It's happened again.
Hatred and discrimination against a people group who are not the majority.
In America. In 2017.
This time with open, self-professing KKK, Neo-Nazis present.
In America. In 2017.
There's a computer in my pocket at all times. A satellite gets me everywhere I want to go daily. I can jump through time zones effortlessly in a cylinder of metal in the sky.
But there is still white supremacy.
In America. In freaking 2017.
I hate to shatter the illusion so many Americans are living in, but we are not nearly as advanced as we as a nation take credit for.
As many other Americans, I am still processing the recent, tragic events in Charlottesville. However, I do know 2 things unwaveringly:
This is unacceptable and must end, and I must do something to irradiate this evil, even if the evil does not effect me directly.
But after the "we must show love!" Instagram captions and tweets, this is where so many people stop. And yet, we are surprised when more casualties occur out of hate, discrimination, and inequality. Posting on social media does not make history.
Don't get me wrong, I love seeing people I know and don't know encouraging us to new heights of light and hope. I write those things as well! But we cannot allow ourselves to write those things and then feel we have played our part. That is the crux of social media: it is a gift for the awareness we can bring, and a crutch, giving us permission to not really act on our desire to see a change in society.
That being said, this piece is about action. So, what are tangible efforts we can do to be on the right side of history? These three steps are not EVERYTHING we can do, but it is a meaningful start.
1. Be Loud
There's a reason why I'm vocal about injustices and inequality as if it's labeled across my head. (If I had an anti-rascim hat like my feminist hat, I would wear one. Send me suggestions!)
Sending out love into the world doesn't make history. Did Abraham Lincoln tell people to be loving and then retire to his house? Did Rosa Parks pray for equality in the back of the bus? Did Martin Luther King Jr. keep his thoughts on injustice to himself to remain politically correct, to make sure he didn't offend any one? Hell no. The people who lead, the thousands who followed, the ones who actually made a life or death difference for generations put themselves out there. They stood grounded. They got physically tired. They. Were. Loud. While posting on social media about love and God and light is sweet, it's also stagnant. It's not active. It's easy and not a road block for those who have hatred and lies pumping through their minds.
I'm talking to anyone with a social media account. Yes, social leaders, celebrities, bloggers, pastors -- yes, of course. But just like your one voice matters, if you have 27 Instagram followers, every one of them deserve to be informed and their voice heard as well.
Speak loudly. Speak boldly, Speak specifically. The freedoms and opportunities you have now are results of others speaking up before you.
2. This is my favorite: Text Your Government Representatives!
Did you know you could do that? If you can share your thoughts with your social media followers from your phone, please share them with your representatives as well. It takes 5 minutes, tops! (Faster than trying to figure out what grammar rules to break to fit everything in a 140 character tweet.)
To start, simply test Resist to 50409. When prompted, you give your name, your zip code, and then the list of women and men who represent you in our U.S. government will appear. Upon choosing the recipients, you can then text a message that will be sent to your reps' offices as a fax. (I'm pretty sure my reps put their fax machine in the closet because this Elisabeth girl won't leave them alone.) But, if 2017 has taught me anything, it is that (whether for moral or bribed reasons) our representatives listen to us. Our voices have been loud, and bills have not been passed.
Some government leaders have been known to reply via email if you choose to leave the address. To learn more, check it out here. (Or just start with the text because, come on, too many nightmares have unfolded and your voice needs to be heard by our senators.)
3. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Please donate to support nonprofits who are working in the thick of it all. All three of these productive steps to help don't require you to leave your couch. Continue sitting on your couch and support those who are emotionally, physically, and spiritually tired from being on the front lines. Here is a list of organizations working to make sure what happened in Charlottesville will never happen again.
Thankfully, this photo is a funny, dramatic exaggeration that I found on my recent trip to Nashville (from Amelia Style's East Nashville boutique). I'm pretty sure I have more magazines than issues (because I'm a print publication fanatic).
But I have been learning a lot lately from the less-fun parts of life. More specifically, I've been letting the sad/frustrated/annoying things teach me more about ME, rather than dwelling on the circumstance or other people who I used to think were to blame. Can we just create a safe, open place here? There definitely are issues sometimes. Life circumstances or incidences with people can be really aggravating. Can I tell you something? Feeling that way doesn't make you a bad person. What matters is what you do with those feelings. If you're like me in the sense that you're big into personal development, the exciting thing is that these moments of aggravation can mold you into the most captivating version of yourself, if you choose to use them that way.
How does one use these lame/dumb/so-not-fun moments to make us better rather than just feeling icky? After reading Jen Sincero's book, You are a Badass, I stopped punching pillows while I was mad and started asking myself questions. (Far better on the heart, and the hands too.) I started asking questions like:
What story am I writing in my head when I'm upset? How am I perceiving reality? And am I making any big assumptions along the way? (That almost, usually, always is a "yes".)
While offended or confused, it's so easy to fill holes in our understanding with emotional explanations. "Everything is going to suck from now on." "She totally tried stabbing me in the back." "This is all my fault, and I can't do anything right." (Using definitive words like, "everything," "totally," "anything," "always," etc. is a pretty good sign you are writing a story for your reality.
How is writing that story adding to my life?
The answer is usually: "Well, I feel a lot crappier. I get to feel right, and I get to feel safer, but I feel grumpy and isolated, too." The knee-jerk reaction stories we write about our circumstances and the other people in them usually do not add what we thing they do to our lives. They don't make us right (as if that's even REALLY important). They don't make us safer. They don't make us "prepared" for when (IF) it happens again. And they sure as hell don't make us happier or more grateful or closer to the kind of people we want to be.
What does this say about me?
Gosh. This is the hard one. What or who gets you really upset? Like, really worked up? Now, imagining that feeling, what does that feeling say about you? What is is saying you are insecure about? Worried about? Try to avoid? Does feeling that way point out to you a trait you want to develop? Or does it indicate a trait you are happy to not have but need to be less judgmental about? Does getting so worked up about it reveal that you are too rigged or too relaxed? It's time that we own our ugly, because it is only when we do that, we can turn it into our beauty.
Lastly, I have been trying to finish this sentence in every up-side-down, totally undesirable moment:
"This is good because..."
...it is showing me that I need to work on an area in my life.
...the rain ruined my hair, but it cleaned my car. And my hair was probably TOO good anyway.
...now I realize I kind of have to be nicer to dog people and. (Not really, I love my dog.)
...the project was a disaster this time, but now I can plan for it next time around.
...even though I procrastinated and hated my life 3 nights before the deadline, I'll start earlier next time.
I'm working on owning my ugly so I can love people better and love myself better. Oh, how important the self love is, my friends. You cannot pour from what is empty. Love yourself until you are just so totally grossed out by the gushy love from yourself, and you need to cool down the self-love a little because you are making everyone else in the room uncomfortable. Bad for gross couples, good for your self-love.
PS - I found those AMAZING blush, suede slider loafers at HALF the price on Zappos (sorry, Amelia). You know your girl got a pair. Just a heads up. (;
I shared on Instagram that I had big news, and I'm excited that I can finally share:
I'm moving to Washington D.C. this summer!
I am so blessed and thankful for this next season, but in the name of true transparency, I must admit that the journey I took to get to this decision alone has grown me so much. I have been stretched and molded by choosing a path that is exciting, but hard. I have decided to move to D.C. and then decided against it 9 times in the last six months, back and forth and back and forth, solely out of fear.
And I must say, I have begun to love the sound of my voice saying "yes" to what is frightening to me but good for me, to what is difficult but right.
The journey started almost a year ago. It was August 2016, and I was surrounded by people my age beginning new adventures. I knew people who were living overseas, chasing pipe dreams, starting law school, and randomly picking places on a map and moving there simply because they thought they liked the city. You know why they did these things? Because they could. Because it ignited a fire of excitement in them, and it felt right.
My favorite people are those who seem to have lived 5 lives by the time they're 30.
I want to be one of those people.
So, it was August 2016, and I was sitting in my mom's office telling her about the people living in England and getting educational experiences and hauling their guitars to new cities. I could feel myself going on and on, and the wonder in my voice was causing tension against the grounded-ness of my near future plans. Finally, she said, "Well, then you should do something like that!"
"Uh, no. No, I could never," was my initial reply. "Trades of Hope is here, I already have my dream job at 21, and I'll figure out the living situation." (I lived in Lakeland, FL and commuted multiple times a week to our Trades of Hope offices in Palm Coast, FL -- about 2 hours apart -- and knew the arrangement wasn't sustainable.)
But my mom kept exploring the idea out loud, saying things about how I'm so young, and this is probably the best time I can do something so spontaneous, and all of the work details could be figured out because life, a really full lifetime, is so much more than working.
I was scared. I'm a planner who likes to pretend that she's in control and have comforting surroundings. I have never been a fan of change. However, through life experiences, that horrified fear has evolved into a distaste that has honesty felt the goodness that comes from shifting seasons. It has evolved so much so that I decided to bring a really big life change upon myself, even though I was (and am) terrified. I determined that I was just going to do it, even if I had to do it afraid.
From there I started dreaming: I could live pretty easily in Europe with my Dutch passport, or some mission work abroad would be so eye-open-- No, there's no way Trades of Hope could be in your life if you're in a different country. Okay, America it is, then. But where? And what? That's when it came down to graduate school.
I graduated with my undergrad 2 years early, as a 20 year-old, in 2015. Ever since I started taking college classes at 14 years old and knew I would be ahead of the timeline society has put on us, I felt I have always had a golden ticket. As Gilmore Girls star, Lauren Graham, also ahead in the education timeline as a girl, described it in her book Talking as Fast as I Can, those years ahead of the curve fell like coins in your pocket that you rub between your fingers like a secret weapon until you are ready to cash them in for a reward at some point in adulthood.
Looking back on it now, the reward was being able to have this past year at Trades of Hope full time. For the last year I have been commuting multiple times a week for 2 hours, one way, to our offices to be a part of our amazing team. It has been so good for me and such a gift. And because I was "ahead" of the game by two years, I cashed in that golden ticket, those coins, to be able to focus on helping Trades of Hope (the company I co-founded and love so much) grow without splitting my time with school, got to have amazing professional experiences before starting my master's, and still get to go to grad school "on time" (whatever the heck that means). It was definitely worth exchanging my ticket and coins to have given what I was able to give to Trades of Hope this past year without school being in the way.
After deciding grad school was what I wanted, I started studying for the GRE. I was determined to get amazing scores, so I began my studying in September 2016 for the Fall 2017 school application season. I figured I already traded in my golden ticket, so a phenomenal GRE score was my ticket out of Florida now. I studied through September, October, November, December, January, and in February, took the test. I applied discipline and diligence to studying for this exam like I never have before. (This is another area in which I saw growth for me.) I bought books, hired an online tutor from Harvard, read more for fun, ate a little better, and made sure I was going to bed at the same time every night (it helps to increase your memory, apparently).
Then, it was time to fill out applications. I completed applications for schools in New York, Boston, and, of course, Washington D.C. -- 5 different schools among the 3 cities. I have always dreamed of a metropolitan experience and decided this was the opportunity. After receiving only acceptance letters, it was just a matter of choosing my favorite city.
I was in D.C. last month and, despite my fears, knew it was the perfect city for me. Beautiful, diverse, cultural, passionate, and not too big -- no where else in the United States has ever spoken to me so gently, so powerfully, so personally. Within Washington, I received admission offers from American University and George Washington University. I am so excited to share that, this August, I will begin working on my Master's Degree in Public Relations at American University. I will be going to school part time so that I can continue pouring myself into Trades of Hope!
If you are thinking about reaching for a dream that feels impossible, let me tell you, if I found a way to move to Washington D.C. despite my personal and professional ties in Florida, your dreams are possible as well. A year ago, I never would have thought this was an option for me. The reality now is freeing and exciting, but also really scary.
I'm probably going to be afraid for a while, even after I get settled into my new home. But I'm going to do this move afraid. Sometimes choosing what is right is choosing to do it afraid, and that's more than okay. There are certain situations in which fear can be eradicated, and I'm a fan of those circumstances. But sometimes, fear stays. And that's when you start talking to it, to fear. Or at least you should, because it works:
"Fear, I understand you have a job, and you're just trying to do your job. We've all gotta pay the bills. So, you can come along on this adventure. However, you're staying in the back seat. I'm the human here, so I'm the only one who will be calling the shots. You can't back-seat-drive; you can't give directions; you can't even touch the aux cord. But you can come along and give your short-lived warnings. But the front is reserved for logic, trust, and thankfulness, and your seat in the back doesn't crowd them out of the car. I'm the one in control."
Fear is good. Its existence does not permit it to take control. You take control, breathe your dreams into reality, and create the life you actually want to live. Use it to empower people, to make the world more beautiful, to build something awe-inspiring, to create something meaningful. You will not regret saying "yes," even if you say it afraid.
A few weeks ago, I announced on my Instagram that I was working on a blog post about yoga and about my experience as a group fitness instructor. Many of you lovely hearts sent in questions for me to answer here! I filtered through all the questions (there were too many to all answer here, but if I couldn't fit them in this post, I wrote you back personally) and combined some questions to answer below. But first, a little bit of my story:
In 2015, I found myself in a place needing healing. I had just graduated from college and life was not looking the way I had always planned. (The year after college is a confusing one for most, a fact that "they" don't prepare you for.) I was in a place of re-learning everything: who I was, what I wanted, what I believed, and where I was going. I needed to heal from brokenness, and I planned to do so in the most efficient manner. (Finding efficiency is a common theme in my life -- oops.) I did everything "they" (actually do) tell you to do: I went to therapy, got a puppy, journaled, and started working out regularly.
Getting to the gym consistently has always been an issue for me. The only physical activity that retained my interest was yoga. I loved how it made my body look, how it enhanced my mind, and how it lifted my heart. I spent the summer after graduation practicing yoga on my own or with friends, and after a couple months had the thought, "Maybe I want to be certified in this someday."
That September, I met with my friend Kirstin who had just opened her women's fitness studio, The Balance Culture, in my town. As we were talking, I mentioned that I had thought about becoming a yoga instructor someday. She encouraged me to come to a certification class they were having at the studio, and I thought she was crazy!
As I mentioned, I was not a gym person. I couldn't specify any muscle groups, didn't know what was safe or unsafe in working out, and had just started becoming proficient in my yoga poses.
But the certification process was so educational, to preparing, and so easy! (More on that later.)
By November 2015, I was certified by AFAA as a Group Fitness Instructor with training in yoga. (This means I'm certified to instruct any class like kickboxing, barre, or pilates in a group class setting.) My dream became a reality so quickly! And it was one of the best things I have ever achieved. If you are considering becoming certified in any fitness, I definitely recommend pursing it!
What is the certification process like?
As I said, I was certified through AFAA, and it was very easy! For a girl who was not really into fitness at all (thanks, high metabolism!), I became a fitness professional quickly. I started studying slowly in September and took the test in mid-November (all the while being in a grad program and working with Trades of Hope). I got to study in a group of women at the studio, and that honestly was a game changer. The testing took one afternoon, all in one sitting. There was a written test and a physical test, which did not take a high amount of endurance (says the girl who wasn't into fitness!). Trust me, if 2015 me could do it, anyone can do it!
Why do you like yoga so much?
I love what yoga does to my body. I feel strong, lean, and flexible. I'm not looking to have too much muscle on me as that's not really the look I'm gong for personally. What I get from yoga is perfect. I also love what it does for my mind. Anxiety has been something I have had to learn to manage, and yoga empowered me a lot in controlling it. The concentrated energy and focus yoga requires allows one to center in and think about what is going on in that single moment. Anxiety is dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, and yoga demands all attention to be brought to the present. The mental break is relieving and has equipped me to remain present throughout most of my day to day.
What do you emphasis the most in your classes?
When I'm instructing, I always talk about listening "to your own body." We are all on our own journeys, and the only way to progress in those journeys is to focus on what we need, not on those around us. I believe in and live by this in every area of life.
What has been an unexpected gift from yoga?
Because I teach in a women's studio, I have absolutely loved the friendships I have gained through this. I love my fellow instructors and the ladies who attend my classes. I spent a lot of time with them out of the studio, and they have blessed my life tremendously in so many areas!
How much did it cost be be certified?
Being certified through AFAA, the most prestigious and recognized organization, I paid about $300.
Where do you find the training?
Thankfully, I studied for my certification at my studio with a group of women who would be certified with me on the same day. So we trained and studied together in our studio every week. But certifications occur regularly in major cities, so I would google one for training near you. I received a study guide to navigate through what I needed to learn.
Yoga and becoming a Group Fitness Instructor was a big part of my healing and coming into a fuller version of who I am. If it is something you are even wondering about, I believe it is absolutely worth pursuing. There is only fun and health ahead!
If you have anymore questions, feel free to comment them below!
Tomorrow is International Women's Day, a day designed to celebrate women and their economic, political, and social achievements around the world. What a stunning kaleidoscope of beauty, diversity, and culture the women of this world create. Even in light of our revered differences, we stand hand-in-hand, intertwined by sisterhood, respect, and the knowledge that we are better together.
International Women’s Day is also a time to focus on places and situations where women's rights, equality, health, and safety still have a long way to go.
Millions of women all around the world face the physically, emotionally, and psychologically taxing realities of slavery, sexual exploitation, slums, and discrimination.
But through co-founding Trades of Hope, I have seen women who will not allow themselves to remain oppressed.
We are in the middle of a movement: women saying, “no more” and rising to become the heroes of their own stories. They are fighting for their families. They are leading communities. They are claiming respect for their hearts, their bodies, and their minds. Statistically, for every woman who is empowered out of impoverished situations, she brings 4 more people with her.
While I have participated in peaceful protests before and respect those who will powerfully participate in A Day Without A Woman, I'm not striking tomorrow. As a co-founder of a company that creates jobs for women in 16 different countries (including the U.S.), I don't think it is the most effective route for me to support my sisters around the world.
What is another impactful way to empower women on International Women’s Day?
Buy their products.
Literally, to shop.
By purchasing their products, you are financially impacting lives of women and attributing the value that is due to their ideas and talents. This opens doors for women to reach new heights of dignity and success and equality in society, business, and politics. You are empowering women and perpetuating a sustainable solution to poverty and inequality.
Trades of Hope sells fair trade, ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor, made by women rising up in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the U.S.
Buying a woman’s products positively impacts the economic nature of her life. At Trades of Hope, we believe this begins a cycle of sustainable business that will impact economies of communities and, someday, whole countries.
Hear from one of our artisan partner, Ms. Florence, as she shares how she has become her own hero through sustainable business and today is a leader in her community and her country.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
― Audre Lorde
You were shaping America while I was shaping myself. This coincidence or reality is one for which I will always be grateful. Lessons upon lessons I won't forget:
I needed some inspiration and motivation today, this January 20th: inspiration to believe that there is goodness coming for this country and motivation to do the work that President Obama asked of us, work that we can do to bring about change. Looking for a little piece of "work" I could do today, I made these wallpapers, mainly for my own comfort, and decided to share this small piece of comfort with any friends who need it today, too.
Let's be real, some of us need LOTS of inspiration, so I made desktop wall papers as well:
If you need a refresher on how to slip these babies on, here's how...
- go to www.elisabethhuijskens.com on your phone
- hold your finger down on the wallpaper(s) you want
- select save image
- then go to your photos and set it as your wallpaper!
- while setting on your iPhone 6, be sure to select "still"
- go to www.elisabethhuijskens.com on your computer
- double or right click on the image
- save image
- set at desktop picture!
I'm going to miss Barack and Michelle in our White House. But regardless of their residence, their thorough empathy, considerate intelligence, and captivating grace keeps them leaders I will follow. Their words empower me and their pledge to continue working alongside us comforts me, so I'm surrounding myself with their encouragement. This is one small step, but every ounce of effort counts in standing for what we believe in.
Everyone has a story that they would feel uncomfortable publicly writing about.
It’s uncomfortable, but I’m going to do it any way. Not because I'm under an illusion that people care more than they do, but because I only know a few things to be 100% truth. One of those truths? It’s important to share stories. The world needs less people who say, “It’s going to work out! You’ll be okay!” and more people who will settle into your pain with you and honestly, authentically say, “I have been in this ugly, ugly thing, stood where you are standing, and now I’m somehow on the other side. And that is how I know you will, too.”
I used to be so scared of the word single. I was scared because I had yet to realize this: You’re single. I'm single. Everyone is single. Maybe you’re married or dating, and you think you’re not single, but you are. Sure, you can feasibly plan a future with someone. And when the Chinese food delivery guy comes to the door, you don’t have to yell “Hey guys, get out the plates!” to an empty room so Delivery Guy won’t realize you’re sitting alone in your old band shirt, with no pants on and very, very hairy legs watching your favorite movie again. Again.
We are each individual human beings. Whole beings. Galaxies. Entireties within ourselves. It’s really not romantic. Not when the media pushes obsession as love and when Christians push the “becoming one” idea. But now, having been single, I am so thankful for it.
Not because I can flirt with whomever I want, hang out with my girlfriends whenever I want, or wear/think/do whatever I want without the input of another. I mean, I can do those things and I like those things, but those things don’t make a relationship-girl happy to be alone. (So, if you have a friend who is going through a break up, please, don’t use those as reasons for her/him to be happy about it.)
I am so thoroughly pleased with being single because I have lived through, experienced, embodied this truth:
With divine presence inside of me, I have the ability within myself to heal, regenerate, and renew myself when I’m wounded or anxious or scared. I have the ability to make my ambitions reality. I have the ability to determine what I need in any moment and give it to myself, especially when there’s no one else around to do so.
You have this ability, too.
You and I, we don’t need another person or outside party to do these things. Outside parties are good. Outside parties are healthy and fun. You can find companionship with an outside party, confide in an outside party, make out with an outside party. It’s great. But, except for community, you do, in fact, have everything you need within the galaxy that is you.
During the five years wherein I was always in a relationship, I would have hated reading this. I would have said that everything written above was heartless and cold and the author had obviously never been in love before. Because, back then, I was the permeable membrane. Permeable freaking membrane. Let my favorite author (and close, personal friend) Elizabeth Gilbert, explain. This was me:
“I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that’s not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time—everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else. I do not relay these facts about myself with pride, but this is how it’s always been.”
Remember when Chandler and Monica have their engagement pictures taken, and Chandler makes this cringing face the whole time? Yeah, that’s the face I make when I read that. Because when I read that, it feels like I’m slipping on an old skin; and even though it was shed and it doesn’t really fit tight or right any more, it still feels like an old dream. Dark, confusing, and familiar.
But of course I acted that way. (And if you feel like you have acted similarly, let me just say, of course you acted that way!) If being with someone is all you’ve ever known in your teenage and adult life, of course. If you haven’t had the experience to realize that you can stand on your own (and that you’re actually kind of bad ass at it), then of course you would lean too heavily on the person next to you.
Let me just take this time to say: forgive your past self. She/He was learning. She/He doesn’t know what you know now. Forgive your past self.
Hyperaware of this fact this fact even back then I thought, well, frick, Elisabeth, how are you going to stop doing this? An obvious answer was to try out being single; but that really wasn’t sounding like any fun so I didn’t, until that was no longer my decision.
My life suddenly looked nothing like I had envisioned it.
I suddenly looked nothing like I had envisioned me. Not only because I wasn’t dating anyone, but I just didn’t like myself, period. As much as people don’t want to date a permeable membrane, the permeable membrane doesn’t want to be the permeable membrane. And I had a hunch that being a permeable membrane with nothing/one to permeate would make me just loathe myself even more.
So, I decided to stop being the pellicle that holds cells together and, instead, be a woman. More specifically, I decided to be Elisabeth as a woman, and figuring out who she was has been my favorite part of my human experience.
That’s exactly what being single has been for me: absorbing me and my human experience and everything, good and bad, in which that entails.
After I got back from my time in Guatemala, I started reading books again; I spent all of my money traveling and then got it all back again; I got a dog; I got certified to teach yoga; I watched all the series on Netflix that I wanted. It’s amazing what you can get done when you’re alone. And I actually felt like a complete person for the first time.
I no longer lived in my fairy tale world. I was in the real world, baby; and out here you adapt or die. (There was a day last summer when I actually said, yes to myself because that’s what you do when you’re alone, “Elisabeth, if you stay in this sorrow and hopelessness, you might as well be dead.” I didn’t want to be dead.)
No one can die by emotional wounds inflicted by another human being. One can only die while forgetting that they are more than the pain.
So I adapted. Any time I felt lonely, I sat there and felt lonely. No running, no trying to escape it. I wanted to figure it out. Any time I felt pissed, I sat there pissed. But no matter how slighted I felt (and I felt freaking slighted), I always used my emotions as a vessel to carry me forward and eventually back into peace. Any time I got anxious, 100% sure I was going to die alone, I made a map of my feelings and talked to myself the way I would compassionately talk to a friend: “Wow, you some kind of big shot? You are in no way smart enough to know what your future will hold. You actually sound really dumb right now. Take a breath.” Any feeling that I used to ignore or try to put out, I felt. And I learned. And I welcomed into my human existence.
“Hi loneliness, anger. Oh hey, anxiety. So glad you guys could make it. Listen, you all obviously think your jobs are super important, so I won’t keep you from your tasks for long. I tried to shake you for years, but now I have no one to hide behind. So, I’m gonna let you tag a long on all of my adventures from now on, but let’s just get one thing crystal clear. You guys will not dictate who I am or how I behave. I have places to go, things to accomplish, people to see – and I intend to remain my truest, greatest self through all of it. This means, I’ll carefully consider your input, but I am the human and I will make the decisions. Alright? Solid.”
I don’t know what parts of my story are beneficial to others, if any are at all. But the purpose of my sharing is so that I can settle in with someone wherever they are, share in their vulnerability and say with credibility:
When you decide to choose yourself as one of your own soul mates, when you decide to never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings or fears, when you view the parts of you that are breaking as opportunity to let light into who you are– you step into your truest, greatest self.
What does it look like to share your story?
How much should you share on the Internet? Where billions upon billions of hearts have access to your words? Half of that billion is longing for someone to give them something to believe in and the other half is waiting, watching for someone to tear down.
Hearing people’s stories have become one of my most favorite things. I collect them like sacred treasures, burry them deep in my being so they can grow into something beautiful inside of me. Then, from that growth a sweet fragrance rises, touching the storyteller in gratitude and reaching for hearts who need what I once needed.
Some stories offered to me have changed my life and helped me become my truest, greatest self. I would go as far as to say that some stories offered to me have saved my life while in my darkest seasons.
Liz Gilbert’s story saved me as I was reading her book while living in a country that I had never been to before. Lindsey’s story saved me while she was yelling it over blaring Latin music, sitting next to a bar in an animated Mexican restaurant. Jocelyn’s story saved me while we sat on the roof, stars above us, laundry hung around us, Guatemala beneath us as a country we were about to explore.
On one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic podcasts, Brene Brown, said, “The only stories I share with the public are stories I have already processed, and my healing is not contingent on your opinion of those stories… I don’t share any stories about myself that do not serve my work and that don’t serve my mission of my work.”
Writers, blogger, expressers – sharing any part of your story before taking these steps is abusive to yourself. It is not in service of the reader, and it is not in service of your own heart. It opens you up to shame, confusion, and the obstruction of healing. However, if your story is publically shared after your processing and is then countered, there is no need to defend it. You, somehow, become neutral. Because you have grown past what you have written, and you are now leaving it behind as a jewel for the next person to pick up.
So many people write publically with a deep yearning for healing, but that’s not the right, not the safe, not the possible place to find it. Write to process. Write to learn what you know. But don’t share those writings for the sake of healing, because that is not what you’ll reap.
I’m getting ready to share some parts of my story.
I think sharing stories means disclosing all the details: the big, sexy, flashy details and the small, contextual, seemingly insignificant details, too.
These parts of my story are ones I didn’t dream of, didn’t particularly enjoy, and not something I would exactly wish on another. But I will share it.
But by owning my story, I then get to choose how it ends. By owning my story, I poise myself for how I want to respond to it. By owning my story, I am transformed by my story and am able to help others own theirs.
So is it time?
I think it is. I think you share your story when your healing is not contingent on the response.
Last week, a couple of my girlfriends and I jumped on planes to visit our fellow-college-roommate in Chicago where she is living while working on her Masters. We ate, drank, shopped, took photos, and were constantly in awe that we were far along enough in life where we could visit our college roommates in a pretty city like Chicago. It was such a gift, and I'm thankful 2016 delivered such an incredible one so early on in the year. I got tons of pretty pictures and some random thoughts for recent/almost college grads out there:
// ONE //
Whatever you're feeling right now - incredible fear, incredible rage, incredible loss, incredible joy, incredible contentment, incredible boredom, incredible confusion, incredible lack of fulfillment - it will fade away. Even though it is consuming your heart and lensing your vision and you can't believe it ever will, I promise it will fade away. You'll stop caring about the things you're enraged about, and you'll stop feeling that happy jump in your step so effortlessly. I don't know why it works that way, I guess it's a life thing; I've learned to trust the process. I started my post-undergrad life feeling the first three of that list above; and I don't fully know why or how (other than my concentrated efforts), but those feelings have faded into smooth, cleansing waters. The happy (unfortunately) and the hard (thank, God), it will fade. So soak up all the nutrients that whatever the currently feeling has to offer, really feel it; but do so with the intention of moving looking forward. Then whenever the next feeling comes you will be ready to face and learn and grow there.
I wrote this post in August about feeling like a plant underground, yet to be grown. What I feel now is much more acccute to a sprout; above the ground, sometimes wondering why I don't have abounding leaves and pedals like the plants taller than me, but often I'm `pretty freaking proud of my stem and of my green hue and of how far I've grown in such a small time. Like I said, I don't know why or how it happened, just that I chose to be intentional about who I was and what I did in that season.
// TWO //
You are so, completely not alone. What you're feeling, there are others (far more and far closer to you in proximity than you think) who have those same feelings beating in their chests. It's easy to be impersonal and lack vulnerability in this world. Sharing your heart, your true heart with wisdom and discernment, is the only way to discover that you are not alone. Just share little, honest, authentic pieces at a time. Sometimes people won't relate (or at least don't act like it). But most of the time that little, honest, authentic part of your heart will bring comfort and healing to other confused souls, and then in turn to your own.
// THREE //
I believe that believing you'll survive is what makes you survive. It's a scary thing to chose to believe, because what if you're wrong? But without it, without believing you will survive the pain at present, there is absolutely no chance that you will. It takes bravery, so much bravery. But I believe that believing you will survive is what makes you survive.
// FOUR //
The past's pain and the future's unknown are such small matters compared to what lies within us. Our strength to keep ourselves alive in every season, our ability to plant hope and healing in another's soul, our heart's emotional-cell-regeneration to make us feel like new again, our power to chose kindness when everything around us is screaming, "harden, harden, harden!" - it is miraculous what lies inside of us. And when we bring those miraculous things that are inside of us out into the world, it chases darkness away a little big more - for yourselves and others around you.
Today, I'm 21 years old.
I've never been one for year resolutions (I don't have the attention span for them), but I've always been adamant about growing myself and I live by this simple idea:
I am a huge believer in designing the life you want to live and then creating it.
I Am Her Tribe said it beautifully:
"Ditch the resolutions.To resolve means to find a solution to a problem.
You are not a problem.
The way you showed up for your life the past year was necessary for your growth.
Now is a time to reflect. To learn.
To create an intention, a positive call to shift,
a spark of magic and manifestation rooted in self-love and backed with action."
This summer I decided to start doing this thing where, every season, I make a list of things that "I have always wanted to do" (design the life I wanted to live) and then do them within that same season (and create it). I'm naturally an anxious, procrastinating mess of an artist -- so I knew that I needed a short time frame (like 4 months) to actually fabricate my list into reality. Between new adventures, literary goals, musical goals and life milestones -- my seasonal lists include healthy, life-giving, Elisabeth-growing things to do. You can check out my summer list and recap here.
My Autumn List (September to December) was as follows:
Life after traditional undergrad college (even for this girl who is living in her college town and working on her masters online) is weird. In her article "23 Reminders That Every 23-Year-Old Needs to Hear Right Now", Heidi Priebe describes it as, "The years following college aren't kind to us... Nobody likes you when you're 23, including your own life." Every ten seconds I'm singing, "so no one told you life was gonna be this way." I grew up with FRIENDS on television (even when I was too young to be allowed to watch it). When I was younger I used to like the show because I thought it was funny; now I think I watch the all-too-relatable sit-com because well, sometimes in life, if you don't laugh, you cry. But even in the incredible awkwardness, good things somehow still keep growing, and I am learning:
I am whole. Even though I feel like there are holes. Even though I feel like certain parts of me aren't here yet. Even though there's still so much unknown to me. I am whole.
An intricate being of spirit, body, mind and heart.
There is this galaxy inside of me, unable to be fully defined. It is continuously growing and changing and moving -- but not on a linear progression. I am on my own rate and my own journey. My experiences are mine to label and no body else's. Nothing needs to be justified or summarized (it can't be). It just is. And that is wonderfully, miraculously enough.
You are wonderfully, miraculously enough. Because you just are. Because your heart is beating, you need no justification for who you are.
That is enough reason for me to love myself in my wholeness, to nurture all aspects of who I am -- physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. "What do I need right now?" I've gotten in the habit of asking.
I realized something a few months back: I'm stuck with myself forever. (Obviously, Elisabeth. No, seriously, think about it.) It's me and me always. No matter whom I room with, whom my friends are, whom I date, whatever kids I have, whom passes away -- I'll still know me. I can't run away from myself, hide from myself, break up with myself, or ignore my calls like everyone else in this world can. Loving others is important. Loving others is everything. But how can we do that without loving the one human with whom we are truly always engaged?
So I've started thinking on who I am from a different perspective. How do I want to be remembered? Who (not what) do I want to be when I "grow up"?
Who do I want to be regardless of circumstance?
I came up with words like generous, creative, fearless, gracious, always fighting for good in this world on behalf of myself and others. Even when circumstances are ugly or embarrassing or painful -- that's the kind of woman I want to be. This is who I want to be when "your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's D.O.A." or when "it's like you're always stuck in second gear" and especially when "it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year."
And the great thing is, that since these characteristics are regardless of circumstance, I can start working on these things now. I don't need to wait for something to happen that is out of my control. I don't grow on a linear progression -- no human does -- so I'll fail at these things sometimes. But I must remember...
Even when it looks as if nothing is happening, but truly the most foundational part of who I am is being rooted underground before I start growing in a way most deem beautiful. But this is where the beauty is birthed. Under the ground, where no one sees. Where it is dark and cold. Where it's awkward and sometimes lonely and there's so much unseen and unknown. This is where life comes from. This is where life begins.
At the beginning of 2015, I had the word "fight" pressed against my heart. In one of the easiest times of my life, I had no idea why the word had such a tug on my heart. I thought maybe it was because I was supposed to fight to avoid becoming complacent. Maybe to fight to stay on fire, fight for the helpless or fight for -- gosh, I could guess at answers that sound good all day but I really didn't know. But now I know (and I'm sure you do too if you follow me on Instagram, as I say it all the time). 2015 didn't stay easy. And I had to teach myself that, as dear Samwise reminds us, "there is some good in this world, and it is worth fighting for." This has become the truth that has kept me walking, has kept me truly alive, and has kept me thoroughly loving and believing in and hopeful about life -- for me and for you. No matter how dark, how bleak, how hard life seems, there is still some good in this world. And it is worth fighting for. It's worth fighting for. It's worth fighting for. It's worth fighting for.
The biggest thing I have learned at 21 is this: just because your life doesn't look the way you anticipate doesn't mean that it is bad. I want to love life, not because it is happy or easy or bright -- because it is not always so. I want to love life even though it is full of good and bad, kindness and selfishness, magic and terror, battles victorious and lost. I want to love life because life is our one human experience. This is our one human experience.
Welcome to the world. Beautiful and horrible things will happen here.
But, even if I don't like it, I am going to love every freakin' moment of it.