Seek

The other day, a close friend of mine explained that she didn’t quite believe in new years resolutions (why wait until a certain day of a year to promise to be a better person by making a list of somewhat unrealistic goals, and then beat yourself up when you do not reach it?). Instead, she explained, we should have a certain word or phrase each year that reminds us and urges us to just be the best version of ourselves everyday. I fell in love with this idea of a word–a word to root you in being better; a word that gives you the freedom to grow how you choose, but still grounds you in improvement. And I’ve spent the past several day reflecting on what word would resonate the most with me for 2015.

So what is it that I truly  I hope to accomplish in 2015?

I want to seek out knowledge about the world around me.

I intend to seek opportunities that make me or the world a better person.

I hope to seek out the best in people.

I only wish to seek out experiences of love, kindness, service, and authenticity

I will go and seek new adventures (adventure IS out there).

Lastly, I can seek for balance and decisions that are healthy and good for me.

. . .

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So, the word I choose to guide me through 2015 is SEEK. I love that his word is active and simple and can be applied to almost any situation or decision. And since 2015 is going to be a year of major decisions–where to apply to doctoral programs, what summer in internship to pursue, and how to spend my second year of graduate school–I know that I will be doing a lot of soul searching and seeking what is best for myself and others.

. . .

I hope you all have a wonderful NYE, however you are choosing to celebrate, but I also hope that you give yourself some time in the next couple days to reflect (if you do truly wish to become brighter and greater in 2015)! Remember that you have the power each day to get out of bed and be a better version of yourself–that’s an immensely positive and empowering feeling! As we each embark on the journey to take on 2015 as our best selves each and every day, let me ask you: what will your guiding word be?

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Sharpening My Crayons

Crayon_Shavings_4_by_juniper_stock

A winter night is characteristically still and quiet. All except for me, who settles into bed each night over winter break, buzzing with subdued energy. As I shift around in the covers to find the perfect spot to rest and relax, my mind is awake, aware of myself and my thoughts and actions throughout the years. While it may be time for others to shut off their minds and go to sleep, bed time to me is a time to reflect and reconnect with the person who’s the most important in my life… me.

I’m specifically thankful this winter break that I’ve had time (that oh-so-elusive time) to reflect on myself and my growth and to ask myself how am I and who am I. As I’ve laid down in bed each night, I let myself settle into my own skin. I allow my mind wander through past mistakes, triumphs and desires; I permit myself to explore the parts of me I keep hidden away. I run my hands over the parts of my soul that are dusty from being ignored. And the as the pieces fall into place and I can imagine myself as a whole human, complete with faults and dreams and nuances and joy, I revel in her presence. Ah, there I am. Alyson, it’s nice to see you again.

Once upon a time, I didn’t have to search for the parts of me hidden away, because there were none. I was unabashedly myself, almost to a fault. Growing up and especially through the high school years, there was no side of me that I didn’t show, no emotion that I was afraid to spotlight. That innocent and full sense of confidence (or perhaps sheer lack to self knowledge) wasn’t to last forever though, and it was destroyed in my 20th year when a fallout with a dear friend and love left me emotionally raw and starkly aware of how others responded to me. I heard the whispers and felt the stares and the judgements followed me like shadows across the campus. I was hurt, alone, and, for the first time in my life, I hated myself and distrusted myself to make decisions that were good for me. And so throughout that year, parts of my broken soul retreated into myself in order to have time to heal and become anew…

The only problem is that this whole and full and confident Alyson never really re-emerged

Throughout the years, I have developed a metaphor about the type of people in the world around me. We are all boxes of crayons. Some of us have more colors than others; some are the 64 count box of crayons–feeling more intense and radiant joys of the world, but also the deeper and darker blues of distraught and sadness. There are also the 8 count boxes–those of us who feel and know what we need, and are more than happy to carry on that way forever. These 8 ct. boxes are no less or better than the 64, they simply don’t need to take the time to worry about the spectrum of life and living, of pain and joy and of the connections between us all. And since about halfway through college, I have been the 64 count box of crayons pretended to only have eight colors. I choose carefully which of my colors to show to the world: the hardworking-red, the confident-when-you-meet-me yellow; the only-slightly-shy blue; the perfectionist purple. The other hues are tucked away inside myself, only available to the select few I have trusted throughout the years: the anxious alyson, the manipulative alyson, the weird-as-heck alyson, the self-hatred, the jealous, the confident, the silly, the real alyson farzad. It’s been for my own self preservation, but not necessarily for my benefit.

Sometimes I lose sight of myself behind the day-to-day actions of school, work and relationships. I lose sight of the whole and complete person beneath the mundane tasks of each day. When meeting new people, like those great folks at graduate school, I worry that I come off as boring or inauthentic because I know that there is so much of myself that I am holding back. But each night these past few weeks, as I crawl into bed and visit my entire box of crayons, I don’t hate the feel of my skin or the thoughts in my mind. And a tiny voice in the back of my mind starts to nag me, “perhaps I can afford to start showing all I have to offer, as vulnerable as that may make me. Perhaps it is time to try.”

“You can’t be all the things…”

In light of my previous post, I was reminded of a blog post I read last month that gave me some peace of mind in light of my anxiety over life’s tradeoffs… Some of my favorite quotes from this sweet little blog are posted below, but I suggest you read over the entire entry, linked at the bottom.

“I want to be the person who gets called at two in the morning. I want to be the one who shows up at the door with coffee and a heart that is just ready and amped for whatever truth you want to let sit square in the middle of the kitchen table. I want to take people as they are. I want to hold people as they come.”

. . .

““You can’t be all the things,” she answered. “We all want to be all the things and we just cannot be.””

. . .

“That’s where I am in this present moment: figuring out what it looks like to not be all the things— to not be everything to everyone. To just be something to a few. To remember to call that few. And cheer that few on. And finally resolve the debate in my mind that has always told me that, to be valuable, you must sink your teeth into quantity.”

. . .

http://hannahbrencher.com/2014/11/11/you-cant-be-all-the-things/

To Live a Full Life

[Quick Life Update (It’s be FOOOOREVER since I last posted): I’ve finished my first semester of graduate school at Vanderbilt University–complete with great grades, the makings of beautiful friendships, and with the guidance and support of my amazing goofball, Eric. I am now home and sitting under the soft lights of my christmas tree, finally giving myself much needed time to write, reflect and retreat back to my center.]

Life is positively precious and your time in it is not guaranteed. In case you weren’t already aware, youth is also fleeting. As I grapple with the definite amount of time I have on this beautiful earth, I find myself wanting the most out of everything I do. Graduate school has been no different….

Vanderbilt has opened a complete new world of possibilities to me this past semester. Professional experiences, personal growth, social expansion–all just a fingertip lengths away at all times–has left me reeling. A familiar anxiety settled over me like a thin blanket, heavy enough to notice but not large enough to warrant much thought or complaint. Tonight, I finally had the chance to take a long critical look at that anxiety and recognized it for what it was… A younger version on myself would call it “FOMO” or “The Fear Of Missing Out.” However, my semi-grown up self would call this sensation a heightened sense of escaping time correlated with the amount of experiences I want to behold.

In essence, I want so badly to live every positive or growing experience and to live a full life, that the escaping time and the tradeoffs that are being made are making my stomach churn. I want to do everything in a limited amount of time. It’s impossible, yet the anxiety of each daily compromise stalks me like a shadow, always there. My inner dialogue is so back and forth and sounds a lot like…

“By choosing to go to the coffee shop, I give up the opportunity to see that lecture. By getting dinner with my new friends, I give up a chance to catch up with old. By choosing to study student affairs, I cannot study policy. By choosing chocolate, I give up vanilla”

I wish I were kidding about how each miniature decision gives me at least a second of pause. It seems silly, but I truly believe that each daily decision helps shape your path and your story… I just want that story to reflect who I am.  Perhaps if I understood myself and my goals a bit better, I would breathe easier with each decision. Then, I could be sure I am making minimal tradeoffs and selecting the path that best suits me.

In a perfect world–one where I lived up to my values and the person I want to be–I would choose certain actions and things over other options and not have any anxiety because I was confident in myself. And if I were the woman I know I want to be, I would choose…

  • responsibility over triviality
  • close groups of friends over large parties
  • coffee shops over time at home
  • music over silence
  • activities over laziness
  • family over all else
  • outdoors versus in
  • beer over wine 😉
  • reading over social media
  • selflessness over self
  • self discovery over compliance
  • goofiness over seriousness

So as a promise to myself, I will try my hardest to take my next steps forward (regardless of what those are) with these decisions in mind. Just as a needle on a compass points north, I will my values and my interests to point my daily decisions and guide me down the path into the real adult life I am embarking on.

“All that I am is motivated by just two needs, two thoughts, two yearnings: the ferocious desire to live a full life and the consistent curiosity to figure out what that even means.”