My Secret Struggle With Binge Eating

My Secret Struggle With Binge Eating

“Talk about the shit you don’t want to talk about.” That was one of the quotes that stuck with me from the Netflix documentary I Am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi, the story of a woman who overcomes an eating disorder and finds joy through yoga and sharing her stories online. I was struck by this concept of talking about the topics you don’t want to talk about. I have been pretty open on this blog, talking about some tough topics. But this one has been something I’ve been too scared to talk about until now. My main goal with my blog has always been to help other people not feel so alone with what they’re feeling, so if me talking about this subject can help just one person, it will be worth it.

I can track the start of my issues with binge eating back to 2014, when I was studying abroad in Spain. There were difficult things that happened during my time abroad which left me feeling lonely, sad, and angry. What I turned to in order to cope with my pain was food. I remember walking to the grocery store around the corner from my host family’s home and buying cookies and chips, which I would then hide in my closet or under my bed, to eat in secret when I was alone. My host mom cooked meals for us every day, and these were by no means small meals. Even when I left dinner feeling stuffed, I would go back to my room and eat from my secret stash. There were days when I felt so sad and alone, and eating gave me some kind of temporary comfort. I think this is when I developed a connection in my brain between sadness, stress, anxiety, and food. I began using food as a form of self-soothing, to try to cope with my emotions.

This habit never truly left over the past six years, but some periods of time have been worse than others. l continued into my senior year in college, when I was living with one of my best friends in a small two bedroom apartment. I would go to the store and buy groceries, including a lot of snacks (chips, crackers, cookies, chocolate, you name it). Like I did in Spain, I would hide them in my room and eat them alone while I studied or watched TV. Like in Spain, these binges often were tied to an emotional release. I’d notice myself craving junk food when I was stressed about an upcoming exam or my thesis project.

The summer and fall of 2015, after my senior year, the binging continued. I was still not acknowledging it or really aware it was an issue. I was in a long distance relationship, and I remember driving from Austin to Fort Worth to see my boyfriend, and eating on the drive. Sometimes I would start the drive determined not to snack, but at some point I would pull over at a gas station (even if I didn’t need gas) and buy candy and chips and a soda for the road. It sometimes felt like I literally couldn’t make that drive without snacks. Even if we had plans to eat dinner when I got there, I couldn’t help myself from snacking. I would arrive in Fort Worth with a stomach ache, feeling disgusting. My boyfriend had no idea.

2017 was one of the hardest years of my life, which caused the emotional eating to hit a new level. I went through a breakup, changing jobs, and my parents getting divorced all within a few months, and I didn’t know how to process or cope. Once again, I turned to food. I was living by myself, so it was extremely easy to get away with my bad habits. There was a little convenience store right down the street, and on days when I was feeling particularly sad or stressed, I would go to the store and buy a couple bags of chips and some candy, and I would eat all of it that night. Sometimes that’s all I would eat, but sometimes I would also go and get fast food, and then I would still eat a lot of the snacks afterwards.

Finally, slowly, over the past few years, I started to realize I had a problem.  I wanted to stop. But it was a vicious cycle. I would do really well and not binge for a week or two, but then one day, as if I wasn’t in control at all, I would find myself back at that store, hating myself even as I chose to buy the food. As I was binging I would say to myself, “This is the last time!” Just as an alcoholic swears this will be their last drink. Or I would convince myself I could buy snacks and control my eating, just as an alcoholic convinces themself they can have “just one drink.” Every time I was proven wrong.

One of the hardest parts of this complicated relationship with food is the negative self-talk that comes along with it. There is a voice in my head constantly telling me things like: “Nobody else has this problem. Everyone else has no trouble eating healthy and not overeating, why can’t you? If anyone knew this about you, they would see you differently. Everyone can see you’ve gained weight. You don’t look as good as you did a few years ago.”  On the other hand, there’s an equally negative voice trying to reassure me I don’t have a problem. “You don’t starve yourself. You don’t purge. You’re fine, stop being so dramatic. You’re at a healthy weight. Everyone indulges in junk food sometimes, what’s the big deal?”

I wish I could say I’m writing this as someone who has it all figured out, but I’m not. Though I’ve been doing much better lately, and the binges have become much less frequent, they still happen from time to time. I’m not writing this as someone who has completely healed or moved past it, but as someone who is ready to admit they have a problem, and commit to making a change, one day at a time.

I’m writing this in the hope that other people can relate. I feel a relief settling in me as I write this. It doesn’t need to be a secret anymore, I can choose to make a positive change in my life and move on. I’m writing this in the hopes that maybe it will help someone feel less alone. I’m also writing this to help myself. Maybe when it’s out in the open it won’t feel like such a dirty little secret, and I can finally move forward.

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!

Taking Back My Power: My Sexual Assault Story

Taking Back My Power: My Sexual Assault Story

I was 14 when a man broke into my family’s house. My friends and I were having a sleepover, and after hanging out in my backyard talking until late at night, we snuck back in to go to sleep, and I forgot to lock the door behind us. I was about to slip into sleep when I heard the back door open, footsteps walking in. I was sure of what I heard, but I didn’t understand it. It didn’t make sense to me. Who would be coming into our house? My body and mind froze. I couldn’t think or move. I lay there until I finally fell asleep. My dad woke us up a few hours later to tell us someone had broken in and robbed us. Before any other questions entered my head, the first thing I thought was: Is this all my fault? I forgot to lock the door. For months after that incident, I lay awake at night afraid it would happen again. I got up in the middle of the night to double, triple, quadruple check we’d locked all of our doors. To this day I have to double check my door is locked before I can fall asleep. Even when I’m positive I’ve already locked it, I sometimes lay awake in bed and then have to get up to go make sure it’s really locked.

Is this my fault? I forgot to lock the door.

I was 19 the first time I was sexually assaulted. I had always been a romantic, a believer in fairytales and love stories. I had only kissed a few people, and I wanted to be in love before I experienced anything else. That choice was taken from me. “Do you want to go further?” “No.” He disregarded that no and went further. And further. My body and mind froze. I froze and just laid there, as I had at fourteen. Even as I knew what was happening, I felt like I couldn’t stop it. I just hoped it would end quickly. I couldn’t understand what was happening. It didn’t make sense to me. So many questions flooded my mind. Why would he ignore the word no like that? Why would he do this to me? But one question floated to the forefront of my mind, clearer and louder than the rest: Is this my fault?

Why would he ignore the word no like that? Why would he do this to me?

I was 20 when the nightmare happened again. And again. The word no seemed to hold zero power and I felt my understanding of love and sex and intimacy slipping away. I told them no, I made sure to emphasize and explain and implore they listen to me. They looked me in the eyes and told me they understood, that they wouldn’t cross that line. That the person who did that to me in the past was an asshole. But then they did exactly the same thing. Why were they doing this to me? How do I get back what was taken from me? And again, that question rose to the surface louder and more defined than the rest: Is this my fault?

The word no seemed to hold zero power and I felt my understanding of love and sex and intimacy slipping away

I was 26 when I was groped walking to my car after work. I felt him following me, looked over my shoulder a few times, convinced myself I was imagining things. And then he grabbed me. I spent weeks, months, checking over my shoulder every day walking to my car to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I recounted the incident to the police, standing in my apartment. I reported it. I reported it for my 26-year-old self, for my 20-year-old self, for my 19-year-old self, even for my 14-year-old self. I reported for every version of me I had been, and every version of me I would be in the future. I reported for every other person out there, who has ever wondered, “Is this my fault?” For the first time in my life, that question hadn’t crossed my mind. After all these years, I was finally done letting them steal my power. I was finally done blaming myself. It was finally clear to me: none of it was ever my fault.

I reported it for my twenty six year old self, for my twenty-year-old self, for my nineteen-year-old self, even for my fourteen-year-old self. I reported for every version of me I had been, and every version of me I would be in the future. I reported for every other person out there, who has ever wondered, “Is this my fault?

My power and control were taken away from me during each of these moments. I’m finally taking it back the only way I know how. By talking about it. By reporting it. By standing up for myself. By sharing my story. I still don’t feel safe until I’ve double or triple checked my door is locked at night. I still have a hard time letting people get close to me, physically and emotionally. I still walk faster and clutch my keys in my hand like a weapon when I see a man walking near me on the street. I still wonder what someone’s intentions are, and if I can trust them, or feel safe with them, when we start to date. But what I don’t do anymore, what I refuse to do anymore, is blame myself. It wasn’t my fault. It was never my fault.

If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment or anything that made you feel violated or uncomfortable, I want you to know it was not your fault, and you’re not alone. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need to talk to someone.

Fighting past writer’s block during a pandemic

Fighting past writer’s block during a pandemic

I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block lately. What do I write about at a time like this? So many thoughts and feelings and ideas, but also self-doubt and worry. It’s as if I feel like whatever I write during this time needs to be insightful and sensitive and powerful. Until I have the perfect blog post, I better not post anything. I realized today that I am putting too much pressure on myself, on this blog, even on my readers. You all don’t need to read something that is perfect, right? You just want to read something.

Today I decided to put aside all of my doubts and hesitations and just write. So here I go….

The last blog post I wrote was about my intentions for this year. The funny thing about writing what you want to do in a year is you don’t really know what other factors will come into play. I obviously could not have predicted a global pandemic. I had no idea I would be on my 6th week of not going into work, and of mostly staying home and not seeing friends. I could not have predicted the complicated set of emotions and struggles and coping mechanisms that would come into play for me during this time. We can never predict anything in life, and life sure does have a way of keeping us guessing!

In my last blog post I talked about how the message I want to focus on and manifest in 2020 is confidence. I started the year off strong in this arena by starting my own podcast! It’s called Vulnerable Views, and you can find it on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. This took a lot of confidence to say “I think my voice is worth sharing. I think I have opinions people need to hear.” Putting myself out there in this way has been so rewarding, and I am so proud of myself for doing this project. But I can’t lie and say this pandemic hasn’t made it harder for me to stay confidence and focused on the podcast. “There’s a pandemic going on, do people really want to hear what I have to say right now?” Thoughts like that infiltrate my mind on almost a daily basis, and similarly I wonder the same thing about this blog. I’m trying to set those negative thoughts aside and continue to create, because it makes me happy.

Finding things that make me happy has been another hurdle to get past during this time of social distancing. I’m learning to appreciate the simple things in life like blasting Taylor swift while driving with my windows down on a sunny day; walking around my neighborhood and being active and connecting with nature; talking with friends on video chat and laughing together; taking a hot bath at the end of a long day; seeing my parents and sister (from 6 feet away). For me, writing and being creative has always made me happy, so continuing to write blog posts and create Instagram content and put out new podcast episodes makes me happy as well, so I want to push myself to continue to be creative during this time.

Although I’ve found ways to stay happy, of course I still have my fair share of struggles and down days and moments of sadness and loneliness and fear. One of the biggest emotions I’ve noticed myself having is guilt. Some people have it so much worse than me. I should be grateful I’m healthy and can still see family and am doing relatively well. But the thing I keep reminding myself over and over again is: Someone else will always have it worse than you. That doesn’t mean you can’t feel sadness and loneliness and hopelessness and anger and fear. You can appreciate what you have, while still mourning what you have lost. The two are not mutually exclusive. Beating yourself up or feeling guilty for not appreciating what you have 24/7, or not being happy all the time, is not productive or helpful to you in any way. I keep reminding myself of this, and I think it has finally started to sink in.

I have so many ideas about topics I want to write about in the future, and I hope I can continue pushing myself to write new blog posts in the midst of this traumatic time we are all experiencing. I hope this blog post finds you well, whoever you are. Thank you for reading this and I will talk to you soon!

Learning to love my body

Learning to love my body

I remember the first time someone told me I had “curves.” I was in eighth grade hanging out with my three best friends after an afternoon of shopping. We were all trying on the clothes we’d bought, and while showing off my new jeans my friend said “Shelly, you’ve got curves!” I remember immediately assuming it was a bad thing. “Is that…good?” I asked hesitantly. “Yes! I wish I had curves! I have no hips and no butt, my body basically looks like a boy’s still! You’re so lucky!” I was genuinely baffled by this. I thought my friend’s body was perfect. I wished I looked like her. To me, she was perfect. But evidently, to her, I was perfect.

In high school I started to accept, and even like, my curves. But I started to worry I wasn’t “proportionate” enough. I had big hips and a big butt and a tiny waist like J Lo and Kim Kardashian, but they had big boobs and mine were small. I remember reading magazines giving advice on “dressing for your body type” and I didn’t feel I fit into any of the categories they provided. The “petite” girls were shorter and skinnier than me. The “athletic” girls were taller and more toned. Even “curvy”, a word I had grown to accept for myself, didn’t quite fit. Those girls were bigger than me. Was there something wrong with my body? I just wanted to fit into a “body type”, to feel like I belonged, to feel like my body was accepted by society. The problem with that was a magazine could never tell me I’m beautiful. Society is never going to give me the validation I craved. And even if it could, it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t see it for myself.

When I got to college I started seeking validation from a different source: guys. I started dating and getting more attention from boys and I figured, “If all these guys are interested in me and wanting to date me, my body must look pretty good!” But then when I would experience any sort of rejection, I’d wonder if things would be different if my boobs were bigger or my legs longer or my hips narrower. Just like seeking validation from magazines, seeking validation from others wasn’t really working for me either.

Over the past couple of years I’ve gained a little bit of weight. When I see pictures of myself from college, I find myself thinking “Wow I was so skinny back then! I look so much older and bigger now. Why didn’t I appreciate what I had back then?!” I’ve spent so much time wishing I could look the same as I did when I was in college, even though I’m approaching 27 and I’m a completely different person than I was back then. I’m not the same on the inside, so why should I expect to look the same on the outside? It wasn’t until recently that I started to finally have a new perspective on my body. I started trying to appreciate it and love it for exactly what it is in this moment.

I don’t need my friends to tell me I should love my curves. I don’t need a magazine to tell me what kind of clothes I should wear. I don’t need some guy to tell me I have a hot body. None of that matters if I don’t love my body. If I don’t see it for what it is, which is more than an aesthetic object. My body is my own. My body allows me to pick up and hold and run and play with children all day. My body allows me to do yoga and go on walks and hikes and dance at weddings until my feet are sore. My body is beautiful for so much more than what it looks like. It may have taken me this long to realize it, and it may still be a struggle every day, but I am finally learning to love my body.

Facing Financial Fears

Facing Financial Fears

I’ve talked about my career change and the positive aspects of working with preschoolers, but I have yet to dive into the most challenging part of making the shift away from a steady 9-5 job: the financial side. Though I’ve covered plenty of personal topics on this blog, something about money feels even more personal. It seems as though money is quite a taboo topic, something we don’t often chat about with friends. We’ll talk about relationships without hesitation, but somehow bringing up money seems too difficult. There’s an element of embarrassment or fear of failure that goes along with finances that is similar, but still distinctly unique, from our feelings about dating or other common topics. I feel scared writing this blog post, but I know it’s a topic I need to talk about more. So here I go!

When I made the leap from working at a large, corporate company, to working at a small, fairly new preschool, I knew the risk I was taking financially. But I don’t think I understood, or wanted to understand, the full extent of what my choice meant. It’s no secret teachers don’t earn as much money as other fields, and I soon learned “childcare workers”, as I’m defined in the preschool world, earn even less than “school-age” educators (kindergarten through high school teachers). To put it candidly — and this makes me so scared to write for some reason, I think I’m afraid of looking weak but I’m saying it anyway— it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a preschool teacher. All of the teachers I work with have multiple side-jobs.

All that is to say, I took a huge financial risk to become a preschool teacher. For the past few months as I adjusted to my new job, I adapted an attitude of avoidance, thinking “it will all work out” in regard to my finances, without developing any sort of plan. My monthly income was cut drastically, and I was scared to confront that reality. I felt intense anxiety whenever I thought about my finances, and my coping mechanism was to just ignore, ignore, ignore. Like a monster under the bed, I was afraid of what I’d find hidden in the dark if I took the time to really examine my newfound financial situation. I knew deep down I’d need to put in a lot of work to figure out how to earn more money and put together a budget, and it made me feel exhausted thinking about it. So I chose a route of avoidance.

With the exception of a few small changes, I continued spending in the same manner I had when I was at my previous job. I saw the number in my checking account decreasing steadily, but I didn’t want to deal with what that meant. I was stubbornly hoping I could continue living the same way I had before, that nothing needed to change, and magically things would all work out. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

Finally, slowly, I came to terms with the fact that I needed to stop this denial and start being real with myself. I needed to find alternative forms of income, and I needed to cut back on my expenses each month. Nothing was going to magically work out if I didn’t put in the work myself. I knew I needed a wake-up call, so I made a to-do list and started crossing things off:

  • I found a freelance job writing resumes and cover letters for clients.
  • I started putting feelers out and working more irregular gigs like babysitting, petsitting, and social media management.
  • I took a look at exactly how much I’m earning versus how much I’m spending each month, identifying how much extra money I need per month and areas I can cut back on spending.
  • I started opening up to friends and family about this topic.

The funny thing about avoidance is we know deep down it’s not going to help. Ignoring my finances didn’t magically give me more money, or assuage my anxieties. I still had a nagging voice in my head saying “You need to confront this. You can’t keep this up forever, Shelly!” My savings were still depleting. Those months I spent not paying attention to my spending, blindly hoping I was making enough money to support for my spending habits, I was just prolonging the inevitable. I eventually had to come back to reality and put in the work to get on the right track.

I was right that the work I needed to put in would be tiring. I don’t have everything figured out yet. I still have more work to do to feel confident in my financial situation. I still have the same anxiety about money, and the same embarrassment around talking about it. I don’t know if any of that will ever change, but I know one thing has changed: I’m facing my fears rather than avoiding. I’m taking action rather than remaining passive. I’m talking about this topic rather than bottling it all up. Leaving the world of avoidance and entering the world of action may still bring its fair share of exhaustion and anxiety, but it has also made me feel empowered and given me hope. It may take a while, but I know everything will work out, because I’m finally doing the work.

Do you have fears around money? Do you feel embarrassed or scared or anxious to talk about it? Have you ever made a career change and had to reevaluate your income? Let’s talk about it! I’d love to hear from you 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!

Opening Up About Being Single

Opening Up About Being Single

In one of my recent posts, I talked about wanting to be more vulnerable, both in my personal life and on my blog. For me, blogging is all about sharing my experiences and aiming to help others. If I can touch even just one person with my writing, I am happy. Lately, so much of blogging and social media in general has become about this facade of perfection. But that’s just not me. I’m not going to pretend for a second that I’m perfect. I’d rather be authentic and share the real parts of life, in the hopes that someone else can relate to me.

With all that said, today I wanted to write about my experience being single. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and I even opened up about it in a Facebook post which you can read below. Yay, vulnerability!

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To give some background, I’ve been single for a little over a year. Before that, I was in relationship that lasted for over two years. This past year I have actually genuinely enjoyed being single. I like having independence and being able to fully focus on myself and what I want. I’m planning to write a blog post all about the perks of being single, because I do feel like there are definite perks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult times too. As I mentioned in my Facebook post, it can be overwhelming to constantly be surrounded by couples. Though I know none of my friend’s relationships are perfect, as no relationship is perfect, seeing all of them happy and in love makes me covet what they have.

Having been in a long-term relationship before, I can remember what it was like to have someone by your side, and I want that again. I want that person who I can call and vent to when bad things happen, or get excited with when good things happen. I want someone to travel with and experience new things with. I want someone who will always support my dreams and help me be a better version of myself. Sunday morning I woke up thinking about all of these things that I want and that I feel like I don’t have, and then it hit me. I do have those things, just not in a romantic partner. I am really lucky to have amazing friends and family. They love me, they support me, they make me feel more confident in myself, and they even travel with me. Realizing this doesn’t diminish my desire for a romantic partner, but it does remind me that love is not absent from my life.

I’m writing this from one of my favorite Austin cafes, Cenote. I was writing outside, but then I got bitten up by mosquitos and had to come inside. I’m adding this in here because I realized it has a parallel to what I’m talking about in this post. Mosquito bites suck. It isn’t fun to have itchy bites all over your legs. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m having a great night at one of my favorite places, enjoying good food and a nice glass of wine. Sure, I could choose to focus on the mosquito bites and let that ruin my night, but I am choosing to focus on the positives.

Being single sucks. It is not always fun. It can be lonely and make you doubt yourself. But if you look around you and take everything in, you’ll realize there are still wonderful things you can focus on. This past year has given me so many gifts and offered countless lessons. I’ve been able to focus on myself and my goals and dreams, and it has lead to some amazing memories. I started a new job, I’ve traveled to three new places, I’ve made many new friends and reconnected with old friends, I’ve started learning to play the keyboard, and so much more. By all accounts, this has been a great year. And it all happened without a boyfriend by my side.

What I want and what I need are two different things. When I see my friends in happy relationships, I want that. But if this year has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t need that in order to be happy and successful in life. It doesn’t meant that I don’t still want it or think I will have it eventually, because I definitely do. But it does mean that I am choosing to focus on the present and what I currently have, instead of being sad about what is missing.

If you take anything away from this post, let it be this: Focus on the love you have in your life, not the love you feel you’re missing.

 

Finding my voice: a journey to vulnerability

Finding my voice: a journey to vulnerability

I’ve always been a private person, which I know may surprise some people considering I have a blog, and have talked about fairly personal things on here in the past. But generally speaking, I have a tough time talking to people about the difficult things that I’ve been through or am currently going through. I also have a hard time sharing the exciting and wonderful things that are happening to me. I just tend to keep a lot to myself and process things internally.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to try extra hard to convince myself to share things with people. My earliest memory of this is when I was in second grade, and finally, (after months of her prodding me), admitted to my mom which boy in my class I had a crush on. I can still remember that feeling, of almost sheer panic, as I said his name aloud, as if I was giving away something I could never get back.

Fast forward to my college years, where this pattern continued. I joined a choir my freshman year, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me an entire semester to tell any of my friends I was in choir and invite them to one of my shows. About a year later, one of my best friends said to me, “You never tell us anything! I feel like I don’t always know what’s going on with you.” She didn’t say it in a rude or accusatory way, her tone was more of disappointment at the things she was missing out on knowing about me. This has stuck with me all this time, and it’s been a constant reminder for me to try to be better at letting people in.

“It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” ― Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Much like my personal life, I think I could stand to open up more with my blog as well. I feel as though you, as my reader, are like college friend, who just wants to truly know me. I want to start letting you in more, to show you the truth of my life, in the hopes that you may be able to relate or at least learn something. I have so many ideas for topics I want to write about, from mental health to relationships, but there’s always a voice in my head telling me “you can’t talk about that. You can’t share that on the Internet!” 

Consider this post my official proclamation that I am going to start ignoring that voice, and start listening to the other voice that’s telling me “Go for it! You have something worth sharing, and people who want to listen.” In the coming weeks and months, expect to learn a lot more about me and the things I believe in. Project Let People In begins….now!

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ― Brené Brown

Do you have a difficult or easy time being vulnerable with people in your life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

2017 Reflection: A Year Of Change

2017 Reflection: A Year Of Change

2017 tested my resilience. It was a year full of life changes which made me question what I thought I already knew about love, family, happiness, and life in general. It was tough, but I was tougher. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone more times than I can remember, and it all paid off in the long run.

In 2017 I accomplished a lot with my blog. I started an interview series, and got to talk with so many inspiring women, including one of my favorite Bachelorettes, Kaitlyn Bristowe. This past year also gave me the opportunity to organize my own Blogging Meetup Group, which lead to me meeting a lot of other bloggers in the Austin area. Perhaps the biggest step outside of my comfort zone, and a personal victory for me, came when I started my own YouTube channel. Though I haven’t posted a new video in a while, it’s something I’m looking forward to continuing this year.

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Me with Shawn Boothe, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Erin Oprea. Trying not to fan girl too hard! 

2017 also brought a lot more travel than 2016, with trips to Las Vegas and Crested Butte, two places I’d never been before, along with smaller adventures to Fort Worth and Fredericksberg. In 2018 I hope to travel to at least three new places. I don’t have anything planned yet, but judging from everything I accomplished in 2017, I’m sure I can make it a reality.

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After climbing to the top of Mount Crested Butte. Look at that view! 

As I mentioned above, 2017 really tested my resilience. A lot happened over the course of  about four months, including quitting my job before I had a new one lined up, letting someone back into my heart only to say goodbye for a second time, and adjusting to a new family structure I didn’t choose or want. I had to come to terms with the fact that change is inevitable, and the only way to survive in life is to move forward and stay grateful for what you still have.

Here I am at the start of 2018, and I couldn’t be happier with my new job; I’ve truly let go of my past relationship; and I’ve come to feel at peace with the new family dynamic. I’m really proud of myself for staying strong and remaining (relatively) optimistic throughout all of the hardships I faced this year. I’m so happy to be entering a new year with amazing friends and family by my side, and a renewed determination to make this the best year yet.

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What was your biggest accomplishment in 2017? What about your biggest hardship? I’d love to hear about your year in the comments below!