A year of questions. 365 questions.
I'm one of those people who feels inspired constantly--I'm excitable and love coming up with ideas. What I've learned over my 25 years is that I struggle to follow through.
This year I've forced myself to change, and I've committed. I've committed to 365 days of writing, and I'm publishing it here to hold myself accountable. The word "poem" is scary and foreign to a lot of people. Most people think they hate poetry, but it's 2017: Rupi Kaur has shown us that poetry can resonate with anyone. We can do anything we want with words.
My inspiration for this series is pretty simple. No matter how wise and certain we feel, we're never finished. There's always something to learn, question, and examine. At the end of the day, do any of us really know what we're doing? Life is constantly changing, and while that scares me, it's also what makes us human.
I wanted to keep the series open-ended so it's free to change over time. But I also knew I needed a few guidelines to keep me moving in the right direction. Here they are:
Follow along with my year of questions here!
We were on a 9-hour drive and hit a traffic jam. Immediately, we checked one of the many helpful apps on our phone which told us exactly when the traffic was going to break up so we could either take a different route or know how long we were going to to wait.
Isn’t it perfect knowing everything instantly? We can find every answer to every question we ever have. Thanks, technology.
Believe it or not, I use technology every day (both professionally and socially) so I completely understand its benefits. But I’ve also felt the downsides of instantaneous answers and constant fact-checking.
Without thinking twice, we use technology to think ahead instead of accepting moments and finding ways to enjoy them. Instead of saying “I wonder how long this traffic will last…” we have the ability to get rid of the unknown gray area by simply checking an app. Everything is definite, and we don’t have to wait to find out what happens in the next few miles. We can plan better and look ahead—eliminate unnecessary disruptions.
Except we’re getting rid of all the possibilities in the process. We no longer have to wonder. We used to have consider the possibilities and potential outcomes, finding inner patience and accepting that we wouldn’t have a definite answer right now. When we were kids, we would say “I wonder what I’ll be when I grow up?” We would guess and dream of the possibilities, but we had to wait at least 15 years to finally know the answer.
There’s something to be said about not knowing everything and learning how to wonder. If we don’t take the time to look off into the distance and think of the possibilities, what are we focusing on? We’re chronically distracted, rapidly trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible…taking a quick break to check email and social media while we’re in line for coffee or at a red light, and then, getting right back to the plan. The pace. Making plans to make plans.
In the midst of it all, I think we (myself included) forget how to wait and enjoy the ride. We don’t look for ways to be content during frustrating situations, or at least make them better. We forget how how to be patient. We don’t know how to be pensive.
For many of us, these types of words are considered weak or timid when they should be signs of strength and character. The ability to be present. To be easygoing. To take a step back and think. To use your imagination.
We don’t know how to accept the process of wondering. Of course we like knowing everything because we like being in control. But maybe we can balance things out—get back to the days where we felt okay when there was no avenue for finding answers. It doesn’t mean we have to be passive or give up. We just need to get better at feeling comfortable when things don’t go according to plan.
If we can do that, I think we’ll all become more resilient and adaptable so we can handle whatever is thrown at us without having preparation beforehand. If we look up from our phones and resist Googling the answer to everything we ever wonder about, it might even promote more human connection and a sense of adventure. And definitely lower stress levels (goodbye, WebMD).
Couldn’t we all use a little more adventure, a little less stress? I know I could.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote one of my most personal blog posts with a friend about the selfish truth behind addiction. While I’m happy to say that the person we wrote about has been clean for about a year and a half, not every addict and family is so lucky. It sounds drastic, but heroin addiction is an epidemic. An epidemic that can affect every single part of society, even if you can’t imagine it now. I know I never thought my life would be touched by the drug, but it was.
I was happy when addicts found our initial blog post and reacted positively to it, so I decided I wanted to give another perspective — and, arguably, the most important one. I asked my recovered friend some tough questions about her addiction and recovery. She answered honestly and introspectively, and most importantly, was willing to tell the truth in order to inspire others. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been affected by drug addiction, we can all learn something from her strength and commitment.
My friend’s name is Rachael, and this is her story.
Rachael: This is hard to write about because I really can’t describe what it’s like to be addicted to heroin. My mind was so clouded and messed up that half of it is a blur. I didn’t care how dangerous it was because I couldn’t feel anything – no pain, no feelings, no love. Only love for THAT drug.
At first, I didn’t know I was addicted to heroin. I threw up every time I did it, but I kept wanting it. Eventually, I stopped getting sick and instead got sick when I didn’t use it for a day. That’s when I realized I needed it, but I was so oblivious that I didn’t care. It feels like you’re invincible, but now that I’m clean, I look back at the terrible “Memories of the Day” on Facebook and I’m disgusted at everything I said and did.
My family and friends did try to support me, but this is where it gets really hard. Nothing can stop you until you, the addict, makes the decision and is ready for it. There weren’t any ways for family and friends to help me, because I didn’t care and didn’t feel. That’s where addicts go wrong — they try to please their friends and family by going to rehab/treatment, but they were never over it in the first place.
I didn’t accept anyone’s advice because I knew I wasn’t ready. I had to hit rock bottom and honestly, that didn’t even change me.
The Pain and Freedom of Getting Clean
I didn’t really know how crazy I was acting until I got sober and tried to think back. I never used a needle — I only ever sniffed it. I think that’s what also made withdrawal a little easier because I’ve heard shooting up is really bad. I was always too afraid to shoot up, but people had asked if they could shoot me up because I have “good veins.”
When I finally decided, on my own, to get clean for good, it was because I was sick of what the drug made me do. I experienced the full sickness of withdrawal when I went through it the first time without suboxone or an opioid blocker. At this point, I was doing 20 bags a day. That’s $80 per bun, which is 10 bags — so a total of $160 a day. To get through withdrawal, I stocked up on Icy Hot, Tylenol, Advil PM, and stayed in my house for 2 weeks straight and went nowhere. I had cold and hot shakes, leg cramping, diarrhea and vomiting — basically the flu but ten times worse. You can’t sleep and you don’t want to eat — you just want to die. I got through it and still had sleeping problems, but I was over the sickness.
I dabbled after I was a couple weeks clean and went back to working downtown. I wasn’t doing nearly as much as I was before, but I started using again. I started living in Harrisburg and got back into it. The first time I went through withdrawal was horrible. You would think it would’ve changed me, but hanging around the same crowd brought me back. I didn’t delete my past out of my life. To stay clean, you have to do that.
I eventually got down to doing 4 bags a day, and then I got on the opioid blocker, suboxone, so I wouldn’t be sick. I knew I was such a better person sober, but I really didn’t consider myself “clean” until I got pregnant since I was on suboxone. I tapered my suboxone down to nothing about a month into my pregnancy. I also cut everyone out of my life that brought drama, including the city and acquaintances of people I knew did drugs, and started growing up.
I knew I needed to shape up and get myself together — for my daughter, her father and everyone else. Because I owed everyone at least that.
Re-Learning How to Live
In terms of rehab centers, some may have a problem with the way I went about getting clean, but every experience is different. I was actually set to go to a rehab center. They had a bed open and I was supposed to go, but I knew I would sign myself out and not make it. Rehab is an escape, which addicts definitely need, but not if you go back to the same place once you’re clean. If you get clean in a supervised facility and you were away from your home, you have the right to sign out if you’re of age and don’t have criminal charges. I also think people are so supervised in rehab centers that they get clean and go back to where they were before when they were unsupervised. They don’t know how to live, and most people I’ve known who went to rehab have relapsed.
Ultimately, everything changed when I got sober. I was doing drugs day in and day out for so long that it was almost like I had to re-learn how to talk to people and carry on a conversation. Learning how to control my feelings is the hardest thing. It’s scary to make friends or be around places where I did drugs.
I burned so many bridges with my family and real friends, so I knew it would take time for them to build trust and not be disappointed in me anymore. I believe jobs were a problem, at least in my experience. I worked in downtown Harrisburg and other places I won’t name. I was around everyone who had drugs and were on drugs that it was “convenient.” I don’t think I could ever work in that environment again just because I know it’s there.
I also know some people love to enjoy others’ downfalls, and I’m sure there are tons of people out there to this day who don’t believe I’m really clean. I try not to care because I know I’m sober. And the people who really know me know that I’m clean.
The transition from being addicted to sober is life-changing. From being messed up for so long and feeling nothing to trying to deal with my emotions sober is so overwhelming. I still don’t know how to really control my emotions, but I’m learning every day.
Defining People by Addiction
Unfortunately, addicts do live with the disease forever. It’s hard to explain, and it also depends on the person. The easiest way I can describe it is if you imagine that there’s a little voice or devil tapping on your shoulder 24/7, 365 days a year. The voice gets worse if you’re around people who are using or if you know heroin is around. You have to be smart enough to fight that voice every single day.
I can’t be around people I know associated with any form of opiates. I also instantly get in a bad mood if I’m driving around anywhere I used to be high or where I used to get heroin. I hate being in the city, and I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve went over there since I’ve been clean. You have to change how you live and who you’re around. My daughter has helped me a lot.
I don’t feel like addiction defines me anymore because I’m not using the drug — but I think I might always consider myself “recovering.” I’m always scared I’m going to fall back into it, but I feel like I’m more scared than I should be. I’ve deleted everyone out of my life that had anything to do with the drug so I could have the most peaceful life possible. I’ve also isolated myself from making friends that I’m sort of scared to make the wrong ones again. I think this bump in the road has made me a great judge of character.
I look back on what I was and don’t even know or recognize myself. You would never think drugs could really make someone the complete opposite of who they are, but they can. I was ashamed and embarrassed for a long time, but I’m glad I can say I got clean as fast as I did on my own. Not many addicts can accomplish that and get to a place where they can support a baby. I feel my story is unique in a way and hopefully gives addicts something to look forward to — whether they’re using, recovering or relapsing. Because there is hope and everyone can get clean. You just have to want it for yourself, not when other people are forcing you to.
At the end of the day, what motivates me to stay sober is my daughter. I also know my life is so much better, friendship and relationship-wise, without heroin. I’ve had doors open ever since I got clean, and I’d love for life to keep getting better and better. I know if I went back, I probably wouldn’t come back and my daughter is everything to me.
I’m so much happier now that I’m clean. I was so cold with no emotion at all that it’s surreal to be able to feel things and actually be happy, satisfied and living for something. I have a purpose in life again.
80% of students in the U.S. end up switching their field of study at least once. The average adult changes jobs 10-15 times. If you’re struggling to figure out what makes you happy, it should be clear that you’re nowhere near alone.
Millennials are constantly getting a bad reputation for being entitled, spoiled and lazy. While these stereotypes may be true for some, the majority of millennials are confused and unsure about what their place is in the constantly moving world. If you feel pressured to stay in a field you hate or you’re living at home while you determine what makes you tick, don’t panic or listen to judgement. It’s actually a good thing to have the desire to find what makes you happy.
Start by figuring out how important passion is to you. Everyone is different. Some people aren’t motivated by passion or don’t have the option of finding their passion. If you have the means to find what makes you feel alive, decide what’s going to motivate you at the end of the day. Is it purely a paycheck, your family’s happiness, the location you’ll have to live, the lifestyle that comes along with it, or the passion behind what you’re doing?
For many people who value passion, a job is going to make you miserable if you don’t have an interest in what you’re doing. For others, you might be happy to complete tasks you aren’t excited about if it means a comfortable salary and the ability to have fun outside of work. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have both passion and a comfortable salary, but think deeply about what’s going to make you the happiest if you could only choose one motivation from the list above. Because sometimes, especially when you first start out, you’re only going to have one choice.
Try things until you figure out what excites you. Talk to people, ask what they like about certain fields or jobs, and decide what you’re willing to try yourself. Even if you think something is right in the moment but change your mind down the road, you’ll never find clarity if you fall victim to the fear of change.
As hard as it is, don’t let anyone make you second guess what you’re trying. Yes, money is important. No, nobody wants to be in debt. But if you’re feeling lost or unsure of your life’s purpose, doing something that makes you miserable will feel more irrational than the “logical” course of action — which might be sticking with a field that has a lot of job opportunities or a path that’s extremely lucrative.
If you’re feeling so unhappy that you’re not sure who you are anymore, it comes down to two questions.
1) Would you rather be happy?
2) What are you willing to give up to be happy?
If you’re willing to lose a little money or enter a field that feels more risky in order to eventually find fulfillment, then don’t ever second guess yourself. But if you're not willing to sacrifice your family's security, for example, then make your decision accordingly. Ultimately, if you know what you’re willing to lose to make yourself happy, that’s a logical decision for your mental health and future well-being — even if people try to tell you it’s senseless.
Also remember that no matter how much you love what you do, every day won’t be perfect. You’re not going to automatically know everything. You’re still going to have to learn, start from the bottom and hone your craft. Sure, we all have occasional lulls and we may change direction slightly throughout our lives. But when you find something that excites you, it makes you want to do the legwork and not become complacent.
Take action. Making a decision, even if you change it later, is the only way you’ll start moving towards your purpose. So take a deep breath, remember more than 80% of people are struggling with the same thing, and start making moves.
Don’t settle until you find something that makes you relentless for success and excited to do good work. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or appealing to other people, either. While some people’s purpose is to dig up ancient bones on archeological sites, write critically acclaimed poetry or discover the cure for cancer, other people feel called to make kids laugh on a school bus, make people smile with a freshly arranged bouquet of flowers, or raise a child to the best of their ability.
When you eventually figure out your purpose, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. You’ll be excited and invigorated with what you’re doing most days, and hopefully you’ll eventually have the sense of peace you’re craving now.
Guess what? This week marks a month that I've been a real married person! And I've realized a few things about how I feel about the day being over. Like any bride, groom, family member or friend knows, there's so much buildup to one single day. I actually thought I was going to be more sad that the planning and buildup was over. But I realized the end of planning was a surprising relief -- and starting our life together and getting settled into what it actually means to be "married" was more exciting than anything.
I'm not sure if every bride would agree, but I think the biggest adjustment and source of nostalgia is getting used to not being the topic of conversation. Yes, it sounds selfish, but it's true. Even though I definitely got tired of wedding talk over the whole year of planning, it was always hovering over us. There was always something to talk about with my close circle (do you want to see a picture of my cake topper? You don't care? Well, I'm showing you anyway). And it's what everyone in my life asked about. After it was over, there were the few lingering questions of "How does it feel to be married!?" or "How did your pictures come out?" or "Was it everything you hoped it would be?" But after a month, I can slowly feel people moving on. And that's okay...really. It's just a strange, somewhat freeing, somewhat nostalgia-inducing feeling.
On that note, I have a few other tips. Maybe they're insightful, maybe they aren't. They probably won't appeal to every couple's style, but they worked for us!
Don't not do something because you're planning a wedding. Believe me, it's easy to let a wedding consume your life. While I had my fair share of moments where it ruled every ounce of my brain, we tried our best not to skip things or avoid doing something we would normally want to do. I mean, we went to an annual beer fest with our friends the day before my bridal shower, and my bridal party came along, too. (FYI, that pretty much shows I had the coolest friends and bridal party ever who were expert multi-taskers at having fun)
Don't let Internet discussion boards or opinionated people sway you too much. For example, I knew my bridal party would be super excited about matching shirts that said "bride tribe" as we got ready the day of the wedding. Not every bridal party would, though, and once I started overthinking it and getting too deep into Internet discussion boards about people saying they were a selfish gift, I almost didn't get them. No matter how you feel about the "bride tribe" shirts, the point is: you ultimately know your bridal party, fiance, parents, guests, etc. better than anyone. So go with your gut.
Buy everything you can off Etsy. 1. Everything creative and original and crafty you could ever want is on there. 2. You'll support actual artists. 3. It will make you giddy when you receive packages in the mail every. single. day. If you're into the DIY route or just want to add personal touches to your day, I would urge you to consider becoming a fellow Etsy addict (at your own risk). Here are links to some of the amazing vendors I worked with on Etsy, and I didn't have a bad experience with one of them:
Hair clips- Went up in price since I got them, but they're so intricate and beautiful.
Wedding invites- Super affordable and well-designed. The vendor is incredibly responsive and easy to work with!
Woods slices- Affordable, real wood that we used as seating "cards" and made coasters out of them.
Bridal party gift bags- I admit, an unnecessary purchase, but so much better looking than anything I could have wrapped.
Jewelry made with my handwriting- I ordered 3 pieces of jewelry from this shop, and I was so obsessed with how they came out.
Cake topper- An undeniable feeling of fall.
Bride Tribe tanks- Comfy and cute!
Tie clip for dad- Last minute purchase, but he wore it all day :)
Mother of the bride handkerchief- For all the crying she did, this was a nice touch.
Jewelry for myself- Mainly an excuse to wear by bud, Kacey's, jewelry, but I convinced myself it was for all the events leading up to the wedding.
Try not to consume every conversation with wedding talk. Even though I am writing a blog post specifically about weddings, it really doesn't have to be the focus of every conversation. I tried and failed at this, but trust me, there will be certain people you can tell are getting sick of hearing about it. Try to talk like a normal person when you can.
Build in more time than you think for everything leading up to the ceremony that day. We were just a little frantic and rushed that morning which led to some good memories (such as a handwritten "do not enter" sign on the bridal quarters door). I would have definitely planned our pictures out a bit more and tried to build in a little more time for relaxation. It all happened so fast! And yes, everyone warned me about that, so maybe there's just no way around it.
Figure out which traditions-- if any--are important to you, and don't let friends or family pressure you to do differently. Luckily, weddings are getting a lot more modern so there are tons of options and room for creativity. In terms of "non-traditions," we decided not to do a receiving line, I didn't wear a veil, my husband's sister was our best "man," I had two maid of honors, we had older flower girls, etc. But everything was authentic to us, and as far as I know, nobody seemed to mind. And if they did, it was our day and it was exactly how we wanted it. That's all that matters.
Turn any decision or task you have to complete into a fun event. It makes the whole process so much more exciting, and everyone wants to help or be a part of things. We had a wine tasting night to decide on the wine we were going to buy for the wedding, and turned the food tasting at our caterer's restaurant into a small party with our family. We also had a craft night to make all the centerpieces, and went on plenty of shopping trips with my bridal party to get accessories for all the events. At the same time, don't be afraid to pick things you just want to complete with the two of you.
Let people help. I think we did pretty well with this, but I still know I could have been less possessive over certain projects and let people help a bit more. We had so many offers for help, which I still remember and appreciate to this day! Everyone wants to be a part of your day and make your life easier, so don't be afraid to take them up on it when you can.
Laugh about the things that get messed up. Like you hear from every person who has planned a wedding, something WILL go "wrong" that day. I was actually excited to see what ours would be, since I've heard so many funny disaster stories from weddings. I think imperfection is always going to be more memorable and authentic than something that went according to plan. For us, it was so many little things -- a bird getting trapped in the barn overnight and having a few "accidents" on the tablecloths, wind and rain sprinkles during the ceremony (good luck?), having to run out and buy more champagne glasses, etc.-- but I can't help but smile thinking about them. Let everything happen naturally, and just see where things take you. It'll most likely be hilarious.
Don't feel pressured into saying it was the best day ever. This sounds depressing, but it's not! Your day will be AMAZING, and maybe it really will be the best day of your life. For me, it will definitely go down as one of my all-time favorite days, and I wouldn't have changed a thing. But I like to think that it's a day that marked the start of so many best, potentially better, days to come with my new hubby. How's that for romantic?
I'm a reader and writer by nature, but as every writer knows, it's hard work. My problem is time management. I've heard all the writing tips in the book (no pun intended), and the #1 rule is to establish a routine, write at least once a day, etc. It's great advice, and I haven't been able to follow it. My excuse for not prioritizing the writing I want to do is life -- which is the worst, most contradictory excuse ever.
I like having this blog as a small personal outlet, so I'm *going* to do better at being more consistent with it. I read a lot, whether it's for work or for pleasure, and filling every day with books would be a dream come true.
So I decided to start sharing my favorite book recommendations on here. I've been known to gaze longingly at my ever-growing bookshelf and lose track of time as I try to remember what I loved about all the books on there. Writing mini reviews on here will give me a place to document all my favorites. Plus, I love recommending and lending books to other people, so this can be a virtual glimpse into my library.
I decided to start with the most recent book I read, which I happened to lend to my friend who lives 16 hours away. (Danielle, if you're reading this, I miss my book...and you.) Luckily, it's still fresh in my mind but it made finding my favorite quote a little difficult. If you're looking for a new, refreshing book to read, I highly recommend this one! And I won't give any spoilers :D
"Walking on Trampolines" by Frances Whiting
The description on the flap of the book makes it sound like a "coming of age" story. And while it is to some extent, what I loved was the true depiction of ordinary, flawed human beings. The book was much more than an overdone story about a female heroine finding herself and ultimate happiness. The characters aren't neat and there aren't always bow-tied answers to their problems, or peaceful resolutions. The characters were authentic and real, and I sympathized with certain characters but despised them and laughed at them all at the same time.
Family, friendship and first loves were the main themes of the book. It sounds like almost too many themes and a recipe for cliches, but the book went at the perfect pace for me. Nothing was too rushed or too slow, even with all that was happening.
We get to follow Annabelle and Lulu throughout their lives, starting as childhood friends playing in a tree house with starkly different lifestyles. Their childhoods are painted perfectly, taking you back to both the sweet and dark days of summer. The author really captures the innocence and drama of middle schoolers and high schoolers, so much that you remember what it felt like to think and feel at that age.
The story continues for years after the girls met, with boys, jobs, family problems, pride and an awesome dog getting between them. It's definitely a page-turner, because you get to watch the characters progress through life, and see how their personalities and relationships change. Not every character progresses at the same rate. It's so reminiscent of the journey everyone goes through as they "grow up" that it's relatable to everyone, while still staying interesting.
If you want full characters, a meaningful storyline and a refreshing outlook on what's important in life, "Walking on Trampolines" is it. The title even hints at the subtle, underlying theme: It's hard to walk evenly on a trampoline without falling, similar to life and everything that comes with it.
1. Duncan -- I won't give too much away, but he's the character who adds a combination of sunshine, cynicism and humor to the book. A bellowing radio talk-show host, I could imagine his voice in my mind as he gave brutally honest tough love to Lulu and went through a journey of his own. With a huge, slobbery dog by his side and four ex-wives.
2. Rose & Harry -- they should count as a single unit, because they're the sweetest pair. As Lulu's parents, they're a major part of why she is the way she is. Rose's innocence and fear of living is heartbreakingly beautiful, and it's a gentle portrayal of mental health issues. Harry is the rock, overly eager to love and please everyone. Their relationship shifts throughout the book, but it always feels warm when you get to read about them.
“So who cares? Who cares where [they] have been, climbing the Andes or sailing the Amalfi Coast on some bloody boat. Anyone can get on a boat, Lulu, you just buy a ticket. They’re thousands of us out there flailing about in the ocean, but there’s not that many of you. You’re the one standing on the shore and shining the light, guiding us all in safely.” He picked up a newspaper and pretended to read it. “So fuck ‘em,” he said.”
I've always had mixed feelings about New Year's resolutions. On one hand, the new year is motivation to improve at something, set goals, get rid of bad habits, etc. On the other hand, it's an excuse to try something for a month and then give up once the novelty wears off. I must say, it's January 22nd and the gym was still packed today -- people are 22 days strong!
I'm not trying to knock New Year's resolutions or say they're impossible. I actually love the motivation that comes along with the new year, because I love setting goals and coming up with fresh ideas. It's the follow-through that's hard for everyone, including myself. If you're planning a resolution, or most likely already started one, I think it's time to put less pressure on ourselves. Can't we come up with a resolution that we don't even need to complete, or check off on our mental lists? We're busy enough and keep track of enough lists.
What happened to continuous improvement all year round? January shouldn't be the only month that motivates us. We should work to be better or more successful at whatever we're aiming for all the time, without forgetting about it.
I know...easier said than done. I'm as guilty as the next person at coming home from work, shoving my face with chocolate and burrowing under my blanket for at least an hour a night (simultaneously forgetting about everything I wanted to get done that evening). So I don't have a magic solution. All I'm saying is, I feel a lot more motivated when I reflect on the whole year, think about the things I did, consider the things I want to do, and find the things I want to get better at. Not when I try to pressure myself into a finite resolution that will eventually end.
I'm probably picking apart the ideas too much, but in my true late fashion, I thought of some ongoing goals (not resolutions) for myself. They're things I want to keep doing all the time throughout the future. Not just this year.
Stop flaking on people. If you're a 20-something without kids, think about it: we're never going to have fewer obligations than we do now. I plan to continue being social, going on adventures, and not being afraid to commit to making plans. We're eventually going to reach a point where we physically CAN'T commit to plans because we're being puked on by a 2-year-old or making sure the people we're responsible for aren't going hungry. I'm not going to waste my time being flakey now.
I've had my fair share of evenings where I bailed on someone who wanted to spend time with me, and I realize it's usually out of laziness and not wanting to make an effort. I'm not encouraging spending time with people who don't make you happy, but if that's the case, be upfront. Flakiness is a timid way of dragging out your unhappiness, and it'll confuse the other person.
Ultimately, I would argue that even if you have kids, or dozens more obligations than me, finding a way to prioritize the people you care about will make you happier and less stressed. Aside from money and bills, what's the point of being busy if we aren't spending time with the people we want?
Travel as much as possible... I have friends that live in probably 8 different states, so traveling has become a habit for me. Even if I don't know someone in the area, one of my favorite things to do is take a roadtrip to an area I don't know and explore. The glory of coming home and relaxing after a long trip is also one of the best parts of traveling.
So the next time I feel like I've traveled too much or spent too much money on gas, I'm going to talk myself out of staying home, especially if it's a place or person I really want to see. I might not have enough time to travel in a few years, and my friends might live somewhere else by then. Time is of the essence, so no excuses.
...but don't be afraid to stay home/in if I need "me time." To contradict my last point, I'm also going to stop feeling bad if I have a legitimate reason for not being able to travel, or if I just want to stay in one night. There's a difference between not being adventurous and choosing to spend time alone when it's necessary. When I haven't spent enough time in my bed or at my favorite local bars, finding time to rejuvenate and relax at "home" is perfectly okay.
I love having alone time, but I also love people. I think knowing yourself and taking care of your needs, while making the most of the moments and people around you, is the true balancing act.
Continue eating at non-chain restaurants. This is an easy, non-philosophical goal for myself, and it's something I naturally do. I love trying new food, and local restaurants/bars ALWAYS have better food and so much more character. Hands down.
The rare time I eat at a place like Applebee's or Red Robin, I'm always amazed at how many people are there. I have a laundry list of local places and my favorite dishes at each one -- I actually have to look at the menu longer at chains. Plus, I would rather support a local business with a clear vision whether I'm traveling or at home. If you want any suggestions, let me know.
Keep surrounding myself with authentic, genuine people. It's so hard to connect with someone when you can't tell what they're actually feeling or thinking. I naturally gravitate to people who don't make me think twice -- I know who they are and that they mean what they say. Whether they express that in the form of sarcasm, laughter, kindness, heart to hearts or a bold personality, these people are always the most interesting. I'm happy to say my best friends are some of the most authentic and genuine people I've ever met, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I plan to keep spending my time with these types of people.
And I admit, when I get lazy or tired, it's easy to say something rehearsed or artificial. But I would always rather take the extra minute to be genuine and show someone I care in the hopes that I can give someone a real moment, too.
Not work for things I don't need. I don't need to say anything more than Zac Brown Band's latest song.
"It's the weight that you carry from the things you think you want...I've got everything I need and nothing that I don't." #Homegrown
Addiction is becoming a talked-about subject, as addictive painkillers and heroin continue to increase in popularity across the country. It's easy to talk about the signs and symptoms of addiction, withdrawal, crime, abusive relationships, depression, etc. It's easy to report numbers and look at charts reporting addiction statistics. We'll hear success stories, and sometimes, a brave and honest individual will share a personal story that sheds light on the issue.
But how often do we read something and walk away truly understanding the addicted individual and their behavior? There aren't resources to mentally comprehend it, unless you've been addicted to a substance yourself. It takes a lot of thought, compassion and patience to get to the root of why people hurt others the way they do when they're addicted.
So how do family and friends cope with the highs and lows of an addicted presence in their life, especially when they can't understand it? How do they take their hurt and betrayal and transform it into the necessary support and love the individual needs? Whose pain is the worst: the addict's or the supporters'?
It's a constant emotional roller coaster that's difficult to read about, because there are tons of repetitive low points and barely any high points. The addict feels extreme pain. Family and friends feel extreme pain. Soon everyone becomes selfish and thinks their pain is the worst.
It's a destructive cycle that's almost impossible to describe, but Carly and I wanted to try. If it helps one person out there, great. If anything, hopefully it will give an honest portrait of the destructive path addiction creates for every person involved and the best -- and worst -- ways we dealt with it.
Note: This isn't meant to point blame or judgement. We love our sister and friend who dealt with drug addiction -- this is simply an outlet for us to share our experiences. Every part of our stories has impacted more people than the ones we wrote about, and everyone's feelings are equally as important when it comes to the damage caused by addiction. We don't have answers to who's "right" or "wrong." To keep up with this idea, we've excluded her name and tried to avoid specific personal details.
Like a lot of people, Carly and I grew up together. She's 18 and the little sister I never had. I've watched her jump into a pool fully-clothed after trying to save the digital camera she dropped. I've helped her try to get her Beanie Baby off the neighbor's roof when she was 5. I've cheered for her and watched her kick ass at her gymnastics meets. I laughed at her when we got lost in the woods and she peed herself, only because she refused to go behind a tree. She's strong-willed and hilarious. Even though I know almost everything about her, she recently started college and it's exciting to watch her find herself and change over time.
One thing that has brought us closer over the last year is writing, which is what motivated us to collaborate on this post. I've been writing stories and poems and keeping journals since I was in elementary school, but it took Carly longer to be introduced to reading and writing. When she finally realized she loved it a few years ago, I was ecstatic to mentor her and help her find the best career path.
Her sister is also my lifelong best friend. When Carly and I started collaborating, her sister was addicted to heroin. Carly and I were both experiencing a lot of anger, hurt, and highs and lows. Writing poems and expressing our feelings through writing was what helped us support each other and make sense of it all.
Our story isn't anything special. For us, sharing our experiences and emotions together has not only brought us closer but has fueled some of our best writing. We wanted to try writing together and sharing our story with anyone who feels compelled to read it.
Carly: The bond between two sisters is known to be the strongest one possible. Growing up, my sister and I were as close as two sisters could possibly be. I looked up to her for guidance and occasionally copied exactly what she did.
The three-year gap had no effect on us in our younger years. We were consumed with some of the classic 90s activities like playing with Bratz dolls, watching each other make a zoo on the “Zoo Tycoon” computer game, and creating choreography for shows that we performed for our parents. We also loved to be imaginary horses, which involved jumping over handmade obstacles and gracefully frolicking around the basement. We always came up with the most creative ways to have fun and there never seemed to be a dull moment.
Our personalities have always seemed to have their similarities and differences. I always felt the need to be right and I wasn’t afraid to state my opinion. But even with my bold personality, I was looked at as more of a follower. My sister, on the other hand, had never been afraid to bend the rules and believed so strongly in herself. She knew all the ways to get on my nerves: laughing during an argument, ignoring me while I was making my point, etc. Our personalities caused us to fight a lot, but we always found a way to work it out and laugh about it in the near future.
Emily: Like a lot of families, my parents are close with two other couples. Growing up, we spent so much time together. Between campgrounds, forests, beaches, lakes, sleepovers, amusement parks, the basements of each other's houses and tree houses, we have a story and memory for almost everything. There were always fights and tears, but there was also constant fierce laughter, the sound of running feet and scooters, and whispering as we tried to stay up all night: it was the sound of a perfect childhood.
It's these types of lifelong family friendships that set the bar for what friendship is. As my earliest friends, they taught me how to be a friend and commit to maintaining bonds throughout any life change. In particular, Carly's older sister was one of our family friends closest to my age. She was 2 years younger than me, but we wanted to do everything together. We went from playing in sandboxes and running around in diapers to putting makeup on each other, going shopping, taking way too many pictures when the digital camera trend came around, and eventually trying to go on double dates, drinking alcohol, finding jobs, etc.
We couldn't have been more different. I was a naive bookworm with an independent spirit and creative streak. I came up with ideas and made sure they happened. She was more rebellious and didn't worry about rules -- it was easy for her to go with the flow with a fierce confidence. She had the biggest heart for animals, and loved rap music and scary movies. Our differences and age gap could have easily made us drift apart sooner, but we both fed off each other. We were bold, unafraid to say what we wanted, and could make any situation interesting. We were lively and anything but dull. She may be Carly's blood sister, but she was mine, too.
Carly: It was my senior year but I’m not sure anybody even remembered. Everything revolved around my sister. I couldn’t have friends over if she was home. She had no clue I got accepted to college. I wondered if she would even be proud of me. She continuously betrayed me and my family. I didn't want to hear her name. I kept wishing I could stop caring what she thought, but that never seemed to happen.
You could say this all started when my sister met a guy. He was quite the charmer in the beginning of their relationship, but behind closed doors he was abusive -- both physically and emotionally. I watched him break her heart countless times and it was obvious that he had officially taken over my sister’s life.
They were on and off for as long as I can remember. She would call my mom crying to come pick her up from his house and my mom always would. I could hear the faint whimpers of my sister in her room. Occasionally, I would walk in to try and help, but she would shoo me away as soon as the door creaked open.
I tried to tell her what she should do, but she never listened. I tried everything from completely ignoring her to pouring all my feelings out. I slowly started to hide my feelings and distance myself from the situation as much as I could.
I gave up completely when I noticed I was being stolen from. My sister started stealing coins and dollars from me and my family. The stealing continued and I added up the amount she should have owed me -- I was never paid back. After a weekend away, we noticed she had come to the house and stolen my parents’ valuable jewelry and sold it all for money.
My parents kicked out my sister for a short time after she continued to steal from us. But when they eventually allowed her back at the house, I rarely had encounters with her. She was still rarely home and if she was, she locked herself in the bedroom.
When their rocky four-year relationship finally came to an end, her self esteem was nonexistent. We thought she would be able to pick up where she left off now that he wasn’t a constant in her life. Unfortunately, we would only see my sister once every two to three weeks unless she wanted a ride to or from work.
One afternoon I came home from school and my mom wanted to talk. I can see the look she had on her face to this day, twisted with fear, worry and sadness. It was an expression I had never seen before. She told me that my sister had started to do drugs. I already knew this, but it turned out to be more serious than the previous time. My sister had started to do heroin.
I didn’t show my mom any reaction right away. I simply sat on the couch, said okay, and walked myself to my bedroom. When I got to my room, I closed the door, sank to floor, and sobbed until my eyes ran dry. I looked at my sister’s ex-boyfriend and her drug addiction the same way: I had to always remind myself not to believe her when she said she was done with him/it.
I could see that my sister’s actions were taking a huge toll on my parents. Their feelings were all over the place from extreme anger to overwhelming sadness to paranoia, desperation, humiliation and everything in between. They became stricter with me because there was no way they could go through what they were with my sister again. There was constant fighting between them and my sister, especially when they tried to give advice.
The whole situation made me furious. I didn’t understand how she could continue to do something that was harming her and our family. I started using anger to cover up how I was feeling. It was easier. But on the inside, my heart was breaking because I knew I was losing my sister. I felt betrayed, hurt, confused, and so lost. I didn’t even know who my sister, or role model, was anymore.
There was a regular cycle. She would call and tell me she was clean, and I knew never to believe it. The trust had been shattered years ago. She would carelessly crawl back to something that had been tearing her life apart since the day she started it, and I couldn’t understand it. But I endlessly tried to understand her thinking, so I could at least attempt to help.
The way I had looked at my sister when we were younger took a complete 180. I looked at her actions and focused on what I should stay away from. I prayed that one day I could look up to her again, but there came a point when I realized there wasn’t anything I could do to help her. I gave up.
Emily: As strong as I thought my bond was with Carly’s sister, about 5 years ago our friendship started to disintegrate. It faded slowly and was the type of thing I tried to tell myself wasn't happening, but it was.
While I was away at college, she started dating a guy that treated her and her family terribly. He started out just being controlling -- needing to be with her 24/7 and getting upset when she was with someone else. I remember seeing her for the first time in months and she was fighting with him on the phone for hours, going around in circles and eventually taking responsibility for something she did "wrong." She gave him money, bought him cars, supported him when he went to jail, and let him physically and emotionally abuse her.
As her best friend, what was I supposed to do? I went through cycles. I tried to support her at first, then I tried being brutally honest and telling her the hard truth. When that didn't work, I tried slipping in annoying motherly advice, or nonchalantly told her to "do what you think is best." Nothing worked, and I watched her disappear, lose her confidence and lose herself. And that meant our friendship did the same thing.
She never called or texted me to ask how I was doing. I couldn't go to her for advice, because she knew nothing about my life. It became so exhausting and emotional worrying about her, especially when it felt like she had abandoned me. I would get mad and bitter, but I would always end up reaching out to her and making sure she knew I was there. I always told myself the little things made a difference, but the hard truth was they didn't.
She didn't visit me once during my four years in college. Carly visited multiple times. This lasted for 2+ years, and I grew colder until I eventually decided I could only focus on myself.
Until one day she left him for good and stuck to it this time. I thought she would come back--to me and and to herself.
I had just graduated college and was going through some major life changes, both personally and professionally. When I got home, we surprisingly gravitated back to each other like always. It was easy to forget about the last few years and how betrayed I had felt. We always picked up where we left off, and one of the first days of summer was no different. We walked to the creek, and I gushed to her about everything that was happening to me at the moment. She actually cared for once. I was interviewing for a career while she was bartending at a club. We were more different than ever, but like usual, it didn't matter.
Looking back, I should have noticed signs that summer. I should have done something more to help her. I was going to the lake one day when she called me panicking. This was rare, so I should have taken it more seriously. It wasn't typical for her to be emotional or ask for help -- she typically tried to handle things on her own. But that day, her voice shot through the phone, shaking and speeding through her sentences. She said she was up all night drinking and had taken ADD medicine to help her sleep, but it didn't work. She couldn't stop chewing straws, her mouth was cut up, and she kept saying she just wanted to run.
I remember I was scared and told her to be careful. I think I checked up on her throughout the day, and when I realized she was fine, I went through the rest of my summer without thinking about it. She had always been wilder than me, so I figured she could handle herself. She needed help, but I was so hopeful that she was getting back to her old self that I couldn’t see it right away.
One of the last times I saw her was at the end of summer when our families went camping. It was the same as always, but not really. She tried to act like herself, but she wasn't. She was darker and meaner. She had to leave every couple hours to smoke. She got irritable quickly, and she spent more time by herself than ever. When the weekend was over, we left thinking nothing would change. But it did and already had.
I didn't hear from her for a month or two, and I found out she was addicted to heroin. She lost her jobs and started doing heart-wrenching things for money. She lost her curves and became bone thin with stringy hair. I tried to be there for her. I asked her questions and tried to find sober ways we could hang out. I don't remember if we did.
Things were so disconnected, and there were times when she flipped out on me, telling me I didn't understand her and wasn't there for her. Those were the moments that hurt the most, knowing all the energy and emotion I had invested in supporting her over the years. I didn't understand why she couldn't see it. She only spent time with people who supported her lifestyle. I hated her and the decisions she was making, but I couldn't stop caring no matter how hard I tried -- which made me hate myself for letting her control me. Why couldn't I stop trying to help her, especially when it never worked and she never appreciated it?
I started working and focused on my own accomplishments. I thought about her and hoped more than anything that she was alive and safe, but I wouldn’t do anything else. The only thing I felt good about was being there for Carly who was dealing with much more than I was.
I heard about her going to jail for a night. She contacted me shortly after saying she was going to rehab and that she was scared. I had gotten good at understanding her lies, so I was never sure about the truth behind what she told me. But I talked her through it all night and told her I would visit. I was naive and so hopeful.
Then, she backed out. She didn't go to rehab and she fell right back into her lifestyle. She made it very clear that our lives were separate, and it was tiring to be the one always trying to bridge the gap. Am I terrible for saying this was the point where I fully gave up? I had officially failed. Nothing I could do would help her, and I also knew that my feelings were insignificant compared to what her family was going through. I had never been more disgusted with her. It became easy to, finally, cut myself off.
I expected the worst. I was bitter and cynical when anyone talked about her. Really, I was just trying to hide the fact that I was betrayed, frustrated with myself for not being able to 'save' her, and scared.
Carly: Something must have clicked one day in my sister’s mind because she called my mom crying, wanting to come home. We later found out she was going through withdrawal, which explained her odd moods. My sister had been off heroin for about a week when she called us that morning. For some reason, my parents swore this time would be different, but all of my sister’s attempts before this had ended in failure. I couldn’t bring myself to speak to her.
I felt that ignoring and keeping my distance from her was the smartest thing to do. To be honest, I had nothing to say to her. She had already pushed me so far away that there wasn’t one topic I could come up with to talk about. Awkward stares and smirks were the only personal exchanges we made.
After a month or so, I decided that it was time to say something to her. Since she was no longer the same person, I wasn’t sure what she would be interested in. Everything she had ever done for fun had changed. I chose to bluntly talk about her drug use. Little by little, I asked her all the questions I had wondered during the past couple of years. How did you start it? Why did you start it? Did you not see what you were putting your family and friends through? The questions kept coming, one after another. Although some of the answers weren’t what I wanted to hear, I felt a sense of relief when we finished.
Having my sister home had to be one of the hardest changes to get used to. It was an adjustment, unexpectedly seeing her walk throughout the house, accidentally walking right into our shared bathroom, and arguing endlessly about what show to watch. I kept it to myself, but I loved having her home no matter how many times her mood changed throughout the day.
I still don’t trust her. I’m not sure I ever will, but why should I?
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m not proud of my sister for choosing to quit the drug. I understood that it was a huge accomplishment, but I still don’t understand why she let herself start using it in the first place.
She’s been clean for about 3 months now and I pray that she never goes back to it again. I’m now in college, so when I’m home for breaks, I think we try to cherish the time we have together. Of course we aren’t as close, but that was inevitable. I still distance myself from her at times -- I’m scared the cycle will repeat itself.
Ultimately, we’re sisters and no matter how mad I get at her, there’s a genetic tie that will always keep us connected. That fact has become clear to me throughout everything.
Emily: She's been clean for a couple months now. I'm so proud of her. She contacted me when she finally made the decision, and we met up a few times. For once in our life, things didn't pick up where they left off. Things were awkward. I tried to talk about the things we used to, but did they really matter anymore?
I tried to shove away my selfish feelings of wanting her to take responsibility for being the worst friend possible. I couldn't. It was eating at me. But she didn't say much, and I think she half-apologized once. Part of it was that she assumed everyone around her, including me, judged her. Part of it was probably out of shame and embarrassment. It's not that I couldn't forgive her -- that was the easy part. What I couldn't do was bring back the bond we used to have, especially when I didn't know who she was now. She didn't even know herself.
She's doing well now and experiencing some new, positive challenges as she's learning to support herself in sobriety. In her first few clean months, I didn’t see or talk to her much even though that’s when she needed the support the most. I wanted to. I wished I could be a better friend. But I didn’t know how to get past the damage between us. Did we even have a friendship? I felt the same sisterly love and loyalty, and that will never go away, but I didn’t know how to invest myself the way I used to.
It was cowardly, but I didn’t know if I could get my hopes back up again only to watch her fall back down and forget about me. It felt easier to stay away.
Recently, she reached out to me and we’ve been working on our friendship. Things aren’t perfect, but I have more confidence in her and our friendship than I have in years. She’s more determined than I’ve seen her, and she’s slowly regaining the spark and personality that she used to have. It’s refreshing and I know I had nothing to do with it. It was all her.
I’m supporting her as much as I can. Part of me wonders if I’m falling back into my idealistic way of thinking only to be betrayed again. I struggle with my selfish thoughts every day, but I know she’s making an effort this time. It’s only fair that I can do the same.
My favorite things are the simple ones: day-long book binges, cozy candles, dog kisses, ink on your hands, tree stars (leaves for those of you who never watched The Land Before Time) sweater weather, new ideas, local craft beer, punctuation, and knotty saltwater hair. Desserts are my favorite meal. I'm a creative writer and editor, and I created this space to keep my writing reflexes sharp and to share my simple ramblings with you!