In the Process of Letting Go

Hi, blog community! I have not written in almost three months. My last blog was July 17. (Yikes!) I hate to go long intervals without writing, but hey, that’s life. Shit happens.

Cutting straight to the point, I’ve been going through some thangs. (Yes, I spelled that how I meant to- thangs.) Adulthood is full of challenges. Job setbacks and disappointments. Car troubles. And one of the most painful of all- dealing with the end of friendships and relationships.

Have you ever lost a best friendship? If you are post-grad age (lets say 22 or 23) or older, then I will assume yes. It’s tough, right?! Long story short, I had a close friendship end in the most drawn out, television drama-esque way earlier this year. Yet, it was not until recently, (actually right after returning to America from Italy in May) that the hurt set in. That the reality of this friendship loss was felt.

So here I am, processing the end of a five-year friendship with someone who I thought would be a forever friend. The person I thought would be standing next to me on my wedding day. It hurts a lot. I rotate between frustration, anger, hurt and sadness but not once do I question that it needed to end. Now, I am left with the process of asking questions on what can I learn from this and how do I let it go.

I know that just because this friendship ended does not make it a failure, and it certainly does not make me a failure. Also, just because a friendship or relationship ends does not mean there was not love on both sides. But sometimes, you have to love people from a distance and always you must love them with open hands.

This friendship, my closest friendship, meant so much to me, but it became unhealthy for both parties. To be more specific, the friendship was no longer life-giving, and it was taking more than it gave. It needed to end. It taught me so much about myself, strengths and weaknesses. It also taught me to let go. I am still in the process of letting it go and learning how to do that exactly, but hey, I am a work in progress. Another thing it taught me- to show grace to myself and others.

So here’s a letter to myself and to anyone struggling to let go of a friendship or relationship that has become unhealthy:

Dear Beloved,

This is how it should be. Here we are, just you and I. Here to do the work of mending this tear in your heart. It’s more than a tear though.

It started as a crack long ago. Left untended, it has splintered in time. Like an unhealed wound, it has festered, and now, we are here to do the work to disinfect it. To rest. To evaluate. To change. To move forward. To unravel. To let go. To grow.

Cry those tears, mama. You deserve the space and room you need to grieve this.

You wonder how we got here, but we know. By wanting a friendship and the validation of another person so much so that you ignored your inner voice, that inner knowing that said time and time again it wasn’t right.

By hoping against all signs of reality. By putting your hope in the shaky ground of another person’s soul.

The best way to love others is with open hands. The only way to love others well is by first loving yourself with grace, dignity, acceptance and forgiveness.

Forgive and forget. It’s time to forgive and forget this friendship. Dare in fact I say, it’s healthy to do so. We can’t stay stuck here, you and I. We must pack our bags with an audacious courage. No more looking back on what was or holding things with closed fists. After all, isn’t surrender the sweet currency from which life flows?

Your heart will heal in time. Repeat- Your heart will heal. You will be OK. This friendship, the death of it, did not kill you.

You lost what you thought was a friend, but in the process, you gained yourself. Your sweet, optimistic, brave, confident, beautiful self. That is a victory. You stumbled but you found your feet, and here you are, as bright as can be. This is not the end sweet girl.

Never be angry for the process because it is your process. This could be the greatest teacher on confidence, on friendship, on identity, on letting go, on life and love that you will ever learn, if you allow it to be.

Keep hoping sweet girl. Your story is not finished yet.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody):

“You get what you deserve when you know how much you are worth.”

To all the people who have dealt with a friendship ending, keep going. Your heart is more resilient than you know.

With hope,

Stevie

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Find Your Tribe: For Paul Walker

friendship

The twenties are all about finding yourself. You try some things. You make some choices. You take some chances. You fall. You bruise. You get back up and try again. What a roller coaster ride!

At 24, I am constantly becoming more aware of who I am, my likes, my dislikes, my passions, the things I value most, the things that can use some changing, the things that I hold valuable and other things that I can lighten my grip on. The twenties are one big decade of learning, and a big part of that journey to self discovery is finding the people who will make the journey with you.

I recently saw Furious 7, the seventh installment to the Fast and Furious franchise. I had read reviews that said there hasn’t been one dry in eye in theater after the movie’s ending, and I was no exception to that. Typically, when characters exit in a film, you can walk away knowing it was just acting, but this film leaves you with a gripping sense of finality. As most of the world knows, one of the lead characters, Paul Walker, died in a car crash November 30, 2013. The movie had not yet finished filming before Walker’s tragic death, which makes its message of brotherhood, friendship and solidarity ring all the more true.

The film franchise has been criticized at times for its sometimes predictable story lines and not so stellar acting. Even if fast cars, action and muscle aren’t you’re idea of a good time, there is a message we can all take from, not only the Fast and Furious films’ message, but the people behind it: the value of true friendship.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Life has little to do with the destination. The destination is but a mere, hazy mirage in the distance. Life is not all about the journey because even that can seem unbearable at times. Life is mostly about people, the ones who run along side you and make the journey ahead not as hard.”

Vin Diesel has been quoted recently as saying that the friendships seen in the movie are not just acting, but they are the real thing. Paul Walker was not just his co-star the last 15 years, but his best friend, a brother, not by blood but by choice. And that my dear readers is what life is all about, finding your tribe, finding the people who will take you good and bad, love you at your best and love you through your worst.

“This movie is more than a movie. You’ll feel it when you see it. Something emotional happens to you. When you walk out of this movie, you’ll appreciate everyone you love. You just never know when the last day is that you are going to see them,” says Diesel in a USA Today news story.

People. Life is all about people, they are what fill the pages of your life with beautiful colors, laughter, joy, tears. Though difficult and trying at times, people are what make life worth living. I have learned and am still learning that we are built for community. Friendship is a gift, a rarity. True friendship is a bond that can’t be contrived or forced.

If you haven’t found that true friendship yet, don’t worry. The best way to find it is just by being your most authentic self. So don’t bend and break in an effort to find it, but when you find authentic ones, ones where you are safe to be 100 percent yourself, yet dangerous enough that you are challenged to grow, hold onto them with all you’ve got. Because friends, authentic friends, are the family we choose. They’re what life is all about (and they make any journey, especially the twenties, worth the ride.)

Be sure to watch the video for the movie’s single, See You Again. It’ll be sure to get stuck in your heard.

-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

I Stole A Dress!

Okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds, but kind of.

Here’s the story: So my summer in New York, myself and another intern came up with a project for all the interns. We wanted to put together an online blog where we got to tell our experience to readers. Great idea! Even better, the editors liked it! We were set to go. We rounded up all the interns in the office, got their stories, edited them and met with the online team (very grown up, if I do say so myself).

Last, but certainly not least, it was photo time. We needed images of ourselves to go along with our project. I ransacked my closet looking for the perfect outfit. A girl needs to look good, right? Well, out of the 50 or so dresses I own, I couldn’t find anything to wear. I wanted to look mature in my New York state of mind. After all, thousands of online readers were going to see this, but more importantly, people back home would see it. When I say “people back home,” I mean person back home. A guy. There was a guy back in Oklahoma still pulling on my 20-year-old heart strings and I needed to catch his attention.

Well, what caught my attention was a red dress that one of my roommates had bought several weeks before. We all agreed, as an apartment, how great she looked in it. I had in my mind that if I was to win this guy back, I had to look killer in this online photo. Not only did I need to look great, I needed THAT dress.

reddress

So I asked. I knew the dress was new so she might be a little hesitant, but she had worn it already, once or twice. Maybe she’d throw me a bone. Also, out of the four of the roommates, I was the second most responsible, after her. We let each other borrow things. We exchanged flat irons and shoes from time to time. This was my thought process as to why it would be okay to borrow the dress.

Imagine my disappointment, when I asked my roommate and she hesitated. Let’s be honest, it was basically a no, but I only heard “I’m not really sure about that.” I think I may have said, I’ll check again with you in the morning and see how you feel. Well, the next morning came, and my roommate wasn’t awake when it was time for me to leave. I waited to ask her, but I had to go (or I may have left early to miss her). So I took the dress and brought an extra change of clothes. Fast forward about 30 minutes later, my roommate was awake and was fully aware of the missing dress.

roommatedrama

As I sat at my desk, reading her reprimanding messages, I felt so guilty. I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. I apologized profusely and told her I would go change right away. What had brought me to this? Why had I twisted a series of events in my head to tell myself that something that was clearly wrong was right? I felt terrible.

I brought the dress home later and was so embarrassed that I couldn’t say anything to her. After a few days of awkward silence, when the tension had reached its peak, she eventually confronted me about it. In my embarrassment, I listened, shook my head and agreed with her as she said “I don’t want this to turn into a bigger deal than it needs to be.”

Fast forward two years later, I am glad to say that I have matured since then. In summer 2011, I wasn’t able to be honest about my real motives. I had convinced myself that I really liked the dress and just wanted to look nice. The truth is, I took it to impress a guy. Lesson learned: Never work so hard to impress someone else that you end up doing something outside of your character.

roomies

roomies!

My roommates and I pre-Dress Debacle 2011
My old roommate and I still talk from time to time via text, but I cannot say that the friendship is exactly the same. Every time we do talk, in the back of my head, I am thinking, “She hates me! She thinks I am the worst person alive!!” I just recently came to the realization as to why I really took the dress and was able to own my insecurities. I randomly decided to share my “Oprah aha moment” with my old roommate in a text message a few weeks ago. Another lesson learned: Bringing up old wounds (especially for which you have already apologized) probably isn’t the best idea. It’s okay to stop apologizing.

Here’s also what I learned: It is possible that my roommate may never forgive me. It is very possible that my reputation and character in her eyes is forever a little tarnished. I get it. Yes, I screwed up. I made a mistake. I chose to do something that was wrong, knowing that it was wrong and did it anyway. I disregarded someone’s property and boundaries. I messed up. But am I terrible person? No.

While my roommate may have long been over the dress debacle of 2011 and me bringing it up two years later was awkward, I have held onto it all this time. I now know that there is something more important than getting people to forgive me and that is learning to forgive myself.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

I am 22 years old. I have made a lot of dumb choices, and the truth is, I am probably going to make a few more in this lifetime. No matter how embarrassing, awkward and messy they may be, mistakes are necessary to help us learn. The dress debacle of 2011 was a wake up call. 20-year-old Stephanie had some growing to do. I needed to get to the root of why I was chasing some guy and so eager for his attention that I would hurt a friend. Here’s my truth: I took someone’s dress to impress a guy. Here’s the catch: HE PROBABLY NEVER SAW THE PICTURE! (Joke is on me!) And even if he did, it wasn’t worth it.

I messed up. I own that and, as I type these words, I am laughing at my bad choice and cringing with embarrassment. We all make mistakes. The only way to grow is to face them head on. Own your mistakes, every last ounce of them. Say, “Yes, I did that. I made that bad choice. I hurt that person. I told a lie.” Then, you can start digging a little deeper as to why you made that choice in the first place. You will find that the answer isn’t because you’re a dumb or bad person.

Don’t walk around for two years, carrying the shame of a bad choice. We’ve all been there. Show yourself a little forgiveness and grace. After you have messed up, realized your mistake and said your most sincere apologies to those involved, forgive yourself. Stop apologizing. Move forward. And now that you know better, do better.

P.S. Apparently, taking someone else’s clothes to impress a guy isn’t new. Watch this clip from one of my favorite shows: The Cosby Show.

-Stephkt

One Word, One Lesson, One Day

Today is September 11, 2012, the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks that shook our nation. My heart is heavy just thinking about it and all the people who lost someone, mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, uncles, aunts, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews and best friends.

AFP/Getty Images

Carrie Bergonia mourns the loss of her fiance, firefighter Joseph J. Ogren (inset), as she touches his name that is etched into the memorial pools at the World Trade Center site.

Thinking about September 11 made me think about forgiveness and wonder if it is impossible to forgive such a seemingly unforgivable act. I don’t think anyone would argue that those who lost someone in the 9/11 attacks have just cause to be angry and hold onto the pain that they were caused. All I can think of is forgiveness. What is it? What does it mean? How does one really “forgive”?

I can look back at this past year and remember all the people who have hurt me. I can look back knowing that my anger and hurt is justified, recounting every detail and every wrong done to me and then I think about the families and the friends of the victims of 9/11.  It makes me think that if just one of those friends or family members of the deceased can forgive the people who caused those terrible events 11 years ago, then I can forgive too.

Skylights lit September 10, 2012 to recognize the lives lost at the World Trade Center Towers

There is a song by Matthew West called Forgiveness. It is almost a heartfelt prayer asking for help to forgive. It says:

“Show me how to love the unlovable. Show me how to reach the unreachable.”

Forgiveness is a choice and although I’ve heard this so many times, I think it just really hit me today. If the person who hurt you apologized or something bad were to happen too him or her would that 100 percent take away the pain?  No, it wouldn’t. Again, forgiveness is a choice, and though opposite of how you may feel, it is the most powerful and freeing decision a person can make. We must all live with the decisions we make. Choose to forgive.

Stephkt