The difference a year makes

The other day I spent some time reflecting on how vastly different my life is today than it was even a year ago. I had already moved back to the North Bay, was working in the same field, and had the same group of friends–in many ways my life was very similar to the life I lead now. The difference I’m referring to is one of mental state.

I had spent the year prior to this point solely focused on survival. When I decided to make a huge change in my life and start over, I moved back to the North Bay unemployed, with only $200 in my bank account to pay my bills. I spent the next year focused on rebuilding my life financially and getting my living and job situations under control. Finally, after I had a safety net established, I was faced with putting my life back together mentally and emotionally. This was the place I was at a year ago. I was forced to rethink my beliefs, emotional reactions, relationships and more. It was back to the basics, and I had not a clue as to how to begin putting me back together again.

A year later, I feel like a completely different person than that lost girl. I feel confident, strong and content. The environment around me didn’t change, but I did. In short, I feel like me again.

A few weeks ago I had a long conversation with a friend who is in a similar place now as I was a year ago – lost, unhappy with his life, and unsure how to begin putting together the pieces. He asked me what steps I took to get to a happier place. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. My journey to this point was complicated, involved quite a few hurdles, and of course I still sometimes struggle with past issues. However, I think I’ve come up with the most basic explanation for my mental transformation.

I arrived at this place by exercising self-awareness. Awareness of my past, awareness of the motivations behind my actions, awareness of how my thoughts differ from my feelings. This constant self-reflection helped me learn the self I had never known before and lead me to a healthier place. It helped me to find comfort with my thoughts and feelings. It helped me learn how to direct my thoughts in a more positive way. To put it even more simply,  I put a lot of time and effort into searching myself.

Everyone’s path is different, but I’m glad I devoted so much time to searching myself in an effort to make peace with the past so that I can have a bright future.

A day in the sun

After our night out in the city over the weekend, someone suggested spending Sunday afternoon at the Russian River, a river that winds its way through Healdsburg (wine country) to the ocean.

We gathered a group of people together and headed out to the river around 1 p.m. The drive to the river winds through wine country, and we all commented on how lucky we are to live in an area that has easy access to the beach, river, wineries, San Francisco, great hiking, great food and more. Every day I feel blessed by my surroundings!

After parking we hiked down to the river and set up camp on the beach, underneath a few trees for shade.  We packed food and drinks, so everyone lounged, ate and chatted for awhile before getting in the water. The sun was out and the water was the perfect temperature.

It was the first time since summer began that I’ve really been able to spend a good amount of time outside, soaking up the sun. I loved every minute. We spent a few hours of lounging, swimming and throwing the frisbee for Jaime’s dog, Cooper.

I arrived home exhausted, but feeling like it had been a weekend well spent.

You know it’s ladies night…

Over the weekend, I traveled with a group of girlfriends to stay overnight in San Francisco for a much needed girls night out.

Though throughout the week I was feeling drained from my new job, I was so happy I agreed to girls night because it was exactly what I needed.

My girlfriends picked me up from Novato around noon and we drove to San Francisco to stay at The Sir Francis Drake hotel. The room was a bit on the pricey side, but it felt nice to stay somewhere fancy for the night. Plus, the hotel was in walking distance of the shopping district (Union Square), great restaurants, and clubs. After getting settled into our room, we headed out for an afternoon of shopping. We shopped at two stores, but the stores were so large and packed with people, that we headed back to the hotel after a few hours.

After spending a few hours at the hotel room getting ready, we headed up to the top of the Sir Francis Drake to the Starlight Room for a cocktail, where I had the best lemon drop of my life.

When it was late enough to go out, we headed out to a few clubs nearby and danced till the midmorning. We had a great time dancing together, and even made a few new friends.

We collapsed into bed in the early morning, but woke up early the next morning to go to brunch at a cute, 50s style diner right across the street from our hotel.

Even though the city is only a mere half hour from my house, spending the night in a fancy hotel in the city truly felt like a vacation. It was such a great weekend with great friends, good food, and fun. By the time I returned home on Sunday afternoon, I felt rejuvenated.

Let It Go

Recently, I began dating again for the first time in nearly two years. To say this is a scary prospect is to put it mildly. As a divorced 26-year-old, I’m in an odd place in the dating world. I am by no means ready to enter into a very committed relationship, but I’m also unwilling to waste my time dating people who don’t really matter.

Basically, there’s a whole lot of this happening:

This has presented an interesting problem. I’ve met guys I think are wonderful but who I don’t quite feel are right for me in this stage of my life. I don’t want to lead them on by continuing a dating relationship, but I also fear “losing” their newly acquired friendship since I enjoy having many friendships with a wide variety of people.

I was stressing out about a situation like this earlier this week and venting to my friend, Alyssa. I asked Alyssa if I should try to explain my situation to a particular person so that I can maintain our friendship, and her answer was somewhat surprising to me, but rang true.

She told me I need to work on letting things go.

I have always considered myself a laid back person. But her comment led me to a realization: I’ve been getting hung up on maintaining trivial relationships. I’m so interested in people, and developing my own relationships with each of them, that I sometimes get lost in the process and can’t recognize that in the grand scheme of my life, that relationship isn’t that important. It’s surface level.

Sometimes relationships just don’t work out. And that’s okay.

I thought about many of the relationships I have in my life, and the type of relationships I value. I value having a few meaningful relationships based on common interests, goals and ideas rather than many shallow relationships with “close acquaintances.” Alyssa gave me the reminder I needed to spend my time fostering the relationships with people who I care about most rather than wasting time on inconsequential ones.

I’m incredibly grateful for her insight and honesty.

These are 27 things…

The other day, I was reading one of the daily blogs I read, Eat Live Run, by Jenna Weber. For her 27th birthday she posted a list of 27 things she would have liked her former self to know. Though my 27th birthday is months away, I liked the idea enough to create my own list of lessons I’ve learned in my mid/late twenties that I wish my early twenty-something self would have known.

Here it is:

1. Life is too short to settle in work, friendship, and love.

2. The old adage “time heals all wounds” is true.

3. Spend time with your girlfriends. They make life worthwhile. 

4. Try to approach a problem from the other person’s point of view.

5. Be picky. It’s a good thing.

6. Those cute heels you want? Buy them.

7. On that note…start a savings account and save a portion of each paycheck. You never know when it will come in handy.

8. Don’t take anything personally.

9. Work your way through college. You won’t regret having fewer student loans.

10. If a guy wants to be with you, he will make it happen.

11. Be patient with your parents. They love you, even if they don’t show it in the same way you do.

12. If you want unconditional love, get a dog.

13. Relationships can last…if you’re willing to put in a lot of hard work.

14. With that said, make sure you choose a good partner to put in the hard work with.

15. Learn how to stand on your own two feet. Don’t depend on others for happiness.

16. The only way to learn how to depend on yourself is to truly spend some time alone.

17. Your life’s happiness is in your hands. It’s up to you to change the course of your life.

18. Happiness isn’t a constant state of elation. If you chase that, you will forever be dissappointed.

20. Read, it’s important.

21. Tough times don’t last but tough people do

22. Keep an open mind. Be accepting of others and their viewpoints.

23. Never stop learning and changing

24. Be intentional, you’ll like the outcome more

25. Be spontaneous. You’ll be surprised at the experiences you find.

26. Be loyal. Others will notice and return the favor.

27. You are beautiful just the way you are.

 

What Happens in Vegas…Gets a Blog Post

Last weekend I went to Las Vegas for the very first time to visit Sera, my best friend from Arizona. Sera recently moved to Vegas (that’s right, she actually.lives.in.Vegas) when her boyfriend’s job transferred him there. While it sounds like glitz and glamour at all hours of the day and night, living in Vegas has not been all it’s cracked up to be, and she’s been feeling rather lonely.

When she texted me asking if I wanted to come the next weekend, I jumped at my chance for an impromptu trip, and booked my ticket. I must say, I’ve never really understood the excitement surrounding Las Vegas. But I definitely noticed the buzz of infectious excitement the moment I stepped off the plane.

After chatting until 4 a.m. the night I arrived, we slept in and finally rolled out of bed around noon. Sera and I hit up the mall on the strip, and had a blast shopping together. We laughed when after trying our clothes on separately, we ended up choosing the same exact three items (a shirt, dress, and necklace, same color for every one). It reminded me how similar we really are even though we only see each other two or three times a year.

That night, we decided to avoid the strip and went to a wine tasting even on Lake Mead. Various vendors were set up outside of cute touristy shops that wound around the lake.

Excuse the shiny white faces! My camera phone apparently dislikes dimly lit indoor areas. After the wine tasting event we headed to an area near Sera’s apartment where the “locals” hang out. We stopped at Double Helix (a bar with a delicious white chocolate cocktail) and the Yard House before finally heading home.

The next day we headed to the strip. There may or may not have been plastic silver bulls filled with slushy margaritas involved. ;) We walked up and down the strip and wandered through several famous hotels.

The above photo is the flower garden inside the Bellagio, absolutely beautiful! After walking a few miles, we stopped at the western bar and restaurant Gilley’s to refuel since it was a good place to “people watch.” The food wasn’t that pricey, but it was awful.  I definitely would not recommend this restaurant.

We were exhausted from walking several miles, so we headed back to her apartment to watch TV and zone out before my flight. I was so happy to get the chance to spend two uninterrupted days with my best friend and catch up on the past few months. Not only that, but Sera and her boyfriend were excellent hosts. I even had a gift waiting next to my bed when I arrived!

I’m sure I will be seeing Las Vegas again, very soon. :)

My Best

Last week I wrote about how wonderful it is to instantly click with a new friend. But this weekend I was reminded that there’s nothing quite like an old friendship that has withstood the test of time. A friendship in which, when you are reunited, you instantly fall back into the same level of comfort and affection you had before.

Sera and I met in the 7th grade. We had P.E. together, but it wasn’t until an ill-fated school dance when her boyfriend dumped her, and my crush was dancing with someone else that our “woe-is-me” thirteen-year-old eyes met across the room, and we bonded. It was a true meeting of the minds, something that remains true to this day. We practically lived at each others houses and for most of our adolescence, shared every detail of our lives with one another. We were so close, we even have identical scars on our ankles where we decided to bond our sisterhood through pain (a la Practical Magic, not our brightest idea in retrospect).

Though we’ve lived in different states for the past 6 years we’ve maintained one of the strongest friendships I have ever known. This is in part due to the fact that we have an intimate knowledge of each other’s strengths and flaws. We have watched each other succeed and fail with boys, family, alcohol, emotional trauma, school, finances, and more, with a willingness to see each other through each situation.

Though it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, we’ve stuck it out. And managed to have quite a few shenanigans (< why does that word get better every time I use it?) in the process. I couldn’t ask for a better best friend.