An Exciting New Chapter In My Life

An Exciting New Chapter In My Life

How this year has changed me

This pandemic has been challenging in so many ways. None of us were expecting this at the start of 2020. None of us could have predicted this is how our year would be going. I haven’t seen many of my friends in person since my birthday party in early March. I have spent way more time alone in my apartment than I normally would. On top of the everyday anxieties I already face as someone who struggles with anxiety, I have now added a global pandemic to the list of things tone anxious about. It’s fair to say this year caught us all by surprise, and not in a good way.

With that being said, this year has actually been incredible for me in so many ways. It feels weird writing that, and almost a bit selfish. I feel bad saying this year has brought me positive things, when it has brought so much fear and heartbreak to so many others. I’ve always been someone who is able to see the good in any situation; I consider myself to be an optimist, and I am proud of the way I’ve been able to pick myself up and keep going even after the hardest of situations. That is how I am viewing this year. Even though it was completely unexpected, and has brought so many negative things to so many people’s lives, I can’t help but see the positives as well.

For me, this year has brought me the space and time to really work on my self-love, self-care, and just focus on my own needs and passions in life. This year has brought so much clarity for me, I think in part because I haven’t had many of the distractions I used to have. Being forced to spend much of my time alone has been such a great learning experience for me, and has brought a major epiphany about what I want to do with my life, which I’m excited to share in this post!

I have always been someone who, at my core, is a helper and a caregiver. I want to help others, I want to make sure others feel safe, and I care deeply for how other people feel. This has been a blessing and a curse, as it has, in the past, caused me to be quite a people-pleaser and to become too caught up in the opinions and perceptions of others. That is something I’ve worked hard on changing this year. I’ve realized that my caring and selfless nature is a gift. It allows me to build strong and lasting friendships, and it allows me to take good care of the preschoolers I work with. It only becomes a problem when I start to neglect myself and my own needs. Like I said above, this pandemic has given me the opportunity to focus more on myself, and to reflect on the ways I have let me own needs and desires take a backseat in the past.

The new chapter in my life

This time of self-reflection has lead me to have an epiphany about how I want to use my gifts and skills of caring and selflessness to help others, while still helping myself. I’ve decided I want to become a Life Coach, more specifically, a Relationship/Intimacy Coach!

Back in March, I joined TikTok and started sharing my views on topics around relationships, intimacy, and female empowerment. I started hearing from a lot of women who really connected with the messages I was sending out, and who trusted me enough to share their stories and ask for advice. I found other creators who were talking about similar topics, and saw how they used their platforms to make a difference. I realized I wanted to do that too.

I found a woman on TikTok who was a Relationship/Sex coach, and I immediately connected with her videos, and messaged her to find out more about what she did. The idea of becoming a “life coach” was something that had always been in the back of my mind, and it seemed to follow me for a few years, like the universe was sprinkling in hints that this was the path I should take. To see a woman making the kind of videos I could connect with was so inspiring to me, and she told me she had trained and become certified through the Somatica Institute. I did a lot of research on Somatica, and was immediately intrigued. I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for their core training program! This training will run through November, and so far I am loving it. Not only is it a great way for me to get trained on becoming a Relationship Coach, but it is also an incredible personal growth opportunity. I’m learning so much about myself and how to have a happier and more fulfilling relationship in the future.

Once I joined the training program, everything started to click for me. I saw how I could use my passions and interest in topics around relationships and intimacy, to help women who are struggling in those areas. On my TikTok platform, as well as Instagram, and this blog post, I started opening up about my experience with sexual assault and I realized this was an area I could really connect with other women, and focus on helping women like me. My main goals with my coaching practice are to help women let go of the shame, fear, and low self-confidence that comes with being sexually assaulted. I also want to work with women who aren’t survivors, but who have those traits for other reasons. I’ve done so much work, and am continuing to do so much work through the Somatica program, around my own self-growth, and I am so passionate about helping other women live their best lives.

Putting in the work

Over the past few months I’ve worked hard to make this dream of becoming a coach, a reality. As you can see if you browse this site, I’ve updated what used to be strictly a blog site, to now be a website for both my blog and my work as a coach. I will continue to update it and add more details, but I’m loving how it looks so far! I also updated my personal brand on Instagram and TikTok. My username used to be shellyrayblog, and I realized this no longer fit or felt right with the direction I wanted to go in. This blog will always be at the heart of my creative projects, as it was the first thing I started back in 2014. But I wanted to come up with a new name that really embodied who I am now, and wasn’t tied only to a blog. My new name on Instagram and TikTok is….ShamelesslyShelly!

On top of this personal branding work, I’ve also been working hard to spread the word about this new career path, and start talking to women who might be interested in working with me, as well as planning out the types of programs I want to have. Right now I’m offering 1:1 coaching, as well as a group coaching program for sexual assault survivors. You can learn more about the group program on this page!

I’m really excited for this next chapter in my life. I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year will bring!

The difference between ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging’

The difference between ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging’

I recently listened to Brene Brown’s audiobook Men, Women, and Worthiness and she touched on a subject that really struck a chord with me. She talked about the difference between fitting in and belonging, and clarified that you really cannot truly belong if you are trying to fit in. “The greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in.” The idea of fitting in is about assessing a situation or environment, and changing yourself to become who you think you need to be in order to be accepted. “Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

At 27 years old, I feel I have finally reached a point in my life where I am belonging. I no longer strive (at least not as much as I used to) to fit in. I make my opinions and beliefs known to my friends, family, and social media audience. Though I’m always learning and growing and trying to be the best version of myself I can be, I am doing that in a way that first acknowledges that I am enough. I am not attempting to change parts of myself, but rather to get better acquainted with the parts of myself I have kept hidden for so many years.

“True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Brene brown

I started seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in December 2019, and in our first session he asked me a question that caught me off guard a bit. He asked me “When was the last time you really felt like yourself.” I hesitated for a few seconds, and then the honest answer bubbled to the top of my brain. This honest answer also answered another question: “When did you last truly feel like you were belonging rather than trying to fit in?” My answer? 8th grade.

In 8th grade, I was on the volleyball and basketball teams at my school. I had three best friends, and the four of us became inseparable over the course of that year. I was outspoken, silly, talkative, and a bit (or maybe a lot depending on who you ask) moody. I didn’t hold back. I was unapologetically me. I felt a sense of belonging from my group of friends, from the sports teams I was a part of, from the way I wasn’t trying to be someone I wasn’t.

8th grade besties before our school dance

Towards the end of 8th grade, something started to shift. Like I detailed in my blog post Finding My Voice, I started getting negative messages from my peers. That voice that has followed me through my teen and adult years started creeping in “you aren’t enough.” Or, perhaps, “you are too much.” I started to fear that my method of belonging was not the right move. That I needed to start fitting in. I had not yet heard the life-changing idea Brene Brown presents in her audiobook, that belonging is actually what we need to strive for, and trying to fit in will only hinder our ability to find belonging. I had reached that state of belonging without even trying in 8th grade, and the years that followed would set me back a few paces as I searched for answers in the world of fitting in.

The idea that middle school was the last time I felt like myself scared me at first. As I sat in that psychiatrist’s office, finding it hard to meet his gaze, I wondered if my answer was “typical”, if there was something wrong with me for saying I felt it had been about 13 years since I was truly myself. Of course, that was part of what brought me to his office in the first place. To see if medication might help me feel and act more like myself. I have felt more alive and more myself these past six months since I started on medication to help with my depression and anxiety. But I think something else has changed in these six months. I think something shifted inside me in that psychiatrist’s office when I realized I had been living in a state of inauthenticity, trying to fit in, trying to be someone I wasn’t. I realized I didn’t want to live that way anymore.

I made the decision (mostly sub-consciously) to start being more like Eight Grade Shelly. The Shelly I once thought I needed to fix, became the Shelly I admired, the Shelly I now strived to be more like. Eighth Grade Shelly was my new idol, my new muse. I was Eighth Grade Shelly’s newest, and greatest, fangirl. I’m smiling and tearing up as I write this, because I know that younger me would be proud. And she’d be so happy to know that someone thinks she’s perfect just the way she is. That she has achieved something, a sense of belonging, that many people spend most of their life trying to obtain. She has lessons I need to learn. She has the key to Present Day Shelly’s happier and more fulfilled life. Those voiced from her peers are the voices of people who do not yet understand that fitting in is detrimental. That being unique is cool. That standing up for what you believe in is important.

These past six months, something has shifted inside me. I’ve started being even more open on social media and this blog. I started a podcast called Vulnerable Views where we talked about, you guessed it, vulnerable topics such as dating and mental health. I’ve started being more honest with myself and others about what my true passions and goals are in life. I joined TikTok and post videos that are about as authentic as you can get. I’ve had people reach out to me to say my videos have helped them or inspired them or made them feel less alone. I really feel like I’ve found a sense of belonging on TikTok, where I’m applauded for being completely myself. I’ve found a sense of belonging in my friends and family, who allow me to be my imperfect self. I’ve finally come full circle back to being that outspoken, silly, talkative, and a bit (or maybe a lot) moody girl I was before. It feels good to belong.

I’d love to hear your experience and opinions on this topic. When was the last time you felt like yourself? Do you think you are belonging or just fitting in currently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

I’m not behind, my timeline is just different than yours

I’m not behind, my timeline is just different than yours

I’ve never done things at the same time as other people. My life has always seemed to march to the beat of its own drum. When I was a teenager and my friends were getting their first boyfriends, I still hadn’t even had my first kiss. I remember feeling embarrassed and confused. “Is there something wrong with me? Why am I so behind?”

Ten plus years later and I still feel that way at times. Now my friends are getting married, getting promotions, going to grad school, buying houses. Meanwhile I’m single, starting over in a completely new career, unsure what the future holds. I often wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Those same fears from my teenage years creep back into my mind. “Why am I so behind?”

I have to constantly remind myself there’s no “right” time to do things, no “correct” timeline for my life. Just because other people are doing things sooner than I am, doesn’t mean I’m behind. When I did finally get my first kiss and my first boyfriend, I remember thinking in hindsight that the timing was perfect. It may not have happened the same way, or at the same time, as my friends, but it happened the way it was supposed to for me and my life. Just like my first kiss and first boyfriend, I know all of the things I want to happen in my life will happen for me in due time. I just have to be patient.

Everyone’s timeline is different, and that’s what makes life so unpredictable and beautiful at the same time. Imagine how boring life would be if you knew exactly what was going to happen to you, and when? Where’s the fun in being able to predict, or control, the timeline of your life? Part of what makes life interesting and exciting is how impossible it is to plan what will happen next!

A year ago, or even six months ago, I never would have guessed where I would be today. I had no idea I would make a huge career change to become a preschool teacher. I didn’t know I would be moving into a condo by myself in an area of town I’ve never lived in before (blog post about my move coming soon!) I may not be getting married or buying a house this year, but I’m sure I will have other big milestones happen that I never would have imagined a few months ago. I’m ready for whatever life wants to throw at me! I’m just along for the ride.

Do you ever feel behind? What do you do to help yourself feel better? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. I’d love to hear how you relate to this topic!

What Does Self-Care Really Mean?

What Does Self-Care Really Mean?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of self-care recently. It has become quite a popular concept, one that I see mentioned on social media all the time. But what does it really mean? And how do I know if what I am doing is “self-care” or if it is actually having the opposite effect?

I recently had a lightbulb moment where I realized self-care is really very simple. It is anything that makes me feel better, lifts me up, puts me in a better mood. It is anything that helps me recharge, as opposed to something that drains my metaphorical battery. So I started paying attention to what lifts me up throughout my week, and what brings me down.

Things that lift me up

  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Exercising
  • Getting outside on a nice day
  • Crossing things off my to-do list

Things that bring me down

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Spending time with negative/toxic people
  • Overeating or eating when I’m not really hungry
  • Binging Netflix to avoid responsibilities

I had this moment of clarity last week when I realized, if I just do more of the first list and less of the second list, I should feel better on a daily basis! It seems really obvious, but I think a lot of us, myself included, tend to give in to what we want right now instead of stopping to think about what will actually make us feel better.

For me, self-care is all about treating myself with the same kindness and respect as I would treat others, and keeping in mind my Future Self and how she will feel about the choices I’m making right now. I may be tempted to eat a bunch of junk food when I’m feeling sad, or spend my entire day watching TV, but I know that’s not going to actually make me feel happy. Instead, I could choose to go on a walk or text a friend and ask if they want to do something fun.

My new goal is to take care of myself every day by doing more of what I love, and less of what I know isn’t good for me.

What lifts you up and what brings you down? Leave a comment and let me know!

My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

I hope all of my United States friends had a great Thanksgiving! I always take the time around this holiday to reflect on what I’m grateful for, and this year I’m happy to say I am thankful for a lot. It’s easy for me to get caught up in what I’m not happy with in my life, and what I wish was different. Writing this blog post has been a great exercise to remind myself of everything I am grateful for. I would encourage you all to write a gratitude list of your own after you read mine! 

  1. I’m thankful for my family, who supports me, inspires me, and loves me unconditionally. My family is so important to me. I know the holidays can be a stressful time for some people who may not get along well with their family, so I’m feeling grateful to have a family I genuinely love spending time with. 
  2. I’m thankful for my friends, both old and new, who I have shared so many fun memories with this year. My friends inspire me to get out of my comfort zone, open up and talk about my feelings, and just live life to the fullest. I have made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and kept existing friendships thriving this year. Friendships really are one of the most beautiful parts of life. 
  3. I’m thankful for a job that gives me opportunities and luxuries that not everyone has. This year I was able to travel to Costa Rica, Seattle, Laguna Beach, and Orlando. I moved into a house and am able to save my money and feel financially stable. No job is perfect, but there is a lot for me to be thankful for with this one.
  4. I’m thankful for my body. I went to a yoga class this morning for the first time in a while, and was reminded that my body is so strong and gives me so much. It’s easy to get wrapped up in how our body looks, but I was reminded this morning that how we feel is so much more important. 
  5. I’m thankful for my mind. I’ve worked hard over the past couple of years to maintain a healthy mind through therapy. Though mental health is always a work in progress, I feel lucky to be feeling relatively healthy in my mind and soul. 
  6. I’m thankful for the city I call home. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and I feel so lucky to still live here now. Every week there are new events going on, from live concerts, to pop ups like the FOMO Factory, to art installations like the Waller Creek Show
  7. I’m thankful for music. I started teaching myself to play the keyboard this year, and have gotten back into singing as well. Music has always been an important part of my life, and I’m happy I’ve found a way to keep up my passion.
  8. I’m grateful for travel. As I mentioned above, I was able to travel quite a bit this year. I’m so grateful for all of the memories, life lessons, and new friendships that have formed from my trips. I can’t wait to travel even more in 2019!
  9. I’m grateful for myself.  I am often my own harshest critic, but deep down I love myself and am so proud of everything I have accomplished, and the person I have become. I’ve heard people say you should be your own best friend, and this year I have really made that happen.
  10. I’m grateful for this blog, and for each and every person who takes the time to read what I write. A little cheesy, I know, but it’s true! I started this blog on a whim almost five years ago, and I am constantly grateful to have an outlet for my creativity, and people who care about what I have to say. 

What’s on your gratitude list this year? Leave a comment and let me know! 

First Quarter Check-In: New Year’s Resolutions

First Quarter Check-In: New Year’s Resolutions

The first quarter of 2018 has flown by! I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how to stay motivated and accountable for my goals. I want 2018 to be the year I accomplish a lot, so I thought I would take this time to share an update on how my New Year’s Resolutions are going so far, and talk about what I could improve.

The Successes

Travel to at least 3 new places

I’m on my way to success in this resolution. A week from today, I will be arriving in Costa Rica! My mom and I are going on vacation for a week, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve never been to Costa Rica, so this will mark #1 on my goal of 3 new places this year. I don’t have the other two trips booked or planned, but I will keep you all posted.

Try new restaurants in Austin

I have a list of restaurants I still want to try, but so far I would say this has been a success. I tried Picnik the other night, which is a restaurant I’ve wanted to try for a while now. I actually went alone, which is something I’m always nervous to do, but it was a great experience and the food and drink were delicious!

I posted about the idea of being nervous to go to dinner alone on my Instagram and Twitter, and it was really interesting to see what people had to say! Let me know in the comments your thoughts on going to dinner alone.

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Berry Basil Smash Cocktail

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Orange Chicken & Broccoli

Learn an instrument

This was honestly one of the resolutions I wasn’t sure I would succeed at, so shoutout to my parents for helping it come to fruition! For my birthday in March, my parents got me a piano keyboard, and I’ve loved playing around on it and teaching myself some songs. It’s harder than it seems to learn even simple songs, but YouTube tutorials really help. Plus, it’s fun to have a musical outlet! If I get brave enough I might share some videos in the future of me playing the piano and even singing…

Needs Improvement

Write the first draft of my book

This resolution was possibly the tallest order, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for failing so far. I’m going to be honest – I have not written a single sentence of my book. I’m going to need to be more determined to write in the next 9 months if I’m going to complete this goal.

My plan is to write something every single day, whether that is a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire chapter. I think making small steps like that will really help to get started.

Find a workout routine

This one hasn’t been a total failure, but has also not been a total success, so I’m categorizing it under “needs improvement.” My mom and I try to go on walks 3-4 times a week before I go to work, which is a good start. I also enjoy taking yoga classes, but I have not been very consistent about it. I would like to start doing more cardio, but I still just need to figure out a good schedule and motivate myself to actually work out!

Find a blogging/YouTube routine

Although I would love to be able to report back that I have been uploading YouTube videos and posting on my blog consistently, that is unfortunately not the case. However, I do want to acknowledge the strides I’ve made. I FINALLY uploaded a YouTube video yesterday, and I think just uploading a new video has helped boost my confidence and makes me more likely to continue uploading. Just need to find that steady cadence! I actually touched on the topic of staying motivated in my video, so check it out and leave me a comment with your suggestions if you get the chance.

 

Thanks for reading (and watching)! Let me know in the comments how your resolutions/goals have been going so far this year. I think it’s important to keep ourselves accountable, and also to help encourage others to do the same.

Cook With Me: Blue Apron’s Potato and Pepper Shakshuka

Cook With Me: Blue Apron’s Potato and Pepper Shakshuka

I’m excited to start a new series on my blog all about cooking! Those of you who know me know I have never been much of a cook, sometimes out of laziness and sometimes out of pure lack of knowledge. I’ve always wanted to make more of an effort to start cooking and learning new recipes, and I was finally given the perfect opportunity when my mom asked if I would want to share a Blue Apron subscription with her.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that sends you all of the ingredients, as well as the recipes, for healthy meals. We tried two of the recipes last week, and I was pleasantly surprised by how simple and delicious they both were! Blue Apron sends you everything you need, and the instructions were easy to follow (even for a novice like myself).

In today’s post I’m going to share photos and the recipe from the first meal we prepared: Potato and Pepper Shakshuka with Harissa and Pita Chips. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cage-free farm eggs
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 pocketless pitas
  • 3/4 lb golden potatoes
  • 6 oz carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 oz sweet peppers
  • 1 tbsp red harissa paste
  • 1 1/2 oz feta cheese
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp za’atar seasoning

Recipe

You can find the full recipe on Blue Apron’s website, but here is a sneak peak at the steps:

  1. Dice the potatoes, and cook in a pot of boiling water for 8 to 9 minutes.
  2. Peel and chop the carrots, onion and peppers, and chop the garlic.
  3. Cut each pita into 8 equal-sized wedges.
  4. Cook the veggies for 6 to 7 minutes in a large pan, seasoning with salt and pepper
  5. Add the tomato paste and harissa paste to the pan; season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the cooked potatoes and 1 cup of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes
  7. Create two wells in the shakshuka, and add the eggs, then bake in oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
  8. Drizzle olive oil and za’atar seasoning on the pita chips, coating on each side, then toast in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes.

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Full disclosure, I had never heard of shakshuka before, but I think it turned out really delicious! I think the only part I could have done better was the pita chips, which were slightly too crispy. Other than that, I think I managed to prepare a great first Blue Apron meal, with the help of my mom of course.

Have you ever eaten, or cooked, shakshuka before? Have you tried Blue Apron, or another meal delivery? Let me know in the comments!

My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

As I mentioned in my 2017 Reflection post, I accomplished a lot last year. But in true perfectionist fashion, I am determined to accomplish even more this year. I’ve never been one for setting strict resolutions, but I do like to set goals for myself to have an idea of what I’m working towards. So here are some of the things I would love to do in 2018….

Write the first draft of my book

Perhaps my most hefty goal, I would love to get started and hopefully write a first draft of a book. I’ve had the idea for it for years now, and have written parts of it on and off for a while now, but I want 2018 to be the year I actually take it seriously. I don’t want to give too many details about it yet, but I will definitely keep you all posted on my progress!

Travel to at least 3 new places

Like I mentioned in my 2017 Reflections, I was lucky to be able to travel quite a bit last year. However, it only made me want to travel even more this year! There are a few places in Texas I still haven’t visited, along with a few other states and countries that are on my wish list. Honorable mentions go to San Francisco, New Orleans, and anywhere in South America. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to make it to at least three new places!

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In Crested Butte Colorado during my vacation in July

Find a workout routine

Working out and I have a strained relationship. I tend to go through periods of time where I exercise on a regular basis, and then periods where I don’t so much as go on a walk. I’m hoping to make 2018 the year I finally get consistent. I haven’t decided on a specific schedule yet, but I just want to get on a routine that I feel comfortable with. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, exercise makes me feel happier as a whole. Happy body, happy mind!

Find a blogging/YouTube routine

Like exercise, I tend to go through slumps in my blogging and, more recently, my YouTube channel. I guess everyone experiences that with resolutions to a certain extent, but I would like to get into a routine with uploading YouTube videos consistently, and writing new blog posts consistently. Again, I haven’t decided on the schedule, but I would just like to stay consistent and have a goal to work towards every week/month.

Try new restaurants in Austin

Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Austin, I sometimes feel woefully ignorant to where the best restaurants are in the city. I always enjoy exploring new places (hence the travel resolution above), so why not explore within my own city? This year I’m hoping to discover some new favorite places to eat. And I will definitely capture them on this blog!

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At Elizabeth Street Cafe for my birthday last year

Learn an instrument

Last but certainly not least, possibly the most fun and exciting resolution I have is to pick up an instrument! I played piano and violin in grade school, and I was in choir in high school. I’ve always loved music, and the past couple of years I have had the urge to start playing an instrument and/or singing again. My dad recently got a ukulele, and I’ve been thinking about getting one myself! Either that or a cheap keyboard to learn how to play piano again. Like my other resolutions, I will keep you all posted on what I decide.

 

I’m pleased to say I’m feeling very optimistic about the coming year. I know I said this last year, but I am determined to make 2018 MY YEAR! What are some of your 2018 resolutions? And what are your tips for sticking to them all year round? Let me know in the comments!

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Where Have I Been?

Where Have I Been?

I can’t believe it’s been two months since my last blog post! I’ve been wanting to write again for a while now, but I wasn’t sure what to write about and I’ve also been very busy so it’s been easy to make excuses as to why I can’t blog. But here I am, and that’s all that matters!

I think this post will be a bit of a stream of consciousness. I like the idea of just sitting down and writing instead of overthinking what I should write about. So apologies if this is all over the place.

The short answer to where I have been these past two months is: working. I started a brand new job the first week in October after taking some time off from work for about three months. It’s crazy that a month and a half has already gone by at my new job! I’ve been loving it so far, from the work I’m doing to the people I’m surrounded by, to the overall culture of the company. I’m still doing social media marketing, so the work feels familiar, but I’m learning a lot of new things and I’m excited for the opportunities to learn even more and grow in this new position. Overall I’m feeling very hopeful for the future of my career, which is something I couldn’t have said a couple months ago.

The more abstract answer to “where have I been” is: working on myself. As I mentioned in my Life Changes post, I have been through a lot of changes in the past few years. What I didn’t mention is that I have also been through a lot of change in the past few months. Starting around May, things started to shift in my life, and at times I felt really out of control. I felt like everything was happening to me, and I will admit I probably played the victim a bit. I kept wondering why. Why was I forced to leave my job? Why did my relationship have to end? So many things happened over the summer and into early fall, and I won’t lie, it was really difficult for me.

I felt like I had two choices: I could either use this time as a growing experience, and try to learn more about myself and figure out how to be happy, or I could wallow in my misfortunes and give up. As you might be able to guess, I chose to be happy. I found my new job, which I feel so lucky to have been offered. I started spending more time with friends and family. And I started working harder by myself and in therapy to become a better version of me.

I wish I could say I had some kind of huge epiphany, or that I have some sage wisdom to share with you about what has changed in these past couple months to make me a happier person, but I don’t. All I know is that I am feeling really confident in who I am right now, and I’m feeling really happy with where my life is. Of course I still get sad and angry and scared like everyone else, but overall I feel that right now I am in a better place than I have been this entire year.

So with that said, I am making a commitment to improve myself even more, by doing things that make me happy. I’ve been working and spending a lot of time with friends, but as a result I have let some of my hobbies and passions fall to the side. I haven’t been blogging, and I haven’t been exercising as much as I’d like to. So I guess I’m using this blog post as a way to promise myself I will try harder to do those things more often. This blog post is a good start, and I am heading over to do some yoga with my mom after this!

Like I said at the beginning, this post was more of a stream of consciousness than anything, so bravo if you’re still with me. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’d love if you would leave me a comment and let me know where you’ve been lately, however you’d like to interpret that question.

Book Review: Commonwealth

Book Review: Commonwealth

“Isn’t that what everyone wants, just for a moment to be unencumbered?”

As I mentioned in my August Favorites blog post, I recently finished reading Ann Patchett‘s novel Commonwealth, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. Today I am going to give you all a glance at what the story is about, and what I liked about it.

In a nutshell, Commonwealth is the story of an unconventional blended family, including six step siblings who form a lasting bond with each other through shared summer vacations spent at their parents and step parents’ homes, and their shared resentment towards their often negligent parents. For a book that follows the lives of so many characters (the six children, four parents, and other family members and significant others that appear throughout the story), each character is surprisingly well-developed. The more you read, the more you get to know each of these people and understand who they are and where they’ve been.

The story spans a total of five decades of time, jumping between the present and the past with each chapter, sometimes jumping within a single chapter. For some, these jumps in time may be a bit too much. I will admit I was confused at times, and it was difficult to keep each character and storyline straight in my mind. (“Wait, whose parent is this again? Who is this person married to?”) However, for me this made the story more interesting, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping track of everything in my head. It was also fun to read about the characters as children, and then find out where their life went as an adult.

Commonwealth really picks up pace when one of the daughters, Franny, begins an affair with a well-known author, and tells him the stories from her childhood, which he proceeds to use as the inspiration for his newest bestselling novel which he names “Commonwealth.” Though he always claims the story is not based on Franny’s life, it’s clear it is, and the book has a negative impact on her siblings, mainly her youngest step brother, Albie, who learns painful things about his childhood through reading the novel.

Overall I thought Patchett’s book was a sharp and realistic portrayal of family ties and the struggles people face throughout life. Though the story is fairly realistic, it still has the level of drama and slight exaggeration needed to make an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong character development and intriguing life stories, as well as books that span multiple decades of time.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or any of Ann Patchett’s other novels. If not, what was the last book you read and loved?