Life Musings

Reflections of a Guilty Cookie Thief

I was feeling guilty about not posting more regularly, but then I started to think more about this guilt of mine… 🙂

In my childhood bedroom, to the right of the ladder of my loft bed, a bin of Breyer horses sat on the floor. Every other night or so, I would sneak two wafer cookies from the kitchen: the rectangular kind, either strawberry or chocolate, with a thin layer of icing in the middle. While I darted up the stairs with cookies in my pajama pants, I forcibly relaxed my face muscles so as to appear nonchalant, but I tried so hard that I probably looked sedated.

Not a wafer cookie, but these are better – I love them. ❤

 

Years later, I was inadvertently reminded of these stealthy Cookie Nights during a high school cross country practice, when my coach suggested that we relax our face muscles while running to avoid expending additional energy. “Relax your face! Let it all go!” The memory returned to me again as my coach yelled these words during a race, leading me to momentarily reminisce about cookie theft and childhood innocence. My reflective abilities dwindled as I continued to run, but post-cross country reflection has led me to the conclusion that there are several major (and somewhat disheartening) distinctions between childhood and almost-adulthood. In my life, and based on the lives of other twenty-somethings in my life, one of the greatest of these distinctions is our capacity (and willingness) to experience and express guilt.

During my time as a cookie thief, I did not feel guilty during or after the theft – probably because I never experienced failure. Each Cookie Night reliably ended in the consumption of two cookies, and because I was never caught, I never felt guilty. Strange, then, how I began to feel guilt over minor transgressions by the time I reached the age of six.

Guilt and remorse are vital emotions to cultivate as we become older – granted that they are expressed appropriately, in the aftermath of human missteps that, whether deliberate or accidental, will invariably hurt others. The evolution of my personal guilt has been a tumultuous and mysterious one. I have always been quick to smile and laugh, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve been even quicker to say sorry, driven by an innate need to please others. In doing so, I’ve often hidden myself, apologizing for the words that fall from my mouth in the fear that they will hurt, offend, annoy, disgust.

Writing is easier. Words come more readily and while my fingers flitter and stumble over the keyboards, uncoordinated typing is a welcome alternative to verbal stumbling. As of late, my tongue seems less cooperative and the guilty beast inside of me is decidedly hangry – but when my throat starts to form the word “sorry,” I’ve been trying to verbally combat it with “NO! I AM NOT SORRY!” It sounds excessive and has become comedic, particularly around my family members. I apologize for merely taking up space in a corner of the kitchen while trying to get a dish, my dad gives me a knowing look, and I have to counteract myself: “Wait! I’m not sorry!” My verbal white-out is a short-term fix, but understanding the root of my guilt – and associated feelings of sorrow and even anger – will require more time, new people, new roles, and new places.

I am CURIOUS:

  • Do you experience a little/ a lot of guilt? How do you react to your guilt?
  • When has your guilt actually served you well (i.e. been an appropriate response)?
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2 Things I’m Loving and 2 Areas I’m Struggling In

Hello, hello!

I have been following some blogs throughout the year without actually doing any blogging myself. My blog kinda-sorta materialized last summer, and while I had aspirations of maintaining it throughout the school year, I lost the motivation to write regularly for an audience (although a very tiny audience!). I kept up my highly irregular Google Doc “diary,” but just didn’t feel like it was the right time to share it with other people. Looking back, however, I don’t think there was ever a right or wrong time. And, with summer vacation starting and my contact with other people besides my family drastically reducing, I’ve felt a bit (or a lot) lonely, and really want to develop my sense of community somehow. I’ve thought about camping out at a nearby Starbucks by the local community college, just so I can be in the company of other people my age… but that would require (my conscience) to purchase a drink, and my budget usually won’t allow it. 🙂

So, I’m going to try to post here on a fairly consistent basis (hopefully, hopefully): both to build community and get some of my thoughts out, which my brain would probably appreciate. I haven’t written in a while, so I’ve decided to prompt myself into doing so: a fairly simple (but hopefully somewhat relatable) list of things I’m loving, and also some things I’m generally struggling with. There’s always some brown spots on life’s bananas… but you have to recognize that they’re there in order to make banana bread (cringing at that one just a bit!).

(I’m interspersing the loves and the struggles, to avoid making a positive/negative divide… they just are what they are!)

Struggle #1: I am struggling with my art!

I’ve always been into art, but I was definitely a lower-key artsy kid, avoiding both the dyed hair and piercings at age 11 (although I finally caved in and got a nose piercing at 20!). I’ve been feeling nostalgic about the spontaneity and irregularity that characterized my childhood art-making days: randomly, I would be struck with an idea, I’d sit down and draw/paint/mold it without a reference or music or a podcast playing in the background, and finish and be fully satisfied with my work. The idea in my head was enough to keep me going, and I didn’t need any background noise or fastidious planning and measurements to make sure my work looked accurate and “just right.”

These days, it’s just not so. I don’t really have a drive to create anything for me, seeing as most of what I do now are portraits commissions and other things that are supposed to be marketed toward a general audience. I haven’t really figured out a solution for this yet, or at least some kind of coping method, but would love to hear from other artists or creatives (which is really everyone) on what they do when facing creative crises. 🙂

Love #1: Lenny and Larry’s Choc-o-Mint Protein Cookie

…I know it’s probably better to bake your own protein cookies from scratch, but I’m not a huge baker (yet), and I love these cookies. They make dense, sizable cookies which are my FAVORITE kind of cookies. This new flavor is the bomb.com. Also, I microwaved a peanut butter flavored Lenny and Larry’s cookie this morning, and it was a good idea.

Struggle #2: Loneliness!

I think this is largely correlated with coming home for the summer after wrapping up my sophomore year of college. I miss my suitemates and other college friends, I don’t have a ton of high school friends in the area (my closest two friends from high school are big travelers, so I see them very rarely), and I’m already beginning to look forward to the next semester. Current combatants to loneliness include: hanging out with my younger siblings when they’re available, and listening to podcasts (specifically, the Stuff You Should Know podcast; I feel like I know those guys!!).

Love #2: My friends.

With my loneliness comes the realization that I have truly wonderful, awesome people in my life (there’s the banana bread). It makes me excited to return to school in the fall, and grateful that there are people who love and appreciate me just as much as I love and appreciate them! Friends are awesome, yay college! A huge progression from my first year of college, for sure.

That is all for now, but I hope whoever stumbles upon this might relate to some of this! I would love to hear from any of you, and hope that you have a wonderful, fantastic Memorial Day (if you’re in the USA…) and week ahead! 🙂

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First Day of Spring Semester: A Whole Lotta Change.

Among my roommates, the general consensus is that we are excited to be back on campus, but NOT excited for the classes to commence, and subsequently having to use our brains for thinking, calculating, repressing the urge to cry in a professor’s office when the going gets tough… etc.

I certainly share these feelings of hesitance and reluctant change. However, I know that as soon as I get a feel for each course, and hopefully get excited for the often zany professors that teach them, I’ll be much more eager to dive into the world of academia without fearing the inevitable homework load that surfaces in my wake.

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I’m not sure how water imagery factored into my back-to-school assessment, but maybe it’s telling me something that I am not consciously aware of. One of my closest friends is a very earthy, hippie personality, and she firmly believes that we can often identify the urges of our subconscious selves by analyzing our everyday words and actions. Sounds just a bit hippie-dippie, but having spent so much time with this friend over winter break, I am more receptive toward alternative ideas surrounding spirituality and what it really means to be me, for you to be you. 

Maybe the qualities of water – fluid, clear, crisp – are applicable to the start of a new semester, and really, a new year. I had a tough conversation with my dad two days ago on the drive back to school, and it has prompted a flood of strong emotions over the past few days. Guilt, sadness, frustration, anger… but also hope, a bit of excitement, faint but definitive readiness, and an increasingly strong will.

I’m ready to, and I need to, make the next leap into my personal journey of health and wellness. It’s so easy to pretend – and even start to believe – that your “personal problems” are solely affecting (and potentially hurting) yourself, and that you can continue to plod along silently as long as you’re not hurting LOUDLY – and therefore hurting the people you love, and who love you. I’m grappling with the guilt, the need to ignore the roots of this guilt in order to function as a college student, and the simultaneous need to address these roots if I have any hope of moving forward in a healthy, productive way.

This is where I’m at. Everyone is where they’re at. This seems obvious, but it’s something I’ve been reminding myself of repeatedly: I can’t blindly judge others, nor should I judge myself, because we are positioned – however precariously – at various peaks and cliffs along the tumultuous terrain that is life. My peak is not better or worse than someone else’s; it simply is, and my ability to accept it as such is the only way I can leap, hop, swim, run, or walk while listening to a podcast (my favorite mode of transportation) to a new spot, representing a new, different, and hopefully better period of my life.

In conclusion: I would love to hear thoughts on how you deal with change in life, and if you’re feeling antsy, excited, etc… for the new year, and the changes that tend to come with it!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Wednesday, and ready to tackle any change(s) that might be underway. 🙂

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New Year 2018: Not Running Away From Clarity

I’m finally sitting down and cranking out a blog post: the first one of many more for this year, I am hoping! When I’m in “the mood”, writing/aggressively typing has proved to be a great outlet for me, and I’ve decided that I just need to take the plunge and do it: that is, write/post on a weekly basis, even if it’s just for me. Now, it’s just a matter of sticking to this resolution of sorts – although I am hesitant to label it as a resolution, given that I rarely make them for fear of falling short. Perhaps my chosen theme of this year is to quit feeding into this fear – not of failure, necessarily, but of clearly articulating my goals. When I slap a label on my objectives, on the things I want to do and the skills I want to improve, I get excited by the clarity of my vision, but I often find myself more disappointed when I clearly “fail” (in my eyes, at least) to meet these goals that were so clearly laid out for me in the beginning.

This probably all ties back to my fear of criticism. I am the kind of person who scrolls past my professors’ feedback on my work and solely focuses on the grade. BAD! But I do this. As long as the grade meets my expectations, I often will not read any of the feedback. Or, if the curiosity is killing me, I will just briefly glance over it, and as soon as I see a quasi-constructive criticism – AH! I tend to shut down, close the email, or recycle the feedback sheet – whatever it takes to kill those criticisms dead.

This is certainly a self-protective mechanism, and in some situations (i.e. in courses that aren’t as critical to my majors), I think it is a good practice for someone who is already quite self-critical. But with regards to most courses… I know I should be more receptive toward criticism, making this a goal alongside my continuous aims to improve my artistic skills and academics. Summing all of these thoughts up, I think I have a fear of clarity: that is, clearly articulating visions for my future, and being aware of my strengths and weaknesses as they relate to those goals. And, of course, these attributes are thoughtfully articulated by my professors who I am paying to teach me and improve my skills. So, I might as well buck up and incorporate their feedback in a more meaningful, receptive way.

This is not a very exciting post, but I hope that it serves as a segue into a year of sharing my thoughts and growth, particularly as they relate to my artwork, career, college life, and health. I am also excited to be more involved in the blogging world, and join a community of people who are invested in understanding themselves and others through writing. I follow a lot of blogs as a silent admirer, but I want to be more vocal this year. 🙂 So, here’s to the beginning of a fabulous new year, and for pursuing our aims with fearless clarity.

 

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On Being an INFJ, Being Real, and Being a Leader.

Hello, blogging world!

I have been settling into the hustle and bustle of college, so while I have been writing a TON for classes and just for my own reflection, I haven’t doing a great job of actually posting anything on here… but I’m back!

Although I have quite a few of them, one of my main goals this year is to become more active in the blogging community. I love reading the ideas and insights of others, and I hope that I will have an opportunity to share my own by keeping this blog fairly up-to-date. 🙂

So, to begin this: I have been thinking A LOT about personality traits lately – both my own characteristics and those of my loved ones.

One of my closest friends sent me a postcard from Denmark over the summer. She’s been traveling across Europe for over a year, but we have managed to stay fairly updated on each other’s lives and occasionally crazy exploits. The front of the postcard is emboldened with the words: “Skal vi ses I virkeligheden?”, or “Shall we meet in reality?”

This friend is one of the few people who can really, truly see me: the one who recognizes that beyond the apparent seriousness and diligence of an overly-anxious student, there lurks a closeted goofball who is known by her loved ones as a maker of funny noises, a devout podcast listener, and best friend to her nearly eighteen year-old brother, who happens to be way cooler than she is.

In this postcard, my friend writes how she is looking forward to getting to see me “in reality again – where we can act half our age or have inspiring life talks all within the course of an afternoon.” I think this dual capacity for goofiness and authenticity is the essence of my relationships with the people I love and trust. I am able to understand myself and others best when I allow myself to be myself: an unapologetic reveal of who I am in reality.

“Authenticity” is a buzzword in the leadership and service organizations that I have been involved in as a college student, and rightfully so. In some form, I think many, if not all of us are pursuing relationships in which we feel comfortable with being “real”, both with ourselves and with others. As an artist, I have the opportunity to capture, refine, and share my conception of reality through art. I express my opinions subtly, but also with vibrancy and certitude, in keeping with the “silent-yet-deadly” style that characterized my leadership as a soccer player during high school. Regardless of the roles we play and the identities we assume, I think we all embark on a similar quest for “real-ness”, or a collectively defined reality – but does such a thing exist? Even if it does not, we seem to be constantly grappling with the nitty-grittiness of what it means to occupy these small human bodies, living with other small people in a comparatively ginormous world.

Still, I don’t think we should be frightened by the notion of our insignificance. Rather, I think the finitude and frailty of our human existence should inspire us to live freely, to speak honestly, and to lead powerfully, because who the heck cares if you royally screw up a few times in the process? Really, it’s only a handful of people, if you’re comparing your span of influence to the entire world population. Fear of failure is an obstacle that has plagued me as a Myers Briggs-defined “Idealist”, specifically an INFJ, but I feel that my love of ideas ultimately keeps me afloat. Ideas are my soul pancakes: they drive my art and enable me to express myself authentically, even if I feel confined by outward constructs and expectations.

Granted, some of these expectations are self-imposed. According to a strengths assessment that I took for a leadership class, my other strengths include “Intellection” and “Responsibility”, so I am well aware that I can be a bit harsh on myself. Over the summer, however, I feel that I improved in my ability to give myself (and others!) grace. I tend to ruminate on past failures and become internally frustrated with myself, as well as my friends and family members when they fail to understand me – but how can I expect them to understand if I am not transparent and real? Going into the summer, I repeatedly asked myself this question, and made an effort to simply move forward from failures, experiment with new artistic methods, and be a little more spontaneous in terms of spending time with family and friends. I also tried to verbalize any frustrations I had with family members instead of bottling them up inside. While it can be hard to get a point across to my sassy pre-teen sister or my excessively macho brother, I think I succeeded in being real with them, at least more so than I have in the past.

Ever since identifying as an INFJ, I feel as though I have a better understanding of my past, particularly my childhood quirks and occasional awkwardness. I spend a lot of time musing about various issues and future possibilities, and I often struggle to articulate these thoughts to others. One of my close friends recently remarked that I was an enigma to her, to which I responded, “Same.” Given that my enigmatic nature may be rooted in my personality rather than a character flaw, I want to utilize my natural tendencies to share ideas and create meaningful change. Specifically, I feel that my reliance on feeling and intuition, combined with my preference for order and planning over spontaneity, gives me a unique opportunity to lead others through art, writing, and discussion. 

Although I have only a few extremely close friends, I still want to treat others in the way that I approach an empty canvas (sans out-of-tune humming and occasional angry muttering). With drawing, I cut to the raw and real; when I have an idea, there is no time for dilly-dallying and uncertainty, lest that idea dissipate into thin air. You just gotta get that shit down on paper (excuse me), even if it’s the crappiest effing drawing that your pencil has ever had the misfortune of creating.

This is similar to the point in a relationship when you simply need to be real and honest, and determine based on the other person’s reaction whether that relationship has the potential to progress to the pinnacle of awesomeness. If not, so be it. But, suppose this is my relationship with someone, and it does have potential: I want to continue to be real, instead of withdrawing for fear of rejection. I want to trust my intuition, and share my world, ideas, and thoughts accordingly, but I also want to listen and support my friend as they attempt to do the same.

These are some of the thoughts that send me into the Wikipedia vortex in the wee hours of the night. In this winding and topsy-turvy pursuit of the “real”, I often refer back to my personal philosophy of leadership that I identified last year: “silent badassery.” To be a “silent badass”, I wrote, is to speak and act according to what “lights our minds on fire and causes our voices to tremble,” and to “uphold our corresponding beliefs, despite the potential for disapproval, misunderstanding, and (gasp!) controversy.” I think I possess some qualities of the silent badass, such as independence and a fierce commitment to my goals, that I can develop throughout the remainder of my college experience. While “silence” remains a defining characteristic of my leadership style, I have often conflated my silence with permissiveness, hindering my ability to work with and lead “in reality” others. The issue isn’t necessarily blatant inauthenticity, but rather, a fear of stirring the pot, throwing my opinions into the mix, inviting others to do the same, and ultimately challenging one another’s beliefs. In large group situations, where it is inherently difficult to make one’s voice heard, I find myself feigning permissiveness and neutrality in lieu of social conflict. This is problematic, particularly in today’s political environment. I want to be respectful of others, but I also want – and need – to be myself. I owe it to my friends, family members, and my classmates to be my complete self, so that I may tackle each day with realness, awareness, and a healthy dose of silent badassery.

As will often be the case, I feel the need to apologize for the length of this post, and commend and thank anyone who read it all the way through. I would LOVE to hear insights on this tricky and complicated topic, likely made more complicated by yours truly.

Have a wonderful and beautiful weekend!

Hopefully where I will be spending my weekend… in nature, camping!

 

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Fa-la-la-Fall 2017: It’s Never Too Early to Listen to Christmas Music.

Hello, friends! As I tuck away the last few items into my suitcase and cram a few more stuffed animals and boxes of cereal into my van (surely, these are all necessary for adulting), I am truly starting to get excited – and nervous – for the upcoming school year. I guess the nerves are warranted: new living situation, new and old friends, more classes, and more “big life decisions” to be made. But for right now, I really want to focus on the things that will bring me excitement and joy this year – one of those things being FALL!

I love leaves. And pumpkins. And listening to Christmas music in October.

Since most of my brain energy has already been spent remembering last-minute-things to bring to school before I leave tomorrow (razors! leggings! Random desk chair I found in my basement?!), I’ve decided to just make a list of things that I’m excited about, because that just seems easier on my brain right now. So please enjoy the following cathartic release of all my fall-related joys!

The pumpkins and the plants.

There’s a ginormous park with hiking trails and beautiful gardens by my school. It has an entire greenhouse devoted to succulents. These days, it seems like succulents and borderline-millennials like myself are becoming more and more like the classic PB&J combo… and I embrace this with no ounce of shame. 😉

Anyway, at this park… long, gravel paths intersect at grassy junctures with benches and rose gardens, and there’s one wide path that leads to a gazebo and fountain. It reminds me of the garden in Princess Diaries. Sigh.

It’s also a fabulous place to take photos or just unwind before major events (insert: finals and midterms). My friends and I visited the gardens about a week before finals, and we didn’t even talk to each other while we were there. We just wandered around like lost souls, stroked flower petals, and took photos in the succulent greenhouse.

Like this one. 

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And I whispered all of my hopes and fears to a turtle in the Japanese Garden.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but the little critter was a great therapist! Finals came and went, and when my friends and I returned to our normal human selves, we all agreed that we would visit the gardens before our next round of finals. I am SO excited to see some of the seasonal plants and the pumpkin patch – hopefully before finals so that I’m considerably less stressed! Although I’d be down for some turtle therapy any time.

Listening to Christmas music is finally “socially permissible”!

…Controversial, certainly, but I’ve been known to break out the Michael Bublé Christmas soundtrack in late September. Apologizing in advance to my roommate.

Pumpkin Spice flavored Special K, Life, and Cheerios!

I love Pumpkin Spice, and I love cereal, so naturally, my mom sent me all of the pumpkin spice-flavored cereal she could find in my first care package last fall. Yes, my mom rocks. 🙂 My personal favorite is the Special K… who can resist those yogurt clusters??

Getting to see my family in November.

At my school, there’s a special weekend in the beginning of November for families to visit their students, hang out for a bit on campus, and stock up on much-needed supplies. I was very silly last year and only brought about half of my closet from home. So for me, the weekend was basically devoted to bringing the rest of my clothes from home to my dorm and buying more clothes from TJ Maxx. But I love my family and was feeling some major homesickness at the time, so shopping with them (even though I am not a shopper!) and being barraged with “I told you so”’s was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Thanksgiving.

I spend Thanksgiving with my immediate family, which is honestly so nice. No need to dress up and have awkward conversations about politics – we just wear our pajamas all day, play soccer on our front lawn, and watch movies after dinner with pie and tea. It doesn’t get much better than that.

In addition to family Thanksgiving, there’s the additional benefit of “Friends-giving” with school and work friends! Hopefully my friends and I will be able to cook in our new apartment this year, as opposed to smuggling food out of the cafeteria. 🙂

Painting/ drawing by myself in the art studio at my school.

I love my friends and family, but I definitely need a lot of “me time” for art and generalized thinking. When the main art studio on campus is empty on Sunday mornings in the fall, I get ridiculously excited. Despite the huge windows (helloooo world), the studio was a cozy autumnal hide-away for just me, my pencils, and unrestrained Christmas music. This year will be similar to last fall, although I’ll be replacing my pencils with paintbrushes. I’m excited, anxious, and hesitantly hopeful for my first painting class ever!

This is certainly not a comprehensive list. I sacrificed a bunch of other fall favorites, in the interest of time and with the knowledge that I tend to ramble – so a sincere “thank you” to any of those who stumble upon this list and decide to read it, or at least skim!

For me, this a great way to get pumped for school (which can be hard to do), slowly shift from summer to fall, and begin this school year with gratitude, hope, and motivation.

Adios, Summer 2017!

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Back-to-School: Boo-yah or Boo-nah?

The title of this post is so terrible but I just had to. Basically, I am feeling very ambiguous about my return to college-land in less than a week.

 

Some days, I’m like “boo-yah!” I get to see my roommates and few other close friends in less than a week. We will dance in our apartment, dive into the decorating process, and dine at the sketchy but delicious Mexican restaurant just a few blocks off campus. I’ll get excited for my painting class, my first class of the year (and simultaneously terrified – I’m not a painter… yet). I’ll stroll along the path through our campus, alone or with a friend – or maybe just a podcast – and think about the upcoming year.

 

But some days – or just fleeting moments – my thoughts fall more into the category of “boo-nah.” In a lot of respects, I’ve had a lovely, restful, reflective summer, and I am not entirely ready for it to be over. I’ve had meaningful conversations with my younger sisters, brief but precious moments with my brother – soon to be a senior in high school – and nostalgic talks on the phone with my two best friends from high school, one of whom I haven’t seen for over a year. I miss that closeness – geographically and emotionally. My struggle with anxiety really intensified last year, and I am scared that the impressions I left on my peers will prevent me from deepening some of the relationships that I had begun to develop. I experienced panic attacks for the first time (one occurred in front of my speech class…), and while I know I “shouldn’t” feel embarrassed about it, I sometimes feel like my mind betrayed me in that moment. Embarrassment came before the sense of betrayal, but now that I’ve had time to reflect (and borderline-ruminate) about it, I feel like my anxious self was wholly separate from my “typical” self, leading me to become way more vulnerable than I would have ever been comfortable with. Particularly in a room of mere acquaintances.

 

But why were these people just acquaintances? I’d had classes with them for almost a year. They were in the same program as me. There were only 13 people in that class. I want to let them in, but I also don’t want to be seen as fragile, unpredictable, overly-emotional, difficult to be around.

 

How much of “it” – this struggle to connect, to open up, to be vulnerable and to be honest – is me, and how much of it is them?

 

I talked to my best friend on the phone today and got a good cry in (the kind where you can still verbalize so that the other person probably wouldn’t know that you’re crying, but she knows me so well that she knew I was crying and told me to just let it out… from 5,000 miles away). It hurts to think about some of my struggles from last year and the potential for them to recur this year, but it is also a beautiful thing to know that you have people in your life who will be there forever, regardless of distance and time and mental health issues and wrinkles and weight gain (the latter two are especially dumb, dumb, dumb things to exert mental energy worrying about… but I am guilty).

A synopsis of my rambling: this year, the most I can do is to “zoom-out” and focus on these greater truths, rather than zoom-in on the trivialities that might otherwise steer me away from kind people, sweet friendships, romance (?), and damn good peanut butter.

And bread. 🙂

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