What I Write and What I Want

On the Horizon
It’s been a few weeks, and I’m still not sure how to pick up where I left off. A lot has happened and is happening. A few difficult yet vaguely described months this past fall/winter were followed by some resolve, some redirection, and some utter ridiculousness. In all of that, I question what it is I most want to say.

I have talked a few times about how much I appreciate writing and have been grateful that this blog has been a place for that. It’s been a way to update people, to share my thoughts, and to think through the different things going on in our lives. But it is also a place people come to read those things, which is something I consider very carefully. A handful of people have told me that they read my blog, which is always a flattering compliment, so I have a limited notion of my audience. There are also many people I’ve never met and know nothing about.

To me, the listeners/readers are often just as important as the message. This isn’t a journal, so if I don’t consider my audience, I do a disservice to us both. Lately, with a lot of transition and life going on, I’ve been considering even more carefully what it is that I’m saying and how my words are portrayed to those who are watching and reading. There are times filled with great news or success that I want to shout about and times when I just love the little details in life and want to share them. There are moments of frustration I want to lash out in passive aggression and moments of hurt or fear that I want to describe and sort through.

But the question becomes, what is my purpose? What is it I most want to do through my life and likewise, my writing?

Do I want to have a big platform? Do I want lots of likes and attention? Do I want to promote or sell something? Do I want to woo or impress? Do I want to simply have a creative outlet or a modern-day scrapbook?

Ultimately, none of those are my purpose, and in realizing this, I’ve stepped back. I’ve considered each word and each post and the impact it has. In this time of contemplation I have yet to figure out where to go from here and what I most want to say. But I know I want to keep writing. I want to connect with people. I want to write in a way that encourages, inspires, and relates.

Not only is this my favorite type of writing, but this is the type of writing I most love to read. I have learned and grown so much from reading what others write as they face challenges, celebrate victories, find their faith, and pursue their purpose. Not only that, but these are the lives that carry the greatest impact. Some people have strong voices or get loads of attention, but I’m not after the megaphone moments or a picture perfect type of lifestyle.

I want true authenticity and real relationships; loud joy and quiet success; wisdom over wealth; words filled with grace and also with thanks, and through it all, no matter what, I want to have faith, hope, and love

Plans and Expectations

Calendar photo by Brandon Redfern

Plans and goals–they sound like such good things. Dreams and deadlines mean something has to happen. It tells a story of progress and forward motion toward (hopefully) all of the right things. It is refusing to stand idle while life threatens to pass you by.

But is that all? Is it only the promise of good that can come from such hopes and aspirations?

What about the bitter disappointment that comes when things don’t go “as planned” in life? Or the fits we throw when someone doesn’t live up to our expectations? We lose trust and hold a grudge when things don’t look the way we envisioned, because that’s only fair. This was not what we had in mind, therefore it is practically our right to let the world know.

Honestly, you and I, we are allowed to be disappointed. I will never be the person that says you should only be happy or at least attempting happiness in every moment of life. Emotions come in a wide range and part of life is allowing ourselves to experience the many joys and frustrations that a range of emotions can bring. Go ahead and feel down when you’re sad, elated when you’re happy, conflicted when you’re confused or overwhelmed. This not only makes us human, it also allows us to cope with our situation and better empathize with others.

That said, sometimes I think we set ourselves up for disappointment when we don’t have to. 

We put these high expectations on ourselves to be something and achieve something. Then we go around putting these expectations on the people around us. We make plans as if that will lock in the things we want and then pay no regard to the fact that we only have the slightest bit of control over it. If it’s in the calendar, then it’s bound to happen, right?

Right now, I have no interest in making any plans more than a few weeks away. There’s so much that can happen in a month, three months, eight months, a year. The farther ahead we plan, the farther it feels from something I can count on. I would not be planning based on reality, but on pure speculation and therefore creating more expectations to uphold. Life has too many variables and the vast majority of them are well outside of our control. 

We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, much less a month from now. Tragedy could strike, opportunity could knock, the unexpected could happen. Health-related, weather-related, people-related, work-related, government-related–which of those things can you reasonably control? Sure, you can exercise, bring an umbrella, invest in the lives of others, work hard, vote, and whatever else to contribute to the overall impact (and you should), but don’t fool yourself into believing you’ve therefore earned it and can will things to happen the way you want.

Let’s instead put our hope in the right things. Let’s give grace when expectations aren’t met and think more realistically when it comes to our dreams and deadlines. Let’s be cautious to make plans and realize when we are forming absolutes in our minds. Let’s do our best, but know that most things are beyond our control and therefore let go of our reliance on our own expectations.

Let’s give the same grace and space for in our own lives as we do in the lives of others.

 

In with the New

Fireworks - photo by kazuend

Happy New Year and welcome back! The vacation schedule is gone, and it is time to get back to the normal routine. Except this year is going to be different. Right? Because we’ve got goals, we’ve got plans, we’ve got dreams. Ain’t nobody gonna stand in our way. 

Kick fear in the face and seize the day…or whatever it is motivational memes are saying these days.

This is what we do. We make plans and hope to achieve them. Motivational speakers and authors get us going, small incentives help keep the momentum, and we seek the promise of success. By no means do I think this is a bad thing.

Somewhere in a notebook is all of my goals from middle school through college. I would write a big long list of things and then grade my success at the end of the school year. Silly things were on there, like getting a date to prom or maintaining a certain GPA. Now, I have yearly goals based on the calendar year that pertains to different areas of my life. This has consisted of everything from starting a retirement fund to hosting couchsurfers.

Planning is practically my hobby. Bored? Just daydream until the next five years are planned out, vacations and careers included. Hand-written diagrams, lists, spreadsheets, vision boards–all of it is often pieced together for my upcoming ideal life. When you get down to it, part of my job as a project manager is planning/scheduling and making things happen for people. I’m a goal-setter, a dreamer, and a planner. That’s me. 

Truthfully, the last few weeks I’ve spent more time avoiding resolutions than making them. My mind has been in a constant back-and-forth between reflecting on the long, hard year that was 2015 and overanalyzing the many possibilities of the year to come. And during that time, I stayed away from writing because I didn’t know where to start. This is the time of year when bloggers spout out all of their favorite things from 2015 and their new shiny goals or words for 2016. For me, this year, that just wouldn’t be genuine.

While there were so many things to be grateful for in 2015, but there were also quite a few hardships that I never planned or expected. Looking at the year, I realize how little control I actually have over how it goes.

So, this nonstop planner is putting a temporary stop to the goals and the life plans. It feels too overwhelming right now and puts some unrealistic expectations on me and the people around me. Writing my usual list or even finding the word of the year to live by is too distracting right now. While some of my past accomplishments have been truly ignited and inspired by my yearly goals, this is not the time.

This is the year I simply keep on keeping on. I have a lot going on and instead of dreaming big and thinking toward change, I want to only promise to continue to show up. To do the work. To stay in the game. To be all here. 

Despite a lack of goals, I still think this has the potential to be a big and wonderful year. But I also think it will mostly be beyond my control. All I can do is continue to take one day at a time. I want to be present and aware of what’s happening now–today. And then, I want to live through tomorrow when we get to tomorrow. That’s it.

What We Don’t See

Stairway | Moving Peaces

Sometimes I hesitate to share the victories without sharing the trials. When I write I try to be transparent and make it clear that I don’t have it all together, but I know it still stays vague. Because frankly, it’s not very fun to tell about the challenges and at times, it’s not appropriate to share, be it to protect people or because the timing is just not right. Sharing and showing just the moments of glory–the vacation plans, the promotion news, the family photos, the epic adventure, the finished product–whatever it is, doesn’t tell the whole story. It instead leaves the rest of us to believe that it happened, just like that.

In those moments, I struggle with jealousy. I couldn’t care less if you had a bigger home or a fancier tech gadget. But when I see someone get an amazing opportunity or live an incredible-seeming life, it can sometimes get ugly on the inside for me. Suddenly my mind is off and running that so-and-so had everything handed to them on a silver platter or had the right connections or just naturally awesome hair. I don’t know or care how they managed to pull it off, but why not me?! And then I stamp my foot and pout for awhile.

I see the glory and the end result. I see the attention and the appreciation. I see the success and imagine the dollar signs. I see the art and the opportunity. 

You know what I don’t see? What it took to get there.

I didn’t see the effort they made and all of hard work they poured into it. I didn’t see their fights for what mattered and accompanying sacrifices. I didn’t see the scrimping and saving. I didn’t see the insecurities and doubt. I didn’t see the practice or failures. I didn’t see the years of struggle or nightly prayers.

I didn’t see the journey, all I saw was the reward. 

Then I got jealous or made quick assumptions or gave up on my own goals. I can’t keep doing that. We just can’t do that. Why? Because nobody wins that way.

You want to know how it happened? Ask them. Put in the work and the effort and the years that it takes. Think big breaks never come your way? That’s probably true, but they don’t really happen for anyone who isn’t trying. Sometimes people stumble in to things, but rarely because they were sitting around waiting for it.

I can’t promise that you will get the same end result or that your effort guarantees what you want. But there are ways to lessen the sting or escape the distractions. If I focus on working towards my goals and you focus on yours, we have less to be jealous of and less assumptions to make. Finding friends and support with whom to share our hardships and our dreams strengthens everyone. Gaining an understanding that you are not alone in the struggle brings perspective. Instead of playing the comparison games, we can together walk through the challenges and celebrate each other’s victories.

Redefine Success and Face Reality

Redefine Success and Face Reality

Journaling | Moving Peaces

When you say you are a writer, people have certain expectations.

They want you to say something special. It’s as if there is some fancy dictionary only writers know about to effortlessly add sophisticated words into sentences. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a novel or your grocery list–plain words are never enough. Clever words and fantastic analogies are expected of writers, regardless of the subject matter.

It all sounds dreamy…I must sit around in coffee shops and have a special soundtrack for my thinking and writing. Maybe an old typewriter is involved or a fountain pen adorns my desk. In my free time perhaps I sit around on comfy sofas reading the latest piece of worthwhile literature while wearing trendy glasses and cardigans.

But the reality is, I sit on the couch and type whatever first comes to mind and then I edit it for hours or even days. The room is usually dark and sometimes quiet. Half the time I forget that I wear glasses or am too lazy to go find them, so I sit and stare at the screen with the slightest bit of strain behind my eyes. I don’t own a typewriter or a fountain pen, but scribble in my notebook with a pencil like a middle schooler. I don’t use extraordinary words or require my readers to have an extensive vocabulary to understand me. I believe the best writing is the simplest.

There is a certain glamour to life in our heads. Whether movies or ignorant comments established such a scene, we sometimes feel the need to meet the standards of what “life as a…[fill in the blank]” looks like. That expectation then decides what success looks like. It’s in that exact moment that we back down and feel inadequate. Because our reality does not look like the expectation, we start to feel overwhelmed and incapable. Then guess what? We give up. We walk away. We say it’s too hard or that it’s never going to happen.

Real success happens when we redefine our expectations and then meet or exceed them. Instead of subscribing to conventional ideas, construct your own measurement for success. Create attainable goals and describe what that looks like daily–starting now.

You will never be able to live up to the hype or expectation of someone else. That doesn’t have to sound hopeless though. You have the freedom to look at your life and say, “This is what I want it to look like, and that is what I am working towards.”

You might still feel overwhelmed or like you are chasing a pipe dream. You might even try and fail. Don’t give in to the lies, distractions or comparisons; just focus on what you can do and press forward. If you really want to pursue that redefined success mark, do so wholeheartedly.  Not only are your dreams more achievable, but you then get to celebrate and claim the small victories along the way.

 

Money Talk: Saving for Travel

Money Talk: Saving for Travel

Oh, two very different seeming things: money and travel. One is really fun to talk about and the other is quickly avoided. I shared a glimpse about our approach regarding money awhile ago and hope to continue to write more about money in the future as a way to encourage and inspire.

Money Talk | Moving Peaces

Can I start by saying that I love traveling? I really do. So much so, that it is definitely given more weight in my budget than the average person might. There are days I just want to say, “let’s go!” and completely ignore all financial repercussions. I see travel as important. But I also believe we should be good stewards of our money (aka take care of what you’ve been given).

So what’s a girl to do when she loves to travel but it’s crazy expensive? Be realistic about it. I can’t pretend it doesn’t cost money to travel, just like I can’t pretend that I’m done traveling. By being honest about both of those things I can better move forward and budget accordingly (so if you have a love for travel…or shopping or sports or music, I’d recommend taking the same approach). In the past I’ve found that if I pretend that something isn’t important to me and leave it out of the budget that doesn’t actually end up saving me money. Instead, it ruins my budget because that love inevitably gets my money but I never accounted for it. See what I’m saying? Start by being honest.

Now, just because I love traveling (or shopping, sports, music, etc.)  does NOT mean that all self-control goes out the window. I don’t get a free pass just because it’s a passion of mine. There was a plan and a budget to take our trip to Argentina, as boring as that might sound. Oh and trust me, there were days that it seemed like that plan was going to take forever.

A few years ago, we said this trip was important to us. Before we even knew where we wanted to go, we started saving. Our plan was to put aside all “extra” money. All Christmas money, birthday money, tax refunds and freelance money went into a separate account set aside for this big trip. Once we had saved up a 3-6 month emergency fund with our income (that’s 3-6 months living expenses in case who-knows-what happens) we said we could start allotting some of our income towards the trip fund as well. There were times that it was really annoying that all of our extra fun money was already marked for the trip when we wanted to use it for something else, something that brought a little more instant gratification.

If you want to spend money on a passion/hobby/interest/goal, instant gratification has got to go. Drop the impulse buys, start saying no to good things–things you like but aren’t as important as your financial goal. Things that don’t go and you do keep spending money on: groceries, rent/mortgage, utility bills, medical expenses, paying off debt and saving for a rainy day.

Because guess what? I was without a full-time job for the better part of last year. That did not fit in the plan. It was SO frustrating to feel like my goals were on hold, not only professionally and personally, but financially, too. The good news? We had a few months of an emergency fund saved, and we had already rearranged our spending habits to live on much less than our income. We tightened up our budget a bit more and had to make some tough decisions, but we were also able to keep the trip savings mostly intact during the time it took to find other employment.

Saving for your goals, for the fun stuff, is important. But making sure you also save for the unknowns is vital. Just like you can’t ignore your passions and dreams, you can’t ignore your responsibilities either when it comes to finances. So, that meant we saved for years and that might not sound very inspiring. But what is inspiring is that we don’t have any debt from that trip so when we took it, we got to completely enjoy it.

There are things in life that come up and I don’t want to pretend that everyone is able to just save and go in a few years. There are big financial commitments, health emergencies and limitations out there that are real. Sometimes I hesitate to even tell these stories because I don’t want it to sound like I take these opportunities lightly. Instead, I hope to encourage and inspire you that with patience and planning, more is achievable than you think.

Travel | Moving Peaces

Money isn’t an easy topic and frankly, writing a series on it is super strange for me. But I know it matters and has an impact, which has compelled me to be open and available for the conversation with anyone who wants to have it.

 

Less Rest When You Dream

Less Rest When You Dream

Hobbies and Things | Moving Peaces

While we were away we were almost intentional about not doing the things we usually do. Now that we’re home those duties, drivers and dreams are back with a vengeance.

It’s as if we both feel this need, this longing to create. It’s almost a burden and to be honest, I can’t decide if it’s a good one or a bad one. He immediately starting editing videos. I wrote and wrote. I have a sense of responsibility to my writing. To my goals, dreams and hopes. It goes beyond writing–travel, music, relationships and art all have seats at the table in this house.

There’s no denying that we’re back. No hiding in another country without a properly functioning cell phone. The pressure is clear, the distractions are back and the battle is just getting started. We both had victorious moments during the first week of our trip. I had an article published in Relevant, and he got to contribute some footage in a National Geographic video. It was as if our hard work had paid off, and we got to momentarily bask in its bliss.

But upon return, we went straight back to the grind. We know these creative goals are not something we can just sit on and expect dividends in return. It’s a pressure, it’s a responsibility and it’s right in front of our faces. Neither of us know when time will run out on these dreams so we continue to cram ourselves full to make sure things happen. It’s exhausting already, and we just got back last week.

So the question becomes, what for? What are we aiming to achieve? What cost does it bring? What’s the purpose? Is it the right kind of dream? Finally, is it worth it?