Category Archives: Life Lessons

Notes From a Novice Feminist

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“Weren’t you scared? I would be scared!”

“You’re so brave.”

“Well aren’t you just an independent little thing!”

“You did it by yourself?! * look of approval* I’m impressed!”

“I think it’s great that today’s females are so adventurous.”

These were just a few of the remarks made to me in response to me telling people that I went on a vacation by myself… 9 hours away… And I drove. Oh… and I’m a woman… Almost forgot to tell you that. Not that it matters. Yet apparently it does.

As I’ve gotten older I have become more and more a feminist. Not by choice but kind of by the natural progression of my life. I’m a 31 year old single woman with no kids, no husband, and no prospects… Yet. I went from living by myself in a 2 bedroom apartment to choosing to move into my best friend’s basement… Just because I could. I spend most nights recluse in said basement with my heating blanket, candles and Netflix. When I’m not at home I’m throwing myself into my job, or I go on a date here or there when I find someone that seems worth the discomfort of wearing my “date bra”, or you can find me doing a variety of other activities. Sometimes if I’m feeling extra saucy I’ll actually hang out with real live people! Regardless of where I’m at or what I’m doing, I am always looking ahead to the next thing I’m going to do or the next place I’m going to travel to, and in most cases I visualize myself doing it…. Alone.

Let me circle back to “You’re so brave!”, my vacation, and why I have lived a life that has organically made a feminist out of me.

I went on a vacation by myself to Nashville. I stayed at hostels, used Air B&B,  visited with a couple friends for a couple days as well (See… I’m not a total recluse!), but mostly mingled with strangers or roamed the streets solo. I met some amazing people, ate some amazing food, and listened to some amazing music. More importantly I learned so much about how to let peace guide me, about the need to sometimes guard myself from even well meaning individuals, how obsessive planning can steal your child-like wonder, and how I can make a home wherever I am if I go with the mentality of not just “What can I take from this place?” but “What can I give to it?”

I didn’t divulge many of the details of my trip to most family and friends, except for a select few… And by few I mean probably only one. I come from a small town and with most small towns come a small town mentality that usually silently (or loudly) fears the unknown and unfamiliar. I come from a culture where woman grow up to become wives and mothers who support their families from the kitchen, from the PTA, from the church pew, and who always ALWAYS seek to be better for the betterment of your family and friends. If you go somewhere… say off to college… it is usually safe to say that you will come back as an engaged woman. If you didn’t then people would wonder what you did while you were away those 4 years!  Don’t get me wrong. The kitchen, the pew, the PTA, the family… I want that. In my heart I want it. Here’s the thing though, currently I have none of that… Not for lack of trying. So what’s a girl to do when she isn’t living her ideal life? She creates a new ideal!

I wasn’t going to wait until I had a boo to travel with or to go out to dinner with. I wasn’t going to just snag the next “nice guy” I met simply because I know he’d be nice to me and keep a roof over my head (like being treated respectfully is as magical as spotting a unicorn and as if my own money wasn’t enough to give me basic shelter). I was going to travel, eat, drink, and play by myself if it meant that I would be able to experience a life full of adventure and discovery!

Doing so definitely pushed my boundaries and comfort zones. I had to get past what I felt people may have been thinking when they saw a woman sitting in a crowded restaurant alone eating dinner, or the pangs I felt in my heart when I felt not empowered but very much alone while I sat next to a couple in a dark movie theater… while also trying to hear the movie over the sounds of their tongues slapping against one anothers (talk about feeling awkward!). I had to create a life which clearly defined the roles of loneliness vs  being alone. Taking a vacation by myself was for me the true test. Like a game of chicken between me and my independence. In the end both won the game because I found more of myself when I pushed my independence passed a new limit. Though there is more where that comes from.

The older I get the more I refuse to let my gender or race, my circumstances, general consensus, small or fearful thinking to limit the amount of fulfilment or contentment I have in my life. Regardless of if I’m traveling the world or spending another quiet night on my couch, I will be at home with both worlds within me. The adventurer and the recluse. The social introvert. The single woman with the spirit of a gypsy and the heart of a housewife. I can be it all. I am it all.

That is why as I’ve gotten older I have become more and more a feminist. The older I get the less defined I want to be. The less defined I am the more I do things that people think are brave when really if a man did them it would be seen as “being a bachelor”… When really it’s just “being”. Being in the moment. Being an active participant in your life. Being the creator of moments instead of just hoping that the moments that happen to you are ones you can survive.

Don’t be astonished by the things I’m doing that color outside the lines… I have much more I hope to do… and  there have been women doing much more long before I came to exist. Instead create a life that makes you astonished with yourself. That makes you say “Wow! I did that!” That makes you more and more believe that you can do anything you put your mind to because… Well… Look at everything you’ve done thus far… And many of those things you did while experiencing fear and anxiety, and yet you did it!

I’m not brave. No braver than anyone else.

I’m just refusing to stay stagnant waiting for someone or something.

I am that someone. And I’m doing something.

Let Hurt Do A New Work In You

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You may have heard the saying “Hurting people hurt people” and all too often it turns out to be true. There is an astronomical amount of hurt people in this world. People have endured trauma that would make most people shake their heads in disbelief, they have experienced hurts of all severities, and been victims of all types of abuse. You may not experience it firsthand or see it for yourself, but you witness it through the news and practically all forms of social media. A play-by-play of all the atrocities in the world are recounted on a moment-to-moment basis thanks to all the platforms in which people have to share them. It’s no wonder our society is breaking off into tiny little islands! People have become islands. Detached. Defensive. Self-involved. Cold. What you don’t experience you make up for by proxy.

Hurt for people can be what constant friction is to calluses…. it can create tougher and tougher barriers. If it had been you… if you had been the abused, neglected, taken advantage of… would it not be hard for you to believe in the beauty of humanity when all you’ve seen is ugliness? Of course it would! “Hurting people hurt people” can be true but does it necessarily have to be? Sometimes I believe clichés are created by people who need them to have something to make not taking personal responsibility sound deep… and 9 times out of 10 they succeed in convincing others to buy into it. This is what gives words the power to become a movement.

I’ve been hurt. Presently, in the past, and tomorrow I may get hurt… who knows! This is life. Everday we walk out the door and decide to face people we take the risk of getting hurt by someone. If you chose to allow your treatment of others to depend on the way you are treated, there would be the potential to treat people like crap EVERYDAY. You would never lack in reasons to be shitty to be people. That’s the truth! Just because you are hurt doesn’t mean you HAVE to hurt people, it doesn’t mean you have the RIGHT to hurt people, and it doesn’t mean you CAN’T HELP that you hurt people. You have another choice:

Let hurt do a new work in you.

Heartache hurts, but it also has a way of making you soft if you allow it to. Hurt helps you to identify with the hurt of others… and the more we identify with others the less likely we’ll be so quick to judge them.

Let hurt create in you a softer person. Let the hurt you’ve endured soften the way you see perfect strangers… your Dad… your co-worker… your Sister. Let hurt soften your words when you don’t understand. Let hurt soften the way you touch. Let hurt soften the way you walk into someone’s life. Choose to seek healing instead of hardening.

If someone can make “Hurting people hurt people” a truth to many, then it is not impossible for me to create a new more hopeful truth.

“Healing people heal people.”

That’s my truth.

May it become yours as well.

The Magic of Growing Down

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Remember when we were little kids and how we’d spend hours fantasizing about how much fun life will be when we grow up? We envisioned that our lives would be filled with adventure, love that lasts forever, and there was no doubt in our minds that we would grow up to be exactly what we wanted. We were too small to be able to reach our juice box on the kitchen counter and our parents dictated EVERYTHING to us, but none of our restrictions kept us from believing that we would someday rule the world! We had no solid evidence that we were even capable of living the life we wanted. All we had was the belief that we would not always be kids and that we wouldn’t stop trying to be independent… even after every failure. One day we would no longer be restricted. One day WE would be able to choose who we wanted to be… and we would be it. WE would choose where we wanted to go… and we would go there.

Take a moment to obverse your life as it is right now. Are you living with this feeling of being restricted in life? Feeling dictated to by the world? Feeling like your “juice box” is too far out of your reach? The kid version of you would have gotten frustrated, yes… but they would have reminded themselves that it won’t always be this way… and they would keep trying… even through all the failures. We as kids fought so hard to become grown-ups, but when so many of us finally got to the coveted position in life, we stopped fighting for the life that we still had ahead of us.

As kids we were trying to grow up quickly because we didn’t want to be treated like little kids.

As adolescents we were constantly struggling with having one foot in immaturity and one foot in an adult world that we thought we were ready for, but had no clue about.

At 18 we sprint towards independence because we legally can. Regardless of if we can handle it or not, we won’t let anyone see us scared.

At 21 we think we’ve reached nirvana because we can get alcohol legit and go to all the bars where real “adults” hang out. We drink our way through decisions.

Somewhere between 22 and 26, depending on if and how long you went to school for, you then have to prove yourself as an educated adult by entering the workforce. You nail a job and now you’ve arrived! You buy a suit, some new shoes, and shots for everybody… on credit… because to be an adult you have to look like one, right?

If you’re like many Americans, between the ages of 22 and 26 (28 if you’re a late bloomer!) you marry and have your first child. You try to become the all-star parent who gives their 1 year old a Disney lifestyle everyday, because they won’t remember it… wait… they won’t remember it??

From this point on you work and live to prove to others that you’re living the American dream! You’re a stellar parent… but not too perfect… hip, current, with a splash of DIY originality.  You have a home that Pinterest dreams are made of, and according to your FB statuses your hubby is AMAZING… everyday. You have reached the “Grown up” life. What now?

Okay so maybe your life looks (or looked) nothing like the descriptions I detailed. That is neither here nor there. The point that I’m trying to make is that potentially we could spend most of our lives trying to not only grow up, but to grow out of the place that we were presently at. We spend our energy functioning in the present while our minds and hearts are living in the future… but the future isn’t for living! Living is meant to be for right NOW…. because NOW life is happening… NOW is what you can affect… and NOW is when you can begin to initiate change that will affect the future. Many people have went through different periods in their lives, and yet they can’t really identify with them because they don’t even feel any attachment to them… and in some cases they don’t even remember them! I’m not talking about periods of time that were blocked out because of trauma; I’m talking about pretty normal nothing-too-crazy periods in life. Maybe it’s all of high school, or all of your first marriage. It could be your kid’s teenage years, or all of collage (separate from your party days!). Whatever it was, there are those that were so focused on growing up, or just making it out of high school, or until they were 21 , or until they had a great job, or until they got married…. YOU GET THE POINT. Everyone is just too busy growing up to grow into who they are right NOW. The tragedy is that we then end up missing out on so much magic that is happening around us… in us… we don’t get to see and experience our own evolution because we are too busy planning a future that we are not yet an active part of.

I speak from experience. Not judgment. When I say “We” I mean “Me”.

I am going to be 31 in a few months and I can honestly tell you that there are periods of my life… chunks… that I recall as if I’m telling a story that I had heard from a friend about a friend… but not about me. I feel disconnected from my childhood and from my adolescents… all the way up to my early 20s.  I know they happened… I mean, obviously! I know that there were good times and bad, of which I can tell you some specifics. I cannot tell you much about myself as a child or as a teen, because I can’t really identify with that part of my life.  It’s as if I go into this dream sequence when I try to think back. It’s weird. It can be downright uncomfortable and awkward. I mean, who doesn’t know who they were as a kid or a teen?!?!  What I do know is that I had struggled for years with this feeling  that there was something wrong with me now as an adult, as a result of my detachment from my earlier years… like I couldn’t possible come to know who I am if I don’t know who I was.

I came to a place in my adult life where I had to decide who I was going to be. Was I going to be someone who kept looking back, scratching my head, trying to create a future from a past that I couldn’t change even if I did remember? Or was I going to keep looking forward and focus on a future that would be worth remembering someday? I chose neither…. Because the one thing that I could tell has been constant in my life is that I have always been either running to something or from something. At age 30 I finally understood that the concept of “Growing up” as we’ve known it to be is highly overrated

I may not be able to re-do the past, or recreate my childhood, or recall all the details about my teen years. I can’t tell you about how I felt during various special moments that I know happened or tell you with certainty what kind of friend I was in high school. What I can do is create new habits, and un-teach myself old lessons that no longer serve a purpose in who I am today…. I’m growing down. I can stop running from or to something. I can stop trying to prove my independence or adulthood to anyone. I’ve done my growing… I’m 30 years old… I’m an adult. Everything from here on is not new growth… it’s evolution… expansion… progress. 
Being a grown up is not a thing, a place, a degree, a certain level of income, or even the act of getting married (As made apparent by the high divorce rate). Being a grown up is about having the balls to say what you believe in the midst of unbelievers… and being able to shrug if they’re not on board with you, without letting it disturb your sense of peace. Being a grown up is choosing to forgive with or without an apology. Being a grown up is about using “I would never do that” very loosely… because we’ve learned that lack of personal experience with certain situations doesn’t afford us the pleasure of certainty for what kind of decision we’d make had it been us. Being a grown up means saying “I don’t know” when you don’t know… because with our finite minds, we really don’t know much. Being a grown up means that there isn’t a price tag attached to  “I love you”… yours are free… Even to  the one-toothed man that picked up a quarter that dropped out of your wallet for you at the grocery store… just when you were thinking “Ugh, really?!?! I have all these bags in my hands and it’ll be a pain to stoop down to pick it up… but it’s A QUARTER and I think I need one more for laundry. I’ll be so glad when I don’t have to pay for laundry ever again.” Yes, you say “I love you” to even him… and his one-toothed grin made you think “I really do”.

I’m growing down.

 

Yours Truly, Andrea

You Don’t Have To Like Them To Love You

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You don’t have to stroke their ego. You don’t have to indulge their insincere pleasantries and you don’t have to engage them in meaningless conversation. You don’t have to fill empty space with empty words. You don’t have to listen to verbal vomit or make nice with people who are not. You don’t have to like everyone to feel likeable. You don’t have to.

How many times have we tried and tried to be friends with someone who, for some reason or another, it never was easy to be friends with? You think that maybe if you look at the friendship a different way, or approach the person a different way, or maybe if you did more, or gave more, or if you two just lived closer THEN the friendship would work better. We just can’t seem to figure out why things with this person just don’t flow easily. Well… It’s because they are a square peg and you are a round hole. The two of you together just don’t fit.

Two amazing people may not fit together.
One amazing person and one horribly toxic person may not fit together.
Two equally toxic people may not fit together.
Some people just don’t fit together. Period. This goes for friendships and romantic relationships.

There is an emotional trend amongst some circles that say that if you cannot vibe with everyone you meet, that it’s because you are not one with humanity, or you are too picky, or you don’t have enough love in your heart, or you’re stuck up, or it must be because you’re broken. That’s just… Well that’s just a load of crap to me. It’s like saying you couldn’t possibly be a nice person if you aren’t friends with every nice person you know, or that you couldn’t possibly have a sense of humor if you don’t aim to make everyone you meet laugh.

Be sincere by complimenting when you truly mean it… Not out of a need to be known as complimentary or because you need people to always feel good around you. You are not responsible for their mood or ego. They are.

Speak when you have something you really want to say, not to fill empty space with empty words. A silent smile carries more value than the white noise of meaningless conversation. You don’t have to be anyone’s entertainment and silence is not something to be afraid of.

Love where there is love to build on. There can not be true love without respect, so stop trying to love those who you don’t respect. If there is no respect, then there is no trust… And to try to love without respect and trust is only lying to yourself. So respect yourself enough not to act out a love that is a lie.

You are funny, nice, caring, creative, passionate, loving and giving. That is who You are… So you don’t have to like them to love You.

Yours Truly,
Andrea

When The Seasons Change

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There are seasons in life just like there are seasons in nature. Some are bright and touch you with the warmth of all the hope they contain. Others feel as if the cold and harshness of it all knows no limits. Then there are those seasons that are caught in the middle… the ones that feel as if you aren’t where you want to be, and yet you aren’t where you used to be.

How can one tell when the seasons are changing in our lives? How do you know when the season is changing within a relationship, a friendship, or a job?

Sometimes we can confuse a bad day, a bad week, or a dry spell for a change in season. We think “Everything is going wrong, so it must be a SIGN that it’s time to go!” or “All we do is fight all the time. It’s obvious that this means we’re not good together anymore.” In a society where there seems to be a common belief that happiness is a sure sign of a great life, I have found that there are two types of hard times in life: The kind that offers us an opportunity for a BREAK THROUGH, and the kind that’s preparing us to BREAK OUT. Regardless of which we might be in, both offer us an opportunity for personal growth.. and the more we grow the more the people, places, and things around us have no other choice than to shift to make room for all the newness growing within us.

If you feel that the winds of change may be blowing, here are four teltail signs that you may be going into a new season:

  1. You’ve tried everything to reignite it, but after many attempts, the passion just isn’t there anymore. By “Passion” I mean the fulfillment you once got out of it, her, or him. It was like an invisible cord that kept you connected to it regardless of how little money you made doing it, or if your Dad thinks he’s a moron, if your Mom says that you could do better, or if no one understands what all the excitement is about. Maybe it happened slowly or maybe it was a rapid progression, but your passion just isn’t there anymore. Maybe you don’t understand why you no long feel fulfilled by it. Maybe you’ve attempted over and over again to reignite the flame because YOU REALLY WANT TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT IT… but… nope… you’re definitely not anymore. Here’s what I do when I feel my passion waning: I pause from all the trying that I’m doing… trying to love what I’m doing or trying to act like everything is just peachy keen. I let myself just be. Then I pray and seek out my motives behind any discontentment. Is it because I’m just pissed that I didn’t get a promotion? Am I harboring unforgivness or holding onto anything that is causing me to self destruct? Do I just have a bad attitude? Lastly I become purposeful  in either making things right within myself if I’m the problem or I become purposeful in making the changes necessary to find where my new season may be taking me.
  2. You feel like a fish out of water. “What happened?! I used to be so good at this!” is something you may have thought to yourself. Whatever it is that used to come so naturally to you has now got you feeling like you’re floundering. Sometimes we digress in nature due to becoming too comfortable in our abilities that we no longer challenge ourselves. Maybe it’s because you’re distracted for some reason. Maybe it’s because the grace that once empowered you to be able to do what you did so well has lifted. If that’s the case, then it may be that a new season is coming.
  3. If  the idea of change doesn’t seem to be as scary anymore. When we’re in the right season of life, the idea of change can be scary. We have a peace about our position and don’t want to disturb that peace. Yet when a new season is upon us, all of a sudden we crave change. We want to take risks and we start seeking out opportunity. We become open to walking away from what’s familiar.  Observe those cravings when they come. They may be trying to tell you something.
  4. Time. As in “Give yourself some.” Just like the literal seasons, they aren’t going to go right from one season straight into another. There’s going to be a transition into it. If one day you love something and then the next day you hate it, that doesn’t mean you are going into a new season. It means you’re human and some days you’re more into something than other days. Give yourself some time to draw a clear distinction between a new season and moodiness. If you have a long stretch of time in which you feel the same way consistently , then that may be the time to evaluate things.

I know that new seasons can be hard…. Especially if you can see it coming and you aren’t quite convinced that you’re ready for it yet.  Just try to keep in mind that the ending of a season has no discomfort that cannot be healed by the beginning of a new one.

Yours truly,
Andrea

The Woman. The Source.

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As woman, we go through multiple various changes and shifts within our lifetime. The momentum of these changes only seem to pick up speed as we get older. We can end up wearing many different hats. One woman can be a mother, a wife, a daughter, a grandmother, a grand-daughter, a friend,  a girlfriend, an employee, head of the PTA, President of the HOA, sunday school teacher, bill payer, prayer partner, grocery shopper, boo boo kisser, task master, cook, lover, book club host, and seamstress [Insert hair pulling here]. Most often we don’t have the luxury of wearing these hats one at a time, but instead we end up stacking one on top of the other until our minds start to feel like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Our hearts are in the right place, but we are after all only 1 person. It is a constant balancing act. Yet enmeshed in all of these different identities lies The Woman. You remember her, right? She’s that part of you that was there long before life placed all these other demands on you. She was there long before those beautiful little energy drainers… and that one big 6 foot-bearded energy drainer too!  Have you forgotten what she looks like?

I am a mother to no one, and I am no longer a wife to anyone either. I don’t have to be to understand the constant divide that we as woman feel on a daily basis. We give, and give, and give some more until there’s just a little left of us. We silently do a little happy dance, feeling like we’ve won a small victory by having a sliver of us left over at the end of the day. That is, until something is needed of us… which happens more often than not… and we look at that sliver, shrug, and think “Well it was nice while it lasted” as we give it away to whomever needs it. This is the cycle we get caught up in day in and day out. Living from sliver to sliver.

Now, I want you to lean in real close because I want to let you in on a little secret. Listen closely and pay attention because I don’t want you to miss this…. Living from sliver to sliver is not sustainable. Let me say that one more time, just to make sure ya’ll heard me… LIVING FROM SLIVER TO SLIVER IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. It’s similar to trying to sustain on barely any food! You may be able to live like that for a while, but your body needs nourishment. Without nourishment it will die. Your person… The Woman… needs nourishment. She cannot survive on sliver to sliver. She will die without the nourishment that only you can giver her. If you don’t know where I’m coming from, you will eventually. Every women will at some point be face to face with The Woman that she either loved or neglected. Maybe that moment will come when your kids become grown, and are out of the house, and no longer need you to parent them as you once did. Maybe that moment will come when you are faced with divorce, and you no longer know who you are if you aren’t a wife. Maybe that moment will sneak up on you when you least except it… when you love your life… that is, until you don’t. You look around at a life that looks seemingly rich, and yet you feel so empty inside. You begin to think “There’s got to be more than this”.

There is something I often say to women I come in contact with that are struggling to keep all their hats balanced, and it’s “We as women have to stay interested in ourselves. We give so much away. We have to be purposeful in replenishing the well that we draw from”. It’s true. I know it’s true because along my journey to personal bliss, it was something that I had to actively teach myself. I had to teach myself to purposefully nurture and love The Woman… because it’s from her that all those other identities spring from. It’s our femininity that makes us qualified to be able to be all those other things! When I say “Femininity” I’m not talking about the 60s stay-at-home mom types, that were all “Yes dear. No dear”. I’m speaking to our hearts. The way we love. The way we can heal someone’s brokenness with our touch. Those things that just come naturally to us. God bless the men in our lives, but being able to split our nature up into different categories and yet have all of them working for us almost simultaneously, is truly a gift that I feel has been given especially to women. It’s our talent and our gift to the world around us.

In all the giving, be careful not to smother out the source of all that magic… The Woman. She needs you too.

Growing Into Your Own Voice

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Up until the last few years, I had spent most of my life being fearful of my own thoughts and opinions about life. I lived in fear of challenging the things that I had been taught and how I had been raised. I lived in fear of questioning the demands that others placed on me. I lived in fear of asking myself what motivated me. Bottom line, I didn’t know who I was apart from the people, places, and things that surrounded me.

It never occurred to me that I didn’t know who I was until after an ex-boyfriend and I broke up… Or more accurately put, WHEN OUR BREAKUP ALMOST BROKE ME . I had spent years of my life picturing my future with him, immersed in who I was with him, focused on who I was to him. Our relationship… him… they became my identity… and I didn’t even know it until it all crumbled. Our relationship. Our love. They were what my essence was made of. When it fell apart, so did I.

It took me a long time to shake myself out of that “Breakup funk”. You know what funk I’m talking about! That feeling where nothing tastes, sounds, feels, or looks the same anymore. Life feels overcast with grief. A never ending all encompassing grief! Well it sure did feel like it would never end when I was in the midst of it! It did end though. Eventually. THANKFULLY. However, let me tell you that before it ended, it actually just changed form. It went from grief over the loss of love, to it morphing into grief over the loss of my identity. As uncomfortable as it was to go through, this is actually where the magic started. It finally sank in that I hadn’t yet formed my own thoughts on important life issues. I did however do A LOT of listening! I listened to my friends, I listened to my church, I listened to my family, I listened to the men in my life… all of which are wonderfully beautiful things in and of themselves! Yet here I was, always taking in the messages that other people were telling me, without ever taking the time to find out if they were truly ideals that were right for ME. That’s when I took a deep breath and asked myself the one question I had been ignoring my whole life “What does Andrea have to say about all this?”.

Before I continue, I want to preface my next statements with a little disclaimer: I am by no means saying that taking advice, or listening to other people’s opinions is in any way negative. I am not anti-church/anti-family, etc.. Quite the contrary! I believe that there is wisdom in diversifying your point of view and perspective, and having a foundation to build your identity on. There is just too much wisdom in the world to ever be able to say that you “Know it all”! However I do believe that if you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to discover who you are, what you feel, or what you think, that all of the different voices in the world can cause more harm than good. If we are too little informed, we can become ignorant. If we are over-informed we can because easily distractable, not allowing ourselves to be tethered to anything. Our goal should be to find a balance between the two. Feeling confident in what you know and believe, with the understanding that you don’t know it all.  Okay, moving on.

“How did you even begin the process of finding your own voice?” you ask? What I will share with you are summaries of the things I learned through my personal journey. Here are 5 things I’ve discovered that have helped me find my voice:

1. Lonliness can often be misguided discontentment. How many times have some of us felt lonely, decided to go out and surround ourselves with other people, just to end up feeling alone WITH other people? Bars are full of lonely people. You can feel lonely anywhere and with anyone… and feeling that way WITH other people just draws more attention to how lonely you really feel. Distraction doesn’t address why we’re lonely. By refusing to give into the urge to distract myself, I was forced me to confront the reason why I felt so lonely… and the source of the loneliness typically had to with feeling a lack of purpose in life, feeling disconnected from God, feeling inadequate at work, etc.. None of which was going to be solved on a dance floor, while strangers spilled their drinks on me.

2. Listen to that “Something” within you. I’ve said it to myself so many times… “I don’t know, but something tells me not to go there.” Maybe you’ve said once or twice “I don’t know what it is, but something tells me not to trust that person.” Regardless of what it is that it’s pertaining to, it always comes back to that “Something”. People have a lot of different names for it… Intuition, a gut feeling, a hunch, vibes, the Holy Spirit… whichever resonates with you. I believe that no matter what religion, spiritual belief, race, gender, or sexual orientation, there are basic human experiences that we all have in common. That “Something” is one of them. That nudge you feel comes from a place that you don’t understand with your head… that’s because it doesn’t originating from head knowledge. It coming from a source deeper than thought or your 5 senses, but it is still a part of you. Honoring it means you honor yourself. The more you honor yourself, the more self-respect you build, and the more you respect yourself the more you trust that what you have to say matters.

3. Say “No” for a bigger “Yes”. This one was THE HARDEST thing for me to get down! There was a point in my life where I hardly ever said “No” because I wanted to be the person that everyone knew they could rely on. I thrived on hearing “Andrea can do it!” I thought it spoke to other’s trust in my gifts and talents! Here’s the thing though. What I came to realize  is that many times people volunteered me or asked me to do things based not on my my abilities, but on my availability. There was a job to do and I constantly made myself available to do it. I was a shoe-in. Though they were thankful for my willingness, what it came down to is that they knew I wouldn’t say “No.” Once I learned this I began taking inventory of everything I was doing and realized that very few things were something I was actually passionate about… or even, dare I say, good at. So I began stepping down from things and saying “No.” This wasn’t easy for me and it ruffled some feathers, but it was time for me to say “No” so that I would have the  time and energy for the “Yes” that I truly desired.

4.  Don’t be afraid to reinforce your boundaries. In my post titled Trust Your Boundaries I talk about how important it is to know what your personal boundaries are, and to not let others talk you out of them based on if they make them feel comfortable or not. Reinforce your boundaries by living a life that supports them, cultivating relationships with people who respect them, and notifying someone when they have crossed them. Boundaries don’t restrict you. They actually set you free to live life on purpose… instead of out of obligation, fear, or ignorance.

5. Figure it out! Don’t know what you think or feel about certain topics? Read. Meditate. Discuss. Investigate. Pray. Figure. It. Out. Be an active participant in your self-discovery. Do something! Actively seek out your voice. Don’t think that you’ll be watching Netflix one day and magically while eating Cheetos you are going to have this epiphany about what it is you really think about life! You have to want it… and everyone knows that the more we work for something the more valuable it is. If you want to find your voice you have to look for it, cultivate it, trust it, and reinforce it.

What makes you afraid of your own voice? What ideas, stigmas, or habits get in the way of you knowing WHO YOU ARE?

Yours Truly, Andrea