farewell to this.

Hello, you beautiful, beautiful world.

I’ve wondered for a while about whether or not I would continue to write, especially on this blog, and I’ve been torn.

Oh, you little blog, something’s been drawing me back to you, but something equally strong has been pushing me away again. Don’t take it personally now.

I started writing on this platform years ago, and it was exactly what I needed. This URL has seen some captivating, chilling, challenging, and pivotal points in my life, and for that I am grateful. Here, I’ve had the opportunity to share some of the workings of my inner world. These words have traversed the realms of life and death, joy and sorrow, and an attempt at finding love and gratitude in the everyday experience.

Looking back on my old posts is quite a journey in itself. I recall that as I was writing, I held in my heart some sort of knowledge that I had “come so far.” But now when I read my writings, I no longer find myself in my entirety; my world has shifted, so profoundly that I see each post as a mere splinter of who I am today.

If you’re reading this – I’m grateful for your presence, and your contribution of existence to this broken yet inspiring world.

I could start another blog tomorrow. Or I could rest, or sing some more, or who do something, and see where this feeling of “creativity limbo” takes me, with time and patience. Either way, I’m okay with this. I do hope that you are able to find something worthwhile here.

Now, to this blog, I say my final goodbye. At least I think.

Here’s to moving on, and continuing to follow this path as God is writing my story, in whatever manner it unfolds… and here’s to cherishing every little bit of it, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath. Life is good.

[almost] midnight inspiration.

It’s been a little while (okay, more than a little while, whoops) since I’ve sat down and written for you, and I suppose my delay strikes for a variety of reasons. Truthfully, I don’t feel as propelled to share my life stories and pangs of random emotion as I used to, and I’m okay with it. I cherish this life that God has given me, while acknowledging that I am only one star in this galaxy. The light that I exude isn’t the only light there is; all of the other stars matter, too. Without my light, the galaxy wouldn’t shine quite as brightly, but the only reason it shines the way it does is because of all of the other people who let their lights shimmer freely in the atmosphere.

The past few months have been beautiful and bittersweet. They’ve beaten me to a pulp at times, humbled me when my head was growing larger than my heart, and forced me out of my comfort zone to grow exponentially. Here are some lessons I’ve learned, or continued (or begun) learning so far this summer.

  1. Stop wasting your time caring about arbitrary or insignificant things (insofar as you can control it), because every second is far too valuable to throw away. You could spend your entire life thinking about what other people think of you, to name one example, or you could spend your time being a loving or hardworking or in some way positive individual.
  2. Be honest with yourself. If you think you need to change something in your life, don’t make excuses. Change it. Take credit for your accomplishments and take the blame when you make mistakes.
  3. Your mind is RESILIENT, if you believe that you can be. And if you don’t have a strong will already, it is more than possible to build one.
  4.  Everything will be okay, always. Sometimes things feel completely out of whack (and sometimes they really are) and it seems like there’s absolutely no hope at all, but there always is, somewhere.
  5. Instant gratification isn’t a “thing,” but patience is. And since the world doesn’t revolve around you, you’re obligated by default to wait. Whether or not you do so patiently is up to you.
  6. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, ever. You could channel the exact same feelings into growing yourself and facing the things that bother you or annoy you or drive you up a wall or make you cry. Being sorry for yourself is unproductive. Don’t be unproductive (p.s. relaxation is productive for your mind and body so make sure you relax, too).
  7. Don’t be afraid of offending people by being who you are. That doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to purposely push people’s buttons simply because you know they feel differently than you do, but always speak your mind when it’s appropriate and share your ideas. If you hurt someone’s feelings, they’ll get over it. And if they don’t, it’s not on you.
  8. You can’t live your life just so that people like you. God created every individual extremely differently, and you cannot possibly engineer your every action to satisfy the entire human race. It just won’t happen. People are different, and what one person loves, another person hates. If people don’t like you, you’re not obligated to change (but refer to #2 instead). Not everyone will like you. It’s better to accept this sooner rather than later.
  9. Not all friends last forever. There are plenty of people who are meant to enter your life for a certain period of time, and then go. There are also plenty of people who will hurt your feelings, change their minds, and cause drama. Understand that everyone is human and these things happen, but also understand that you are only one person and one friend. You cannot bear the weight of the world on your shoulders alone, and you are not obligated to associate with people who seriously affect your well-being in negative ways.
  10. Stick by the people who are your true friends. Some people are blessed with others who become family, unrelated by blood but completely related by love. Don’t let those people go. Stand by them, stick with them, and thank God that He gave them to you because you are very, VERY blessed.
  11. Smile. Even if you are miserable, you still have reasons to smile. This may mean putting your feelings on the back burner for a little while and just trying your best to love the moment you are in. And there will be times when loving your life is impossible, no matter how hard you try. That’s when you think about #5 and understand that time heals all wounds, and you’ll get there. “Just keep swimming.”

You’ve probably heard all of these things before, like I have, but these lessons most likely aren’t things that we’ll just learn overnight and move on from. No. We can’t live on autopilot. We have to remember the things that matter, the people that matter, the ideas that matter, and so on and so forth.

This isn’t about me anymore. This is about you. If I feel inspired at all from this point on to continue writing, I can promise you that this blog is not for me. This is our story, pieces of the human experience. Here’s my piece to the puzzle. Where is yours?

xoxo

wrong.

I’ve always been one to crave security. My element of risk-taking hasn’t typically extended far beyond staying up slightly too late the night before an exam, or trying a new dessert because trying new foods honestly frightens me sometimes. Because of my yearning for some sort of emotional safety, I’ve found a home confined in four walls, walls that I thought I always needed in order to make sense of who I am and what this world is… but I was wrong.

I was wrong about needing a specific diagnosis of an anxiety disorder or depression to validate that I, in fact, have been feeling something far beyond my ability to describe adequately.

I was wrong about thinking that I was entirely alone in a sea of thoughts and mental pressures and stress that no one else had ever experienced or understood. I forgot how many of these feelings are inherent in our human experience.

I was wrong about thinking that I needed the security of assigning myself to a specific list of mental health symptoms, because in the end, it only hurt me more.

I am finished living a life that revolves around the world within the troubles of my mind, because the worlds within my heart and my field of vision are far greater to me. I am finished living in fear of losing myself in an unusually ferocious laughter, or feeling like every little mood swing is a sign of a chemical imbalance. I’m finished living like a simile, comparing myself, saying “I wish I were like them,” “as good as them,” and so on. I’m finished living in constant fear of when my laundry will be finished and when my last breath will be. I’m finished listening to my worst nightmares, and feeling like they’ll come to fruition, because chances are that they won’t.

Well, I say I’m finished–finished once and for all with everything that gnaws at my spirit from within me… and that is more than enough to expect from myself for now.

No, it doesn’t mean that my challenges will disintegrate or disappear forever. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to shake the pebble out of my shoe, but it means that I’ll learn to accept it… because it’s something that is a part of my life, but it isn’t a defining factor like my shoe choice is (kidding).

With every ending, there is a new beginning, and with all new beginnings comes an unlimited supply of hope, or at least as much hope as one can see. God, please help me to see it all.

pressure can make something out of nothing.

A little birdie came and told me that it wondered if something was different in my life since I had stopped writing. And come to think of it, maybe something is different… maybe something bigger than “something” is different. Maybe am different. But I’m back.

And yes, of course I am different, and I see my transformation as almost comical… not because I’m laughable (although yesterday I actually was because I completely wiped out by tripping over myself on the way to class and bloodying up my knee), but because of my prior expectations for myself and my life, and how differently my reality turned out.

I reflect on my predictions that I assigned to myself during my latter high school months, and I feel a sense of relief. For countless days, I spent second after second exerting ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself, thinking that if I did, things would be right where I wanted them… but I also thought that if I removed the pressure, things would fall out of place.

When I entered a new place (aka college), I thought I would bring every piece of my old self with me. I remember telling myself during my senior year of high school that I had finally figured myself out. I thought I knew who I was and I thought I knew what path I wanted to take.

Now, I’m here, where I truly believe I’m meant to be, but I’m not who I was six months ago. At this point, God is teaching me lesson after lesson, some of which are beyond stressful, others that require waaaay more patience than I knew I had, and others that are still in the making.  And so it all unfolds.

One thing I’ve learned about self-growth is how terrible it feels to acknowledge our weaknesses, but how amazing it feels to grow through them. I once participated in a high school leadership retreat with staff that refused to call anything a “weakness,” but instead used the term “growing edge.” Everything was seen as a positive trait or an opportunity for improvement towards a positive trait.

Well, I’ve come to realize how much I need to change my perspective. I had myself convinced that I was born an optimist, but soon realized that even while having a cheery smile, and even while living a content life, I still somehow managed to figure out how to place pressure on myself for almost nothing at all. I’ve trained myself to become so focused on chasing a perfect life, whether that’s a perfect grade, a perfect friendship, or a perfect me, I’ve placed an infinite amount of pressure on myself for an entity that cannot be altered or removed. I thought I shattered perfectionism when I accepted the fact that getting a B on a paper was “good enough.” I also thought if I tried to fix things with this constant pressure, then I would be happy, and my life would somehow fall into place.

I’ve thought this entire time that I was chasing the perfect life, the happy life, the satisfaction that doesn’t simply flutter away after a few hours of laughter and folly. It turns out I’ve only been chasing the worst-case scenarios. And they definitely don’t bring me any sort of contentment.

I’ve had myself fooled.

I’ve learned that there is a difference between smiling with your mouth and smiling with your words. It’s possible to be exuberant with confidence and joy, yet be reeling with toxic perfectionism underneath the facade. My least favorite part about placing this pressure on myself isn’t even my inability to bend my life around the bar of my unreachable expectation; it’s how much negative energy I inadvertently dish out towards the people I’m around, because people can feel the pressure that you place upon yourself, even if you aren’t always talking about it.

I think I’ve forgotten one crucial point here. Life isn’t perfect, nor is it meant to be. Life is incredibly beautiful, in all of its happy moments, sorrowful times, arguments, and emotional breakdowns.

Life never ceases to be beautiful, but sometimes, we cease to see it that way.

done (in a good way).

Maybe the reason I write is because writing is part of my purpose, part of some greater plan. I don’t know. I just know I’m meant to contribute to the world through my words, and I just hope that one little thing I say, whether it was something I said last year or if it’s something in one of my future posts… I just hope that I can inspire you, even if it is only a little bit. We live in a world that is full of inspiration, and sometimes, we find it when we least expect it.

Here’s where I’m beginning: I’m done waiting. Waiting to be heard, waiting to convince myself that I am being heard instead of simply believing it. I’m done feeling like I’m not good enough, like my writing isn’t good enough, like I will not be good enough ten years from now, or that I’m simply so broken, so far beyond repair. I’m done lying to myself, telling myself that things are worse than they are or that there’s a chance that things won’t be okay, because in the end, they always will be. I’m done. I’m done believing that I don’t have the energy to try, the willingness to move forward. I’m done being stuck in the past. Instead, I’m ready. Finally, and I mean it.

I feel as though in every post, I take time reflecting on the past. Maybe I say, “throughout the past few weeks, things have felt (insert potentially tumultuous or otherwise brutally optimistic descriptive filler-word here).” But things are far from simple. I suppose since then I’ve realized simple words just can’t capture the meaning of everything… but the most a writer can do is try.

Things changed for me back in August (although I had been struggling before then) when my grandmother passed away, when I lost a piece of the essence of who I am… but in reality, I merely gained an angel, and my essence can only grow. Regardless, It was the first time I realized I wouldn’t hear Sicilian being spoken at home anymore. It was the first time I had lost someone who had been a figure in my life from the time I was born. It was the first time I experienced the funeral routine from the family-of-the-loved-one’s perspective… and it happened a week before I moved away from home, to a new city, to begin a new journey called college.

And so I brought the pain with me. I brought the pain of loss, a pain that I still have yet to fully experience. I still feel numb. I still want to buy my Nonna her birthday present. Even now, I feel like my life has changed so much to the point that I’m living some second life, separate from the life I knew up until that one pivotal point of my Nonna’s passing. Throughout the past couple of months, I have tried to bring myself to write, but I couldn’t. Every time I opened my blog, I attempted to think, and then I froze.  I convinced myself the timing wasn’t right, or that I didn’t have anything to say, or something else, something that always seemed valid.

Well, in addition to me witnessing one drastic transition from life on earth into life beyond that which we know, my own life transformed in what felt like an instant. My living quarters changed. My sleep schedule changed. My church schedule changed. My ability to do laundry improved. The air I breathe even became different. Little by little, all of these things accumulated. At first, I was overwhelmed with a sense of excitable joy, a nervous energy that drove me into absolute happiness. Now I feel as though this was some sort of illusion, a way of coping with everything, because soon after, I crashed.

I plummeted, and it wasn’t a pleasant sight. I realized how much things had changed, and I felt a depressing loss of identity. I thought that I had left my essence back in my hometown, back at all of the places I used to visit and the activities in which I participated. My feelings of anxiety and depression swallowed me, and I began to drown in my own emotion. At first, I was able to tread water, until I reached the point that I convinced myself I couldn’t swim anymore. Then, my emotions took over. The crying, the panic attacks, the desire to avoid any sort of pressure-filled situation, the fluctuation between sharing my problems with absolutely everyone and then deciding that no one else needed to know… everything felt like chaos.

Now, I’m healing from the pain that life brings, and I can finally say that I am okay. I am hopeful about my future, and I am learning what it means to practice the art of acceptance. I suppose this is also one of the first times in my life where 1) I’ve had the maturity to understand the concept of self-worth, beyond simply “feeling good about myself” and 2) I’ve realized that I am sufficient. Regardless of my grades, my titles, my labels, my activities, my resume, my writing, my appearance, or ANYTHING… I am sufficient. With this sufficiency comes the ability to handle whatever challenges come my way from this point on. I’ll never lose faith.

I am ready. I am ready to see the world for what it is. I am ready to be defined by my essence rather than my feelings of anxiety and depression. I am ready to live each moment, immersed in its goodness, recognizing that life is profound, even in moments of great pain, hardship, and doubt.

Acknowledging the crosses that you bear is a beautiful and inspiring act within itself. You are sufficient. You are strong. You are capable of so much, probably more than you realize. Please remember it.

Thank you for reading. I’m happy to be back.

xoxo,

Siena

a promise of strength.

I promised I’d stay strong. 

I took stability for granted. I didn’t realize just how much I craved it until now. I didn’t realize how much things would shift and sway and pull me apart inside.

I feel caught in the middle–more like trapped–and claustrophobic, yet drowning in a sea of space and time and ticking clocks and changing numbers.

I hear cries for help and heavy tears, smacking the ground with pounds of sorrow in every drop.

I see a cloud of death swarming around an innocent spirit, and I feel God slowly pulling her home. And I’m here to watch it all unfold.

But then I find myself in silence. I look within myself, and I find love. I find hope. I find God. And so, I find strength.

I have my rock, I have my foundation, and now, I need my peace.

I need my peace to feel secure within this life of mine.

I need my peace to feel my faith at its fullest.

Most of all, I need my peace to keep my strength, for you, and you, and because of You.

I see the peace. I feel it. I’m holding it in my heart, and I’ll try my hardest to never let it go.

I can break down in tears and still be strong. I can yell at how unfair life feels at times, and through that, I will still be strong. I can ask God questions and even doubt His plan at times, and I will still be strong.

When you know God’s strength exists, you’ve found it, because you’ve found Him… and that’s all you need.

I have all I need for strength.

I will stay strong for you.

I promised I would. And so I will.

xoxo,

Siena

proverbs & poetry.

God is loud. I’m surprised at the fact that I don’t always hear Him. But this week, I started to hear Him again, clearer than I have in a very long time.

I suppose that for a little while, I had forgotten who God is, and who God wants me to be. I forgot that my life is a prayer. I forgot that my life is not in my hands. I forgot that if I want to find peace, I need to stop trying so hard. I need to let go, and let God.

It was dialogue shared over two Subway seafood salad sandwiches that instigated this change in mindset. What I assumed would be a typical lunch with my good friend turned into some sort of honest and introspective self-analysis.

I don’t know where to begin, but things need to change. 

I realized just how empty I had been feeling since I had spent less time with God. I convinced myself that I had things under control in my own mind, until I became so overwhelmed with life that God decided He needed to give me a stronger nudge. I’m glad He did.

After that conversation, I felt stronger. I went for a run and trimmed some time off my mileage and felt as though my spirit was shifting into place once again. My brokenness was beginning to heal, only by the hands of God.

I still felt lost, though. Not overcome with irrational anxiety, just lost in a maze of personal confusion. I was so honest with myself that I frightened my own heart. I questioned my life, especially my future. I’m still questioning it, but with more certainty now than earlier in the week. It’s just now that I’m finally beginning to find the authentic stability that I’ve been craving.

And I don’t remember when, but I sat down on my bed and prayed. I told God something along the lines of, I don’t know if I’ll regret this, but please help me to want what You want for me, and please do what You know is best in my life.

In that moment, my entire life felt transformed. I felt renewed, in a really overwhelmingly inspiring and cleansing way. My anxiety began to fade away (or at the very least I realized how pointless my worries were), and instead I was left swimming in a sea of enlightening questions, asking myself millions of things. What am I meant to do in my life? God, what do You want for my future? Do You and I want the same things? Are my desires coming from You? How can I distinguish between what You are telling me and what I am telling myself? Will You help me see clearly? 

And so I continued to pray, and I continued to ask for guidance… as I’m still doing, because these questions are still swarming around in my mind, yearning to be answered. I feel much closer to the answers now, after surrendering to God and asking for clarity, and so I’m not full of anxiety. I’m full of excitement, because I trust in God that He will take care of me and only lead me where I am meant to follow.

I was so afraid of losing control. I was so afraid of opening my heart to God in a deeper way, because I knew that He often has a completely different path than the one we strongly desire for ourselves. Now I realize that God’s plan is much more secure than any plan I could ever have for myself. If you ask God, He will help you want the same things that He wants for you. And when you’re on the same page as the Creator of the Universe, you can do even more amazing things.

I’ve heard God speaking to me in countless ways throughout the past week, both in the silence of my own heart and through other people. I can recall numerous instances of unexplained kindness, the admirable absurdity of a beautiful circumstance, or the conversations that came out of absolutely nowhere and touched my heart exactly when it needed affirmation.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with another good friend of mine, and our time together just so happened to center around spirituality and love of God. She began discussing her favorite Bible verse with me, Proverbs 31:25, which says,

“She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear. It was exactly what God had been whispering all along.

My strength is found in Him, and so I should be confident about my beautiful future. I’m learning how to love and embrace God’s unique plan. It’s a bit different from my own, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I can’t live this life on my own, and I never will. I’ll always be carrying God inside of me, and I’ll always be meeting Him through the beautiful minds and hearts of others.

I wrote the following poem last year, and I’ve been waiting to share it for a little while, but I’ve been waiting for the right time.. and I finally found it. I spent the last week of my life consumed by question of God’s intention for my life, or in other words, my purpose. Here is my reminder to open your heart and give God endless room to work in your life… and don’t worry, because He will take care of you.

PURPOSE, by Siena
To write, to scream, to fail, to reap,
To wake, to sigh, to live, to die.
Purpose: the final word of my question.
Lending me to an abyss of uncertainty, of doubt,
Of fear, and of hope.
Oh, Hope – she glistens in the icy morn and swallows me in the lack of light
Because who is light but Who gives her to me?
Cardiac drama, adrenaline desire!
She fills me with my humble ego and forces me within myself.
The writer’s sore hand, cracked yet strengthened;
The girl who screamed, throat hoarse and swollen;
The one who failed, he tries again;
The reaper has not changed,
And neither will the child who wakes tomorrow.
The sigh of the relieved, the mistakes of the alive,
And the reminiscent memory of the past and the passed.
A look in my own eye as I sigh smiling subtly
Reduces my fear and increases Hope within
For those who worry not of purpose are those who win.

I love you, beautiful people. Continue to shine like the sun and love every moment.

xoxo, your friend, Siena

vacation violation.

Things happen.

I must preface my writing in two ways. First, what I am about to say is in no way in criticism of the European culture or European men. This just happened to be my circumstance, and I have used the cultural context for details based on my particular situation. Things like this can happen anywhere and everywhere, and can be instigated by people of any gender or age.

Additionally, I have serious boundaries, and that is very important to keep in mind throughout this entire story. I have high expectations for the treatment that I should receive, as well as additional conditions for that treatment because I am in a committed relationship. As a woman in a foreign place, I cannot expect all men to be aware of these boundaries, but I try very hard wherever I am to make people aware of them. I speak of my boyfriend and my relationship early on to inform others that I am only interested in pursuing further platonic friendships and conversations. I thought it was common sense that people would respect that, but I was wrong.

My sister spent a month in Sicily, including the one week that I was there, and so she made plenty of friends and was well-acquainted with the town of about only four-thousand people. She befriended three young men who are a couple years older than me. They shared plenty of positive energy and jovial laughter. I spent time with my sister and the group in a public place, spoke of my boyfriend who I missed greatly throughout my travels, and attempted to speak the Sicilian language all the while. Everything seemed overall normal to me, aside from a few uncomfortable moments when one of the boys uttered a dirty joke or shared some sort of sexual innuendo. I didn’t think much of it.

There were at least a couple of times when my sister wanted to stay and spend time with the boys as she had in the past, but I didn’t know them, so I left. After I had felt more comfortable with them once I had spent more time in the group, I decided to go with just my sister (instead of having my parents in the nearby vicinity) to spend time in the town square. I ate pizza and sang and texted my boyfriend and posted a picture to Instagram and felt fine. After at least an hour in the Piazza, my sister and her friend (one of the boys) were ready to leave, and so I naively entered the car with them. People in that town drive around to pass time because there isn’t a wide selection of activities locally, and I didn’t think anything of it. It was a beautiful night, I was with my sister, and everything felt fine.

Things went downhill after driving around town and stopping the car to allow the other two boys to enter the backseat, where I was sitting. The youngest of the three boys sat next to me. He began joking around and making suggestive faces. I laughed awkwardly as a coping mechanism. Soon after, he put his arm around me. At first I thought he was stretching his arm out because the car was crammed, but then he managed to get a bit closer. I leaned forward in pure discomfort, and told my sister that I was disturbed, which was evident in the way that I was responding to his advances.

He became more persistent. He grabbed my hand and tried to kiss it, and I pulled away. I repeatedly yelled NO, which I know for a fact he understood. I couldn’t leave because I was stuck in the backseat of a moving two-door Fiat. The drive was longer than expected, and his actions became more and more aggressive. He tried to kiss my shoulder, my cheek, and eventually tried to force his face into mine. I pushed him off and away, and continuously yelled NO. Eventually, he stopped trying. I was somewhat relieved, other than the fact that I was slightly traumatized by the awkwardness and discomfort, and on top of that, my phone was out of battery. I was in a foreign country and couldn’t call or text anyone, although I did use the last few percent to text my boyfriend and friend, informing them that something was happening and asking for support in the moment.

Plenty of meaningless conversation occurred in the interim, and eventually the context of things became sexual once again. I thought I would be spending a wholesome evening with my sister and her friends, but it felt like everything was spiraling downward. The boy who had attempted to force himself onto me all of a sudden became disgustingly condescending. He began talking about my female anatomy and called me derogatory and objectifying names. I didn’t know what to do. I was not only physically traumatized in that moment, but my entire femininity was violated… and I became infuriated.

My sister yelled at the boy to stop insulting me, and a few moments later, I said goodbye to him when we pulled into the driveway at 1 am and slapped him across the face. Then I yelled in Sicilian, “I want respect,” as I left the vehicle.

(**Just to clarify, I don’t recommend using any sort of physicality unless the situation truly merits it.)

I feel ashamed that all of this happened to me, but I shouldn’t. The only mistake I made was being naïve enough to trust people I didn’t know. I did not invite or encourage any of the objectifying behavior that I received, and in reality, situations like this are not uncommon. I’m sure that all of my female friends, as well as many of my male friends, have been the result of objectification at one point or another.

For me, things could have been much worse. I am blessed that I am okay, and that I left the situation unharmed.

Never put yourself in a situation if there’s even a slight chance of endangering yourself. Even if your friend or family member supposedly knows a person or group of people, analyze the situation and treat these people only according to your knowledge of who they are. Don’t be too trusting.

However, beyond the issue of safety and naivety is the issue of objectification. Humans are often treated as objects in general, and I happened to be treated as one in this situation. I was completely disrespected to the point of feeling enraged, and it takes a lot of disrespect to fill me with that amount of anger.

It’s time to set the bar higher. It’s time for everyone of all genders to fight against objectification and settle for nothing less than authentic respect.

“where do I hold on?” {a brief reminder to find your peace}.

Summer has been an adventure, and an emotional roller coaster, as well. Well, I suppose that’s life in general. But something about this summer is especially challenging. Things are rapidly changing… more than usual. I’m transitioning into a new stage of life. I traveled, and my mind is full of fresh experiences. My life is becoming different, and I’m intrigued. There’s one part of my recent experiences that especially stands out to me: peace.

Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve had days to reflect, to process complex emotions, and to realize what is truly important to me. In the midst of a changing environment and what felt like standing on unsteady ground, I needed to find inner peace. It’s something to which I must keep clinging until the peace comes naturally and requires no effort.

Have you found that which gives you inner peace? Do you have something that fills you with joy and puts your anxiety at rest? Perhaps for you it is God, a person, another living creature, or an activity. If you’ve found it, never let it go. That peace is priceless. If you haven’t found it, keep searching and keep your eyes open, because it will encounter you, and when it does, your life will be transformed.

Once you’ve found your source of peace:

Reflect.

Remember it.

Write about it.

Spend time genuinely thinking about it.

Be grateful for it.

Pray about it.

Be happy.

A friend texted me last night explaining how beautiful life is, and that is infinitely valid.

Life is certainly unpredictable, difficult, and overwhelming at times. It is through finding our inner peace and being purely grateful for it that we can appreciate life a little (or a lot) more.

the contingency of beauty.

Spending the past two weeks in Europe has been a useful opportunity to learn exactly how my mind functions. I’ve been much more honest with myself, and I’ve discovered a lot about my mentality since I’ve been extracted from my “normal” environment. The elimination of my everyday routine, the presence of an entirely unfamiliar source of sensory input and stimuli, and the flood of emotions I’ve experienced have made this [short yet meaningful] period in my life certainly an interesting one.

Yes, I have anxiety, and yes, it affects my lifestyle. Activities such as writing and running and communicating with people who are important to me soothe my racing mind. So, what happens when I am somehow prevented from the things that my mind requires to feel a sense of calm? It races. And I get to thinking. And I worry. And it’s not fun.

My anxiety is very multifaceted, and I tend to have a lot of different worries depending on my current situation, rather than one or two general focused concerns. When I’m in a weakened mental state, as I have been from traveling, I often criticize my physical appearance. Self-image has always played a prevalent role in my mind. The past year or two, I’ve become increasingly comfortable with who I am in all aspects of my life, but my opinion of my appearance has always been a challenge (as it is for many people). One day, I feel incredible in my own skin, and then they next day, I question myself or pick on myself or look at myself in the mirror and feel unsatisfied.

Before I left for Italy, I was working out almost every day, running and going to the gym and doing things to break a sweat, which I honestly love (when I’m not trying to look clean anyway). For me, exercise offers just as many mental benefits as physical ones. Running provides me with an opportunity to process my thoughts, daydream, and focus… all at the same time. A slow two-mile jog wipes away many of my worries, especially those about my physical appearance. I usually find that after a run (paired with a cleansing shower), I feel beautiful in a particularly unique way.

So, I brought my running shoes to Italy, hoping to jog a couple of miles when I could do so in an attempt to feel this same sense of relief and acceptance of myself. At the end of a run, I always thought I found who I needed to be for my own happiness.

The first day I arrived in Italy, I attempted to jog. The different style of driving in Europe, the fact that I didn’t know the town whatsoever, and the bitter feeling of jetlag made a simple run seem exceedingly difficult.

For the first few days after my somewhat failed attempt, my mind was processing guilt, fear, and a huge desire to be at peace. I felt guilty that I wasn’t sticking to my running routine as I had decided I would back home. I think I felt like I wasn’t taking care of myself, which wasn’t true. I felt fear that my appearance would change in three weeks as a result of this change in lifestyle, which was irrational. But more than anything, I wanted to be okay with just relaxing and enjoying my vacation and feeling content with who I am and how I look, without being driven by guilt to run anyway.

I haven’t put on my running shoes since that day. Instead, I’ve worn sandals and walked miles throughout airports, Sicily, Rome, and soon-to-be Florence. I’ve broken a sweat beneath the Mediterranean sun and still felt beautiful (a little gross at times, but happy with who I am). I’ve consumed cookies and gelato and probably loaves of bread at this point (the carbivorism is so real), and I’m learning how to be happy with myself and my appearance anyway.

I realized that my beauty (or in other words, my perception of my own beauty) is not contingent upon my exercise routine or my food consumption. Neither is yours. While it’s certainly important to take care of our bodies for the sake of our health and general well-being, it’s also extremely crucial to take care of our minds. I realized how unhealthy my outlook has been, regarding my own physicality. Everyone is beautiful, 100% of the time, and nothing can be done to alter that truth.

Of course my anxiety is a huge struggle. I have a ridiculous guilt complex, and it’s so elaborate that I could easily write an entire book about it. But in the midst of a new part of the world and a new lifestyle, I’m learning how to accept and embrace the changes that are headed my way. I’m learning how to feel okay with them, and how to love myself more and more from the inside-out rather than the outside-in.

I will admit that I’m looking forward to going for a run after I recover from my jetlag. I miss the freedom that comes with a simple jog, which I absolutely took for granted back home.

I will also admit with great enthusiasm that I’m looking forward to consuming the next plate of pasta that is served to me, while also feeling at peace with my physical appearance and mental state.

I’m learning. Aren’t we all?