Why Are Millennials So Flaky?

Listen up. We have a problem. “We” meaning the majority of us in our 20s and 30s, including me. I’ve noticed a theme over the past few years that maybe you identify with: someone makes plans, you say you’ll go, and then an hour before said plans are planned to happen, you decide you can’t go.

I get it because I have done it, too! I’m not blasting or bashing anyone for doing this; I’m just asking why? Why do we commit to a certain time at a certain place with certain people with excitement, and cop out with silly excuses last minute? Why are we so okay with ditching friends and loved ones after saying we’d be there with them? Think back to anytime you have planned something and the massive anxiety that probably came with being in charge. Will anyone show up? Will people who said they’d show up not be able to make it?

I’m not talking about true reasons to be amiss. Of course, health-, family-, or car-related issues are completely valid. But more often than not, its “I had a long day,” or “I’m just not feeling up to it,” something along those vague and flaky lines. (Again, I’ve said those, too, and even so, I have to admit they’re pretty lame.)

Last year, a friend and I were trying to put together a book club, and I was going to host the second meeting at my house. Y’all, as much as I’m terrified of people not showing up, I love to play host. Trader Joe’s didn’t see what was coming that day. I cleared out almost all their cheese, crackers, flowers, and, obviously, wine, and prepped trays of charcuterie until my little heart was content. I had chilled my wine cooler all day for a bottle of white and opened the red to breathe, and you know I had the correct glasses for the correct wines on display. It was going to be a hit, and I made sure the setup was Instagram worthy (as you do…).

As a group, we’d talked the week before, at the first meeting, about getting together weekly, and I’d sent out an email a few days prior to let everyone know I would be hosting week two (my friend who hosted the first week had legitimate plans, so she couldn’t host or make it, which she told me well in advance so no worries there). I let the 10 other girls know to just reach out if they couldn’t make it. One girl (full disclosure: it was my sister who was staying with me at the time, haha) had to work, and another said she might have to work but would let me know. And no one else said a thing. Great! We had almost a full house to get ready for!

Guess how many people showed up on book club night?

ONE.

One girl showed up. And honestly, it was a lovely night chatting with her and eating as much cheese as I wanted, but it takes more than two people to call it a “club,” I’m pretty sure.

I was annoyed. Even though I wasn’t incredibly close with most of the girls who never said they weren’t coming, I felt I should have received at least some sort of communication to say, “Hey, FYI, can’t make it!” I felt like a loser, and also like they were losers. There were a lot of feelings for everyone involved.

And then I started thinking back to times when I’ve been flaky, and oh, yes, there are many. Maybe not to THAT extent of just not showing up without a word of warning (#stillbitter), but I have certainly canceled on plans last minute and rain-checked my fair share of experiences.

I think in this era, we have communication so easy with our iPhones and Snapchats that we take advantage of it. Even though a courteous text in more advance than the actual day of plans is fairly simple, we postpone it or neglect to send it completely, counting on others to show up in our wake. But since it seems we have this collective problem in our generation, it’s multiple people canceling a lot of times, or the same person not showing up repeatedly, often leaving friends hanging, disappointed, and cautious to make plans again.

I also think it’s safe to say that today’s technology has made us lazier. (Again, us! I’m a part of this, too, so don’t get salty.) I found myself telling John the other day that I didn’t want to go to happy hour with friends because it would take too much energy…

… I know. I judged myself as the words came out of my mouth.

Since when does grabbing a drink and chatting with friends take up too much energy? I mean, who am I even? A sloth? But, when I was considering the alternative, which was sitting on my couch, cooking a healthy dinner at home, listening to podcasts, and talking to approximately no one (except maybe my dog, which, yes, I do talk to her), yeah, happy hour would take more energy.

It’s always going to be easier to text a quick “no thanks” to someone and chill in my own little world. With Netflix, social media, and podcasts alone, it doesn’t ever have to feel like we’re disconnected from the outside world.

But I think, for me, ever the introvert, sometimes I do need to push myself past my excuses to be able to really connect with others and invest time in relationships with people I don’t see every day. By the way, keeping up with friends via texting or social media is. not. the same thing. I try to tell myself it is, but unfortunately, human connection can’t really happen via scrolling through your smartphone.

I think it’s also fine to take mental breaks and have veg-out days or nights. Just like we make plans with friends, we are allowed to make plans with ourselves to have these resting moments. But, when the two overlap and we decide we need a mental break during the very time slot we’ve committed to hanging out with others, that’s when it’s time to remember why we made those plans in the first place, why we decided to commit time to that person or people.

I bet, if some of the book club girls had shown up, they would have had at least a pleasant time getting to know other women in the community. I bet, if I’d shown up to certain things I’ve canceled on, I would’ve made friends or memories to cherish. You just never know what could have happened when you flake out.

Let’s be tougher than our flakiness and stronger than our inner-pull to resist connection and vulnerability. Let’s not be the generation who says, “I can’t make it. I’ve had a really long day.” Because haven’t we all?

“Before we keep going, I wanted to ask you a question.”

It’s taken me a while to sit down and write out this story. Not because I haven’t wanted to, and not because I didn’t know what to say. But I wanted to do this moment justice and treat it with care. It was a moment that, for a long time, I didn’t think would happen. I told myself I didn’t want it to happen. And I told anyone with two ears the same thing. I was on a mission to let the world know that I was extra-special in my independence and utter defiance of the idea of marriage.

But the truth was, I didn’t want to chance going through what my parents went through. I didn’t want a relationship that might look great but silently crumbles apart in ways that are inexplicable and heartbreaking. I didn’t want the option of committing my whole life to someone else, and then dealing with the chance that I could be betrayed, devastated, or left.

That was scary, so for a long time, I was fiercely and obnoxiously independent. I didn’t want to lean on anyone else for help, success, or happiness. I made my own way. All of that worked out alright for me during those years; I did grow into myself and discover my values, likes, dislikes, and what I want out of life. And honestly, I still don’t think marriage is for everybody, as long as that choice is made out of pure intentions, and not fear.

My relationship with John has been different from the start than any other that I’ve experienced. He courted me, he respected me, he was honest and upfront every step of the way. He’s open to constructive feedback and also loves to learn as much as he can about the world, history, everything really. I mean, the guy took not one, but TWO spreadsheets classes in grad school because he enjoys learning about Excel that much. I joke that he’s an 80-year-old in a 28-year-old’s body. (He knows it’s true.) He is analytical and logical, while also sensitive and kind. He loves animals and spicy food.

Through our relationship, I’ve found a whole different side to myself that has allowed me to set down some of those walls I’d firmly built in the years leading up to it. It’s still hard for me to be vulnerable (passive aggression is my much stronger suit, unfortunately), and I’m working on being better at voicing kind words, showing appreciation, and allowing guidance or suggestion instead of always thinking my way is the best way… Even if it is most of the time. 😉

But I adore the support, comfort, and partnership of our relationship, and I have learned I’m still able to embrace my own autonomy within this two-person unit. We’re two totally different personalities choosing to love and encourage one another every day. I just feel at home with him.

How It Went Down

Okay, enough rambling. You’re probably here for the actual proposal story, so let’s get to it.

In November, John and I found ourselves planning a somewhat spontaneous Thanksgiving trip to our favorite mountain town, Asheville, North Carolina. Clearly unconcerned with the concept of overkill, we were excited to take our third trip there — in less than a year. We planned on visiting his family over Christmas and mine in early December, so instead of spending Thanksgiving at our home, where I’d be less inclined to chill, relax, and enjoy the holiday break and more likely to be cleaning and making to-do lists, we figured a road trip to a familiar town full of breweries, hiking opps, and sweet, quiet charm would be the better idea.

So, we booked a pet-friendly Airbnb and loaded the car with our pup, new hiking boots (our early Christmas gift to each other), and a cooler of some pre-cooked Thanksgiving dishes for an extra-long weekend in the Smoky Mountains.

Our first full day there was Thanksgiving, and we started the day by throwing Piper in the car, bundling up, and lacing up our new boots for a five-mile hike on a trail called Black Balsam Knob, about a 45-minute drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway from our rental home. I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise, while taking in the scenery, before we participated in the gluttony of the holiday. John had another plan in mind.

If you’ve never been to the Smokies, I can’t recommend it enough. Even in the cold, with winter’s effects creeping in, it’s stunning. We wound our way through the steep hills, driving through tunnels and along tree-lined cliffs, as the leaves turned from orange-red and yellow to copper to brown the higher we went. Once we got to the trail, even the bare trees in that high altitude were a beautiful, almost-architectural accent to the blueish-gray layers of mountains as far as we could see. I just love it there.

John had been quiet that morning as we got ready to head up. We layered on jackets, scarves, beanies, and gloves, and brewed a French press of coffee to take on the road. He’s not quite as much of a morning person as I am, and definitely not as much of a talker, so his quietness wasn’t crazy unusual. I thought maybe he was missing and thinking about his family on the holiday, or something like that, so I did my regular thing: got us out the door as fast as possible (I had mimosas and mashed potatoes to get home to!), belted country and worship songs on the drive up, and laughed at all my own jokes… As you can tell, I was a huge comfort and most definitely not at ALL a nuisance for sweet, anxious-as-heck John.

The hike started with a dense half-mile-or-so of trees, before opening up to bare, easy rolling hills (those are the “knob” part of Black Balsam Knob) that allowed you to see views of the Smokies for miles and miles without trees to block your surroundings. Atop our first hill, with a sprawling view of the mountainscape around us, John wanted to stop. He kept saying we should get Piper some water and he wanted to rest. Me, being the very me that I am, wanted to keep going. She’s fine, I told him, as I reminded him more than once that we weren’t even a mile into the five-mile hike, so we’d better get a move on.

Ugh. This gal sure knows how to ruin a moment. But, looking back, it is really hilarious because I am so very go-go-go (can you tell?), and John is so very stop-and-smell-the-roses, and our juxtaposition in this life approach brings us a lot of laughter, eye rolls, challenge, and growth both individually and as a couple. So, I think in hindsight, it was kind of perfect that this came out in this life-shifting moment. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

As I reluctantly began to take in the breathtaking vision of God’s handiwork in front of me (it truly was incredible), Piper was to my left, having the time of her life wrestling a stick, and John was behind me fishing through his backpack to get the water none of us needed yet. Or, what I thought was water. I turned around right when he pulled his hand out of the backpack holding a small, black box that, in fact, looked nothing like a water bottle.

It took about two-and-a-half seconds to register what was happening, and then my heart about flew out of my ears. (I’m not really sure how else to describe the physical response my emotions created in the moment, but that about does it.) He said, “Before we keep going, I wanted to ask you a question. Will you marry me?” The man doesn’t mince his words.

My dorky response was, “Oh my gosh! Yes! What the heck?” And that’s how it’s done, folks. We were engaged.

He handed over the box and it hit me that he was so nervous. He wasn’t just being quiet John that morning; he was about to ask me the biggest question of our lives. THINK I’D BE QUIET, TOO.

Turns out, that hill was the best and most beautiful vantage point we would hit during those five miles. Good call on John’s part to stop for “water” so early in.

Not the worst view for committing your life to someone.

Engagement photos by Jessica Steddom.

How To Find Light in a World Filled With Negativity

I was going through the notes on my phone when I found one from October that had the title of this post, followed by a list:

Gratefulness.

Give back.

Don’t waste time on jobs, people, etc. who steal your happiness.

Plan trips.

Find your community.

I’m not sure what was going on the day or week that I wrote this down, but I’m happy I did. And I’m happy I came across it today. Do you ever find notes to yourself at just the right moment? It’s pretty fun, actually. Just leave random notes in your phone (or around the house — that’s even MORE fun), something obscure and ideally lacking context, and I bet when you find it, it’ll bring you at least a teeny bit of joy.

Anyway, for me, there’s always a period shortly after a new year, maybe a week or two in, when the shine of its novelty begins to wear off. The magic of a fresh start for New Years is so palpable, and it’s heartening and powerful to be entering a new phase with the entire world. There’s really no other time of year like January 1st, where everyone comes together to turn a page at once (or, you know, in their respective time zones).

But, after a while, that optimism of the new year slips back into the routine roll of things, and the new year doesn’t feel all that different than the previous year — except when you write the date, and, for the first four months of the year, you have to artistically morph “2017” into “2018.”

I’m not big into resolutions, but I think intentions for a new year are a healthy way for me, ever the obsessor, to approach goals. Rather than being so strict, aka “resolute,” with your goals, intentions allow some more flexibility with accomplishing them. So, it’s not like I go into the year hoping to quit watching TV, travel the world, and lose 20 pounds, and then get frustrated when none of those are achieved by January 10. (But sheesh, can you imagine the blog posts I’d need to write if that were the case?!)

It’s more that everything starts to go back to normal, and as a whole, we lose that excitement of starting anew once we’re a week or two into things. I know, I know… All the smart books and all the wise people say to find the warmth and good stuff in normalcy. If you can’t enjoy the mundane, then you probably won’t enjoy very much of life, since most of us aren’t constantly traveling, adventuring, and adrenaline-chasing. And honestly, I don’t even want all that! (I mean, yes, travel is nice, but I love my home, and sometimes the best part of travel is going home. You with me, homebodies/introverts/hermits?)

With my reckoning of embracing regular old life as we stride deeper into 2017 2018, finding a list I wrote to myself about ways to find levity — especially in a time of turmoil in politics, Hollywood (and regular) sexism, and abuse of power coming to light — was such a simple reminder to keep perspective, curate my own little joys, and find beauty in the everyday, even on days that seem less than thrilling.

Gratitude and graciousness aren’t an easy discipline to practice, at least for me, but are so life-changing once they become habitual. It’s the shift from, “My life is so predictable,” to, “How lucky am I to have a consistent jobs where I can write, be creative, get outside everyday, afford my lifestyle, and have major flexibility? I’m blessed to have a healthy body, the choice to workout and provide nourishing food for myself, and a lifestyle that keeps me active and moving. And thank God I have supportive family and friends all over the country who inspire and challenge me. And chips and queso.”

Even writing that out brings bliss to my heart. Both statements are true — sure, my life can be predictable, AND it provides me with everything I dreamed of five years ago, plus the opportunities to accomplish even more.

Gratitude prepares your mind and soul for the rest of the list, too. It provides perspective and faith in giving back, whether that’s with money or time. It helps you realize if you need to remove yourself from a situation that isn’t adding anything to your life. It allows you to look forward to treats, like vacation, with eagerness and thankfulness instead of guilt. It opens you up to new people and friends to build up the community surrounding you.

It’s everything. And the very, very, very best part is that it’s a mental choice that reaps incredible, tangible, real-life results. Note to self: That is a rad enough reminder to get me out of my post-New Years funk, and any others I encounter throughout the year.

The Big Ones: Major Lessons Learned in 2017

I’m not sure where I’ll be by the end of 2018. John will get his graduate degree in May, and while we are dying to stay in Nashville, it all depends on his job offers for now. With that uncertainty (which, to me, is actually kind of fun and thrilling) in mind at the close of this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on where 2017 has taken me.

We’ve been in Nashville since July of 2016, and even though I’m freelancing and nannying, I’ve never felt happier or more stable in my career. Even so, there has been a bunch going on. After turning 26 in November, I’m now officially past the mid-20s mark of 25; John and I have taken some huge relationship steps; I’ve traveled more than ever before; and HGTV has become one of my staple channels. I feel like I’m growing up and finally adopting this whole adult state of mind. (HGTV is obviously the biggest indicator.)

Life is in a really sweet spot right now. I know it absolutely won’t stay in this place, but for now, I’ll plan on savoring it. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from this year (and not all of them are pretty).

Things that I really, really want usually take time, persistence, or self-control. But usually, it’s all three. Yeah, yeah, I should have already learned this by now. I did, but I felt like this was the year that I’ve really began to apply it regularly, especially since I’ve had so much more freedom and flexibility in my schedule. You’d think that would make getting things done easier, but really, it’s just highlighted my lack of time management skill. But, alas, I have gotten better! Small shifts help…

It’s giving up an extra hour-and-a-half of sleep some mornings to get to the gym because I’m working toward a goal of becoming stronger, and I know I won’t have the energy or drive to fit in a solid workout at the end of the day. It’s pre-making and packing lunches so I don’t Postmates a quesadilla and chips from down the street (although, some days, that’s just necessary). It’s forcing myself to brainstorm story and blog post ideas because I love to write and share stories, but I realize my consistency could use some work. It’s purposefully sharing compliments and kind words with strangers and people I love alike, since words of encouragement aren’t my strong suit but I know how powerful they can be.

I’m pretty horrible at handling conflict. Obviously no one is GOOD at conflict (unless you’re a lawyer or therapist, in which case that’s sort of your job to handle conflict well, or at least strategically). But I’ve always thought I’m more low-key and removed when it comes to conflict. It turns out…and this is embarrassing to admit…I can be a bit of a conflict instigator and very much so a passive aggressor. Ugh. I’m not saying I crave drama (unless it’s in a Bravo show, that is) in my life, but when there are bumps in the road, I’ve learned I’m not first to apologize or fix it. But I also don’t like things to fester.

So, instead of having a mature conversation with my conflict comrade right away, I dig in and direct subtle jabs their way (or go radio silent, another winning gem of a conflict tactic) until they’re forced to instigate a little chitchat with a not-so-fun version of me. I’m just going to chalk up this horrendous habit as something to recognize and work on shifting as we enter a new year.

Ideas that I create about my life will sometimes end up being so hilariously and completely wrong. I was once marriage’s biggest hater and naysayer. My parents had a gnarly divorce, so to save myself from what could be a similar fate, I decided marriage was not for me. A life partner would be cool, but I also figured I was pretty self-sufficient and independent enough to do this whole life thing on my own. And maybe, if I look extra deep inside my heart, I was also a little bit terrified that I’d never find anyone who would love me (and who I’d reciprocate those feelings for!) for an entire lifetime.

Low and behold, three-plus years into my relationship with John, I’ve learned I can be independent in a relationship, and also complement someone who is my equal, all at the same time. I haven’t made a true announcement on my blog yet, but we’re getting married next year! (CRAZY, right? Engagement story blog post, including all the mushy details, to come sometime in the near-ish future.) Five years ago, I would’ve laughed if God came down to tell me this would all happen. But I am so, so happy it has, and truly, I can’t wait to see what other things He proves me wrong about.

Worship is a necessity for my happiness. Whether it’s sitting in church, listening to God’s encouragement and words; laughing and coming together in prayer with my small group; or driving in my car, singing along (badly) to Hillsong United, there isn’t much that makes me full to the brim of pure bliss than soaking in God’s love. My small group was talking about love languages one night — mine is acts of service — and someone mentioned that, a lot of times, your love language can be applied to your relationship with God. I thought that was such a wonderful thought, and I realized it’s actually true for me.

Anytime one of my favorite songs comes on in the midst of a bad day, or a particularly stunning sunset makes its way through the clouds, or even if I happen to hit a bunch of green lights when I’m running late, I take those as little acts of kindness from God. They could simply be coincidence, but I don’t really think there’s such thing with Him. We’ll have to ask one day, but in the meantime, I always try to send up a little “Hey, thanks” to Him in those moments. Praise, mindfulness, and worship have shifted my life so much this year.

What were your biggest takeaways from 2017? How have you shifted and grown? I’d love to hear your stories from this year!