I’m Still Here

This year has been hard.

I have had more surprises this year, more challenges, more growth, more love, more depression than any one person could possibly predict. This rollercoaster of a year has kicked my ass more ways than I can count, while also bringing me some of the most fantastic amazing life changes.

None of this year is how I pictured it would be at the start.

My career has been turned upside down twice. I got out of a terrible job, into another terrible one, and finally found a place so amazing I still can’t believe it’s real. My family has broken my heart over and over and over again. My loved ones have picked me up and wiped my tears every single time. My partner and I have grown into something so much better, so much stronger, than the best of romance films could have dreamed. An injury took away running, and I don’t see that coming back any time soon. I joined a women’s only kickboxing gym that is quite possibly the best thing to happen to me all year. I planted my first ever garden and actually kept something alive.

And there are still two months to go.

But I’m still here. And I think I’m ready to get back to sharing my thoughts with you all again.

For this week I will leave you with this: if you are depressed don’t keep it secret. Tell your inner circle, you’re going to need them on the dark days. Go to therapy. It’s hard work, but once you start doing it you’ll never turn back. And when life really kicks your ass, kick back.

-Darci

Thoughts on Turning 29

Tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow I enter the last year of my twenties. I feel like it should be more profound. Birthdays always make me reflective, but this year feels like it came too fast. The last year has been an endless whirlwind and I’m still processing a lot of 28 and what it means to me. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last year of my life, but that growth hasn’t always been the most well received. I’ve spent a lot of this last year trying to listen to my boundaries and my limits, trying to say No more, focusing on self-care more. I’ve gotten myself out of some toxic environments and hurtful relationships. Change is good. But it’s also very hard. My good days of 28 have been some of the best days of my life, and my bad days have been some of the worst.

I am grateful to my twenties for making me stronger. I’ve learned a lot of beautiful lessons and have encountered some amazing people. I am grateful that I enter this final year of this decade surrounded by people who love me in a way that I am humbled and overwhelmed by constantly. And I am grateful to have had the wisdom to let go of those who did not love me.

I’ve come a long ways in my twenties. It hasn’t always been graceful, it hasn’t always been pretty, but it has made me who I am today. And I like who I am today. I am old enough now to know that I know better, while also knowing I have so much more to learn.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell my twenty year old self, if I could, knowing what I know now. I don’t really believe in regret, and I think mistakes are paramount to becoming strong. If there are things I could go back and change I probably would. But should I? Either way, these are the things I would tell my twenty year old self:

-Focus more on female friendships. Boys will always be there (and all you have to do is swipe to meet them) and the boys that are there now really aren’t worth your time. You both have a lot of growing up to do. And you are missing out on some amazing women. Stop worrying about if and when you will get married, and start focusing on forming stronger relationships with the women around you. Because soon you will all be in your corners of the world and it will be much harder to connect with them. In nine years you won’t be scrolling Facebook lamenting some boy it never worked out with, you’ll be lamenting all the amazing women you had a chance to know but were to distracted to realize it.

-Take care of your injuries better. Right now you are young, but your body is going to age rapidly in your twenties. That hip flexor you pulled and still ran a 10K on, don’t do that. Rest your injuries, ice them, stretch them. You may not feel like you need it right now, but Future You needs it bad.

-Travel more. This is my main advice to college students. Travel as much as you can, as often as you can, as far as you can. Right now things like hostels and teaching English for pennies sounds like a fun time. Go adventure now. Study abroad for a whole year. Travel after you graduate. Work jobs and save all your money to go travel for months at a time. Travel more.

-Pay attention to who shows up for you, and spend more time with them. And be a better friend to them. Help your friends move, go to their shows and concerts, show up for them too. Don’t just be down for a party, be down for life.

My twenties have been incredible. I have made some amazing friendships, I found a supportive community that I still don’t know if I deserve. I made an impulsive decision to adopt a cat and it’s probably one of the best decision I have ever made. I traveled alone. I fell in love. I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I am ready for whatever 29 has in store for me.

-Darci

An Independence Day Full of Anger

Tomorrow is our nations biggest national holiday. The day that we are supposed to be consumed with pride for our country. We celebrate by grilling meat, baking pies, and exploding things in the sky. Objectively, it’s a pretty solid holiday.

But this year, I don’t feel particularly full of pride for my country. The state of our nation has sunk to a horrifying low point that I honestly don’t even know how to talk about some of these horrors. How can you celebrate your country, be proud of your country, when your government is actively operating concentration camps? How can we celebrate our founding values when our government has become the very thing we rebelled against? When anyone who is not a white man lives in daily fear of the next law that will serve to oppress them? When there is a real possibility that the president will actually get re-elected in 2020?

When your country is full of hate, how do you love your country? How does one reconcile that there is still an alarmingly large percentage of people who support the government and all their atrocities? The racism that fuels the treatment of immigrants, the sexism that fuels the laws being written to restrict women, and the greed behind all of the motivation. At best, there is still eighteen months left of this horror. At worst, this is only just the beginning.

I am not proud to be an American this year. I am not proud to be from a country that criminalizes the poor rather than helps them. I am not proud to be from a country that rejects or imprisons people because of the color of their skin. I am not proud to be from a country that operates concentration camps. I am not proud to be from a country that uses fear as a manipulation tool to profit from. I am not proud to be an American, and I do not love my country.

We will still grill. I will bake something with red, white, and blue. We will probably watch Captain America. I will probably even wear our country colors in one form or another tomorrow. We will enjoy our day off from work and try to find some joy in all of this mess.

But I will not forget that I am angry. That I have been angry for quite some time now. And I will not become numb to my anger. I am no where near done being angry.

 

-Darci

Why Everyone Needs Sex Education

I know, I know, I’m still talking about the issues surrounding abortion. But it’s still consuming my brain and it’s still making me angry. My big stance is that abortion really isn’t the true issue here, that abortion is a solution to a lot of larger issues that are not being addressed. I also truly believe that everyone wants to lower the abortion rate, whether they be pro-life or pro-choice, we just have very different philosophies on how to accomplish that. I’m not really interested in debating people about when life begins, but I am interested in discussing ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they even happen.

This week I want to focus on one particular way I believe we can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and thus lower the abortion rate: Sex Education. Last week I talked about all of the reasons why I get to say with confidence that I would not have an abortion, and one of the big ways was that I had comprehensive sex education from sixth through ninth grade.

So this week I want to advocate for comprehensive sex education in schools. Here are my top four reasons why I believe everyone, regardless of religions beliefs or sexual intentions, should have comprehensive sexual education.

Comprehensive sex education lowers the rate of teen pregnancy.

Yes I am repeating myself, but I think it’s worth driving home. You can’t prevent pregnancy if you don’t know how. Understanding how birth control works and does not work. Knowing how to get it. Knowing how long semen lives outside the body. Know the difference between mensuration and ovulation. I learned about all of these before I even reached my teen years.

One of the many reasons I have not had an unplanned pregnancy is because I knew how not to get pregnant before I was ever having sex.

Values about sex can be taught at home, but facts should be taught in school.

As a parent you have every right to educate your children on your value system. But that doesn’t mean that you should shelter them from the facts either. And learning about safe sex and contraceptives does not mean someone is going to immediately go out and have sex. Values and facts are equally important when deciding how you want to go about your sexuality.

Even if you wait until marriage, you still need sex education.

 If you ever plan on having sex, you need sex education. Even if you are going to wait until marriage, even if you only ever have one sexual partner, even if you don’t believe in birth control and only want to have sex to have babies. You need to be sexually educated. All of that requires an education. If you are going to be sexually active at all you need to know how to not get pregnant just as much as you need to know how to get pregnant. Sexual education is not just for those who plan on having sex outside of marriage.

Sex education isn’t just about having sex.

Sex Ed is about so much more than having sex. There is so much more to learn about your body than just how to have sex with it. Health and hygiene is also a large part of sex education. How to wash, how not to wash too much, how to recognize a UTI (which you can get without ever having sex), are all important things to understand about your body even if you never plan on having sex.

Again, I’m not here to tell you when life begins. I’m not here to tell you when to or not to have sex. I am here to argue that there are ways we can lower the abortion rate, ways we can prevent unwanted pregnancies that we are not discussing. And we need to discuss them. We need to address the reasons why women get abortions rather than punishing them for not having the education, resources, and opportunities that they need to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

Darci

Burning Out

We all have bad days, even bad weeks. But at what point does it cross over from a bad day to a full on burnout in life? At what point do you accept that this fatigue and apathy is long term and needs to be addressed?

Burnout is not simply a result of long hours or being over worked. It stems from a lack of control in life. Maybe the place that you work is being mismanaged and you are helpless to change it. Maybe you feel your work has no meaning. Maybe you don’t have a hobby or project that brings you joy outside of your work. Maybe you are so focused on helping others that you have no time or energy left for yourself.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be much more focused on myself. I need to prioritize not just taking care of myself but nourishing myself. I need to not only find my boundaries but stick to them. And I need to be more intentional of listening to my instincts. By getting stuck in my routine and focused on the go go go part of life, I wound up incredibly depressed and burnt out.

By the time I realized how burnt out I was, I didn’t just need a break I needed a full life shake up. I was in a job that was demanding and unfulfilling, working for people that are cold and incompetent. I was far more concerned with others needs than I was with my own. And all my free time was spent focused on others. I wasn’t sleeping, my skin was a mess, and the very concept of leaving my house became so overwhelming my whole body would feel like wet sandbags.

I didn’t need a break or a vacation, I needed a complete re-evaluation.

But the real kicker is that there were warning signs that I ignored. Red flag decisions at work that the ship was sinking. Demanding patterns from friendships that I know how to recognize but ignored. Small breakouts in my skin that I know how to deal with but didn’t make the time for.

I was just so stuck in my routine and my think positive attitude that my whole life had to be up in flames before I realized I needed to do something about it.

2019 is my year to focus on me. By the end of last year I was so low, so depressed, so burnt out, I knew I had to finally address it. It hasn’t happened over night but I have already come a long way.

I found a new job. Unfortunately not all work situations can be improved. Sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve learned a lot in my twenties about what I need from my job. And more importantly, I know what I am not looking for anymore. I found the next chapter and am taking all the lessons learned and putting them to good use.

I’m learning to say No. Perhaps my biggest hurdle. I don’t like saying No. I think a part of me has a fundamental belief that a person shouldn’t say No. But I am working on it.

I am working on boundaries. Both personally and professionally. Work-life balance, investing in friendships that are fulfilling and reciprocal and letting one sided friendships go, and listening to my inner voice. She often knows what’s up.

Change is hard. Growing is painful. Depression sucks. And burn out is awful. But all of these things are necessary. All of these things have a light at the end of the tunnel. And all of these things lead to better things. If you let them.

Darci

Don’t Overthink It

Confession: I am a very anxious person. I’m a Type A Overplanner who has back ups for my back ups. I make my bed everyday because a small part of my thinks if I don’t then clearly I will fail at everything that day. My house is always meticulously clean because when I’m stressed or depressed I cope by obsessively cleaning. I spend a lot of my time worrying about what others think of me. My mind is constantly spinning.

And it’s exhausting.

Anxiety is Overthinking’s partner in crime. I overthink things because I am anxious and I’m anxious because I am overthinking everything. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break. And what happens when you open up to someone about the things making you anxious: just don’t overthink it!

Google overthinking and you will get endless articles of “10 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Start Living” or “Ways Overthinking is Ruining Your Relationship” or “How to Love an Overthinker”. They break it down in quick sentences and a bullet point list to fix your problems. Just do this! Stop doing that! And the whole problem is now solved.

I hate these articles. If my anxiety could really be fixed by the flip of a switch, a quick daily mantra, or it was just a matter of deciding to not be anxious then I would have fixed myself years ago.

Here’s what I wish people could understand: I don’t want to be like this. Hell, there was probably a time when I wasn’t. But I am. And it’s a learned behavior. It’s my defense mechanism. My anxiety hurts me, sure, but also it protects me. My anxiety protects me from heartbreak and disappointment and abandonment. Sure I could just stop overthinking everything and work on having a positive outlook on life, and I may be happier for it. But it’s just not that simple.

Someone told me recently just to relax, be myself, and don’t overthink it. And I choked back laughter because overthinking is being myself. It’s meant to be a calming piece of advice, a gentle reminder that things aren’t bad so don’t spiral out. But really what I hear is “don’t fuck this up for yourself”.

I’m working on it. Or at least, I am aware of it. I’m trying to find ways to be kinder to myself, to be more positive, to look on the bright side. But anxiety is a part of who I am, and overthinking everything is my core. There is no 10 step process that will snap me out of this, reminding me that my anxiety could ruin my relationships isn’t the tough love talk that’s going to change me. I can’t help the way I think, and I can’t help how much I think. On my best days I redirect my energy into something productive to distract myself. And while I can learn better ways to cope with my anxiety, I am pretty sure it will always be a part of who I am.

And I think that’s the real solution. It’s not about fixing yourself, it’s about accepting yourself. I will probably always be someone with a mind that is constantly spinning, but what I can learn is how to be kinder to myself in the process. How not to be self destructive in the process.

My anxiety isn’t a problem to be “fixed”. It’s a part of who I am that needs to be loved. When I start to overthink and spiral, I don’t need a list of ways to fix myself, I need a hug.

So I’m trying not to get better, I’m working on being kinder to myself, and I am trying to love all of the parts of me. And there are good days and bad days. For the good days we have progress, and for the bad days we have wine.

Darci

5 Things to Stop Caring About

Life can be stressful. Life can be chaotic. Life can be hard. The biggest kicker, though, is that sometimes we make life harder on ourselves. By indulging in negative thoughts or memories, prioritizing toxic people, living in the past, we hurt ourselves in the present and delay our happiness in the future. I’ve been working a lot on reshaping how I spend my mental energy. How I talk to myself. What I am spending my time thinking about. Being intentional about catching myself in a negative spiral and changing the game. It’s not always easy. But it’s important work. I’m trying to retrain my brain to think differently. So this week I thought I would share the five things I am working on changing. Take a look:

1. Those Painfully Awkward Moments.

Remember that joke you made in a meeting that didn’t land? Or that answer you gave in class that was definitely wrong? Or that time you thought someone was waving to you but it was actually to someone behind you? Those painfully awkward little moments that your brain likes to recall as you are falling asleep or enjoying some quiet time and now suddenly your heart is racing. Those social blunders that were embarrassing in the moment but that was seven years ago and no one but you remembers them, let alone dwells on them. Even your bigger blunders are probably still only note worthy to you. It’s time to let those go. When your brain starts to remind you, catch yourself and tell your brain that happened years ago and literally no one cares any more. Take the power away from those awkward moments by reminding yourself that it wasn’t as bad as you remember and it is well in the past now.

2. What People From Your Past Are Doing.

I’ll be the first to admit that Facebook stalking is a semi regular event. Social media makes it all too easy to take a passing “hmm I wonder” and turn it into a two hour rabbit hole investigation of what people from my past have been doing. Ex’s, former friends, old coworkers, past roommates, former classmates, all people who are in my past for a reason. And yet, the curiosity gets the better of me every time. It’s natural, though very unhealthy, to look for validation through comparison. But it’s a temporary, fleeting validation that leaves us emptier than we started. It also distracts the focus on your own life. You don’t need to compare your journey, your goals, your accomplishments to anyone to be happy. And, in fact, doing so is hurting your progress. My suggestion? Block those people you find yourself checking in on. That way the next time you are tempted to see what they are up to, you can’t. Eventually you’ll break the habit of even wondering what those people are up to and you won’t be distracted by it any more.

3. Pleasing Everybody.

It’s a cliched lesson, but I think I will spend the rest of my life relearning it. No matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone. There will always be people who take and take and take but never give. There will always be people who are too wrapped up in themselves not noticed anyone else. There will always be people stuck in the comparison game and they will never be happy for you. It’s time to stop worrying about those people. Your life is yours and you have to live it the way you know is best. So keep focusing on your dreams and your goals, keep treating others the way you want to be treated, and when someone shows resentment or expresses grievance over you simply living your life, you now have permission to involve them in your life less. Making time for people who hurt you regularly or openly root against you is silly. It doesn’t matter if they are coworkers, friends you’ve known for years, family, or even romantic partners. Your time is valuable and your mental well being is important. So stop wasting your time trying to please people who can never be won.

4. The Worst Case Scenario Game.

I’ll be honest, I am a fan of this game. Especially when I have a lot of anxiety about a situation or feel a lot of pressure. Sometimes saying your fear out loud can take some of the power away from it. But too much of anything is a bad thing. And I realized recently that I never play the Best Case Scenario Game. My what ifs are always negative. I’m always preparing for the worst, anticipating the worst, assuming the worst. And not only is that way of thinking depressing and unhealthy, it’s exhausting. I find I am always worried, always anxious, depressed far more often. All because I am far too indulgent in my fears rather than focusing on my hopes. I used to justify this way of thinking by saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. But what if by dwelling so much on the worst I make the worst inevitable? What if by spending more time focusing on the best, preparing for the best, even planning for the best, that made the best happen? So now, when I catch myself playing the Worst Case Scenario Game, I make myself stop and think about what the Best Case Scenario could be instead.

5. Where You Should Be in Life at X Age.

Again, comparison is a dangerous habit that pretty much only leads to depression. Just because you aren’t married yet, don’t have kids, haven’t gotten that degree, don’t have that professional title yet, doesn’t mean you are falling behind or failing. School was very structured, and it gave all of us this false illusion that the rest of life would be too. But there is no order of events, no timeline to follow, no progress report, no big moments you need to hit by a certain time. Plenty of people followed “the plan” of getting married young to someone they weren’t actually compatible with, had kids even though they weren’t ready to be a parent, or worked their way up the ladder for a career they didn’t want. Too many people do what they are “supposed” to do without considering if they want to do it. And too many people feel like they are failing at life because they aren’t doing what they are “supposed” to be doing right now. But the most freeing moment in life is when you realize that you get to call the shots for your life and you get to decide what path is right for you.

Why is it so easy for our brains to think negatively, to be stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, to focus on comparisons or the past, but we doing the opposite takes so much work? I’ve been wondering that a lot lately as I’ve been working on intentionally changing my patterns. When did those patterns form, I wonder. And when will they change? It’s hard work, it’s consistent work, but it’s good work. And hopefully it will stop being work someday and start being a way of life.

Darci