Why You Should Stop Waiting To Be Happy

When I was in fourth grade I learned the meaning of my name.
My little introvert self was at sleep-away camp, which I distinctly remember hating because I was constantly surrounded by other girls. Well…I loved camp, I just hated the giggly-socialness of pre-teen girls 24/7.

One day, while I was in the camp snack shack, I found a little bookmark that I fell in love with. On the front there was this magnificent floral design (let me tell you how much I love floral designs) and my name, on the top there was a pink braided string, and on the back there was a bible verse. The verse was Proverbs 30:31 and the definition said this:

Emily: “Diligent one.” One who strives. One who is eager to succeed. 

I was pretty happy to find out I was given a strong name. To this day I’m a huge fan of name meanings and giving kids names with a legacy they can grow into. I guess my mom did a pretty good job because I felt like someone had just told me I was actually Wonder Woman. I bought the bookmark from the little shop and kept it in various books for probably close to a decade. Ever since, I’ve done my best to live up to it.

One slight problem. Constantly striving is great for the short-term, but how do you make this into a sustainable lifestyle? How do you keep pressing forward to the next big thing, without having a mental breakdown?

Simple: Find balance.

Not simple: I’m not naturally gifted with the ability to enjoy life.

I know, I know, that doesn’t seem to make sense. But, bear with me. See, I’m a fighter. And while that’s great (sometimes), it also means I’m hot-headed and impulsive and I’ll take a swing even when life is trying to help me. It’s a family curse: mistaking turmoil, for authenticity.

I come from a very hard working family, and it’s a lot to live up to. We were raised being constantly reminded of our family name. It meant something. It still does. Most importantly, we were constantly reminded so we would aspire beyond the limitations of past generations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a blog post about not working hard, because I do and I advocate for others to do so as well. BUT. Lately, I’ve been challenged to learn another lesson: How to be kind to myself. Maybe this sounds too full of fluff for you, and maybe you’re like “What does this even have to do with a travel blog!?” but I think it’s really important that you all understand that the girl behind the keyboard is a mess under construction, as much as she is a world traveller and general bad-ass (your words, not mine).

I push myself really hard. And sometimes that’s great, because feeling like you’re moving forward is one of the best feelings in the world. But what if you’re moving forward in the wrong direction? Over the past six months I’ve had to make some really huge decisions and I’ve had to let some really important things in my life go. We’re talking foundation pillars being pulled out of the life I thought I was building. It was rough, and took a lot of tears and prayer to make the decisions.

But here’s the thing. As cliché as it might sound, letting go of those things has allowed my life to be filled with so much more substance. More laughter. More opportunities. More love. More books. More Art. More friendship. Just more.

I’ve always been the type of girl who likes to have a plan. But in the past six months I’ve been challenged to walk by faith, and faith alone. We’re talking, I had no back-up plan. Just the conviction of my heart and a million and a half prayers into my pillow at night. Something please work out. 

And it did. And I can honestly say I’m happier today than I’ve been for over two years. The future is looking bright, I’m regaining the use of my right arm (#crylaughsmile) and I have some absolutely awesome things to share with you guys in the near future.

We’re gonna be okay. Listen to that little voice that tells you what you really should be doing. Chase happiness, and most of all: be kind to yourself. I’ll be here to cheer you on.

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Why Tina Fey is Wrong – You Shouldn’t Have It All

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The other day I was clothes shopping and spent close to a millennia in the store…but only 3 things. SHOCK. Despite what my American upbringing echoed in the back of my mind:

“You should have bought it all!”
“You’ll look better walking out with overflowing bags on your arms.”
“How do you call yourself an adult without being able to splurge on payday?”

I wasn’t “sad” that I had “only” found a few things – I was elated. Why? Because what I bought was what I really really wanted. It wasn’t because I was broke, it wasn’t because nothing else worked, it was because I only bought what I was really passionate about.

I know, crazy.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. And while I was there I had to wonder: Why are American grocery stores the size of small villages? Have you ever been in a European grocery store? There’s like 8 aisles and one option of each thing (Yes, even in Paris). Why? Well for one thing, it’s because they don’t have to worry about organic – it’s all organic. The other is because life in general is more straight forward. You get what you need and then you move on with life.

And while we’re on the topic, have you guys seen that “Impulse Buy” Tina Fey commercial, if not watch it, below.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a BIG Tina Fey fan, but every time I see this commercial I think about how intense the culture of, “I can, therefore I will,” is in the U.S. Not saying it’s always a bad thing, just that it’s problematic, in that it creates this idea that all that is going to make you happy.

Clarification: I am no proponent of the kind of minimalism that Scandinavian countries advocate for. I know that works for some, and high-five to them, but that is NOT my aesthetic. I love having tons of art supplies, and bookcases overflowing with vintage/sketch books. But, something that I think has really stuck with me, from living in France, is that you don’t NEED to have every version and every color and every brand of something, in order to be happy. I mean, I basically lived out of two suitcases for A YEAR (and one of those suitcases was just art supplies) and I was perfectly functional.

During that year I had a lot (probably too much time) to think, and I was able to really analyze what was and wasn’t important/necessary in my life. Essentially, I learned what makes me happy. And, the emphasis here is what makes me happy (this is not a guide to making the world happy, again).

So, here’s what I learned and continue to implement in my day to day:

Languages are my passion:
I’ve always loved learning other languages (except Spanish, which for some reason I CANNOT pick up) and I love exploring the cultures that come with them. Studies show that learning/speaking other languages can actually make you happier for a multitude of reasons, including reducing stress, helping you feel more connected to other people and of course there’s the “chocolate cake high” that comes with learning new words. Regardless of what the motivation is, I love the idea that we can add so much value to our lives for (especially with online resources like Duolingo etc) little or no money.

“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.” –

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Art makes me whole:
While I was in France the two things I chose to spend my pitiful allowance on was postcards (another passion of mine!) and art supplies. Why? Because I literally start losing my mind if I can’t create art. Whether it’s painting or drawing (I learned in France, I actually can draw) I love having art as a meditative part of my life. Hop over to my Facebook page if you’d like to see what I’m currently up to, or you can check out my Pintrest board to see some of my drawing projects from France.

Learning new things enriches me:
Three words: Khan. Coursera. Skillshare. These are the trifecta of my learning (with perhaps some PBS worked in there) and I love taking classes, picking up new skills and learning about the world around me.

Khan Academy
was one of my favorite resources when I was in France, because it’s totally free and you can take classes on a million different subjects, including Pixar animation (also, because I’m a Trekkie – ha). I’ve taken ALL the history classes, and I regret none of the time spent. They also have science, art, coding, and math (gross – but if you’re into that kind of thing).

I also love Coursera, although now they’re starting to charge (but you can find hacks by Googling how to get the classes free). Coursera allows you to take academic classes from universities and professors all over the world, which I also think is amazing.

And lastly Skillshare is amazing for learning new creative things like drawing, photography and even cooking! I’ve learned so much from this resource, and the monthly subscription rate is about the same as Netflix/Hulu (but way more valuable, in my opinion).

Books are beautiful:
The Christmas before last I spent my day wandering Paris, and buying a bunch of classic literature. Why? Because for some reason, in Paris, the cheapest books to buy (we’re talking like 1 euro) are the classics in English. Needless to say, I’ve now read pretty much all of Jules Verne and Jane Austen. Books don’t have to be super expensive (especially if you’re finding them used) and yet they have the amazing ability to transport you all over the world and on a million different adventures. I’ve always been such a bookworm, but I think there was definitely a post college (or even during college) period of time when I forgot how much I loved them. I don’t have as much time now, because obviously I’m not a kid running free, but I do try to make sure to carve out 30min-1hour of reading time, each day. What am I reading right now? The Outlander series, and it’s making me want to go back to Scotland real bad.
WARNING: These books are mammoth.

I don’t need a million friends:
Okay, so let’s talk popularity contest. Why, oh why, do we have to feel like we need a million people who you’re “best friends” with? Unknown. But it’s a thing. And, as a proud introvert, it’s a lie I’m not buying into, anymore. I love me time, and I love alone time. It’s when my brain is settled and happy and free and I come up with my best ideas and creations. I do love the friends that I have, and I do love meeting new people, but not under the pretense that if I don’t have 12 friends I’m Snapchatting every night I’ll shrivel up and die like a raisin. Nope. I’ve had to fight hard for it, but creating that space, and bringing in only people in who understand that I need alone time has made me much happier than a thousand friends ever could.

My faith is really important to me:
My faith, like meditation or exercise, is something that keeps me whole. While I’m not sure that I would describe myself as specifically one denomination, Christianity is a really important part of my life, and one that inspires and strengthens me, daily. It’s not perfect, and neither am I, but it’s something that no one can buy, trade or take away and that makes it an invaluable treasure in my life.

What about you guys? Yeah, shoes are awesome, but what else makes you really glow with happiness? Comment below!

Why Netflix And I Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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Can I just say: I love being back in the U.S. Will I always live here? Probably not. But at the moment I am having a pretty splendiferous time of it. Coming back to Seattle was not an easy decision. There were a handful of people who thought I should stay in Paris, and others who thought I was crazy for choosing to move back from Europe at all.

But in the true middle finger to the world approach I adopted from my time in France, I could care less what their opinions are.

Because, when it comes down to it, this is my life. My decisions. And I’m the only one calling the shots on which direction I go. I would definitely encourage those who feel like Paris is the Mecca for happiness to move there themselves. (It was not, and never could possibly be, for me.)

ANYWAY…Being back in the good ‘ole US of A has been so much more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be. It’s funny, but you don’t really even realize how many things you get used to when you’re living in another country. Like bananas.

French bananas DO NOT taste the same as the ones we get here (or fruit in general). And at first that really bothered me. But over the course of 10 months I guess I got used to it, and I wasn’t even aware of the fact…until I got back to the now watery tasting ones in Seattle.

Beyond the fruit revelations, I’ve also experienced so many levels of culture shock from being back. And as weird as it sounds, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is keeping up with English/English speakers!

While obviously I haven’t forgotten how to speak English, I do have quite a bit of difficulty (still, after 3 weeks!) of finding the correct words for sentences, or speaking conversationally. There are a couple of reasons that I think are to blame for this. On the one hand, I obviously didn’t speak English in France, unless I was with one of my friends or the family I lived with. But on the other hand, I just didn’t really speak that much in general! Now looking back on the past year, I’m realizing just how incredibly silent I became. It feels so odd to be able to express myself without checking my vocabulary for the simplest form of a word and I keep having these moments when I think “Wow! I can read/respond without thinking to that!”

Is forgetting you’re fluent in a language standard after living in a country where it isn’t primarily spoken? Maybe it’s just me.

While I was living in France, I also didn’t have a phone for pretty much the entirety of my time there, so having the ability to call/text/use my smartphone outside of a Wifi zone is the oddest feeling. To be absolutely honest, I still kind of get freaked out when I get a text or phone call.

And despite the general joy of being back in my hometown, there are some things that will NOT be being reintroduced into my life, one of which will be Netflix/Hulu. Both of these sites were absolute addictions prior to my moving…and I guess that makes sense – I love movies, and I always have. BUT the mindlessness and the numbing effect that comes as a package deal is not okay.

In fact, that is one of the biggest things I’m observing and trying to keep from slipping into while in the U.S. Numb distractions.

I never noticed before how much over stimulation there is in the United States. Let’s all take a step back for a second and observe a few: There are more TV shows than we could ever hope to watch (but you’re expected to keep up with all of them), there are more activities than you’ll ever have time to do (how do you not run, do yoga, rock climb and go on a 10 mile hike EVERY DAY!?), more food options than you could possibly choose from, and more technological (sorry, mom) shit than you could ever possibly need. For instance, my iPhone 4s is like six generations behind, and I’ve only been gone for a year!?

Clarification: it still works fine. It still calls, texts, connects to Wifi and my data plan and takes decent photos, and yet…since I’ve been here all I’ve heard about is the latest smartphones and people calling generations that came out two months ago ‘ancient.’

The craziest part is that in spite of all of these 5 million things to keep us occupied, every person I’ve talked to since I’ve been here hates their job, and is constantly trying to escape through said distractions. And don’t even get me started on how messed up the whole, by age 22 most of us are in more debt than we’ll be able to pay off for 20 years, thing.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting. Like I said, there are so many amazing things I love about the United States, also. But one of the biggest things I’ve had to start doing since being here is simply saying no. NO NO NO NO NO. I don’t want to engage in this frothing at the mouth competition to impress people I don’t like in order to create a life where I’m constantly plugging in to something to forget I hate it. NO!

Because if there’s one thing I DID learn about living in Europe, it’s that my true friends love me when I have absolutely nothing to give, nothing to share, no way to repay and nothing to contribute. I am loved as I am. I don’t need to impress anyone, and I don’t need to be running around trying to keep up with whatever the next trend to hit the streets is.

Because when it comes down to it, these are distractions from what I really want to do with my life. These are things that kept me, for many years, from really pursuing things I was passionate about. They are pop up signs, advertisements and shiny gadgets that will not make me happy. And while each, in itself, is not necessarily harmful, the amassed collection is turning us into a nation of ravenous hoarders (of wealth, of technology, of perfectly filtered Instagram photos), blind to how blessed we already are.