2018 goals

At the beginning of 2017, my goal was to say yes to new things.

I traveled to Bali alone (my first solo foreign trip), where I had a romantic honeymoon all to myself. I took a trip to Thailand with a group of my childhood friends, where we played with elephants, got matching tattoos, and threw up on the side of the road in Chiang Mai (wait, that last part was just me). I spontaneously tried surfing with two friends I don’t often hang out with. Instead of staying in every night (which I used to be known for in college), I went out with my friends every weekend. I created connections with so many amazing people, grew closer to my family and old friends, and spent lots of time with my group of talented reporter coworkers.

I also went through a lot of heartbreak, being away from my parents and siblings the entire year. I struggled with a complicated relationship with my partner while we were broken up, and then again while we figured out a way to finally live together. I spent many nights crying alone to myself, or sitting outside on my grandma’s patio looking up at the moon. I also had many moments of pure happiness, where I’d cry too because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have this life (I know I cry a lot, okay).

2017 brought a lot of turbulence, but it was a welcome change from how stagnant I felt in 2016. I spent so much time saying yes to new adventures though, so by November 2017 I was drained. I put too much effort into always being part of everything, too much time going to events just to please other people — and not enough time caring for myself. I gained a considerable amount of weight from going out drinking (then the late night meals after drinking) and always eating unhealthy at restaurants with family and friends. I didn’t make time to Passion Plan, blog, or work on my ebook project. I literally only read one book in its entirety this year.

In December, I decided I needed to spend more time working on myself. I started reading for fun again, I took up sketching again too, and began watercolor painting (after receiving a very thoughtful gift of watercolor paints from my aunt). I went back to yoga classes, tried to get back into weight lifting and home workouts, and went jogging in my neighborhood. I revamped my blog design to make it a pretty space for my writing. I worked on my ebook again for months until I finished a full second draft.

There are so many things I want to do to grow. I feel this sense of urgency flowing through me all day, like I want to be doing the most with the time I have because I know I have so much potential for growth. I’m learning I need to be more careful with my time, and sometimes that means saying no to social events or extended family obligations because I have my own work to do.

It’s overwhelming thinking about all the ways I want to better myself in the future. I bought a film camera so I could play with photography and explore a new medium. I want to learn how to blend watercolor hues and paint beautifully. I want to be an avid reader like my parents. I want to someday be at peace with myself and not suffer from anxiety.

But most of all, I want to develop a healthy relationship with my body and with food. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for years, and it’s gotten worse this year since I started gaining some weight. Eating is a constant battle for me — whether I’m trying to feed myself to my fill, binge snacking uncontrollably, or pretending I’m not hungry just so I can shed fat.

I’m at a point now where I don’t completely hate my body (or at least I know I shouldn’t). It comes in waves. I know I don’t really need to lose weight or mass, but I want to be able to nourish myself and not have these strong feelings of shame or pleasure associated with food. I want to get to a point where I see food as a way to care for myself, rather than punishing or rewarding myself for how or when I consume it.

All these ways I want to change aren’t going to happen in a day. I doubt I’ll even achieve them in 2018, or 2020. But the best thing I can do for myself is start small.

My only goals in 2018:

  • Care for my body (nourish it with nutritious food, do regular exercise that feels good, strengthen my connection to it with yoga)
  • Create art
  • Be more grateful
  • Heal

This blog post sounds really serious (and I’m not usually so serious in real life or online), but I’m also trying to become more confident — plus I just finished reading Hunger by Roxane Gay and I’ve probably absorbed her blunt, honest writing style for now.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, I hope you have a wonderful start to your new year! Let’s grow together!

You’re Better Than Backsliding

If you’ve ever been through a breakup (at least with someone who hasn’t done anything truly horrible to you), there will almost inevitably be a point when you start to think about them again. You think, “what if?” What would happen if we got back together? Would it really be that bad? Actually, it’d be awesome… why did we even break up in the first place?

This is backsliding.

Backsliding can often refer to sex with an ex partner, but it also can refer to getting back into relationships with former partners.

Sometimes it really is okay and people can get into happy relationships after they’ve broken up and gone through their own personal changes, or if they broke up just because of certain circumstances (e.g. not geographically near each other, conflicting schedules, not emotionally ready yet, etc.).

But more often than not, backsliding is emotionally unhealthy and should be avoided.

I’ve been tempted to backslide more times than I’d like to admit, but I know it’s in my best interest to keep moving forward. Your relationship ended for a reason. Unless that reason is gone and circumstances have changed, and unless your partner is worth your time and effort, you shouldn’t waste your time going back. If you spend so much time stuck in the past, you’ll never enjoy the present.

Here are a few tips I use to avoid backsliding:

  1. Remember why you broke up. If you aren’t together anymore, there’s probably a good reason. Maybe you two fought a lot or weren’t compatible. Maybe he flirted with other girls right in front of you. Maybe he wasn’t ready for a committed relationship (or maybe you weren’t ready either). It is most especially in your best interest if you don’t backslide into a formerly toxic relationship. If he abused you physically/emotionally, cheated on you, or seriously disrespected you somehow, do not forget about this. Use it as a reminder of why you shouldn’t get back together, but don’t let it hold you back from moving forward with your life.
  2. Remind yourself about the deal breakers. E.g.: he didn’t share your core values, he didn’t remember your birthday, he didn’t get along with your best friend, he identified as a “men’s rights activist” (true story from one of my friends), he spent more time playing video games than paying any attention to you, etc. Being in a relationship with someone means that you’ll spend a lot of time together. If you know that you can’t stand being around him because of these deal breakers, why bother trying again? This is your chance to find people whose company you do enjoy. Don’t miss it!
  3. Think about the future. Do you really want to end up with this person? If you don’t see the relationship going anywhere in the future, why waste your time with someone who you don’t see yourself with in the long haul? Sticking with someone just because they’re familiar or because you’re comfortable with them can hold you back from meeting new people who you may be much more compatible with, or someone who you could live with happily, instead of your ex.
  4. Ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are you lonely? Do you miss the familiarity of your old relationship? Loneliness comes and goes, but it can lead to true happiness as you grow stronger and find people who bring a positive influence to your life. Familiarity is nice but with time, you can become familiar and comfortable with other people, too.
  5. Don’t settle. Sure, your ex might have made you feel great and attractive at some points in your relationship. He might have done nice things for you sometimes. But always remember that things happen for a reason. If you broke up, it’s only an opportunity to grow as an individual and to start over. Just because your ex is an option doesn’t mean he’s the only option. With time, things will get better. Outside of your past relationship, there is always the possibility of happiness, but if you go back to your past relationship, you’re more likely to get into the same problems you had before and restart that cycle. Try to stick it out even if it’s difficult because the best is yet to come.

You’ll Be Ready

Here’s a poem-ish piece I wrote in July 2013:

You’ll Be Ready

It is going to be hard.
There will be times when you want to give up.
There will be lonely nights.
Lots of them.
Ones when you’ll wish you had someone beautiful and soft to cuddle up with
To spoon you and curl around your backside so that you feel safe and warm.
There will be days when you hate everyone and everything in your life
And you’ll wish you had that one person who will listen and understand.
There will be beautiful sunsets
Dozens, hundreds, even thousands of them
And you’ll wish you had a hand to hold in yours
To witness the earth’s natural glory
And ground you with their presence.

But you won’t have that hand.
You’ll be alone.
You’ll watch those sunsets and remember that life is beautiful
and love is beautiful
and you don’t need anyone else’s hand
to feel love.
And on those shitty days when you hate
everyone and everything
You’ll breathe.
And write.
And remember all the good things you do have
even if it’s hard.
And on those lonely nights you wish you’d
spent making love or simply enjoying
someone’s arms wrapped around you
as you drift in and out of sleep
You’ll read a book
turn off the lights
tuck yourself in tightly
and lie with the pain, in honesty.
It will hurt
And maybe you’ll cry
But you’ll heal
and grow
And one day, you won’t need anyone
to feel happy or whole
You’ll just love because you want to
Not because you need to.

“Love when you’re ready

Not when you’re lonely”

20

This is a poem I wrote yesterday and wanted to share with my readers.

You spend your whole life with a small group of people.
They teach you how to live, take care of you, feed you, shelter you, hold you, cherish you.
Then when you grow to an arbitrary age, eighteen, everything changes.
You remind everyone that you’re coming into this new stage in your life. You wear it like a badge of honor: I’m an adult! Look at me! My opinion really matters now! I’m a real person!
Eighteen means nose piercings, the possibility of tattoos, the freedom to smoke, the legal ability to have sex with Robert Downey Jr., or at least someone older than you.
Eighteen also means college. It means you are expected to pay for it.
Even if you haven’t had any prior work experience, haven’t earned or saved up any of your own money, haven’t discussed finances before because you’re the first one to grow into this role.
But eighteen also means you’re not old enough to actually provide for yourself, so you don’t, and they do.
Eighteen means you can get married. And you remind everyone of this fact.
You brandish it in their faces: look at us! We’re in love! We’re soul mates! We’re going to be together forever and all those divorce statistics can go to hell (and so can anyone else who tries to tell us differently)!
Eighteen means figuring out where you stand with them. Are you still young enough for them to pay or are you old enough to have sex whenever you want and move to Italy?

Why?
You weren’t ready.
Maybe if you hadn’t tried so hard to be eighteen they wouldn’t try to treat you like you’re twenty.
But you are. And this is how it is.

Nineteen means reality checks.
You’re not ready to get married and you know it. Especially not to someone who buys you fake rings and tries to sell even faker claims.
Nineteen means you really do need mom and dad and other mom and dad. You need them more than anything.
Nineteen means you told them you didn’t want to go to the fantasy land even though they invited you repeatedly.
And you didn’t go. And they went. And you’ll never forget because this is the first time they were really together and you weren’t there.
Nineteen means you live in an apartment and you get a job. You get big itchy lumps all over your body because you can’t handle life, but you do it anyway.
Nineteen means less crying than eighteen, but crying nonetheless, and now the tears come from a deeper crevice you didn’t know existed, and it hurts not because you miss someone or you hate him, but because you feel truly, deeply alone.

Twenty means second chances and new lessons.
Twenty means wading into the pool from the shallow end instead of cannonballing into the deep one like eighteen.
Twenty means growing into who you are, with everyone on your side, instead of putting up a wall with you and him on one side and your loved ones on the other (why was eighteen so stupid?).
Twenty means you feel like ten inside but you look seventeen on the outside and they treat you like you’re nineteen on the outside.
Twenty means twenty. Two decades of life and you still expect everyone to serve life to you on a silver platter.
Twenty means lonely nights.
Twenty means not knowing if your family is your friends or if your family is your family or your family is yourself. Or if you have to grow into who you really are before you choose who is in your family and create one.
Twenty is realizing you are just like them. They were twenty. They created you and you left them.
Now you have to be ready, because twenty-one is coming up.
So is twenty-five. So is twenty-seven. So is thirty.
So is he. So are they.
Twenty is being scared shitless.
But twenty is also accepting it and knowing that this is life.
And this is twenty.

Alone Doesn’t Mean Lonely

I have this friend who’s an amazing, beautiful person and I love her to death. She’s so smart, funny, kind, and she does so much for other people, all the time. But she doesn’t have a boyfriend. Every now and then, she’ll complain to me about how lonely she is and how she wishes she could meet a cute guy to make her happy.

I used to feel the same and would join in with her, whining about how we wanted a Sean O’Pry lookalike to walk into our lives and want us back. But now, being single makes me incredibly happy. And when she tells me about how lonely she is, it breaks my heart. I know how she feels, and it makes me so upset knowing that countless girls feel this way too.

Being alone doesn’t mean you’re any less desirable. It could mean that you haven’t met anyone that meets your standards for a partner. Or maybe you aren’t at a place in your life when you have enough time to give to one specific person. Maybe nobody is asking you out on dates. No matter what your reasons are for being single, none of them mean that you’re any less of a catch or any less desirable.

Being alone can feel horrible, but it can also be a beautiful thing. I used to be terribly afraid of being single for too long because I thought that if nobody wanted to date me, then nobody thought I was special, which meant that I wasn’t special at all. That’s bullshit, and I want everyone to realize that. If that’s your internal monologue too, then tell your inner critic to shut up and leave. And if anyone you know is actually saying that to you, forget about them — you don’t need that negativity in your life.

As I got older, I realized how much happier I was on a day to day basis while I was single, in contrast to how happy I was when I was in a relationship. In some of my relationships, I spent a lot of my time worrying about what my boyfriend thought about me or worrying if I was as pretty as other girls or thinking irrational, jealous thoughts. I’m not saying that relationships are crappy for everyone just because they weren’t always great for me. But I needed the time I had to spend alone in order to grow out of those insecurities.

During my teens, I didn’t allow myself the time to grow on my own without a boyfriend, and I continued that pattern for years. Now, I’m 20, alone, and happy beyond my wildest dreams. During my freshman year of college, I didn’t join a single organization on campus because I spent all my time talking to my long distance boyfriend. Now that I’m single, I’ve joined several organizations I’m passionate about, taken on leadership roles, made dozens of amazing friends, started an advice blog, wrote for my school’s newspaper, got a few editing/writing jobs, got closer to my family members and longtime friends, and so on. I never realized my full potential and what I could do with my time when I wasn’t giving my all to one person!

My life is amazing and fulfilling now that I’ve started to actually live it for myself. I’m so happy with my life that I’m actually tearing up as I write this. I wouldn’t have reached this peak in my life though, unless I took the time to be alone. Sure, there were plenty of nights over the past few months when I cried. I seriously considered trying to win back a guy I used to like, just so I could get that attention I craved, just so I didn’t have to feel so terribly alone.

But sometimes you need to hurt. You need to be alone. You need to push through the discomfort and the loneliness, because once you spend enough time with only yourself, you’ll learn that you’re actually an awesome person. Or if you don’t feel that awesome yet, you’ll go out of your comfort zone and pursue the things that will make you happy.

My mom always tells me that the time you spend alone is the most important time for personal growth, because it forces you to be okay with who you are, apart from anyone else. Take the time to be lonely, even if it hurts. It really does get better, and I feel like my own life is a testament to how happy you can be if you deal with the discomfort of being alone.

So be happy with being alone, and let’s all be alone, together!

And to quote Donald Glover‘s tweet from a few weeks ago, “alone doesn’t mean lonely tho.”

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P.S. Treat yo self dates are awesome ways to pass the time when you’re trying to be happy while being alone! Check out this article for some ideas to get you started!

–Chloe