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.

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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

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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

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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

Color Outside the Lines

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Crash and burns, falling outs, mishaps, mistakes, failures…..

The twenties are  full of them. If this decade could be nicknamed anything, then I’d name it trial and error. You think when you are a kid that by your twenties you’ll have everything figured out. WRONG!!! So miserably, terribly and wholeheartedly wrong.

In your twenties (and for a matter of fact, every chapter of your life), you are bound to fail at something. Maybe you got that degree but didn’t land your dream job right after college. Or maybe you never finished college. Maybe your love life is a mess and that relationship you thought would be always and forever suddenly ended. Maybe you had to unexpectedly move back in with mom and dad. Maybe you set a personal goal for your twenties that you failed to reach. Maybe you dropped the ball and have more mess ups than you can count. If so, welcome to your twenties.

Here’s what I’ve been learning: Mistakes are bound to happen, but whether or not you rebound from them, that is up to you.

Thinking about my own mishaps and blunders in the first half of my twenties, sometimes I cringe from embarrassment and other times from pure horror. But then I stop and think, maybe there are lessons to be learned from them. Maybe these mistakes are all a part of a masterful painting called my life, where the mishaps blend so gracefully into the strokes that make the masterpiece.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“No one ever discovered anything new by coloring inside the lines.”

Thomas Vasquez

Something else I’ve been learning: Don’t last your past failures stop you. Whether your mistakes pertain to career, relationships, or personal goals, don’t let them stop you. The twenties are all about learning. So keep learning. Keep trying. Keep going. Keep making mistakes and keep learning from them. That, my friend, is what we call progress. Otherwise, you will just be living in fear.

Writing this blog every week for me is a constant “putting my foot in front of the other” thing. In the early days, there were definitely a number of posts that weren’t so good and that I would deem as mistakes. Sometimes I wonder if people are even reading. What if no one cares what I have to say? But I write anyway. It’s an act of faith, to keep trying and doing something I am passionate about despite any shortcomings thus far.

Forward motion. Growth. That is probably the best thing we can ask for in our twenties. So you had your heart broken once upon a time. Say yes to that date anyway. Ask that girl out for coffee anyway. Didn’t get the job you imagined? Get some more experience and apply again. Or better yet, apply to another position you are just as passionate about and qualified for. To be great, you must first dare to make mistakes and blunders.

I am sure Picasso colored outside the lines a few times as a kid before he ever mastered his art. Do the same. Make mistakes and learn. Try again.

-Stephkt

Life’s Unexpected Waves

I love my godmomma. She is the quintessential woman, strong, motherly, charismatic, caring and nurturing. She is everything that I could hope to be someday as a woman. I was talking to her the other day, just catching up on the little things. It was great to hear from her, but what was even better was hearing about all the good that has happened in her life.

Let me first give you a little more background: My godmother lives in Michigan, where my entire family is from. She is my mom’s childhood best friend. We have always been really close. We even share the same birthday (September 10!) My godmom has two kids who are about 10 years older than me, Joy and Joel. They are both married and have kids.

The cool thing about my godmom and her kids’ story is the struggle it took to get where they are now. Looking at how beautiful and happy their family is now, you wouldn’t know all they had been through to get there. My godsister, Joy, struggled with getting pregnant, and dealt with the loss of numerous miscarriages. In his twenties, Joel went through an untimely and devastating divorce. I remember my godmom telling me of how she would just sit and talk with her son, while he sat crying in her arms. Two difficult situations. Circumstances that were unplanned and seemingly out of their control. Situations that could have defeated them.

 

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“But life inevitably throws us curve balls, unexpected circumstances that remind us to expect the unexpected.” Carre Otis

 

That is not where their stories end. My godsister now is a mother to three beautiful children. My godbrother is remarried and now a father to three kids, as well. It’s an amazing story, a story of loss, of suffering, of triumph, of overcoming, of perseverance. It’s the human story, something we can all relate to.

I wanted to share their story today, just a reminder to all the twenty somethings out there: Keep going. Life is guaranteed to knock you down. Life will hand you the unexpected. Expect it. Anticipate the curveballs. When you get knocked down, remember it is always your choice to get back up again or to stay down. You decide. My godmom reminded me of this by sharing with me this beautiful story of heartache, loss and new beginnings. I wanted to share in hopes that wherever you are and whatever life has handed you today, that you would keep going. Happily ever afters are possible, but it’s gonna take going through something to get there.

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All six of my godmom’s beautiful, healthy grandchildren

-Stephkt

Love in Surprising Places

It is that time of year again. Valentine’s Day. The fourteenth of February. The day when couples around the world commemorate their love for each other with flowers, heart shaped balloons and chocolates. With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the fourteenth, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the Hallmark holiday and to start to define love by the grand gestures shown in one day.

What is love though, really I mean? Is it roses and chocolate covered strawberries? Is it fancy dinners and Tiffany jewelry? As a single, twenty something, I may still be somewhat of a novice in the romantic department of love, but I’d like to attempt to define love.

Image(Photo via LaurenConrad.com)

When I think of love, I don’t see red.

I see white, a beautiful, white gown a friend gave me for a pageant I was competing in because I couldn’t afford a new one.

I see my father’s eyes and the way they lit up when I came home for a surprise visit after being away for a long time.

I smell sweet, chocolate brownies that my mom used to make my brother and I. Waiting a whole 30 minutes seemed forever to two kids, so my mom would give us the bowl and spoon to lick.

I hear laughter as my grandmother pushed me on the swings. It tired her arms, but she never said anything. She knew how much I loved it.

I feel tears, as I cried over the end of my first relationship while my oldest friend sat and listened to my hurts.

I see an old bicycle that my dad used to ride across town to see my mom back in the days when they were just friends.

I feel a hand holding mine as I stepped out onto the ice for the first time. It had always been my dream to ice skate and I felt safe having someone I knew cared about me hold my hand.

I hear loud singing as me and two of my high school friends belt out every lyric to Destiny Child’s Survivor at karaoke night.

I feel my father’s strong arms, as he let me fall apart on his shoulder at my grandmother’s funeral.

I smell the sweet scent that only a newborn can have as I met my newest cousin when I went home to Michigan for Christmas.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody)

“So many waste their time chasing love. The wise know that only by opening

one’s arms to give can true love ever be received.”

When I think of love, I think of all these things and more.  Love is so much bigger than one day of the year. Love is not about grand gestures. Love is not boiled down to simply the romantic kind, but so many people get lost in looking for “the one,” especially on this big commercial holiday that they forget that love is all around them. Love is an amazing, amazing thing. For so many ladies and men, the fourteenth of February is a dreaded day because it only serves as a reminder of their single status. I encourage you to not get caught up in all the pomp and circumstance of Valentine’s Day. If you do not have a significant other, I hope you take this day to ponder the love you do have in your life. Remember that love is more than cards, chocolates and fancy things.

I may be a young twenty something, but I have come to understand that love is selfless. Love is giving of the things one holds most dear. Love is putting someone else before yourself. Love is patient in the most trying times. Love listens. Love seeks to understand before asking to be understood. Love doesn’t quit. Love is you. Love is me. Love is in the way we treat people. Love is the memories made and the people we make them with. Love is everywhere. Open your eyes and let it in.

Don’t forget to tell someone you love them today and every day. Love is not only reserved for the fourteenth of February!

-Stephkt