I have decided to redefine myself, and it's a decision that's come from 8 months of choosing joy across as many avenues of my life I felt called to love again. For context: 2017 was a year I sank without realizing I was sinking (and really, isn't that always how it happens?).
By December of 2017, I had run myself to the ground, hustling and striving with no end in sight. I often explained myself as feeling like a tiny fly bouncing all over a mason jar: moving really really fast as if moving toward something, but no sense of control over what freedom actually felt like. I couldn't think or keep still. I found myself frustrated by my inability to focus on one task at a time. My eyes physically hurt because of the pressure inside my mind; my mind felt like it was driving my body through a foggy rainstorm with really sucky windshield wipers. Conversations were hard to keep up energy for. I ate alone a lot. I'd go from loving my body to absolutely hating it within the course of just one day.
On the outside I looked (or, tried to look) like I was thriving. Job interviews at consulting firms I knew many dreamed of hearing back from. I'd lived in Spain for three months. I had (and still have) any amazing family and community of people who cared for me and supported in me in my hustle. Inside, I felt like I wasn't alive.
After a fairly small, but important, breakthrough in December - realizing for the first time that I didn't have to hustle, and that the state of my mental health was beginning to impact the lives of other people - I knew it was time for action, instead of the mop of excuses I'd been using for why I wasn't actually happy.
I asked my mom for the 2018 Cultivate What Matters goal setting workbook for Christmas. Based on what I'd discovered about the brand online, using the workbook seemed like the most literal first step to digging and uncovering what I really wanted out of life, with action plans to help me get there. Cheesy? Yes. But I was so... ready... for change.
On December 28th, 2017, I sat down at a coffeeshop, opened the workbook, and got to work.
After an hour or so, and then some more, with lots of reflective stories, messy circles, highlights and quotes and epiphanies, my "intentions" for the year started to take shape. And the word that leaped out of the mess... the feeling, experience, goal that I wanted to re-discover and cultivate in 2018... was Joy.
I had been sad. Foggy. Hustling. Impatient. And so not authentically joyful about who I was and where I was going. I felt all over the place, chasing a way to pull my life together. On Instagram? Sure. On LinkedIn? Absolutely. But in my soul? In my heart? In reality?! I couldn't have been farther away.
From the pursuit of joy came so many new ideas. I wrote out a list of small intentions in this post, but the basic gist: I was going to take action toward that goal, that I'd never taken action toward before.
I was going to read more. Write more. Run more.
I was going to text friends to hang out and eat meals with other people.
I was going to walk into a counseling office for the very first time, and I was going to go to church every single Sunday.
Sure, these tasks might seem like bandaids in the grand scheme of things, but adding them up into action plans toward real life aspirations felt like a new life was about to craft itself by me, for me, right in front of my eyes. So many upcoming adventures soared out of me as I journaled away in that workbook, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt excited - because I didn't know what was to come.
2018 so far has given me so many gifts out of those original intentions I hadn't even known were possible to receive.
I feel more connected with the Lord in my daily life, like I know how to talk to Him even when I'm not at a conference or on my knees or reading a devotional every now and then.
I don't wear makeup every single day. My skin still sucks. I still envy people without a blemish in sight, and I definitely do still wear makeup on the days when I feel like wearing it. But for the first time in what... nine ?! years... I see my acne and I don't hate myself for it. I am conscious about what I look like (it's not like I pretend that my skin doesn't look the way it does) but I'm learning to love my skin anyways. I feel so much more present and grateful when I take makeup off, but the journey is definitely far from over.
Because of taking such leaps in how I feel about my skin, I've developed a surprisingly natural ability to fight my inner critic about so many other insecurities. For instance, I like the way my hair looks when it's straightened, and since cutting my hair really short in the spring, I've straightened it a lot more than I have before. As any girl knows... this kills your hair, leaving it a sort-of wavy, very frizzy mess. Now, when I don't straighten it, I know that's just how my hair is. I don't have to fight it or try to change it; I can decide to love it anyways. I also don't hate my short, "soccer" legs that rarely fit into ideal sized jeans, and I'm weirdly kind of proud of my Hispanic hips. Lol. Who would've thought!
I started seeing a counselor. First, at Tech - and my experience was horrible. I tried again, then took a break. This summer, I started seeing yet another, told my story for the umpteenth time, and it stuck. She's been the greatest source of hope outside of my mom, friends, and God. She's a human living in my same kind of reality who's studied these kinds of things, with insight I really trust - regardless of if my mom had told me the exact same thing. (I love my mom, but let's be real we all don't trust our moms 100% of the time). If you're ever curious about counseling, my experience, and epiphanies I've made, please reach out! I'd love to talk about it more, with anyone interested in starting it for themselves.
I haven't worked out as much but oh my gosh... for the first time in years it doesn't bother me. And that feeling of relief is so comforting, releasing a really long-term burden of mine with the pressure to be as fit as I could be. Sure, I wish I had the discipline to wake up early and take really intense HITT classes (don't we all?). But I don't, and I still love the way I feel. I know that if I ever feel the urge to be super hyper active, I can be active again, and if I don't, I can make healthy choices in other ways.
My career journey is one big blur of learning new things, getting rejected a lot, prayer even more, getting an offer from my dream agency, and learning again. This fall, I was extended the chance to stay working part-time in a slightly evolved position. And I'm so excited! I have absolutely no clue what's to come and where I'm going, but for now, I am grateful for where I am and especially, who I'm with.
I feel more connected to friends and family, near and far.
I say yes to things that heal me and no to things that don't, but I also mess up in doing those same things all the time. I say yes to things I probably shouldn't have and no to things I should. But hey, we can't win them all.
Because of counseling and all of the above realizations, I can honestly say I understand myself so much more psychologically - mentally, emotionally, etc. I know what my triggers are, and I know what heals me. I understand what I invest my time into that's more coping mechanism than honest passion, and I'm coming to understand what I might actually be passionate about. I can recognize freedom and clarity in my mind just as much as I recognize fog. Life is such a complex, consistently paradoxical combination of experiences, and I'm coming to love it all.
It's only August, and I know this next semester of senior (!!) year has so much more in store, but for now... for at least this latter third of this life-changing year... I'm going to commit to a slight shift in my original 2018 intention.
In alignment with my pursuit of Joy, I am introducing a new word and new intention into the fold for this newly alive season in my life.
I will seek truth, as I seek joy.
What do I truthfully want to be a part of? How do I truly feel? What can I say that truthfully explains what I know - and is it that I don't know? Where do I truly want to be, with whom, and why?
I want to stop lying to myself about habits I know my body doesn't feel its best about, and start accepting what it really does. I want to seek to understand what I'm learning in classes instead of accepting concepts I know I could "never" understand. I want to hang out with honest people and give light to my honest opinions. I also want to volunteer more. I don't think I volunteer enough.
My ambitions and trajectory are destined to change, but isn't life one long sum of changes we do and don't control?
Whatever risks, adventures, and humbling that needs to happen in order for me to discover and pursue what truthfully brings me joy - I'm going to take.
And that, my friends, is where we're at. I can honestly say that giving up control in so many ways has opened new doors for me literally and spiritually to trust whatever path I'm headed out to pioneer. I've never felt so unsure; I've also never felt so alive.
Hi, I'm Chlo.
I've been writing stories inspired by my real and imaginative experiences since I learned at age 7 that if you fold and staple construction paper together, it sort of looks like a real book. I have always craved soul serving stories- ones that melt like butter in your mind as you hear your heart explained out loud.
This here is my home away from home. When I'm not exploring neighborhood coffeehouses, driving down the Pacific Coast (again), or loving on all my people - I'm probably here, with you. Come on in! Scroll around. I hope you feel less alone.