How “To-Do”

In the past month, my mom and I have beginning to sporadically read a small devotional that somehow always seems relevant to the current situation. It’s crazy how much a few simple words can speak to you.

Last week, one little tidbit talked about the importance of slowing down and prioritizing what truly matters in life. Rather than feeling held down by a daily to-do list, we should spend our precious time appreciating each moment we have. After all, there’s a reason we only have twenty-four hours each day, and not each hour is meant to be used for productivity. Even robots have to recharge their batteries at some point.

However, I do want to make the distinction of the intentions behind completing certain tasks. Nothing can quite match that feeling of accomplishing a large task or something you’ve really been meaning to do. I don’t think we should feel guilty for having busier days that equate to an endlessly scurrying mouse. Or the other phrase involving a chicken with no head, but I like my chickens still clucking.

Anyways. As someone who prides herself on being hard-working and ambitious, I’m a huge proponent for having goals and constantly evolving yourself to meet them. I always want to feel like I’m moving forward at a decent pace and not slowed down for anything not for the greater good.

Obviously you cannot always be running at full speed. Whether it’s your body, mind, or circumstances, when we get too lost in the fog of work, sometimes we have to run into a wall to actually notice that we’re tired and require rest.

As much as I critique how society strives for instant gratification, quick perfection and benefits at every given moment, there is a very good aspect to finding joy in your work. After all, why would we want to get anything done if there wasn’t a purpose for doing so?

The devotion mentioned earlier was on that frame of mind. We shouldn’t feel compelled to have every inch of lives tidy for the sake of others’ approval. Peer pressure and social media shouldn’t be the driving force in getting us to go certain places or buy certain products just so you don’t feel left out or behind.

At the end of the day, we each are living our own individual lives. Nobody can accurately tell us how to reach a certain caliber or make it better than anybody else’s. We are in the driver’s seat, and only through our spiritual and emotional inquiries do we realize how to lead the best life for ourselves, regardless of how that looks to others.

There is a clear distinction between being young, not helping yourself to at least prepare for what tasks might come ahead, and being open to what life might bring while still doing the best you can at this present moment. The work you do should be to bring joy and fulfillment into your life so you can feel confident about utilizing each day.

And that work could just be taking care of yourself. It could be cleaning your living space for a (probably placebo) effect of feeling rejuvenated. It could be pursuing a passion, finishing a class assignment, or taking steps forward in a certain career. Whatever work may look like to you each day, I really value those who feel that inner drive to not just sit idly by or work simply for the facade of productivity, but to take charge of their own happiness.

College days, constantly changing majors and juggling multiple responsibilities at once like a sideshow carnival act, is certainly a setting that can turn work into a chore. Inevitably, we must all get chores done that we would much rather not be doing or we feel are required of us to do. But this also an ideal time to discover for yourself what work sparks satisfaction and doing it often.

The second we step outside of a college campus, are days will turn into ones devoted to the work force. So if young people aren’t going forward without some solid inclination of supporting themselves from one day to the next, where do they find any drive? How will they feed a hunger for more if they don’t know how to tap into it?

When in doubt, introspection. Ask yourself what makes you happy and how to incorporate that now for the future. Find appreciation in the little moments that we might overlook if it’s just a task to check off the list. Admittedly, I actually really enjoy doing errands, grocery shopping, and general cleaning. And I also enjoy writing for this blog five days a week. And I enjoy finding new opportunities to grow and expand my horizons in a way that can form the foundation for whatever the future might bring. And I enjoy making goals for myself that get me in the head space to prioritize and appreciate.

In having the goals I do, some might think I’m just speeding through life too quickly, and to that, I can occasionally agree that I can be hard on myself. But nonetheless, by leading the life I do, performing what might look like work, I feel I can attract more personal joy that translates into joy in everything else I do. I can be a nicer person. I can welcome people who value the same things with open arms and lots of love.

So if your daily tasks are just endless to-do lists that end up being just busy work, nothing listed that exercises your mind and passion, then it’s time to reevaluate. It’s time to look beyond just mundane and inject joy. While I don’t expect the normal, healthy population to walk as quickly as I do, I think we should adjust how we view productivity. It’s an individual analysis, not a group survey. We must pinpoint what is best for us, and that means not just seeing a future just beyond our sight, but in doing so, examining how to make the most of the present.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

A Slippery Situation

Do you consider oil as slippery? Maybe? I try to keep up with these clever titles, but come on, give me a break here.

About a week or two ago, all over the morning news, the health gurus came out, as they routinely do, to give the world an update on whatever claims they’ve made in the past. This time it involved the “health food,” great choice of coconut oil. Turns out, it’s not as great of a choice as we once thought, at least for eating. Nobody can deny that using it as a body moisturizer is top notch.

Now this update should really come as no real surprise. Why? Because of the key word in the name: oil. I don’t necessarily want to be a stickler and be enough as a oddball out when it comes to eating with others who are not vegan, but the fact is, oil isn’t as great as we might assume it is. If you’re somebody who believes in the immense benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet, then oil is not your friend.

Using oil, whether that is roasting vegetables, having food not stick to its baking pan, or adding moisture to a baked good, is just something that has become second nature. Rarely do I think of many full-out recipes that don’t ask people to oil up a skillet or pan, or desserts that don’t need some sort of butter or oil to ensure a fluffy product. For those purposes, it’s obvious that oil does the job.

Not just from a restrictive dietary choice, but as a personal preference, I’m already not a big fan of oil. I don’t enjoy eating fast food or anything fried just because it makes me feel sluggish and throws off my digestion. I’m not a huge fan of feeling like my fingers or mouth are oily from eating. When you see food as a primary means of self-care, of maintaining a healthy body and mindset, then extra oil doesn’t fit into the equation.

But I’m not entirely off my rocker with my stance on oil. Despite claims promoting different types of oils as health foods, oils are the opposite. Oil is a refined product from a whole food, whether that’s a coconut, olive, or vegetable. Oil is stripped from the original source of all the other nutrients naturally found in whole foods, leaving a single macro-nutrient left: fat. Don’t get me wrong, we all need some fat in our diet, but it’s much better to consume that fat in its original form to also get the carbs, protein and micro-nutrients included in olives, nuts, and avocados. If there are any special nutrients you’re trying to obtain from using an oil, then the whole food will inevitably have the same benefits and then some. The nutrition from consuming an oil compared to a whole food really throws off the balance, as the fat content in one tablespoon of oil equates to twenty-four pitted olives.

So when isolated on its own, oil just seems pointless and unnecessary. However, when realizing how accustomed we are to using it every day, that’s when it gets tricky to change. How can we stick cook and bake like we always have without that “essential” ingredient?

When preparing food at home, the best first step is to equip yourself with the tools you need to reduce common situations that require oil. For example, nonstick dishes and silicone baking pans and mats work wonders for sauteing, roasting (just use the broil setting to make veggies extra crispy), and baking without worrying about a mess. When using a skillet and want extra moisture, water or vegetable stock work just as well as oil. Depending on the purpose of oil in a recipe, you can substitute plant-based milk, apple sauce, oil-free nut butters, and more for a desired texture. If you want a little more fluffiness in a baked good, adding a little apple cider vinegar or aquafaba (the liquid in a can of beans) works well.

Now admittedly, not every recipe is going to turn out the same or at all when experimenting with an oil-free lifestyle. The health benefits versus certain textures are pros and cons worth weighing out for yourself. Some recipes, unless you have a fancy air-frier, will just not happen without oil. Again, the choice is yours. And don’t think you have to be perfect about this. The most important thing is that you’re aware of what you’re eating. Don’t feel guilty for going out on occasion for some oily foods or having any food with oil. The goal with anything is life is moderation.

The point I especially wanted to get across today is that how scientific studies and news stories proclaim certain foods is not always the best source for information. You really need to do your own research to figure out what is best for you. As I frequently tote, health is wealth. We have one life, one body. While it’s great to enjoy the crazy dishes available out there, regardless of the nutrition facts, one of the most crucial factors affecting our overall well-being is the food we eat. It’s disheartening to know that marketing ploys and faulty experiments can spread like wildfire and really manipulate our views, but that’s an inevitable struggle that I alone have no ground to stand on preventing. All I can do is hope I make the best choices for myself, teach others the accurate information I know, and hope others also take care of themselves.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

Don’t Think, Just Go

Spontaneity comes easily to some, not so much for others. Some can just hop in a car at a second’s notice and are ready for any sort of possibility out there. Others need some pre-planning and a full-out schedule to put into their agendas.

I can easily admit I fall in the latter category. With anxiety, social and general, going with the flow at every moment can feel daunting. I get caught up in my head of what times and places and situations work best, regardless of how rational my reasoning is. I’m not keen on dropping everything I’m doing at a moment’s notice to go do something.

While a part of me is just generally aware of timing and wants to be as organized as possible, mental health can also be a valid aspect of myself that I fear can hold myself back. It’s a difficult line to cross. Certain things have gotten easier with time, but it’s not in my nature to go into a situation without a plan.

When you’re reading this, I will actually be preparing to leave on a weekend in Virginia to see my brother, a decision that truly was spontaneous, a quick question and online search for airline tickets. And, I must say, I am beyond excited for this little adventure.

As much as I love having a clear path of what I’m doing, I can see the thrilling appeal of just going out into the world without a distinct destination, just going and seeing what might happen. Of course you strive for some sense of balance between the two extremes, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Maybe I won’t be as spontaneous as some people are, and I cannot compare my personality with others. But as I make those baby steps to get just an inch outside of my comfort zone, I feel a sense of freedom and gratification that makes me proud of myself, of the progress I’ve made. Of course I still have a nature that gravitates toward a sense of structure and direction, but sometimes it’s important to go against your own grains for the sake of personal growth.

And, of course, life is not short of spontaneity. We cannot by our own limited knowledge predict and plan every detail of our lives, our next steps, the outcomes to our actions. We constantly must adapt to changes out of our control and refer back to the plans B-Z. It takes a degree of grace and understanding to fully accept that life is mysterious and complex, and too much time spent trying to envision it years or even months down the road deters from the now.

We must decide for ourselves what risks are worth taking. When we must really dig deep and research on what the best plan is to make. Or when we just need to take a moment’s notice of our gut instinct and roll with the punches. And somehow distinguishing one from the other is a whole other predicament that I by no means have mastered. I expect to continue trying to bob and weave my way through planning and risks for the rest of my time here on earth.

A big aspect that has helped me in accepting the spontaneous, especially when it comes to twisty turns of events (people who drop in at a moment’s notice still push my buttons), is faith. Personally, knowing that God is in the driver’s seat and I’m a passenger, having somewhat of a hold on what roads we travel but ultimately relying upon the knowledgeable driver to at least have a map or some GPS device handy. In many instances, I don’t know why things happen as they do. No matter how much I had a vision in my head and prepared accordingly, everything can completely fall through in the blink of an eye.

But what feels like a random occurrence, a spontaneous and unplanned phenomenon, is actually part of a larger plan, one that I don’t have right at my disposal. In my own free will, I choose to accept this lack of control in what my purpose is in life and how I get there. The fear I feel when thinking of going into a situation without a plan is, to an extent, a human instinct neglecting my trust and faith that God will take care of me, that things will work out as they should, no matter how shocking or difficult or crazy they feel right now.

So, long story short, I’m a work in progress. I know I could improve upon my willingness to try new experiences, even if I didn’t have it pictured out in advance. The same might go for someone who refuses to use an agenda or think ahead after they graduate from school or make a next step in their lives. As long as I have a foundation of a clear mindset, a healthy body, and an assurance that the universe will guide me if I stumble, I think I can do just fine. And if I can sneak in a quick trip to a new destination? That’s just icing on the cake.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Set the Standard

I fully admit that I am picky. In most areas of my life, I like having things just so. My senses, whether that be sight, scent or sound, are drawn to the littlest details, and those tend to be the ones that drive me bonkers.

From an outside perspective, I’m sure people think that I am far too conscious of my surroundings, honing in on things that really don’t matter. It’s not a big deal if there’s a random fuzz on the floor, no reason to question a random noise.

Yes, I realize that in the grand scheme of life, that little bit of toothpaste at the bottom of the bathroom sink won’t matter much. But those little things and what they add up go far beyond a need for tidiness.

What some call picky, I call having certain standards for myself and how I choose to live. We all have our own tipping points, our ideal situations that we feel the most comfortable, and we cannot expect everybody to view life through the same lens. What I consider clean and what you consider clean could be two completely different things, and that’s okay.

As I’ve become more aware and appreciative of who I am as a person and who I want to embody, my standards have grown and solidified even further. That’s just something natural that comes with time for all of us. It’s easy to isolate those desires we have and build ourselves around them. It’s a whole other story when other people and factors get thrown into the mix.

No matter the situation, whether it’s a stressful time in life or a balance of relationships with others, our own standards can sometimes go by the wayside. If you’re anything like me, I am nice and, at times, too nice. I like taking care of others and making sure they are comfortable and happy before I think about myself. But regardless if others intend to do so or not, a caring nature can be taken advantage of.

We know who we each are and what we want. While some people are worth compromising with, finding a common ground for equal contentment, if you’re losing sight of yourself in the process, something has to give. With the right people, you shouldn’t feel like you have to slow down and change your standards. The whole point of having those standards set is to have high-quality people around you that can meet and exceed them. That’s how you know they are worth keeping around.

There’s a fine line to be aware of, too. Because yes, you can be too picky if it means that everybody else’s lives require readjustment, if you aren’t able to be flexible with day-to-day occurrences, or you develop a mentality that sets you up on some pedestal. Reality check, we’re all in the same boat. None of us is better than anybody else.

And make sure that whatever standards you have, make sure they come from your own instincts. If your standards are entirely focused on superficial means, ones that may be influenced by societal or others’ standards, then reevaluate. For me and anybody else, stop being so hard on yourself. What are your true priorities?

Having standards is how we stay true to ourselves. It’s how we preserve our morals and values. It’s how we understand our own natures to ensure we’re living as our best selves. So don’t feel guilty for perhaps feeling like a broken record for what you prefer. Or feel like you’re disappointing yourself or others for voicing your thoughts. Never feel like you should settle for anything less than what you deserve.

Because you deserve the best. You deserve to feel satisfied and content. You deserve to have that critical moment where you can take a deep breath and know that you are happy with your life, yourself, and the little details in between. It’s not an easy feat to get to that point, but knowing your worth is its own form of self-care. You won’t be immune to hardship, to misfortune, to difficult times, but keep those standards and desires close to you and with the right intentions, they will reach fruition.

I’m young, but my age does not undermine that already, I have met people and obstacles that challenged what I believed. There’s a difference between stepping outside of your comfort zone, and stepping too far or too often away from what matters to you. In my standards, I have found amazing people and opportunities I could have never imagined, especially if I hadn’t been adamant about my work ethic nor the quality of my family and friends. As with any lesson, it is best learned through trial and error, along with determination and faith that you will find your place, with yourself, with others, and with the world.

Does that necessarily justify scrubbing away every crevice in my living quarters? Probably not. But in creating an atmosphere inside and outside of my home that supports what I hold dear and the goals I hope to accomplish, those are standards I do not want to downplay. They are what make me who I am. Nobody else can, without my consent, change these standards or neglect acknowledging them. And who knows, maybe as I continue to grow and learn, I will adjust my standards accordingly. That’s just life. I guess whoever else is willing to get on this wild ride with me, hop on board.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Troubling Triggers

The word “trigger” is one that has been thrown around much more often than it should. It’s just one of those “cool” phrases to use online to turn mental illness into a glamorous state of being.

But contrary to the overuse of the term, I do think it’s important to address this concept as it pertains to mental health. For those of us volatile to dips in mental health with a history of any difficulties, there can be certain situations that can be a tipping point for a relapse.

Understandably, moods are bound to change regardless of our surroundings, but even if you’re in a good place, certain things can just be uncomfortable or downright dangerous.

This topic came to mind after seeing a news story of how two girls completed suicide. However, it turns out that both girls had watched the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why before doing so. Obviously the families of these girls, with the one piece of tangible reasoning they can grasp, are placing blame on the video streaming site.

Putting blame entirely on Netflix is as bad as blaming every circumstance other than mental illness for suicide. However, I do think that the show was a trigger to young people already facing plenty of issues themselves. A confirmation that following through with their dangerous thoughts was a sensible choice.

For most people, triggers don’t come from television shows, but these shows could easily portray concepts that cause anxiety, that allow depressive thoughts to resurface.

A common misconception is that if we are exposed to our triggers more often, they are easier to manage. That we become used to how we feel and “overcome” our hesitation. Rarely is this true. Phobias and triggers are not synonymous. You should feel no obligation to face your triggers if you don’t feel comfortable.

Instead of devaluing someone for avoiding what is harmful to them, we should applaud the fact they’re aware of what disrupts their mental well-being and taking care of themselves accordingly. Nothing is more empowering than having insight into our health and making the best choices for ourselves. And if doing so doesn’t limit our lives or hurt others, nobody should judge however that self-care may look.

You’re probably wondering, do I have triggers? Of course. There’s a reason why I don’t wear a FitBit, weigh myself, or go out often to loud, crowded places without a valid reason. I know that by being proactive, I can prevent myself from having to deal with what I know might drive me to some unhealthy behaviors.

Is this a form of avoidance? That by not addressing these triggers head-on, I’m not actively seeking recovery? I don’t think so. You shouldn’t feel guilty for making your life as nontoxic as possible. You are the one living your life, and if that means that you don’t associate yourself with certain people or don’t partake in certain activities, then that’s okay.

It’s been a new thing these days for certain people to critique how often we might label a certain social media post or program with a “trigger warning.” But why is this any different from other health conditions? You wouldn’t ask a diabetic person to eat a ton of desserts to raise their blood sugar through the roof, nor would you put a jar of peanut butter in somebody’s face who has a food-borne allergy, expecting them to adapt to that situation and become more resilient.

It’s more understandable to make these comparisons, but mental health triggers can be much more complicated. As with mental and physical illness, the latter tends to be much more visible, more black-and-white. Mental health thrives in the grey area. The mental triggers, as with physical ones, can be mild or severe. They can come from anywhere that has some emotional ties. Most people wouldn’t even question eating certain foods or discussing certain topics, but who knows what goes through somebody else’s head doing the same thing. Triggers require others to be flexible and aware. They are not the outright cause of mental illness, but they are catalysts for trouble.

While not every single word or image we see or hear should require listing out every possible reason that it could offend someone else, but we ourselves should notice whatever signs we know are associated with our personal triggers and treating them accordingly. Nobody else has to be involved in disclosing every single detail we might encounter, but the people around us should act simply as moral support. They might not fully understand why a simple TV show or social situation might cause full-out panic or depression, but they can acknowledge that you might do things differently than others, and that’s okay.

Whether you have triggers or not, be mindful and empathetic of those who do have them, who may need your emotional support to simply live a full life. And these triggers are not glamorous. It’s not some new trend to say you have social anxiety or are depressed. Triggers have and will drive some people over the edge. Once we actually start taking that threat seriously, we can continue moving forward as a cognizant society.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The State of Our States

I’m not too keen on fireworks. Nor do I eat watermelon. Do I sound un-American? I’m not too distraught by that.

It’s not something slipping beneath the surface of public vision that America these days is…not necessarily in its peak performance. But has it ever been? Isn’t there always somebody who is facing injustice, a population who is not treated with respect, those struggling just to get by? Isn’t that just something to be expected on the outliers of the “American Dream”?

As you see, tying today’s post back to the BBQ grill-out of a holiday the Fourth of July has become, I want to instead have an honest reflection of what it actually means to be American. Even looking upon my own perspective, I have often been very critical of the society around me. I’m not afraid to say that I would love to live abroad in another country, back up my bags and never come back. I look at other first-world countries with a slight sense of envy, the foreign-feeling culture and environment a breath of fresh air from the norm.

It’s important to travel outside of your small bubble of your everyday life. That truly allows you to come back and appreciate what is at your disposal, the elements of each day that we don’t even question but may be far out of reach. Having an sort of health care, even if its current status is up in the air. Receiving an education. Having freedoms that allow us to share our opinions and express ourselves, especially when that

As a part of my new internship, I am working with a non-profit that really stresses the importance of American policy-making. Beginning as a grassroots effort itself, the Borgen Project asks volunteers to promote contacting members of Congress to pay attention to the issues that we should care about as a country. The policies we create in Washington influence how other countries act and move forward. It decides the dialogue across the globe.

Because yes, to an extent, America is one the most powerful countries in the world. How you measure that is up to you, but from the perspective of influence, America is on the top. What issues we may be facing, we then compare to other countries. Everything can be measured via an American scale (even though that isn’t metric).

As critical I am, I am a hypocrite saying that we as people can be critical to the point that we neglect what makes America the country it is. The hard-working people who make our privileged lives possible. The opportunities we have to pursue our happiness and help others achieve the same goal. People all over the world wouldn’t want to immigrate and settle in a completely new country despite the difficulties involved if there wasn’t some sense of hope and promise within American borders.

We as Americans have a responsibility. We must take care of our own people. Awareness of domestic issues doesn’t contradict awareness of foreign issues, contrary to popular belief. And that means yes, we should pay attention to each.

But back on the domestic front, today of all days should serve as a reminder that yes, America has its obvious pros and cons. The ups and downs of modern society and of democracy are inevitable. We are not a melting pot of people, but a patchwork of cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. That itself requires celebration that we can all live under one flag woven with such a colorful thread.

I’m blessed to have grown up in a country that has afforded me the opportunities of healthcare, education, freedom, possibility. Of chasing the multitude of goals that arise in my mind and make them reality. I realize that even fellow Americans do not have the same privileges. With every benefit we have, we still misuse our freedom to scrutinize others for the differences that make the country so beautiful.

We’ve made progress. But we have plenty of work to do, especially under our current leadership. I’m not about to go on a bash-fest of what administrative flaws exist, but that’s not the point. It’s about our power as Americans to make our voices heard, to set the standards of what is important to us, to ask the hard questions, to organize and mobilize grassroots movements that make the world a better place. The powers can easily become a double-edged sword depending on our intentions, but with empathy and compassion at the forefront, so much good is possible. We can make America and the world a better place for everyone if we’re willing to use the concept of the “American Dream” as a platform for action and change.

Any American has the potential to do amazing things. Really, everybody should. And for those of us who can at this moment act on the issues we find important, we have a sense of responsibility for doing even the simplest things, such as a 30-second phone call or email to a Congress member, to make a difference beyond ourselves. America is known for its stereotypes of being self-centered, that we’re focused on our individual lives only, that we’re blind to what’s just outside our front doors. Stereotypes originate in at least a partial tinge of truth, but how we respond to that is up to us.

So blow some things up, legally and responsibly. Have a (veggie) burger hot off the grill. But don’t forget what this day means. The efforts of those before us and right now ensuring that America is as great as it is and the possibility of what could be.

Do I still think living abroad, even if it’s just Canada, is an awesome option for me? Definitely. But is America a country that I’m beyond grateful to call my own? Definitely.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Another Stepping Stone

As is typical with life, there are constant moments of closure and beginning. A time for things to subside to make room for something else truly meant for this present moment.

Beginning today for the next twelve weeks, I am honored to announce that I am a writing intern for the Borgen Project. This is a non-profit organization over a decade old dedicated to world poverty advocacy. My weeks will entail publishing some relevant articles, promoting advocacy and mobilization, and utilizing a fundraising effort to support the worthy cause.

So with my 1-2 articles a week, I will essentially be writing what I’ve done in the past through opinion columns, but this time, my words are in line with a purpose far beyond myself. Even as a remote intern, I can make a difference. It’s a change that is exciting and forward-thinking for what I want to do with my life: help others in any way I can.

Once I have a link up for my profile, I would very much appreciate any donations you may be able to put toward my efforts, but I will gladly accept any support and encouragement through this process.

I’m also looking forward to the coming fall semester, something that I admittedly was dreading for obvious reasons. What I thought would be gaping tears in my routine and preferred schedule, I will have more practical and meaning activities to devote my energies to. I will be serving my last undergrad year as my campus’s Peace Corps ambassador, plus I’ll be building up a campus chapter of NAMI from the ground up. Both of these groups are ones I feel very passionate about and hope to make any sort of impact through my involvement.

So with all of these life updates in mind, I do have a point to make today. Even when knowing that everything in life happens for a reason, it’s not exactly straightforward as to what that reason is. We ask why certain opportunities don’t work out, why certain relationships fall apart, why we make certain mistakes or come across heavy burdens. While maintaining some hope that these events are for the best, in the moment, they feel like anything but.

Without the fall outs, I would not have applied for the positions I have. I would not be considering the future that is now more like a calling for me. After years of anxiety simply from what might occur day to day, I find peace in the possibilities that lie ahead. The closures that were the hardest to accept ended up being the greatest blessings. 

Life would not progress without these smaller cycles of life and death in the middle. Even without faith in God’s mysteries, those cycles are simply nature. Walking on the cobblestone path, we’ll have times when we’re timid to take a next step, standing upon a single secure stone for comfort. Other times, we become distracted and step into a crevice, taking some time to pull our foot out of the miniscule fault line. But give it time, and we keep walking. You cannot always tell the sincerity of every stone you see from its appearance, but we take risks. We choose progress, bad or good, over watching the world walk by.

We cannot prevent the faulty stones and potential slippery trails. That doesn’t mean we cannot prepare our bodies and minds. We educate ourselves, equip ourselves with the right tools to make the best choices and respect our bodies as vessels for the trek.

So in every step and season of life, let us accept what is and pray for what might be. I certainly didn’t expect anything that this summer has brought. It’s been a roller coaster, that’s for sure. But I’d like to think I’ve come out stronger and wiser, prepared for whatever step is next.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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

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