Begin Again

Begin-again

“Blood shot eyes, bruised knees, sweaty forehead, she wipes her brow and presses on. Past the obstacles. Past the hurts. Past the failed relationships and friendships. Past her own mistakes. She dusts herself off and decides to keep going.”

My life has looked a lot like this lately. A lot of having to choose whether or not I will press onward or allow the circumstances around me, in this current (temporary) season to define me and my future. Life has required a lot of, as so eloquently put in Taylor Swift’s hit song, shaking it off. (Sorry, TSwift will be referenced again in this post but there’s a purpose, so keep reading.)

Life is like that sometimes– rough. Just plain, old hard. There’s no pretty or eloquent way to word it. Life can be hard sometimes and I think in your twenties you are rudely awakened to this harsh reality, on a weekly if not daily basis. To be honest, a lot of things, including blogging have been difficult lately. Because when life is rough, it is almost innate for me to want to run away or crawl in a ball in the corner where no one can see me. Continuing to write through what has been one of the hardest years of my personal and professional life, has felt nearly impossible.

But here’s what I have been realizing, it’s the hard stuff that makes us strong, wise, better. Like gold being refined in fire or a diamond being cut, drilled and polished, sometimes to get where you are going and to see the end result, you’ve got to go through hard things. I think the trick is whether or not you allow the things you go through to define you. Whether it’s financial woes, work stress, a heartbreak, a loss of a loved one, an illness, whatever unexpected turn life has taken for you, it is your decision whether or not that thing defines who you are and who you will become.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

Baby steps they may be, but baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

Here’s my advice and one word to keep in mind through hard seasons: RESET. According to Webster, reset means to set again or to adjust or change the reading. I want to challenge all my fellow twenty somethings reading this, that when life is crappy, reset. Hit reset in your mind. Begin again.

So you lost your job or that friendship fell out or that guy broke your heart….allow yourself to feel how you feel. Be angry. Be sad. Be disappointed. Be real about it, but don’t stay there. Take some time to yourself, gather your thoughts, reevaluate and take from it what you can. Learn. Then, begin again. Dust yourself off and begin putting one foot in front of the other. Baby steps they may be, but baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

One last thing before you go, here’s an awesome video of encouragement along the lines of beginning again by none other than Taylor Swift. Enjoy!

-Stephkt

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Thanks for Choosing Starbucks

Starbucks

“Thanks for choosing Starbucks, how may I help you?” I recently took on a second job. If you guessed Starbucks, then you guessed right! I’m saving for grad school and for my big move out west this fall. It’s a huge (expensive) move so I am saving every penny I make.

Today was my second official day on the job (outside of training), and let me tell you it was intimidating. I never knew how fast paced and detailed the behind the counter work at Starbucks or any food establishment could entail. I have much more respect for people who work in the food business now. There is so much to learn and an equal amount of things that you can possibly get wrong.

To be completely honest and transparent, I left work today feeling a little frustrated and discouraged. It seemed like I got more things wrong than I did right, and no matter how fast I moved, I could always use a jolt in my pace. I know I am new and I still have a lot to learn. I should probably give myself a break, but in the moment, all I could do was feel really discouraged.

Now, part of my stress could be the fact that I am working two jobs, one of which is the early morning shift (Hello to waking up at 4 a.m.!), all while applying for grad school and saving for a move. It’s a lot! Any normal human being might feel a little stress.

So when I sat to take my ten minute break (at the crazy hour of 6:30 a.m.!), I had to give myself a little pep talk. I had to counter all the negative thoughts in my head toward myself and replace them with some positive self-motivation: “You can do this. Keep your head up. You still are new. You are still learning. Show yourself some grace. You are brave to try something new.” The last thought it the one that really got me going: You are brave.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“It takes courage to try something new, to pursue a dream, to not quit. So keep going.”

You see, even though I screwed up countless ways on my first few days on the job, I do not completely and totally suck (the way I told myself in my head). I am still learning. There is guaranteed to be some trial and error at the beginning of something new. So yes, I made and will make plenty of mistakes, but I am brave for giving it a shot.

Some people would be too intimidated to apply to such a fast, paced environment as Starbucks. Other people might be too lazy to get a second job or to wake up at 4 a.m. to work. Others might be to prideful to take a second job at a coffee shop. Did I mention that I don’t drink a lot of coffee and thus, I don’t know a lot about coffee? Hence, another reason as to why I am brave.

So yes, I am brave. It takes courage to try something new. It takes courage to take little steps toward your dream: like taking a second job at Starbucks. It takes a bold person to clean bathroom floors, work long, early morning hours and smile through tired eyes with the warm greeting, “Thanks for choosing Starbucks. How may I help you?”

If you are a twenty something, working toward a goal or dream, then this post is just for you. I want to encourage you to keep going. Work those odd jobs. Bust your butt. Save, budget, and plan. It takes courage to try something new and even more courage to relentlessly pursue a dream. Don’t look down on yourself for starting out in humble beginnings or for not having it all together. We all have to start out somewhere.

Still learning,

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

Right Now

Change

Change. That’s what my life has looked a lot like lately. Everywhere I turn, all I see is change and to be honest I haven’t always dealt with it the best.There’s been so much change lately I haven’t written in a month! That’s nuts!

Earlier this month, my parents left the house we have lived at for the last 9 years. I am crashing at a friend’s apartment for the next few months. My closest friendship ended recently. I am looking at moving out of state in a few months to pursue my writing career. Change.

The twenties are all about change. Around every corner, every turn, every side road, it seems there is a change awaiting. How do you keep your head together during the change? How do you manage to keep your footing when the ground beneath your seems to be shaking? When the life you’ve known for so long seems to be coming undone, what do you hold on to?

I cannot pretend that I have all the answers to this. As I am still very much figuring out the tumultuous twenties, I think I am starting to realize the best way to handle change is to focus on right now. Instead of worrying about what will happen or being afraid of letting go of what used to be, focus on now. Enjoy now because right now is all we’ve got.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“We’ll never be as young as we are right now. We’ll never see the world like we do right now. So take in what’s around you. Take a shot. Give it all you’ve got.”

Don’t get stuck looking back at what was. If you’re always looking forward or always looking back, how can you enjoy right now? Take in what’s around you. Let go a little. Enjoy the ride you are on now. You can navigate the change just ahead.

-Stephkt

No Five Year Plan

plan

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

A typical question for a twenty something. A simple, terse question that leaves the average twenty something grappling for the perfect, flawless response that will appease the ears of the listener.

I was recently asked this question. My response: “I am not sure.”

Gasp! You said that to someone? You don’t have a five year plan? You couldn’t give them some sort of idea? Why didn’t you make something up?

Five years ago, when I was 19, I could’ve never imagined what my life would be like today. Five years ago, I would have answered that question differently. I would have given some eloquent response about how I see myself living in New York after college graduation, and by 24 working my way up the ladder at some big name magazine. Well folks, the plan I had for my life five years ago, did not quite come to pass, and I’m okay. I am more than okay. I am better for it.

When a friend of mine recently asked me about my five year plan, I so eloquently and bravely, in all my 24 years of wisdom, told him the truth: I am not sure. At 24 years of age, I understand life does not work according to plan. Yes, I have dreams, goals and ideas in my head. I have passions that I am actively pursuing and would like to continue to pursue. However, I feel like creating some sort of masterful plan, 2.5 kids, married with a white picket fence by age 25, is a bit silly and honestly just downright stressful.

Five years ago, I was a sophomore in college. I was 19, working hard at a magazine on campus, interning at a local newspaper. I had big city dreams, dreams of New York. I wanted to be at a top women’s magazine straight out of college. Coming from a university in a small Oklahoma town didn’t discourage me at all. It just fueled my drive.

Nowhere, in my five year plan back then did I write down: fall in love for the first time, experience heartbreak, travel cross country, join a women’s ministry, live in New York for a summer, travel to Ireland, run a 10k and train for a 15k, move to Minneapolis, work for the top travel magazine in the world. That’s what my life has looked like the last five years, full of unexpected turns, curveballs, knock outs, and lots of second chances.

Those things weren’t in my five year plan, but I sure wouldn’t change them. So now at 24, I threw out the “list making” mindset because I know that life doesn’t work that way. In five years, I will be almost 30. I’d like to say I’ll be doing some screenwriting, while also working for a women’s magazine, maybe married or maybe just in a serious relationship. But who knows! That’s life! And I’m okay with not knowing and not pretending like I do.

The biggest lesson I have learned so far in my twenties is this: Life doesn’t go according to my plan. It’s cool to have dreams. Those are from God, but it gets messy when we try to dictate and pinpoint every detail of our lives. I’ve come to accept the not knowing, and I am learning to trust God more with the next step.

– 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

Just Take A Step

steps

I have always been a bit of a worrier. When I was a little kid, I remember envisioning my life as this uphill climb. The hill represented the structure of my life, school, church, family, friends. There was an order to life. First, there was elementary school, then middle school, high school and college. Church was every Sunday and Wednesday. Family and friends were the people that filled my life.

Structure. There was structure. However, in my vision the structure only went so far. Once I got to a certain point in my life (hello adulthood), once I climbed to the top of the hill, there was no longer a set in stone structure, no instruction manual, no definite yes or no, just a free fall. The free fall after the climb terrified me.

Why did the free fall scare me so much? Let’s be honest, why does it still scare me even a little to this day? Choices. Because there are choices to be made and so many options. What career path will I choose? What college will I attend? What will I study? Will I go to grad school? Will I date this guy or that one? Will I move away from home or move back home for a little while? Will I open myself up to this new friendship? Should I hold onto this friendship or is it time to let it go?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

Just take a step. It’s okay if you get it wrong!

Questions. All awaiting a yes or no from ME. The task to decide, to choose, to lead, to be an adult can be hard. It can be downright scary, but here is what I am realizing: It’s okay to take a step, even if you get it wrong! Let me repeat: It’s okay to make a choice, a decision, to say yes or no, to take a chance. You don’t have to be so fearful of getting the answer wrong that you choose not to make a move at all.

Life is not a quiz where you circle yes or no and if you choose the wrong answer, then you fail. Yes, life is full of choices, but I am here to tell you that twenties are a great time to step out without fear of the free fall. Let’s say you take that job offer or say yes to that first date. As long as you do not have any huge red flags and your conscious isn’t telling you to hit the breaks, it won’t hurt to take a chance, to step out onto the water and get a little wet.

If I could go back, I would tell my teenage self to stop worrying about life after high school, to stop worry about not picking the right major or the right school, and to just step out and take a chance. I promise even if you or I were to make a “terribly wrong decision,” we’d be okay. So just follow your instincts when you are faced with choices, and if you aren’t sure what choice to make, take a step, one step at a time and go from there.

– Stephkt