27 Years Later: Good Things Come in Threes

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Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m turning 27! I call my 26th year a transformational one, when I perhaps experienced the most growth in my adult life. As I look back on it, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come — from one of my lowest points to-date, to a state of increased self-confidence, improved decision-making (read: not sacrificing at the expense of myself to please others) and most importantly, lasting happiness.

Tonight, I sat down and asked myself, “What makes the number 27 significant?” Entering that question into the Google search bar brought a bunch of random information my way (I didn’t actually expect anything significant — but hey, we just can’t help but Google random things for ourselves sometimes, right?), along with the simple mathematics fact that 27 is a perfect cube, being 3x3x3. Which reminded me of the Rule of Three in writing, that things that come in threes are good — more satisfying, effective and sometimes even funnier (won’t you look at that — the Rule of Three in action).

So, I’m going with The Power of Three for this year-in-review to mark my 27th birthday! Multiply the 3 Things I Will Leave Behind by the 3 Things I’ve Learned by the 3 Things I Want to See Happen, and I hope that I’ll be even better by the time I hit my 28th year.

3 Things I Will Leave Behind

  • (1) Fear and (2) Self-Doubt: I’ve spent my life paralyzed by fear of what others think of me, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough. So I’ve always lived in the safe zone — as the majority of us do. I’m ready to push fear to the side and step into the confidence I find, knowing first and foremost that my identity is in Christ.
  • (3) Wasting Time on Social Media: I tasted the sweetness of life with less social media (read: freedom from FOMO) when I fasted from phone use from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for Lent. I’ve fallen back into using my phone too much and have wasted so much time on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. That officially stops now.

3 Things I’ve Learned

  • (1) I Can’t Do It All: This was the lesson I needed to learn most, and I can pretty much consider it done. I’ve set more limits for myself than ever before, all to make sure I’m not overstretching myself, which also makes it possible for me to give my best to others in my life.
  • (2) I Need Rest and (3) Self-Care is Amazing: The days of going, going, going nonstop are over, and I have discovered the beauty of rest and self-care. Sometimes, I decide to sit  take a nap or watch Netflix. And sometimes, I decide to read a book, write or exercise. But no matter what, I’m doing these things for no reasons other than: because I want to, because I enjoy them and because they’re important to me.

3 Things I Want to See Happen

  • (1) Deepened, Strengthened Relationships: Technology makes us feel more connected than ever, making even distance seem trivial at times. But seeing what’s going on in each others’ lives via social media is never enough. I hope to make more video/phone calls and in-person visits with my friends and family to deepen the already strong relationships we have. And here at home, I pray my marriage will continue to grow by leaps and bounds.
  • (2) Fully Established Leadership Style: I spent the better part of this year easing into the leadership opportunities I received in various areas of my life — work, church and community. I moved at a calculated speed, fine-tuning my own leadership style based on what I’ve learned over the years. This year, I want my leadership capacity and style to be fully established, natural and effective.
  • (3) Intermediate Proficiency in Tagalog: I first introduced this goal in 2012 and have obviously struggled to reach it. This year, I  so earnestly want to accomplish intermediate level Tagalog (at the least) and have an incredible incentive to do so — my family is set to take our first trip to the Philippines together in 2017. I’ll finally get to meet my aunties and uncles and cousins in person for the first time, and I want to be able to speak Tagalog with them more than anything.

And with that, I’m off to find some red velvet cake and celebrate!

photo credit: 08_June_2021 via photopin (license)

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Life Isn’t Meant to be a Chore

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It was a bit of a strange month and a half that just crawled by…

I mean, it actually crawled by. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes turned to hours, and single days turned into delusions of 48- or 72-hour increments.

Have you ever woken up on a Tuesday and thought to yourself, “Thank goodness it’s Thursday already!” That was me — for weeks.

When I took the time to think and talk with my closest friends about what might be the root of all this, it became clear.  Every single thing I was doing day in and day out — whether it was planned and routine, or spontaneous and fun-filled — felt as though it was on a to-do list. And it’d been that way for a while.

I bet you can imagine just how sour my mood was. Just how frustrated I felt. And that’s because many of you have been there at one point or another. Sometimes it’s due to work, and other times you may be overwhelmed with family-related goings-on or other commitments that run parallel to your career. Feeling as though there’s no time for you because every second of your day is allocated to an obligation or task of some sort is awfully stifling.

But we all know life itself isn’t meant to be a chore. Right?

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So the question I’ve continually asked is, “Why do you keep allowing this cycle to happen?” I’ve dug into it a bit with my friends, but I don’t know if we’ve succeeded in doing much more than scratch the surface. And I’m OK with that — because I’m self-aware enough to know this is a personal vice that is going to take much more intention and effort than I’ve ever expended to throw it off course for good. This cycle of feeling stifled by life, pulling back on everything and then falling into the same hole has been happening for me since day one, so it can’t simply be fixed overnight.

One thing I do know is that self-care is something I have always neglected. But this month as I talked about what I was facing, my trusty friends staged an intervention — through separate conversations, but collectively — to make me think about myself for once and to find a steadying rest. (Thanks, guys!)

I’m not going to list out the ways I intend to make self-care happen because, well, the truth is that I need to do some experimenting to find what feels right, what feels good — especially since self-care hasn’t ever been a priority for me before. I promise to report back once I’ve figured out what brings me to my happy place.

Until the next time I post, guys, I hope you have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend, and that you also take the time to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

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Fighting the Urge to Give in to American Workaholism

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Just over a week ago, I returned to Atlanta from a seven-day trip to New York City for work. The trip was equal parts fun and equal parts exhausting, with late nights and early mornings. Our mornings required early wake-up calls because of various meetings and engagements on our calendars, but I’ll confess, all of those late nights were on me. Now, the weird thing was that we got back to our hotel rooms early enough for me to get ready for bed and fall asleep at a reasonable time. Say, by 11:00 p.m. at the latest. But sleep was far off — every single night, without fail.

I’ve realized this happens during every work trip I take, no matter if I’m in a huge city like New York or a smaller city like Buffalo. I stay awake later than I intend, and definitely much later than I’d ever allow on a weeknight at home in Atlanta.

It’s a pattern — a pattern that I thought was odd, at first. Until I thought about it some more and recognized this is not a strange pattern at all, for me.

And, here is where I shrug off every ounce of security and pride to become completely vulnerable.

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Last year, I fell into the trap of letting work consume me — letting work consume my life, honestly. I thought I had everything under control. “Yes, things are intense. Yes, my plate is on the verge of spilling over,” I’d tell myself, “But it is still under control, I can still handle it. And it’ll all be better next week.”

Oh, the lies I’d tell to myself and others to keep up appearances — and I believed every one of them (so did everyone else). Too much was happening, too fast. My plate was already spilling over…and over…and over. I placed all of my effort into work without leaving any energy for the people I care about most, let alone for taking care of myself. And I subconsciously looked past all of this because I was in total denial.

It took getting to a very dark and unhappy and lonely place for me to see I was in far too deep. And I knew climbing my way out of that hole to set things straight again and flip my priorities right side up was going to take more than just a simple fix.

Months passed before I felt I’d hit reset and found my new normal — mentally, emotionally and physically. At times, I felt I was making no progress at all. But then slowly, I did. Thankfully.

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With that backstory, it might be easy to see how sleep doesn’t always come quickly when I’m out of town for work. Though I have hit reset and found a new normal, the old habits don’t die. It’s easy to let my guard down, fall into the trap of not detaching from work and ease back into operating out of anxiety — that is, anxiety disguised as adrenaline and excitement.

And when I’m away from the comforts of home, that also means I’m away from my husband and family and friends. Away from the community that keeps me grounded and incessantly reminds me that, while work is hugely important to me, it does not come first on my list of priorities. It does not come above my faith or my husband or my family or my friends.

Again, I do feel a strong difference between my current state and where I was last year, and that’s encouraging. But this isn’t something I’ve fully figured out yet, which is quite evident from my trip to New York. So I continue to push forward, fighting my old habit of giving in to that age-old, infamous, American workaholism.

What about you — do you struggle with this same issue, or have you learned how to avoid succumbing to the pressure of workaholism? If you have advice, leave a comment. I’d love to hear it, as I’m sure many others would!

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Leaving My Complaints About Pollen in the Dust

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Whenever spring rolls around, I find myself asking, “Should I go outside to enjoy the beautiful weather that I’ve been waiting on for so long?” Or, “Should I stay inside to avoid suffering from the side effects of the pollen that heavily coats the entire city?”

More often than not, I stay inside. Because truly, nothing (and I mean nothing) is left untouched by the pollen here in Atlanta that aggravates the allergies of nearly everyone I know. I’d never witnessed anything like it before moving to the South.

For those of you who have never experienced this, try picturing a black parking lot that looks as though children have fully covered it in pale yellow sidewalk chalk. Got it? OK.

Now, let it hit you that the pale yellow sidewalk chalk is actually just pollen. And then let it hit you that, even during a strong thunderstorm, the pollen never completely washes away. It instead mixes into the puddles of water on the side of the road, creating a nasty buildup that you (and your body) simply can’t miss.

Oh, the pollen.

For me, taking our dog Roxanne on just a 10-minute walk in the morning is enough to set my allergies on fire. I’ve been living in a Zyrtec haze the last couple of weeks to try to keep the pollen under control, but who am I kidding? The operative word in that sentence is try, seeing as Zyrtec can’t fix everything. Even after taking Zyrtec, I still have constant sneezing fits (they happen in threes, by the way), I sniffle as often as a dog sniffs (in other words, all the time) and I am always rubbing my itchy, irritated eyes (I know, I know, that doesn’t help with the redness or puffiness, and I just don’t care).

If you’re assuming that I do a fair bit of complaining about the pollen and my allergies, that’s fine. I’ll admit that you’re right.

But I’ll also admit this: I hate complaining. So what’s a girl to do?

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Today is a new day. And with it, I’m issuing a new challenge for myself: No more complaining about pollen, no matter how bad it may be. It’s time to leave it in the dust (pun intended, of course).

There is nothing quite like the transition we see from winter to spring, but instead of fixating on the wonder and allure of it, I sadly take advantage of the season and just complain about pollen — the one, single, isolated downside. It’s so easy to focus on the negative side of things, but it’s also important to look at the silver lining. No question about it, there are so many upsides to this gorgeous season.

I could go on and on and on about how I love the bright sunshine, blue skies, perfect temperatures and daylight lasting late into the evening.

Or the blooming flowers, shrubs and trees all around that are far too beautiful for words.

Or the call of birds early in the morning and the buzzing of the bees as they calmly make their way from flower to flower.

Or the peace I feel when the rain pitter patters against the windows and the boom of thunder shakes me deep within.

It is simply amazing.

So, here’s to kissing my complaints about allergies goodbye, no matter how hard it may be. I’m committing to this, just as I have committed to moving out of my own way when it comes to writing.

Will you join me? Comment on or like this post to say yes!

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The Upside of Being Anonymous in New York City

10932467344_509b4e4e32_bYou’ve caught me in New York City on day two of a trip for work. We’ve had a hectic start to the week already, and I know it’s only going to get even busier. So naturally, as I sat here writing this in my hotel room last night, all I could think to myself was, “You really need to get some sleep. Seriously.” After all, it’s 11:30, and tomorrow, there will be a bright and early start waiting for me. (OK actually, it’s a before-the-sun-comes-up start.)

The problem is that I’m in the city that doesn’t sleep. (Thanks for the tunes, Frank.) When I’m here, I turn into a night owl – for those of you who know me, you know that I’m not a night owl. Not at all, not even close. And on a regular morning, I don’t begin my day with a caffeinated beverage to wake me up. Here in New York City – you guessed it – I do like to start my day with a hot cup of tea or a latte. It feels natural, as if that’s my daily routine.

What’s interesting to me is that this shift happens every time I’m here without exception. It happens immediately after landing at LaGuardia – my heart beats faster, I get that pep in my step and it feels as if my mind is suddenly jolted awake.

Granted, New York City will infuse a new supply of energy into almost every visitor. The skyline and the millions of people and the constant movement on the streets will make anyone’s eyes open wide in wonder and curiosity. For me, New York City infuses a new supply of creative energy – that, my friends, is what turns me into a night owl.

When I’m here, my mind simply doesn’t rest. And the wave of ideas rolling their way into my thoughts without ceasing are only compounded by the fact that, as long as I’m in New York City, I am completely anonymous.

No one knows why I’m here. No one is watching me. No one knows who I am. And I love that.

That sense of anonymity leads me to believe that I’m completely free to think, speak, do and feel whatever I desire without having to worry about meeting anyone’s expectations. And I’m moved to act on that – to go through with what the creative, less rigid side of my brain is pushing me toward. Like a child, I can do and be whatever I want. 

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Now, that is not my norm. My creativity and spontaneity are stifled because I put the expectations of others before my own.

I realize I’m more concerned than I should be about what others think of me. For my entire life, I’ve been internally driven by the acceptance I receive from peers and superiors alike, and that train is showing no signs of slowing down. (Even though I know the truth is I don’t need anyone’s acceptance – evidence here and here.)
But what if that train did slow down? What if, for one day, I tossed my concern for whether others would accept me to the side? What if I allowed myself to think, speak, do and feel whatever I desired in that moment?

I’d be bolder and more courageous – less timid and afraid.

I’m grateful that New York City brings out this side of me that is bursting from being held in for so long. It shows me just how much I’m missing from day to day – or rather, just how much I could gain from day to day if I would only refuse to act solely according to my desire for acceptance from others.

How have you gotten past the tendency to make decisions based on what others might think or expect? Leave a word of advice in the comments!

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