How a Blast From the Past Taught Me About Self-Love

I nervously packed my bags for my Portland weekend trip. Should I pack heels? What about a dress? I need a hot dress. Maybe I should straighten my hair? My mom always said I looked better with straight hair. If I keep it curly, maybe I should wash my hair tonight so my curls look extra nice for the trip.

My stomach fluttered with butterflies, the kind you only get when feelings are involved. I was headed to Portland for the first time ever, for both business and pleasure. For business, I was covering a women’s soccer game for a news outlet. For pleasure, I was taking a weekend girls’ trip with a friend from L.A.

Then, in a momentous, destiny-calling kind of way, an opportunity presented itself to connect with an old friend who lived in Portland. This old friend, to be exact, was my 8th grade crush who saw me in glasses, pigtails and all the awkward phases that a kindergarten through 8th grade school entails.

We’ll call him Austin. Rumor had it, Austin had a crush on me too. (His best friend told my best friend. You know? The usual means of communication in middle school.) Austin also happened to be one of my cousin’s best friends, and his dad lived in the same suburban neighborhood as my cousin’s family throughout our entire childhood. While I hadn’t seen Austin in 10 years, I occasionally would hear tales about his adult life from my cousin or my aunt whenever I came home.

A few days before my trip, my cousin text me his number. I sent a nervous yet bold text asking Austin for the best places to go to and sights to see in Portland, and the deed was done. Austin was gracious and agreed to meet my friend and I for lunch and show us around. I ended up spending every day of my trip with Austin, every single day. I was enamored with the idea of him yet and still, and I spent the weekend hoping for something more than friendship.

To my inner child’s dismay, I realized Austin had not really changed, for both the good and the bad. Between the long talks, laughter, jokes and insults we exchanged, I realized it wasn’t so much him who I had admired all these years but the idea of him. I romanticized who I thought he was or who I wanted him to be. I made the middle school crush who I cried over at the end of 8th grade (yes, I was an emotional kid) out to be more than he actually was.

He was still the good-looking, funny and sweet guy I remember. Unfortunately, he was aware of all these things, his good looks, his charm, his confidence with the ladies. The same guy who every girl liked in middle school was now sitting across from me at a restaurant over drinks checking out women and asking me to be his wing-woman to pick up ladies. Some habits die hard, and I think being the popular, athlete who all the ladies want is one of them. He was still the same person, not ready to grow up or settle down.

The real struggle from that weekend wasn’t about Austin at all though. It was an internal battle within myself. A battle of whether or not I would allow the popular guy in school to unearth me the way he did when I was a kid. The nervousness. The shaky hands. The fast heart beat. It all came back to me.

As Austin scanned the bar for women, I began to look at myself and question if I was enough. What about me? I wondered. Am I not good enough? Why don’t you see me? Why not me? I stopped, gathered my thoughts and began to counteract the insecurities trying to surface.

You see, I am not the little, straight- A, shy girl from middle school anymore. That girl has transformed into a twenty-someting woman who has scars from heartbreak that have healed with time. She has wisdom lines on her brow from the mistakes she has made and the lessons she has learned. She has miles under her belt from the states she has lived and the countries she has visited. She has laugh lines on her face from times spent with friends who have become more like family. She has muscle from the hours she has spent serving others and learning to enjoy the moment.

Eighth grade me is gone. Although parts of her make up the mosaic of the woman I am now, that little girl grew up and is now a woman who knows she is. She is confident, strong and knows her value, and no guy, not even the hot middle school jock, gets to challenge that knowledge.

Everyone gets older but not everyone grows up. Growing up requires doing the work to learn, to change, to better yourself. Austin hasn’t grown up and reconnecting with him taught me that trying to force someone from your past into your present doesn’t work. The pieces won’t fit.

Sometimes, oftentimes, you can’t go back to the past. You might be able to revisit it momentarily or for a weekend trip to Portland, but you can’t stay there. You aren’t meant to. Life is about moving forward, letting go and accepting the now. Austin and I got older and went our separate ways, and I really believe it was for the best.

My blast from the past brought laughter, moments of self-doubt and most importantly a revelation that I am good enough, who I am now, present day me. Our last day in Portland, Austin dropped my friend and I off at the airport, and I haven’t heard from him since. I walked away from the experience knowing it’s OK to grow up and not look back. You simply have to trust the process and let go of what you thought life would look like and accept it for what it is.

This post originally appeared on Hello Giggles.

Advertisements

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

A Silver Lining Mindset

silverliningI really do enjoy writing this blog. If you’re new here, Life as Told by an Upcoming Twenty Something is all about the mishaps, blunders, pitfalls, mistakes and lessons learned while in your twenties. I am learning, writing and sharing with you all as I go. So usually when I write something, it’s because it is either something I have walked through or am walking through. If you ever feel like I am preaching to you, please don’t. Because I am telling myself these lessons as much as I am telling you guys.

So I am 24 years old as I write this, and I find myself in a bit of slump lately. Talking to my older brother the other night, I found ironically that when he was 24, he too found himself in a bit of a “quarter life crisis”. Not to be dramatic, but 24 has been rough. These last six months have been hard. I have encountered a lot of uncertainty in my career, my friendships, with dating, you name it!

In the midst of all the uncertainty and the chaos, I was reminded the other day the value of perspective. Feeling despondent and down on myself, I quickly remembered the value of what I choose to focus on.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“When you focus on what you don’t have or on situations that displease you, your mind also becomes darkened. You take for granted life.” Sarah Young

If all you choose to focus on are the clouds, you might miss out on the rainbow that peers through the darkness at the end of the storm. You might only see an inconvenient crack in the sidewalk that causes you to slip but completely overlook the flower sprouting in the imperfect, tattered cement.

One saying that I live by is, “There is always hope.” Lately, I have gotten off track and forgotten that there is always something good to hope for. There are always second chances, new beginnings, births after deaths, wins after losses.

So maybe you’re like me and you’re at a point where life doesn’t quite look like what you had planned. Or maybe you have had some success but lately only seen setbacks and losses. Well, I am here to give you a kick in the rear and encourage you to see that there is still good to be found from your frame of reference. There is beauty in the masterpiece called your life. Sometimes you just have to dust your eyes off to see that it’s there.

-Stephkt

The Beauty and Burden

Remember when you were in middle school and went through that phase of crazy hair, braces and acne? In the grand scheme of your life, the twenties look a lot like those years when you were growing out of childhood and slowly emerging to the world through the grit and grim of puberty.

THE TWENTIES, a.k.a. the awkward years

growingpains2

Maybe a little elaboration will help you see my point. The twenties is the time when you are becoming an actual adult. You know like…..pay your own bills, buy groceries and cook meals all on your own. The first few years of this decade of your life are most likely spent in college, where you are not quite an adult, still living off the perks of financial support from parents. Then, you graduate and are thrown out into the real world to fend for yourself. You struggle to swim on your own for awhile, but eventually you find a way to keep your head above the water. Career, dating, relationships, friends, family, locale…..everything is constantly changing and the ball is in your court. Decisions are yours to make and you’re constantly having to learn how to deal best with the hand you have been dealt.

The twenties can be described best in two words: disastrously delightful.

The dichotomy of the two words are perfect for what comprises the twenties: a lot of mistakes made, unforgettable experiences, lessons learned, new opportunities, broken hearts, beautiful places, uncomfortable changes, interesting people, and growth. The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. That’s what the twenties are all about.

The other day I caught myself wishing for what’s next, a more certain season, where I had it together more often, made more money, was more established, lived in a city that I loved and the list goes on and on. I was wishing for a different season when life was easier. I quickly realized that the twenties, although not perfect, has a beauty of it’s own. In the midst of all it’s ups and downs, all the pitfalls, all the cuts and bruises, the twenties brings a lot of good too. If anything, it brings growth.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that’s celebration.”  Shauna Niequist

Every season will have it’s beauty and burden attached to it. It would be a shame to miss out on all the beauty that the time in your twenties has to offer just because it doesn’t look like what you thought it would. I’d much rather look back on these years of my life and remember making the most of them, rather than being stressed out over bills, worried about my dating life and always waiting on what’s next for my career.

So you’re in your twenties and it gets pretty awkward at times. Welcome to a wonderful season of growth and growing pains. There’s beauty here, only if you’d open you’re eyes to see it.

– Stephkt

Say Yes

say yes

My closest friend has on more than one occasion accused me of being a man hater. Her exact words….. “Stephanie is skeptical of men.” No matter how much I try to refute this, my friend is in fact right. When it comes to my friends and guys, I am the mother hen, waiting to swoop in and save the day from any man whore, liar, Mr. Here Today and Gone tomorrow. I stand ready and on guard to help my friends avoid having their hearts broken by guys who do not see their value and worth.

I can tell you for 100% fact (and yes, I may indeed be biased), but my friends (most of whom are single) are AWESOME! They are gorgeous, educated, independent, well-traveled, witty, adventurous and fun. What more can a guy ask for, right?!

Not only am I defensive when it comes to guys whom my friends show potential interest in, but I am also defensive regarding myself. What I realized as of late is that in all my strong, independent and vivacious nature, I have also been afraid. Afraid of what you may ask? Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of going back to a place I have known all too well before: heartache. If you’ve never been there, trust me. It is not the most fun place to be.

My light bulb moment about my fear came recently when I was asked out on a date and gasp! I actually said yes. However, very quickly my fears manifested. I couldn’t allow myself to be open very long without the fear creeping up in the back of my mind. There were those nagging questions, “What if this guy hurts me? What if I start to fall for him and he leaves?”

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Say yes, more than you say no. Even if you turn out to be wrong. Because every mistake, every heartache and every blunder is just another step on the journey of where you are ultimately meant to be.”

What I realized is that by allowing my fears to dominate my thoughts, I’m doing myself a disservice. Often times, the thing we fear the most manifests in our lives. It’s almost as if we attract the very thing we fear. Yes, there’s a possibility that I and my friends may date Mr. Not So Rights, but there’s also a chance that we might each find really, great guys. Sometimes you have to stumble along the way in life and love until finally you get it right!

My recent dating situation did not turn out the way I had hoped it would. But you know what? I am proud of myself because I said yes. I said yes to a first date, and a second and a third. I took a risk. I took a chance. So what that it didn’t turn out to be happily ever after! In all honesty, it hurt. I got hurt, but I know I will be okay. Every mistake, every heartache and every blunder is just another step on my journey of where I am ultimately meant to be.

You know what I also learned from this situation: I can trust myself. There’s this still, small voice on the inside of me (some may call it a woman’s intuition, others’ a gut feeling, others’ the voice of God) that I can trust not to lead me astray. I can feel free to say yes to a date without fear. In this last dating situation, that still, small voice told me this guy wasn’t best for me and that is completely okay. Saying yes to a date is not the same as saying yes to an engagement proposal. It does not mean forever and always. It simply means: Yes, I will be brave enough to take a chance on something new.

So say yes. When a decent guy who you potentially could be interested in and are attracted to asks you out, say yes. Of course if you notice big red flags about the guy (like approaching you in a creepy or disrespectful way), feel free to say no. Just don’t be afraid to take chances. Yes, you may get hurt and you may mess up, but there’s grace for that. In this very moment, I am choosing to show myself some much needed grace. It’s not the end of the world. This guy just wasn’t best for me, but I won’t allow it to make me afraid. I’ll keep going and only be stronger because of it. There’s grace for you too. You will learn from it and only be stronger in the end.

-Stephkt

Riding Solo and Loving It

I love weddings. The flowers, the music, the food, the beauty of the white dress and how it perfectly fits a woman’s silhouette, the delicacy of the veil, the quiet moment when the bride takes a breath and begins walking down the aisle. I love it all, but for some reason, as I was preparing my mind for a friend’s wedding, I could not find that old joy.

What’s the deal? I’ll get to see college friends. I get to dress up and look pretty. I get to eat free food and shake my tail feather on the dance floor. Then, it hit me. I am 23 years old. Before when I went to friends’ weddings, I felt so young and childlike. Not that 23 isn’t still young, but it is older. I am getting older, and now, when I go to friends’ weddings without a date, it is going to start to be more noticeable. Whenever everyone else is holding hands or sharing a dance with their partner, I will be on my own.

JennyGioviJenny and I on her wedding day

I’m not going to lie. This realization stung. It also confused me. See, I am a very independent person. I bet you are rolling your eyes, thinking, “Yea, sure another one of those independent women speeches.” Truthfully, since childhood, I have been the kind of person who enjoys doing things on her own. So fear of being alone at a friend’s wedding was perplexing.

I haven’t dated in three years. In those three years I have had my moments of loneliness. Sometimes I see my friends with their significant others on social media, and I want that too. There are times when I am stressed out or sick, and I think how nice it would be to have someone to comfort me. A prime time when I feel the absence of a significant other is while grocery shopping! Can anyone relate? Once you carry 50 pounds of groceries on one arm, you start to wonder when Mr. Prince Charming will come riding in.

I had to take some time to myself to get perspective. I realized that while I have had my moments of loneliness, they don’t last very long. In the three years that I have been single, I have grown tremendously. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I have gotten to know myself better, my likes and dislikes, my quirks, my pet peeves, things that I can improve on and my deal breakers for a future relationship. I have gotten to travel to new cities. I got my nose pierced. I ran a 5k, and am working on a 10k. I rock climbed for the first time. I moved 12 hours from home. I road-tripped cross country on my own. I joined a growing magazine’s staff. I grew.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Be patient: Take a lesson from chess. Sometimes when you are young everything seems so immediate and emergent. It’s usually not. It’s one thing to see a move you want to take. It’s another to be able to wait until the right time to take it.”

Sarah Hall, CEO of Harley & Co.

 

My hope for you is that you will grow too. Yes, we will have our days when loneliness starts to creep in, but don’t let it get you down. Be too busy relentlessly chasing your passions to entertain the thought of loneliness. I encourage you to live a full life now. Don’t look for wholeness or purpose in the arms of another person. The right person will find you when you least expect it, when you are busy living. When your friends start dating and marrying, don’t seek out relationship just because you are feeling antsy. Instead, patiently wait. Live with intention, even if it means having to stand alone at yet another friend’s wedding. Your time will come.

jennwomackJenny'sWedding

P.S. There is always cute, single people at weddings. Enjoy the free food and the potential eye candy! 😉

– Stephkt

 

Say What You Need to Say

The sky is overcast and the ground is damp from the morning rain showers. Today is a quiet day in quaint, little Tulsa, Oklahoma. The perfect day for rain boots, cozy sweaters, hot cocoa and movie marathons. It is also the perfect day for writing. I haven’t been blogging as frequently the last three months since my move from Minneapolis to Tulsa. I guess I have just been cultivating ideas. They say the best writing comes with experience and I have been experiencing a lot.

My biggest prayer for 2013 has been for growth. To grow as a young woman, as a sister, as a daughter, as a career woman, as a friend and as someone who will someday be a wife and mother. Growth. That has been my focus all year. The saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” is no joke! While good and healthy, growth isn’t easy! At times, it can be downright painful. For me, 2013 has been tragically and uncomfortably beautiful. I have been pushed, humbled, tested, knocked down, shaken, pressured and humbled again. But I wouldn’t take back a minute of it.

I recently encountered some controversy in my life. What it came down to was my willingness to speak up for myself. I will be the first to admit that I struggle in the “communication in conflict” arena. I am guilty of being a people pleaser. I like to get along with everyone. I do not like when people don’t like me. It sucks! In the past. I would have rather not spoken up for myself when I was frustrated or when I felt hurt or disrespected, if it meant keeping peace. Instead of speaking up for myself, I have developed the habit of being quiet. I basically crawl into this little shell and hope no one notices until my hurts and frustrations have passed. But trust me, people take notice.

speakup2Here’s what I am learning: It’s always better to speak up. Say what you need to say, as long as you are doing it in a truthful, respectful and loving way. You cannot live your life for other people. If someone is taking advantage of you, speak up. If someone is being dishonest, speak up. If a friend, coworker or significant other is doing something that affects you negatively, speak up. Because if you don’t, you will keep trying to hide in that little invisible shell and never be heard. You will only bottle things up and hurt yourself. If you are never honest and live to please everyone around you, you will never have the freedom to become the truest version of yourself. And what kind of life is that?

This lesson especially applies to twenty somethings. We are at the beginning of the rest of our lives, the beginning of our careers and the beginning of adulthood. We will have so many opportunities at work and with relationships, friendships and family to speak our truths. I want to master this lesson now while I am 23 and not go a moment longer allowing myself to be anyone’s doormat. Is honesty always going to be easy? No. Sometimes people may not receive what you have to say. They may get upset or offended, but as long as you are approaching the situation with honesty and kindness, that’s all that matters. You have no control over another person’s response.

Twenty Something Advice for Anybody:

“In the end, it’s better to say too much then never to say what you need to say again.”

John Mayer, Say What You Need to Say

Whether you are the person who is never honest, follows the crowd and seeks approval, or you are the person who stays true to who you really are, someone isn’t going to like you. Why not then be true to yourself and live a life of honesty and integrity? I have come to accept this and it is the biggest relief. I do not have to walk on eggshells anymore to make everyone pleased with me. There will always be naysayers. There will always be people who don’t like you and I. My hope is that we stop caring about what “they” think and be true to ourselves in work, family, friendships and dating relationships.

speakup1There is a mantra I read recently that I love: “Love all. Please One.” Focus on being kind and compassionate to everyone but don’t concern yourself with making everyone happy. Instead, focus on living a life of honesty and integrity. For me, this mantra means I have the freedom to be kind and good to everyone, but I am only focused on pleasing God. This is such a relief! Because there’s so much freedom in truth.

These are just some of my lessons learned as a twenty something. I hope by sharing, I can encourage and uplift you. Here’s a little music inspiration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JONA_6ZCrE

-Stephkt