Troublesome Twenties

I can’t say I’m having a quarter-life crisis, that new phase millennials are experiencing as they reach a certain age at the crossroads of the rest of their lives. Leaving behind what is familiar, a structured educational setting, into the vast unknown. How do we know if we’re “living life right”?

While I’ve always been indecisive and all over the place when it comes to making long-term career and life goals, as I think about graduating college and what path to take, that threat is impending. Unavoidable.

Part of the dilemma is not just our own hearts trying to direct our paths, but also all of the outside factors and influences blurring our vision. Many of us think about our families and loved ones, wanting to pursue a life that makes them proud and can support them in the future. I cannot think of any worse feeling than disappointing those who matter so much to you.

For me, despite my work ethic in academics, I never gravitated toward the scientific fields or anything that would result in a hefty salary. Money, although somewhat naive in saying so, has never been a driving factor for my goals. However, I become anxious about pursuing an nontraditional path of life wondering if that choice is letting my high GPA and studious habits go to waste. That I have the potential to do much more. Fancier titles to tote to others, a signal that I took advantage of my skills and made a life for myself.

Rationally, I know my parents will always support me and want me to be happy. But from an anxious perspective, that puts a lot of pressure on myself. I have to consciously evaluate if I’m living my life for my genuine enjoyment, or I’m going through the motions of what is expected of me. And trust me, it’s not easy.

Young adults, especially college graduates, feel stuck inside a box, a single tunnel to follow without looking outside of what is the norm. We get into office cubicles for 9-5 positions, we climb up the corporate ladder, we get married, settle down and start a family. It certainly makes everything very straightforward as to how to lead a life.

But that’s not for everyone. I think the many thorns that have pricked my feet as I’ve walked through life have all been there to redirect me to the place I’m truly meant to be. I just have to trust the trials and tribulations, that they’re all teaching me lessons required to walk toward my true purpose.

Except that isn’t exactly something to say if somebody asks, “What are you doing after college?” Following the normal path of working offers stability, it’s easy to distinguish, and people know how to applaud those types of achievements. Trying to forge your own journey is unknown terrain. People get suspicious of that, weary that you’re not thinking logically, that your ideal lifestyle won’t be sustainable.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, “Am I doing this for my own fulfillment, or for others’ acknowledgement?” I’d be the first to tell you, I thrive on encouragement from people I admire, reminders that I’m doing my best. But it’s hard to respond to somebody who seems very clueless. No matter how often people say that the uncertainty will pass, that everything will work out, it still freaks me out. That future possibility of a discernible goals doesn’t help much in the present moment as I’m floundering around, still dancing through different activities and possible paths without anything set in stone.

I admire those who have always had a clear plan in mind, a passion that guides them every step of the way. And I admire those who have no idea whatsoever, that aren’t afraid to try new things and learn everything they can about themselves and the world, perhaps without even truly “settling down” in the traditional sense. Both options are okay. We shouldn’t champion one over the other. We shouldn’t compare our unique lives to one another and expect all the answers for ourselves. We also cannot rely upon others’ personal perceptions of life for you or themselves as the end-all factor of your decisions. Ultimately, you are the one living your life.

It’s very difficult to isolate your own soul’s calling from the outside noise, but we need that time for quiet introspection to at least get a sense of what life might look for us. And even then, there’s no point in setting every goal you have in stone because while we’re living our own lives, we’re also at the mercy of spiritual power (in my case, God) throwing curve balls into the mix. We must be willing to both see a vision for ourselves and a trust in what might come.

Although I’m just into this new phase of life, that doesn’t invalidate my anxieties of what comes next. When it feels like the opportunities you expected don’t work out, what then? How will I know what to do? Will it also not work out, or will everything come together as it should? They call it an existential crisis for a reason. We’re all here on this planet and in this life to fulfill a purpose. Our individual impacts matter. It’s not easy trying to justify and understand that impact, but for now, holding onto that one ultimate truth will be the inflatable lifesaver keeping us afloat in the tumultuous, vast ocean. Waters just waiting to be explored.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Kindle Kindness

We all have plenty of reasons to be bitter in life. It’s not easy facing a multitude of challenges, whether they be within ourselves, a certain combination of circumstances, or other people that really push your buttons. We’ve all been there.

People can just not be fun to deal with, and I know that’s a light way of putting it. Both recently and just in general, I’ve faced my fair share of situations where people have acted wrongly, that they have made a decision that throws me under the bus, that drains and frustrates me. “If -someone- hadn’t of done this, then…”

It’s one thing to think back to your own mistakes and forgive those for yourself and move on, but it’s a completely different case for other people. It’s not like you have control of individuals’ thoughts and words, no matter how harmful. Regardless if we know and understand their intentions, people act as they do.

Admittedly, accepting how others act and what they say is a hard road to take. It’s call people out, to seek some sort of redemption. An eye for an eye, they say. We hope that by trying to reenact the same damage to others as they did to us, we’ll somehow feel satisfied, that justice has been served.

In reality, if you’re seeing this as a game, the other person is still “winning.” They are taking up precious head space as you think about the past, you speculate and scheme and think far too much about the negative situation than you should. It’s not benefiting anybody. And that negativity inevitably reflects in everything you do, extending far behind a single occurrence.

I know I have discussed forgiveness in the past. And even for someone who truly believes in the power of letting things go, I realize certain situations are just hard to swallow. Some things are so shocking or debilitating, saying forgiveness is key and actually following through feels impossible.

Luckily I haven’t had too many instances that I’ve faced this dilemma, but this summer has been full of them. Developments that completely shake my envisioned path into something that makes it difficult to move forward, especially when you have no clue where you’re going. So this is a reminder today for everybody, myself included, to really meditate on your feelings, relationships, and goals.

Whether you’re religious or not, a huge component of faith is loving the people and neighbors around you. I think we can all say we’ve felt unlovable at some point, that we make such mistakes and act irresponsibly that we feel unworthy of compassion. We expect others to lash out and act in revenge.

The best surprise then is to meet empathy and understanding. To encounter someone who, while recognizing anger, does not let that human emotion overshadow the love we all innately share. Just because you or whoever might not be ready to apologize doesn’t mean you can’t be ready to forgive.

So how do we find that zen, that inner peace exuding outward as a loving, accepting embrace? I go back to our quality of empathy. We cannot entirely walk in someone else’s shoes to understand why they do and say certain things, but we can decide to walk beside them and consider everything from another perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to keep in contact with or be close to whoever wrongs you. If the relationship is toxic and harmful, running back to the same situation is lesson never learned. However, you can still take time to yourself to understand the factors involved. Who knows, maybe you’ll have your own reasons to apologize, too.

But there comes a time to move on. How can you just let something that feels shaky, the loose ends never tied up satisfactory, and walk away? Whatever happened, it was for a reason, clear to you now or maybe never. But look at the present moment and, as cheesy as it sounds, count your blessings. Recognize what you’re grateful for. See the changes and growth you’ve experienced. Look forward to the possibilities ahead. What is the end of one thing is a new beginning, new activities and people. Ask for others’ support. Pray on it.

I do think the unjust will receive whatever they’ve given to others, that right ultimately redeems wrong, but you aren’t the one who should be balancing that scale. That’s for God, the universe, whatever to handle. What matters now is that whatever feels like is holding you back, a grudge or regret, is a passing moment. In the grand scheme of life, how much will it matter?

If some sense of redemption is what you seek, the best way to do so is through kindness. When potentially encountering the person on the street, show compassion, be friendly. They are still your neighbor, a fellow human. No human has the right to control your thoughts and peace of mind.

Trust me, I know how hard of a lesson this is to actually embody, to expect everything to come together for some reason immediately, but again, we’re only human. But having faith in growth and kindness is the sweetest treat of all.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Food Pyramid, or Food Box?

Times are changing, that’s for sure, but that’s nothing new. The only guarantee in life is change. But for something simple as grocery shopping or meal prepping, the change has been quite dramatic recently.

With Amazon recently buying up Whole Foods, it’s come to my attention that people are really changing how they buy and prepare their food. Online grocery shopping and meal prep boxes are a new norm that, for someone who is so accustomed to going grocery shopping every week and making my own food when living on my own, fitting technology and convenience into that mix doesn’t feel natural to me. Not yet, at least.

See, unlike most people, I love going grocery shopping. Doing errands in general, but I enjoy going through the grocery store aisles and picking out exactly what I want. It’s the process of it that is somehow enjoyable to me. I wouldn’t want to give that up.

And then comes the freedom, albeit slight anxiety, of living on your own and making food probably for the first time. It’s pretty easy to follow recipes and hope for the best, but there’s also joy from experimentation, the opportunity to really focus on flavor combinations and nutrients you’re putting into your body. You have that utmost control, and that is very satisfying.

I forgot to mention, although it’s not available anywhere near me in the lonely Midwest, applications like Postmates can have food ready and delivered to you from anywhere, from any restaurant. Pizza delivery has become anything delivery. Even a new phone app available through my university’s dining service allows students to order food ahead of time and pick it up, beating out others standing in line. All of these perks, just to have food as soon and as easily as possible.

However, I do see the appeal of these new fads taking the country by storm. I can think of many people who would want nothing more than to open the door and have all of their food delivered to them. The next appropriate step then is to have meals specifically sent to you so that yes, you’re the one cooking, but all the guesswork, the ingredients and measuring out of portions, is done for you. It’s as close as you can get to having a personal chef there curating a menu.

Do I see these changes as bad things? No, because just as we evolve and brainstorm new ideas with convenience and immediate results in mind, something like a meal-in-a-box is the best of both worlds. You have better ingredients than microwave TV dinners, but it’s a similar concept of taking out the guesswork. Obviously at this point, these boxes come with hefty price tags, but as we wade through the many new companies available, inevitably one company will come out with practicality on the chef and their wallet.

But from all of this innovation, are we losing sight of what it means to take individual initiative for our health? In a way, meal subscription boxes are a forward step for people who rely solely on fast food and restaurants. It’s a middle ground to learn the ropes of cooking and choosing healthier options, but it shouldn’t be an end-all, sustainable choice. Besides the cost, I do find value in consciously choosing recipes and foods that work best for you. We aren’t all going to fit into a box of what we want and should eat, no matter how easy that would be. Budgeting out for food, choosing healthy options and preparing them are all important life skills that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Not to mention, I haven’t heard of a solely plant-based meal subscription, as most boxes stick to the same sort of “diet” you choose without much experimentation from there. Except you’ll never know what you might like unless you just go out and try it. Again, the meal prep boxes are a starting point, but from there, you shouldn’t feel reliant on a business for deciding every bite you eat. That’s a stretch right there, yes, but who knows where this trend might lead? It could die off, or it could grow. We should be aware consumers as to what is just a passing fad and is actually a good choice for us.

It goes back to my thoughts on the importance of knowledge, of learning for yourself and not relying entirely upon industries and technologies that leave little room for personal growth. We’ll never learn how to choose the right foods for us and prepare them if we’re constantly using meal prep boxes and delivery services. Just like food, everything in moderation is key.

But I must add, if it’s a better deal to find some pantry staples online, I’m all for a good deal.  We just cannot forget supporting local businesses and farmers. Get produce from local grocery stores and farmers markets. Make sure you’re eating an abundance of whole, plant-based foods. Learn how to seek out the nutrients your body craves and options that not only benefit yourself, but the environment around you. I guess you could say, think outside the box.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie