REFLECTION

why i came home from my cross-country road trip a lot more well-rounded and a little less basic

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This all started well before the trip actually began. I was invited to go on a road trip with some of my best friends. They drove from Maryland to California. I flew into L.A. and rode back with them. Luckily my boyfriend had picked up the hobby of hiking and camping during our time apart so I was able to borrow all the gear I needed from him, except the hiking boots.

On a trip to New Jersey to visit, he took me to REI. This store is SO cool but upon initial glance I knew I was completely out of my element. I wore a loose-fitting white top tucked into high wasted patterned shorts, a bunch of pretty bracelets and sandals. I tell you this because every single time I bent over to try on boots my boobs were totally visible to the guys trying to help me find something that fit but also didn’t violate my fashion rules. Yes, I’m one of those. After trying 3 or 4 pairs on and hiking up and down the little “mountain” they have available, I found a pair that would work and spent the most money I’ve ever spent on shoes on a pair of hiking boots. It hurt to swipe my credit card.

My boyfriend decided we should go on a little hike to break my boots in the next morning. What I didn’t realize was that he was taking me to what essentially was a jungle. I don’t deal well with hiking into a green, overgrown forest where I can’t see anything around me after being warned of the danger of bears. I lasted about 15 minutes before he realized I was silently crying and we needed to turn around. I desperately wished I was sitting in a Starbucks with an iced soy latte in my hands because that is my safe place. My boyfriend also makes me feel safe, but just not in a bear infested jungle.

Fast forward several weeks and I somehow managed to pack all my stuff into a tiny designer duffel bag and an over-sized purse. I did give my bigger stuff to my friends to pack in the car but this was still undoubtedly a feat. I usually take 3 bags everywhere I go, not including my purse. I had to get up at 2:45am to shower, finish packing and make it to my mom’s by 4 so we could get to the airport. I find my mom rather saintly for volunteering to take me to the airport at such an ungodly hour in addition to the fact that she had to come inside with me so I didn’t freak out because I’ve never flown alone. Somehow I managed to have a great flight despite two cats and a small child being directly in front and behind me, respectively.

I’m not going to use this post to regale you with my whole adventure, just enough to make my point. So here are the top 5 things from my trip that show some real personal growth (like growing a pair and not being a princess in addition to learning valuable life lessons) and becoming slightly less basic along the way.

1) I felt pretty hot when we went out in Vegas which is not a look I’m used to accomplishing. I was determined to remain classy and put together. I wore a pair of four inch heels without breaking my ankles for hours until I realized that my pain was outweighing my need to be a dignified human and I walked hand in hand with one of my friends to catch a cab. If I told you the part of how I threw a slight tantrum because there was no EDM being played after extensive research on this club and that Calvin Harris was there the day before and after me, you might not believe I became less basic in the slightest…but that was only day 2.

2) I slept in a tent. For the first time. Right outside the Grand Canyon. I was slightly terrified of the forest and any animals that call it their home but I had a blow up sleeping pad that my friends referred to as a raft to ease me into the experience. We cooked pancakes, mac and cheese and quesadillas during our two days there over the fire and I had to repeatedly make a water run to the spicket to fetch water, pay $2 for an 8 minute shower and do dishes in a large cooking pot. Even though at the end of every day I’m positive that we managed to convince a handful of people that we were homeless, that was my first real experience of roughing it and I honestly loved it.

 3) I scaled a real rock wall, barefoot, to get to a waterfall. On the way back I made a bad move with my footing and was stuck. I had a few moments where I was convinced I was about to fall off and crack my skull on the many rocks beneath me as I was rushed quickly down the stream of the fall, but I got it together and made it down. It was exhilarating. I went skydiving last year but that guy jumped out of the plane with me attached to him, I didn’t have the nerve to jump. I am honestly not much of an adrenaline junkie and rarely put myself into any kind of dangerous situation – but that was freaking awesome. Oh and I peed in the woods right before we did that. Such a bad-ass, I know!

4) I drove for 10 straight hours (9 if you count the time change) until 1 am after I declared that I wanted the first driving shift of our all-nighter because I’m useless driving at night. I’m sure this is partly due to the exact opposite of everything I say happening but equally to the excitement of being on a roadtrip with my friends and driving through Kansas during an intense thunderstorm. It really amped me up. My biggest fear is a tornado but I put the American flag hat that I was wearing on backwards and I was ready to go. Didn’t even fall asleep once!

5) Towards the end of the week we decided to drive all through the night to Nashville and simultaneously realized the camp ground we were headed to didn’t have a shower. This meant we would go more than 48 hours without bathing. I instantly burst into tears. While everyone in the car knew I was upset they had no idea I was crying for an hour in the car. But it wasn’t just about showering. A lot of stuff had been building up before this trip and anticipation of finding out about my dietetic internship (which I did not get btw) just needed to come out and the no showering was the last straw. We were driving through the Rocky Mountains and I was so amazed by the beauty of the nature around me and finally convinced myself that the world still turns despite all these problems and worries. I managed to collect myself and be normal and happy again. This was a clarifying moment because I chose to keep being happy when I was grieving my own personal crisis. I didn’t know at the time that I was going to get denied for the internship and while some more tears were shed, that moment in the car where I chose to stop being a baby and put my big girl panties on even though none of my problems were resolved, made me realize it will all work out. And the showering part did work out. We used water jugs filled up with freezing cold campsite water to bathe ourselves in the woods in our bikinis. And no it wasn’t some kind of sexy, soapy, cinematic scene, I promise.

As silly as the majority of this may sound, I seriously overcame a lot of ridiculous fears and inconveniences to daily functioning that I had conjured up over my lifetime. I’m proud of my sense of adventure and for spending 9 days indulging my wanderlust while exploring my country a little more. If you ever have the opportunity to road trip, go – and don’t think twice!

the happiness challenge

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Laying by the pool for a few days during my mini vacation was a perfect opportunity to pick up a book, The Happiness Hypothesis, that I’ve been slowly reading for over a year now. Yesterday I got to the part about how back in the day Benjamin Franklin made a list of 13 virtues he wanted to incorporate into his daily life. To make this happen he made a chart with the 13 virtues as the rows and 7 columns with the days of the week. For 13 weeks, focusing on one virtue each week, he worked on these things, marking a black dot with the virtue he didn’t accomplish or stay true to. He focused on one specifically but did take the time to mark if he didn’t do the others. After 13 weeks the charts got less spotty and he claimed that he was, “by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.” Ben Franklin was a pretty smart guy so I thought it would be cool to make a list of my own virtues and work on them, my own little happiness challenge.

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I didn’t go by “virtues” per say, just some things I would like to improve upon and truly believe will lead to a happier, healthier life. And just for the record I know that I spend a lot of time talking about happiness and I would not consider myself to be a generally unhappy person. I just have a very strong belief that if we’re living we need to be working towards our fullest potential in all aspects (making sure to include relaxation and understanding personal limitations) because if not, what’s the point? So here are my 7:

Thought

Think before you speak, especially when frustrated, angry or intoxicated. I’m a really self-aware person. When I’m around people I don’t know well or don’t spend a lot of time around, I don’t actually think any more before I say things I just tend to beat myself up more if I say something dumb or hurtful. Lately I’ve noticed that some of the things coming out of my mouth just need to stop. The solution? I need to think before I speak. Forgiveness can be given but words are never forgotten.

Gossip

Don’t talk negatively about someone just to talk about them. Sometimes I think the real world is worse than high school when it comes to gossip. Probably because the things you’re gossiping about hold more weight and meaning than they do in high school even thought that’s a super sensitive time when words probably hurt more than when you’re older and learn to let things go or you can separate yourself from the people you’re done with. I have a friend who quickly made me realize by her lack of participating in gossip that I do it entirely way too much and I have so much respect and admiration for her for this. There’s a fine line I struggle with walking. When are you venting because a person’s actions make you feel like you’re going to explode or just talking about someone because it’s something to do and it actually brings you closer to the person or people you’re talking to because you now have something in common – judgment and opinion about someone else where you think you’re better or at least know better. I’m about 100% sure this is going to be the most difficult.

Social Media

Stay off Facebook and Instagram before 9am and after 9pm. I posted a few weeks back about how much influence social media can have on your life if you let it and it can really begin to have a negative impact. I came up with this rule a week ago so that social media wasn’t how I was ending or beginning my day because it shouldn’t hold that much importance. My boyfriend loved this idea and is doing it with me. I slacked about 2 days after I started because it was the weekend and then vacation but those are the times I should probably be using it even less so.

Fitness

Workout 5 times a week. I actually really love exercise. It hurts and sometimes I feel like if I continue I will keel over dead, but afterwards I love being sweaty and feeling like I accomplished something. I love being sore the next day because I worked that hard and seeing the results of the hard work you put in is the greatest feeling. Whether it be running, playing tennis, hiking, zumba, pilates, yoga, weight training or kickboxing – just 5 times a week. Good for me and really not that difficult to accomplish.

Meditation

Quiet your mind, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day. How many times have I mentioned this in blog posts and in conversation? A bunch. Have I started doing it? No. Enough said.

Presence

Be in the moment when you’re with friends, family and your significant other. Putting the phone away to spend time with the people who matter to you and are right in front of your face shouldn’t be too much to ask for but in today’s society ,well at least America’s, it is. I have hurt peoples’ feelings too many times with this one and I want to be living in the moment, not in cyber space.

Kindness

Do something kind for someone every day. One of my favorite quotes is, “throw kindness around like confetti.” It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. It could just be throwing a compliment someone’s way or just not being too lazy to do something for someone who needs it. I have to remember to keep my boundaries firmly in place and to not bend over backwards for people all the time but I just want to remember to be kind and do it every day because that’s who I am and who I always want to be.

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I’m going to start this challenge this coming Sunday. I have no clue how it’s going to turn out, if it will really make that much of a difference in my life or not. But I think Ben was on to something and I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

If you decide to do something like this in your own life, please comment below, or PM me on Facebook. I would love to hear about your happiness challenge!

5 things nobody told me about post-grad life

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Adulting is no joke. It’s been just over a year since graduation and I’ve had time to reflect on some things I hadn’t been expecting or prepared for during this time of transition that I just finally feel I’m settling into nicely. Ranging from depressing to hilarious, here are the top five.

1) distance makes all of your friendships more difficult and loneliness is always hiding around the corner

I spent the entire summer after graduation living in Ocean City, MD with my best friend. Between my two jobs, trips home and friends visiting, I was busy all the time. And then I moved home to start a full-time job. I only have a few friends less than 2.5 hours away from me and I hardly see them. The transition from having most of my best friends no longer than 10 minutes away at all times to moving home is a continual struggle. I miss my friends so much and feel incredibly left out anytime something fun happens and I’m not there. Adding a long-distance relationship into this equation makes it even trickier. I have to actively try to not feel left out when I’m not invited to something that would not have made any sense to have been invited to in the first place. And learning how to just be – to enjoy having nothing to do has been the most difficult task since graduating. Oh and I work in an office by myself with nobody close to my age in the building, out in the country. I experienced more culture shock moving from a community full of students to a small town with limited activities and young people than I did living in Spain for 6 weeks.

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I had a lot of family come down for my graduation weekend and I left the day after. I didn’t have time or energy to go downtown one more time and honestly I felt so relieved. I had this plan to recuperate and basically never get drunk that again. I was way off with that one.

2) drinking is still the go-to activity when all else fails or really just in general

Now that I’ve pretty much tamed my wild college drinking habits this one has me conflicted. I actually enjoy drinking because I like that taste of a lot of alcohol. I LOVE wine. Beer is pretty great sometimes and I could go for a tequila, vodka or gin cocktail at any time. It’s also fun to pretend like nothing really did change and keep on drinking together as the common denominator we can forever hold. We have fun together and more fun when we drink.

The con to this little factoid is that I can barely tolerate hangovers anymore and the thought of drinking calories that are going to work against my diet and exercise to be in the shape and health that I want is painful.

So why drink? Why not find friends who don’t drink so much? Because I love my friends and cannot imagine my life without them. I assume one day we’ll all feel more like adults and have less time to drink together but I hope that the fun we have (when I’m keeping a handle on myself) will never stop.

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3) wearing leggings, yoga pants and norts are appropriate day wear

Now I am a real adult who has to change my clothes at the gym after work because it’s not okay to wear your gym clothes all day. And incase you didn’t know already, “norts” are short for Nike shorts. I enjoy presenting myself nicely and am truly not a lazy person. I actually care a lot about presentation and do my best to look the part of whatever I am doing. However, sometimes the only clothing I desire to place on my body is anything but pants. This winter I tried on an outfit that I would have worn at school in a heart-beat. A large sweater and leggings and boots. Boom, outfit accomplished. When I put these items on I looked at my reflection in the mirror and for the first time ever it was brought to my attention that the hemline of my sweater was just barely covering my crotch. If I had to lift my arms up, you could see it. And it felt inappropriate. As long as you’re not sporting a large and protruding nether region, leggings in college are perfect for the gym, downtown, class and even sleeping in, even if you can see the outline of things. But not anymore. My mother has been pointing this out to me for years and naturally I ignored her but this year, I noticed and it was a sad reality.

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4) hanging out with friends of the opposite sex when one or both of you have a significant other just got weird

All the sudden it started feeling weird to be out in public with one of my best guy friends without my boyfriend and or their girlfriend being present. Shockingly this is also something my mother told me would happen and I blatantly disregarded it. The nature of the relationship I have with my boyfriend is another complication. We started dating right before I left for college, dated for a little over two years and broke up. We met a lot of each others’ friends but we don’t have any mutual friends and trying to incorporate ourselves into our friend groups is pretty awkward for both of us. A whole new lense is added when looking at situations where you’re bringing the new person in to the group and you want everybody to get along just as if it were completely normal to have this other person there. And from our experience, this doesn’t happen. What is the solution? Besides lots of effort, patience and forgiveness with each other, couple friends! Double dating makes the situation so much more relaxed and it’s way easier to build a friendship couple to couple than bringing one person to meet like seven others.

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 5) full time jobs

When I got my big-girl job back in September I was absolutely thrilled. It put me one step closer to becoming an RD and I get to share my knowledge of health and nutrition to help families every day. I really do love my job. Plus the salary and benefits are great for my first job. I can pay all my bills, well only because I live at home.

BUT….

I can’t skip work because without trying to make my-self sound all important, unless I am too sick to be useful, I have to come in. There are people depending on me to be there and usually there is no one extra in our district to cover.

Being late is not okay. This was a great flaw to overcome, my tendency to be 2-3 mins late always. With my internship application deadline fast approaching (more details on this soon!) I have been extra careful to be on my absolute best behavior. The fear of God was placed in me when I left the house late for a meeting the other Friday because I was dealing with some important family stuff that held me up. I sped like crazy down the interstate, pulled into the parking lot, no spaces. I turn around and pull into the parking garage and am following a slow-poke. I finally get into a space and turn my car off. While reaching for my stuff I got a giant paper cut that bled and required me to take another moment to scream and curse in my car before getting out and running into the building. I was late 3 minutes late.

I can’t leave until my shift is up even if all my work is done and sometimes I feel like a prisoner.

I already ranted about this in a previous post but summer break is no longer a thing. This does make vacation extremely exciting and more fun than ever before but some days when the only logical action is to lay by a pool or on the beach all day, I’m imprisoned once more. Wah.

There are prices to pay for making a living. On the bright side, my job is probably reducing my chances of developing skin cancer.

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I genuinely love my life and the process of learning and growing every day no matter how difficult and painful it sometimes may be and no matter how many basic white girl ranting sessions I choose to have. It really wouldn’t hurt to throw these things into a course on what to expect out of life before graduating… but it would be a whole lot less entertaining and fulfilling to not have to go through all these struggles and figure it out on your own since, “life is a journey, not a guided tour.”

comparison is the thief of joy

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When my bathing suit showed up in the mail last week I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to share how far I’ve come in my journey towards fitness and living an active, healthy life, which in turn has given me a body I’m proud of. The only way I could really think to show the change was placing a photo from a year ago next to one today. As I was finishing up my Instagram, I hesitated whether or not to share it on Facebook because there is definitely more of a filter for what’s socially acceptable in your Facebook news-feed than on your Instagram feed.

As my Instagram starting blowing up I waited for someone to like my photo on Facebook and while more time passed without any “likers,” I seriously considered taking the photo down. I felt a little bit embarrassed, wondering if maybe my transformation really wasn’t as good as I thought or that people didn’t want to be associated with a girl who puts a picture of herself in a bikini on the internet to show off. I also wondered if I sounded like I was fat-shaming and if I was going to offend anyone. Definitely not proud to admit that I lost sleep over that post.

But that’s absolutely insane. Why am I letting other peoples’ opinions bring me down or lift me up on such a large scale? Falling into the deep dark pit of determining how awesome I am based on the number of likes I get on an Insta or FB post is a legitimate problem. It was never something I put conscious thought into at first but then I began to compare myself… if this girl has only this many likes on her profile picture and I have three times the amount I must be prettier. And that’s absurd…because who cares?!

The funny part about all of this is that I used to be the most insecure person I knew and that has really changed in the last year. Of course I have moments where I feel less than adequate in many categories, but that’s okay. Social media has made me feel less secure in a lot of instances. The solution here isn’t to stop using social media tho, because let’s be real I’m a blogger and I’m gaining more followers and having more popular posts and that’s so cool! The ability to get my opinion out there and talk about the things I’ve learned and things I’ve done with people who actually are interested in what I have to share is an awesome feeling especially coming from a blog where my original intention was to sell Avon online. I just have to remember to keep myself in check when it comes to not getting the desired number of “likes” or looking less than perfect in a picture.

Let’s back up for a second though because I bet you’re wondering, if it doesn’t matter what people think of me, why did I post that picture? Let me tell you. I did it because I’m proud of my accomplishment. That transformation was a big deal to me. I have always had a tendency to set goals so high that I can never reach them and I have been working so hard for years to get in shape – and I did it!! That is something to celebrate and I genuinely wanted to share that with my friends and family as much as I did the day I graduated from college. Health is important to me, I’m working towards obtaining my credentials of R.D. and eating well and being in shape is part of who I am and who I want to be, I’m at my best when I’m taking care of myself by eating good foods and working out. And I think if you’re proud of your body you should show it off! I used to be a lot more focused on modesty and a statement like that would have offended the tiny little close-minded girl who graduated high school five years ago, but I’m a lot more relaxed post bachelors degree. I think college does that to some people.

I don’t mean show your body off so that you become the object of an inappropriate someone’s desire though, just so you feel good. And I want to stress that that is in no way me fat-shaming or saying that I am better because I lost weight and got in shape. I love all people and to help others be the best, happiest versions of themselves they can be is what I’m all about. Through healthy eating and exercise and any bit of my crazy past I can share to give someone a laugh or feel better for even a few minutes just because they are truly not alone. I think that is our duty as people – to be the best we can be and for me, I am my best when I can run around in a bikini during the summer feeling confident in my body and as the person I’ve fought so hard to become.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Just let that quote simmer for a hot second. I want to have goals and role models but comparing myself to someone else has never turned out to leave me feeling positive unless it’s putting someone else down and eventually I think that’s worse. I don’t want to get bogged down by who liked what. I’m just going to do me, the absolute best version of me that I can and work hard every day to not let any other person’s negative opinion or lack-there-of cause me grief. Cause at the end of the day, the social media show we put on isn’t the one that really counts and our happiness should never dwell there.

what I learned from gaining 40 pounds in college

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A big (no pun intended) part of my journey to the happier place I am today involved the struggle that went along with gaining 40lbs in college. When I graduated from high school I was a size 00. I swore up and down I would not gain the freshman 15. Surprise, surprise, I did. But it wasn’t from drinking, it was from me not realizing a good breakfast at D2 contained almost half my day’s worth of calories, and that calories from snacking while I was up until 2 a.m. finishing lab reports and papers didn’t take long to add up. The second that my jeans got uncomfortably tight I was hitting the gym 6 times a week and eating egg-white omelets and fruit for breakfast.

Somewhere in the midst of juggling schoolwork, family drama from afar, a long-distance relationship and the daily battle of not outgrowing my Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, food became basically the only thing I had complete control over and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I had already eaten that day and how many calories I had left to spend. The guilt I felt walking back to my dorm munching on yogurt-covered pretzels that just tasted too good to pass up no matter how calorie-dense they were was unreal. My nutrition class was ironically the only class freshman year that I got an “A” in. Maybe my new-found ability to analyze the heck out of a food label and count calories in my sleep fueled my worries, but any way you looked at it, I was obsessed.

When I see the pictures of myself now from that time period I have proof that I was quick to get my weight back under control. But at the time I just felt so fat and unattractive. The mirror was not reflecting the truth for me. My clothing sizes told me one thing but what I saw was entirely different and I spent the next year like this – overly self-conscious about a body I should have been so proud of.

Fast forward to October 2012. The day I knew my boyfriend and I were done, I couldn’t eat anything and this continued for almost a week until two of my best friends forced me to eat a bagel and drink some tea. They sat with my on my kitchen floor and made sure I put some kind of fuel in my body. After that day, I was starving, like my body needed to catch up on the calories I had neglected it for so many days, starving and everything went downhill from there.

And then I started drinking heavily. 3-4 nights a week I got drunk with my friends. So that added some calories, not to mention the 4th meal I had after every night out. When I felt alone or sad and just needed something to distract me from the empty depths of myself I ate chocolate, cookies, ice cream, you name it – until I was sick.

I was putting the weight on at a pretty good rate when I got accepted to study abroad in Spain. I tried with a decent amount of effort to shed some pounds for my summer bod but wasn’t quite where I wanted to be when the plane landed in Madrid. I knew I should expect good night life, but I kid you not, we drank every night except 3 nights. For 6 straight weeks. I probably ate 5 meals a day because we never slept. I was so busy living and enjoying my new friends and this beautiful country that all of the sudden I could no longer fit into the jeans I wore the first week by the time we left, 6 weeks later. I knew I had basically overnight gotten fat when my intention was to go to Spain to find myself, returning to America new and improved, bilingual and smoking hot with a tan.

I was so embarrassed to come home. I did not want to show my face, or any part of me for that matter, after having gained so much weight. I didn’t like me so I didn’t understand how anybody else could either. To me, all my inward struggles that only came out when I was wasted were now on display at all times and I just wanted to hide. Every beautiful, peaceful feeling I had in Spain and the love I began to finally have for myself almost vanished entirely because of my fear for what others must think of me and my weight gain. I was not at a place where I could make a change though, the pain and fat-shaming I was doing to myself just made me eat and drink more, perpetuating my dilemma.

It took me graduating and getting away from the constant drinking to start noticing a change but it wasn’t until I moved home that I really began to see a difference. It is easier to meal plan, I hardly drink anymore and after getting into a workout flow I look forward to each day, I’m finally seeing major changes in my body. Not only am I losing weight, I’m toning up. I never really was strong before, just skinny and it’s so fitting that that’s where I am now because I’m stronger on the inside too.

No other thing I’ve ever done is as hard for me to forgive myself for than gaining the weight that I did in college. Being fit and healthy is what I’m all about, it’s my career and it’s a huge part of my life. I couldn’t hide it and it made getting up and putting clothes on the body I hated so much a daily struggle.

I used to be so judgmental and did not understand how people can gain weight. I was just some skinny little girl who wanted to change the lives of overweight people. But now I get what it’s like to not just want to lose vanity pounds but to actually feel unhealthy and be at an unhealthy weight for your body-type. I understand the need to lose weight and the struggle that goes along with it. I think the empathy I have in regards to gaining weight now is such a huge thing for my career.

Sadly I’m not writing about how I was able to love myself even when my outward appearance wasn’t what I strive for, because I didn’t. There was literally only one (drunk) moment when I thought, ” Okay Danielle, so what you’ve gotten a little heavier? You’re still awesome!” And I was nowhere near a mirror at the time. As a current nutritionist and future RD, I don’t believe in accepting yourself at a heavier weight and not trying to be the best you can be, but I do believe in loving yourself as you get to where you need to be. Gaining weight doesn’t make you less of a person, it’s telling yourself you aren’t good enough because of what you see in the mirror that does that, and I finally understand. I’m doing everything I can to be healthy and get into the best shape of my life and some days I’m just going to feel bloated and fat and I have to be extra kind to myself with my inward dialogue on those days. Losing weight wasn’t the thing that made me happier, it was just a result of learning to love and respect myself and finally being able to make the changes that needed to happen to turn my life around from the inside out.

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We only get one life to live so why spend the time you have hating and tearing yourself down when it takes the same amount of effort to do just the opposite?

a whole new meaning to summer

 

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That moment when you realize summer break will never come again until you retire. That hit me today. It’s an awful thought that creeps its way back into my mind the second I kick it out. Obviously the pro of no longer having a summer break is that I have a full time job in my desired field and can pat myself on the back for having successfully completed school and graduating with a B.S. But the con… uh NO MORE SUMMER BREAK. I could seriously have a solid basic white girl cry right now about my probs that aren’t actually problems at all.

Last summer I was in Ocean City, MD with my best friend at her parents’ beach house. That was seriously “the life” and I didn’t realize it at the time. Side note, my other realization today is that I may have set a record for the number of times being broken up with without actually being in a relationship. That’s a whole other blog post… can I get a prize for that tho? But per usual, I let the non-relationship status I found myself holding toy with my head every second that we weren’t where I thought we should be in our conversations and the connection I felt in the time we spent together and I was so glued to my phone and just waiting for the next time we were gonna see each other. Besides the non-relationship drama that I unnecessarily allowed to happen, that summer was awesome. The framily (my friend family, yes, we actually call ourselves that) had our first annual Beer Olympics, we went skydiving, I went to my first music festival, watched fireworks on the beach, I paddle boarded and I worked at J.Crew Factory store and babysat for one of the best families I’ve ever met. I was unbelievably tan, had a perfect running route and could ride a bike down to a pier on the bay every evening that I pleased and all I had to pay for were my groceries and half of the electric bill.

And this is why I’m salty. I was living the life, didn’t even have a clue because I was too busy being caught up in something stupid and I want it back. Of course I’m happy with where I am now and forever grateful to my family for letting me move back home and supporting me and loving me through this transition and my transition-related mood swings. I love my job and cannot wait to turn my dietetic internship application in and get that response. I’m planning a cross-country road trip with part of the framily and helping my boyfriend fill out as many job applications as possible so we can narrow this long-distance gap. Exciting things are happening and I don’t want to give any of these things up but there is just something so calming and perfect about being at the beach. The feel of the sand beneath your feet and your skin soaking up the rays of the sun. Every problem you have just melts away with each wave crashing onto the shore. I’m aching to be back there.

The summer before last I was in Spain and the 3 weeks we spent in Alicante changed my life. Honestly I’ve never felt as whole or happy as I did standing in or being near the Mediterranean sea. Maybe it’s because I was a whole continent away from my problems or maybe that’s just Europe for ya but I need to find that place again, within myself.

Sometimes I’ve gotten my true inner happiness mixed up with me being in a relationship or me having a certain amount of income or me wearing a certain size (0 or you’re not skinny enough) in clothing. I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever been in, even better than the first time we dated. I make plenty of money to meet my 23 year old needs and my body is looking better than ever so why am I so frustrated about not having a summer break anymore? What does it take for me to just feel at peace? I’ve felt a big pull towards finding my way back to my relationship with God and actually admitting that I’m not in full control of everything that happens in my life as much as I want to be and think I am. Maybe that’s a big part of it but I know something else that would help is waking up in the morning and meditating to start my day with a calm, cool and collected mind and sitting down to enjoy my coffee and breakfast for a few minutes instead of snoozing my alarm 3 times and checking my FB news-feed before I even get out of bed. When I mediate regularly I am so much more in tune with my surroundings and feelings and am genuinely happier so I don’t have to fast-forward three seasons to a summer break when I can relax. I won’t have that opportunity again for another minimum of forty years so my drive to find happiness in the now and let the metaphorical waves wash away all the worries of my soul with each breath I take is stronger and more important than ever.

And I have to hurry up, because summer’s almost here! 😉

 

1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila, floor

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The other day I made a very out-of-character decision and chose to not go to a club with my girlfriends in DC because I desperately want the changes I’ve been working so hard to make actually be made, once and for all.

It’s just over a year now since I had some help in realizing that there is a problem with me and alcohol. Not that I can’t go a day without it or that I purposefully get wastey-faced to forget my problems, but that I seem to be unable to monitor my intake when I’m in an environment surrounded by binge drinking. I get caught up in the fun and the shots and having drinks bought for me. If I have to (and clearly when I say “have to” I do not mean in a life or death situation but you know in college and post-college drinking games) chug beer you might as well just say adios, Danielle. And then sometimes I do STUPID things, embarrassing, relationship-ending things. It’s bad enough just doing something stupid, but to not always even know what you did and to have to be told about it because you can’t remember….I don’t want that for myself anymore. As I’ve let you in on a bit in other posts, it’s hard for me to not care about what others think and it’s a continual process for me to let go of some of the ridiculous things I did but also the physical and emotional pain I caused myself along the way. A continual, slow process.

If I were a quick learner when it comes to myself, I would have caught on to this little tid-bit of an alcohol problem the first time I ever got drunk and in the midst of a frustrated gesture due to the disappointment of losing beer pong, smacked my wrist into a wall and was escorted from the party by my roommates while I cried. That was the night “that girl” was born and I have yet to leave that title in the dust for good. It’s so freaking frustrating!

I thought maybe if I didn’t want to be “that girl” I would simply stop being “that girl.” I tested my theory many times and even though I was occasionally successful and cannot explain to you what in the world makes the difference between a good drunk night and a bad one, apparently declaring you no longer have a drinking problem just isn’t how it works. I finally get that in this situation success means not setting myself up for failure. If that means sitting out the fun sometimes, that’s what I have to do. Let’s be real what am I missing out on when half the time I can’t even remember what happened?

And you’re probably thinking, “why can’t you just go out and have fun with your friends and not drink?” I can. And I have, but let’s be real it’s not very fun to be the only sober person in a room full of drunk ones. It’s just putting a lot of temptation in my reach and once I’m out with my friends and I’ve had one drink my ability to keep tab on myself and my level of intoxication is poor. I just have to do what I have to do. No matter how frustrating or sad or pathetic that may be, that’s where I am and as much as I hate having to come to terms with the fact that I have a problem with alcohol, when I put the price of living a happy, normal life to it, it’s 100% worth it. Plus now I don’t have to worry about the dreaded calories of alcohol that add up so fast, not just during a night out but also the day after when I’m hung-over and the food groups seem to narrow themselves to bread and cheese….hot summer body, here I come!

It didn’t take me long to realize after my boyfriend and I got back together that I didn’t want to lose him again. Part of that commitment is not putting myself in situations where I’m getting too drunk and behaving inappropriately/idiotically. It’s time to grow up a little bit. I don’t just have my life to look out for, I have our life together as well and that’s something I didn’t get as a 20 year old college student. I’m not beating myself up over that one though. Why should I have understood that? I thought I was like thirty years old from the time I was about seven and I was constantly worried and rushing my life on to the next thing. I think I needed to go wild and fall apart so that somewhere in putting myself back together I could finally get a grasp on what’s important to me and what I want out of life. I know I came out a better person because of it.

It’s an amazing thing to find healing and embark on a journey of bettering yourself. I would never wish this kind of self-destruction on anyone as a method of figuring life out on the way back up but it’s an incredible feeling to watch progress being made and to know that even the deepest, darkest of the rock bottoms can’t keep you down forever if you don’t let them, if you start making better choices.

sorry not sorry

 

My lack of ability to set boundaries is so apparent I once had a close friend buy me a book on learning how to set them. *Insert shocked and embarrassed iPhone emoji here.* I never finished the book but what I did read was super helpful… so I should probably finish it… and it goes hand-in-hand with my unwritten resolution to stop with my frequent use of the word sorry.

Simply put, I like to make others happy because it makes me feel good. But in reality it’s more like: I like to please people so much that I bend over backwards to make others happy and if I upset someone I have sleep-depriving anxiety until the situation is resolved or I’m far removed from it. Ew. That sentence is just gross and I’ve been actively working on this issue. But the problem is I’m not a selfish person by nature so it’s actually difficult for me to put myself first but sometimes I get so overwhelmed by a situation where I am never getting what I want because I’m not able to properly communicate my needs for fear of upsetting someone or being the “bad guy” or the “bitch.” After time this builds up. The pent up frustration becomes all consuming and I find myself whining the situation to death to my poor friends and family who get sucked into listening to it. Double ew. It’s proving to be a continual struggle to move from the state of mind of “sorry” to “sorry not sorry” to just being able to make decisions that sometimes consider my needs above others and live with that.

I was explaining this to my therapist, how sometimes I just want to stick my nose up in the air and stop being so nice because I’ve had it. And he laughed at me. His feed-back was that I think in extremes (big surprise there) and I don’t have to just be a mean person or a nice person. It’s not black and white. Apparently while becoming the people-pleaser that I am, I built myself a box and I live solely within those lines. It shocks and upsets everyone (myself the most) when I step outside what’s holding me in place. So my newest goal is to some days be a circle instead of the square I’ve built for myself. I’ll start with small circles at first to make this transition smooth and avoid the appearance of having developed multi-personality disorder.

This is the best photographic representation of the person I would describe myself as, and sometimes feel like I’m aspiring to be, when I get out of bed every morning. Radiantly happy. I never want to lose sight of my values and the way I care about others, I just want to gain the ability to say no and not die of guilt for saying it.

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rewriting happily ever after

 

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Who is prince charming? Disney tells us he is the man who finds the girl’s glass slipper after midnight and will stop at nothing until he finds her, saving her from her evil step-family. For me he was the handsome, funny and all around wonderful guy who I met in the dim light of Hollister, winter of ’09. He didn’t find my lost flip flop but he stole my heart. We started dating officially only a couple of days before I went to college. He asked me to be his girlfriend after making me my favorite breakfast ever: chocolate chip banana pancakes. Everything we did was fun and perfect and cute but after he moved back home and our distance grew to a grand total of 8 hours, I spent all my time missing him and waiting for our next chance to be together.

I didn’t make any friends until the second semester of my sophomore year and then I was suddenly a social butterfly. Apparently having a social life in college means drinking. But I had never consumed more than 3 wine coolers at this point in time. I didn’t understand what a tolerance was let alone my own. This wasn’t a good mix. I got myself into a bad situation where I made a giant mistake. And suddenly my world was crumbling around me and I was boyfriend-less. Except this wasn’t just any boy, he was the one I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. I felt a piece of what I figured was my soul break off and float away while I cried my eyes out to my mom on the phone. Bare with me for a second I’m not going all emo, I promise, but I had to shed a little light basically on why “5 life lessons I learned in 2014” was written. I made a mistake. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but this particular one was a doozy and it had consequences. I could have learned from my mistake and moved on, I had all my friends and family right there supporting me and ready to help pick up the pieces of my broken heart, but instead I socially drank myself further into denial. I also acted slightly crazy and often like a child which makes total sense because my parents got divorced when I was the ripe age of 5 and my therapist says I was “parentified.” Excuses, excuses I know. But at least the fact that I had this backwards spiral at age 21 makes sense. It would have been more convenient if I had figured some of this stuff out beforehand, but such is life. I have learned so much about myself in the past couple of years and I needed that. I wouldn’t be the person I am now and who finally after 23 years Iooks in the mirror and loves herself without all of this craziness. I’ve heard that’s when you can fully give yourself to someone else, when you love you. And I’m ready for that.

So I’m sure you can understand why I’m only 99% sure that I’m not dreaming right now because my prince charming and I got back together last weekend. After I had texted him for directions on how to take the PATH into NYC with my friends at the beginning of January, we started playing Trivia Crack and then I pondered for a few days on whether or not we could be friends again. I asked and got a reaction that was way more enthusiastic than expected. We started texting occasionally and then we were talking and the next thing I know we’re meeting in Philadelphia (we just picked somewhere in between where we both live) to see if we still have that spark. Walking hand in hand around the city, to the Liberty Bell and up the Rocky stairs we found that our spark was indeed still there. More like a flame, burning stronger than ever. I have been waking up with a smile on my face for weeks. And yesterday I swear I smiled for at least 8 hours. So many of our friends and family are rooting us on and sharing how happy they are for us. That’s the icing on the cake. I never in a million years thought this would ever happen.

I’m feeling incredibly lucky but it still sucks to be the bad guy. The one who broke up such a good thing. But I know I needed the lessons I learned during that time apart and we’re going to be able to overcome it. Earlier this evening I was thinking about some of the things I’ve done and how I don’t want those labels to follow me forever because although I’m not a criminal I expect better of myself than some of my actions in the past few years. I was texting my brother about it and this was his response, “no one labels you as those things, everyone labels you as the extremely nice creative successful ball of sunshine that you are.” That was quite the loaded compliment and reaffirmed how I can stop being so hard on myself all the time because I have been fighting to get to the place I want to be and to become the person I want to become and that’s something to be proud of. It’s funny because I also have done a lot of other things in the past few years I am super proud of but it’s so much easier to dwell on the hard parts.

Getting back into a relationship with someone who you already dated has completely different rules than the first time around. We had some tough stuff to talk about but we’ve figured out enough so far and there will surely be some bumps in the road just like any relationship has, but we’ve overcome so much and both learned and grown and now we get to bring all that together again. Matt and Danielle 2.0.

This fairytale didn’t get a happily ever after the first time around but that’s okay because we get to rewrite the ending.

how lucky I was to get it all wrong

The day after I made the first reflection post on my blog, my little brother sent me a text of approval for the post as well as this picture. He snapped this without me knowing during a hike in the spring of 2013 and sent it to me last month thinking it would be really fitting for a future blog post. Thanks, bro.

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I have zero recollection of the thoughts crossing my mind at this moment in time. If I had to guess, they probably had to do with not wanting to go in to work that night so I could spend more time with my brother, being happy that I had burned plenty of calories that day and of course the peacefulness that goes along with sitting on top of a mountain overlooking your little part of the world. I truly love being places that make me and all of my problems feel so small.

There is this thing that has followed me since I started college, not sure that it’s dramatic enough to be considered a blessing or a curse, so it still remains nameless, but when I make declarative, sometimes life-changing decisions/statements, the opposite tends to happen. That is what this picture reminds me of. I sit back and ponder what I want from life and what I’m going to do and then the plan that has clearly been decided for me wins. And I’m okay with it because I feel like I’m in the right place; I’m where I need to be. But it would be a lot less exhausting if I could make the right choices or even just say the right things initially. Maybe one day that will be the case but for now at least it leaves me with some comedic relief in hindsight.

Rewind to February 2014. I decided to take a year off from pursuing my dietetic internship and move to Charleston, SC with one of my best friends, because I would NEVER move back home after graduating. I quit my serving job the following month because I had enough funds to get by until graduation and I wanted to enjoy time with my friends and needed the weekends free to do so. Fast-forward to May, my furniture has already been picked up by her family, we are about a week away from deciding on an apartment and then the financial crisis hit. I was going to have to pay 2 months rent for Charleston before I even moved down, I had to get my own car insurance which would at least double my current monthly payment, oh and there was the minor detail of my exit counseling for student loans where I was supposed to budget the next 10 years of my future including a hefty monthly payment and I didn’t even have a job lined up. I had to back out of moving to Charleston and it was devastating. I cried a lot that week. I had just graduated and already adulthood was proving difficult. I wanted to run back to Blacksburg and stay in the safe little bubble also known as college forever.

I was quickly distracted though because at the end of that week I was moving to Ocean City (where now I had to stay since I wouldn’t move home and I couldn’t move to Charleston) for the summer with one of my college roommates and best friends. Her parents have a beach house there and I was going to just relax and have fun, spend a lot of time getting back into shape and getting a tan. I wanted to mediate, do yoga and FORGET THAT BOYS EXIST because this was my last summer before life got real and I needed a break. So naturally, I met a boy the first night I’m there that I just had to have and we had a summer fling. Somewhere in the midst of all this my dad and stepmom convinced me to move back home at the end of summer. Despite my two part time jobs, I was running out of options at the same rate I was running up my credit card bill, so I painfully agreed.

At the beginning of August some of my friends peer pressured me into skydiving which was an amazing and crazy experience in itself but what came of that was even crazier. I changed my profile picture the next day to a photo of me looking pretty terrified right before I jumped out of the plane…actually I didn’t jump, it was more like I fell out of the plane with the guy who I was strapped to. Anyway, I got a message that night on FB from a girl I graduated with and ran into at Winchester Medical Center when I had shadowed a dietitian there the previous winter. I couldn’t open the message that night because we didn’t have internet at the beach house and I forgot about it until about 11am the next morning. She had seen my profile pic change and that jogged her memory about a job opening for a WIC nutritionist position in Winchester that she thought I would be perfect for. The application closed in 5 hours. Thankfully I was baby-sitting that day and was able to bang out the application in between playing with and feeding the most precious four-month-old I’ve ever met.

My hasty application must have been of decent quality because I got an interview. And on my way home I ended my summer fling. I was interviewing for a big-girl job, moving back home to save money and trying to make something of my post-grad life. I felt so empowered and I was ready for a real relationship which clearly wasn’t coming out of spending the whole summer with this boy. This was the first time I ever ended things without having a back up plan…over the past couple years I had been such a sucker for needing a boy in my life to feel self-worth. I did it and I was SO proud of myself that I immediately called my Charleston friend to tell her what I did. That’s how big of a deal this was. But within a week he texted and still wanted to be friends and the next thing I know we’re doing cute couple-y things like ending a perfect day of visiting wineries by playing scrabble on my bedroom floor and spending rainy days arm in arm so he could hold the umbrella as we wandered favorite cities. Aside from a few important things we had in common, we weren’t really compatible so where was this really going? I didn’t have an answer to that question but I was hooked. There were feelings and it was comfortable and right when I thought I was ready to take things to the next level he was done, 3 days before Christmas. I think the worst part of that breakup was my hurt pride… and trying to get rid of the awesome snowboarding goggles I bought him. Of course parts of me missed him and our friendship and whatever you call what we had but more-so I felt unwanted and lonely and it sucked. I wished I had just put my foot down back in August when I had been feeling so brave.

I did get that job and it’s perfect for where I need to be right now and I may even get to do a paid dietetic internship here. I’m also getting a second chance with my prince charming all because I texted him for specific directions to somewhere we had gone together before, right at the beginning of this year. And I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been dumped when I had. Fingers crossed there will be more to come on this topic at a later date..

The last little bit of insanity I want to share is about my car. It was a 2005 dodge neon that my aunt and uncle bought for me at the end of my jr. year of high school. I never really liked it but I appreciated it because it was a free car that got me from point A to point B. A couple weeks into January my aunt started talking about getting a new car so I considered buying her old one just to move up in the world of cars a bit but as soon as that thought began it ended. I DID NOT NEED A NEW CAR.

Two weeks ago I was driving to work just like I do on any other Wednesday. At a stoplight I looked down at my phone, honestly because I get bored sitting in traffic on my way to work every day and the temptation of my smartphone entertaining me is so easy to give in to. I saw the traffic move forward so I let my foot off the brake and bumped into a tractor trailer because it suddenly wasn’t moving forward anymore. That horrid, indescribable feeling when you’ve done something you so badly want to go back in time and erase crept up my spine. My hood was crumpled but the truck didn’t stop and we were in the middle of traffic so I just kept going to work. I followed it for a few minutes and nothing. I pulled into a parking space at my office and got out to asses the damage but I wasn’t alone. Some old man who had seen the incident and followed me to work got out of his vehicle and started telling me how much money it was going to cost to fix my car and then another coworker got there and saved me right as the tears began to flow.

My car was totaled and with the insurance check I had enough money for a decent down payment on a brand new car and some left to pay off my credit card bill that hasn’t come down since I quit my serving job almost a year ago. Prince charming talked me into a Subaru which I never would have thought of purchasing on my own and I’m in love with my car. It’s exactly what I wanted and I didn’t even know it.

So no matter how strongly I think and feel and declare, whatever is meant to be will be. That thought is equally terrifying and thrilling. It makes me want to put an active effort into smiling even when things seem bleak because I have been blessed beyond what I could have imagined during countless times when I felt like everything was going wrong. I’ve had this quote from Buddha saved on my desktop for over a year now but I’m finally ready to listen: “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”