Happy Birth Month

I spend most of my days (Monday through Friday) asking people to verify their birth dates to either give them test results, complete their appointment intake, discuss treatment options, or talk about anything confidential. Birthdays are bitter-sweet for many people. It’s a day to mark when our earthly journey began and to celebrate the lives we have lived so far along with the life we have yet to live. As you get older, birthdays sometimes become lackluster and lose their appeal. Many people decide not to celebrate them at all. I have always been a birthday enthusiast and celebrate the whole month of September as my “birth month”, but as I have gotten older (my last birthday in particular), I found it difficult to get excited about the day’s arrival.

When you are a kid, birthdays mean gifts, parties, and attention. When you reach the age of ten, you are finally “in the double digits”. Being a twelve year old means being a preteen. Thirteen is the beginning of teenage years. At sixteen you can get your driving permit. Being eighteen years old means that you are “officially an adult” and being twenty-one makes you legally able to drink and go to clubs (not that that has ever been my choice location to inhabit). But after that, birthdays kind of lose their meaning to some people. I have seen women worry about their 30th birthday approaching…and then their 40th. Working with women who are older than me means that I have heard all about “the change” that is menopause and any mid-life crisis that may arise. We focus so much on youth and beauty that sometimes it can be overwhelming to have your birthday as a reminder that your youth is slipping away.

Whenever I tell someone about my over-the-top celebration of my birthday, they are shocked and ask why. Let me tell you why…Because every year that I get to celebrate my birthday is another year that I made it out of this crazy whirlwind alive. It’s another year of love, laughter, happiness, tears, sadness, anger, frustration, heartbreak, excitement, growth, and so much more that I have accomplished. It’s another year of meeting new people, learning new things, and spending time with the people that I hold dearest to my heart. Sure, I am getting older, but why is that a bad thing? Some people aren’t lucky enough to ever make it to my age. I know that I almost didn’t. I could have been stuck as my sixteen or twenty-year-old self in the memories of those I have met, but instead I get to celebrate the life that I am so incredibly fortunate to live. I get to kiss my husband goodbye every morning, be frustrated and then in awe of my Mia puppy, pay bills for a house I call a home, and do my best to help the people around me. No, the sun doesn’t shine brightly every day, and yes, there may be rain clouds that curtain my perspective at times, but I am so grateful to be able to have those bad days because that means that I know what good days feel like too.

So this is my plea to you…please celebrate your birthday. Hell, celebrate your birth month, because life is too short to care about being older and too precious to not appreciate the little things. You have made it another year here on this planet and that’s worth celebrating.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Growing Your Skills: Writing

I’ve always loved to write. I started with writing songs and then transitioned into poetry. Later in life I enjoyed writing short stories and journal entries. I’ve always toyed with the idea of writing a book,  but that’s a project for the future.

My writing style has changed over the years. Sure, my blog posts are informal, but my personal works are more dramatic and dynamic. Writing is a way to paint a picture in someone else’s head through descriptive language. It’s a way to create a new world and bring others along with you to explore it.

There are many ways to develop or hone in your writing skills.

  • Read more frequently. Reading descriptive novels will grow your vocabulary, help with sentence structure, and recognition of how language “flows”.  After high school I stopped reading for a while and I could absolutely tell the difference in my writing.
  • Practice your writing. Even if it’s not a big project you’re working on, practicing your writing will help you to find your style and figure out what works (and doesn’t work) for you.
  • Step out of your comfort zone. If you enjoy writing short stories, try your hand at poetry. If you normally write blog-styled entries, try writing a descriptive essay. Learning to appreciate other forms of writing will help you to integrate pieces of those styles into your own projects.
  • Read what you write out-loud. When you are reading in your head, you may unintentionally skim over parts that need some TLC. Take your time and read what you wrote out-loud to yourself, a friend, or your pet. When you hear how it flows, you might decide that a sentence or two could use some adjustments. This also helps when you are working on punctuation. If, when reading out loud, you naturally pause in the sentence, it may be a spot that needs punctuation.
  • Copy and Paste. Whenever I decide to delete a sentence or try to reconstruct it, I always copy the original phrase beforehand just in case I want to go back to the previous way I wrote it. Another tactic I use is to not delete the sentence at all until I have figured out how to reword it. Instead, I will rewrite the phrase in front of the original sentence. This helps me to compare things that I liked about the first sentence to the final phrase that I will use. Once I have decided on a rewriting, I will delete the original phrase.

 

These are just a few of the things that I feel have helped me to grow as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I am no professional author, but I do enjoy the art of writing.

What are some tips and tricks that you have used to develop your sense of style and writing ability?

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Fearing the Hunt

We are officially house shopping and it is both exciting and terrifying. The house that we are renting right now (my grandmother’s house) is going to be on the market soon, so we are hustling to find a new living situation. We toyed around with the idea of renting, but ultimately buying seems to be a better option for us. We started searching and found a nice home in a familiar neighborhood that is close to family.

My husband is in college for his nursing degree, so right now my job is our sole income. This means that I will have to make the phone calls and plans necessary for this journey. If there is one thing that you need to know about me, it’s that I hate talking on the phone. It’s such a weird phenomenon. Half of my job is spent on the phone with insurance companies, pharmacies, and patients and it doesn’t bother me much, but when it comes to making my own personal calls, I am terrified.

One of my coworkers gave me some good advice today when I confided my fears in her. She told me to pretend that I am at work and that it is my job to make those calls. So I put on my professional voice, faked confidence, and called the realtor. And do you know what happened? Well, for starters, the world didn’t end. We have an appointment with the realtor to see the home we like. I contacted a mortgage agent at our bank. We will just keep swimming.

Sometimes in life we have to do the things that terrify us, but once we do those things, we realize that what we fear is the unknown. I don’t fear making phone calls because I think it’s going to hurt me, but because I don’t know what the person will ask or say. I don’t fear spiders because I think they will kill me, but because they catch me off guard and I don’t know what they will do. But once those things are taken care of, I always realize that it wasn’t so bad and next time will be a little easier.

Try to focus on the benefits you will get from overcoming those fears. If making phone calls will help us acquire a house, then it is worth it. If being on a cliff will allow me to enjoy the view,  then maybe it’s worth it. Growth comes from going outside of our comfort zone and making ourselves uncomfortable.

We might not like it now, but it may change our lives for the better.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Experiencing the New Year

I hope your holiday season is going well! New Years is just around the corner and I can’t believe that 2018 is coming to an end. I have a lot of plans for 2019 and I am excited to see the opportunities that it brings. I have always been a person who thrives with a planner. I need a place to write down my schedule and my plans that isn’t my phone – I haven’t warmed up to the online planners and I hope I never do. I’m a paper and pen kind of gal.

This year I have finally made the leap to a bullet journal. (I got mine from Target) This way I can create the perfect station for my life while tracking what I feel is most important. I hope that a bullet journal will help to keep my priorities in line. I have created a few pages including a January 2019 planner, a list of healthy vegan snack options, a birthday list, habit tracker, “experience” page, book list, movie ratings, winter bucket list, and a mood tracker. There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest for personalizing your bullet journal to fit your lifestyle.

2018’s word was “Adventure”, but 2019’s word will be “Experience”. I thought a lot about what I want for the upcoming year and what word will lead me in the right direction. This year was my first time assigning a “word of the year” and I feel like it was incredibly successful. I kept a running list in my phone of the things that I accomplished, places I went, and things that happened in my life. I thought of an adventure in a super broad aspect and included any and all events in our life. I’m going to include a couple of things from my list below in case you are curious

  • Binghamton Devil’s hockey game (3 times)
  • Corning Glass Museum
  • Hens Teeth Primitives shop (twice)
  • Strange Brew for brunch (twice)
  • Literature Reading at SUNY Broome
  • Syracuse Mall: mirror maze, WOB, melting pot, rope course, P.F. Chang
  • Hosted Easter Dinner with in-laws
  • Maine Vacation: antique shops, lighthouses, bakeries, beach, hiking Mt. Battie, food poisoning, Sea Dog Brewery, transportation museum
  • Making new foods/products: Peanut butter, hummus, shampoo, palak paneer, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, lotion bars, zucchini bread, Sweet and Sour Chickpeas
  • Strawberry Festival
  • NYC: Staten island ferry, the MET, the MET Breuer, Central Park
  • bowling
  • Hancock Vendor Fair
  • Photo sessions
  • New living room furniture and television
  • Surprise visit to family camp – played beer pong for the first time and won (granted I was the only sober person)
  • Shooting Range
  • Dirty Dancing Musical Performance
  • Howe Caverns
  • NYC bus trip with my mom
  • Started a new job
  • Created my blog
  • Family wedding in NJ – stayed overnight in hotel
  • Hosted vegan Thanksgiving with in-laws
  • Boudoir photos

There are so many other awesome memories that are listed on my “Adventure” log. You don’t realize how much you accomplish in a year until you look at it all written out. I definitely think that some of these things were accomplished solely because of having the goal of adventure this year. I have a hard time getting out of the house and trying new things, but this has been a huge motivator for me.

Although I have done a lot of things this year, I feel like I don’t truly experience life. I get caught in my own head entirely too much and this year I want to focus on living in the present and experiencing life instead of just watching it fly by.

What is your goal for 2019? Are you going to have a “word of the year”? If so, what is it?

Make these last few days count!

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Keep Moving Forward

I know I’ve posted a lot about how difficult winter can be for someone who struggles with mental illness, but today I want to write a little more.

My first admission to a psych ward was when I was sixteen years old. I don’t want to go in detail because I’m scared to trigger someone, but I was in a bad place emotionally. It was December 20th, 2011. Ironically, I’m writing this on the same date seven years later. My anxiety was preventing me from sleeping more than two or three hours per night and it lead to a psychosis. I was hearing, seeing, and feeling things that weren’t there. I was terrified that those things would hurt me if I told anyone, so I dealt with it for a while before I broke down. I was admitted to a children’s psych ward and was inpatient for a month while they stabilized me on medications. I was angry at my parents for sending me there. I missed Christmas and New Years at my family’s house. I missed weeks of school. I missed my anniversary with my then boyfriend. But my family missed my funeral. My family didn’t have to miss me.

When I got out of the hospital, I switched schools. We thought that changing schools would fix me and there wouldn’t be problems anymore (I’ll save more of that connection for another post). It helped for a while.

During my senior year of high school, a friend committed suicide. He wasn’t my best friend or someone I hung out with all of the time, but he was a friend. He was someone who always knew when something was wrong, even if we hadn’t talking in weeks, and would make sure that I was okay. And when he needed someone, I wasn’t there. I didn’t even realize how badly he was hurting. He was always the funny guy, the person who could make anyone laugh. That was a tough time for our whole community. I was in shock. I couldn’t talk for days. For me, it hurt that he died, it hurt that I didn’t help him, but it also hurt because I realized how I would have made the people around me feel if I had ended my life. I promised that I would never again do something to hurt myself.

For a while I did really well. I’m talking years that I never self harmed or had suicidal ideations.

This next part isn’t as clear for me. I remember waking up in a different psych ward on December 20th several years later. What I do remember from the few days before that is just a compilation of stories that other people told me. This was the last time I have seen my father. He was there when I woke up at the hospital and he told me how selfish I was. I told him to leave and never talk to me again. He listened. The guy I was dating at the time never visited because he relapsed and went back to prison (after stealing money from me). I felt horrible. I felt alone.

To be discharged, I had to move back in with my mom and her husband. I returned to work a few weeks later and that’s when my now husband and I started hanging out. So much has changed since then, but I will never forget everything that I learned. I am so incredibly grateful that I wasn’t successful at committing suicide. I wouldn’t say my life is perfect (nobody’s life is), but it’s pretty damn good. I never would have thought I’d go back to school to be a nurse and get married. I never thought I would be in a relationship that builds me up instead of tearing me down.

There is so much about the future that is unknown. Things may seem unbearable now, but trust me when I say it’s worth it to keep moving forward. The darkness will eventually slip away and a better day will be on the horizon.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Dear Younger Me,

I have learned a lot about life since high school. The past five and a half years have been a whirlwind of opportunities and heartbreak. I often think about what I would tell my past self if I could go back in time.

I would tell myself that things seem hard now, but it will get better. When you are in a situation, things seem so overwhelming and like the hardships will never end, but this is only temporary.

Don’t let unimportant situations bring you down. When something is bothering you, think about if it will matter in five years. If it won’t, then don’t waste your time and energy dwelling on it.

Don’t worry about what others are saying. When people say mean things, it’s a reflection of who they are, not who you are. Don’t let the negativity that they feel bring you down. Keep your head high and know that you are more than other’s words.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. You might not realize it now, but you are beautiful and one day you will look back and wish you noticed it in the moment.

Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Don’t let a man or your fears prevent you from seizing the moment. Take that missions trip to Europe,  join the Peace Corps and go to Africa, enjoy the rain forests of Costa Rica, and road trip to California. You will never regret the chances you took, but you will regret missing out on opportunities.

It’s okay to be young. Don’t try to grow up too fast. You will only be eighteen once. You will only be nineteen once. Being the youngest person in the group isn’t a bad thing. You have your whole life ahead of you and soon enough you will have a ton of responsibilities to worry about. Enjoy the freedom.

Don’t be sorry for everything you do. You aren’t an inconvenience. You aren’t bothering people. You are worth more than you realize.

Sometimes the people that we love will hurt us the most. It’s okay to say enough is enough and leave the situation. It doesn’t make you a weak person; it just means that you value yourself enough to realize you don’t deserve to be treated that way.

I don’t regret anything that I have done in the past because it lead me to where I am today, but I do realize that I learned a lot over the past few years. I’m grateful for the lessons I have learned and the opportunities that I did take advantage of.

Reflection harbors growth.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Gap Years

It’s easy in this day and age to compare your life with those that you see on social media. I am in my mid twenties and many of the people I went to school with now have bachelor degrees and their dream jobs. I tend to dwell on this subject as though I have become a slacker. Newsflash, I am not the only person my age without a four-year degree. I decided to take a couple “gap years” between high school and college and I am so grateful that I did.

A gap year is time between high school and college that a person uses to develop maturity, passions, skills, experiences, and knowledge that will help them to decide a career path and be successful in the future.

I was seventeen when I graduated high school and I wasn’t ready to make a decision that would alter the path of my life so drastically. I went to school at a private university that was $47,000 per year before scholarships and financial aid. I lasted one week. I went home for the weekend and found out that the allergic reaction I was having from my new body wash and shampoo was actually head lice and scabies. I was mortified. I returned to my dorm to pack up, treated my stuff, and then left for good.

I spent the next few years developing skills and learning things that would be vital for years to come. I built my photography business for the first few months. Then my mom started leaving the local newspaper on my bed with a job listing for housekeeper at the local hospital circled every week. Eventually, I applied, interviewed, and accepted the position. I learned so much about myself and about working in general during that job. This was my introduction to the medical field. The two years that I spent at that job taught me about teamwork, training new employees, managing aggressive behaviors from others, prioritizing responsibilities, patient centered care, leadership, among other things.

From there, I worked as a nurse’s aide at the hospital for a year. This is when I decided that I wanted to become a nurse. I loved my job as a nurse aide and I loved getting to interact with the patients. Financially, it was going to be difficult to go back to school. It didn’t seem like it was in the cards for me, but I got lucky. One of my patients contacted administration and said they would like to pay for the rest of my schooling. After all financial aide, I was short about $5,000 and I was so grateful that a stranger was willing to help me. So I went on to LPN school in Pennsylvania. It was the cheapest and quickest option at the time.

My mother is an LPN and my grandmother recently retired from being an LPN. I spent my whole life fighting against being a nurse. It’s something that I never even considered for the future and taking those gap years helped me to realize what I actually was interested in. I was much more mature than when I graduated from high school and when I did go back to school, I was ready. I worked hard and already had some experience under my belt that helped me throughout my schooling.

Now it’s my husband’s turn. He is currently going back to school for his RN and once he is a nurse, I will go back for my RN. We both took time off between high school and college, but I am so glad we did. I would have a degree in photojournalism and struggling for employment right now while buried in debt.

A gap year isn’t for everyone, but there is nothing wrong with taking time to figure out what you want in life and who you are. Your whole life is ahead of you and you are never too old to learn. Sure, I may not have a bachelors degree yet or my dream job, but I am working toward that goal. And I have a lot of real-life experiences that other people my age wouldn’t understand.

Listen to your gut and follow your heart. Life is about balance.

Love Always,

Elizabeth