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 Irony in Getting What You Want

Once upon a time, I interned at a magazine in its editorial department. It was my senior year in college, which I like to think was just yesterday but, in reality, was nearly three years ago, and I was pretty sure I was winning at everything in life. I interviewed fun entrepreneurs and interesting professionals, wrote several articles a week, and was certain I was the next Diane Sawyer (print edition).

I wanted to work for the magazine more than anywhere else after I graduated — so badly that I even applied for the receptionist position, which made about no money and obviously had nothing to do with journalism. From my whopping seven hours a week spent in the office, I was positive the people and atmosphere were everything I could ever dream of in a first job environment. (Clearly seven weekly hours is enough to tell something like that, right?…)

It all seemed ideal, except for this one girl.

She was a full-time employee, and I worked with her on a couple fact checking assignments. I knew her job vaguely revolved around fact checking and data analysis within the editorial department, and I can clearly remember watching her walk down a hall one day with a sullen look on her face, a norm, and thinking to myself, I would hate to have her job.

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Oh, 2016

What a difference a year can make. People always say that, but when you look at it in every aspect of your life, big and small, it’s astounding. Shocking, even.

Of course, there are the changes that affect everyone — a new president who will certainly modify the way our country currently works (that’s as much as I’ll say about that topic on here…), forever goodbyes to majorly influential people (the last week alone has been tough to swallow), crazy things happening left and right (Kim getting robbed, Brangelina splitting up). The memes alone about 2016 and all its horror go on for days, and I’ll admit, I find them pretty entertaining.

But personally, I can find so much to be happy about in 2016, and I think deep down, if we dig through the sadness and heaviness of some of the gunk that took place, each of us can find things to be grateful for last year. Whether it’s new family members, a much-needed change in your work or relational life, a different place to call home, or a pet or project that’s brought some light into your world, not everything from 2016 deserves to be scrapped.

But universally, the feelings toward this year are tired and bitter. At least according to social media. You’ve seen the posts and the digs, right? People are ready for this fresh start — and don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with you. I can always get behind turning a new leaf. But I also can’t help but feel like we’re kind of collectively cutting 2016 short.

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