You Wanted Girlfriends, Right?

I don’t like being challenged. I don’t like people challenging my mindset, beliefs, goals, feelings, habits, actions… you get the point. I don’t like being accountable to other people. Still, I’m the one who has been asking for better friendships, and better friendships are meant to push us past ourselves.

One of the reasons I don’t like being challenged is because I hate having to defend myself. I am an incredibly reflective person and I often need time to gather my thoughts and figure out the best way to approach a topic. Having to defend myself on the spot means there’s no time to rehearse my point of view or gather supporting sources for the information I present. I have to think “on the fly,” and that is not easy for me, so I end up stumbling over my words and seeming unsure of my position which—as someone who deals with anxiety—makes me want to retreat into myself where all the challenging voices are my own.

The thing is, I can’t continue to do that if I want my friendships to be deeper and stronger. My attempts at avoiding the discomfort of confrontation tend to translate to others as passive-aggression, and that leads to a host of other problems in the relationship, including more confrontation. I learned that over the weekend. I learned that even when I try to deal with my feelings alone, my friends are still affected, and it causes them hurt and frustration as well. I learned I can hash out an issue with a friend in a way that allows us to express ourselves, hear each other, create solutions, and move forward.

I also learned that I can be proud of things I participate in even if they don’t “look” like me.

I’ve spent a lot of my life in conservative Christianity. Not like the conservative evangelicals who are picketing outside abortion clinics and trying to destroy democracy and who are not actually a reflection of Christ at all; but the ones who believe in waiting until marriage to have sex, dressing modestly, and “guarding the avenues of your heart” by avoiding certain types of entertainment and conversations. Because of that upbringing, I have held parts of myself back for a long time and molded myself to that image when navigating public spaces.

Over the past few months, I have been enjoying a new project (a podcast) with one of my cousins and one of her friends who has quickly become one of my friends. The thing that makes it so interesting is we have had drastically different upbringings and we have very different personalities and views as well, yet we tend to come together on a lot of subjects. These women don’t navigate the world from a place of restriction the way I have been, so they are able to discuss things with much more freedom than I feel.

I find myself still concerned with the way other people will see me and the assumptions they will make about me, especially from a conservative or professional lens, and I let that affect me in that I have not been publicly sharing the podcast. And it came to a head in recent weeks after our last episode came out.

Keep in mind, I am actively evaluating and reframing perspectives that were built on religious traditions and imposed upon me, and I do not subscribe to the traditional view of “professionalism,” however, I found myself in a place of discomfort and uncertainty.

Although I have always stayed true to myself in our conversations, I am also used to having certain conversations in private and I was concerned about how I would be viewed—personally and as a professional who is trying to gain new career opportunities—by those hearing the conversation. I started to question whether or not this was something I wanted to continue participating in. But I had to realize that not everything I participate in is going to look like me. In all honesty, most things I participate in aren’t going to look like me. Heck, my religious community doesn’t even look like me.

The podcast is a reflection of us. There are three of us with very different ways of speaking and understanding and living, and so long as I stay true to my authentic self when I open my mouth (or type up a message), it should not matter if the conversation goes in a different direction than I anticipated. Because, as a whole, this podcast has forced us all to grow, to learn, and to be accountable to ourselves. It has given me girlfriends. And as challenging as that can be sometimes, I asked for it, and it’s what I needed.

Year is Halfway Over, Book is Halfway Finished, I’m Halfway Between Homes, and I Don’t Have an Accountability Partner

What a weekend! We packed up my childhood home and moved into an apartment an hour away. You don’t realize how much stuff you have until you have to pack up a four-bedroom house. I’ll be honest and say we were not prepared for the house-selling process. We did not think ahead to sell the good furniture or donate the decent items we didn’t plan to take with us. We didn’t purge enough of the fluff. Also… my mom has a lot of little items—nurse figurines, cruise souvenirs, unopened crystal dishes from her wedding 35 years ago, a stash of gift bags and bows, etc.—that were stashed around the house.

This was my parents’ first house, and we lived there for twenty years. I was in middle school when we moved in, so I grew up in that house, and it was the center of our larger family gatherings for much of those twenty years. Most of our stuff is in storage (which still needs a good purging) and there are boxes and bags around the apartment that still need to be unpacked. It took the entire weekend to move, and it was exhausting. I still haven’t unpacked most of my clothes (also needs purging), and I haven’t quite caught up on sleep. New adventures are exciting and frightening, but I’m trying to lean more toward the exciting.

This week marks the halfway point of the year. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen too many Instagram posts asking about what I’ve accomplished so far and demanding I make the best of the second half of the year. Maybe the events of the past fifteen months have reminded us that hyper-productivity is not the purpose of our lives. I don’t keep a record of my accomplishments. Of course, I remember the biggest ones—getting a Master’s degree, having my short story published in a literary journal—but there are other accomplishments that I forget have happened. I’ve never been in the habit of running down a list of things I’ve done, but it’s mostly because I’ve never considered the things I’ve done particularly impressive.

For instance, I’ve been running this blog for almost five years. I haven’t always been consistent, and I don’t have a large number of people reading or interacting with my content, so I don’t list it in my catalog of accomplishments. It’s practically a long-lasting hobby. It is still growing into something in my head, though, and maybe it’ll become my greatest accomplishment, but it isn’t yet.

Lately, I’ve been more focused on publishing my first book. I am in uncharted waters here, trying to gather adequate information from the millions of sources on the internet to guide me through the process, and uncertain of all the next steps. I’ve started working with a Developmental Editor, and received her Edit Letter and notes over the weekend. With my weekend being as hectic as it was, I have only managed to read through her Edit Letter. I haven’t opened the manuscript yet to review her notes.

I’m excited about her feedback, though I’m weary about making the necessary changes within the next two weeks. Can I get it done? Tell me yes, please, somebody.

I don’t have a person to go to with writing challenges or to seek constructive encouragement in this process. I don’t have a person to confide in about my self-publishing doubts and stumbling blocks. I don’t have a person who says, “let me do that so you can go write.” I’m telling myself it is okay to not have that person. I’m encouraging myself and supporting my own dream to be a published author, but sometimes it would be nice to have a bit more outside support in this process.

As you know, if you’ve been here for any period of time, I am not great about posting on socials. Photos, captions, and hashtags are not high on my daily to-do list and often get forgotten. The people on the internet tell me I have to post multiple times each day in order to build a social community around this thing we’ve got here, but I don’t want to contribute to the hamster wheel of consumerism that Instagram has become. I don’t want to just sell you things.

Moving has confirmed for me that I have too many things. Things I like a lot, things I like a little, but things nonetheless. I have clothes and shoes I don’t wear, but because I might wear them eventually, I feel they should be kept in my wardrobe.

One of the desires I have is to produce something that is tangible, practical, and beautiful in conjunction with NINE & TWO. The thing is, I don’t want to just give you more things to keep in your home. We have enough t-shirts, mugs, and canvas bags to last a lifetime. The book is one item I do want you to have in your homes, but I feel there needs to be something else as well.

As I sort through my own things (physical and mental) over the next few months, I’m going to be thinking about you. I’m also going to figure out what an active Instagram page for NINE & TWO looks like. One of my more recent instructions from God is to expand—expand my thoughts, personality, emotions, reach, community, capacity for love, confidence, voice, etc.—and I know that by expanding myself, everything I touch will grow as well. I’ve also been reminded recently to slow down so I will not be rushing through the process of expanding. Besides, things that expand too quickly usually blow up!

For those of you who have been here a while, thank you for riding with me. For those of you who are new, thank you for joining me. If you have no idea who I am, click here to find out a little bit more. Who knows, I may expand that part as well. I appreciate you.

Happy Reading/Writing/Summer-ing!

Making Space

I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but I feel like I’ve lost myself. I’ve been in survival mode for several months, and I feel like I have lost the best parts of who I am. I’ve lost the parts that love reading, writing, and learning. I’ve forced myself through workdays when all I wanted to do was lay in bed; I’ve watched endless hours of TV because it requires nothing of me. I’ve struggled to make it here every week.

Last week I decided to sign up for MasterClass. I haven’t done it yet, but I will. This week, I’m considering signing up for Skillshare as well. I’m trying to get back to the place where I spend more time learning things than watching things. But, I’ve also come to understand that the reason I enjoy watching TV so much is because I love stories. I love telling stories and I love watching stories being told. I watch 15 different medical dramas because, even though the general storylines are very similar, the characters are different and have specific stories of their own.

This post isn’t about how much TV I watch. It’s about making space for myself. I’m actively taking steps to clear my headspace so that I can find my way back to the things I love most. It’s difficult when you spend all day at a job that takes a lot out of you mentally, but I’m working on it. I’m ending relationships that take away from me mentally and emotionally, I’m intentionally letting go of my work day when I clock out, and I’m looking for ways to spark the parts of me that have gone dark over the past year.

The book is still coming. Slowly. It’s more of a financial hold than anything else. All the things I want to newly incorporate into my life are stretching my finances, but I do feel they are necessary. I’m trying to love myself more by giving myself more. Giving gifts is my strongest love language when it comes to how I show love to others, and I’m finally learning to direct that love to myself. I upgraded my laptop a couple of weeks ago. Something I should’ve done over a year ago.

Replacing things that aren’t broken, even when they don’t work well, is difficult for me. And that goes for relationships as well as things. I’m making space for myself by ending relationships that I’ve held onto for too long, replacing a laptop that I’ve held onto for too long, and introducing new things that I’ve neglected for too long.

Thank you for journeying with me. I have so much vision for what NINE & TWO can be… will be… but I’ve got to make more space so I have room to grow this thing and grow myself along with it.

I’m reading again… but I’m also really into this show on Netflix, so it’s a daily struggle between reading a few more pages and watching a few more episodes. Episodes usually win, but I’m working on that.

Until next time…

Happy Reading!