It Starts and Ends With You

Over the past few years, and more specifically the past few months, I’ve come to learn that no one can stop you from feeling happy or sad except for yourself. Everything you feel and whether or not you allow things to get to you is completely within your control.

This is not to say that we should never feel the feelings that we feel, but instead, realize that we can ultimately choose how we react to the things that life throws our way and what we are going to do about it.

In life, you have two options: Do or do not. 

It seems silly to say, but it really is that simple.

In the past few months, I’ve encountered obstacles that, at first, I wasn’t completely sure I could overcome. From an outsider’s perspective, some would say, “It could have always been worse.” And its true. It could have been worse, but I thank God that it wasn’t.

Everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, affects your life. The challenge is how we’re going to deal with it.

We all have our own problems to deal with. Some may be bigger than others. But when bad things happen, it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let it take you down or rise above.

It’s hard not to get discouraged or upset when things don’t go the way we expected them to. It may seem impossible to push through whatever happens in your past. But, at the end of the day, it starts and ends with you.

Only you can decide when you’re ready to stop feeling sad or sorry for yourself. Only you can decide when you’re done being miserable. Only you can decide when you’re ready to move on. It starts and ends with you.

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What Matters Most

I write a lot about growing up. That’s because ever since I was little, I’ve always been in such a rush to be older. I remember following my sister and her friends around when I was a kid and I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to hang out with them. Now that I’m older, it’s funny how it works in reverse. As you get older, you want to gain all those years back that you wanted to skip ahead to.

I spend a lot of my time around people of different age groups and it always fascinates me to talk to them about their experiences and hear their opinions on life. And regardless of age, everyone always experiences things at different stages of their lives. Some of us are wise beyond our years and some of us continue to resist maturity.

Now that I am where I am, I’d finally like to slow down and take advantage of the time that I have while I have it.

When you’re younger, it seems like things take so much longer to happen – Getting your license, being able to legally drink, graduating college, finding a job, etc. But once you’ve crossed all of those things off your list, there’s a realization that you start running out of things that you have to wait for in order to happen.

What I’ve learned throughout my twenties so far is that I’m much more capable of distinguishing between the things are a big deal and the things that are not. I’m able to recognize what really matters in life and what I shouldn’t get so worked up about.

After I turned 25, I can’t emphasize enough how much of a significant shift there was in my mindset. After losing love, losing jobs, losing friends, I’m less upset about the losses and more grateful for the gains and the people who are still sticking by my side. I’m realizing that my family is one of the most important of things in my life. I’m realizing that you shouldn’t fight so hard for people who won’t fight for you. I’m realizing that the time you are given is precious and it shouldn’t be wasted on people or things that do not fill you up with joy.

Recently, I keep thinking back to the time when I was in the hospital at the age of 20 and diagnosed with Chrohn’s Disease due to my own self-induced stress. I look back and wonder how and why I allowed myself to get stressed over things that I can hardly even remember to this day.

There’s a certain peace that comes with age and maturity that I’ve truly come to appreciate – And that peace lies within knowing yourself and what you want out of your life. I can now say with full honesty that I’m discovering the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead. I thank God for that and I thank the people who are closest to me for supporting all of the decisions I have made leading up to this day.

I gave up alcohol AND coffee for a month and this is what happened

Similar to many others who have proclaimed an alcohol-free month this January, I too, have participated in the tradition of going an entire month without alcohol. To take it even further, I actually added coffee to that list as well. 

For many people, the month of January is symbolic towards building how the rest of their year is going to be. Many people want to start off the new year on a good foot, which would include refraining from a specific type of behavior – In this case, it would be alcohol and coffee for me. 

After having experience an already difficult month and a half throughout November and December, I decided that this was the right thing to do.

Having dealt with my very first hands-on experience of being unemployed, I felt that January would signify a turning point for me, so I wanted to eliminate the two biggest distractions in my life. I wanted to devote this alcohol/coffee-free month towards focusing on myself. I wanted to figure out how to be with myself, and be happy with myself. I wanted to get a better idea of what I wanted out of my life. And surprisingly, that’s exactly what happened.

At first, I thought I was going to lose my mind and become a hermit, but instead, it worked out in my favor. And this is exactly what happened. 

1. I wrote more. It’s amazing how much more I wanted to write. It’s because I had clearer thoughts that weren’t drowned out or interrupted by alcohol or caffeine. I honestly thought that the lack of alcohol or caffeine would actually cause a significant dip in the amount of writing I produced, but ironically, it made me more productive.

2. I read more. Aside from the fact that I had way more time on my hands due to unemployment, I actually did read more. Naturally, since I went out a less than usual, I spent those weeknights where I wasn’t meeting up with friends for drinks towards reading and learning more than I normally would.

3. I exercised consistently. The one thing I didn’t miss about alcohol was the hangovers and the general feeling of exhaustion after a night of drinking. I had my weekends to wake up early and go to the gym. I put myself on a consistent workout schedule and stuck with it because I didn’t have nighttime drinking distractions.

 4. I lost weight. The combination of regular exercise and elimination of extra calories from alcohol and even coffee (if it’s a fattier coffee drink) significantly affected my weight loss and how I looked overall. My jeans actually fit better and my stomach really did get flatter when I cut the calories from drinking.

5. I got so much better at cooking. When you change one part of your daily routine, it usually affects other parts as well. When I cut out alcohol, I avoided the drunk food-ordering and had more time to go grocery shopping and actually learn to cook properly.

6. I ate healthier. Going back to #5, I ate healthier because I wasn’t going out to eat as often (because food + drinks is usually an automatic combination) and I was staying in and making my own meals. 

7. I saved A TON of money. After seeing the actual numbers in my bank account, I was shocked by how much of my income went towards buying coffee every day or going out for drinks. The numbers don’t lie. Cutting back on alcohol and coffee saves major bills.

8. I was more focused on my goals. Instead of wanting to avoid my problems by drinking, I was more attentive towards what I wanted to accomplish while I wasn’t drinking. I was able to actually sit and think about the things that I wanted to  in my life, both in the short run and the long run.

9. I made better decisions. From personal experience, I can say that my worst decisions usually happen while I’m under the influence of alcohol. When you’re buzzed, tipsy, or drunk, you’re not in the right state of mind to be able to handle situations properly or make appropriate decisions. Thankfully, I had this entire month to make good decisions that led me to where I am now. 

10. I spent more time with people that actually mattered. You’d be surprised by how many people feel uncomfortable being around you if you’re not drinking, which says a lot about the company that you choose. The people that I spent time with while I was alcohol-free were the ones that still wanted to hang out even though I wasn’t drinking with them. And those are the people the really matter.

11. I got better quality sleep. To be completely honest, I still wasn’t able to sleep properly at first, but that was due to my own anxiety of what would happen after the month was over. Regardless, the quality of sleep that I did get was phenomenal. This in turn, led to me feeling better during the day and being more proactive throughout the week.

 12. I restored my faith in God. Despite what other people’s religious beliefs may be, mine were re-established during this month. Growing up, I’ve always been a Christian I’ve always believed in God and I’ve always had faith in God, knowing that things would work out. But there were times in the last few years where I really wasn’t sure that my luck was ever going to change. But after this month, and what has happened within the past few days, my faith is stronger than ever  in knowing that things really do work out.

 

New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down

I haven’t felt many positive emotions towards New York City lately. This is mostly circumstantial, in light of the recent events that have happened to me, so I’m writing this with a slight bias. But in the last few years, I haven’t had the best memories to associate with this city and it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

When I first moved here, I set the bar really high for myself. I still had that post-graduate fire, driven towards a successful career. I envisioned a life that would weigh more on the fun and exciting side rather than the difficult and discouraging side. It comes in waves though, like anything in life.

There are moments like last week when I was reunited with a good friend from Australia whom I haven’t seen in over a year, which coincidentally brought together a group of friends in whom I hardly see anymore.

And I keep asking myself the question of whether it’s New York City or if it’s just me. As the great Sinatra once said, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” Well, Sinatra knows his stuff. It’s true. There is no life like New York City.

So, I’m not sure if I’ve done my time and proved to myself and others that I can withstand a beating by living here. I’m not sure if leaving this city will change anything – If I’ll find a better job, or a boyfriend, or a cheaper apartment (I’d most likely find a cheaper apartment). I’m not sure if it’s the mental state that I’m in or the city that I’m living. A lot of people take the action of changing their environment for a better life. I’m not sure if that will work in my case. I’m not sure if I just need to figure things out still. All I know is that I don’t know.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from New York City, it’s that it’s constantly changing. Change, ironically, is the only thing that tends to stay the same here. People come and go, jobs come and go, apartments come and go, relationships start and end. It’s a vicious cycle.

To me, New York City can be summed up perfectly in the words of E.B. White’s, in an excerpt from “Here is New York”:

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.
…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

I’m the settler who is trying to re-discover my passion for New York City. I’m trying to get back to the place where I was filled with ambition and fire. I somehow lost it along the way.

Who you meet

There’s a quote from the movie “Love and Other Drugs” that meant a lot to me the first time I ever heard it and it still means a lot to me now. It goes like this,

“You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet one person and your life is changed forever.” 

I’m writing this because I know that the person whom I’m writing about is going to read it. And I actually hope he does because this is meant for him. So, here it is.

I know that a lot of people may disagree with the idea of ‘love at first sight.’ To be completely honest, I still don’t exactly understand the mechanics behind it. People usually tend to call it ‘lust at first sight’ instead because how do you really know that you love someone whom you’ve never met before?

Well, I’m not sure if it was love at the first moment I saw him, but it sure as hell was something. It was something that, little did I know at the time, would change my life forever.

The first time I saw him, I was drawn to him. It was like I knew that something was going to happen between us. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt like I was supposed to meet him.

Living in New York City, people try not to make eye contact with others. Yet, we encounter hundreds of thousands of people each day just getting from one subway stop to another. How are you supposed to know who is going to impact your life or not?

Usually, it’s a small percentage. We often make it a point to reach our destination without a single encounter unless it’s with someone we’re already with. It’s funny how that happens in big cities. There are millions of people who are going about their lives, trying to avoid making eye contact with one another.

I always go back to that day when I first saw him and I try to ask myself, ‘What exactly was it was that made me look up from staring at the ground that day?‘ When I saw him, I just knew that he was going to be someone important in my life. Again, at the time, I hadn’t realized the magnitude of what our relationship would become. Little did I know how affected I would be him. And little did I know that he would become such a significant part of my young adult life.

But with that quote from “Love and Other Drugs,” I didn’t know that meeting that one person wouldn’t necessarily mean that you would spend the rest of your life with them. Some people come into your life to play a key role only for a brief period of time. Not all relationships were built to last.

I thought [and still think] that our relationship was short-lived. I wasn’t done getting to know him yet. I wasn’t done letting him get to know me. I still don’t know if it’s done or when it will end or if it will begin again. I’m not waiting, but I’m never sure.

Life works in an odd way in that sense – Not knowing who will leave you, who will come back, and who you’ll meet along the way. But when you know, you know. You just feel it. And that’s an important instinct to trust.

Stronger than that

So, we’ve all flipped the page on another year and now it’s 2016. Many of us like to completely dismiss the events of the previous year and start anew in hopes that Day 1 out of 365 of the new year will be a fresh start for us – A new beginning. Yes, it’s a new year, but it’s not a completely fresh start. I used to look at New Year’s as an opportunity to put the past behind me and move forward. And of course, that’s what we should all aspire to do. We should move forward and constantly keep moving forward. But I don’t think  that we should dismiss the events of the past.

I haven’t had the smoothest or easiest of years in 2015 and I know that I’m not the only one. I know that, compared to others, I didn’t even have it all that bad. Compared to others, I still have heaps more to be grateful for. I’m not bitter or resentful about the unfortunate things that have happened to me last year or any of the past years. And maybe I am writing this with hindsight bias because at the time, it was much harder during the actual heat of the moment, but looking back now, I know that I could never get to where I am without those moments of defeat. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” Well, I’m so glad that I never stayed down after all of those moments of defeat.

In 2015, I thought that every obstacle was going to be the one that was going to send me over the edge. In 2014, I thought the same thing. And the same goes for 2013 and 2012. Ever since I graduated college, each year seemed to be getting harder than the last. The thing is, I realize more and more with each passing year that life will just never get easier. I’ll only get stronger. I’ll only get better at handling difficult situations. I’ll learn from the past.

We shouldn’t neglect the events from the past because they have made us who we are today. No matter how tragic or difficult our hardships from the previous years have been, they shouldn’t be in vain. They are milestones and they are a part of us. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, but we should use them as a reminder that we are a lot stronger than we think.

Tracks

One of my best friends got married to her boyfriend of five years this past weekend. It was a profound milestone in her and her husband’s lives. Moreover, it was a huge milestone in my life as well because I have been there throughout the entirety of their relationship, from the very first time they met to this very day. To witness their relationship grow into what it is now is truly a remarkable thing.

As more and more of my friends are moving further along with their lives and taking those next steps of life-changing decisions such as getting engaged, getting married, and relocating, it really puts things into perspective for my life. As happy as I am for my friends, it also brings me great sadness to know that things will never be the same again.

Last night, I was looking through old photos, reminiscing on memories, and replaying those moments in my head. I tried hard to soak up as much of what I remember as I could, but I know that living in the past is no way to live.

I’ve never been one to settle for less than I want or deserve and I’ve always wanted more in my life. I’m not sure if that makes me greedy or ambitious, but as I look back at my life decisions, I’m starting to question whether or not I should have just stopped on one of those tracks and taken my life in another direction; a more stable direction.

When I decided to take a job in New York City, pack up, and leave, I imagined an endless amount of opportunities and adventures. To no surprise, I received exactly that. I’ve had amazing times in this city throughout the past three years. I have encountered many unbelievable experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I just stayed in New Jersey. And for that, I am grateful. But at the same time, it’s hard not to picture what my life could have been like if I had made different choices. It makes me wonder what would have happened if I had stayed put and grew with certain people instead of left them behind.

Of course, I’ll never know now. Even if I try to go back and re-live certain situations, it will never work out the way it would have if I had just ran with it during that time. I have already grown and I can’t unlearn the things I have learned. I can only hope for new doors to open and to finally find the person that stops me on my tracks in order to create a new one together.

It’s a special bond you create when you grow with certain people, not only romantic relationships, but in friendships. As I realize and greatly appreciate the people who have stayed by my side throughout all my years of ups and downs, I am thankful to have never left them behind even during those times where I was straying too far.

As you get older, life seems to be moving quicker. It’s important to make sure you don’t let go of the people who have helped you get you to where you are now.

The Motivation of Love

Nothing motivates a person more than love.

When I look at the great men and women in literature, art, music, etc., I notice one defining commonality between all of them – And that is the inspiration of a lost or found love. When I think back to my personal experiences, I recall all of the profound moments in my life; the milestones; the life-changing moves that I have made to become who I am today. And similarly, these moments happened in the midst of the beginning or the end of a romantic relationship.

Although it may work in different ways for some people, love significantly changes you. It leaves a mark on your soul to the point where you will be forever different from that moment on. Something happens inside; something that can make or break you.

When I look at my friends’ relationships and how it has changed them, I’m taken back by how much of an impact one person can make on your entire life.

Then, when I look at myself and I realize how much of an impression the relationships from my past have made on me.

As I am experiencing yet another failed relationship, I am able to see the things that I have done in reaction to this heartbreak. Though there were many times of weakness, I also notice the strength I have found to take that pain and turn it into something else, something great like writing, running, friendships, work, etc.

It’s amazing how much one person can influence your life. In the same light, it’s terrifying how strong of a hold that love can have on you; to make you do things that you never thought you were capable of.

I feel the changes happening once again in my life and I look forward to seeing how this shapes my future self.

Seeing how far I have come now, I can only hope that I become a better version of myself. Maybe (hopefully) one day, I’ll end up with the person that completes me after I have already completed myself. Maybe that’s what all this heart break is for; to prepare us for the big one – that big love.

And so, I’d like to thank my lost loves for shaping the person I am today. Without them, I wouldn’t have accomplished the things I have accomplished. I wouldn’t have been able to grow.

On Giving and Receiving Advice in Difficult Situations

When we are faced with difficult situations where we are simply unable to make a decision on our own, we turn to those who know us best for advice, whether it be a friend or family member. Even then, when we receive advice, we often still can’t arrive at a concrete solution. Why is this? Why do we turn to the advice of others when we don’t even take it into consideration a majority of the time. We often completely dismiss it or argue with them from every angle. It’s difficult to see things from an outside perspective when you’re in the situation yourself. Of course, it’s easier to give advice than to receive it. When you’re the one giving advice, the answer almost always seems clear.

Say for example, a friend turns to you immediately after getting into a fight with his or her significant other. From an outside perspective, you can easily dissect the argument. You point out the errors in communication (or lack thereof), tell them that they should/should not have said something, or advise them to react differently for future circumstances. As you are giving them with this advice, I can assure you that their immediate reaction is: They are 100% disagreeing with you in silence. That little person inside their brain is sitting there with arms crossed, and shaking their head left to right.

If you’re the person receiving this advice, you’re thoughts begin to populate and you silently respond in various ways:

“But she doesn’t even understand what happened”

“She doesn’t even know him”

“She’s not the one in the relationship”

Your defensive barriers begin to climb higher and higher and eventually, you completely tune out from everything they are saying.

Then, do we even bother asking? We ask because we care about the opinions of those that matter to us. We ask because deep down, we know that they can see things much clearer than we ever could when we’re in the heat of the moment. We ask because we often know the answer, but hope to hear something different. We ask because, even though we don’t want to admit it, they are usually right.

I’m a big fan of Elite Daily and I quite often read articles on topics such as relationships and dating immediately after I get into a fight with my boyfriend. And immediately after reading them, I get even more frustrated and angry on the opinions of these internet strangers. I often respond in one of the various ways that I provided above. But the thing about giving and receiving advice is this- It is always coming from an outside perspective. No matter what, at the end of the day, no one can know the inner workings of any difficult situation whether it be your best friend, your sister, or your husband. They can only tell you things from their point of view.

So, all you can really  do is to try to put yourself in that outside perspective and ask yourself, “What would I do if I was watching this happen live?”

Again, this is always easier said than done, but if all of us tried removing ourselves from the situation, then there would be a significant drop in errors in communication. Sometimes, we just have to take a step back and remove ourselves from the situation and see it for what it is. Often times, we are too emotionally invested to see things clearly. To remove the fog from the glass, try a different window. Hopefully then, a solution will come.

24

As I’m skimming through the many blog posts from my 23rd year of life, I’m noticing a pattern from where I was a year ago.

I re-read my entry from last year, “23 ” and I’m seeing that life really does come full circle in just a span of a year. I’ve faced almost identical hardships when I was 22 as I did when I was 23. Oddly enough, these similar hardships occurred at similar times during a particular season. I can only assume that this will continue in the years to come.

Similar to last year, the month of November has been nothing short of chaotic. In a single month, I’ve managed to start another new job (yet again), move into another new apartment (yet again), run the 2014 New York City Marathon, perform two shows with my band, and be in a relationship. I’ve always loved Autumn because it poses these opportunities for transformation. I suppose this may be why I’m so adaptive of change, being that my birthday falls in Autumn.

Another year has passes and I’m now 24. Honestly, I’ve never been so glad to say goodbye to a year.

I realize that I write about the same topics over and over again. I always question myself, asking why I repeatedly end up in identical hardships year after year. However, I can say this: Slowly, but surely, I am changing. Little by little, I am getting better at dealing with life. I am getting better at handling difficult situations. I am getting better at preparing myself for the worst. I am getting better at being adult (kind of)

I’m really looking forward to what 24 has in store for me. I look forward to experiencing more wonderful memories as well as hardships. Not all of 23 was as horrifying as I made it seem to be. There were many positive events and accomplishments that came with that age. Yet, I know that with every up also comes a down. It’s just all about holding on and enjoying the ride.

Here’s to 24.