Rediscovered Passions

What I at first expected to just be a blog post promoting something I compiled online, I didn’t expect to take the conversation so deeply. But here I am, rambling away.

Thanks to my brother, I recently discovered a site I used to make a Top 40 Greatest Albums list by yours truly. Technically it’s just albums I love the most, not necessarily the critics favorites. You can see for yourself that I end up all over the place.

THIS BEAUTIFUL LINK. RIGHT HERE. CLICK AND ENJOY.

It was actually very difficult for me to rank music in a certain order. For me, I have just a grouping in my head of top tier albums, second tier, and whatever else I like. They don’t have this kind of order when I judge how good they are. But for the sake of a charted countdown, I have to play by the rules. If you know me at all, you should know that I can have a habit of rule-bending.

I hope to eventually gain a higher rank on the site by rating and commenting on others’ charts so I can make a larger chart.That also means I need to listen to more music. Not that I’m complaining.

In all honesty, I’ve kind of lost my way when it comes to music. I used to be listening to music nonstop, always downloading new albums and discovering more. I previously shared my usual methods for finding music in another blog post. But I’ve fallen off that bandwagon, only really listening when I’m tired of staring at a TV show or YouTube video. Maybe this new prospect will get me back into the swing of things, especially when I’ll have to start studying and doing schoolwork again (cringe).

A situation like this makes me excited to start school again rather than sitting at a desk job all day. I feel so much more refreshed and inspired when I’m just blogging that when I get into a rut of a regular routine of waking up, sitting in a cubicle for nine hours, and spending the night recovering, I never find myself even having the energy or motivation to really enjoy the things I love. While I’m thankful for the opportunities this current internship brings me, it just reminds me that I don’t want to be stuck in a job that starts to feel like a “job.” That I don’t wake up excited to go to work. I could care less about how much money I make, as long as I feel content, fulfilled and passionate. And I feel that when I’m just here in my own little world, typing away however I choose, whenever I feel inspired. I then feel uplifted and want to keep discovering new things in life (including music) so I have more to write about.

Another reason I think I’m getting back into music discovery is that I have more mental clarity as my overall well-being has improved over the summer. I feel energized, and it’s easier for me to focus on whatever I set my mind to. My therapist even said that when I first started seeing her, my rate of speech was almost lethargic, and now it is much more upbeat and normal. A random detail I never would have noticed on my own, which I think is very interesting. But now that I’m setting myself up to be more productive, I actually have the desire to research and explore. Getting back into the routine reminds me how much I’ve missed it, how all of my time and energy have been going into rebuilding my health. So now I can appreciate the world around me more and spend my time fully engaged in what I love. Rather than focusing on any physical changes (which now I actually have some muscle, which feels so weird), I like to motivate myself with changes a scale can’t measure.

Even when you’re in the midst of recovery, you only have one main priority: get better. Everything else tends to take a backseat in your mind. As you continue further on the journey, you realize how much your illness has taken from you. Moments spent thinking (and overthinking) details that never mattered when you could have been embracing life’s greatest treasures: the people you love and the activities you enjoy. When I first began realizing how consumed I was in the vicious cycle of calories and numbers and size, I was angry. For the first time. Never before had I took myself away from my eating disorder and wanted to punch it for the damage it has caused. The thing I always turned to for control and perfection was my enemy all along. I hate that it took so long for me to understand that, but I’m so thankful I did so I can spend the rest of my time on earth making the most of everything.

So this album countdown list seems very simple and straightforward. But after publishing it, I felt in shock of how long it had actually been since I’ve thought about music. Several months. Something I devote so much love and time to, I hadn’t even had the urge to do. It’s hard to fully wrap my brain around that. I want to make up for lost time, but I know I can’t go back. I needed to take the time away from everything to focus on what really mattered at the time. Now I can rely on a solid foundation of health to propel myself into any interest I choose. For those who have never experienced a similar recovery, let me to tell you, it is one of the most powerful, incredible feelings.

If you have any music suggestions for me as I search for my next favorite, I would love some direction. The chart should give you an idea of what I usually dabble into.I want to refill my life with as much artistry and beauty as I can. I deserve it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Treat Yo’ Self

When I end every post I write with “take care,” I truly mean it.

In the past years, I have really come to appreciate and stress the importance of self-care. I wish I had discovered it much earlier, especially in my times of deep depression or crippling anxiety. At least now I can look forward to more pleasant days ahead.

So if you have no clue what I’m talking about, self-care is your own way of going a step beyond just everyday, respectable functions. Sometimes even those are the best self-care, such as just simple acts of brushing your teeth, showering, eating good foods and moving your body in a loving way. But these basic functions are usually the ones we think about when taking care of ourselves. Sometimes, especially when life gets busy, we can neglect the mental aspects of our well-being.

It’s kind of weird explaining it as something we have to teach ourselves how to do. You might think, “Well, I have activities and hobbies I enjoy, that’s cool, right?” But how regularly do you do those things? We live in a society where things are constantly happening, and we have social media to constantly see it. It can get to a point where we feel like we need to be in our optimal performance levels at all times. But our wellness quickly suffers. We fill up our schedules with so much time to be productive, wanting to “make the most of our time,” but if we forget to leave time unscheduled, you’re bound to crash.

So as I’ve alluded to, if you’re someone who enjoys planning and you have plenty of activities on your plate, make the conscious effort to leave frequent times open where you will not do anything. Again, I refer back to mindfulness because that’s an important aspect of self-care. You are making the deliberate decision to attend to your own physical, mental and spiritual needs. At first glance, seeing time left open to do nothing seems pointless, a waste. But for you to achieve the highest quality of self, you need that time. No matter who you are or your personality or any other excuse you might throw out there, everybody can benefit from self-care.

Self-care would be much easier for us, especially Americans, if our capitalistic society supported self-care. Compared to other first-world countries, we fall way behind in the number of vacation days we get per year. We have a standard of producing top-notch product all the time, that we feel guilty about taking breaks. Even when we’re feeling physically ill, we still get ourselves to work. I know a couple times this summer I really wanted to take a mental health day to break up the dragging week and help my mood, but I always went in anyway because it felt so wrong. And I think THAT is so wrong. We are humans, not machines. Machines need to have their batteries replaced and charged, and so do we.

Once you have time set aside, start becoming more aware of yourself and how you’re feeling. Optimal wellness requires balance in physical, mental and spiritual areas. If one of these areas gets pushed aside, the other areas will feel the effects, too. The physical health is the most recognizable, as already mentioned with diet and exercise (and don’t forget sleep, too. Especially college students). I see mental as a combination of emotional and social health. I look at my stress levels and mood, and I look at my relationships with others. Spiritual is very dependent on the person, but even those who aren’t too spiritual or religious themselves, this can include mental clarity and the practice of seeking and desiring knowledge.

Self-care will look different for everybody in whatever they feel is best for them, but eventually it should become routine. Whatever helps you slow down and relieve the pressures of everyday life. I would suggest turning off social media for a length of time. Maybe you escape with your favorite TV show, take bubble baths, go on nature walks, take road trips, write in a journal (or blog), go out with friends, use coloring books, diffuse essential oils, read a great book…the possibilities are vast. Try different activities and see what you’re drawn to the most. Not only will these simple, relaxing activities be enjoyable, you’ll feel so much better and your productivity in all of your other tasks will be much higher.

Sometimes you’ll need time not originally set aside to practice self-care, more emergency, in the moment techniques you can rely on when you’re overwhelmed. A theoretical toolbox you can pull out whenever you need it most to keep you grounded. Deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations and mantras, and meditation aren’t just things “hippies do.” Depending on what you need, you could want to take time for yourself or resort to a friend’s comfort. Again, self-care is a very personal journey. You can’t just copy somebody else’s routine and expect to feel the most satisfied. You will likely discover new things about yourself along the way and perhaps try new things you never thought you would ever do or enjoy.I think that’s one of the really beautiful parts about self-care: we take a break from the external stimulation to listen to our internal voice that can get lost in the shuffle.

I encourage you to look more into self-care yourself and see what you find speaks to that internal voice. We might not even realize we need self-care until we start making an effort to do it. Think of self-care as just another task on your to-do list that deserves the same amount of attention as everything else. You deserve it.

Take care (I mean it), and keep the faith. -Allie

Hopelessly, Perpetually…

Update: this post is ironically going up the same day I’ve changed my Facebook status to be no longer single. But I wrote this anyways and is usually quite relevant to me, so hopefully others understand my struggles, too.

I’m not going to lie, the ideas of love, a relationship and romance have always been weak areas for me. They honestly freak me out a tad. So that’s why I feel like it’s important to share that anxiety and uncertainty about it and some main reasons why I am currently single and have been single 99% of the time.

Throwing it back to my younger days, in many aspects of life, I felt like I was always the person missing out. That life was happening and people were having these important human experiences and memories and I was falling behind. Especially in middle school (when at the time I didn’t know mental illness was a thing), I remember just dwelling on the depression and anxiety behind being “forever alone.” That I was a failure because up to that point, I had no romantic interest in me whatsoever. I really didn’t have the self-esteem myself to believe in my own self worth, so I felt like I needed romantic attention to find that. Little did I know, constantly thinking and complaining about wasn’t helping anyone.

I would say high school that discomfort definitely eased somewhat. It was definitely still in the back of mind, but I’ve already been so used to being single when it’s all I’ve known, I couldn’t visualize my life with someone in that role. I’m very grateful that I was on my own during these times because I wasn’t in the right place to truly commit and appreciate someone else in that capacity. But I definitely remembering praying and hoping and wishing for some epiphany to just magically occur.

I had my first relationship at the end of my junior year. For some people, that might seem ridiculously late, others might still say I’m pretty young. It could really go either way. I dread even calling it a relationship when it only lasted a couple of months. But they were my first times going out on a date, my first kiss, and in general just having someone in a position where you are each others’ best friends with even extra included. Like a buy one get one free deal. Although the time was short, and I really struggled handling that “breakup” (again, only a couple of months), I started to see possibility for myself. I wasn’t completely hopeless, but there is a potential that someone out there complements me and makes me a better person, someone I can share my life with.

When it comes to dating, I am probably considered old-fashioned. Because of my extended time alone and doing my own thing, I place a very high value in the concept of a romantic relationship. I am very serious about who I give and receive affection from. I could never see myself just dating as a casual activity. I choose to dedicate my time to someone very thoughtfully. If I choose you, that means I see a potential future with you. Which I know, it sounds really scary. I see people my age getting married, and I’m in awe. But I do really want to get married. Not necessarily right at this moment by any means, but I feel like if I know it’s “the one,” I’ll know, and if so, I don’t see a problem with getting the ball rolling.

And this point leads me to my time in college, where “hookup culture” is the norm. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Since my first romantic experience, I’ve had about four or five guys that we just talked or we actually went out on a date or two, and it just didn’t work out. These little bumps in the road are very important, no matter how annoying they are, because I know it’s helping me figure out what I really want in a significant other. And when that person comes, all of the frustration will be worth it. But when college students only utilize the physical parts of a relationship, throwing out anything without “instant gratification” and that might be difficult, I feel like that devalues the entire concept of love. Someone like me wondering in my head who I encounter might be my future husband is left to feel defensive and uneasy about everything. All I hear about are the hookups people have, and I’m left with cringing even at a couple just holding hands.

The things I love much about a relationship are the little tidbits. Like simply holding hands and a guy does that little thumb thing (I swear it’s a thing), or just being physically close to someone (I am a sucker for cuddling). Or having a guaranteed best friend, you can support each other and help each other grow into better people. Or just having long, rambling conversations about nonsense but just feeling so understood and appreciated. Someone who looks at me beyond my flaws and still chooses me. Obviously friends can also fulfill that and are so important, but for me, having both gives me such a boost of confidence. And I can only find that uplifting confidence when I’m with the right person. So I really don’t mind waiting. In that time, I can just grow and better myself so I support whoever this future man is at my utmost capacity. He deserves it, and I deserve it.

For those who are perpetually single like me, try not to compare yourself to others who may be more experienced in romance. It’s intimidating, but it’s your own journey. When the time is right for you, you’ll know. Give yourself that time to be single to really learn how to appreciate yourself and what you have to offer because you can’t fully invest yourself in a partner if you don’t have that solid foundation within. Allow yourself to experiment so you can learn what kind of person you’re truly looking for. Be clear about your intentions with any interested partner, whether that be just casual or something more. Most likely, you will be unlucky in your efforts. Those fairy tale, romantic comedy expectations don’t really add up. Open yourself up to what might come your way, accept that failure is inevitable, but maintain hope that your “someone special” is out there. Optimism can be unrealistic sometimes, but man, is it beautiful.

Long story short, I’m single. But if my future husband is possibly reading this…make good choices.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie