person, i.e. the description “a girl who wears her heart on sleeves” in the opener. So when I saw not only the ex that I haven’t spoken to in three years, but his little sister, his little brother, his best friend, and to top it all off, his new girlfriend, all at the mall where I work a part time job, I inwardly and outwardly was FREAKING out. My heart not only dropped to the ground, but before my brain could even comprehend, my entire body dipped down to hide behind a fixture of clothing. A few expletives were definitely said.

I take wearing your heart on your sleeves to a whole new level. My first instinct was to go into defense mode. Yea, I am over this guy, but so what?! Do I really want to run into him, his family, friends and girlfriend at my job, a job that I am not all that proud of? The answer to that is a sure fired no. Then, I started thinking and questioning myself: Why am I acting this way? Why am I allowing someone and something from my past to affect me? How can I cower and cringe at the sight of one person? How can I allow another human being to have that much power over me?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

No one has power over you unless you give it to them.

It probably took me a good thirty minutes to recover and get my act together. Yea, I was shaking in my boots, but I gave myself a little kick in the rear, reminded myself that no person, past or present, defines me and I decided that only I determine who and what has power over me. I’m pretty sure my ex and his group of friends and family didn’t even notice me, but maybe one day we will cross paths again. The next time, I would only hope that my response would be better.

Here’s what a lot of bumps and bruises in my twenties have taught me: Nobody has power over you, unless you give it to them. So guess, what? Don’t give it away. I can laugh about my recent mall debacle and about how ridiculous I acted. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to breathe and remind myself not to let other people affect me so much. I have just as much the right to breathe and walk this Earth as the next person. Never should I let another human being make me want to go into hiding.

I know the twenties can be rough, but I hope you can take some encouragement from the fiasco that I call my everyday life and be reminded to not cringe, cower or hide for anyone. Don’t allow people to have power over you. You are not just a twenty something at the bottom of the totem pole. You are a twenty something with endless possibility. Keep your head held high.

-Stephkt

Lessons Learned from Cinderella

cinderella

“Be kind, and have courage.”

Last month, Cinderella captivated the hearts and minds of moviegoers across the country. A bestseller in the box office, Cinderella proved that the goodness and purity of heart seen in age old fairytales never go out of style. I walked out of the theater feeling more hopeful than I had in a long time. I felt motivated to face the giants in my own life, to keep trying when circumstances around me seem bleak, and to hold onto my smile even when life doesn’t play fair.

Ella, the main character, is born into a seemingly picture perfect life. The safe haven of her home is held up by the pillars of love, consistency and safety that her mom and dad provide, but Ella’s world is shaken when an unexpected illness suddenly takes the life of her mother. On her death bed, her mother gives her a last bit of wisdom, words that will stick with Ella the rest of her life and drive the plot of the movie: “A great secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer…..Be kind, and have courage.”

So simple and concise, yet powerful: Be kind, and have courage. Ella did not know it at the time, but these words would carry her through some of the most trying times of her life, her father’s marriage to a gold digging woman, the death of her father, and the mental and emotional abuse of her stepmother and stepsisters.  In the end, Cinderella is able to rise above the circumstances surrounding her because of the faith she chooses to hold onto.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Be kind, and have courage.”

I know it sounds silly and super simplistic, but today’s advice for us twentysomethings is based on a fairytale. Fairytales, after all, do have important lessons we can all use some reminding of. The decade known as the twenties is full of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. We make a lot of mistakes and go through a lot of challenges during this period of our lives, but I believe if we can learn to get back up as much as we are knocked down, we would master the art of life. Because that is what life is all about: getting back up!

What does it take to get back up after a rough season of your life? Courage. What does it take to not grow angry, bitter or hardened? Kindness. What does it take to hold onto the childlike awe and wonder of the kid in you that used to believe in the magic of fairytales? Courage. What does it take to forgive when people treat you in an unfair manner or when the hand dealt to you isn’t fair? Kindness.

So have  courage and be kind. It will see you through a lot of the troubles that your twenties and life, in general, will bring your way. Be encouraged!

-Stephkt